Why did the companions see the doomsday near?
Some unfair people who do not know this truth ask: ‘Why did the
Companions of the Prophet with their vigilant hearts and keen sight, who had
been instructed in all the details of the Hereafter, suppose a fact that
would occur centuries later to be near to their time? Why did it appear as
though they had, in their thought, fallen a thousand years backward from the
Answer: Having benefited from the enlightening company of the Prophet
(upon him be peace and blessings), the Companions thought of the Hereafter
more than anyone else. Being well aware of the transience of the world and
conscious of the Divine Wisdom in the time of Doomsday being uncertain, they
always remained on the alert against the last hour of the world and strove
seriously for their afterlife. The noble Prophet’s frequent warning, Expect
the Last Hour, wait for it! 134 was for the same purpose and intended for
guidance. It therefore was not a pronouncement of Revelation concerning the
fixed time of its occurrence, that it should (now) be seen to be far from
the truth. The cause for something should not be confused with the benefit
attached to it. Such sayings of the Prophet as this arise from the wisdom in
leaving certain things vague.
It is also because of this that people expected the individuals who will
come at the end of time like the Mahdi and Sufyan, long ago, indeed even in
the time of the generation succeeding the Companions, and hoped to live long
enough to see them. Some of the saints even judged that they had passed. As
with the Hour of Doomsday, Divine Wisdom requires that the times of these
individuals should also remain unknown. Because in every age people feel in
need of the meaning of the Mahdi, one who will come to strengthen their
morale and save them from despair. Also, this is kept vague in order that
people should not, in heedlessness, follow evil leaders, or let the reins of
their carnal selves go free out of indifference. In order that they should,
in every century, fear and hold back from terrible individuals who come to
lead the forces of disorder and hypocrisy, these matters are not
particularized as to time. If they had been, the purposes for guiding people
as a whole would have gone unrealized.
134. Tirmidhi, Fitan, 39.