Traditions concerning the events at the end of time

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How about the traditions concerning the signs of the last day, and the unusual events at the end of time, and the rewards and merits of certain actions?

The Prophetic Traditions concerning the signs of the Last Day, the unusual events at the end of time, and the rewards and merits of certain actions have not been understood well enough. Thus some scholars who rely on their intellectual capacities have asserted some of these Traditions to be either weak or false. Some of the scholars with weak belief and strong egotism and self-pride have gone so far as to deny them.

In order to disperse the doubts concerning such Traditions, but without going into a detailed discussion, I will try to explain twelve principles.

First principle: This is the point which I have explained elsewhere. To summarize it:

Religion is a means of testing human beings, which distinguishes elevated spirits from base ones. It therefore speaks of the matters which everyone will see or experience in the future in such a way that they neither remain altogether unknown, nor do they become so evident that everyone will feel compelled to confirm them. It opens up a door to the reason but does not deny man the use of his free will. Because, if a sign of the Last Day were to appear so evidently that everyone were compelled to affirm it, then a disposition like coal would remain equal with one like diamond. The meaning of holding man responsible for his beliefs and actions and the purpose for testing him would be negated. It is because of this that different Traditions have been related concerning many issues like that of the Mahdi (the Muslim Messiah) and Sufyan—the Anti-Christ expected to appear in the Muslim world—and there has been much dispute over them.

Second principle: Islamic issues are not all of the same degree of importance. If one issue demands certain proof, for another the prevailing opinion is sufficient; a third requires merely assent and acceptance and non-rejection. For this reason, secondary issues or historical events, which are not among the principles of faith, do not require conviction and decisive proof. Rather, for compliance one should not reject and oppose them.

Third principle: In the time of the Companions of the Prophet (upon him be peace and blessings) most of the Jewish and Christian scholars accepted Islam, and their former knowledge also be-came ‘Muslim’ together with themselves. Some of their former knowledge which was contrary to the truth was later imagined to belong to Islam.

Fourth principle: While relating the Traditions, some narrators tended to make some explanations and included the meanings that they deduced from the Traditions. In later times these additions came to be considered to be part of the texts of the Traditions. Nevertheless, since man is not free of error, some of their opinions or deductions which were contrary to the truth were supposed to be Traditions and were declared to be weak.

Fifth principle: There were among the scholars of Hadith—the Traditionists—some about whom the Prophet (upon him be peace and blessings) declared: Among any community are those who are in-spired.130 Thus, the meanings which some inspired, saintly Traditionists obtained through inspiration and communicated to others came to be supposed as Traditions in later times. Whereas, due to certain obstructions, some of the inspirations occurring to saints may be defective and therefore contrary to the truth.

Sixth principle: There are certain narrations which, having acquired a wide circulation among people, have become like proverbs. Their literal meanings, the words used, are not important. Their meaning and intent is what is given consideration. Thus, the noble Messenger, (upon him be peace and blessings), would sometimes make reference, in the form of comparisons or metaphors, to some of the narrations or fables of this kind, for the purpose of guidance. If there is any error in the original, literal meanings of these sorts of sayings, it belongs to the customs and traditions of people, and to the way they have been circulated among them.

Seventh principle: There are many similes and parables that with the passage of time or due to their passing from the hand of learning to the hand of ignorance have been supposed to be physical facts, and have become mistaken. For example, two angels of God called ‘The Ox’ and ‘The Fish,’ are represented as an ox and fish in the world of symbols or immaterial forms and are among the supervisors of the animals of the land and the sea. They were imagined to be a huge ox and a physical fish, and the hadith relating to them was criticized. As another example, once in the presence of the Holy Prophet (upon him be peace and blessings) a rumbling was heard. The noble Messenger declared: That is the sound of a rock that has been rolling down for seventy years and only now has reached the bottom of Hell.131 Anyone who hears this Tradition and does not know the truth of the matter may be misled into rejecting it. However, some twenty minutes after the Tradition was spoken, someone came and told the noble Messenger (upon him be peace and blessings): ‘Such-and-such well-known hypocrite died twenty minutes ago.’ The noble Messenger (upon him be peace and blessings) had described most eloquently that the whole life of the hypocrite, who was then seventy years old, had been spent, as a rock in Hell, descending to the lowest of the low in unbelief. Almighty God had caused that rumbling to be heard by the noble Prophet and his Companions at the moment of his death, for which He had made a sign.

Eighth principle: In this world of testing and arena of examination, Almighty God, the Absolutely Wise One, conceals for many purposes certain most important things amidst the multiplicity of things. For example, He has hidden the Night of Power in the whole of Ramadan, and the hour when prayers are never rejected in the whole of Friday. He has hidden His favorite friends among all the people, and the appointed hour of death in a person’s whole life-time, and the time of Doomsday in the whole life of the world. For if the time of a man’s death had been made known to him, he would pass half of his life in absolute heedlessness, and in the second half of it, he would be in terror like that of going step by step to the gallows. Whereas the benefit of preserving the balance between this world and the next, and all the time reasoning between hope and fear, required that living and dying are possible every moment. Therefore, twenty years of life the end of which is unknown to man is preferable to a thousand years of life of whose end man was pre-informed.

Doomsday is the last appointed hour of the world, which is macro-human. If that hour had been known to man, the people of all the early and middle ages would have been absorbed in absolute heedlessness, and those of the latter centuries would have been in terror. Just as in his personal life man is concerned with the survival of his home and town, so too in his social life and as a member of the human species he is concerned with the existence of the earth and the world.

The Qur’an announces: The Hour has approached. (54:1) That this announcement was made fourteen centuries ago does not mean that the Hour is not near. For Doomsday is the death of the world, and in proportion to the life of the world, one or two thousand years are like one or two hours in proportion to a year. The Hour of Doomsday is not only the appointed hour of mankind that the Hour should be proportioned to a human-time scale and therefore seen, from fourteen centuries ago, as remote. It is because of this that the Absolutely Wise One conceals the time of Doomsday in His Knowledge among the ‘five things of the absolutely Unseen.’132 It is due to this uncertainty that in every age including the Age of Happiness, which is the truth-seeing age of the Prophet (upon him be peace and blessings), people have always been frightened of the coming of Doomsday. Some of them have even judged that its signs have already appeared.

Ninth principle: The results of some of the issues of faith are concerned with this narrow and conditioned world, while others are related to the world of the Hereafter, which is wide and unconditioned. In order properly to reinforce encouragement towards good deeds and restraint from evil ones, some Traditions about the virtues and rewards of certain religious acts are couched in most eloquent terms, which some unthinking people have supposed to be exaggerated. However, they are all pure truth and there is no exaggeration in them.

For example, a Tradition which has been most unfairly criticized says:

‘If the world had as much value as a fly’s wing for God, the unbelievers would not have had so much as a sip of water from the world.’133 What is alluded to here is not the whole of the world itself, but everyone’s private world which is limited to their short lives and cannot be equal to an everlasting divine favor to the extent of a fly’s wing from the eternal world. The phrase for God refers to the eternal world; that is, by virtue of being everlasting, a light from the eternal world to the extent of a fly’s wing is greater than the amount of transient light which fills the earth.

Furthermore, the world has two facets, rather, three facets. One is that the world consists in the mirrors where Almighty God’s Names are reflected. The other facet is concerned with the other world; that is, the world is the arable field sown with the seeds of the other world. The third looks to transience and non-existence; it is the world of the misguided, of which God does not approve. Thus, the Tradition above means not that world which consists in the mirrors to Divine Names or in the missives of the Eternally Besought-of-All. Nor is it the physical world itself where every thing and event is a sign for or a message from Almighty God—and which is the realm where man may gain the eternal world. Rather, it means that the world of the worldly, which is opposed to the Hereafter and the source of all wrongs and the origin of misfortunes, is not worth one everlasting particle out of what the believers will be rewarded with in the Hereafter. Thus, what relation does the meaning as under-stood by the unfair heretics have to do with this most exact and serious truth? What does the meaning which those unfair atheists suppose to be most exaggerated have to do with this?

To conclude: O unfair one with weak belief but strong dialectics! Consider these nine principles. Then do not make a Tradition that you suppose to be contrary to the truth and opposed to reality, the pretext to point the finger of objection at the Traditions. Do not use this as a ruse to slight the reliability and authenticity of the Prophetic Traditions and the purity and infallibility of the noble Messenger (upon him be peace and blessings)! Because, first of all, the content of those ‘Ten principles’ causes you to give up the denial of the Traditions, and they warn you: ‘If there is a real flaw, it is ours; it can-not be attributed to the Traditions. If, by contrast, it is not a real flaw, then the problem arises because of your misunderstanding.’ In short, denial and rejection require to contradict and refute those ‘Ten principles.’ Therefore, if you are fair, after pondering over these ‘Ten principles’ with due care and attention, do not attempt to deny any Traditions that you judge to be contrary to the truth! Say instead, ‘There must be a way to explain or interpret this,’ and do not criticize it.

Tenth principle: Just as the Qur’an contains difficult and allegorical verses which need interpretation or else demand absolute submission, the Traditions also have difficulties that sometimes require extremely careful interpretation. The examples above may be sufficient for you.

One who is awake can interpret the dream of another who has slept, and sometimes one who is sleeping hears the speech of those near him who are awake, and gives them a meaning in accordance with his world of sleep. In the same way one who is stupefied in the sleep of heedlessness and false reasoning must not deny in his ‘dream’ but interpret the vision of the one who was always and truly awake. The Prophet manifested the meaning of, ‘His eye never wavered nor did it swerve,’ and ‘My eye sleeps, but my heart sleeps not.’ If a mosquito bites someone who is sleeping, he may dream that he has received terrible wounds in war. If he were to be questioned, he would say: ‘Truly I have been wounded. They fired guns and rifles at me.’ Nevertheless, those sitting by him would laugh at his anguish in sleep. Thus, the view of heedlessness and philosophy in its ‘sleep’ certainly cannot be the criterion for the truths of Prophethood.

The Prophet deals with everything from the viewpoint of

God’s Divinity and Unity, and Hereafter

Eleventh principle: Since the way of Prophethood and faith, and the doctrine of Divine Unity deal with everything from the viewpoint of Unity, the Hereafter, and God’s Divinity, they see the truth and reality from the same perspective. However, modern scientific views and philosophy are concerned with nature, causality, and things in their multiplicity. Since these two points of view are extremely distant from each other, even the greatest aim of philosophers and scientists is small and in-significant to the degree of being imperceptible in comparison with the aims of the scholars of religious methodology and theology.

It is for this reason that scientists have advanced greatly in detailed explanation of the structure and nature of beings, but they are more backward than a simple believer in the exalted divine sciences and eschatology. Those who do not understand this significant fact think that when compared to scientists and philosophers, the meticulous scholars of Islam are backward. Whereas, how can those whose minds see no further than their eyes and who are submerged in the multiplicity of things reach those who have achieved the sublime sacred aims through succession to the mission of the noble Prophet (upon him be peace and blessings)?

Furthermore, when looked at from two different viewpoints, a thing may display two different truths. For example, when viewed from the perspective of science, the reality of the earth is this: as a middle-sized planet, it revolves around the sun among countless stars. When compared to most of the stars, it is a small body. But, as explained in The Fifteenth Word, according to the people of the Qur’an, its reality is otherwise. Man, the fruit of the tree of creation, is a most comprehensive, complex, wonderful, and most honorable miracle of Divine Power, and yet a most impotent creature. The earth, his cradle and dwelling-place, is, despite its small size in comparison with the heavens, the heart and center of the universe in regard to the art and meaning it contains. It is also the exhibition of all the miracles of divine art; the place and focus of all manifestations of all the Divine Names; and the place of reflection and display of all the activities of His Lordship. It is the place and market where the infinite divine creativity abundantly gives existence to innumerable species of plants and animals and the place where the samples of the creatures of the broadest worlds of the Hereafter are exhibited in small scale. The earth is the loom for rapidly weaving everlasting textiles, and the swiftly changing scenes producing ever-renewed panoramas, and the temporary tillage and seed-bed for the seeds of everlasting gardens. Thus, although both views—scientific and Qur’anic—are true, no certain fact of science can ever be equal to the sacred truths of the Qur’an. The hand of science can never reach the Qur’an’s pure sublimity.

It is because of this extensive meaning and significance of the art it contains, that the wise Qur’an holds the earth—however small in size it is when compared to the heavens—to be the equal of all the heavens. Like holding a tiny heart to be equivalent to a huge body, placing the earth in one of the scales of a balance and all the heavens in the other, the Qur’an repeatedly mentions, the Lord of the heavens and the earth.

So, compare other issues with this and understand that the dim, lifeless truths of the modern scientific and philosophical approach cannot compete with the brilliant, living truths of the Qur’an. Since the point of view of each is different, they appear differently.

130. Bukhari, Fada’il al-Sahaba, 6; Muslim, Fada’il al-Sahaba, 23; Tirmidhi, Manakib, 17.

131. Muslim, Janna, 31; Ahmad ibn Hanbal, Musnad, 3.341.

132. Surely God, He has knowledge of the Hour; He sends down rain [no one except He knows the exact time of rain before its signs appear]; He knows what is in the wombs [the future sex of the embryo, and its future features, fate, etc.]. No soul knows what it shall earn tomorrow, and no soul knows in what land it shall die. Surely God is All-Knowing, All-Aware (Luqman, 31.34). (Tr.)

133. Muslim, Munafiqun, 18; Bukhari, Tafsir sura 18.6; I. Maja, Zuhd, 3.

 

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