While Muslims are not in complete agreement regarding the exact number, most agree that the Day of Judgement will be preceded by signs prophesied by Muhammad.
See for example the article “50 Signs of the Day of Judgment from the Words of Allah and His Messenger (sallallahu ‘alaihi wa sallam).” Of the fifty, 10 are past, 13 are present and 27 are future. Primary sources are varied concerning the number of signs. For example, Al-Muslim, in his collection of Hadith, mentions ten signs of “The Hour”:
Thereupon he [Muhammad] said: “It will not come until you see ten signs before and (in this connection) he made mention of the smoke, Dajjal [Anti-Christ], the beast, the rising of the sun from the west, the descent of Jesus son of Mary (Allah be pleased with him), the Gog and Magog, and land-slidings in three places, one in the east, one in the west and one in Arabia at the end of which fire would burn forth from the Yemen, and would drive people to the place of their assembly. (Vol. 4:6931)
Regrettably, it is not possible in this brief article to discuss in detail all of the above-mentioned portents. A selection therefore is made that includes angelic involvement, certain cataclysmic events and moral depravity.
When Allah decides the time has come for his servant to depart he sends the Angel of Death to seize his soul (Surah 6:61) As soon as the corpse is buried, two angels of fearful countenance (Munkir and Nakir) arrive to question the person. The dead person sits up and the examination begins.
Hence, in an attempt to prepare a loved one for this frightful ordeal the shahadah is recited in the dying person’s ear: “There is no god but Allah and Muhammad is the Apostle of God.” This is done in order to foil Satan’s attempts to confuse and seduce believers (Muslims). Such harsh questioning does not determine the person’s final destiny, but if the wrong answer is given, it is followed by a severe beating. On the other hand, if the right answer is given, the person lies down and peacefully waits for the Last Day.
It is to be noted that the Islamic understanding of predestination in all this discussion of the future is rigorous and unrelenting. It is God who ultimately decides the fate of an eternal soul–even the sin that soul may commit: “… Nothing will happen to us except what Allah has decreed” (Surah 9:51).
Earthquakes and Eclipses
One sign that deserves particular attention has to do with earthquakes. Some Muslims view these events (such as recently took place in Taiwan and another in Turkey where nearly 30,000 were killed), as punishment for sin.
The Qur’an says: “When the earth shall be shaken to its depths and the mountains shall be crumbled to atoms, becoming dust scattered abroad” (Surah 56:4-6). Or, as previously quoted: “When the oceans are suffered to burst forth; and when the graves are turned upside down” (Surah 82:3-4). Finally, “What is the Day of noise and clamor? … It is a Day whereon men will be like moths scattered about and the mountains like carded wool” (Surah 101:1-5).
One is reminded of Biblical references, first from the Old Testament: “Therefore I will make the heavens tremble; and the earth will shake from its place at the wrath of the Lord Almighty, in the day of his burning anger” (Isaiah 13:13). Also, the words of Jesus: “Immediately after the distress of those days, “the sun will be darkened, and the moon will not give its light; the stars will fall from the sky and the heavenly bodies will be shaken” (Matthew 24:29). And, “There will be great earthquakes, famines and pestilences in various places, and fearful events, and great signs from heaven” (Luke 21:11).
Primary Islamic sources reveal that for Muslims the eclipse is yet another sign of impending doom. They are therefore instructed to determine when the eclipse will take place so they might pray throughout its duration as Muhammad did. The Hadith records how the Arabian Prophet himself responded to an eclipse:
‘Amr b. al-‘as reported: When the sun eclipsed during the lifetime of the Messenger of Allah (may peace be upon him), they (the people) were called to congregational prayer. The Messenger of Allah (may peace be upon him) observed two ruku’s in one rak’ah. He then stood and observed two ruku’s in (the second) rak’ah. The sun then became bright, and ‘Ai’isha said: “Never did I observe ruku’ and prostration longer than this (ruku’ and prostration). (Al-Muslim, Vol. 2:1986-1995)
From the Hadith it seems that Muhammad hastened to call for congregational prayer because he was afraid of the torment of the grave. The idea seems to be that an eclipse is a sign of Allah’s wrath and of the horrors of hell.
The canonized Hadith has this to say about prevailing moral conditions on earth on the Day of Resurrection (Sahih al-Bukhari, Vol. 1:80). Narrated Anas Allah’s Apostle said, “From among the portents of the Hour are the following:
- Religious knowledge will be taken away by the death of Religious learned men.
- Religious ignorance will prevail
- Drinking of Alcoholic drinks will be very common.
- There will be prevalence of open illegal sexual intercourse.
In the very next section of the same Hadith, an additional item is added: “Women will increase in number and men will decrease in number so much so that fifty women will be looked after by one man” (Sahih al-Bukhari, Vol. 1:81)
Interestingly, it seems that the use of musical instruments will precipitate much of the moral depravity and consequent punishment that characterizes this time:
From among my followers there will be some people who will consider illegal sexual intercourse, the wearing of silk, the drinking of alcoholic drinks and the use of musical instruments, as lawful. And there will be some people who will stay near the side of a mountain and in the evening their shepherd will come to them with their sheep and ask them for something, but they will say to him, ‘Return to us tomorrow.’ Allah will destroy them during the night and will let the mountain fall on them, and He will transform the rest of them into monkeys and pigs and they will remain so till the Day of Resurrection. (Vol. 7, 69:494).
Given this account, it should come as no surprise that groups like the Taliban, and more recently the Islamic State, banned the playing of music and would often confiscate and destroy instruments along with other items considered forbidden.
*This is the second article in a four-part series on Islamic Eschatology by Dr. Warren Larson. Read article one here.