Dr. Peter Riddell delivered a lecture on Islamic Eschatology during a CIU course. Here, Riddell presents the Islamic view of the end times, focusing on a few themes within Islamic Eschatology: dying, the experience of the grave, and the final Judgment. 


  Here starts the auto-generated transcription of Dr. Peter Riddell’s Lecture: Islamic Eschatology


We’re moving on in this lecture to a new topic, the topic of eschatology, and this topic will be addressed in 2 parts. Eschatology, of course, refers to the end times. Let’s consider this statement by. Is a convert to Islam, a British convert to Islam, and he conducted some very interesting research into the, census figures coming out of a British the British census in 2,001. And in his analysis of the census figures from the Scott Scott Scottish area of Britain, he made this following statement.


He said, the Scottish figures show us that out of all the minority religions in the main Christian denominations, Islam is the religion people are least likely to leave or convert to. In other words, it is the least attractive to others and yet paradoxically the most resilient. Why might that be so? That’s an interesting question to ask, and we are going to consider an answer to that question in the materials that we look at in this lecture. I took a book of sermons from Indonesia by this, imam, h a Mustafa, and took one particular sermon and translated it.


And it included a very interesting statement, which I think gives us a window into the answer to the question that I asked about why Muslims are least likely to leave Islam. In his sermon, Mustafa says, oh Muslims, we should always be god fearing. In other words, we should always follow his commands and prohibitions. Furthermore, to be god fearing engenders a fear of death which can stimulate fear of punishment in the grave as well as a hope for God’s assistance with all complications. It’s worth asking what words recur in that particular statement.


And I think very quickly, you will see the word fear occurs twice. God fearing, god fearing of course twice as well. So within that short statement, you have some form of fear appearing 4 times. Perhaps that is one reason why Muslims are less likely to leave Islam. Let’s continue on.


Another Indonesian writer, the famous 20th century, scholar and exegete, he wrote, death is not obliteration. It is not disappearance and termination. Death is only a change to the nature of living from the perishable to the eternal, from the world to the hereafter. As long as we live in the world, we should not lose sight of this. We should not lose sight, he says, of the true nature of death, a change from the nature of living, from the perishable to the eternal, from the world to the hereafter.


So this focus on fearing god, focusing on death comes through in the right in the comments by both of these writers. Let’s consider what the Quran has to say. A famous surah that relates to this whole theme of eschatology is surah 90 beginning verse 12. Let’s read that. And what will explain to thee the path that is steep?


It is freeing the bond man or the giving of food in a day of privation to the orphan which claim with claims of relationship or to the indigent in the dust. Then will he be of those who believe and enjoying patience and enjoying deeds of kindness and compassion. Such are the companions of the right hand. But those who reject our signs, they are the companions of the left hand. On them will be fire vaulted over.


So we have this dichotomy established between companions of the right hand who who believe, who enjoin patience, and who deeds of do deeds of kindness and compassion, give food to the orphan, and so forth, who will receive rewards compared with those who don’t, the companions of the left hand over whom there will be a fire vaulted over them. Again, there’s this sense of warning that’s inbuilt into this statement, And you can imagine the sense of fear that it may engender and the sense of need to follow the the core of of, of Islam. Another verse in the Quran, a set of verses from 5 to 10 in Surah 92, go. Then he recited, as for him who gives in charity and keeps his duty to Allah and believes in the best reward from Allah, nay, I e, Allah will compensate him for what he will spend in Allah’s way. So we will make smooth for him the path of these, but he who is a greedy miser for him the path of evil.


And throughout the Quran, we have this constant sense of the dichotomy between good and evil, the rewards of being good, and the punishments that await those who are not, the rewards for those who follow and who are obedient, and the punishment awaiting the disobedient. Consider this statement from Bukhary’s Hadith collection, volume 6, book 60, number 469. This is from Ali, Mohammed’s son-in-law. We were in the company of the prophet in a funeral procession at. He said, there’s none of you but has his place written for him in paradise or in the hell fire.


They said, oh, Allah’s apostle, shall we depend on this fact and give up work? He said, carry on doing good deeds for everybody will find it easy to do what will lead him to his destined place. Based on such Koranic accounts and hadith accounts, we find statements by scholars such as Patrick Seal, who wrote, as Islamic sunnah or tradition grew and expanded in the centuries that followed Muhammad’s death, new horrors were added which the prophet never conceived, such as the interrogation in the grave and the torments that follow. So we have this idea that the Quran, of course, according to the Islamic Islamic account, was the first Islamic text to appear, and it was supplemented by the Hadith collections. And Patrick Seal is suggesting that as the additional writings happened, the threats and the and the the the sense of fear and the gruesome accounts of punishment for misdeeds grew more and more and more in the Islamic literature.


So having looked generally at those literary materials, let’s focus in on a particular theme at this point. That is the theme of, the experience of dying. This is a theme that comes through quite regularly in the Islamic literature. A very early Jewish convert to Islam, Kaaba Al Ahbar, he writes, dying is like a thorny tree being pushed into a man’s insides so that every thorn takes hold of a vein they’re in and then dragged a man mighty of strength so that what is rent is rent and what remains. We’re getting a sense as to why there may be this sense of apprehension on the part of Muslims of what happens if they are not obedient And, again, why Muslims may be less likely to leave Islam as was pointed out by Yahya Burt in his quote in the first slide that we encountered in this lecture.


Continuing on, let’s consider this right the reading by Samarkhandi, a classical Islamic scholar, again on the process of death. When a man who is a true believer is drawing near to the next world and is about to be cut off from this world, they’re to send to him angels whose faces are white as the sun, bringing with them a shroud from paradise and celestial aromatics and take their seat just within his vision. Then the angel of death arrives, takes a seat at his head and says, oh, thou tranquil soul, come forth to Allah’s favor and forgiveness. Then it comes forth flowing as easily as a drop from a water skin. But Samarkandhi goes on to give the other side of the corn coin.


Remember this dichotomy between the believer and the disbeliever. What happens to the disbeliever? He continues. But when an unbeliever is drawing near to the next world and being cut off from this world, they descend to him from heaven angels whose faces are black, bringing with them hair cloth and take their seats just within his vision. Then the angel of death arrives, takes a seat at his head and says, oh, thou pernicious soul, come forth to Allah’s discontent and wrath.


Thereupon, his soul is scattered through all his members and the angel drags it forth like the dragging of an iron spit through moist wool tearing the veins and the sinews. In my own scholarship, I have focused on writings by Indonesian and Malay scholars. And one of the very earliest Indonesian Islamic scholars who has left significant writing is Abdurra’of of. One of his shorter pieces of writing was this document, which was entitled, and the English translation is essential exposition and clarification on the visionary experience of the dying and what gladdens him. Now in this account, Abderaouf describes the experience of of death.


And you have, a detailed article, on the Moodle page by myself in which I, talk about this article and its significance and look at it from various angles. Here on these slides, I include several excerpts from this document, from this particular work by Abdul Auf. Let’s read them. When a person is at the point of death, he experiences several visions. When a vision of black appears to him, which is Satan, then he should utter the creed.


There is no God but Allah and Mohammed is the prophet of Allah. He he he. When a vision of red appears to him, which represents the Christians, then he should utter, there is no God but Allah, and Mohammed is the prophet of Allah. He he he. When a vision of yellow appears to him, which represents the Jews, then he should utter, there is no God but Allah, and Mohammed is the prophet of Allah.


He he he. When a vision of white appears to him, which represents the vision of our prophet Muhammad, the messenger of Allah, then he should utter by the will of Allah. He was one of the true believers. When a servant of Allah is at the point of death, 2 devils sit next to him, 1 on his right and one on his left. The devil on his right takes the form of his father and says to him, oh, my child, I truly love and cherish you.


Please die in the Christian faith as it is the best of religions. The devil on his left takes the form of his mother and says to him, oh, my child, my womb was your shelter, my milk was your nourishment, and my lap was your place of repose. Please die in the Jewish faith as it is the best of religions. Thereupon Allah inclines whoever he wishes towards faiths which have gone astray. Whenever Allah wishes to show one of his servants the true path and to affirm him through statement of the divine unity, the angel of mercy comes to him.


Some scholars identify him as Gabriel, and he drives away from that person all the devils, and he wipes his face. That’s a very interesting account by Abdur’aouf now. The document was written in the late 1600. So we may well ask the question, how relevant is it today? But in fact, the themes of the death experience and the role played by, demons presenting themselves as Christians and Jews to lure the believing Muslim away from his belief is a theme that recurs in modern is some is modern Islamic literature as well.


Let’s think more broadly and ask the question, how does the portrayal of death in the preceding slides compare with biblical teaching? Write down your main thoughts. And I would also draw your attention to the Moodle page where you have a comparative index to Islam on the theme of death in which, there are wide ranging references throughout the Islamic literature, especially in the Quran to the theme of death. Welcome back to my an understanding the Quran. We’re continuing on with the theme of eschatology, and we’re going to look at the 2nd phase of eschatology.


Phase 1 in a sense that relates to the average to the ordinary individual is the phase of dying. Phase 2 relates to another theme, namely the torment in the grave, what happens in the grave, the experience of being in the grave leading ultimately up to judgment day. I’d refer you to your Moodle page under lecture 6. There is a reading by Sam Shimun entitled Islam and the magical world of genies and dragons. And that reading includes a good discussion drawing on various sources, which addresses this question of the experience of the grave.


The Indonesian scholar, Hamka, who we’ve encountered on a number of occasions before, draws our attention to the post death experience. He writes, it seems that before experiencing paradise or hell, one must pass through the period in the grave because this is a reflection of what will be experienced later. Note that last statement that the experience in the grave for the deceased heralds what they will experience in the end times of the final judgment. In a sense, it’s a kind of trial experience. Humpka goes on, although a person acknowledges faith in Allah, nevertheless the calculations of the sins and errors which he committed during his life will be taken into account.


Exception and relief will only be applied after that calculation, measuring the relative weight of his good and bad deeds. So there’s an assessment that takes place in the grave according to this Islamic belief. Reflecting and herolding the final assessment, which will take place on the day of judgment. We read this hadith account from Bukhadi who writes, once the prophet, while passing through one of the graveyards of Medina or Mecca, heard the voices of 2 persons who were being tortured in their graves. The prophet said, these 2 persons are being tortured.


Indeed, one of them never saved himself from being soiled with his urine, while the other used to go about with calumnies. The prophet then asked for a green leaf of a date palm tree, broke it into 2 pieces, and put 1 on each grave. On being asked why he he had done so, he replied, I hope that their torture might be lessened till these get dry. So in the grave, the deceased is subjected to tests, to an interrogation, to an assessment, and for some, that leads to torture. Abu Hanifa, a great early Islamic writer who we encountered in earlier lectures, who’s the father of the Hannafide law school, he writes on this.


He writes in one of his pieces of literature, article 18, we confess that the punishment in the tomb shall without fail take place. Article 19, we confess in view of the traditions on the subject, the interrogation by Munkar and Nakheer is a reality. Now Munkar and Nakheer are 2 of the Islamic angels and their specific is to interrogate the deceased in the grave to determine whether they were believers or unbelievers, obedient or disobedient. If they were unbelievers and were disobedient, then punishment ensued. An Nasafi, another classical Islamic writer, writes, the truly orthodox people teach that the torments of the tomb and the questioning by Munkar and Nakhir are realities, and that the pressure of the grave is a reality.


Whether a man be a believer or an unbeliever, obedient or reprobate. If he is an unbeliever, his his torment in the term continues till the resurrection day, but he gets relief from the torment on Fridays and during the month of Ramadan because of the sacred character of these periods. He continues, believers fall into 2 classes. If the deceased has been obedient, there will be no torment in the tomb for him. If he has been disobedient, he will suffer both the torment and the pressure of the grave, but the torment will be cut off on Fridays.


Again, we have this dichotomy between believers and unbelievers, obedient and disobedient. Another classical writer, Al Ghazali, who we’ve encountered before, a great influence on Muslims down the ages, writes on this topic as well. He says, we’re dealing with the unseen world. The snakes and scorpions of the tomb are not of the same species as the snakes and scorpions of our lower world. They belong to a different species and are perceived by a different sense of sight.


Suffering may be of the mind as is the case when one dreams that he has been stung and cries out in his sleep. The mind, unlike the body, suffers no change at death, and the deceased retains consciousness. He may therefore suffer pain or enjoy felicity as the case may be. Now the last few slides have presented perspectives on this experience in the grave by classical Islamic scholars. But lest we think that that is merely a theme discussed by classical thinkers, I present now writing a writing by h a Mustafa, the Indonesian preacher who I talked about before.


He writes, remember that the grave is like a garden of the gardens of paradise or a chasm of the chasms of hell. And the grave itself declares each day, I am a house of darkness. I am a place of loneliness. I am the abode of maggots. And Mustafa is a preacher, and this excerpt is taken from one of his sermons, one of his Friday sermons in a mosque in Indonesia.


So it goes to show that these themes of torment in the grave, punishment, reward, squeezing, and so forth are very much in the in the consciousness of Muslims in the present day just as they were in the classical period. These themes have not gone away. They are still there. Similarly, Hampka, another Indonesian writer who we’ve encountered many times before, writes, for sinners, the realm of the grave will be lengthy in duration, but for those who feel that their lives have been more weighted towards good, the duration will not be long. What does fast and slow mean in this context?


What does measurement in days years mean? Is it not the case that in our present lives, for someone who cannot get to sleep, one night feels like 12 hours. And for someone who sleeps well, one night only seems like a passing moment. So remembering that this theme of the torment in the grave or the testing in the grave with torment for those who were unbelievers and disobedient, remembering that that theme lives on in modern day writing by Islamic scholars and therefore circulates among modern day Muslim communities. How would you go about formulating a Christian response to this issue?


What biblical verses would you draw on? Will your approach be more logical and rational or more textual and biblical or more prayerful or a combination of these. We’re continuing on with our theme of eschatology in the Quran and in its associated literature. So far, we’ve considered 2 aspects of eschatology. Firstly, the process of dying.


Secondly, the experience in the grave following death. And now we’re turning our attention to the 3rd stage of the eschatological scheme, namely the final judgment. I’d like you to pause your recording for the moment and go to the Moodle page and turn on a film, a YouTube film, for which a link is provided on the Moodle page. The film is entitled signs of judgment day. Now this is a popular film produced by ordinary Muslims uploaded to YouTube, but it focuses on popular themes circulating amongst the Islamic community about signs of the impending judgment.


Now these signs are based in many ways upon Islamic literature. As you watch the film, I’d like you to consider how such popular Islamic accounts of the signs of the end times compare with accounts within the Christian tradition. The theme of the end times of the final judgment recurs on a repeated basis in the Quran. Surah 81 gives us a taste. Surah 81 maps out the kinds of signs that Muslims can look for signs at the end times.


Let’s read these verses from Surah 81. When the sun is folded folded up, the stars fall losing their luster, mountains vanish. She camels 10 months with young are left untended. Wild beasts are herded together. Oceans boil over with a swell.


Souls are sorted out. The female infant is buried alive. It’s questioned for what crime she was killed. When the scrolls are laid open, the world on high is unveiled. Blazing fire is kindled to fierce heat.


The garden is brought near. Then shall each soul know what it has put forward. So verily I call to witness the planets that recede, go straight or hide, and the night as it dissipates, and the dawn as it breathes away the darkness. The Indonesian preacher who I referred to earlier, h a Mustafa, in one of his sermons makes reference to the final day. He writes, remember that after the grave comes a day which is more dire, a day when small children will rapidly grow up.


Adults will be like drunkards and pregnant women will abort. And you will see people appear drunk, not through drinking alcohol, but rather through the dire and terrifying punishment of god. Surah 18 has eschatological themes pointing to the final judgment at various points of it. Beginning verse 47, one day we shall remove the mountains and thou wilt see the earth as a level stretch, and we shall gather them all together, nor shall we leave out any one of them, and they will be marshaled before the lord in ranks. Now have ye come to us as we created ye first.


I, ye thought we shall not fulfill the appointment made to you to meet. And the book will be placed and thou wilt see the sinful in great terror because of what is there in. They will say, ah, woe to us. What a book is this. It leaves out nothing small or great but takes account thereof.


They will find all that they did place before them and not one will by lord treat with injustice. You get the sense of impending doom that is woven through these kinds of accounts about the final day. And you also get a sense as to why Muslims would be fearful of the consequences if they are not obedient to God’s instructions. In commenting on the verses that we’ve just read from surah 18, a Malay language commentary contained in the Cambridge University Library writes as follows. The sections from the Quran are in brackets, italicized, and the commentary appears outside that those sections in brackets.


Verse 48. And they will be marshaled by the angels, oh, Muhammad, before thy lord and they will be in ranks and they will see that there is no one for protection. Now a decree pronounced for the unbelievers who deny the day of judgment. Have you come to us on this day naked with nothing to your name as we created you first when you came from the earth alone without any clothes or wealth? I, you thought we shall not fulfill the appointment made to you to meet, which was said to you by the prophets, and we will resurrect you from the grave, assemble you in the field of mashar, cause you to be fearful and criticize your actions.


And now the commentary continues by citing a hadith in support of the quranic message. An account from Aisha, may God be pleased with her. One day I asked the prophet of God, prophet of God, how will the people appear who are resurrected from the grave on the day of judgment when they are assembled in the field of Mashar? The prophet of God said, all those resurrected from the grave to the field of Mashaar will be naked. So I said, will all the women be naked too, oh prophet of God?


The prophet of God replied, all the women will be completely naked. So I asked, oh, prophet of God, won’t all the women feel ashamed? The prophet of God replied, the events at the time will be so important that no one will be concerned with other people nor will anyone even notice other people. Each will be concerned with themselves. No one will feel any curiosity towards other people.


So you get a sense from that commentary how Hadith is used to explicate and to elucidate the Quranic verses. Now this next reading is from a Samarkhandi, a classical writer who wrote an extended piece of literature focusing on the final day. And his his work is essentially a cobbling together of a whole range of different hadith accounts that talk about the end times. The hadith are very important for understanding the end times. He writes in talking about the fire of punishment that awaits the unbelievers.


He writes, the fire was stoked for a 1000 years till it became red. Then it was stoked for a 1000 years till it became white. Then it was stoked for a 1000 more years till it became black so that it is black as the darkest night. With such themes, it’s little wonder that many Muslims are apprehensive about being seen to be disobedient and are unlikely to leave Islam. Moving to the islands of Indonesia to an East Javanese village, we find a question posed that was answered by a leading Indonesian scholar.


The question from an East Javanese village Muslim is as follows. In the Quran, surah 2 verse 62, it says that apart from believers, there are also Jews, Christians and Sabeans who benefit from God’s rewards. Because they have faith in Allah in the last day and do good works, The clarification I seek is as follows, which Jews, Christians, and Sabeans are referred to here? Now this is very interesting. This intersects with a later topic we’re going to be addressing in our lectures, the topic of the people of the book.


So this Muslim has village Muslim has posed the question, and now the question is answered. It’s answered by Hamka, the very famous 20th century Indonesian scholar. He replies, the reference in this verse to Jews, Christians, and Sabeans means those Jews, Christians, and Sabeans in all periods since the time of the revelation of that verse 14 centuries ago right up until our present times. Those who are believers at the outset remain believers for all time right up until our present time and beyond. We’re staying with this theme about the outcome or the rewards or punishments awaiting non muslims.


He continues, if there’s among those some who only acknowledge the prophethood of Moses without recognizing the prophethood of Jesus and Mohammed, as is the case with Jews of today, their faith is certainly not acceptable. If they only believe in Jesus and resolutely refuse to recognize the prophethood of Mohammed, their faith is certainly not acceptable. In other words, those Jews and Christians who will earn the rewards on the day of judgement according to this Islamic view are those Jews and Christians who accept Mohammed as the final prophet. He goes on, envy is the reason that they are not willing to recognize that which is within their own sacred texts, which foretold that a last prophet would come to perfect the divine law of the earlier prophets. And the door to enter Islam will remain open to them until the day of resurrection.


Again, this theme is is there in the writing of Hamkar that the original biblical record contained references to the coming of Mohammed, and those references were largely erased from the biblical record by Jews and Christians. That’s the standard dogma of Islam. Let’s stay in Indonesia. Let’s listen to the writing of another liberal Islamic scholar, Nur Kholej Majid, the late Nur Kholej Majid, who has now passed away. He wrote, when the day of resurrection has arrived, nobody will speak except by his permission, by God’s permission.


Mankind will be divided into 2 groups, the suffering and the joyous. As for the suffering, they will remain in hell where they will moan incessantly. They will remain there forever while the sky and earth exist except if your Lord wishes otherwise, because your Lord certainly carries out whatever he wishes. As for the joyous, they will be in paradise remaining there eternally while the sky and earth exist, except if your lord wishes otherwise as a limitless mercy. So he’s allocating the ultimate decision to the sovereign Allah.


The 911 attacks were one of the most significant historical moments in the 21st century, one which will never be forgotten. The 911 hijackers left behind a letter, which had been written by their leader, Mohammed Atta, and circulated among them the night before the attacks. Let’s listen to that letter. You are doing an act that Allah loves and is content with. Because there will be a day by the permission of Allah that you will spend it with pure women in paradise.


Do you hear the eschatological theme coming through this letter, which motivated the men to the actions that they took? Smile in the face of adversity, all young men, for you are going forth to the everlasting paradise. Know that the paradises have been ornamented for you with the most beautiful of its ornaments and the women of paradise are call calling upon you to come forth, oh, you friend of Allah, and she has worn the best of its ornaments. When the hour of 0 comes, breathe deeply and open your chest welcoming death in the way of Allah. Always remember that you end your life with prayer and that you begin with it before the target and let the last part of your speech be.


There is no god but Allah, and Mohammed is his messenger. And after it, if god is willing, the meeting in the high paradise. It’s a chilling letter that was circulated among those 19 young men before they crashed those planes into those buildings and into the ground. And what comes through very clearly is this belief that by doing what they did, they could short circuit. They could circumvent the final day, the judgment, all that goes with tormenting the grave, and so forth.


Because they believed that by dying as they were doing, they were dying as martyrs, and therefore, they would not have to go through the testing in the grave and the final judgment. They would just go straight to paradise. So if Islamic teaching seems to be pointing Muslims towards the end times, preparing them and warning them, How does that compare with biblical teaching, and how would you approach Muslims on this question? And remember our original question at the beginning of these lectures on eschatology, where we looked at the quote by Yahya Burt, where he explained that Islam was the religion that people were least likely to convert to, but also least likely to leave. So those within Islam were most unlikely to leave it, and I think we’ve seen in these lectures why, given the warning that’s built into the Islamic textual materials about death, the grave experience, and the final judgment.