4.2. The central point of Islamic eschatology: Judgment Day


Islam came up with a new set of rules regarding the relation between man and God and a new eschatology, parallel to those of Judaism and Christianity. The problem is that the Islamic scenario of the last days strikingly resembles the Christian one. And this is one of the main arguments brought by Christian exegetes to prove that Islam is a false religion, built by distorting the Christian and Hebrew texts.

The key difference between the Christian apocalyptic scenario and the Islamic one consists in the distribution of the importance upon the events. Christians see Christ as being the central element of their religion and, accordingly, they confer a crucial role to his Second Coming. Muslims do not deny the return of Christ, they even assert it, but because he was only an important prophet, his return has a secondary importance in the overall scenario of the end. While the central point of Christian eschatology is the Second Coming, Islamic eschatology confers maximum importance to Judgment Day. Therefore, the Quran offers the most detailed information regarding this event.

The Quran uses 19 different names to designate Judgment Day or the end of the world: the Day of Judgment, the Day of Gathering, the Day of Resurrection or the Day of Reckoning. Islam teaches about the resurrection of the dead, the fulfillment of a divine plan for the world and the immortality of the human soul. The righteous are rewarded with the pleasures of Heaven, while the wicked are punished in Hell. About a third of the Quran is occupied by eschatological beliefs, completed by many hadiths. Islamic eschatology speaks about the last days as a period of trial, when people will experience anarchy and chaos in order to prove their love for Allah.

The Quran, like the Bible, details the signs preceding the end of the world, but the moment of their consummation is a divine secret: “People ask you about the Hour. Say, ‘God alone has knowledge of it.’ How could you [Prophet] know? The Hour may well be near” (Quran 33:63). So, the time of the end is a secret kept by Allah and any attempt to find it is a blasphemy.

The Quran and the hadiths offer lots of details about the end of days. One of the most famous narrations on this subject is assigned to Abu Hurairah, Muhammad’s companion:

One day while the prophet was sitting in the company of some people, (the angel) Gabriel came and asked: ... “When will the Hour be established?” Allah’s Apostle replied: “The answerer has no better knowledge than the questioner. But I will inform you about its portents. 1. When a slave (lady) gives birth to her master. 2. When the shepherds of black camels start boasting and competing with others in the construction of higher buildings. And the Hour is one of five things which nobody knows except Allah” (Sahih Al-Bukhari 1:47).37

Islamic eschatology says that 10 signs will certainly happen before the coming of the end: smoke for 40 days, the rise of al-Dajjal, the Beast (that will rise from earth and will be gigantic), the Sun rising in the west, the descent of Jesus, Gog and Magog, and three massive landslides: one in the east, one in the west and another in Arabia, at the end of which a fire will come out from the direction of Yemen that will cast out the remaining people toward the final settlement (Sahih Muslim 6931).

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