Islamic Eschatology: Assembling the Puzzle
ote from Nathan Jones: Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad on Wednesday, September 26, 2012 rattled the walls of the United Nations in a scathing speech set to his usual theme — death to the "Little Satan" Israel and the "Great Satan" the United States (transcript). To accomplish his firm belief in his divine "historic mission" of the overthrow of the West, Ahmadinejad repeatedly referred to the soon "arrival of the Ultimate Savior" whom he calls "Imam Al-Mahdi." Ahmadinejad explained that when the Mahdi comes he will be the "spring of humanity and the greenery of all ages" that will "mark a new beginning, a rebirth and a resurrection... the beginning of peace, lasting security and genuine life."
Sounds great, right? But, is the supposed coming of the Mahdi truly all peace and flowers and love as Ahmadinejad describes, or does Islamic teaching concerning the end times explain something far more sinister? And, who exactly is this Mahdi anyway whom Ahmadinejad is willing to start a nuclear war over? Find out as Dr. David Reagan explains below Islamic teachings concerning this supposed Muslim savior.
The holiest book of Islam is the Qu'ran, often spelled Koran in English. It supposedly contains statements of the Islamic god, Allah, which were given to his prophet, Mohammad, by the Angel Gabriel.
Mohammad was illiterate, so scribes wrote down what he said over a 23 year period of time, until his death in 632 AD. Much of the content of the Qu'ran was delivered by Mohammad while he was experiencing seizures that even his first wife considered to be demonic in nature. The scribes began compiling the Qu'ran shortly before Mohammad's death. The Qu'ran is about the length of the New Testament. (Copies of the Qu'ran can be purchased at any general bookstore. An interactive copy can be found on the Internet at www.hti.umich.edu/k/koran.)
The second most sacred book of Islam is called the Hadith. It is mainly a collection of Mohammad's sayings that were not considered to be revelations directly from Allah. The Hadith also contains stories about things Mohammad did.
The Hadith was compiled in the 9th Century, about two hundred years after the death of Mohammad. There were several compilations made during that time, but the most authoritative is considered to be the one by al-Bukhari. He collected a total of 600,000 sayings of Mohammad and stories about him (examples). These came from the writings of both friends and family members. Many came from Mohammad's 15 wives. Al-Bukhari verified 7,000 as "genuine." These became the Hadith.
Strangely, the Qu'ran contains very little prophecy about the end times. It mainly affirms that history will consummate with "the Hour" when the resurrection and judgment will take place. So, the Hadith is the major source of Islamic eschatology.
An Islamic Puzzle
It is extremely difficult to piece together the Islamic concept of the end times. The information is greatly disjointed, being spread throughout the Hadith. Also, unlike Christian prophecy scholars, Islamic students of prophecy have not attempted to systematize their concepts into charts and diagrams which show how all the events are related to each other.
I have done my best to piece together all the events of Islamic eschatology, and I believe that what follows is a fair representation. But keep in mind that Islamic scholars disagree on the nature and order of some events, just as Christian experts do regarding the end-time sequence of Bible prophecy.
The most helpful source I was able to discover was a book by Dr. Samuel Shahid called The Last Trumpet. He attempts to show that the major concepts of Islamic eschatology were borrowed from the Hebrew Scriptures, the Christian New Testament, and the concepts of Zoroastrianism. Dr. Shahid is the director of Islamic studies at Southwestern Baptist Theological Seminary in Ft. Worth, Texas. (See a complete bibliography at the end of this article).
Dr. Shahid proves conclusively that Mohammad secured many of his ideas orally from Christians, Jews, and followers of Zoroastrianism. In the process he got many of the stories and principles confused. For example, the Hadith states that the mother of Jesus was Mary, the sister of Moses!
Dr. Shahid also points out that the Hadith was compiled at a time when Islamic authorities knew much more about the Bible and Christian traditions and literature. Thus, many Hadith passages were manufactured and embellished and were heavily influenced by Christian sources.
Hadith passages concerning the end times are highly contradictory, and thus it is difficult to nail down a lot of specifics. Only a general outline of end time events can be compiled.
The Islamic Signs of the Times
There are both minor and major signs that point to the climactic event in Islamic eschatology — namely, "the Hour," which is the time of resurrection and judgment. There is a Second Coming of Jesus in Islamic end time events, but it is not considered to be the decisive event. Rather, it is viewed as a sign pointing toward "the Hour." The beginning of the end times is marked by the appearance of the Antichrist, who is called the Dajjal.
As with the Christian Scriptures, the order of the major end time events is not always clear in the Qu'ran and Hadith, and therefore, in Islamic tradition they are placed in various chronological order.
Also — as is the case with Christianity — Islam teaches that only God knows the timing of the end time events. But there are signs to watch for that will indicate the season. There are both major and minor signs.
Many of the minor signs have to do with general trends in society. Others relate to specific events that will occur before the appearance of the Antichrist. The major signs relate to specific prophesied events that will occur between the time of the appearance of the Antichrist and "the Hour" of resurrection and judgment. The listings of both the minor and major signs vary greatly.
In the next part of this series on Islamic Eschatology, we will look at the minor Islamic signs of the times. Lamb and Lion