Islam and the end of history
Is there an Islamic view of the end of history? Did Iqbāl ever address it? We have explained in An Islamic View of Gog and Magog in the Modern World the distinction between ‘end of history’ and ‘end of the world’. It is appropriate in the context of the subject we are here examining, to note that Islam has chosen terminology located in time for referring to the end of history. The Islamic word is “the Hour” (al-Sa‘ah). The supreme importance of this subject of “the Hour,” i.e., the end of history, was established in the famous visit of Archangel Gabriel (‘alaihi al-Salām) when he appeared before the Prophet (sallalahu ‘alaihi wa sallam) in the Masjid in the form of a man. He asked questions, the Prophet (sallalahu ‘alaihi wa sallam) answered them, and Gabriel (‘alaihi al-Salām) then confirmed that the answers were correct. Sometime after his departure the Prophet (sallalahu ‘alaihi wa sallam) informed the Muslims of the identity of the visitor, and of the fact that he had come (at that very late stage in the life of the Prophet) to instruct them in their religion.
The Archangel asked five questions and the last two of them related to the end of history. The first of those last two questions was: when will the end come? The Prophet (sallalahu ‘alaihi wa sallam) replied to the effect that the one who was being questioned had no more knowledge of the subject than the questioner. The second question was: tell me of the signs by which we would know that the end is at hand (i.e., what are some of the signs by which we would recognize the age that would witness the end of history?) He replied that:
- a slave girl would give birth to her mistress – and this has now become possible because of surrogate parenting, and that
- the barefooted shepherds of yesterday would be competing with each other in constructing high-rise buildings.
Here is the full text of the Hadīth:
`Umar ibn Khattab (Allah be well pleased with him) said:
“As we were sitting one day before the Messenger of Allah (peace and blessings be upon him), a man suddenly appeared. He wore pure white clothes and his hair was dark black—yet there were no signs of travel on him, and none of us knew him.
He came and sat down in front of the Prophet (peace and blessings be upon him), placing his knees against his, and his hands on his thighs. He said, “O Muhammad! Tell me about Islam.”
The Messenger of Allah (peace and blessings be upon him) replied, “Islam is to bear witness that there is no god but God and that Muhammad is the Messenger of God; and to perform the prayer; pay Zakat; fast Ramadan; and to perform Hajj to the House if you are able.”
The man said, “You have spoken the truth,” and we were surprised that he asked and then confirmed the answer.
Then, he asked, “Tell me about belief (Iman).”
The Prophet (peace and blessings be upon him) replied, “It is to believe in Allah; His Angels; His Books; His Messengers; the Last Day; and in destiny—its good and bad.”
The man said, “You have spoken the truth. Now, tell me about spiritual excellence (Ihsan).”
The Prophet (peace and blessings be upon him) replied, “It is to serve Allah as though you see Him; and if you don’t see him, (know that) He surely sees you.”
“Now, tell me of the Last Hour,” asked the man.
The Prophet (peace and blessings be upon him) replied, “The one asked knows no more of it than the one asking.”
“Then tell me about its signs,” said the man.
The Prophet (peace and blessings be upon him) replied, “That a slave woman would give birth to her mistress; and that you would see barefooted, naked shepherds competing in the construction of tall buildings.”
Then the visitor left, and I waited a long time. Then the Prophet (peace and blessings be upon him) asked me, “Do you know, Umar, who the questioner was?”
I replied, “Allah and His Messenger know best. .” He said (Allah bless him and give him peace), “It was Jibril.(Gabriel) He came to you to teach you your religion.”
One needs only a pair of eyes (in fact a single eye would be sufficient) to recognize that the age of tall buildings has arrived. Dubai’s naked barefooted shepherds will not be the last to faithfully follow Manhattan down into the lizard’s hole.
This extraordinary Hadīth amply demonstrated the supreme importance that Islam has attached to the subject of the end of history. It also clearly established that we now live in the last age.
The Islamic view of the last age is quite comprehensive. It includes the belief that the earth would function as habitat for a limited duration (al-Baqarah 2:36). The earth would one day be transformed into a dust bowl (al-Kahf 18:8). This implies that the end-time, which witnesses the (temporary) death of the earth ─ and hence of food production ─ would be preceded by an age of a constantly diminishing supply of (fresh) water, leading, eventually, to extreme scarcity of water. The Prophet (sallalahu ‘alaihi wa sallam) described that last age as the age of Fitan (i.e., tests and trials), and the Qur’ān warned that all of mankind would be targeted, and that Allah’s punishment would be terrible. (Qur’ān, al-Anfāl, 8:25).
The constantly diminishing supply of water would take place in consequence of the release into the world by Allah Most High of evil beings whom He created, namely Gog and Magog (Ya’jūj and Ma’jūj). The last two chapters of the Qur’ān were specifically devoted to warning the believers of the very great dangers which would emerge in the world in consequence of the release of “evil created by Allah.” The evil would appear as “evil beings” created by Allah Most High to test and to punish. They also include Dajjāl, the false Messiah. The Prophet (sallalahu ‘alaihi wa sallam) described Gog and Magog as beings so thirsty that they would drink up all the water of the world. “They would pass by the Sea of Galilee in (the Holy Land) and drink it dry.” (Sahīh Muslim). “They would pass by a river”, he said, “and they would drink it dry”. (Kanz al-Ummāl, Vol. 7, Hadīth No. 2157). The last age would thus be characterized by over-consumption, waste, and disrespect for water. Mankind would witness, in the last age, riots and wars fought over water.
When we look around us in the world, it appears to be quite clear that the water countdown has already begun. There is an ominous and growing shortage of water in nearly all parts of the world today. The head of the UN Environment Program has recently expressed his fear that the world is heading towards a “period of water-wars between nations.” A Pakistani government minister warned of the eventual likelihood of riots over water in the city of Karachi. The Kalabagh Dam project threatens bloodshed. The Farrakha Dam, built by India, threatens to drown Bangladesh. Turkey and Syria may one day wage war over water which is one of the gravest issues that divide them. Israel, the Palestinian Arabs, and the neighboring Arab Sates (particularly Jordan) have serious and growing differences over the sharing of dwindling water supplies. The Israelis are actually waging a water-war on the Palestinian Arabs, Muslims as well as Christians. The source of most Middle East water is located in Turkey, hence we can expect perhaps a 2012 bonanza of Israeli fireworks which will include an attempt to topple Turkey’s pro-Islam government in order to restore the pro-Israeli Turkish military command to power. Such an event could well provoke a Russian military intervention on behalf of the legitimate Turkish government that can fulfill a prophecy concerning the conquest of Constantinople.
The constantly increasing evidence clearly confirms that the release of Gog and Magog has already taken place. Iqbāl agrees. Indeed, he appears to be one of the very few scholars of Islam to have ever had the vision and the courage to make a formal declaration that the release has taken place. It seems inexplicable that Iqbal did not recognize that we consequently now live in the last age or the age that will witness the ‘end of history’. Despite this failure on his part we nevertheless dedicated our recent book entitled An Islamic View of Gog and Magog in the Modern World to Iqbāl.
This important declaration was made by Iqbāl in Urdu verse, and, predictably, there is not even a hint of it in any of his writings or statements made in English. This is the verse:
“Khul gayay y’ajuj aur m’ajuj kay lashkar tamam,
Chashmay Muslim dekhlay tafseer harf-e-yansiloon.”
The hordes of Gog and Magog have all been released;
The Muslim can (now) perceive with his very eyes (right in front of
him) the meaning of yansiloon.
The word yansilūn, which occurs at the end of the verse, and to the Tafsīr (explanation) of which Iqbāl has directed the attention of the Muslims, refers to a passage of the Qur’ān in Sūrah al-Anbiyāh in which Allah Most High declares that when Gog and Magog are released they will spread out in every direction (min kulli hadabin yansilūn). Here is the passage:
“And there is a ban on a town which We destroyed, that they shall not return (i.e., the people of the town are banned from returning to reclaim the town as their own), until Ya’jūj (Gog) and Ma’jūj (Magog) are released (from the barrier which Dhū al-Qarnain built in order to contain them), and they spread out in every direction.”
(Qut’an, al-Anbiyah, 21:95-96)
This indicates that Gog and Magog would not only become the dominant force in the world, but that their power would subdue all of mankind. Indeed, their power would be such that, according to a Hadīth al-Qudsi, Allah Most High has Himself declared: “None but I can fight (and destroy) them.” (Sahih Muslim).
Our view is that Iqbāl arrived at this amazingly accurate conclusion some eighty years ago in consequence of his use of the Sufi epistemology. He had the courage to make an intellectual leap for a startling intuitive grasp which delivered to him, for one dazzling moment in time, the very substance of the subject. The uneducated say many things without knowledge. But when a scholar of the Qur’ān makes a declaration such as this, it must rest on extraordinary foundations. Conventional Islamic scholarship armed with impressive Ijāzahs, yet unable or unwilling to reach out for that intuitive grasp of the subject, is yet to pronounce on the release of Gog and Magog. This writer met in Lahore with the late commentator of Iqbāl, Prof. Muhammad Munawwar, who was of the view that Iqbāl considered the modern Judeo-Christian west to be the civilization of Gog and Magog.
We believe that Iqbāl was absolutely correct. Consider the following:
The Caliphate is an institution central to the collective integrity of the Muslim Ummah. Although the seat of the Caliphate was oft-times filled in a manner which did not conform to the Shari‘ah of Islam, the institution of the Caliphate survived for some 1300 years. There is an indication in a famous Hadīth that the Caliphate would be lost but would be restored at the time of the advent of Imām Al-Mahdi and the return of Prophet Jesus (‘alaihi al-Salām):
“How will you be when the Son of Mary descends amongst you and your Imām will be from amongst yourselves.”
Within seven years of Iqbāl’s pronouncement concerning the release of Gog and Magog in 1917, the unprecedented power and influence of today’s dominant western civilization led to the destruction of the Ottoman Islamic Empire and, subsequently, to the collapse of the Caliphate.
Secondly, the Hajj is an institution which is even more central in importance to Islam, and which has survived for thousands of years. The Prophet (sallalahu ‘alaihi wa sallam) has prophesied the abandonment of the Hajj in the context of the aftermath of the release of Gog and Magog. The fulfillment of that prophecy appears to be imminent. When it does come to pass it will confirm beyond any shadow of a doubt that Iqbāl was absolutely correct in this pronouncement concerning the release of Gog and Magog.
Thirdly, the basic characteristic of Gog and Magog is their Fasād (i.e., their conduct which corrupts, spoils and ruins) (Qur’ān, al-Kahf, 18:94). The age of Gog and Magog would thus be one of immense and unprecedented corruption and destruction. Everything will be corrupted and eventually destroyed — religion and religious scholars; government and political life; the market, the economy, and the world of finance or money; law and justice; transportation, the environment, even the ecological system of the earth; sex, marriage and family life; sports and entertainment; education, youth, the role of women in society, and so on. When we look around us in the world today we find ample evidence of this universal corruption and destruction. The earth will soon become a dust bowl incapable of producing food to sustain human life. This indicates that Iqbāl was correct, and that the countdown has begun.
Fourthly, another basic characteristic of Gog and Magog is their godlessness and decadence (khabath). The godlessness was described in a Hadīth al-Qudsi in which we were informed that only 1 of every 1000 of the end-time would enter into heaven (and that person would be a follower of the true religion of Abraham). The rest, 999 out of every 1000, would all be the people of Gog and Magog and would all be sent to Hell (Sahīh Bukhārī, 4:567; 6:265; 8:537). The decadence was described in a Hadīth in which the Prophet (sallalahu ‘alaihi wa sallam) conveyed to his wife, Zainab (radiallahu ‘anha), the news that the destruction of the Arabs would occur at that time when Gog and Magog would have inundated the world with decadence. His words were: “Woe unto the Arabs, because of an evil which is now approaching” (Sahīh Bukhārī,, 4:797; 9:181; 9:249). In other words, the release of Gog and Magog would result in great calamities and suffering in the Arab world in particular. There is already a veritable mountain of evidence of such calamities and suffering..
The Qur’anic use of the term Khabath includes that sexual perversity which characterized Sodom and Gomorrah. There is sufficient godlessness, immorality, and sexual perversity in the world today to qualify for the description given by the Prophet (sallalahu ‘alaihi wa sallam). Hence we can now expect the destruction of the Arabs. When they are decimated by epidemics (plagues) earthquakes and whatever else Gog and Magog have in their arsenals, it will confirm that Iqbāl was correct.
A fifth characteristic of Gog and Magog, and one which also follows from the above, is that they would transform all of mankind into one single global society in which all would follow essentially the same way of life. It would be godless and decadent. Already that single godless, decadent society has embraced the elite around the world. The process is now moving relentlessly to embrace the masses as well. The actual Hadīth is that Gog would expand to incorporate another four hundred communities and that Magog would do the same. And so the world of Gog and Magog would be an ever-expanding globalized world of information, communication, entertainment, and culture, etc. It would culminate in one decadent global society with the mental and spiritual illumination of Kentucky Fried Chicken and Coca Cola. A world government will preside over it. Television has played, and still plays, a crucial role in the relentless pursuit of that goal — a goal that now appears to be quite within reach. This confirms Iqbāl’s declaration.
Sixthly, perhaps the most significant clue of the release of Gog and Magog, and ominous consequences of that release for the world of Islam, is expressed quite explicitly in the Qur’ān. Allah Most High declared of a town (or city) which He had destroyed, that its restoration would never be possible until the release of Gog and Magog makes it possible (see reference to verses 95 & 96 of Sūrah al-Anbiyāh above). I recognized that town to be Jerusalem (i.e., the State of Israel) and hence I interpreted the verse to the effect that the State of Israel, destroyed by Allah Most High twice in history, would be restored when Gog and Magog are released, and as a consequence, that restoration formed part of the Divine Plan through which Dajjāl the false Messiah or Anti-Christ would deceive the Jews and lead them to their final destruction. Indeed, this is precisely why he is known as al-Masīh al-Dajjāl. The identification of the “town” with Jerusalem is not far-fetched at all. There is a Hadīth which links Gog and Magog with Jerusalem (i.e., the State of Israel). The Prophet (sallalahu ‘alaihi wa sallam) said that when Gog and Magog are released they would pass by the Sea of Galilee (which is in Israel) (Kanz Al-Ummal, Vol 7, Hadīth No. 3021). Then there is a very long Hadīth in Sahīh Muslim in which we are told that Gog and Magog would attack the true Messiah, Jesus the son of the virgin Mary (peace and blessings of Allah Most High upon them both) in Jerusalem.
It should be noted that the Jordan-Israeli Peace Treaty of October 1994 recognized Jordan’s contractual rights to a certain amount of water from rivers shared by both countries. Israel may fulfill treaty obligations by pumping water from the Sea of Galilee. The water level in the Sea of Galilee had reached so low in 1998 at the time when this essay was originally written, that further pumping of water would have caused damage to its capacity to store water. Consequently, Israel was forced to suspend its fulfillment of its treaty obligation concerning the supply of water to Jordan. The water scarcity predicament today, 12 years later, is so desperate that Israeli attacks on both Lebanon and Turkey are now expected.
The restoration of the State of Israel not only confirmed the release of Dajjāl the false Messiah and of Gog and Magog, but it also constituted a veritable dagger plunged into the very heart of the Arab Muslim world. This, in turn, fulfilled the ominous prophecy: “Woe unto the Arabs.” We may add, in passing, that the feminist revolution of the modern age (in which night wants to become day) confirms that Dajjāl is now in the last stage of his mission.
It is indeed a pleasant surprise to find Iqbāl coming to the conclusion that Gog and Magog were released into the world and were spreading out in all directions for this had to be the reason why he called for attention to be devoted to tafseer harf-e-yansilūn (i.e., the interpretation of verses 95 and 96 of Sūrah al-Anbiyāh of the Qur’ān).
For reasons which are yet to be explained we find no evidence that Iqbal himself devoted further attention to tafseer harf-e-yansilūn. Had he done so he would have understood the reality, in the context of Islam’s conception of the end of history, of such events as the emergence of modern western secular civilization with an obsession of liberating the Holy Land, the Euro-Christian crusades, the birth of the Zionist Movement in 1897, the European crusader ‘liberation’ of Jerusalem in 1917, the British government’s mysterious Balfour Declaration of 1917, and emergence of an alliance between the European Jewish Zionists and European Christian Zionists, etc. He may even have anticipated the birth of an imposter State of Israel in the Holy Land the way we now anticipate, more than 70 years later, the rule of Israel replacing that of USA over the world.
Iqbāl’s epistemological ambivalence and the end of history
The major actors in the last stage of history, viz., Gog and Magog, Dajjāl, Imām al-Mahdi, and the return of the true Messiah, Jesus the son of the Virgin Mary (peace and blessings of Allah Most High be upon them both), and the respective roles which they play, all combine to form an integrated inseparable whole.
What is truly alarming is that despite Iqbāl’s confirmation of the release of Gog and Magog, he rejected belief in Dajjāl the false Messiah, Imām Al-Mahdi and the return of the true Messiah, Jesus the son of the Virgin Mary (peace and blessings of Allah Most High be upon them both). What possible explanation could there be for this truly unfortunate situation? Also, how do we explain the surprising fact that apart from that one absolutely amazing verse declaring the release of all the hoards of Gog and Magog Iqbāl is otherwise mysteriously and inexplicably silent on this strategically important subject that lies at the very heart of Islam’s conception of the end of history?
Whatever be the explanation, my view is that if Iqbāl were alive today, the unfolding events in the world, and, in particular, in the Holy Land, would have forced him to change his views with respect to Dajjāl the false Messiah, Imām Al-Mahdi and the return of Jesus the true Messiah as well as his view that that a modern republican Islamic State could be a substitute for the Islamic Caliphate (Khilafah). Did he not himself say: “Only stones do not change”!
Perhaps it was because the reality of Gog and Magog was established by the Qur’ān, there was no way that Iqbāl could have dismissed the subject. The corollary is that if belief in Gog and Magog had not been established in the Qur’ān, and were dependent on the Ahadīth, they might have suffered the same fate as belief in the advent of Imām al-Mahdi, Dajjāl, and the return of Jesus (‘alaihi al-Salām). When Iqbāl turned to the study of these subjects he appears to have experienced an epistemological transformation. The spiritual or religious consciousness was used to recognize the release of Gog and Magog into the world. The light of Allah Most High illumined for him the path for a dazzling display of the intuitive embrace of truth. On the other hand, it was the theoretic consciousness which was used to study the other verities which were not established by the Qur’ān, and this perhaps led to his incapacity to grasp the Islamic conception of the end of history.
It is in the very nature of the historical process, especially when it approaches the end of history, that only truth can survive the awesome tests and trials that precede the end. Our Islamic view is that the final countdown to the end of history commenced with the creation of the Zionist Movement in 1897 (see Jerusalem in the Qur’an) and is fast approaching its culmination when an imposter Messiah will rule the world from Jerusalem prior to the advent of Imam al-Mahdi and the return of the true Messiah, son of Mary.
Despite his greatness as a scholar of Islam Iqbāl misjudged Dajjāl’s modern secular State and unwittingly laid the foundation for a modern republican Pakistan to be born with a bogus claim to function as a valid substitute for the institution of the Islamic Caliphate (Khilāfah). Hence there are significant limits to which we can turn to Iqbal for deriving an understanding of the reality of this age, and for formulating an Islamic response to Pakistan’s hour of ultimate peril. This constitutes a particularly painful predicament for secular Pakistanis and Islamic modernists as well as for those whose response to Pakistan’s moment of truth can rise no higher than the passionate beating of Iqbalian drums.
Our hope is that this humble essay might help in some small way to produce a studied and a theoretically firm Islamic response to Pakistan’s hour of ultimate peril. Our gentle readers (including Hizb al-Tahrīr) should carefully note that such a response cannot emerge without a prior recognition of Signs of the Last Day unfolding in the world as the historical process approaches its culmination. Whatever the response that may emerge, and regardless of what the immediate future holds in store, Muslim Pakistanis must never waver in their conviction that the end of history will witness a divinely-ordained triumph of Truth over all rivals regardless of the Anglo-American-Indo-Israeli alliance’s unjust and barbaric war on Islam and Muslims:
“He it is who has sent forth His Messenger with the (task of spreading) guidance and the religion of truth, to the end that He may cause it to prevail over all (false) religion, however hateful this may be to those who ascribe divinity to aught beside Allah.”
(Qur’an, Taubah, 9:33)