Islamic Eschatology and Prophecy
What are the end-time prophecies of Islam?
By Dr. David Reagan
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. (For an interactive copy of the Hadith on the Internet, go to the University of Southern California website at www.usc.edu.)
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.
The Minor Signs
The minor signs which speak of general trends are a mirror of Christian end time signs.
1. An increase in ignorance concerning the fundamentals of the faith.
2. Increasing instability of the faith (Muslims becoming Christians overnight).
3. An increase in false prophets.
4. An increase in apostasy (as evidenced by Muslims following false christs).
5. An increase in religious pretentiousness (as in the building of luxurious mosques).
6. An acceptance of astrology.
7. An increase in alcohol use and illicit sexual relations.
8. An increase in natural calamities.
9. An increase in political corruption.
10. People longing for death (due to the increase in calamities and wickedness).
11. Increasing paganism. (Muslims will increasingly follow the life-styles of non-Muslims.)
12. An increase in war and civil wars (even wars among Muslims).
There are a number of minor signs that are peculiar to Islam. They are as follows:
1. Women will outnumber men by 50 to 1. (No reason is given, but it is likely due to the expectation of many jihad martyrs in the end times.)
2. The caliphate (the seat of Islamic authority) will be established in the Holy Land. (This prophecy is a problem. What was meant by "Holy Land?" If it refers to Palestine, it is unfulfilled. If it refers to Saudi Arabia, it was fulfilled 1400 years ago.)
3. The Arabs will be destroyed. (This is another troublesome prophecy. What does "destroyed" mean? The Ottoman Empire, controlled by Turkish non-Arabs, conquered all the Middle East in the 1500's. Some argue this was a fulfillment of the prophecy. But it did not lead to "the Hour." And now the Arab nations have reasserted themselves.)
4. The habitations of Medina must be greatly extended.
5. The Muslims must fight the Turks and "the people whose shoes are made of hair." (This has been applied to past battles with the Turks and the Tartars. Yet, "the Hour" has not come.)
6. The Arabs must conquer Constantinople. (The city, now called Istanbul, was conquered by Muslims in the 15th Century, but not by Arabs.)
7. Mecca will be reduced to ruins.
8. A people will emerge who eat with their tongues as cows do.
9. Time will contract, with a year being like a month and a month like a week.
10. Wild beasts will speak to men.
11. The Euphrates River will uncover a mountain of gold.
The Major Signs
The major signs pointing to "the Hour" are all critical events that are part of the end time sequence of events, beginning with the appearance of the Antichrist. Muslim scholars generally do not try to present a strict chronological order of what is going to ultimately transpire, but the order presented below is representative:
1. The Appearance of the Antichrist, called the Dajjal. Despite the importance of this individual, he is never mentioned in the Qu'ran, only in the Hadith. He will be a Jew born in Iran to parents who have been childless for 30 years. He will have only one eye. He will claim to be a prophet, and then he will claim to be divine. He will deceive many by his godliness and his miracles. He will go forth with an army of 70,000 Jews and 70,000 Tartars, and he will conquer all the world except Mecca and Medina. His reign will last for 40 days during a time when one day will be like a year. Some passages of the Hadith indicate that he will have the word "Infidel" written on his forehead. His reign is characterized by cruelty and deceit. He has a militaristic mentality. His purpose is to be deified, worshiped, and to reign. There are many parallels between the Islamic Dajjal and the Antichrist revealed in the Hebrew and Christian Scriptures.
2. The Return of Jesus will put an end to the reign of the Antichrist. (Keep in mind that the Qu'ran teaches that Jesus was not crucified or resurrected. Rather, he was simply lifted up to Heaven before His enemies could kill Him. One of the reasons He must return is so that He can experience death, like all other men.) Jesus will return to the Mount of Olives and then head to Damascus to confront the Antichrist. He will pursue the Antichrist south into Israel and will kill him "at the gate of Ludd." That is modern day Lod, located near Tel Aviv. It is the site of Israel's international airport. The defeat of the Antichrist will result in the eradication of the Jewish people.
3. The Invasion of Gog & Magog will occur at this point. This is mentioned in the Qu'ran (18:83-99 and 21:96). It is developed in many Hadith passages. Gog and Magog are presented as two nations with an army so large that when its soldiers finish drinking from the Sea of Galilee, no water will be left in the sea! They will invade Palestine from the north, and they will besiege Jesus and His companions. Jesus will cry out to Allah to save them, and Allah will respond by sending deadly insects (similar to the locusts of Revelation 9) who will destroy the invading armies. (All this imagery is based on Ezekiel 38 and 39.)
4. The Reign of Jesus will follow the defeat of Gog & Magog. Jesus will proclaim Islam to be the true religion and all Christians will convert. All other religions will be eliminated. All crosses will be broken, and all pigs will be exterminated. Jesus will be the sole ruler on earth, heading up an Islamic theocracy. He will be a just ruler. Every harmful beast will be domesticated. There will be abundant rain and plentiful harvests. All weapons of war will be converted into tools of agriculture, and there will be world wide peace. (All of this imagery is taken from the book of Isaiah.) The reign of Jesus will last for 40 years. He will go to Mecca regularly to perform rituals of pilgrimage. Twenty-one years into His reign, He will marry and begat children. Nineteen years later He will die. He will be buried in Medina next to Mohammad where He will await the Day of Resurrection like all other humans who have died. When Jesus dies, all believers will also die peacefully and gracefully. (This is the Islamic equivalent of the Rapture - that is, the removal of all the righteous from the world.) Unbelievers will be left behind to indulge their passions.
5. The Appearance of the Beast - At this point a good "Beast" will be "produced from the earth." The Beast will call the world to acknowledge Allah. He will wear the ring of Solomon and carry the rod of Moses. Those who reject his message will have the word "Infidel" written on their foreheads. What ultimately happens to the Beast is never revealed.
6. The Smoke - According to the Qu'ran, a cloud of smoke will suddenly arise and engulf the world. This phenomenon will cause severe suffering.
7. Three Land Slides - Additional suffering will be caused by three great landslides which will occur in three different parts of the earth, one in the East, one in the West, and one in Arabia.
8. A Miracle of Nature - One of the last signs before "the Hour" will be an incredible miracle. The sun will rise in the West!
9. A Great Fire will break out "south of Eden" (in the area known today as Yemen). The conflagration will become worldwide and will be so intense that it will drive Mankind to the place of final assembly before the Day of Resurrection. That place will be in Syria (which includes modern day Palestine).
We are now almost ready for "the Hour," the Day of Resurrection. But first, some comments about the Islamic concept of the intermediate state between death and resurrection. Muslims believe in the immortality of the soul. Upon death, the grave is visited by two angels named Munkar and Nakir. These angels question the person and assess his deeds. They then make a preliminary determination as to the person's ultimate fate. If that is Paradise, the grave is loosened for relaxation and the person is in a state of bliss until the Day of Resurrection. If the angels decide the person deserves to go to Hell, the grave will be tightened and the person will remain in a state of torture until the Day of Resurrection. So, all people are subjected to two judgments, a preliminary one at death, and a final one at the time of the resurrection.
10. The Three Trumpets - After the worldwide gathering of people to Syria, the first of three trumpets will be blown. The first is called "the trumpet of terror." It is a wake-up call that will strike terror in the hearts of all people. After an unspecified period of time, a second trumpet will be blown. It is called "the trumpet of the swoon." It will result in every living thing in Heaven and on earth dying except God Himself, any He desires to spare, and the martyrs who are alive in Paradise. Even the angel of death will experience death! When the universe becomes void of all life, Allah will proclaim His sovereignty. Three times He will shout, "I am the Mighty One!" Then He will shout three times: "To whom does the kingdom belong today?" When no one answers, He will say, "It belongs to the only One God, the Conqueror." The time period between the second and third trumpets is not specified, but during that time, Allah creates new heavens and a new earth. Upon their completion, the third trumpet will be blown. It is "the trumpet of resurrection."
11. "The Hour" or the Day of Resurrection - The inhabitants of Heaven will be the first to be resurrected. While this is occurring, Allah will cause the bodies of the dead on earth to start regrowing underground. When these bodies are ready, He will order the blowing of the third trumpet and the spirits of the dead will enter their bodies and the bodies will come forth from their graves. There is only one resurrection. The saved and the unsaved are resurrected at the same time. Mohammad will be the first human being to be resurrected. All those resurrected will be naked, barefooted, and uncircumcised. Abraham will be the first person to be clothed by Allah. He will be seated facing Allah's throne. Mohammad will then be clothed and will be seated at the right hand of Allah.
12. The Day of Reckoning - There will be an interval after the resurrection before judgment is conducted. This "Day of Reckoning" will be a time of unbearable toil and agony due to both physical and psychological suffering. Great fear will grip the hearts of people. No one will be exempted from this anguish except the prophets and those devout Muslims whom Allah decides to spare. No reason is given for this period of suffering. For pagans, it is a continuation of their suffering in the grave. For believers, it seems to serve some purgatorial purpose. How long this time of suffering will last is unspecified.
13. The Day of Judgment - At this point Allah descends from Heaven to judge all humanity and the jinns. The jinns are genies created from smoke. These are supernatural spirits that play a prominent role in Islamic literature. The Qu'ran indicates that the jinns are subject to condemnation because they heard the message about Allah and His Prophet, and they rejected it because they were allured by the pleasures of the world. People will be judged as to their reception of Mohammad's message and their ethical conduct. Allah will validate the preliminary judgment at the grave by weighing the good and bad deeds of each person. This is called the concept of "the Scale." The deeds of all people will be weighed in Allah's scales to determine their eternal destiny.
14. Crossing the Bridge - Following judgment, every person must cross a bridge that spans the gulf of Hell. Mohammad will be the first to cross. Those who are condemned will fall from the bridge into Hell. The faithful will be able to cross to the other side. But because Allah is an arbitrary god, even the faithful will cross in fear, hoping He does not change His mind.
15. The Gathering at the Pool - Once the faithful cross the bridge safely, they will gather at the Pool of the Prophet. They will be allowed to drink from the pool, and the intense thirst that afflicted them on the Day of Reckoning will finally be satisfied.
16. The Intercession - At the pool, Mohammad will begin to intercede with Allah to allow the faithful to enter Paradise. How long this intercession will last is not stated, but Allah will finally give in to it and allow the faithful to enter Paradise. Simultaneously, a second form of intercession will take place. The angels, the prophets, the martyrs, and the faithful will intercede in behalf of those who have been condemned to Hell, asking that if they have "an atom of faith" in their hearts Allah will show mercy toward them by delivering them from Hell. To prove He is merciful, Allah will dip His hand into Hell and bring out a formidable number of people. Dr. Samuel Shahid observes: "In this case, the mercy of God annuls His justice and the laws of God become dysfunctional or inapplicable" (p. 218). Only the polytheists will be eternally consigned to Hell where there will be no end to their suffering.
17. Paradise - The Eternal Abode is divided into several parts. Heaven itself is the eternal abiding place of God, with His prophet Mohammad at His right hand. There are seven heavens beneath God's Heaven. The first, of pure virgin silver, is Adam's residence. The second, of pure gold, is where Jesus and John the Baptist will reside. The third, made of pearls, is for Joseph; the fourth, of white gold, is for Enoch; and the fifth, of silver, is for Aaron. The sixth and seventh are reserved for Moses and Abraham. The rest of humanity will live in what is referred to as "the Garden." It is a perfect environment where all desires are granted and fulfilled. People are richly adorned and live in mansions. They are involved in never-ending feasts. Perpetual virgins are awarded to the faithful. Ordinary Muslims receive 40 each. Martyrs who died in jihad receive 72 each. No matter how many times one of these women engage in sex, they become a virgin once again. The sexual desires that were strictly limited on earth are unleashed in Paradise. This prospect serves as an incentive for young men to give themselves as suicide martyrs in the cause of jihad. Much of the Islamic imagery about Paradise is borrowed from Zoroastrianism.
18. Hell - Like the Islamic Heaven, the Muslim Hell is made up of seven levels. The first level is the purgatorial area that some Muslims will have to pass through. Christians are confined to the second level. The third level is for Jews. A people called the Sabeans are relegated to the fourth level. The fifth level is for Zoroastrians, the sixth is for idolaters, and the seventh is for hypocrites. Humans will be punished in Hell by demons. The tortures will continue eternally. One Hadith passage says that Mohammad claimed that most of the occupants of Hell would be women.
Sunni vs Shiite
The prophetic outline produced above is the one that is held by Sunni Muslims. The majority of Muslims in the world are Sunnis. They trace their heritage back to Mohammad. About ten per cent, located mainly in Iraq, Iran and Lebanon, are Shiites. Iran is the only nation with a Shiite majority. The split occurred in the 10th Century over the nature of the theocratic leadership of Islam. Shiites believe Islam's leader should be a descendant of the Prophet Mohammad. Sunnis say leaders should be chosen by consensus. Shiites believe in free will whereas Sunnis adhere to the concept of predestination. Shiites exalt their Imams (spiritual leaders) as inspired teachers who have the authority to interpret Islamic law. For Sunnis, the interpretation of Islamic law has been theoretically closed since the 10th Century.
With regard to eschatology, the major difference between the two groups centers around a Messianic individual called the Mahdi. This individual is the embodiment of the earnest longing and hope of the Shiites who have been oppressed and persecuted throughout the course of Islamic history. There is no direct reference to the Mahdi in the Qu'ran. However, Shiites argue that he is inferred. In the Shiite scheme of end time events, the Mahdi takes the place of Jesus as the one who will defeat the Antichrist and create a kingdom that will fill the earth with goodness and justice. He is the one who has been destined from eternity to save the world from the forces of wickedness. In Shiite eschatology, Jesus is limited to assisting the Mahdi. Jesus' specific mission is to propagate Islam among Christians and Jews.
Regarding the Hadith
The Hadith is a record of Mohammad's words and deeds according to his wives, relatives, and companions. Next to the Qu'ran, it is the most important part of Islamic law. Its teachings are considered as binding as those contained in the Qu'ran.
The most recognized compilation of these sayings is the one by Sahih Al Bukhari. Some examples of the bizarre sayings of Muhammad which are contained in Bukhari's nine volumes are reproduced below:
- Women are deficient in mind (2:541 and 3:826).
- The majority of people in Hell are women (1:28, 301; 2:161; 7:124).
- Women are a bad omen (7:30).
- Drinking camel urine will make you healthy (7:590).
- A fly in your drink can cure you of disease (4:537).
- Fever comes from the heat of Hell (7:619).
- "Though I am an apostle of Allah, yet I do not know what Allah will do to me" (2:375).
- If you speak badly about a deceased person, that person will go to Hell (2:448).
- Anonymous ("A Muslim Medical Doctor"), "Islam and Eschatology," www.templemount.org/ islameschat.html, 12/26/2005.
- Anonymous, ("Guided Ones"), "The Islamic Paradise - What's in it and for whom?" www.guidedones.com/metapage/ frq/islamicpar.htm.
- Anonymous, "Virgins? What Virgins?" The Guardian, January 12, 2002, www.guardian.co.uk/saturday_review/ story/0,3605,631332,00.html.
- Caner, Dr. Ergun, "Islamic Eschatology," audio recording of an address delivered to the 14th annual Pre-Trib Study Group meeting in Dallas, Texas, December 2005.
- Cook, Dr. David B., "Nearing the End?" The Dallas Morning News, April 17, 2005, page 4P.
- Dolphin, Lambert, "A Short Summary of Islamic Beliefs," www.ldolphin.org/islam.shtml, 12/26/2005.
- El-Ghamdy, Gharm-Allah, "Signs of the Last Hour," www.usc.edu/dept/msa/fundamentals/ pillars/signsofthelasthour.html, 12/26/2005.
- Elias, Mufti A. H., "Jesus (Isa) in Islam, and His Second Coming," www.islam.tc/prophecies/jesus.html.
- Hasan, Dr. Suhaib, "50 Signs of the Day of Judgment from the Words of Allah and His Messenger," www.islam.com/Print.aspx?id=450, 1/1/2006.
- Larson, Warren F., "Islamic Eschatology: Implications for Christian Witness," www.ciu.edu/articles/islamic-eschatology, 12/26/2005.
- Rast, Jennifer, "Muslim, Jewish, and Christian End-Times Prophecy Comparison," www.contenderministries.org/prophecy/ eschatologyPF.php, 12/26/2005.
- Shahid, Dr. Samuel, The Last Trumpet: A Comparative Study in Christian-Islamic Eschatology, Xulon Press, 2005.
- Wikipedia, "Islamic Eschatology," http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/ islamic-eschatology, 12/26/2005.