• INSIGHTS INTO THE ISLAMIC ESCHATOLOGY

    INSIGHTS INTO THE ISLAMIC
    ESCHATOLOGY


    ‘Abd al-Haqq Isma‘il Guiderdoni
    With God’s help, we would like to present some brief
    insights into the Islamic eschatology, on the basis of
    the texts of the Holy Koran and Prophetic Tradition
    (Δadoeth). As a matter of fact, it would be more appropriate to
    speak about the teachings of Islam on an eschatology that is
    common to Jews, Christians and Muslims, as well as to all human
    beings.
    The central principle of Islam is the tawΔoed, the affirmation of
    the absolute uniqueness of God. This metaphysical statement is at
    the heart of all the traditional doctrines, in spite of the diversity of
    their prospects. However, the God of monotheistic religions is not
    an abstract God: He has a personal relationship with the human.
    He creates and reveals Himself through His speech. Because God
    created the human to be worshipped by it, our worship in this world
    (al-dunyå) gets its final meaning at the moment of the passage into
    the Other World (al-åkhira), and of the sight of God’s Face. This
    is the reason why the faith in God and the faith in the ineluctable
    return to Him (al-ruj‘å) are so intimately linked.
    Surely we belong to God and to Him we shall return (Innå
    li-Llåhi wa innå ilayhi råji‘¨n).1
    The Koran announces the advent of the Last Day, The Day of
    Resurrection (yawm al-qiyåma) and of Judgement according to
    Religion (yawm al-doen), when the men and women will stand
    1. Kor. II, 156.
    150 IL MESSAGGIO - LE MESSAGE
    up from their graves and will be led to their Lord, and judged for
    their deeds. The Koranic Revelation presents itself as the ultimate
    recall (dhikr) of this eternal truth that comes a brief amount of
    time before Doom’s Day. The Prophetic Tradition teaches that
    Islam is set in God’s plan for the world as the time that spans
    between the afternoon prayer (ßalåt al-‘aßr) and the sunset prayer
    (ßalåt al-maghrib).2 Muslims see themselves as the last ones that
    have been called upon to work according to God’s words, in a
    Prophetic Tradition that parallels the Evangelic parable of the
    Workers of the eleventh hour. As for the last Hour (al-så‘a), it is
    called so because it comes «very quickly» to us (the root of the
    Arabic word for «hour», så‘a, also means «to hast», tas‘å).3 Prophet
    MuΔammad (may God’s Peace and Benediction be upon him)
    once said to his companions:
    We were sent, me and the Hour, like that» and he made a
    sign by joining two of his fingers.4
    There is no purpose in trying to know when this Hour will
    come, because the knowledge about it only belongs to God. The
    Prophet, when he was asked about it, once said:
    Who is questioned about it does not know more than who
    is questioning.5
    And the Holy Koran adds:
    They will question you concerning the Hour, when it shall
    come. Say: ‘The knowledge of it is only with my Lord; none
    shall reveal it at its proper time, but He. Heavy is it in the
    heavens and the earth; it will not come on you but
    2. Bukhåroe.
    3. Ibn ‘Araboe, Al-fut¨håt al-makkiyya, trans. Les Illuminations de La Mecque,
    dir. by M. Chodkiewicz, Sindbad, Paris, p. 173.
    4. Bukhåroe.
    5. Muslim.
    151
    suddenly!’6
    However, although the Hour is a divine mystery, Prophet
    MuΔammad announced some of its precursor signs. More specifically,
    its coming is marked by the increase of social problems and
    moral confusion. In the prospect of Islam, the outer events are
    the signs of inner reality. The disorders of society bear witness of
    the disappearing of spiritual life. Prophet MuΔammad announced
    to his companions:
    I do not fear for you that you associate somebody to God,
    but I fear for you this world and that you begin to quarrel
    about me. It will be your loss in the same way as your
    predecessors went to their loss.7
    Anyone looking at the world as it is now can see the accomplishment
    of this Prophetic sentence. The Islamic community is
    breaking out into political and theological streams that are more
    interested by nationalism, rationalism, or technical progress, than
    by the sense of sainthood and the quest for knowledge.
    Prophet MuΔammad used to say:
    Rabbi zidnoeî ‘ilman, My Lord, increase me in knowledge.8
    Who is now asking God to give him knowledge, in a truly
    contemplative life that is not the opposite of action, but its complementary
    side? Prophet MuΔammad used to repeat:
    Allåhumma lå ‘aysha illå ‘ayshu-l-åkhira O my God,
    there is no like except the life of the Hereafter.9
    6. Kor. VII, 187.
    7. Bukhåroe and Muslim.
    8. Kor. XX, 114.
    9. Bukhåroe.
    INSIGHTS INTO THE ISLAMIC ESCHATOLOGY
    152 IL MESSAGGIO - LE MESSAGE
    Who still believes in his return to God, with the sense of
    responsibility that this return actually implies? On one side, nobody
    thinks that this life is going to end and that it takes a meaning
    from the Afterlife. On the other side, many desecrate the genuine
    attraction by God and the sense of sacrifice for others, and transform
    them into a profane, political violence.
    The traditional doctrine of the cosmic cycles teaches us that
    these things have necessary to happen. As a matter of fact, everything
    that is possible has occurred, is occurring or will occur. The
    lower possibilities correspond to a larger ontological distance
    from the perfect Principle, and can appear only at the end of the
    temporal cycle. After the uprooting of the relation between God
    and the human that has been caused by the rise of materialism,
    we are now seeing the period of psychical dissolution, when the
    human opens to destructive forces coming from below. The
    communities of all religions must follow a similar way that brings
    them downwards.
    Other troubles are still to come. The Prophet once warned his
    companions:
    Since the creation of Adam, till the day of the Hour, there
    is not event that is more serious than the rise of the Impostor
    (al-Dajjål).10
    And the Prophet added:
    Do you want me to speak about him as no prophet has
    ever spoken to his followers? He is blind in one eye. He
    is going to bring with him an image of Heavens and an
    image of Hell. The one he will pretend it is Heavens will
    be Hell in reality.11
    10. Muslim.
    11. Bukhåroe and Muslim.
    153
    The Impostor will bring wealth around him to those who will
    believe in him. And, according to the companions who reported
    this saying:
    At some time the Prophet minimized the importance of the
    Impostor, and at some time he amplified it, to a point that
    we began to believe he was already in our palm-groves.12
    Alas, the precursor signs of all that are visible. According to
    the Δadoeth,
    the Hour will not occur before one sees about thirty impostor
    rise, and each one will pretend he is God’s Messenger.
    13
    Already false prophets are coming to sell their so-called methods
    of personal realization. Various sects and movements propose
    a cacophony of false gnosis and miracle recipes. Others reduce
    religion to a simple political force in the fight triggered by those
    who wish a clash of civilisations.
    But Prophet MuΔammad warned us:
    God is not blind in one eye. Well the Impostor is blind in
    the right-side eye.14
    But the right-side eye is, according to the Tradition, the eye
    that is looking at God. It is an obvious sign. Prophet MuΔammad
    used to say about the Impostor:
    He is too weak to be allowed by God to deceive the believers
    by apparent miracles.15
    12. Muslim.
    13. Bukhåroe.
    14. Bukhåroe and Muslim.
    15. Bukhåroe.
    INSIGHTS INTO THE ISLAMIC ESCHATOLOGY
    154 IL MESSAGGIO - LE MESSAGE
    However, it would be dangerous to be too self-confident about
    it. At the end, more and more discrimination is needed to make
    the difference between Good and Wrong, between Truth and Falsehood.
    We, believers of these last times, are attempting to be faithful to
    God through the message of Revelation. We now have a peculiar
    responsibility. We should not revolt against the state of the things
    in the modern world. Revolt is not a virtue. Does not God say, in
    a Δadoeth qudsoe:
    Curse not time for God is Time (al-dahr)?16
    Our duty is to bear witness of the spiritual legacy of which we
    are the heirs, to say the Truth and to manifest God’s Mercy.
    The Muslims are waiting for the return of Jesus Christ, Sayyidunå
    ‘‹så (Peace be upon him), who is the Anointed, that is, the Messiah
    (al-MasoeΔ), and God’s speech (Kalimat Allåh). They share this
    messianic expectation with the Christians, and, under different
    forms, with the believers of all traditions, especially the Jews.
    According to the Islamic Tradition, Sayyidunå ‘‹så is not dead. He
    is alive and has been called by God. He will come back. This is
    the reason why Prophet MuΔammad warned solemnly:
    I swear by Who is having my soul in His Hands: very
    promptly the Son of Mary will get back to you as a righteous
    judge.17
    As the Seal of the Saints (khatm al-awliyå’), Sayyidunå ‘‹så represents
    the inner dimension of religion, the one of the right intention
    (al-niyya) that manifests the purity of the heart (al-ikhlåß) and
    vivifies the actions. According to the Δadoeth,
    16. Bukhåroe.
    17. Bukhåroe and Muslim.
    155
    there are no actions except by the intentions,18
    and ‘‹så is the Master of inner life. However, the Spirit (al-r¨Δ), the
    breath of divine life that God put into Adam at the moment of the
    creation of the human, is progressively drawing back from the
    world. Or, more accurately, we are progressively getting more and
    more unaware of the presence of the Spirit in us. The bodies and
    ritual forms are loosing their symbolical transparency and become
    opaque to the Spirit. Whereas they are the containers of spiritual
    influences, these forms now are considered as empty shells that
    can be left over on the shore during the final dissolution. Prophet
    MuΔammad warned:
    How will you act when the Son of Mary will come back
    among you and your leader (imåm) will be one of yours?19
    The hearts will be checked by the rise of the Messiah. According
    to the Δadoeth,
    There will be nobody among the People of the Book that
    will not believe in him (the Messiah) before his death,
    and, in the day of the Resurrection, he will be witness
    against them.20
    Sayyidunå ‘‹så will be «the Sign of the Hour». The Δadoeth tells
    us how he will act:
    The Messiah will strike the Impostor so heavily that the
    latter will melt as salt melts in water.21
    The world is surviving in an unstable equilibrium. Only God
    knows when this equilibrium will cease, but the full manifesta-
    18. Bukhåroe.
    19. Bukhåroe.
    20. Kor. IV, 157.
    INSIGHTS INTO THE ISLAMIC ESCHATOLOGY
    156 IL MESSAGGIO - LE MESSAGE
    tion of the Spirit is inevitable, and the coming of the Messiah illustrates
    the irresistible force of Truth. There will be only a single
    Cry (ßayΔa wåΔida), a Word from God brought forth by the
    Spirit, under the symbolic form of the Breath of the Angel of Judgement
    into the Trumpet (al-ߨr). The Day of Resurrection will be
    a new Creation (khalq jadoed) similar to the first one. It will be
    the day when the hidden meaning of the things will appear at
    last, when the mystery (al-ghayb) will be unveiled. It will be the
    day of the «turning around» (inqilåb), when the inside (bå™in)
    becomes the outside (Σåhir), and when the outside becomes the
    inside, when the invisible appears and the visible hides. Then the
    human beings will be judged according to the faithfulness of their
    hearts and the conformity of their acts to God’s words, that is the
    «righteous balance» (al-moezån). The Islamic Tradition teaches that
    Prophet MuΔammad will resurrect and get access to a specific
    station, called the Station of Praise (maqåm maΔm¨d), where
    he will become an intercessor for the whole mankind, because,
    according to the Koran, he was sent «as a Mercy for the worlds».22
    The tales that report on these events are symbolic. But they are
    not allegories without any consistence. The symbolised events
    already have their full actuality in the World of subtle forms (‘ålam
    al-mithål) where the Prophetic vision (al-ru’yå) has deciphered
    them. They already exist in the eternal present of divine Knowledge
    that encompasses the universal All-Possibility.
    How can I rejoice, Prophet MuΔammad said, when the
    Angel with the Trumpet has already risen it, and has heard
    the order to blow into it? When will he blow?23
    The symbols must necessarily manifest in the development of
    time, the stream of which unfolds the immutable realities of the
    21. Muslim.
    22. Kor. XXI, 107.
    23. Tirmidhoe.
    157
    invisible world. Nobody knows how these things will occur. All
    what we can tell about them is included in the symbolic expressions
    reported by the Koran and the Δadoeth.
    Surely the earthquake of the Hour is a mighty thing (inna
    zalzalata-l-så‘ati shay’un ‘aΣoem).24
    A prophetic saying advises those who will live when the Impostor
    comes to read on him the first verses of Chapter 18, «The Cave»
    (s¨rat al-kahf). The Islamic Tradition considers it as a polar sura,
    because it is located exactly in the middle of the Koranic text. It
    includes three tales that have a deep spiritual meaning, as they
    teach us the mysteries of the doctrine of the cycles. Let me mention
    the last one first, the story of Dh¨-l-Qarnayn (Peace be upon him),
    a prophet and hero who is sometimes identified with Alexander
    the Great, and who builds walls of iron as a protection against the
    waves of the Ya’j¨j and Ma’j¨j (Gog and Magog).25 It is a clear
    announcement of the final dissolution.
    The second tale invites us to ponder upon the meeting between
    Moses, Sayyidunå M¨så (Peace be upon him), and a mysterious
    character who lives at the confluent of two sees (majma‘ albaΔrayn),
    the one of this world and the one of the Hereafter.26
    The Islamic Tradition calls him al-Kha∂ir (Peace be upon him), a
    name that evokes the perpetual turning green of vegetation.
    Sayyidunå M¨så is upset by al-Kha∂ir’s actions that seem incoherent.
    But the reasons of the things finally appear to M¨så, and
    al-Kha∂ir explains how important patience (ßabr) is to grasp something
    of divine knowledge. May our Lord grant us a good deal of
    this patience among the chaos of the final period.
    The third tale proposes the parable of the young People of
    the Cave, a Koranic version of the Christian tradition of the Seven
    24. Kor. XXII, 1.
    25. Kor. XVIII, 98-99.
    26. Kor. XVIII, 60-82.
    INSIGHTS INTO THE ISLAMIC ESCHATOLOGY
    158 IL MESSAGGIO - LE MESSAGE
    Sleepers of Ephesus. These young men take refuge in the Cave
    where God makes them sleep for 309 years. Then God wakes
    them up as a sign of Resurrection.
    We made [people] stumble upon them, that they might know
    that God’s promise is true, and that there is no doubt about
    the Hour.27
    The Sufis see this Cave as a symbol of the heart where the
    believers listen to the words of their Lord, in a total commitment
    to God. According to the Koranic words:
    Take refuge in the Cave, and your Lord will unfold to you
    His mercy, and will furnish you with a gentle issue of your
    affair. And you might have seen the sun, when it rose, inclining
    from their Cave toward the right, and, when it set, passing
    them by on the left, while they were in a broad fissure
    of the Cave. That was one of God’s signs; whomsoever
    God guides, he is rightly guided, and whomsoever He
    leads astray, you will not find for him a protector to direct.
    They would have thought them awake, as they lay sleeping,
    while We turned them now to the right, now to the
    left (wa nuqallibuhum dhåta-l-yamoeni wa dhåta-lshimål).
    28
    As the Men of the Cave follow the motion of the sun by the
    swinging of their bodies, the believer’s heart follows the succession
    of the divine irradiations (tajalliyåt ilåhiyya) by turning
    around constantly (taqloeb, a word with the same root as al-qalb,
    the heart), in a total commitment to God. God unveils Himself
    through the veils of the things along the unfolding of time in a
    creating act that is constantly renewed. The human mind is unable
    to follow the succession of the divine manifestations through the
    mutations of the phenomena. Only the intellect that is traditionally
    located in the heart is able to do so, when it empties itself from
    27. Kor. XVIII, 21.
    28. Kor. XVIII, 16-18.
    159
    the world. This is why God says, in a Δadoeth qudsoe:
    My heavens and My earth embrace Me not, but the heart
    of My believing servant does embrace Me.29
    Keeping after one’s heart is one of the mysteries of the pole,
    the invariable centre where the believers of all religions will seek
    refuge during the final unfurling of the psychical waves.
    All the Traditions recommend to multiply the invocation of
    God’s Names during the events of the end of times. «Surely the
    invocation of God is greater (Wa-la-dhikru-Llåhi akbar)»30, the
    Koran says. During their ritual gatherings, the Sufis perform the
    invocation of God’s name in the formula Lå ilåha illå-Llåh, «there
    is no god but God», and reproduce the motion of the bodies on
    the right and on the left under the breathe of the Spirit, according
    to the example of the Men of the Cave submitted to the action
    of the divine Grace.
    Nobody knows whether he will live during the messianic times.
    But we are sure of the existence of our personal eschatology. We
    have tried to bear witness about it today. Beyond our ignorance
    and the limits due to our human nature, this faith in God is an
    anticipation of a knowledge that will be certainty. Because,
    although there is no doubt about our death, the Koran also tells
    us that certainty (al-yaqoen) will come after death.31 It is God’s
    promise and «God’s promise is true», as the Koran says. May this
    tradition of the Men of the Cave help us keep our hearts from
    the confusion of the world, and give us the patience to wait for
    the return of the Messiah (Peace be upon him) who will be able
    to gather all of us in the shining Beauty and Majesty of the Unique
    God. Wa-Llåhu a‘lam, and God knows better.
    29. This Δadoeth, often quoted by Ibn ‘Araboe, is not in the canonical collections.
    30. Kor. XXIX, 45.
    31. Kor. CII, 3-7.
    INSIGHTS INTO THE ISLAMIC ESCHATOLOGY


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