Islamic eschatology

Islamic eschatology is the aspect of Islamic theology incorporating the afterlife and the end of the world, with special emphasis in the Quran on the inevitability of resurrection, the final judgment, and the eternal division of the righteous and the wicked, which take place on the Day of Resurrection.[1] Also known as the Day of Judgement, it is characterized by the annihilation of all life, which will then be followed by the resurrection and judgment by God. Multiple verses in the Qur’an mention the Last Judgment.[2][3]

Islamic theology concerning life after death

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Similar to other Abrahamic religions, Islam teaches that there will be a resurrection of the dead that will be followed by a final tribulation and eternal division of the righteous and wicked.[1] The Great Tribulation is described in the hadith and commentaries of the ulama, including al-Ghazali, Ibn Kathir and Muhammad al-Bukhari, among others.[3] The Day of Judgement is called several names throughout the Qur’an, such as the Day of Reckoning, the Last Day, and the Hour (al-sā’ah).

The hadiths describe several events happening before the Day of Judgment, which are described as several minor signs and major signs. During this period, terrible corruption and chaos would rule the earth, caused by the Masih ad-Dajjal (similar to the Antichrist in Christianity), then Prophet Isa (Jesus) will appear, defeating the Dajjal and establish a period of peace, liberating the world from cruelty. These events will be followed by a time of serenity when people live according to religious values.[1][4]

Islamic apocalyptic literature describing Armageddon is often known as fitna, Al-Malhama Al-Kubra (The Great Epic) or ghaybah in Shī’a Islam. The righteous are rewarded with the pleasures of Jannah (Paradise), while the unrighteous are punished in Jahannam (Hell).

A 2012 poll by Pew research found that 50% or more respondents in several Muslim-majority countries (Turkey, Malaysia, Afghanistan, Pakistan, Iraq, Tunisia, Lebanon, Morocco) expected the Mahdi to return in their lifetime.[5]

Diagram of “Plain of Assembly”(Ard al-Hashr) on the Day of Judgment, from autograph manuscript of Futuhat al-Makkiyya by Sufi mystic and philosopher Ibn Arabi, ca. 1238. Shown are the ‘Arsh (Throne of God), pulpits for the righteous (al-Aminun), seven rows of angels, Gabriel (al-Ruh), A’raf (the Barrier), the Pond of Abundance, al-Maqam al-Mahmud (the Praiseworthy Station; where the prophet Muhammad will stand to intercede for the faithful), Mizan (the Scale), As-Sirāt (the Bridge), Jahannam (Hell) and Marj al-Jannat (Meadow of Paradise).[6]

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Islamic scripture has a plethora of content on the Last Judgment and the tribulation associated with it. The two sources which are primarily referred to when exploring the topic of Islamic eschatology are the Quran itself and the hadith, or accounts of the actions and sayings of Muhammad during his lifetime.[7] One of the functions of the Quran as it relates to eschatology and the Day of Judgement is to serve as a reminder of Allah’s intentions for humanity and as a warning for those who do not abide by Him.[8] Hadith are often referred to in tandem with the Quran in order to create a more detailed and comprehensive understanding of Islamic scripture. The compilation of hadith took place approximately two hundred years after the death of Muhammad.[9] The Last Judgment and the tribulation have also been discussed in the commentaries of ulama such as al-Ghazali, Ibn Kathir, and Muhammad al-Bukhari.[3][10] Scholarly discourse on eschatology and its sub themes often includes an exploration of hadith as they pertain to matters in the Quran, and serve as a source for clarification.[11] Hadith are generally viewed as being second in authority to the Quran, as the Quran is generally understood to be the verbatim word of God.[12]

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