Most books on Islamic eschatology primarily consist of the author’s best attempts to gather, compile and relay the most reliable Hadith and various traditions relating to the end-times. Beyond this of course, most Islamic eschatology books also contain commentary from the author as well.
Because I am not a Hadith scholar (nor do I aspire to ever become one), and because I do not want to merely present my own interpretation of what Islam teaches regarding the end-times, I have strictly utilized either Islamic traditions or commentary from those Islamic scholars and authors who have already written extensively on these subjects. As such, much of this book will be heavy with such quotations and references.
The majority of Islamic studies of eschatology are divided into two categories, the Minor Signs and the Major Signs. The Minor Signs are sometimes thought of as the equivalent of what Jesus referred to as "the birth pangs" which is to say that they are those signs that precede the Major Signs. To a degree this is true. The difference however, is that many of the Minor Signs actually take place concurrently with the Major Signs. Thus the Minor Signs should not necessarily be thought of as the first signs, but rather the Lesser Signs. Some of the Minor Signs are quite interesting, but for the purpose of this study we will not delve into them. Instead we will move directly into the Major Signs.
The Major Signs
Crucial to this study is a clear understanding of just what Islam teaches regarding the Major Signs. The Major Signs or the Greater Signs, obviously speak of far more significant events than the Minor Signs. These signs relate to issues such as the coming of the Muslim Anti-Christ (Ad-Dajjal), or the return of the Muslim Jesus (Isa Al-Maseeh) or most importantly, the coming of the Muslim Savior/Messiah figure (Al-Mahdi). They do not relate to, for instance, the increase in immorality, or religious ignorance, or other such general signs. While some of the Minor Signs are both fairly vague and debatable as to their legitimacy, the Major Signs are absolutely a non-negotiable entity to the Muslim mind. In order to understand the importance of the Major Signs to Muslims, one must first understand the importance of end-time belief among Muslims.
Priority Of The Last-Days In Islamic Belief
The Quran mentions five things that a Muslim must believe in order to be a Muslim. These five things have, as a result, become a creed of sorts within Islam. From the Quran we read:
It is not righteousness that ye turn your faces to the East and the West; but righteous is he who believeth in Allah and the Last Day and the angels and the Scripture and the prophets… -Surah 2:177 (Pickthall)
Notice the order of the five tenets of belief:
- Belief in Allah.
- Belief in the Last Day.
- Belief in angels.
- Belief in the Scripture.
- Belief in the prophets.
This is much different than with Christianity. Unfortunately while end-time belief plays a prominent role in the New Testament and in the life of the early church, today belief in the last-days has become essentially optional or generally ignored by most. But not so with Islam: There are no true Muslims who do not believe in the Last Day and the events which precede it. Understanding the Islamic perspective regarding the last-days and specifically the Major Signs therefore is crucial if we wish to understand the central religious anticipations of the 1.3 billion Muslims worldwide. It is to these core beliefs that we now turn.
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