Islamic eschatology

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Islamic eschatology is the aspect of Islamic theology concerning ideas of life after death, matters of the soul, and the "Day of Judgement," known as Yawm al-Qiyāmah (Arabic: يوم القيامة‎, IPA: [jawmu‿l.qijaːma], "the Day of Resurrection") or Yawm ad-Dīn (يوم الدين, Arabic pronunciation: [jawmu‿d.diːn], "the Day of Judgment"). The Day of Judgement is characterized by the annihilation of all life, which will then be followed by the resurrection and judgment by God. Multiple verses in the Quran mention the Last Judgment.[1][2]

The main subject of Surat al-Qiyama is resurrection. The Great Tribulation is described in the hadith and commentaries of the ulama, including al-Ghazali, Ibn Kathir, Ibn Majah, Muhammad al-Bukhari, and Ibn Khuzaymah.[2] The Day of Judgment is also known as the Day of Reckoning, the Last Day, and the Hour (al-sā'ah).

Unlike the Quran, the hadith contains several events, happening before the Day of Judgment, which are described as several minor signs and twelve major signs. During this period, terrible corruption and chaos would rule the earth, caused by the Masih ad-Dajjal (the Antichrist in Islam), then 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.[3]

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.[4] Islamic apocalyptic literature describing Armageddon is often known as fitna, Al-Malhama Al-Kubra (The Great Massacre) 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][6]

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).[7]

Sources for Islamic Eschatology[edit]

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 Prophet Muhammad during his lifetime.[8] 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.[9] 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.[10] 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.[2][11] 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.[12] 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.[13]

Signs of the End Times[edit]

In Sunni Islam, a number of greater and lesser signs foretell the end of days.[14][better source needed] There is debate over whether they could occur concurrently or must be at different points in time, although Islamic scholars typically divide them into three major periods.[15]

Greater signs[edit]

  1. Sexual immorality appears among people to such an extent that they commit it openly, except that they will be afflicted by plagues and diseases unknown to their forefathers;
  2. People cheat in weights and measures (business, trades, etc.) and are stricken with famine, calamity, and oppression as a result;
  3. They withhold charity and hoard their wealth, and rain is withheld from the sky from them; there is rain only for animals;
  4. They break their covenant with God and His Messenger and God enables their enemies to overpower them and take some of what is in their hands;
  5. God causes those who do not live according to His book to fight among themselves.[note 1]

Lesser signs[edit]

  1. The coming of fitna (tribulations) and removal of khushoo' (fearfulness of God, taqwah, reverence, etc.)[note 2]
  2. The coming of Dajjal, presuming himself as an apostle of God.[note 3][jargon]
  3. A person passing by a grave might say to another the following: "I wish it were my abode."[note 4]
  4. The loss of honesty, as well as authority put in the hands of those who do not deserve it.[note 5]
  5. The loss of knowledge and the prevalence of religious ignorance.[note 6]
  6. Frequent, sudden, and unexpected deaths.[note 7]
  7. Increase in pointless killings.[note 8]
  8. Acceleration of time.[note 9]
  9. Rejection of Hadith.[note 10]
  10. The spread of riba (usury, interest), zina (adultery, fornication), and the drinking of alcohol.[note 11]
  11. Widespread acceptance of music.[note 12]
  12. Pride and competition in the decoration of mosques.[note 13]
  13. Women will increase in number and men will decrease in number so much so that fifty women will be looked after by one man.[note 14]
  14. Abundance of earthquakes.[note 15]
  15. Frequent occurrences of disgrace, distortion, and defamation.[note 16]
  16. When people wish to die because of the severe trials and tribulations that they are suffering.[note 17]
  17. Jews fighting Muslims.[note 18]
  18. When paying charity becomes a burden.[note 19]
  19. Nomads will compete in the construction of very tall buildings.[note 20]
  20. Women will appear naked despite their being dressed.[note 21]
  21. People will seek knowledge from misguided and straying scholars.[note 22]
  22. Liars will be believed, honest people disbelieved, and faithful people called traitors.[note 23]
  23. The death of righteous, knowledgeable people.[note 24]
  24. The emergence of indecency (obscenity) and enmity among relatives and neighbours.[note 25]
  25. The rise of idolatry and polytheists in the community.[note 26]
  26. The Euphrates will uncover a mountain of gold.[note 27]
  27. The land of the Arabs will return to being a land of rivers and fields.[note 28]
  28. People will increasingly earn money by unlawful (Haram) ways.[note 29]
  29. There will be much rain but little vegetation.[note 30]
  30. Evil people will be expelled from Al-Madinah.[note 31]
  31. Wild animals will communicate with humans, and humans will communicate with objects.[note 32]
  32. Lightning and thunder will become more prevalent.[note 33]
  33. There will be a special greeting for people of distinction.[note 34]
  34. Trade will become so widespread that a woman will help her husband in business.[note 35]
  35. No truly honest man will remain and no one will be trusted.[note 36]
  36. Only the worst people will be left; they will not know any good nor forbid any evil (i.e. No one will say there is no god but Allah).[note 37]
  37. Nations will call each other to destroy Islam by any and every means.[note 38]
  38. Islamic knowledge will be passed on, but no one will follow it correctly.[note 39]
  39. Muslim rulers will come who do not follow the guidance and tradition of the Sunnah. Some of their men will have the hearts of devils in a human body.[note 40]
  40. Stinginess will become more widespread and honorable people will perish.[note 41]
  41. A man will obey his wife and disobey his mother, and treat his friend kindly while shunning his father.[note 42]
  42. Voices will be raised in the mosques.[note 43]
  43. The leader of a people will be the worst of them.[note 44]
  44. People will treat a man with respect because they fear the evil he could do.[note 45]
  45. Much wine will be drunk.[note 46]
  46. Muslims shall fight against a nation who wear shoes made of hair and with faces like hammered shields, with red complexions and small eyes.[note 47]
  47. The emergence of the Sufyani within the Syria region.[note 48]
  48. The truce and joint Roman-Muslim campaign against a common enemy, followed by al-Malhama al-Kubra (Armageddon), a Roman vs. Muslim war.[note 49]
  49. The Black Standard will come from Khorasan, (see Hadith of black flags) nothing shall turn them back until it is planted in Jerusalem.[note 50]
  50. Mecca will be attacked and the Kaaba will be destroyed.[note 51]
  51. Emergence of an army, from Yemen, that will make Islam dominant.[note 52][16]
  52. There will be disagreement concerning succession. Then a man will emerge from Madina. He will hurry to Makkah, and the people of Makkah will come out to him and urge him and try to force him to accept the Bai'aa.[note 53] One of the last of the lesser signs, and which will signal the coming of the 10 major signs is the appearance of the Mahdi.[17][18][19][20]

The Mahdi[edit]

Mahdi (Arabic: مهدي‎) meaning "guided one," is a messianic figure in Islamic tradition. He makes his first appearance in the hadiths and is thought as the first sign of the third period.[21] Hadith reports state that he will be a descendant of Muhammad through Muhammad's daughter Fatimah and cousin Ali. The Mahdi will be looked upon to kill al-Dajjal,[citation needed] to end the disintegration of the Muslim community, and to prepare for the reign of Jesus, who will rule for a time thereafter. The Mahdi will fulfill his prophetic mission, a vision of justice and peace, before submitting to Jesus' rule.[22] The physical features of Mahdi are described in the hadith—he will be of Arab complexion, of average height, with a big forehead, large eyes, and a sharp nose. He will have a mole on his cheek, the sign of the prophet on his shoulder, and be recognized by the caliphate while he sits in his own home. As written by Abu Dawud, "Our Mahdi will have a broad forehead and a pointed (prominent) nose. He will fill the earth with justice as it is filled with injustice and tyranny. He will rule for seven years."[23] In some accounts, after the seven years of peace, God will send a cold wind causing everyone with the smallest measure of human-kindness or faith, to die and carry them straight to heaven. Therefore, only the wicked will remain and be victims of terrible animals and Satan, until the day of resurrection.[24] Otherwise, the Mahdi will kill Satan before the last day, in most Shia accounts.

Though the predictions of the duration of his rule differ, hadith are consistent in describing that God will perfect him in a single night, imbuing him with inspiration and wisdom, and his name will be announced from the sky. The Mahdi will bring back worship of true Islamic values, and bring the Ark of the Covenant to light. He will conquer Istanbul and Mount Daylam and will regard Jerusalem and the Dome as his home. His banner will be that of the prophet Muhammad: black and unstitched, with a halo. Furled since the death of Muhammad, the banner will unfurl when the Mahdi appears. He will be helped by angels and others that will prepare the way for him. He will understand the secrets of abjad.[3]

Sunni and Shia perspectives[edit]

Sunni and Shia Islam have different beliefs regarding the identity of Mahdi. Historically, Sunni Islam considers religious authority as being derived from the caliph, who was appointed by the companions of Muhammad at his death and the companions of Muhammad. The Sunnis view the Mahdi as the successor of Mohammad; the Mahdi is expected to arrive to rule the world and reestablish righteousness.[25] Some Sunnis share a belief that there may be no actual Mahdi, but that a series of mujaddid will instead lead to an Islamic revolution of a renewal of faith and avoidance of deviation from God's path. Sunni tradition has attributed such intellectual and spiritual attributes to numerous Muslims at the end of each Muslim century from the origin of Islam to the present day.[22] This classical interpretation is favored by Sunni scholars like Ghazali.[citation needed]

Contrarily, Shia Islam vested religious authority in those of the bloodline of Muhammad, favoring his cousin and son by marriage, Ali. Ali was appointed the first Imam; and according to Twelver interpretation, he was followed by eleven more. Muhammad al-Mahdi, otherwise known as the Twelfth Imam, went into hiding in 873 at the age of four. His father was al-`Askari, who had been murdered; and so he was hidden from the authorities of the Abbasid Caliphate. He maintained contact with his followers until 940, when he entered the Occultation. Twelverism believes that al-Mahdi is the current Imam, and will emerge at the end of the current age. Some scholars say that, although unnoticed by others present, the Mahdi of Twelver Islam continues to make an annual pilgrimage while he resides outside of Mecca.[26] In contradistinction, Sunni Islam foresees him as a separate and new person.[27] The present Ayatollahs of Iran see themselves as joint caretakers of the office of the Imam until he returns.[28]

The Mahdi is not described in the Quran, only in the hadith, with scholars suggesting he arose when Arabian tribes were settling in Syria under Muawiya. "They anticipated 'the Mahdi who will lead the rising people of the Yemen back to their country' in order to restore the glory of their lost Himyarite kingdom. It was believed that he would eventually conquer Constantinople."[25]

Major signs[edit]

Following the second period, the third will be marked by the ten major signs known as alamatu's-sa'ah al-kubra (the major signs of the end).[note 54] They are as follows without any exact order:

  1. A huge black cloud of smoke (dukhan) will cover the earth.[note 55]
  2. Three sinkings of the earth, one in the east.[note 56]
  3. One sinking of the earth in the west.[note 57]
  4. One sinking of the earth in Arabia.[note 58]
  5. The false messiah—anti-Christ, Masih ad-Dajjal—shall appear with great powers as a one-eyed man with his right eye blind and deformed like a grape. Although believers will not be deceived, he will claim to be God, to hold the keys to heaven and hell, and will lead many astray.[29] In reality, his heaven is hell, and his hell is heaven. The Dajjal will be followed by seventy thousand Jews of Isfahan wearing Persian shawls.[note 59]
  6. The return of Isa (Jesus), from the fourth sky, to kill Dajjal.[30]
  7. Ya'jooj and Ma'jooj (Gog and Magog), a Japhetic tribe of vicious beings who had been imprisoned by Dhul-Qarnayn, will break out. They will ravage the earth, drink all the water of Lake Tiberias, and kill all believers in their way. Isa, Imam Al-Mahdi, and the believers with them will go to the top of a mountain and pray for the destruction of Gog and Magog. God eventually will send disease and worms to wipe them out.[note 60][31]
  8. The sun will rise from the west.[32][33]
  9. The Dabbat al-ard, or Beast of the Earth, will come out of the ground to talk to people.[note 61]
  10. The second blow of the trumpet will be sounded, the dead will return to life, and a fire will come out of Yemen that shall gather all to Mahshar Al Qiy'amah (The Gathering for Judgment).[21]

Descent of Jesus[edit]

While the Quran is not explicit about Jesus' return,[34] many Muslims believe that at least two Quranic verses refer to his second coming during the end times.[35] The probably most significant verse is Surah 4:157: "And [for] their saying, "Indeed, we have killed the Messiah, Jesus, the son of Mary, the messenger of Allah ." And they did not kill him, nor did they crucify him; but [another] was made to resemble him to them. And indeed, those who differ over it are in doubt about it. They have no knowledge of it except the following of assumption. And they did not kill him, for certain." The other states: "And indeed, Jesus will be [a sign for] knowledge of the Hour, so be not in doubt of it, and follow Me. This is a straight path.” (43:61)."[35] The Arabic language is not clear, as to who the people of the book have to believe in. Tabari author of one of the most important Sunni Tafsirs argues, the verse refers to Jesus, who will unite all believers under the banner of Islam.[35] Hadiths further elaborate the events following Jesus arrival.[36] According to Sahih al-Bukhari, Jesus will descend among Muslims, break the cross, kill the pig and abolish the Jizya.[35] Although traced back to Abu Hurairah, one of the sahaba, such hadiths might actually have been introduced later during civil wars in the early Abbasid Caliphate, when a savior was expected. While for Shias, the Mahdi will be the savior, some Sunnis tended to expect Jesus' return. During the early Abbasid Caliphate, wearing crucifixes in proccesions and holding pigs in public, was forbidden. Otherwise, the breaking of the cross, might reflect general disapproval of this symbol by Muslims, and slaying pigs a reference to Jesus exorcism of Legion.[36]

Shia eschatology[edit]

Various eschatological interpretations exist within Shia Islam. The concept of seven celestial Hells, as well as the idea that one's souls temporarily wait in either Paradise or Hellfire until the End Times, are accounted for throughout Isma'ili Shi'i literature.[37] Shia tradition broadly tends to recognize the coming of the Mahdi as signifying punishment to come for non-believers.[13] Twelver Shia scholar 'Allama al-Hilli expressed that it is not possible for any Muslim to be ignorant of "the imamate and of the Return" and thus "whoever is ignorant of any of them is outside the circle of believers and worthy of eternal punishment."[13] This statement is not indicative of all Shia eschatological thought, but does note the existence of a form of eternal punishment, or realm that is opposite Paradise.


Raj`a (Arabic: الرجعة‎, romanizedāl rj'ah, lit. 'Return') in Islamic terminology, refers to the Second Coming, or the return to life of a given past historical figure after that person's physical death.[38] Shia believe that before the Day of Judgement, Muhammad al-Mahdi will return with a group of chosen companions. This return is more properly known as zuhur or 'appearance,' as the Hidden Imam is believed to have remained alive during his period of occultation, since the year 874.[38] The return of these historical figures will signify the beginning of the Last Judgment. The purpose of this return is to establish justice for those who were oppressed in their lifetime up until their death: the oppressors are punished directly by the oppressed during this future reappearance.[39]

Some Sunni scholars do believe in Raj’a, citing the return of numerous people, such as the Seven Sleepers, synchronous with the appearance of the Mahdi.[40] According to Jalaluddin Al-Sayuti, in contrast to Shia belief, the return of the Prophet Muhammad is not limited to a specific time in the future. Al-Sayuti did not mention if any other religious figures will return after death before the resurrection.[41] According to Abu 'Abdullah Al-Qurtubi, raj`a is understood to be the lack of physical presence of a prophet, who marks his apparent death by absence in the physical world but will reappear, from time to time, to those who are pure in heart.[42]


Isa is the Arabic name for Jesus, and his return is considered the third major sign of the last days (the second being the appearance of Jesus's nemesis Masih ad-Dajjal). Although Muhammad is the preeminent Prophet in Islam, Jesus is mentioned in the Quran, and so is Idris (Enoch), who is said not to have died but to have been raised up by God.[43] Thus, in accordance with post-Quranic hadith, Jesus conceivably will return to Earth as a just judge before the Day of Judgment.[44] As written in hadith:

Hadith reference both the Mahdi and Isa simultaneously and the return of the Mahdi will coincide with the return of Isa, who will descend from the heavens in al-Quds at dawn. The two will meet, and the Mahdi will lead the people in fajr prayer. After the prayer, they will open a gate to the west and encounter Masih ad-Dajjal. After the defeat of ad-Dajjal, Isa will lead a peaceful forty-year reign until his death. He will be buried in a tomb beside Muhammad in Medina.[45] Though the two certainly differ regarding their role and persona in Islamic eschatology, the figures of the Mahdi and Isa are ultimately inseparable, according to the Prophet. Though Isa is said to descend upon the world once again, the Mahdi will already be present.

What will be your reaction when the son of Mary (Jesus) descends and your Imam is from among yourselves? (Sahih Muslim, bab nuzul 'isa, Vol. 2; Sahih Bukhari, kitab bad' al-khalq wa nuzul 'isa, Vol. 4)

Resurrection and final judgement[edit]

The resurrection and final judgement are fundamental beliefs in Islam. According to the Quran, without them, the creation of humanity would be in vain.[46][47] Thus the Day of Judgment, al-Qiyāmah, (also known as the Day of Reckoning or Resurrection, the Last Day, or the Hour) is one of the six articles of faith in Sunni Islam, and one of seven in Shia Islam.[48][49][50][51][17][52][17] It is believed in Islam that the Qur'an states Allah will resurrect everyone from their graves on the day of judgement.[53] It is believed that the time is coming and that there shall be no doubt that Allah will do as promised.[53] Just as Allah created the people, they will be brought back to the same form.[53] Allah will double the deeds of his most faithful servants.[53]

Major events[edit]

Kaaba destruction and the beast of the earth[edit]

Before doomsday, an Abyssinian, with short legs, will attack Mecca and destroy the Kaaba.[54] Another sign is the appearance of the da'ba-tul-ard, or the Beast of the Earth.

The entire world will be engulfed by dukhan or smoke,[18][55] for forty days,[citation needed] and there will be three huge earthquakes.[citation needed] The Quran will be taken to heaven and even the huffaz will not recall its verses. Finally, a pleasant breeze will blow that shall cause all believers to die, but infidels and sinners will remain alive. A fire will start, from Hadramawt in Yemen, that will gather all the people of the world in the land of Mahshar, and al-Qiyamah will commence.[21]

Resurrection of the dead[edit]

In the Quran, barzakh (Arabic: برزخ‎) is the intermediate state for the soul, until the day of resurrection.

The eighth sign is a breeze bearing a pleasant scent, which will emanate from Yemen, causing the awliya, sulaha and the pious to die peacefully once they inhale it.[56] After the believers die, there will be a period of 120 years during which the world will contain only kafirs, sinners, oppressors, liars, and adulterers; and there will be a reversion to idolatry.[citation needed]

The ninth sign is the rising of the sun from the west after a long night. After midday, the sun will set again. According to hadith:

Abu Hurayrah states that the Messenger of God (saw) said, "The Hour will not be established until the sun rises from the West and when the people see it they will have faith. But that will be (the time) when believing of the soul, that will have not believed before that time, will not benefit it.

— Ibn Maja, as-Sunan, vol. 2 p 1352-53[57]

The final signs will be nafkhatu'l-ula, when a trumpet will be sounded for the first time, and which will result in the death of the remaining sinners. Then there will be a period of forty years, after which the eleventh sign is the sounding of a second trumpet to signal the resurrection as ba'as ba'da'l-mawt. As written in the Quran:

The Trumpet will (just) be sounded, when all that are in the heavens and on earth will swoon, except such as it will please God (to exempt). Then will a second one be sounded, when, behold, they will be standing and looking on!

— Sura 39 (Az-Zumar), ayah 68[58]

All will be naked and running to the Place of Gathering, while the enemies of God will be travelling on their faces with their legs upright. Finally, there will be no more injustice:

Surely God does not do injustice to the weight of an atom, and if it is a good deed He multiplies it and gives from Himself a great reward.

— Sura 4 An-Nisa, ayah 40[59]

Separation of the righteous and the damned[edit]

At divine judgment, each person's Book of Deeds will be read, in which "every small and great thing is recorded,"[60] but with actions before adolescence omitted. Records shall be given with the right hand if they are good, and the left if they are evil. Even the smallest acts will not be ignored:

Then shall anyone who has done an atom's weight of good, see it!
And anyone who has done an atom's weight of evil, shall see it.

— Quran, Sura 99 Az-Zalzala, ayat 7-8[61]

This will be followed by perfect, divine, and merciful justice. The age of the hereafter, or the rest of eternity, is the final stage after the Day of Judgment, when all will receive their judgment from God.

Indeed, those who believed and those who were Jews or Christians or Sabeans [before Prophet Muhammad][62] – those [among them] who believed in God and the Last Day and did righteousness – will have their reward with their Lord, and no fear will there be concerning them, nor will they grieve.

— Qur'an, Sura 2 Al-Baqara, ayah 62[63]

The dead will stand in a grand assembly, awaiting a scroll detailing their righteous deeds, sinful acts, and ultimate judgment.[64][65] Muhammad will be the first to be resurrected.[66]

If one did good deeds, one would go to Jannah, and if unrighteous, would go to Jahannam. Punishments will include adhab, or severe pain, and khizy or shame.[67][67] There will also be a punishment of the grave (for those who disbelieved) between death and the resurrection.[68]

Resurrection theories[edit]

Although Islamic philosophers and scholars were in general agreement on a bodily resurrection after death, interpretations differ in regard to the specifications of bodily resurrection. Some of the theories are the following:

  • The return to the same material body, someone had during lifetime, that will be restored.[69]
  • Conjunction of the soul with a Mithali body, which is congenial to the worlds of Barzakh and the Akhirah.[70]
  • Resurrection with a Hurqaliyati body, accordingly a second invisible body, that survives death.[71]

Eschatological Views in the Early Muslim Period[edit]

One of the primary beliefs pertaining to Islamic eschatology during the Early Muslim Period was that all humans could receive God's mercy and were worthy of salvation.[37] These early depictions even show how small, insignificant deeds were enough to warrant mercy.[53] Most early depictions of the end of days depict only those who reject Tawhid, the concept of monotheism, are subject to eternal punishment. However, everybody is held responsible for their own actions. Concepts of rewards and punishments were seen as beyond this world, a view that is also held today.[53]

Limbo Theory of Islam[edit]

In terms of classical Islam, the Limbo Theory of Islam, as described by Jane Smith and Yvonne Haddad, implies that some individuals are not immediately sent to the afterlife, but are held in a state of limbo.[72] The fate awaiting all people after their death is either the Gardens, heaven, or the Fire, hell. Traditional interpretations agree that, at minimum, these are two of the possible fates that await the dead.[72] However, some have interpreted 7:46, "And there will be a veil between them. And upon the Heights are men who know all by their marks. They will call out to the inhabitants of the Garden, 'peace be upon you!' They will not have entered it, though they hope".[73] Some have taken the mention of this veil between heaven and hell as an allusion to there being individuals who are not immediately sent to their ultimate destination.[72]

The Current Existence of the Afterlife[edit]

There was considerable debate regarding whether heaven and hell exists at the current moment.[74] The Mu'tazila argued that heaven and hell both cannot exist until the trumpet blasts that bring in the end times occurs, as the Quran states that once the trumpet sounds, all except God will be destroyed.[74] However, the Ash'ariya argued that although the trumpet's sounding will precede all being destroyed, creation was a constant process.[74] Furthermore, as Adam and Eve once resided in the Garden of Eden, the garden already exists. Also, hadith reports pertaining to the Night Journey state that Muhammad saw visions of both destinations and creatures inhabiting it.[74] Thus, heaven and hell are usually regarded as coexisting with the current world.[75]

The Concept of Eternity[edit]

In Classical Islam, there was a consensus among the theological community regarding the finality of the Gardens; faithful servants of God would find themselves in this heaven for eternity.[76] However, some practitioners in the early Muslim community held a concept that stated that hell may not be eternal in and of itself.[76] These views were based upon interpretations that viewed the upper levels of Hell as only lasting for as long as God deemed necessary. Once Muslims had their sins purged, these levels would be closed.[76] These interpretations are centered on verses 11:106-107 in the Quran, stating, "As for those who are wretched, they shall be in the Fire, wherein there shall be for them groaning and wailing, abiding therein for so long as the heavens and the earth endure, save as thy Lord wills. Surely thy Lord does whatsoever He wills".[77] To this end, the Quran itself gives a conflicting account of Hell, stating that Hell will endure as long as Heaven will, which has been established as eternal, but also the Quran maintains the possibility that God may yet commute a sentence to Hell. In a sense, these levels of Hell were interpreted to have a similar function as Purgatory in Christianity, with the exception to this comparison being that Hell in this context is for the punishment of the sinner's complete body, as opposed to the only the soul being punished in Purgatory.[76] Arguments questioning the permanence of Hell take the view that Hell is not necessarily solely there to punish the evil, but to purify their souls. To clarify, the Garden is the reward while the Fire is for purification.[78]

Gender and Islamic Eschatology[edit]

Eschatological beliefs in Islam do not tend to distinguish the afterlife on the basis of gender. Amina Wadud discusses Hell and Paradise in her book "Qur'an and Woman" very briefly. Wadud mentions that the Qur'an does not mention any specific gender when talking about Hell. All genders have an equal chance and consequence to experience hell and one is not over the other. The Qur'an 43:74-76 states that "the guilty are immortal in hell's torment," not he or she. It is directed to the individual and "the basis of faith and deeds," not gender. This is consistent in the Qur'an. Amina Wadud goes on to discuss paradise, and how the Quran describes it with such detail in order to "entice" the readers and make it sound pleasing. Wadud states what the Quran says about good earthly things, and eternal things which includes women. 3:14-15 states "Beautiful of mankind is love of the joys (that come) from women and offspring..."[79][80]


Traditional Islam teaches predestination for both good and evil, and that everything that has happened and will happen has already been determined.[53] Free will and predestination have been discussed by many Muslim theologians; but the believers in free will, also known as al-qadariyya, have been overruled.[53] The prophet Muhammad expressed predestination multiple times during his mission.[53] Death is also seen as a homecoming.[74] When people visit tombs, they are having a specific spiritual routine.[74] The correct way to visit someones tomb is to recite parts of the Quran and pray for the deceased.[74]

The fate of non-Muslims[edit]

Abu Hamid al-Ghazali categorized non-Muslims into three categories:[81]

  • 1. People who never heard of the message, who live in far away lands, such as the Byzantines ("Romans".) These will be forgiven.
  • 2. People who were exposed to a distorted understanding of Islam and have no recourse to correct that information. These too will be forgiven.
  • 3. People who heard of Islam because they live in neighboring lands and mix with Muslims. These have no hope of salvation.[81]

Although many argue that anybody who thinks logically would eventually find that there is only one true, all-powerful God, however, others argue that if one has never received the message, they are not liable for not following it. This debate has been going on for centuries, however several Muslim theologicans agree that Islam is the only path, no other religion, even the other Abrahamic faiths, are proper paths to salvation.[81] Although the Quran acknowledges the Bible as gospel, rejecting Muhammad and his message is seen as a rejection of salvation by them.[82] Yet, Muslim scholars Muhammad Abduh and Rashid Rida disagree with the notion that the People of the Book are excluded from Jannah, with reference to Quran 4:123-124.[83]

The fate of Jews[edit]

The Quran makes a variety of statements on the state of the Jewish community, praising their dedication to monotheism in one line and criticizing their rejection of Muhammad the next.[84] An example of a line criticizing the Jews can be found at 5:60-61: "Say, 'Shall I inform you of something worse than that by way of recompense from God? Whomsoever God has cursed and upon whom is His Wrath, and among whom He has made some to be apes and swine, and who worship false deities, such are in a worse situation, and further astray from the right way.' When they come to you, they say, 'We believe.' But they are certainly entered with disbelief and they have certainly left with it, and God knows best what they were concealing. Thou seest many of them hastening to sin and enmity and consuming what is forbidden. Evil indeed is that which they were doing.".[85] Another example is 5:64: "The Jews say, 'God's Hand is shackled.' Shackled are their hands, and they are cursed for what they say. Nay, but His two Hands are outstretched, He bestows as He wills. Surely that which has been sent down unto thee from thy Lord will increase many of them in rebellion and disbelief. And we cast enmity and hatred among them till the Day of Resurrection. As often they ignite a flame for war, God extinguishes it. They endeavor to work corruption upon the earth. And God loves not thee workers of corruption."[85] However, the Qur'an also takes a more reconciliatory tone in other lines. An example of this is in 3:113-115: "They are not all alike. Among the People of the Book is an upright community who recite God's signs in the watches of the night, while they prostrate. They believe in God and the Last Day, enjoin right and forbid wrong, and hasten unto good deeds. And they are among the righteous. Whatsoever good they do, they will not be denied it. And God knows the reverent".[86] After reconciling the different descriptions, one can gather the conclusion that some Jews are considered worthy of damnation, while others are righteous and capable of salvation.[87] The transgressions of the "apes and pigs" are not indicative of the entire community.[87]

Islamic eschatology in literature[edit]

Ibn al-Nafis wrote of Islamic eschatology in Theologus Autodidactus (circa AD 1270), where he used reason, science, and early Islamic philosophy to explain how he believed al-Qiyamah would unfold, told in the form of a theological fiction novel.[88]

Imran Nazar Hosein wrote numerous books that deal with Islamic eschatology (Ilmu Ākhir al-Zamān – Knowledge of the later days), among which the most famous is Jerusalem in the Qur'an.[89]


Mustafa Akyol criticises the current focus by the Muslim community on apocalypticism and the use of the forces of the Dajjal to explain stagnation in the Muslim world in the past two centuries vis-à-vis the West (and now East Asia). He argues that if supernatural evil is believed to be the cause of the problems of Muslims, then practical solutions such as "science, economic development and liberal democracy" will be ignored in favor of divine intervention.[6][5]

See also[edit]


  1. ^ Sunan Ibn Maajah 4019
  2. ^ Sahih Muslim, Book 1, Hadith 0213
  3. ^ Dawud, Book 37, Hadith 4319
  4. ^ Sahih Muslim, Book 41, Hadith 6947
  5. ^ Sahih Bukhari, Volume 8, Book 076, Hadith 503
  6. ^ Sahih Bukhari Volume 1, Book 3, Hadith Number 81
  7. ^ Sahih Muslim Book 41, Hadith 7040
  8. ^ Sahih Bukhari Volume 9, Book 88, Number 184
  9. ^ Imam Ahmed, recorded in Muslim
  10. ^ Abu Dawud Book 35, Hadith 4587
  11. ^ Sahih Muslim Book 41, Hadith 7015
  12. ^ Sahih Bukhari Volume 7, Book 69, Hadith 494
  13. ^ Sahih ibn Majah 610
  14. ^ Sahih Bukhari Volume 1, Book 3, Hadith 81
  15. ^ Sahih Bukhari Volume 9, Book 88, Hadith Number 237
  16. ^ Al-Adab Al-Mufrad 485, Book 1, Hadith 3
  17. ^ Sahih Bukhari Volume 9, Book 88, Hadith Number 231
  18. ^ Sahih Musim Book 41, Hadith Number 6985
  19. ^ Sahih Bukhari Volume 009, Book 088, Hadith Number 236
  20. ^ Sahih Bukhari Volume 009, Book 088, Hadith Number 237
  21. ^ Sahih Muslim Book 40, Hadith Number 6840
  22. ^ Musnad Imam Ahmad (no.21,334 and no.21,335
  23. ^ Sunan At-Tirmidhi 2209
  24. ^ Sahih Bukhari Volume 1, Book 3, Hadith Number 81
  25. ^ Musnad Ahmad
  26. ^ Abu-Dawud, Book 30, Number 4239 (and others)
  27. ^ Sahih Muslim Book 041, Hadith Number 6918
  28. ^ Sahih Muslim Book 5, Hadith 2208
  29. ^ Al-Bukhari
  30. ^ Reported by Anas and declared Sahih by Hasan al Albani
  31. ^ Sahih Muslim Book 7, Hadith Number 3188
  32. ^ Musnad Ahmad
  33. ^ Ahmad
  34. ^ Musnad Ahmad
  35. ^ Musnad Ahmad
  36. ^ Sahih Bukhari
  37. ^ Ahmad
  38. ^ Musnad Ahmad
  39. ^ Tirmidhee 2653 and Ibn Maajah 4048
  40. ^ Sahih Muslim 1847
  41. ^ Mujamma'uz-Zawaa'id 7/327
  42. ^ Sunan al-Tirmidhi
  43. ^ Sunan al-Tirmidhi
  44. ^ Sunan al-Tirmidhi
  45. ^ Sunan al-Tirmidhi
  46. ^ Sunan al-Tirmidhi
  47. ^ Sahih Muslim, Book 41, Hadith 6960
  48. ^ Sahih Muslim, Book 41, Hadith 6926
  49. ^ Narrated with sound chains from Dhu Mikhbar al-Najashi by Abu Dawud, Ahmad, Ibn Majah, Ibn Hibban, and al-Hakim who declared it sahih and al-Dhahabi concurred. See Shaykh Shu`ayb Arna'ut's documentation of this hadith in his edition of Sahih Ibn Hibban (15:101-103 #6708-6709).
  50. ^ Sunan At-Tirmidhi 2269 (Weak)
  51. ^ Muslim, Book 41, Hadith 6953
  52. ^ Hadith of Aden-Abyan
  53. ^ The Promised Deliverer (Kitab Al-Mahdi) Dawud : Book 36 : Hadith 4273
  54. ^ Sahih Muslim, Book 41, Hadith 6931
  55. ^ Sahih Muslim
  56. ^ Sahih Muslim
  57. ^ Sahih Muslim
  58. ^ Sahih Muslim
  59. ^ Muslim, Book 41, Hadith 7034
  60. ^ Quran 21:96
  61. ^ Quran 27:82


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Further reading[edit]