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The End Times and The Mahdi - The situation before the Mahdi's emergence

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o At the end of time, their rulers will cause My people severe trouble in such a way that there will be no comfort for Muslims anywhere. (Al-Muttaqi al-Hindi, Al-Burhan fi `Alamat al-Mahdi Akhir az-Zaman, p. 12)

This hadith points out that before the Mahdi comes, those who lack religious morals and have a cruel and merciless character will come to power in some Muslim countries. As a matter of fact, some contemporary Muslim rulers oppress Muslims and crush people with their oppressive and despotic regimes. In other countries, people are subjected to trouble because their rulers are unqualified to rule. Muslims in some countries, particularly Iraq, Libya, Syria, Somalia, Ethiopia, Afghanistan, Tunisia, and Djibouti, are oppressed by their respectives, and so are subjected to various hardship and problems. Muslims are prevented from practicing their religion and worshipping, and economic difficulties make life harder.

o There will be a dusty and smoky tribulation like patches of dark night... (Abu Dawud) The word 'tribulation (fitnah)' implies anything that turns peoples' reason and hearts away from the true path, or war, incitement, chaos, disorder and conflict. The tribulation in the hadith will leave smoke and dust behind it, we learn.

Furthermore, the way that tribulation is described as 'darkness' in the hadith, can be seen as an indication that its origins are unclear, that it is unexpected. Looking at it from that regard, it is probable that the hadith is referring to one of the world's worst terrorist attack, on the cities of New York and Washington in the United States on September 11, 2001. Therefore, this most saddening act of terror, which caused the lives and injuries of thousands of innocent people, may well be that 'tribulation like patches of dark night' foretold by the hadith as the sign of the Mahdi's emergence.

o The Mahdi will only appear at a time when people are experiencing great fear and are afflicted by disturbances and civil war and other disasters.(Reported by Abu Ja'far Muhammad ibn 'Ali) Most hadiths about the Mahdi's advent focus on the prophecy that turmoil, insecurity, and disorder will rule the world before his coming. Massacres, wars, and confrontations are one of the major features of such a period. Besides, the hadith draws attention to the fact that massacres will occur all over the world.

During the two world wars of the twentieth century, an estimated 65 million people were killed. The number of the civilians slaughtered for political reasons during the same century is estimated to be well over 180 million. This is an extraordinarily high figure compared with previous centuries.

o The Mahdi will not emerge unless innocent people are massacred, and he will appear when those on Earth and up in the sky can no longer put up with such massacres... (Ibn Hajar al-Haythami, Al-Qawl al-Mukhtasar fi `Alamat al-Mahdi al-Muntazar, p. 37) While the hadiths about his emergence mention such massacres as commonplace, they also emphasize that such massacres will target innocent people. As we discussed earlier, almost all of the wars today target people. So, civilians and such innocent people as children, the elderly, and women are slaughtered. Targeting these defenseless people in particular has resulted in more comprehensive massacres, while the number of people dying as a result continues to climb.

Since terror seeks to spread fear and horror, the very group on which such attacks focus are often innocent civilians. o Corruption that no one can escape will occur and spread immediately to another place from where it stays. (Ibn Hajar al-Haythami, Al-Qawl al-Mukhtasar fi `Alamat al-Mahdi al-Muntazar, pp. 21-22)

The term 'corruption (fitnah)' also means 'war, disorder, quarrel, dispute.' Thus, civil and other wars and disorder, 'which spreads to another place from where it stays,' continues unceasingly all over the world during the current century. In particular, the twentieth century is remembered as 'the century of wars.' And, this new century again started off with wars and terror that continues.

o Allah Almighty will send the Mahdi after despair has reached the point that people will say, "There is no Mahdi." (Narrated by Nu'aym ibn Hammad) This hadith informs us that one sign of the End Times is the people's despair of the Mahdi's coming. People who struggle with war, starvation, injustice, epidemics, and all forms of depravity in the End Times lose their hope that such disasters will ever end. Many Muslims, on the other hand, start to despair that Islamic morality will ever prevail and believe that evil will spread even further. Indeed in our day, we frequently see the examples of this spirit. Despite the existence of countless hadiths about the Mahdi's coming and the Golden Age marked with great blessings, many people believe that such a period will never come.

This assumption is also a sign of the End Times. In a time of despair, people will enjoy the benefits of the prevalence of the morality of the Qur'an, thanks to Allah's mercy on people.

o People will prosper until the ninety-fifth year, that is, their business will prosper. In the ninety-seventh and the ninety-ninth year, their possessions will go to waste... (Ibn Hajar al-Haythami, Al-Qawl al-Mukhtasar fi `Alamat al-Mahdi al-Muntazar, p. 54)

It is highly probable that this refers to the year 1995, a period when people had a relatively better life and its conditions have not become so difficult. Indeed, as described in the hadith, in this year, people will have enough income to earn a living and have some possessions. However, 1997 and 1999 was a period during which the economy deteriorated and poverty spread. In this time, possessions lost their value. Such an event can happen very quickly, as exemplified by Argentina's economic crisis in the recent past.

o The inhabitants of Egypt and Sham will kill their ruler and his commands... (Ibn Hajar al-Haythami, Al-Qawl al-Mukhtasar fi `Alamat al-Mahdi al-Muntazar, p. 49) When we examine Egypt's recent history, we see that a ruler was killed: Anwar Sadat, who ruled Egypt from 1970-81, was killed by his opponents during a military review in 1981. Other Egyptian leaders who have been killed include Prime Ministers Boutros Ghali (1910), and Mahmoud Nukrashy Pasha (1948).

The word 'Sham' is not only used for Damascus, for it also means 'left' and has long been used to refer to those countries to the left of the Hijaz (where the cities of Makka and Madina stand). Many leaders have been killed in the region, among them former Syrian prime ministers Salah al-Deen Beetar (1920), Droubi Pasha (1921), and Muhsin al-Barazi (1949), King Abdullah of Jordan (1951), and Lebanese Phalange leader Bashir Gemayel (1982).

o The people of Sham will take prisoner the tribes of Egypt... (Ibn Hajar al-Haythami, Al-Qawl al-Mukhtasar fi 'Alamat al-Mahdi al-Muntazar, p. 49) Today, the states in the region in question include Israel. That is why the hadith could be pointing to the war between the State of Israel and Egypt, and the invasion of Egyptian territory.

o People will compete with one another in constructing high buildings. (Bukhari)

Time will pass quickly. (Bukhari)

Great distances will be traversed in short spans of time. (Ahmad, Musnad)

The Last hour will not come before time contracts, a year being like a month, a month like a week, a week like a day, a day like an hour, and an hour like the kindling of a fire. (Tirmidhi)

The century we are living in has seen the capability of constructing supersonic aeroplanes, and the ability, thanks to trains and other improvements in means of transport, to make journeys in a few minutes that would once have taken months, and in great comfort. What this hadith indicates is also taking place in this manner.

Communication between continents would take weeks hundreds of years ago, but is now a matter of seconds, thanks to the Internet and improvements in technology. Goods that used to take weeks to arrive, following a long journey, can now be delivered at a moment's notice. Billions of books can now be printed in the time it would take to write a single letter just a few centuries ago. As well, other technological developments have meant that we no longer waste large amounts of time on cooking, cleaning and child minding. One could go on citing similar examples. Yet, the important thing here, of course, is that the signs of End Times, as set out by the Prophet (saas) in the seventh century, are now happening one by one.

o The end of a man's whip will speak to him. (Tirmidhi)

The whip is known as a tool used in earlier times when riding or guiding pack animals such as horses or camels. When we look closely at this hadith, we can see that the Prophet (saas) is making a comparison. Let us ask people living at the present time a question, 'Is there a modern implement that talks and resembles a whip?'

The most logical reply to that question is the mobile telephone, with its long antenna, or similar communications equipment. If we bear in mind that mobile or satellite phones are comparatively recent developments, then the wisdom behind the Prophet's (saas) description of 1,400 years ago is even clearer. That is just one more indication that we are living through the End Times. o A person's own voice will speak to him. (Mukhtasar Tazkirah Qurtubi)

The message in the hadith is quite clear: A person's hearing the sound of his own voice is another sign of the End Times. There is no doubt that in order to hear the sound of one's own voice, one first needs to record it, and then to play it back to himself. Sound recording and reproduction equipment are products of the twentieth century. That development marked a scientific turning point, and led to the birth of the communications and media industries. Sound reproduction is nearly perfect now, thanks to computer and laser technologies. In short, the electronic gadgets of our time, microphones and speakers, allow us to record sound and play it back, and are also manifestations of that related in the above hadith.

o A hand will be extended from the sky, and people will look and see it. (Ibn Hajar al-Haythami, Al-Qawl al-Mukhtasar fi 'Alamat al-Mahdi al-Muntazar, p. 53)

The sign of that day is a hand extended in the sky and people stopping to look at it. (Al-Muttaqi al-Hindi, Al Burhan fi Alamat al-Mahdi Akhir al-zaman, p. 69)

The Arabic word for 'hand' in the above hadiths is 'yed.' As well as 'hand,' the dictionary also provides such meanings as 'power, force, strength, means etc.' It is probable that in these hadiths the word is used in those senses. The idea of a 'power, force, strength or means' extending from the sky and looked upon by people might not make much sense in the context of past ages. Yet, it sheds considerable light on equipment such as the television, camera and computer, which have become such indispensable parts of modern life, as described in the hadiths. In other words, the 'hand' mentioned in these hadiths is used in the sense of force. It clearly points to pictures coming down from the sky in waves, in other words television broadcasting.

o Life spans will grow longer. (Ibn Hajar al-Haythami, Al-Qawl al-Mukhtasar fi 'Alamat al-Mahdi al-Muntazar, p. 43) Fourteen centuries have passed since the Prophet (saas) brought forward that news. The average expected lifespan is much higher now than it has been at any other time in recent history. A great difference can be seen even between the figures for the beginning and the end of the twentieth century. For instance, it is estimated that a baby born in 1995 will live some 35 years longer than one born around 1900.11 Another striking example on the same subject is that in the past very few people lived to be 100, whereas now it is a great deal more common.

SIMILARITIES BETWEEN THE MAHDI'S TIME AND THOSE
OF PROPHETS SULAYMAN (AS) AND DHU'L-QARNAYN (AS)

The Mahdi is the rebirth of the noble ethics of Prophets Sulayman (as) and Dhu'l-Qarnayn (as) in the End Times, but on a different and larger scale. Their noble ethics' spiritual, rational, social, and mental manifestations will reappear in the End Times. The eras of Mahdi and these two Prophets are times when the noble Islamic morality is practiced widely. All three of these eras are pleasing to Allah. The Qur'an and the Prophet's hadiths also refer to the periods of Bakhtinasr, Nimrod, and Pharaoh, which are times of wickedness and unbelief. Immediately after these evil periods, Allah made Islamic morality prevail. Similarly, our Lord will offer a time ruled by Islamic morality in the End Times: the Golden Age.

This Golden Age will be a grander reflection of Prophets Sulayman's (as) and Dhu'l-Qarnayn's (as) times. Mahdism means the prevalence of peace, happiness, love, brotherhood, graciousness, sacrifice, humane behavior, and the spirit of cooperation. Here are some examples of the similarities between these two Prophets' times and the Golden Age.

The Mahdi's Worldwide Rule

As stated earlier, Prophet Sulayman (as) and Dhu'l-Qarnayn (as) made Islamic morality rule the world. They ruled wide territories and had very powerful armed forces. This shows a similarity to the Golden Age. During the Golden Age, Islamic morality also will rule the world. People will convert to Islam in great numbers, while ideologies that deny Allah will wither away and Islam will be practiced as it was in the time of our Prophet Muhammad (saas). Some of the hadiths describe the Golden Age as follows:

The Mahdi will own the entire world. (Al-Muttaqi al-Hindi, Al-Burhan fi `Alamat al-Mahdi Akhir al-Zaman, p. 10) The Mahdi will invade all the places between East and West. (Ibn Hajar al-Haythami, Al-Qawl al-Mukhtasar fi `Alamat al-Mahdi al-Muntazar, p. 56)

The Mahdi's Rare and Noble Knowledge Bestowed upon Prophets Sulayman (as) and Dhu'l-Qarnayn (as)

Earlier we mentioned the knowledge Allah bestowed upon Prophet Sulayman (as), such as the ability to rule jinns and devils, speak with birds, hear the ants' communication, and had power over the wind and used copper as he wished. Each of these skills separates him from ordinary people. Of Prophet Dhu'l-Qarnayn (as), the Qur'an says: 'Our knowledge encompasses all that happened to him' (Surat al-Kahf: 91). He was one of the people blessed by knowledge.

The Mahdi also will have certain special skills. In his book Mevzuatu'l ulum (11/246), Taskopruluzade Ahmet Efendi wrote that the Mahdi will possess ilm-e-jafr (the art of divination through numbers). Another account says that: He is called the Mahdi because he is given guidance for a situation unknown to anyone. (Al-Muttaqi al-Hindi, Al-Burhan fi `Alamat al-Mahdi Akhir al-Zaman, p. 77)

Our Prophet (saas) said that the Mahdi will understand the language of animals and have dominion over people and jinns, just like Prophet Sulayman (as) did. The Mahdi is a person who speaks the language of birds and other animals. Therefore, his justice will manifest itself over all people and jinns. (Muhammad ibn 'Abd al-Rasul Barzanji, Al-Isha'ah li-ashrat al-sa'ah, p. 188)

Their support for peace and preference for diplomacy

We stressed earlier that Prophet Sulayman (as) was very peaceful, loving, tolerant, and forgiving in his relations with neighboring countries. He preferred to solve problems through diplomacy and used democratic means. Prophet Sulayman (as) created a superior culture and strengthened his dominion through diplomacy, art, and culture. Despite his irresistible and overwhelmingly powerful armies, however, he never used military force. Prophet Dhu'l-Qarnayn (as), was also known as the 'person who prevents strife and disorder,' and brought peace and calm to people. Therefore, the times of these two Prophets look strikingly similar to the Golden Age. In the Golden Age, people will become Muslims out of their own will, Islamic morality will prevail worldwide, and there will be no war. Accounts of this age say:

No one will be woken up from their sleep or have a bleeding nose. (Ibn Hajar al-Haythami, Al-Qawl al-Mukhtasar fi `Alamat al-Mahdi al-Muntazar, p. 42) The Mahdi will follow the way of the Prophet. He will not wake up a sleeping person or shed blood. (Muhammad ibn 'Abd al-Rasul Barzanji, Al-Isha'ah li-ashrat al-sa'ah, p. 163) As these hadiths tell it, the Mahdi will bring Islamic morality and peace to the entire world and therefore end all war and violence. He will work to begin a cultural transformation and lead people toward Islam's moral code. During that time, with Allah's permission, the following verse will be realized:

When Allah's help and victory have arrived and you have seen people entering Allah's religion in droves, then glorify your Lord's praise and ask His forgiveness. He is the Ever-Returning. (Surat an-Nasr: 1-3)

Urging people to religious morality, and their quick action

Prophet Sulayman's (as) quick, rational decisions are an important example for all believers. The letters he wrote to the Queen of Saba, in which he urged her and her people to start believing in Allah, showed his power of communication. His bringing the Queen of Saba's throne by using a person who possessed knowledge of the Book proved his power for quick decision-making. Prophet Dhu'l-Qarnayn's (as) decision to build a strong wall-so strong that it would last until Doomsday-against the attacks of the Yajuj and Majuj tribes show his power and rationality. The Golden Age will witness very similar events.

During the Golden Age, people will embrace Islam, and there will be wide-ranging, sweeping activities toward this end. All nations, one after another, will adopt Islamic morality, and opposing ideologies will be wiped away through quick and lasting action. All cruel systems will be buried in the sands of time. In the words of the renowned Islamic theologian Muhyiddin Ibn Arabi:

Allah will give so much power to the Mahdi. He will remove cruelty from the world overnight, religion will be established, and Islam will be revived. The Mahdi will restore its lost value to it, and it will come to life after its apparent demise ... Ignorant people, misers and cowards alike, will be very knowledgeable, generous, and brave. ... They will practice religion as in the time of Prophet Muhammad (saas).... (Muhyiddin Ibn Arabi, Al-Futuhat al-Makkia, p. 66; Muhammad ibn 'Abd al-Rasul Barzanji, Al-Isha'ah li-ashrat al-sa'ah, p. 186)

Importance Placed on Construction

We know that Prophet Sulayman (as) focused on construction projects. He built high arches, statues, huge dishes like cisterns, and great built-in cooking vats by using the jinns and devils who did his bidding. Everybody who saw his splendid palace, especially the Queen of Saba, greatly admired it. The technology that Prophet Dhu'l-Qarnayn (as) employed to build the wall was so advanced that it cannot be destroyed, unless Allah wills it. In the hadiths of Prophet Muhammad (saas), we are told that construction will be important during the Golden Age. During this age, peace, tranquility and a very developed civilization will be brought to cities. For example,

The Mahdi works in the construction of Constantinople and other places. (Ibn Hajar al-Haythami, Al-Qawl al-Mukhtasar fi `Alamat al-Mahdi al-Muntazar, p. 40)

Using Wealth and Splendor for Islam's Benefit and Allah's Good Pleasure

Prophet Sulayman (as) used his wealth to explain Allah's religion and spread Islamic morality throughout the world. In the countries he invaded, he first called on people to believe in Allah and salvation. The letter which he sent to the Queen of Saba, in which he invited both her and her people to Islam, is powerful testimony of that. Prophet Dhu'l-Qarnayn (as) also had strong dominion, as is seen in his words: 'The power my Lord has granted me is better than that.' (Surat al-Kahf: 95). He used his great power to prevent disorder.

During the Golden Age, people will enjoy great wealth, prosperity, and peace. The Mahdi will use all of his wealth to spread Allah's religion, and will follow the noble morality and the dictates of peace in the countries he comes victorious. His unparalleled practices will soften people's hearts and lead them to Islamic morality. Thus, within a very short time this morality will rule the world. Some of the hadiths concerning this time are as follows:

The Mahdi will remain in my community for at least seven, or perhaps eight or nine years. In those years my community will enjoy a time of happiness such as they have never experienced before. Heaven will send down rain upon them in torrents, the earth will not withhold any of its plants, and wealth will be available to all. (At-Tabarani) Before pledging their allegiance to him, people will flock to where he resides, and everyone who goes there will enjoy the divine plenty. (Ibn Hajar al-Haythami, Al-Qawl al-Mukhtasar fi `Alamat al-Mahdi al-Muntazar, p. 25)