By Anisa Abd el Fattah
While watching TV several nights ago I came across a program that talked about the Christian idea of Armageddon. The narrator went over Biblical scriptures, seeking to create an image or an impression of what the last days before God’s final judgment of humanity will be like. Anyone who has read the Book of Revelations in the Bible, or listened to the apocalyptic preachers of the fundamentalist Church, believes that the last days will be filled with many overwhelming events, such as the rapture, the mass destruction of many people, catastrophes, plagues, famines and the like. In their end time scenario God begins punishing and destroying the wicked, and rapturing the righteous even before the actual Day of Judgment takes place.
As I watched this program, I thought about a verse of the Qur’an that says,”Those who really believe in a Day of Judgment hold it in awe.” To me, that means that if people really believe that what they read in the Biblical Book of Revelations is true, there would not be the wars, oppression, genocides, tyranny and other crimes against humanity taking place so boldly in our societies, and against so little opposition. Surely, those who feel that they are eligible for rapture would be busy opposing the forces of darkness, confident of victory, while the forces of darkness would be trying to get as much evil done as possible in the supposedly short amount of time they have left, hoping somehow to defeat the righteous, and God, with the supposed power of satan. Looking out at the world, it appears that only the wicked are believers in the last days. Their quite obvious confidence and sense of urgency in their quest for primacy might be the proof of that.
Perhaps the point of the documentary wasn’t really to convince us that the last days are upon us, or that we should prepare to be judged. It seems more likely that the point of the documentary was to feed the fire of self righteousness that is fueled by the supremacist thinking of the so called self declared “saved” and “righteous” who have obviously already judged themselves and declared themselves ready for rapture, and the rest of us bound for hell. This is true Christian charity according to the fundamentalists; that they have saved themselves and left others, in fact a majority, behind.
The Qur’an on the other hand gives us another view of the last days, and makes it clear to us that it is not the literal last days of all existence, but it is the last days of the system that God put in place to serve us in our journey from Him and, and our return to Him. For the sake of mental imagery we refer to it as a cycle of life much like a circle that has a point of departure, sojourn and return to its origin. In this scenario, the last days are not days of destruction and chaos. They are the final tests of those who say they have chosen God’s path, and an opportunity for us to join the heavenly forces as they usher in the transition of this system from one of test of trial in hardship, to a period of test and trial in ease and prosperity. The period of ease and prosperity is known by some as the 1000 year millennium.
In Islam we believe that there are many days of judgment. We are judged each night according to actions during the day, and we are judged each minute by the actions performed a minute ago. We are judged at the time of death, and then again at the time of resurrection. So in Islam there is no single last day for humanity in which we are to give up hope for salvation, but rather there are last days, pregnant with hope and opportunities for good and righteous acts, up and until we stand before God and our Imams and prophets seek to intercede for us, so that we might be spared complete separation from God, which is an unbearable thought for those who understand how intimately our happiness, well being and connection to God are associated.
There are many Muslims who believe that we are at the beginning of this period of transition or transformation from the system of test and trial through adversity and suffering, to the period of test and trial in peace and prosperity. Such belief also includes belief that these last days will perhaps present the most difficult trials for the true believers who will be challenged to stand with heavenly forces in the final battles against the wicked that will end their period of supposed supremacism and usher in the days of the righteous, who will begin working to establish the kingdom of God on earth, as it is in heaven.
For some, that means that the last days are the final tests of faith in times of cruelty and human suffering, wars, famines, plagues and horrendous crimes against humanity. Unlike those in some other religions who believe this is the time for gloating at the eagerly anticipated fall of the wicked and rapture of the righteous, Muslims believe that the last days are a final opportunity to choose to stand with the forces of God, or those of satan in a series of final trials aimed at sorting out those who have attained knowledge and understood the meaning of the cycle and the importance of intimacy with our Creator, as opposed to those who have not, and so will be idle, and cowed with fear, and serving wickedness in their silence and apathy.
So this judgment is by the standards of clear and common criteria for all of humanity. The last days represent a final choice in this era of trial through sacrifice, hardship and struggle, to either stand in opposition to the wickedness of these times, or to stand still, and be judged as one who failed to believe that the promises of God are true. God said,”The righteous will inherit this earth.” These last days before us are perhaps a period of sorting out, and a time to determine who are the true believers in God, those sitting back arrogantly waiting to be saved, while the entire world is suffering from the mischief of satan and his forces, or those who will spare nothing to save humanity from the temporary hell of this life, hoping for an eternity of happiness in the next? The last days are the times to choose, and to act.
May Allah grant us the knowledge and wisdom required for these difficult times. May God purify our hearts and remove all idols, and false worship from us. May He give us the courage to remain steadfast in the face of hardships, trials and death, and grant us the manifest (already promised) victory. Amen.