The first argument was that the present is the time for a reformer and, as no one else had claimed to have been appointed by God to the office, we are obliged to consider seriously the claim of the Founder of the Ahmadiyya Movement, the only one who has made the claim. However, the claim of the Founder of Ahmadiyyat is not merely that he is a divine reformer, but that he is the divine reformer promised to Muslims long ago. He is the Messiah and Mahdi of ancient prophecies. In support of this claim I now present the powerful testimony of the Holy Prophet of Islam, Chief of mankind, Elect of God (on whom be peace and the blessings of God). Greater testimony cannot be found.
Belief in the second coming of the Messiah has been held from before the time of Islam. It existed centuries before the advent of the Holy Prophet Muhammad, as part of the Mosaic tradition. But in Islam the second coming of the Messiah has been taught so systematically and determinately that we are obliged to regard it as one of the important beliefs of Islam. Factors which have strengthened and systematized the Islamic belief are the following:
These factors have combined to make the advent of the Messiah a great event in the later history of Islam. This event was to help Muslims to witness again an image or imitation of the Holy Prophet himself It was also to mark the restoration of Islam to safety. It was impossible to promise such an event without pointing to the signs which would show when it was to take place. ‘
The coming of reformers and messengers is often described in religious books. Such descriptions are always metaphorical, literal descriptions being useless for the promotion of spiritual merit. If the signs indicating the time of a reformer are described in minute detail and the detail is to be taken literally, there can be no distinction between a believer and a non-believer. In the presence of such descriptions, the question whether a claimant is genuine or not makes little sense. Descriptions of coming reformers have to be veiled so as to rouse men of faith and goodwill to honest curiosity. They ponder over the signs and are able to reach the truth. The mischievous and the ill-intentioned are able to find excuses for their refusal to believe. When the sun is at the zenith, nobody thinks it a merit to believe in its presence. Such belief has 110 reward. In the matter of reformers and messengers the way of God has been not to guide beyond a certain point. A thin veil hangs over prophetic descriptions so that their truth is as easily denied as affirmed.
When we consider prophecies about the time of the Promised Messiah, we must keep this principle in view. These prophecies are couched in language in which prophecies of the appearance of reformers and messengers have always been couched in religious books. This does not in any way reduce the value of those descriptions for seekers after truth. The signs mentioned in the prophetic literature are nevertheless illuminating. He who believes in a single prophet on the basis of reason, and whose faith in that prophet is not the result of family or community prejudice, can obtain all the guidance he needs from these signs. Those who apparently believe in many hundreds of prophets, but do not believe in a single one on the basis of reason, will find it difficult to believe in any true messenger of God, though he should appear with endless signs. Such persons do not believe of their own accord. Their belief is given to them by their Ulema, or religious teachers, by parents or grandparents. since they have never seen a prophet in the flesh and have never believed in one on the basis of reason, they find it difficult to recognize a new prophet and to believe in him through a free consideration of his claims. Such persons cannot see the truth of a prophet unless they rub their eyes first. They must clear their eyes of dust and rise above man-made beliefs and prejudices if they wish to perceive the truth of a true prophet.
After this explanation, I shall now give an account of the signs of the Promised Messiah as narrated by the Holy Prophet. Anybody who looks at these signs with an open mind will have no difficulty in identifying the time appointed for the advent of the Promised Messiah. It is important, however, to remind ourselves that when the Muslim Community became divided into sects many people began to fabricate Traditions to serve their respective interests. The fabrications were made to promote sectarian beliefs. We meet with many so-called Traditions which tell of the coming of the Mahdi and describe the signs of his advent. But the words employed in these Traditions make it quite clear that they have been designed to favour some sectional or sectarian belief. Some of these Traditions may be true or may contain elements of truth. Even so, a seeker after truth must exercise great care in using them. Such Traditions should not be allowed to become decisive ill the discovery of truth. To cite all example: many Traditions recorded during the Abbaside times apparently speak of the Mahdi and his time. But their net effect is the suggestion that the pro-Abbaside disturbances in Khurasan were sanctioned and supported by God. That those Traditions were fabricated is proved by subsequent history. A thousand years have passed since those Traditions were recorded, but a Mahdi answering their description has not appeared in the world. Similarly, there are Traditions in which the signs announceing the time of the Mahdi have been mixed up with descriptions of past events. Unless the two are disentangled from each other, unless the past events which figure as signs of the future are clearly distinguished from the true signs of the future, we cannot reach the truth. ‘Those who were ignorant of the main currents of Islamic history have been misled by such fabrications. They treated these Traditions as descriptions of the future and waited in vain for events which had occurred long before. The fabrications, as I have said, were designed to further sectarian ends. Therefore, while considering the signs of the coming of the Mahdi, it is imperative that we should eliminate, out of the traditional descriptions, those which do not point to any definite events. Only thus can we guard against falling into a pit dug by interested people for the furtherance of their own ends.
The Holy Prophet of Islam (may he receive unlimited mercy and blessings from God) took care to narrate the signs of the coming of the Messiah and the Mahdi as one continuous chain. If we remember this, we can guard against many a mistake and many a mischief created deliberately by interested persons. A chain of signs has to hang together. Any interpolation not fitting into the chain as whole can be spotted at once as something foreign and false. For instance if the Holy Prophet had said that the Promised One would have such and such a name, his father such and such a one and so on, many persons would have assumed those names and then claimed that they answered the Prophet’s description of the Promised One. No wonder the Holy Prophet avoided descriptions of this sort, it was too easy for interested persons to copy them. Instead, the Holy Prophet pointed to, signs which it was not possible for anyone to bring together.
These are signs which have to wait on cosmic changes spread over hundreds of years. These signs no human beings, or groups of human beings working together for generations, could create. Another precaution which the Holy Prophet observed in narrating the signs of the Mahdi is that many of those signs have been marked out by him as signs peculiar to the time of the Mahdi. They are signs which were not to appear at any time before the advent of the Mahdi. We should be guided by these rational and useful pointers. If in the course of our consideration of signs narrated in the Traditions of the Holy Prophet we come upon cosmic events and changes which it is not in the power of man to produce, and those changes and events are said to mark the time of the Mahdi, then we cannot but think that when they occur the time appointed for the advent of the Messiah and the Mahdi has come. If, at such a time, we are told of other signs of the Mahdi which have not yet appeared, we have to admit either that those signs are not signs but fabrications mixed up with the signs by unscrupulous individuals, or that the meaning of those signs lies below the surface and that they are symbols needing interpretation.
After this, I wish to stress the point that the signs narrated by the Holy Prophet of the advent of the Messiah and the Mahdi have to be taken together. They cannot be taken singly. It is the many-sided picture, the whole, which is to be treated as the picture of the time of the Promised Messiah and Mahdi. For example, it is said in the Traditions that one sign of the Mahdi is the disappearance of honest dealings, another, the disappearance of knowledge. Now, if these signs are taken separately and each treated as the sign of the Messiah and the Mahdi, we may think that when honest dealings disappear from the world, we should expect the Mahdi and the Messiah, and when knowledge disappears and ignorance takes its place, again we should expect the Mahdi and the Messiah. This would be absurd. During the last thirteen hundred years Muslims have suffered many fluctuations in their history. Sometimes they have lost the virtue of knowledge, sometimes the virtue of honest dealings, but the Mahdi or the Messiah did not appear. It follows, therefore, that such signs are not to be applied singly. What we have to do is to put together all the signs enumerated by the Holy Prophet (on whom be peace) and treat the total picture as the picture of the appointed time. Taken singly, these signs can apply to other times, but taken together they cannot apply to any but the time of the Messiah and Mahdi.
To identify a time we have to use the same methods which we use to identify a human individual. When we wish to describe an unknown person, one who has not been seen by others, what do we do? We describe his face, his height, his complexion, his habits and other qualities, his friends, relations, and so on. We may even describe the house in which he lives. We may say the man is tall, fair, of medium weight, with a broad forehead, a sharp nose, large eyes, large lips, a big chin. We might say further that he knows Arabic, Is Muslim by faith, that his community is against him and that he is a man of high character. We might even describe his house and the houses close by. A man so fully described can be identified by anybody. Nobody who goes in search of such a man will miss him even though efforts are made to defeat the search. Now what signs can possibly serve to identify a time? If we can point to the condition of heavenly bodies, changes in the earth, political and social conditions, the state of religion, of knowledge, of morals, If we can add to this a description of relations between nations, of economic facts, of methods of transport and travel, then whoever looks about with these signs in his mind will be able to identify the time to which the signs apply. As soon as he enters such a time, he will be able to say that the time (which had been foretold) has come. He will have no difficulty. The total description given to him will leave no doubt in his mind.
This is why the Holy Prophet has given an exhaustive description of the time of the Promised Messiah and the Mahdi. He did so in order that sectarian rivalries should not result in the invention of Traditions making difficult the identification of the time of the Messiah and the Mahdi. There is no doubt that there has been fabrication of Traditions, but the fabricators had little idea of the Signs described by the Holy Prophet. Therefore, their fabrications did not result in any mischief Anybody today who has considered the signs as a whole Will certainly have felt that the present is the time of the Promised Messiah and the Mahdi.
I shall now narrate the signs told by the Holy Prophet. It will become clear as I proceed that the Messiah could not have come at any other time.
The first sign I wish to describe relates to the state of religion. The state of religion at any given time can be described either in terms of statistics (how many persons belong to one religion or the other?); or it can be described in terms of the influence which religious teaching has on its followers. The Holy Prophet has used both methods in describing the state of religion at the time of the Promised Messiah.
The statistical part of the Holy Prophet’s description is very clear. The Holy Prophet (on whom be peace) said that at the time of the second coming Christianity would be in the ascendant. In the book of Traditions called Muslim, it is said that on the Day of Judgment most people would be Romans, which in Islamic vocabulary means Christians. In the time of the Holy Prophet, Romans were the votaries of Christianity, the instruments of its progress. The sign is full of significance. The Holy Prophet also said:
‘When Chosroes dies, there will be no Chosroes after him. Similarly, when Caesar dies, there will be no Caesar after him. Then will you expend the treasures of both in the way of God.’ Tirmidhi–Abwabul Fitan
Here the Holy Prophet prophesied about the fall of the Roman Empire and the disappearance of the official name of its emperors. If after the destruction of the Roman Empire Christians were to rise again and become a world power, it must be a most unusual development in history. Yet it is this development which is pointed out as a sign of the promised time. The dominance of Christianity after its earlier destruction, improbable as it was, happens to have been clearly foretold. The prophecy was duly fulfilled. The empire of Caesar disappeared according to the prophecy. For a time the nominal title of Caesar continued. The last rulers of Constantinople called themselves Caesars. On the fall of Constantinople this nominal title also disappeared. Islam displaced Christianity in all parts of the then known world. From the tenth century of the Hijra began the decline of Islam. Christianity began to re-assert itself in countries in which it was completely unknown at the time of the Holy Prophet’s prophecy. Now for the last hundred years or so Christian nations have become so completely dominant in the world that the Holy Prophet’s prophecy ‘the earth will be under the Romans’ call be said to have been fulfilled to its very letter.
This prophecy is important for another reason. Some doctors of Islam have said that this sign – the ascendancy of Christianity – will be the last to appear among the signs of the appointed time. Thus Nawab Siddiq Hasan Khan in his book Hujajul Kiramah, citing another book, Risala-i-Hashriya, writes:
‘When all the signs have appeared, then will the Christian people rise and establish their dominion over most parts of the world.’ Hujajul Kiramah, p. 344
Therefore it seems that the sign of Christian dominance is not only a sign among signs but a sign of special importance. It is the sign which, in the view of some Muslim Ulema, was to complete the picture of the time of the Promised Messiah.
What was to be the state of Islam in comparison? In the words of the Ho]y Prophet, ‘Islam at the time Will be very weak and poor.’ It was to become a religion of the poor. In the prophecy relating to the Dadjjal (the anti-Christ), the Holy Prophet says that many Muslims would become followers of the Dadjjal. This part of the prophecy has been literally fulfilled. Muslims had their great days. There was a time when they were the only power in the world. Today they are like helpless orphans. Unless some Christian or other power comes to their help, Muslim nations cannot ensure their existence. Hundreds of thousands of Muslims have turned Christian and the process continues.
The inner state of religion is clearly described in the prophecies of the Holy Prophet. The inner state of Muslims, the professed believers of Islam, is described in detail. It is said, for instance, that Muslims at the time would no longer believe in Qadr, the law of determination by divine design. According to Hazrat Ali, the Holy Prophet said that the Day of Judgment would be marked by general lack of belief in Qadr. This certainly means lack of belief by Muslims. The followers of other religions already denied this important divine law. The denial of Qadr is now widespread among Muslims. The influence of the new sciences has been the strongest in this regard. Even third-rate European authors are able to overawe Muslim readers, who seem ready to deny the importance of Qadr. Muslims as a people have become confused over the question. The importance of it has become lost to them.
A second sign of the inner state of religion is the ‘practical indifference of Muslims to the institution of Zakat‘. This part of the prophecy has been narrated by Hazrat Ali and reported by Albazar, and it has been literally fulfilled. At the present time Muslims are In dire straits. They are the victims of all sorts of difficulties. At such a time it is their duty to practise voluntary charity to promote the interests of the community. Leaving aside voluntary charity however, they are chary of practising Zakat, which for Muslims is obligatory charity. In some Muslim countries Zakat is carried out under the law of Islam. Many Muslims in those countries pay Zakat, but not willingly. Where Zakat is not state-sponsored very few Muslims practise it. Some sections of Muslims practise it voluntarily, but not in the correct way. They practise it as though it were not a holy duty but a burden to be endured by some for the sake of others.
An important change in the moral condition of Muslims which the Holy Prophet has mentioned is their love of the world. A people who were able to sacrifice things most dear to them, m whose eyes things of the world were not more than shining stones, were to change so as to be ready to sell their religion for the sake of the world. This change which the Holy Prophet prophesied is now apparent: so apparent that those who have any love of Islam still left ill them cannot view it with equanimity. The change seems to have involved all classes of Muslims: Ulema, mystics, the rich, the poor. All seem to put worldly interests above their religion. For insignificant worldly benefits, they are prepared to ignore the interests of their religion and their community.
Another change predicted by the Holy Prophet was (as reported by Ibn Abbas according to Ibn Mard’waih) the disappearance of Namaz the institution of the five daily prayers. The change is now ‘visible. If a statistical estimate is made, one could say that hardly one in a hundred Muslims observes the five daily prayers, and yet the daily prayers constitute the first among the obligatory observances of Islam. According to some doctors of Islam, those who habitually omit the daily prayers are Kafirs. Today mosques are in abundance, but few Muslims repair to them for their daily prayers. Mosques have been used as stables and desecrated. Muslims generally are indifferent to the duty of using mosques as houses of worship.
Another change predicted by the Holy Prophet is the speed with which worshippers would go through their obligatory prayers. according to a report by Ibn Masud, the Holy Prophet said (as recorded by Abul Shaikh in Ishaat) that a time would come when fifty persons would congregate for prayers and not one of them would have his prayers accepted by God. They would observe their external form and go through them with unbecoming speed. Whether a prayer is acceptable or not, nobody can tell. However, one external sign which makes prayers unacceptable is excessive :speed. A man went through his prayer quickly. The Holy Prophet ,who observed him, told him to say it again. Muslims who observe the daily prayers today do so With indecent haste. The prostrations, in rapid succession, seem like the pecking of a hen. After the prescribed prayer, they sit a long time repeating some formulary prayers.
A sign predicted by the Holy Prophet is the ‘disappearance’ of the Holy Quran. It was to be a disappearance ill spirit. The words of the Holy Book were to remain intact. This sign is fully visible today. The Holy Book is to be found in every house. It is even read but few read it with the intention to go deeply into its meaning. It is Strange as well as true that, except among the followers of the Promised Messiah (on whom be peace), the Holy Quran is not read with this intention by Muslims. Maulvis, learned in the sciences of Fiqh and Hadith, are not interested in the study and interpretation of the Holy Quran. They think it forbidden to reflect on the meaning of the Holy Book and think it wrong to try and apply its teaching to new situations. In their view, the last word has been said by the commentators, and the Holy Book contains nothing more than what has been brought out already by the commentators. This is amazing, for the interpretation of the Holy Quran has gone on even after the Holy Prophet. There is no reason why it should not go on for ever. The Holy Quran is capable of an infinite variety of meanings and applications. To say that the door to its understanding is already closed is only to say how useless the Holy Book has become.
Another sign foretold by the Holy Prophet (on whom be peace) (Ibn Mard’waih on the authority of Ibn-i-Abbas) is that at the time of the Promised Messiah external reverence shown to the Holy Book would be in inverse ratio to the attention paid to its meaning and teaching. The Holy Book would be wrapped in gold and silver. This sign is almost too apparent today. Muslims are indifferent to the Holy Quran. They hardly ever open it to read, but they take care to wrap it in gold and satin and put it away securely on some shelf The external deference shown to the Holy Book was not much in evidence among the early Muslims, yet the early Muslims were infinitely superior to the Muslims of today.
Another change indicated by the Holy Prophet (on whom be peace) is the exaggerated devotion to the outer decoration of mosques. Again, the change is visible. In imitation of other people, especially Christians, Muslims take enormous pains over decorating and beautifying their mosques. They provide floral and other embellishments for the walls and put up chandeliers and other expensive fittings for the ceilings. They also install curtains. All this makes Muslim mosques seem more like temples for idol worship than houses of Islamic worship.
A change indicated for the time relates to the people of Arabia. According to it, Arabs were to deviate far from true Islam, and this may seem very strange. It is true that the religion of Islam was revealed to Arabs. Its earliest followers were Arabs. It was taken to the outside world by Arabs. Its book was revealed in the language of the Arabs. It is still written and read in that very language, and that language lives because it is the language of the Book of Islam. Who could think that of all peoples the Arabs would give up Islam, and notwithstanding their knowledge of Arabic they would become as ignorant of the Arabic Quran as non-Arabs unable to read the Arabic Quran? According to Dailmy, Hazrat Ali has reported the Holy Prophet as saying that in the latter days Arabs would speak Arabic but their mind and spirit would be as the mind and spirit of non-Arabs. The religion of Arabia would not be in their hearts. This change is visible. Arabs as a people are today as much strangers to Islam as non-Arabs who cannot read and understand the Arabic Quran.
A great change predicted by the Holy Prophet in the condition of Muslims relates to freedom of religion in Arabia. According to this prediction Arabia was to become a difficult country for any well-meaning person to initiate a movement for reform in. According to Hazrat Ali (reported by Dailmy), the Holy Prophet said that in Arabia men of good intentions and sound ideas would keep themselves in the background. This amazing change can be seen today in Arabia. Religious tolerance has disappeared from that country. Love of their own traditional beliefs and customs has become strong again. Those who believe in God and the Holy Prophet and wish to interpret their teaching independently are not safe. The disease is common to other Muslim countries, but it is of special significance for Arabia because Arabia is the centre of Islam. The annual pilgrimage enjoined upon Muslims has to be performed to Arabia. Intolerance ill Arabia reacts upon the freedom of Muslims in other countries. It is bound to have an adverse effect on the interests of religious truth. Muslims of different persuasions still go to Arabia to perform the pilgrimage, but if they hold minority beliefs or beliefs unacceptable to Arabs they have to perform the pilgrimage in silence and return. Would that the people of Arabia realized their special responsibility! Would that they held aloft the banner of Islam as they did thirteen hundred years ago!
After the state of religion I come to the state of morals as predicted by the Holy Prophet (on whom be peace). One sign relating to the state of morals in the time of the Promised Messiah is the increase in sexual immorality. So great was to be this increase that instead of being ashamed, people would take pride in being sexually immoral. According to Ibn Abi Shaiba, one of the signs of the eve of Doomsday is a visible increase in sexual immorality. Similarly, according to Anas Ibn Malik, as reported in Muslim, one of the signs of the latter days is an increase in adultery. Ibn Mard’waih has reported from Abu Huraira that one of the prophecies of the Holy Prophet about the latter days relates to the increase in illegitimate births. Sexual immorality is evident today. Sexual sins are more abundant. Acts which Islam condemns as immoral now seem like good manners. Ballroom dancing, praising the beauty of women, spending holidays with strange women, are common practices today. Until the present time these things were inconceivable everywhere. They were inconceivable in Arabia as in other coun- tries. India had no conception of One God, but it was free from sexual immorality. Iran was a pleasure-loving country, but Iran was free from the public display of laxity in sexual behaviour. The early Romans (greatly increasing the strength for Christianity) were morally primitive, but they practised due restraint in sexual-behaviour. But what do we find today? If a picture of what is true today had been painted earlier, nobody would have believed it possible. Nobody would have thought that sexual laxity could be practised on such a scale in the name of civilization. Dancing and entertainment existed in the past, but nobody would have thought that women of good families – families which constitute the back- bone of civilized society – would take to dancing on such a scale. Nobody could imagine that dancing would be treated as the accomplishment of a lady, a source of social prestige and not of disrepute. The worst of all sexual sins – adultery – is on the increase. It has spread on such a large scale (and mostly in Christian countries) that it is hardly regarded as a sin. It is thought to be a natural activity and is taken for granted. There were prostitutes before. But nobody could imagine that they would be employed at high rates and maintained at army centres to entertain the soldiers and to satiate their sexual appetites, so that they did not have to leave their camps for the purpose. Nobody could think that friendly relations between men and women would grow so much that a strange woman living with a strange man would not seem strange at all, but that such behaviour would begin to seem an essential part of human freedom. On the other hand, marriage would begin to be described as slavery. Hundreds of thousands of persons in Europe and America seem to think in these terms. Until today, who could even think that a time would come when people would seriously debate whether the contract of marriage is a wholesome human institution at all, or whether promiscuity is not as good or even better? After all, woman’s function is to bear children Whether children are Born in or out of marriage is matter of secondary importance!
This being the state of sexual laxity, one can estimate how large must be the number of illegitimate children. Where sexual relations outside marriage are thought to be sinful, people do not like to have children tainted With sin. But when society becomes insensitive to sin, when marriage is regarded as an incomprehensible interference 0n the part of religion, there can be no shame in producing and acknowledging illegitimate children. In fact, when things come to such a pass, legitimacy becomes the exception rather than the rule. Those who are insensitive to the vice of adultery do not hesitate to produce children by it.
However, many voices are raised in support of the marital relationship. But there is also morbid sympathy for illegitimate children. Philosophers and social scientists write on behalf of them and describe them as part of the wealth of each country and the means of its defence. Or else they try and persuade each state to regard illegitimate children as its own. From this scale of sexual sin one can see how large must be the number of illegitimate children in the world. We cannot find a parallel for this ill earlier history. Nobody could think of such a state of affairs.
A moral change relating to the time of the Promised Messiah and prophesied by the Holy Prophet is an increase in the use of alcoholic drinks. According to Anas bin Malik (as recorded in Muslim), one of the signs of the latter days is the excessive use of drink. Similarly Abu Naim has reported 0n the authority of Hozaifa bin al-Yaman that one of the signs of the time, according to the Holy Prophet, would be the public drinking of wine. The abundance with which wine is used in our time needs no proof. In European countries more wine is drunk than water. wine was used in the past, but only as a source of pleasure or as medicine. But now in a large part of the world it is used as an ordinary drink at meals or at other times. The sign stressed by the Holy Prophet that wine would be drunk in public distinguishes the present from all other times. At other times, wine was a luxury and a pleasure for the few. Not ill demand by everybody, it was provided only at special places. But now it has become a common drink, so it has to be provided in all places and made accessible to all and sundry. In European countries wine shops are found at short distances from each other so that people do not have to go a long way to find a place where they can buy wine to drink. Dining cars on railway trains are stocked with wine. In places like London wine and water are sometimes sold at the same price. Nobody needs water for drinking. It is needed only for other uses. I am reminded here of the experience of one of our missionaries in England. This missionary had made a very favourable impression on his landlord by his courteous manner and straight dealings. One day the landlord said to him: ‘Remember my advice–it will help you to keep fit. Drink no water at all while you are in this country. My father drank water only once in his life and he died soon after. I am being wise. I have not touched water up to now.’ When told that his tenant did not drink wine but only water, the landlord was taken aback and found it hard to believe!
Another great moral change relating to the promised time and predicted by the Holy Prophet is excessive gambling. It has been reported by Hazrat Ali and recorded by Dailmy that one of the signs of the Doomsday eve is excessive gambling as a sport. This great change is also apparent. In Europe and America gambling is not merely a sport. It is part and parcel of the life of the great cities. In every walk of life gambling has a place. It is common enough to play for stakes after dinner parties, but this is not all. Lotteries are so widespread that it may be said that about a quarter of the money which by rights should be used in trade is used in gambling. People of all classes, poor as well as rich, indulge in it, and they do so not occasionally but almost daily. The most prosperous clubs are those where gambling is a feature. In Monte Carlo sometimes many millions of pounds change hands in a single night. So widespread is the evil of gambling that it is impossible to conceive of modern civilization without it. True, gambling existed even in the past, but there is no comparison between then and now. Perhaps a year of gambling in the past would be little compared with a day’s gambling today. Many forms of insurance, life, fire, theft etc., have been invented. In the past people did not know even their names, but today they have become a necessity.
A great moral change predicted by the Holy Prophet for the time is the disappearance of men of conscience as reported by Naim bin Himad from Imar bin Yasir. It is disastrous but true. Some people have tried to explain this away, but it remains an important sign. It means that at the time of the Promised Messiah men of good intentions, those who are ready to obey their consciences, will become the exception rather than the rule. We can readily see that change already. Outside the ranks of the followers of the Promised Messiah, men of conscience, men who follow the inner voice, have become rare. There was a time when Muslim communities every- where contained hundreds of thousands of persons who could be described as godly men. But if we look for them today, when our need for these men is so much greater, we will find hardly any. No doubt we have our hereditary saints, scholars, dignitaries and sufis. Their followers run into millions, but not one of them has any real contact with God. They spend long hours reciting their special formulae and performing other ostensibly religious exercises. But repeating formulae and performing such exercises is not inner purity. The sign of inner purity is absorption in the love of God which should result ill an open return of love by God. We should find God coming to the help of those whom He loves. We should find Him standing by them for their triumph, opening secrets of the Holy Book to them, bestowing on them an abundance of spiritual knowledge. Those who love God and are loved by Him in return should then fight the battles of Islam, try and resolve the difficulties which confront Muslims, and cure the spiritual maladies from which they suffer. But the whole tribe of doctors, mystics, saints, savants and scholars cannot produce one man of this description. In short, human conscience is as good as dead. In its place, we have the reign of low desires. Our saints and scholars pursue their desires rather than their consciences.
A change pointed out by the Holy Prophet is the disappearance of honest dealings. Hazrat Ali had reported (as recorded in Dailmy) that one sign of the eve of Doomsday is the disappearance of honest dealings. The general replacement of honest dealings by dishonest ones is apparent everywhere. It needs no elaboration and no proving. Today every street, every town, and every household can furnish examples of dishonest dealings.
Another moral change predicted by the Holy Prophet is that regard for parents Will decline and regard for friends will increase (reported by Abu Naim in Hilyia, on the authority of Hozaifa bin Al-Yaman) The time of which the prophecy speaks was to be marked by increasing disobeying of parents by their children. Correspondingly regard for friends was to increase. This change also is so acutely apparent that all decent men are distressed by what they see. Fond of Western manners and trained in Western sciences and literature, the young men of today look upon their elderly relations as primitive and foolish. They hate their company and love to spend their time instead in the company of friends who also follow Western ways. Lewd talk and immoral entertainment are their pastimes. Young men hold receptions and are ready to pay for the amusement of their friends while forgetting the needs of their poor parents. In our country thousands of cases can be found of parents living on very little. They worked and saved to complete the education of their children. When the children grew up and began to earn money, however, they treated their parents with contempt, thinking it beneath their dignity to treat them even as their equals but treating them as though they were their servants. Examples of such ill-treatment of parents can be found by the thousand. In the past they were very rare.
The Holy Prophet has also described the intellectual conditions of the time of the Promised Messiah. It is recorded in Tirmidhi (on the authority of Anas bin Malik) that the Holy Prophet said that one of the signs of the time would be the disappearance of knowledge and the appearance of ignorance. Without the slightest variation this report is contained in the collection of Bukhari also. This change – the replacement of knowledge (obviously knowledge of religion) by ignorance – is also visible. There was a time when even women discharged the functions of jurists, so deep was their knowledge of Muslim Law. Omar once said that the women of Medina were more learned than Omar in their knowledge of the Holy Quran. Women and children knew the Holy Quran so well that they were able to criticize the judgments of scholars. And they criticized their Fatwas, not out of ignorance or bad manners, but on the basis of sound understanding and out of regard for public interests. Hazrat Ayesha was one of the most learned persons who ever lived. Her knowledge and her judgment were of a high order. These facts have never been questioned. But today knowledge of religion is acquired only by those who, for lack of means or lack of intelligence, cannot acquire worldly knowledge. Religious knowledge is today acquired by those who cannot afford the conventional type of education, who acquire it because to do so entails no expense or fees, etc., and because the acquisition of a little know- ledge enables them to maintain themselves as Mullas. Knowledge of this kind is of little avail and those who seek it are of little use to the world.
This Tradition which predicts the disappearance of knowledge is supported by other Traditions. ‘Knowledge’ in these Traditions means religious knowledge. Knowledge of ordinary sciences and skills is a different thing altogether. In the books of Hadith we have prophecies about the increase of such knowledge. Thus Tirmidhi has recorded, on the authority of Abu Huraira, that in the latter days people will acquire knowledge and take pains over it: not, however, in order to promote their duty to religion but for other purposes. This is exactly what is happening today. Secular sciences and studies have advanced so much that everybody is filled with wonder. On the other hand, religious sciences and studies have declined so much that the ignorant and the uninitiated pass for scholars and learned men
The Holy Prophet has also described the social conditions of the time. He has pointed to signs which taken together afford us a fairly complete picture of social conditions at the time of the Promised Messiah’s coming. One of the social changes pointed out by the Holy Prophet is a change in the method of salutation taught to Muslims. According to a report by Imam Ahmad Muaz bin Anas, one important sign of the degradation and decay of the Muslim peoples was to be the replacement of the Muslim salutation al-salamu alaikum by forms of salutation common amongst non-Muslims. The Tradition on this point describes the non-Muslim salutation as a form of cursing each other. Commentators of Hadith think that this change relates to the lower classes among Muslims. Individuals belonging to these classes, when they meet, will curse each other instead of using the Islamic salutation, ‘Peace.’ But the change does not seem to be limited to any one class. In fact, it is more evident among gentlemen than among other classes. Muslim gentlemen in many parts of India say Bandgi or Taslim or Adab instead of Salam. They feel embarrassed at having to use the Muslim salutation. Now Bandgi is a Hindu salutation which means the offer of subjection amounting to slavery. This is against the dignity of man, and certainly contrary ill letter and spirit to the Muslim salutation – Salam. The Hindu forms of salutation current among Muslims entail treating human beings as equals of God and using forms of address which should be reserved for God. They amount to pronouncing curses upon one another. The apparently polite salutation Adab makes little difference. Such an expression only avoids the more obviously Hindu salutations Bandgi or Taslim. Its function is to lessen the sense of guilt arising from the use of an un-lslamic salutation.
A great change predicted by the Holy Prophet is that at the time public esteem will be enjoyed by those who have high financial or political status, not status based on knowledge or the practice of religion. Ibn Mard’waih has reported, on the authority of Ibn Abbas, that the Holy Prophet said that one of the signs of the time would be excessive deference shown to the rich. The change is quite evident. There was a time when old families were greatly esteemed, but respect for old families has gone. Social status is measured by one criterion only and that is, ‘How rich?’ There was a time when the wealthy thought it an honour to go and meet the scholars of religion. Now the time has come when scholars of religion – the Ulema – think it an honour to go to the rich. To have access to the porch of some rich man is considered by them a great thing.
Huzaifa bin al-Yaman has also reported the coming of a time when men will be praised for virtues which they do not possess. A man will be described as brave or courteous or wise without meriting it in the least. This condition is quite evident. The most irreligious man can become a leader of Muslims today if he can only raise an impressive slogan. Nobody questions whether the man possesses any Islamic virtues. Without Islamic virtues, how can he become an exponent of Islam? If he can address a public meeting, if he has the capacity to outwit or outbid his political rivals, that is quite enough.
Another social change mentioned by the Holy Prophet is that believers will be degraded and will try to keep ill the background for want of social status. According to another authority, the Holy Prophet said that a believer will be more degraded than a woman slave. A woman slave can expect love and marriage, but a believer cannot expect even this. Ali has reported, on the authority of Dailmy, that at the time of the Promised Messiah good men will become obscure. The change has become even more evident since the advent of the Promised Messiah. Those who follow the Quran and the Holy Prophet are more hated and avoided than women of ill fame and men who cut the daily prayers and offer insult to God and the Holy Prophet. Those who choose to respond to the Voice of God are treated with obvious contempt.
Yet another change described by the Holy Prophet is the decline in the vogue of Arabic among Muslims. According to Ibn Mard’waih, Ibn Abbas reported that at that time the lines of worshippers would be long but voices too many. The change can be seen during the days of Haj. One purpose of the institution of Haj was that Muslims from different parts of the world should assemble and discuss their common problems. But this has be- come impossible because Muslims in countries other than Arabia have abandoned the use of Arabic; so, for want of a common language, they can have no exchange of ideas at the Haj. They cannot use the great gathering for the promotion of common re- ligious, social, or cultural ends. Had Muslims kept up their know- ledge of Arabic, it would have served as a binding force between Muslims from different parts of the world. It would have welded them into a unity which the strongest could not have challenged.
Another change described by the Holy Prophet relates to women’s dress. Women of the time would seem undressed in spite of being dressed. The change has come about in two ways. Firstly, silks and other light fabrics are now produced in large quantities. The flimsiest of them are now available for all and sundry. In the past they were only for the rich. The cloth manufactured is finer. So the dresses made are thinner. This may satisfy fantastic notions of feminine beauty, but must offend against modesty and sobriety. Secondly, the change has come through fashions which prevail in Europe and America. In these countries women tend more and more to expose parts which it was thought indecent to show in the past. The breast tends to be exposed. Arms are bared at least up to the elbows, and so on. The prophetic description of women’s dress, therefore, is true- women today seem undressed even though dressed, The change has come about among Muslims through the use of flimsy silks, and among Christians through fashions which expose the breast, head, arms, and so on.
Another change relating to women describes the mode of dressing their hair. According to the description given by the Holy Prophet, women were to coil up their hair so as to produce a hump-like effect on the head. In Europe, women today do not braid their hair as they used to do in the past. Now they keep their hair puffed, giving the impression that something sits neatly on the head. In imitation of European women, women in other parts of the world also dress their hair in the same way. The tendency to imitate is general. People ill Asia imitate the fashions of Europe. A European fashion is treated with more respect than a message from God. Asians seem honour-bound to follow Europe. Imitation of Europe seems like progress.
Yet another change described by the Holy Prophet and reported by Ibn Abbas is the entry of women into business life as companions of their husbands or their men-folk. The change has become quite apparent; so much so, in fact, that shops and business places cannot be said to prosper unless they contain women. Pretty women are employed in shops to attract customers and encourage purchases.
Yet another change described by the Holy Prophet relates to the increased freedom of women. Women would become more and more free. They would dress like men, ride horses, and so on. Altogether, women would rule over men. The change has already taken place. In America and other Christian countries an exagger- ated conception of the freedom of women has taken root. In imitation of the Christian West the same conception is spreading to other countries. This conception of freedom has changed the social scene.
More and more women join men in hunting on horseback, and racing. More and more women now work as circus artistes. The vogue of masculine dress among women is also widespread in Christian countries. The change became very evident after World War I. Hundreds of thousands of women started dressing like men. Many women would wear a short jacket over a pair of breeches. The use of masculine dress by women has become a fashion.
The general domination of men by women which is mentioned in the prophecy is also unique. Consequently the general living conditions in European countries and, under their influence, the living conditions of other countries have undergone a tremendous change. These conditions entail dangerous consequences unless God, out of His Grace, wills otherwise. This deterioration in the functions of men and women may mean a major disaster. There may be a big social upheaval or the institution of marriage may receive a rude shock and the social progress of man suffer an irreversible setback.
Another change described by the Holy Prophet is that men would take pains over their appearance and tend to look like women. The change is already apparent. Shaving of chin and lips is now the fashion and this has made men look more like women. Time was when the beard was thought to be a male’s glory. For Muslims, it was a thing of merit, because it was an imitation of the Holy Prophet, a sign of deference to his wish. The beard has disappeared amongst Muslims. Muslim scholars and philosophers held in great esteem in the Muslim world prefer to shave their chins. Further evidence for the change is to be found ill forms of entertainment in which men artists dress like women and women like men. Men in Europe and America lavish an excessive amount of attention on the cleansing and dressing of their hair. The May God help you, the attention women devote to it today, but it is certainly more than the attention women gave to their hair in the past.
The Holy Prophet has included a description of the physical conditions of the people at the time of the Promised Messiah. For instance, Anas has reported (according to Tirmidhi) that when the Dadjjal appeared and turned to Medina, a plague epidemic would appear in the world. God would protect Medina from both the Dadjjal and the plague however. The prophecy has been fulfilled. For many years now plague has played havoc in the world. It has ravaged several hundred thousand homes, and has ruined hundreds of villages, But the holy places of Islam have been immune from any considerable attack. Preventive measures have been invented which help to protect the holy places. Among them are quarantine restrictions which keep the plague away from the holy places of Islam. The appearance of plague was predicted by the Holy Prophet in different ways. On occasion he described it as Daba (literally, a worm). The description is true because plague is the result of being bitten by a flea. The flea rises from the ground and bites the human body. The Holy Quran uses the same name. This is no ordinary disease. It is a world disease which has brought death and destruction to many parts of the world. In the Indian sub-continent it has prevailed for many years.
The appearance of Daba, as described in the prophecy, does not indicate the coming of plague only. It indicates the appearance of many epidemics which owe -their fatal effects to bacteria. No wonder we have today diseases, unknown in former times, which are caused by micro-organisms. In the past, such diseases were either unknown or they did not spread and did not cause death on the scale they do now. The prophecy relating to plague and plague-like diseases made by the Holy Quran and the Holy Prophet foretells by implication the invention of the microscope and the discovery of bacteria as causes and carriers of disease. At the time of the Holy Prophet nothing was known about bacteria. In his time, medical science still talked in terms of bile, black-bile, blood, and phlegm.
The Holy Prophet has mentioned some other signs relating to health and disease. One such sign is an increase in the number of sudden deaths due to heart failure and so on. One reason for the rise in the number of such deaths is the excessive use of alcohol. Another is increased mental stress and the fact that more people suffer from stress. Alcohol weakens the heart and the brain; and excessive stress or study has a deleterious effect on the nerves. Both these causes arc on the increase. The result is an increase in the number of sudden deaths. Among nations given to alcohol, sudden death is rampant. One shudders at its frequency. Thousands of persons die every year of heart failure. They collapse standing or working, in their chairs or ill their beds. This sort of thing was not known before.
Among diseases the Holy Prophet has mentioned is a disease connected with the nose which was to claim a very large number of lives. This disease appeared soon after the end of hostilities in World War I and has since been named influenza. In 1918 the influenza epidemic claimed twenty million lives, while the war claimed only six million. Therefore influenza destroyed 1.5 per cent of the population of the whole world. When influenza was raging in the world, it brought the fear of God into many hearts. Everybody could see that life and security depended on the Will of God.
The Holy Prophet has also mentioned the ratio between the sexes as an important sign of the time of the Messiah. The prophecy says that at that time women would outnumber men, so much so that fifty women would have one man to look after them. The prophecy has come true. There are more women in the world today than men. In European countries the number of men has been depleted by wars. In fact, the situation is grave enough to have led social scientists to consider the Islamic provision of polygamy as a remedy for the excess of women. Those who used to criticize Islam for this provision are being forced to give serious thought to it. There can be no doubt that Islamic polygamy is the remedy for this increase in the proportion of women. Many social philosophers seem convinced that the only alternative to social chaos is the legalization of plural wives. The other alternative is the acceptance of adultery as a necessary social evil. Small wonder that today they treat bigamy lightly. They are not now so eager to drag bigamists into court. This change of attitude is new and it has been brought about by the excess of women in European society. Not so long ago, bigamy ranked as a social sin in Europe. No Christian or European could talk of it With equanimity. So great was the European horror of bigamy that, ill imitation of Europeans, educated Muslims also felt embarrassed over its provision in Islam and were apologetic about it.
The Holy Prophet gave a picture of the general conditions of transport and communications at the appointed time. He said that the old methods of transport would disappear and their place would be taken by swifter vehicles and methods. The swifter means would be used over both land and sea. To quote the words of the Tradition:
‘The camel as a means of transport will be abandoned and people will not look to the camel with this intent’. Sahih Muslim–Kitabul Iman
The change has established itself completely. All the old methods of transport have disappeared in most countries. First we had the railway. Those who did not then travel by rail travelled by other means. They rode camels or other animals. But since the discovery of the motor car even road travel has become mechanized. As new and mechanical methods of transport advance, the use of animals disappears.The Holy Prophet also prophesied the appearance of both steamships and the railway. The Holy Prophet said:
‘The Dadjjal`s donkey will travel on water as on land. Travelling on land it will have clouds both in front and behind.‘ Kanzul-Ummal, vol. VII, p. 267
Clearly this is a description of the railway and the steamship. Vehicles propelled by steam can go over both land and water. Incidentally, these new methods of transport are at the special disposal of the Dadjjal. The prophecy hints at the extensive use which Christian missionaries would make of the new methods. No other class has made such tremendous use of the new means of transport. Thanks to the railway and the steamship, Christian missionaries have travelled to different parts of the world to spread knowledge of the Bible. Their teaching is the teaching of the Dadjjal. The clouds mentioned in the prophecy are the clouds of smoke which seem now in front of the steam-driven vehicle and now behind. Smoke and steam seem to be the inevitable accompan- iment of these vehicles. The fuel used in both is coal. This is the food of the Dadjjal’s donkey mentioned in the books of Hadith. The new means of transport have completely transformed relations between different parts of the world.
About economic conditions, the Holy Prophet (as reported by Hozaifa bin al-Yaman) said that at the time of the Promised Messiah gold and silver would become abundant. The description is true. There is so much gold and silver in the world today that we did not have even one-tenth of it before. Every town is full of people dealing in gold and silver. New and more efficient methods of mining gold and silver have been invented. This has led to an abundance of these precious metals. England alone possesses more gold than was possessed by the whole world in the past. As a result trade has become very brisk, for trade advances with the help of gold and silver. In the ancient past, the medium of exchange was copper pieces or cowries. Today cowries have disappeared altogether and even copper pieces are not much used. In England the smallest coin is a penny, in America a cent. The greater part of the business in these countries is transacted through gold coins. Among economic practices mentioned by the Holy Prophet is the taking and giving of interest. Hazrat Ali has reported, according to Dailmy, that one of the signs of the eve of Doomsday is an increase in transactions of interest. The description is true. So universal is the practice of interest today that in the past it was less than a millionth part of what it is now. So inevitable does the institution of interest seem to most people that it is said that trade and commerce cannot go on without it. Commercial banks have multiplied to such an extent that thousands exist even in small countries. Governments give and take interest. Traders give and take interest. Artisans and industrialists do the same. The rich do the same. All classes of all nations practise interest. It seems that everybody has determined to lend on interest to others and to borrow on interest from them. Out of, say, ten million, a few thousands’ worth of trade may be free from interest. The rest involves interest. Muslims were told in their Holy Book to desist from interest. If they did not they should
‘beware of war from Allah and His Messenger.’ Al-Baqarah, 280
But what are Muslims doing today? They practise interest and call it ‘profit’. Many among them admit interest to be forbidden, but they still practise it, though with a sense of guilt. Muslim doctors of religion have invented strange definitions of ‘interest’ and profit, and have issued Fatwas legalizing the acceptance of bank interest. They have legalized interest in countries ruled by non- Muslims, so that even Muslims do not desist from interest. They forget that the Law of Islam is the last law for man. They have, in effect, invented a new law. All this shows that the practice of interest has spread enormously. Nobody can now resist it, unless it is with the special grace and help of God.
Among economic signs of the time of the Promised Messiah, an important sign stated by the Holy Prophet is that Christians will constitute the richest classes in the world. All others will count as poor. In Tirmidhi, Nawas bin Saman has reported that the Holy Prophet said that the Dadjjal will say to the people, ‘Accept me and my leadership.’ Those who refuse will become economic slaves of the Dadjjal. Those who accept will become rich and prosperous. The Dadjjal will undertake to rain goods upon them from the sky and produce for them from out of the earth. The description is quite true. Christian nations are advancing economically, and nations suffering from political subjection are becoming poorer and poorer. During the last hundred years the change has pushed itself more and more.
Among the political conditions mentioned by the Holy Prophet are conditions which taken together seem to present a complete picture of the present time. Among those mentioned by the Holy Prophet (according to Hozaifa bin al-Yaman and Abu Naim) are the political misfortunes of Muslims. The description of the Holy Prophet is summed up in the words ‘Muslims will become like Jews’. The analogy with Jews implies loss of political power and political prestige. Like Jews they will be reduced to political subjection and will have to live at the mercy of others. How true this description is! The political power of Muslims has declined steadily. Very little of it is now left. There was a time when Muslim flags flew in all parts of the world, but today we can point to only a few countries where Muslim flags can be seen flying. Muslims enjoy political independence here and there, but they find it difficult to maintain this independence except with the help of Christian powers. Allah help us! ‘To Him we belong and to Him we return.’ Another political sign of the time of the Promised Messiah, according to the Holy Prophet, was that Syria, Iraq, and Egypt were to rebel against their Muslim kings and Arabs would be divided into several different kingdoms. According to Abu Huraira, as recorded in Muslim, the Holy Prophet said, apparently addressing the Arab peoples:
‘Iraq will refuse to share her produce and her prosperity. So will Syria, so will Egypt. And you [meaning the Arab peoples] will become as divided and disunited as you were once.’ Sahih Muslim–Kitabul Fitan wa Ashraat-ut-Saat
This prophecy has been fulfilled. Iraq, Syria and Egypt are independent countries, no longer owing allegiance to Turkey and refusing to share their produce and wealth with the leading Muslim power. Arabs have become divided again. True, Hejaz has an Arab government. But it has many enemies and is economically poor and primitive. Other parts of Arabia are without stable administrations. Their governments cannot compare with other governments of today. Another political change predicted by the Holy Prophet was that two peoples mentioned in ancient prophecies, Gog and Magog, would assume such tremendous power that other nations of the world would be as nothing compared with them. The books of Hadith, Muslim and Tirmidhi report Nawaz bin Saman as saying that, according to the Holy Prophet, God would command the Promised Messiah, saying:
‘Lead my servants to Sinai. I have sent some men into the world whom no one can fight in battle.’ Muslim wa Trimidhi
The Holy Prophet also said that God would raise Gog and Magog in the world. These signs have been fulfilled. Gog and Magog have appeared already. They are the Eastern and the Western nations whom no nations can fight in battle. The Eastern nations are aligned with Russia, the Western nations with England and America. We have a reference to it in the Bible:
‘Gog, the chief prince of Meshech and Tubal, and Magog, and among them that dwell carelessly in the isles.’ (Ezekiel 39)
Both these nations and their respective allies have reached the zenith of their power. As predicted in the Hadith, the rise of these blocs was to take place after the advent of the Promised Messiah. The rise of Gog and Magog, therefore, shows that the Promised Messiah has already come.
A political change of great importance, mentioned by the Holy Prophet, relates to the rise of the labouring classes. As narrated by Hozaifa bin al-Yaman, an important sign of the coming of the Promised Messiah would be the rise of poor, ill-clad persons as rulers. The word used in the Hadith is ‘naked’, and this is to be understood in a relative sense. Compared to the rich, the poor are naked and unclothed. For want of variety and quality which the rich can afford, the poor are often described as naked. The sign has been fulfilled. As governments have become more and more representative, political power has gone to the poor. The poor, therefore, have become kings. So powerful is labour now that the kings of the world quail before the labour leaders. Other political parties also think it necessary to remain at peace with labour. In countries like Russia and Switzerland, they are the ruling class. In parts of Australia, they are steadily gaining strength.
Another sign of the time of the Promised Messiah, narrated by the Holy Prophet, according to Hozaifa bin al-Yaman, is the expansion and elaboration of the ruling hierarchy. The expression used in the Hadith is Shurt, and Shurt means ‘Assistants’ and ‘Deputies’ of the ruler. The sign has been fulfilled. In state administration before, we did not have the large number of deputy- under- and assistant-secretaries that we have today. Most territorial units had one ruler, who functioned by himself. But now administrative organizations have become so large that the number of assistants and deputies has increased many times over. There is a long list of departments and divisions into which state administration is divided – police, public health, registration, public works, post office, communications (such as railway, telegraph, tele- phone), irrigation, excise, audit, etc., etc. The actual number of divisions and departments is much larger than this. Every state has to appoint experts for the administration of departments or divisions. Each expert has to have a number of assistants. So each government today consists of a very complete and very elaborate organization of secretaries and their staffs.
A change connected with the time of the Promised Messiah, and mentioned by the Holy Prophet, is the abrogation of penalties prescribed by the criminal law of Islam. Hazrat Ali has narrated according to Dailmy, that one sign of the latter days would be the abrogation of statutory penalties. The sign has been fulfilled. In all Islamic governments today Islamic penalties have disappeared. In Turkey, Arabia, Egypt, and Iran, and even in Afghanistan, ‘stoning for adultery’ and ‘cutting off the hand for theft’ are no longer recognized punishments. Some Muslim governments have agreed to their abrogation under treaty agreements with other countries. This is a clear and a significant sign. When Muslim governments were prosperous and Islamic ideas prevailed, nobody could think that Islamic penalties would ever be set aside. Nobody could imagine that there would arise such a general prejudice against the use of Islamic penalties that even those Islamic governments who wished to retain these penalties would be unable to do so.
The conditions and signs so far described relate to the general state of religion, to morals, and to culture. They also relate to health and disease, to political and social conditions, and to the relation of the sexes in the general population. But the signs of the time narrated by the Holy Prophet also include signs of a cosmic character. They include signs which relate to the earth as a whole and to other heavenly bodies. Some of these I shall now describe.
About the state of our planet, the earth, Hozaifa bin al-Yaman relates that the Holy Prophet narrated to his Companions a number of important signs which he said were the signs of the time of the Promised Messiah. Having done so, he said:
‘When these signs have been fulfilled, you should be ready to face some afflictions.’
One affliction was Khasf. And Khasf means the rising of tides. Physical science tells us that the rising of tides is connected with the shaking of the earth. So when the Holy Prophet mentioned Khasf, he meant earthquakes, which were to mark the advent of the Promised Messiah. The sign has been fulfilled. In our time so many earthquakes have come that the total number of earthquakes during the previous three hundred years pales into insignificance. So many lives have been lost in the earthquakes of our few years that the number who died in earthquakes during the centuries before is nothing by comparison.
Besides these earthly changes, the Holy Prophet has mentioned important heavenly events which were to mark the advent of the Promised Messiah. For instance, the Holy Prophet said that at the time of the Promised Messiah there would be eclipses of the sun and the moon on certain dates of the month of Ramadhan. The Holy Prophet regarded this as a very important and significant sign. In fact, he said that since the creation of the heavens and the earth, these two signs – eclipses of the sun and the moon in the month of Ramadhan – had not been shown in support of any prophet. The words of the Hadith are:
‘As reported by Muhammad bin Ali, the advent of our Mahdi will be marked by two important signs. These signs have never appeared before, not since the creation of Heaven and earth. One is the eclipse of the moon on the first of Ramadhan, and the other is the eclipse of the sun in the middle of Ramadhan, and these two signs have not appeared since the creation of the Heaven and earth.’ Dar Qutani, p. 188.
This sign is of very great importance. The- Tradition makes it clear that the sign has not appeared before as the sign of the coming of any other teacher or divinely appointed reformer. The sign is accepted as the sign of the time of the Promised Messiah by both Sunni and Shia authorities and is mentioned in the books of both. Sunni and Shia collections of Hadith mention these signs. It cannot be said, therefore, that the sign is reported by some and not by other authorities. Thirdly, the sign becomes important because it is mentioned even in earlier books as a sign of the second coming of Jesus. In the New Testament, Jesus, narrating the signs of his second coming, said:
‘Immediately after the tribulation of those days shall the sun be darkened, and the moon shall not give her light.’ Matthew 24:29
The sign clearly refers to the eclipses of the sun and the moon. Though I am concerned at present with recounting the signs mentioned in the Hadith, it does not seem out of place to say that even in the Holy Quran the eclipses of the sun and the moon are mentioned as important signs of the latter days. In the chapter Qiyamah we have:
‘He asks, “When is the Day of the Awakening?” But when the sight is dazzled and the moon is eclipsed and the sun and the moon are in conjunction.‘ Al-Qiyamah, 7-10
The verses embody a significant description of the present time. The question is posed, ‘When is the Day of Awakening due?’ The answer is, ‘When certain signs appear.’ Among the signs are the dazzling of sight, meaning the occurrence of strange events and changes, also eclipses of the moon and the sun and the occurrence of the two eclipses in the same month. The coming of the Promised Messiah marks the eve of the end of the world. The Holy Quran, therefore, supports the prophetic description given in the Hadith.
The prophecy is of great importance and its fulfilment an event of unusual cosmic and spiritual significance. In 1311 A,H. (1894 A.D.) the prophecies were literally fulfilled. In the month of Ramadhan of this year, the moon suffered an eclipse on the first of the three dates, (i.e. the 13th) on which the lunar eclipse could be expected. The sun suffered an eclipse on the middle date, i.e. the 28th. This conjunction of the two eclipses in the same month took place in the lifetime of a person who claimed to be the Mahdi as promised in the prophecies.
Two courses, therefore, seem open to thoughtful Muslims. Either (1) accept as true the prophecies of the Holy Prophet, the Holy Quran, and the earlier books – all of which declare that the time of the Messenger of the latter days will be marked by the conjunction of the lunar and the solar eclipses, the lunar eclipse occurring on the first, the solar on the second of the three dates on which they can be expected. If these prophecies are accepted as true, and if they have also been fulfilled in the lifetime of a claimant, then the authenticity of that claimant must needs be accepted also. The prophecy said that the conjunction of the two eclipses would not take place except in the time of the Mahdi. Or, (2) if they are not prepared to accept these prophecies or the Mahdi to whom they relate, then they must admit that the prophecies point to a sign which is no sign at all, which can give no help in identifying a claimant to spiritual office; which is, therefore, a useless sign.
Some people object, saying that the prophecy speaks of the lunar eclipse on the 1st and of the solar eclipse in the middle of Ramadhan. But the eclipses said by us to have fulfilled the prophecy took place on the 13th and the 28th respectively. The objection is ill-founded and is seen to be of no consequence if we consider the phenomenon of eclipses and the words of Hadith which carry the prophecy. We should not forget that the eclipses, lunar and solar, are bound to take place on certain dates. There can be no deviation from these unless the whole cosmic system, the laws governing the movement of the heavenly bodies, are over- hauled and ordered on a new basis altogether. A new cosmic system may entail the destruction of the present one. So, if the words of the prophecy are taken superficially, the prophecy may point to Doomsday, to its eve, or the time of the Mahdi.
Those who raise this objection no doubt pin their faith on the first date and the middle date mentioned in the prophecy, but the forget that the word used for moon in the prophetic text is Qamar. If the prophecy relates strictly to the first of the lunar month of Ramadhan, then in strict Arabic the word Hilal should have been used and not Qamar. The moon is not called Qamar until it has advanced into the fourth night. We have the authority of the dictionary:
‘The Moon is called Qamar after the first three nights and remains Qamar up to the end of the month. On the first three nights, the moon is called Hilal.’ Aqrab ul-Muwarid. vol. ll
We therefore have two important considerations. (1) The Hadith uses the word Qamar, which, in any case, cannot mean the moon of the first, second or third night; (2) the lunar eclipse, according to known cosmic laws, can take place on the 13th, 14th or 15th of a lunar month, not on the 1st. Therefore the 1st of Ramadhan mentioned in the prophecy means the first of the three nights on which. the lunar eclipse is possible, that is to say the 13th. To insist that the lunar eclipse should have occurred on the first night of Ramadhan as the prophecy apparently does, is quite unwarranted. Only persons deliberately ignoring the Word of God and the prophecy of the Holy Prophet would do so. Only persons who, by fair means or foul, wish to dissuade people from accepting the Promised Messenger would say so.
ln short, the Holy Prophet laid down a large number of signs for the identification of the time of the Promised Messiah. Some of these signs are significant and important, even taken singly. But the Holy Prophet intended that they should be taken collectively and treated as a total picture of the time of the Promised Messiah. When so many signs appear together, they must constitute a time of great importance. With such a comprehensive picture nobody can have any difficulty in identifying the appointed time when it comes.
There is no doubt that we have had plagues in the past, also earthquakes, also an excess of gambling. No doubt people became degraded from time to time, even in the past. Also Christian nations have had their great days, their political power. But the question is, have all these signs, which the Holy Prophet said are the signs of the Promised Messiah, occurred together in the past, or are they likely to occur together in the future? The answer is no. Such a large variety of signs cannot come together again and again. Let us imagine a person who does not know the different conditions, social, moral, religious, etc., which obtain in the world at the present time. Let us narrate to such a person the signs of the time of the Promised Messiah as narrated by the Holy Prophet (on whom be peace). Then let us ask him to study the history of the world and tell us at what time in history the Promised Messiah could have come. This imaginary person will study the time of Adam, then the time of the next prophet, then the time of the next, and so on. None of these times will he identify as the time of the Promised Messiah. But as soon as he reaches our time and begins to read about the signs and conditions that obtain today, he will declare that if the Holy Prophet was a true prophet, if he really did prophesy what he is said to have prophesied, then the present and no other is the time of the Promised Messiah. Our imaginary person will note the indifference to religion which is so evident. He will see the great advance which natural sciences have made. He will see how very weak Muslim states have become after their days of power. He will see Christianity stepping forward to progress after recovering from its earlier decline. He will see Christian nations in possession of the greater part of the wealth of the world. He will see other nations reduced to poverty. He will also see plague and influenza wreaking havoc in the world, the progress of medicine and science notwith- standing. He will see that the great discovery of the time is that disease is caused by bacteria. He will also see a great many old superstitions and customs cramping the intelligence of mankind. He will see the railway and the steamer and an abundance of banks.
He will observe the frequency of earthquakes, the advent of Gog and Magog and their dominion over the whole world. He will note the lunar and the solar eclipses. He will see the increase of wealth. He will also see the labouring classes come up and become rulers ill the world. In short, a description of contemporary conditions will Convince him that the present is the time for the coming of the Muslim Messiah. Our imaginary observer will not observe the signs singly but as a total picture. As soon as he has gone over the scene, he Will find himself trembling, his heart full. He will close the book of signs, lay it aside, and declare that his search is over that further pursuit of the subject is futile. According to the signs the Promised Messiah has already come. If he has not come by now he will not come at all.
A difficulty is often raised about the prophecy relating to the Dadjjal. It is said that the Dadjjal was to appear before the Promised Messiah. Therefore, as the Dadjjal has not yet appeared, the time of the Promised Messiah has not yet come.It must be remembered that the prophecy relating to the Dadjjal, like all prophecies, is subject to interpretation. We read in the Holy Quran:
‘And the sun and the moon, I saw them making obeisance to me’. Yusuf, 5
‘And I have seen in a dream that I am slaughtering thee.’ Al-Saffat, 103.
‘And the sun and the moon, I saw them making obeisance to me’. Yusuf, 5
‘And I have seen in a dream that I am slaughtering thee.’ Al-Saffat, 103.
The references are to the dreams of Joseph and Abraham respectively. Both dreams are well known. Both are symbolic of events which they prophesied. It is not fitting for Muslims to treat prophecies as anything other than symbolic descriptions of the future.
The prophecy about the Dadjjal cannot be understood except in the light of other Traditions and ill the light of the general laws of God. If it is true, as the Traditions say, that the Promised Messiah is to be preceded by the Dadjjal, and if it is true that the advent of the Promised Messiah is to be marked by the dominance of Christianity, does it not follow that the prophecy about the Dadjjal relates to the power and overlordship of Christianity in our time? The prophecies are saying ill effect that the Dadjjal and Christianity will be powerful forces and that both will appear some time before the Promised Messiah. Two powerful forces due to appear simultaneously could easily be one and the same. Two different forces cannot acquire dominance at the same time. The difficulty can be solved by assuming that the two names are two different names for the same thing.
A very important consideration which leads to this conclusion is that the Holy Prophet (on whom be peace and the blessings of God) instructed his followers to turn to the first ten verses of Surah Kahf, (chapter 18), when they confront the menace of the Dadjjal. The first ten verses of this chapter contain a refutation of Christianity. One of the verses says:
‘And that it may warn those who say, Allah has taken unto Himself a son.’ Al Kahf, 5
The object of the revelation of the Holy Quran is to warn mankind. Among other things, the purpose of the Holy Book is to warn those who attribute a physical son to God. The verses, cording to the Holy Prophet, provide guidance for Muslims to .meet the menace of the Dadjjal. But they contain a refutation of Christianity. Does this not prove that the Dadjjal and Christianity re one and the same thing? Treatment of a disease must be relevant to the disease. If the Dadjjal and Christianity were two different things, the Holy Prophet would not have recommended the reading of verses of the Holy Book which relate not to the Dadjjal but to Christianity. The reading of these verses would have been ,next to useless if they did not relate to the Dadjjal. This proves, therefore, that even according to the Holy Prophet, the appearance of the Dadjjal is the appearance of Christian propagandists.
The greatest obstacle to a true understanding of the subject of the Dadjjal is the preconception, from which most people seem to suffer, that the Dadjjal is one powerful individual, a kind of Superman, This he is not, even according to Arabic dictionaries. To quote two authorities:
‘The Dadjjal is the name of a large party which, through force of numbers, will spread over the whole earth, and according to some authorities, it is the name of a party which keeps moving from one part of the world to another the goods and material in which it trades.’ – Taj
‘The Dadjjal is a large party’ – Aqrab
‘The Dadjjal is the name of a large party which, through force of numbers, will spread over the whole earth, and according to some authorities, it is the name of a party which keeps moving from one part of the world to another the goods and material in which it trades.’ – Taj
‘The Dadjjal is a large party’ – Aqrab
These descriptions apply to Christian propagandists today. They transport their books from one part of the world to another, together with other forms of entertainment; they also promote business activities of various kinds wherever they go. One meaning of the word Dadjjal is ‘pretender’. To whom is this description more applicable than to the Christian propagandists of our time? They present the man Jesus so that he should seem like God.
True, the Dadjjal has other signs. He was to be one-eyed and was to have with him a donkey of inordinate size. Clouds of smoke were to be seen in front of the animal and behind it. These descriptions are symbolic. The one-eyed Dadjjal is a group or party of men devoid of spiritual vision. The right side in spiritual symbolism indicates religion and virtue. If the Dadjjal is without his right eye, he symbolizes men incapable of spiritual understanding and a spiritual view of things. The donkey of the Dadjjal symbolizes the railway, the most typical of modern means of transport. It was invented by Christians in Christian countries. When the railway whistles, the sound resembles the braying of a donkey. It uses fire and water as fuel, and clouds of smoke are before and behind it. Christian propagandists use it for transporting themselves to different parts of the world.
Nobody can take exception to the interpretation of symbols and prophecies. We have for this the authority of the Holy Prophet himself In the Hadith we read that one day the Holy Prophet went to see Ibn Sayyad a man credited with strange experiences. He was with him for some time and asked him questions. From the answers to the questions it appeared that Ibn Sayyad had some Satanic or self-caused intuitions. Omar, who accompanied the Holy Prophet, drew his sword, saying on oath that Ibn Sayyad was the Dadjjal of the prophecy. The Holy Prophet (on whom be peace) stopped Omar:
‘Hazrat Omar asked the Messenger of Allah (peace be on him), “Permit me to strike his head with my sword.” The Messenger of Allah (peace be on him) replied: ‘ “If he is not the Dadjjal, it is wrong to kill him. If he is, it is not for you but for the Messiah to kill him‘ – Mishquat, under Ibn Sayyad
The incident proves that the signs of the Dadjjal mentioned in earlier prophecies are symbolic and can stand interpretation. When Omar declared Ibn Sayyad to be the Dadjjal, the Holy Prophet did not contradict him. He could have cited the signs which he himself had narrated about the Dadjjal: that the Dadjjal would have KFR written on his forehead, that he would have one eye, that he would fail to reach Medina, and so on. These signs were not present in Ibn Sayyad. He did not have one eye, he did not have KFR written on his forehead. (This important inscription was not visible even to the Holy Prophet, let alone to others.) And he was present in Medina. The question is, if the signs about the Dadjjal are not symbols, if they have to be taken literally, why did not the Holy Prophet contradict Omar straight away? Why did he hesitate? Why did he not tell Omar that the Dadjjal was to have one eye, he was to have KFR written on his forehead and was not to be seen in Medina? So it was futile to call Ibn Sayyad the Dadjjal of prophecy. The fact that the Holy Prophet did not contradict Omar at once, that he at least thought it possible that Ibn Sayyad was the Dadjjal, proves that, according to the Holy Prophet, signs about the Dadjjal were capable of interpretation, that they were not to be taken literally but could have a meaning very different from their surface meaning. If, even the Holy Prophet believed that the signs of the Dadjjal can stand interpretation, nobody else has the right to turn his back upon the facts of contemporary history and demand a literal fulfilment of those signs, ignoring their obvious symbolic significance.