Al-Sha’rawi and the Neglect of Judgment Day

The following is a translation of the introduction of the late Shaykh Muhammad Metwalli al-Sha’rawi’s book titled Alamat al-Qiyamah al-Sughra, or The Minor Signs of Judgement Day.[1]

Al-Sha’rawi was a well-learned Muslim scholar that touched the hearts of tens of millions of Egyptians and hundreds of millions of Muslims across the world. He was a graduate of Al-Azhar University and became widely known for his riveting and clear lectures that benefitted the masses as well as seasoned students of Islam. Allah grant him Mercy and allow the coming generations to continue grazing from the fruits of his labor. 

BEGIN TRANSLATION

In the Name of Allah, Most Merciful and Compassionate.

All Praise is Allah’s, Lord of all Worlds of Beings, and may He bless and bestow peace upon our master Muhammad, the final prophet and messenger.

There are signs indicating the nearness of Judgment Day which the Messenger of Allah informed us about — and many of these signs have manifested. Some people ask, “If nobody knows when Judgment Day will occur, what was the point of the Messenger of Allah talking about the signs indicating its nearness?” It is known that these narrations from the Messenger of Allah ﷺ do not inform us of when exactly Judgment Day will occur. For example, there exists no narration which states, “If such-and-such occurs, then await Judgment Day after 100 years.” Rather, the purpose of these narrations is that they may serve as a reminder for the people who will witness the proliferation of corruption amongst themselves as Judgment Day draws near. They are a reminder for the people that the occurrences they are witnessing throughout the world are all manifestations of Allah’s Power as well as a continued propagation of the Messenger of Allah’s mission. When we read these narrations and see that they have come to pass, we say, “The Messenger of Allah ﷺ has spoken the truth,” and we ponder upon the entirety of the Revelation sent by Allah through His Messenger ﷺ such that we may hasten towards devotion. These signs of Judgment Day also serve to reinforce the truthfulness of the Messenger of Allahﷺ , and thus the persistence of his miracles. Every time a prophecy of the Messenger of Allah ﷺ is fulfilled, it is tantamount to a new miracle manifesting to strengthen our belief. This is essentially no different than the miracles that occurred during the life of the Messenger of Allah ﷺ among his companions in terms of their effect. It is as if the Message is renewed in the hearts of the people whenever a prophecy comes to pass, and thus does this Divine Gesture revert the people to the principles which they have abandoned and forgotten over time. 

In summary, the signs of Judgment Day serve as both reinforcements to strengthen our faith as well as miracles to awaken those who have nodded off in heedlessness to the religion of Allah. However, they contain no indications as to when exactly Judgment Day will occur. Perhaps it may be soon, but a mere classification of nearness by Allah does not necessarily mean that it is near from our human perspective. The rules and conventions of time differ, such that a similarity in language does not necessarily indicate a similarity in meaning. 

The angels and the supreme Angelic Spirit of them ascend unto Him in a single day that would take fifty thousand human years to traverse. So bear up with patient grace: Verily they see it as completely far-fetched; And We see it as about to take place. [Surah al-Ma’arij] [2] 

Clearly, time according to Allah is different from our understanding. Indeed, Judgement Day is approaching…but how many years remain? None but Allah know. 

END TRANSLATION

It is clear from the words of al-Sha’rawi that discussion and observance of the signs of Judgement Day are an essential component of a healthy Muslim consciousness. Most Muslims who have made a slight effort to learn a thing or two about their religion have heard the narration known as Hadith Jibril, wherein the Messenger of Allah ﷺ dedicates a significant portion of his moments in a physical sit-down with the Messenger-Angel to emphasize the importance of knowing the signs of Judgment Day’s approach. 

It is nonetheless an unfortunate reality that the laity of Muslims remains starved of a scholarly class that periodically educates them of these details. The more academically inclined circles of traditional Muslims tend to scrub the topic as they reduce the tetralogy of Hadith Jibril to a trilogy of Iman, Islam, and Ihsan. Claims are often made that Muslims should not let such thoughts cloud their day-to-day lives. In some instances, prophetic narrations are even used to diminish the importance of being conscious of these matters. Sometimes, the rhetoric catastrophizes the psychological risks of being obsessed with this topic and fallaciously essentializes the etiology of such an affliction as the nature of the topic itself – disregarding the fact that any interest escalated into an obsession will exhibit harm. 

The public preacher scene, a fertile pasture of degeneracy and ignorance, has also succumbed to a pathological avoidance of this topic, although likely due to more profane concerns such as the fear of downgrading from a lavish Porsche to a working-class Honda as the Illuminati of Organization-Uncles become miserly with their checkbooks in response to their deep-seated discomfort with this topic. When is the last time this discussion took the main stage at a national Muslim conference? Instead, we are subjected to feel-good speeches by various rent-seekers with questionable educational backgrounds, political deviants shilling their platforms, heretics seeking validation for their beliefs at the expense of our eligibility for salvation, and animalistic musical raves led by deadbeat boy bands that get a stage for being Muslim. The walls are clearly closing in on this world, but our celebrity preachers are busy prancing around with their microphones as they tighten the blindfolds upon an ocean of NPCs that would be jolted into sentience if they just knew what was coming.

Language has also been weaponized. On one side of the coin, people are deathly terrified of being labeled “conspiracy theorists” if they even acknowledge this subject. It is true that various conspiracies have invaded the discourse on this topic – just type in some buzzwords on YouTube to see for yourself – but this would not have happened if a vacuum was not created in the first place. The other side of the coin is that Muslims have been trained by others to blurt out robotic diagnoses when probed about what exactly is going wrong. We are swimming in a tsunami of cognitive dissonance as WebMD-esque diagnostic gurus of the Ummah’s problems disseminate platitudes such as, “We have an Iman problem, not a [insert any concern] problem.” We have an Everything Problem, and one of those is an Iman problem. Maybe a slight shift towards the recognition of this topic will bring a glimmer of the much needed relief promised by al-Sha’rawi, freshly renewing the Message in the dying hearts of Muslims everywhere. 

Works Cited:

[1] ‘Alamat al-Qiyamah al-Sughra. Muhammad Metwalli al-Sha’rawi. Maktabah al-Turath al-Islami. June 2001. 

[2] The Quran Beheld: An English Translation from the Arabic. Nuh Ha Mim Keller, 2022. 

Photo by Fabien TWB on Unsplash


About the Author: Wassim Hassan is currently a medical student as well as a student of traditional Islamic disciplines. His interests include Islam, Western Philosophy, Bioethics, and the Arabic Language.

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