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Keeping Productive in the Last Age

Arghhh!!! Save yourself, the end of the world is nigh – the apocalypse is here, doomsday is approaching, HEEEEELLLLLLPPPPPPP!!!

Okay, well, that’s certainly ONE approach to tackling the concept of Islamic eschatology and the End Times, which the Prophet(pbuh) spoke so regularly about. Perhaps not the most productive, however!

In sha Allah this article will address the view that many seem to be discussing nowadays – that we are in the end times – and find themselves dragged in the mire of doom and gloom as we continue to witness the Ummah struggle around us.

Are we REALLY in the End Times?!

The End is Nigh!

Recently, there seems to be increased awareness and fascination with the end of the world. People of many faiths are starting to think the signs of the last day are all around them, with Christians pointing to some biblical prophecies coming to light, or Jews now ‘back’ in Jerusalem, anticipating the return of their ‘Messiah’.

It is also widely thought amongst many erudite Islamic scholars that we are in the final throes of the last days before the Hour. After all, the Prophet(pbuh) did once say, whilst gesturing with his index and middle fingers, “The time of my advent and the Hour are like these two fingers”. [Al-Bukhari]

And, looking at some of the prophecies to be fair, who can blame people for thinking this way?

News headlines bombard us with devastating natural disasters, endless warfare, ongoing suffering, and repeated violence and oppression. It perhaps comes as very little surprise that many people feel the end is near.

After all, just looking amongst some of the signs – particularly those dubbed ‘the minor signs’ – many, if not all, seem to have come to pass.

Are We Seeing The Minor Signs of Qiyamah?

Let’s take a look at a few examples from the culture within which we live in today.

Here’s a list of ‘minor signs’ compiled 1,400 years ago (taken from ibn Kathir’s ‘The Signs of the Day of Judgement’). Now, ask yourself, which of these have yet to surface?

Widespread fornication and adultery – Marriage rates are at their lowest ever.

Widespread acceptance of usury and interest – Just look at world debt and the monetary system today.

The Bedouin Arabs competing in building tall structures – Easy to see. Just look to the Middle East and Dubai.

Alcohol consumption being widespread – I don’t think any of us would deny this!

The children will be filled with rage – We’re reading so much about gang crime and high school killings and the like, and even children who are aggressive towards their own parents.

Loss of Islamic knowledge / the mosques will be grand structures but devoid of knowledge.

An increase in earthquakes – This again is another quite clear sign that has come to pass and is gaining frequency.

Widespread killing and bloodshed – Whether we look at the global situation or closer to home, it’s definitely happening on a huge scale.

Women who are clothed yet naked / Men will look women and women will look like men / Men will lay with men and women will lay with women – The advent of gay marriage would seem to suggest this is definitely here to stay and grow.

Time will move quickly – Time is definitely passing us by far quicker than it used to.

Singing and dancing will become popular / people will dance into the night – Look at MTV and the nightclubbing phenomenon.

Immoral deeds will be committed openly.

This only scratches the surface. Seriously. We just need to look at some of the facades around us that have pervaded every aspect of our lives – agriculture, the monetary system, health, education, relationships, family ties, etc.

Everywhere we look, with consumerism, secularism and atheism as prevalent as they’ve ever been, it is clear to see that our world has never been as chaotic and confusing as it is right now.

So What Now? When Do I Start to Panic?

What’s easy to do in these times is get bogged down in the negativity, or feel helpless, or have a ready-made excuse with the notion that there’s nothing really that we can do – after all, everything is predestined.

Let’s not do that. Have a look at the following hadith, which is incidentally one of my favourites.

Anas ibn Malik reported that the Prophet(pbuh) said, “If the Final Hour comes while you have a palm-cutting in your hands and it is possible to plant it before the Hour comes, you should plant it.” [Al-Abani]

This hadith is one that has always inspired and motivated me, and one that drives action, action, action.

Let’s look at this in a little more detail.

If the world is coming to an end, why should I plant a palm shoot?

Good question. Why should I go to so much trouble for a tree that will not bear fruit?

Surely, if the Hour is on our doorstep, one would think we should concentrate on prayer, more worship or something, right? But no. What is the underlying lesson here?

Take Action, Action, Action

Contribute no matter the circumstances
One of the lessons we can learn from this powerful hadith is that Muslims should learn to contribute under ALL circumstances. No matter how tough the situation, we must pull our fingers out, so to speak.After all, what more difficult circumstances could there be than the end of the world, eh? In the hadith, the Prophet(pbuh) said even if the Day of Judgement is happening before our very eyes (even if there’s one second to go!), we should still finish the job at hand and stay productive until the very, very end. Therefore, not even the grave repercussions of the Hour are an excuse for us not to contribute to society and to benefit humanity at large, subhan Allah. The timing is never ‘just’ right – shaytan will always inspire a million and one excuses. If you are waiting for the perfect condition to start working for Islam, it may never materialise. But hang on a second, isn’t this in fact the perfect condition? It’s in the time of crisis that you can contribute most, that you are most needed, that you can influence and cause impact and affect change.Just because conditions have changed and are not as pleasant as they used to be, it’s not time to get all negative. On the contrary, now is the time to recapture and revive the spirit of our Muslim ancestors who operated under much harder conditions, but with a very resilient and positive attitude, until the last moment of their lives.

Do not take action conditional on its outcome
We live in an increasingly impatient society, which is more and more focused on the tangible and material, the immediately satiable and instant gratification.The analogy of a plant given here is also interesting. One reason is there is not an immediate result or success to be had after planting the seed. You must be patient to see the fruits of your labour. From this we can see that we as believers should not calculate the worth of our actions according to their outcomes in the material world. Hence, we should certainly not see action without immediately quantifiable results as futile. Rather, we should value the effort of the pursuit towards the ends, as the ends itself. Rather than taking action with the expectation of yielding results or taking an opportunistic approach, or getting disheartened should something not go to plan, we should instead be satisfied in the success that comes merely from taking action. This tiny palm shoot is a symbol of the value of activity per se.Not only will the action serve as a steep development opportunity for us, which will enrich and add to our wealth of experience, we will also, In sha Allah, earn the reward of the full action according to what our intention was.As demonstrated in the hadith narrated on the authority of Amir al-Mu’minin, Umar bin al-Khattab, who said: “I heard Allah’s Messenger(pbuh) saying, ‘The reward of deeds depends upon the intentions and every person will get the reward according to what he has intended.'” [Al-Bukhari]

At the end of the day, the ‘fruits’, so to speak – even if they can’t be enjoyed in this life – will be there in abundance in the Hereafter. This is the mindset we should deploy, In sha Allah.

Always act with ihsan
The effort required to harmoniously place the seed into its rightful place into the earth so that it may fulfil its purpose and grow and benefit others is an act of goodness. Because of this, we must strive to do it with the utmost excellence (ihsan). The fruits of planting a seed are not only the fruit yielded when it branches out and eventually blossoms. The effort to place every stone in its rightful place is in itself a fruit – an end result – a job well done. Let us recognise each milestone and celebrate the successful completion of each stage. Reaching the final destination is not the actual aim, but to walk on the path toward the destination with the grace and dignity that destination deserves, knowing you have done your absolute best. Allah knows everything.This positive orientation is evident in elevating the mastery of one’s work to the level of obligation and worship. Remember, the outcome is not the objective, but to tread the steps leading to the objective with delicacy, diligence and care. After all, how can those who cannot give their all whilst travelling to the destination ever deserve to reap the full rewards upon their arrival?

Be positive
The attitude of constructive positivity and active endeavour is one of the core principles stressed by the sunnah. This productive spirit should control the Muslim’s mind, senses, nature, thought, and, through it all, his conduct. It symbolises interest in one’s deeds rather than verbal eloquence and rhetoric. It lays great importance on construction rather than destruction, and in lighting candles rather than cursing darkness. We have to remember, even in these tough times, we are blessed to be Muslims and the blessings of Allah are infinite. We have also been given all the answers to life’s quandaries in the Qur’an and sunnah, Alhamdulillah. What more do we need?

Moving Forward in the Last Age with Vigilance

“Okay, great. I’ll do that. But what if I’m still worried about the times we live in?”

All this is not to say we shouldn’t worry about the end times or at the very least be aware of the reality. We can take the following steps, In sha Allah, so that we are aware and vigilant going forward:

Prepare
“A man asked the Prophet(pbuh) about the Hour (i.e. Day of Judgment) saying, ‘When will the Hour be?’ The Prophet(pbuh) said, ‘What have you prepared for it?'” [Al-Bukhari]

Love Allah and his Messenger

The hadith above then continues to say:”The man said, ‘Nothing, except that I love Allah and His Apostle.’ The Prophet(pbuh) said, ‘You will be with those whom you love.'” [Al-Bukhari]The Muslims had never rejoiced as much they did when they heard this hadith.

Study
If you are able to do so, you can study the science of Islamic Eschatology (the study of the end of times). Amid all of this worldwide confusion, being able to recognise the signs and get some clarity about the reality of the world you inhabit can certainly be no bad thing.

Do good deeds
Abu Hurairah said, “The Prophet(pbuh) said, ‘Hasten to do good deeds before six things happen: the rising of the sun from the west, the smoke, the Dajjal, the beast and (the death) of one of you or the general turmoil. [Muslim]

Seek refuge
This essentially means to not engage and invite fitnah. It is better to stay away from situations wherein even the temptation or the threat of fitnah exists, if we are able to do so. Abu Hurairah said, the Prophet(pbuh) said, “There will be soon a period of turmoil in which the one who sits will be better than one who stands and the one who stands will be better than one who walks and the one who walks will be better than one who runs. He who would watch them will be drawn by them. So he who finds a refuge or shelter against it should make it as his resort.” [Muslim]

Accept your ‘strangeness!’
Yes, agreed – it is becoming more and more difficult for us nowadays. But know that this is prophesied and is one of Allah‘s tests for us!’Abdullah bin Mas’ud narrated that the Messenger of Allah(pbuh) said: “Indeed Islam began as something strange and it will return to being strange as it began. So Tuba [good tidings] is for the strangers.” [At-Timirdhi] Someone asked, “Who are the strangers?” He said, “The ones who break away from their people (literally, ‘tribes’) for the sake of Islam.”

Learn Surah Al-Kahf [Qur’an: Chapter 18], study it and recite it every Friday.
Abu Darda’ reported Allah’s Apostle(pbuh) as saying: “If anyone learns by heart the first ten verses of the Surah Al-Kahf, he will be protected from the Dajjal.” [Muslim] Study the tafsir and you’ll soon see the link between the two – it really is the surah to help us understand the modern age!

Now, For Some Final Thoughts…

Do not calibrate your courtesy according to the world’s finite nature. Do not construct your morality upon momentariness. Do not let your hesitation be a hindrance to your doing a good deed.

Yes, we may just be in the end times (Allah knows best), and the chaotic world may be going to pot around us…

But as Muslims, if you remember to plant your seedling, then you can always, always, always be productive and contribute to making the world a better place, In sha Allah.

The rest is up to Allah.

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