Islamic eschatology

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Islamic eschatology is concerned with the Qiyamah (end of the world) and the final judgement of humanity. Eschatology is one of the three main principles of Islam, alongside tawhid (the unity of Allah) and nubuuwa (prophecy). Islam adopted from Judaism and Christianity the doctrine of a coming judgment, a resurrection of the dead, and everlasting punishments and rewards; the righteous are rewarded with the pleasures of Jannah (Paradise or the garden of Heaven, from the Hebrew gan or garden), while the unrighteous are punished in Jahannam (a fiery Hell, from the Hebrew ge-hinnom or 'valley of Hinnom'; usually rendered in English as Gehenna). A significant fraction of the Qur'an deals with these beliefs, with many ahadith elaborating on the themes and details.

According to the Islamic view Jesus (Isa, in Arabic) is not the Son of God, but was a very important prophet. It is believed that Isa never died and he was not crucified; instead he was raised into heaven still physically alive, where he lives now. At the time appointed by Allah, Isa will physically return to this world, end all wars, and usher in an era of peace, a messianic era. Minority views held by the Ahmadiyya movement, who most muslims regard as heretics, state that Jesus did not die on the cross. He was removed from the cross while still alive after which he died a natural death in Kashmir. Their belief is that the references to the Second coming of Jesus in Islamic eschatology literature are allegorical. This prophecy according to them was fulfilled by the coming of Mirza Ghulam Ahmad.

Islamic descriptions of Jannah (Heaven) are couched in the language of physical pleasure, sometimes interpreted literally, sometimes allegorically. Heaven is most often described as a cool, well-shaded, and well-watered garden. The rewards of the righteous are also described in explicitly physical terms; they include unlimited food and drink. Some interpretations also promise enormous palaces staffed with multitudes of servants, and perfect, perpetually-virgin spouses (see houri).

Muslims stress the belief that it is only the five pillars of faith that bring one to Heaven. Muslims believe that Allah knows best who will enter Heaven and that some people of the other Abrahamic faiths (regarded as "People of the book") will also get into heaven.

Those Muslims who do not inherit heaven will be punished with a temporary stay in Hell, and will go to heaven later as long as there is "one atom of faith in their hearts" as stated by the Prophet Muhammed. Some, but not all, muslims also believe that people who do not accept the Prophet Muhammed after hearing his message, will receive eternal damnation in hell; just as those who did not believe in Jesus and Moses at their respective periods after hearing of their messages will also receive eternal damnation in hell.

The descriptions in the Qur'an of punishment for unbelief (Hell) are, like the descriptions of Heaven, very descriptive. Skin is burned off the person's body and then they are given new skin so it can be burned off again. Boiling water is poured down people's throats and it rips their bowels apart. Nevertheless, extremes of heat and cold are applied to the body as punishment.

 

In the Western world, the word "Jihad" conjures up images of terrorist actions in the name of Islam. In reality, the negative connotations associated with jihad have very little to do with the actual meaning of the word. Rather, these views of jihad have been the result of Western misunderstandings and the activities of extremist groups who propagate jihad's meaning as one of a "holy war". The true meaning of jihad is not, however, "holy war", but is simply any struggle in which a person must work hard in order to attain a meaningful goal. In religious terms for Islam, it can be interpreted as the struggle that Islamic people must undergo to live life as Allah would want them; loving Allah, doing good deeds, spreading Islam, and defending others of the faith.

Unfortunately, in a manner similar to the zealots and Crusaders, several groups have decided to take a militant approach to the last example of defending the faith. Incorporating that with the idea that the best defense is a good offense, these Islamic extremists undertake their own version of jihad by striking out violently against the "enemies" of their faith. To these groups, the answer to the preservation of Islam is the destruction of religions and cultures that they see as threats. It is also from these groups that we find the modern zealots, or, in the parlance of the times, terrorist cells. Feared by many, these Islamic terrorist factions have placed a stain on the reputation of the religion in the way of the Christian Crusaders of days gone past through their extremist views.

By incorporating their peculiar brand of jihad with renewed apocalyptic visions of the Quran and the Hadith, these militant groups have given the title of forces of darkness to the West (Zionist and Christian regime), in the same manner as the zealots identified the Roman Empire as their opposition.

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