There does seem to be a strong tendency in the preaching of Muhammad to strike terror in the heart of his hearers by pointing out the consequences of Allah’s bringing man back at the resurrection. The Quran therefore, is full of references to the Last Day. Allah began the process of creation, he created mankind from the earth, at death they return back to the earth. But Allah will repeat the process by producing a new creation in which mankind will be brought out from the earth again to face the Last Judgement (Ta-Ha 20:55; Yunus 10:4; Al-Anbiya 21:104; Ar-Rum 30:11, 27).
Muhammad was primarily a preacher of this wrath to come and of the need of repentance and self-surrender to Allah before it should come. It seems likely that Muhammad built on the ancient Arab belief that the dead had a continued and conscious existence of a kind in the grave which led to the mass of traditions which taught that the grave for each individual is a preliminary hell or paradise.
It will be a general resurrection of men, angels, jinn and animals. At the Resurrection the body will be raised and united to its soul. One bone of the body, the Os Sacrum, will be preserved uncorrupted until the Last Day, at which time the rest of the body will grow from it. Although the resurrection of the body is mentioned or suggested in many passages in the Quran Muhammad did not know just when all this would take place.
In the Quran it is a judgement of individuals and not of the masses, although one verse suggests that the nations also are called to be accountable “And thou wilt see every sect (nation) bowing the knee: Every sect will be called to its Record: “This Day shall ye be recompensed for all that ye did!” (Al Jathiya 45:28)
After the resurrection men will rise up naked and confused. The angels will keep them waiting for forty years as they assemble them together for judgement. Some will stand for those forty years looking up towards the heavens awaiting the opening of the book of deeds; they will perspire profusely through excess of sorrow as they wait. “He who has done an atom’s weight of good shall see it, and he who has done an atom’s weight of evil shall see it.” (Az-Zalzila 99: 6-8).
The Quran’s lurid account of the Day is picturesque detailing its certainty and its nearness and overwhelming terrors. The most picturesque details are in the earlier poetical suras. Islam has developed some of these details and the sum of the matter is that there is very little in the Quran as to the signs preceding the last days. The systematic theologians have been cautious in developing their views recognising that it was impossible to make a consistent narrative of what would take place on the Last Day. On the other hand the Traditionalists have been extravagant. For some the fear of the wrath of Allah has driven them to produce their pictures of the horrors of death, the resurrection and the judgement. In Al-Ghazali’s Ihya the last book is concerned with ‘Taking thought of death and that which comes after it’ until it ends with a few pages of the beatific vision in Paradise. What has been represented in tradition has become fixed in theology.
The programme of the events that cover Muslim eschatology is as follows.
1) Signs will announce the coming of the end and will especially point to the appearance of the Ad-Dajjal who will lead most men astray. This is followed by the descent of Isa who will kill Dajjal and a period of faith will follow.
2) Descent of Isa This is followed by the descent of Isa who will kill Dajjal and a period of faith will follow. The bare-bones of the Quran on this subject is further developed but limited to a few hadith as follows: a) Abu Huraira reported that the Messenger of Allah (may peace be upon him) said: By Him in Whose hand is my life, the son of Mary (may peace be upon him) will soon descend among you as a just judge. He will break crosses, kill swine and abolish Jizya and the wealth will pour forth to such an extent that no one will accept it (Muslim Book 1 Number 287). b) It is narrated on the authority of Abu Huraira that the Messenger or Allah (may peace be upon him) observed: I swear by Allah that the son of Mary will certainly descend as a just judge and he would definitely break the cross, and kill swine and abolish Jizya and would leave the young she-camel and no one would endeavour to (collect Zakat on it). Spite, mutual hatred and jealousy against one another will certainly disappear and when he summons people to accept wealth, not even one would do so (Muslim Book 1 Number 289). c) In Muslim eschatology various details in respect of Gog and Magog are connected with the return of ‘Isa. They will become so numerous that they shall drink all the water of the Euphrates and Tigris. Until the Gog and Magog (people) are let through (their barrier), and they swiftly swarm from every hill. (Al-Anbiya 21:96) When they have destroyed the earth they will shoot their arrows at heaven but God will destroy every one of them either by having worms coming out of their nostrils and ears or by a host of birds who will catch them and drown them in the sea.
3) The sounding of the resurrection trumpets: The Last Day will be preceded by the resurrection trumpet “And the Day that the Trumpet will be sounded then will be smitten with terror those who are in the heavens, and those who are on earth, except such as Allah will please (to exempt): and all shall come to His (Presence) as beings conscious of their lowliness.” (An-Naml 27:87 c/f Al-Kahf 18:99, Al-Ana’m 6:73, Ta-Ha 20:102, Al-Muminun 23:101, Ya-Sin 36:51, Qaf 50:20 & An-Naba 78:18). Sura Al-Haqqa 69:13 mentions a single blast while Az-Zumar 39:68 records two blasts. On the first blast all in heaven and earth swoon with terror, unless Allah wills otherwise and on the second they are restored, stand up and look at the sight. The Tradition as found in Muslim chapter 26 tells us about the interval between the blowing of the trumpets. Some say that Israfil will give three blasts forty years later when all will be raised again for judgement.
4) The Judgement begins as individuals are questioned directly by Allah. The books are opened and where doubt remains the weighing of deeds will be conducted. There will be a requital of wrongs between man and man and man and beast. Apart from the personal accountability to Allah accountability will be required of the nations. (Al Jathiya 45:28)
5) The bridge over Hell into Paradise (al-Sirat): The word Sirat occurs only once in the Quran: “Besides Allah, and lead them to the way to the (fierce) Fire! (As-Saffat 37:23) Tradition has made it the ‘bridge’ over the back of hell. In order to reach Paradise, the elect ones will, without any difficulty, cross over a bridge which is as narrow as a thread and as sharp as a razor. Sinful Muslims may manage to cross, but it will be a painful ordeal for them; the time they spend in crossing will be according to the number of their sins; the terror of this ordeal will have a purifying effect on them. The unbelievers, as soon as they mount the bridge, will fall into hell, Gehenna.
6) The balances/scales: When used in the singular the Quran expresses the general idea of justice e.g. “It is Allah Who has sent down the Book in Truth, and the Balance (by which to weigh conduct)” (Ash-Shura 42:17, c/f Ar-Rahman 55:7-9; Al-Hadid 57:25). Men’s deeds will be weighed in a kind of balance (Ash-Shura 42:17, Ar-Rahman 55:7-9, Al-Hadid 57:25). However, with the plural mawazin it is used only in fixed phrases of weighing men’s good and bad deeds in the eschatological balances Al-Muminun 23:102,103 c/f Al-Isra 17:8, 9; Al-Qariya 101:6-9; Al-‘Araf 7:8,9; Al-Anbiya 21:47).
7) The intercession and the tank (Hawd) of Muhammad: The idea of the hawd, the paradisical pool of al-Kauthar at which on the day of resurrection Muhammad will meet his community is only found in the Tradition. The poor who have not known the pleasures of life will meet Muhammad at the pool. Although Muhammad pleads for them he is told by Allah that he does not know what they have done after his death. It has extensive dimensions, numberless drinking vessels, has milky and honey-sweet waters, has two spouts, one of gold the other of silver which emerge from paradise. Muhammad is represented as having a throne above the pool.