ISLAM’S LAST STAND ON THE FINAL DAY
FROM THESE TERRIBLE TIMES
BY DAVID ARTHUR WALTERS
Maulana Muhammad Ali, since age 25 “a soldier for the literary service of Islam”, translated verse 99 of Chapter 18 of the Quran as follows:
“And on that day We shall leave a part of them in conflict with another part, and the trumpet will be blown, so We shall gather them all together.”
Muhammad Ali explains: “There is a change here from the historical to the prophetical. The Gog and Magog of the old days were to have their representatives in the latter days. The only other reference to Gog and Magog in the Holy Quran is contained in 21:96, where they are stated as taking possession of all places of advantage and eminence. This would identify them clearly with the European races; and the Slavs (settling as they do in Russia, the land of Magog) and the Teutons may therefore be suggested to be the modern representatives of Gog and Magog, and the verse prophetically refers to some mighty conflict of the European nations and to their ultimate gathering together in Islam which alone can settle their ideological differences.” (The Quran, 1948 edition).
The other Quranic reference to Gog and Magog in Chapter 21 (The Prophets), verse 96, appears under Section 7. – ‘The Righteous shall inherit the Earth.’ Muhammad Ali translates the verses 94-105 of the section as follows:
“So whoever does good deeds and he is a believer, there is no denying his exertion, and We write (it) down for him. And there is a ban on a town which We destroy that they shall not return. Until when Gog and Magog are made to overcome (the world), and they break forth from every elevated place. And the True Promise draws nigh, then lo! the eyes of those who disbelieved will be fixedly open: O woe to us! We were heedless of this: nay, we were unjust. Surely you and what you worship besides Allah are fuel of hell; to it you will come. Had these been gods, they would not have come to it and all will abide therein. For them therein will be groaning and therein they will not hear. Those for whom good a already gone forth from Us will be kept far off from it; they will not hear its faintest sound, and they will abide in what their souls long for. The great fearful event will not grieve them, and the angels will meet them. This is the day which you were promised. The day when We roll up heaven like the rolling up of the scroll for writings. As We made the first creation, (so) shall We reproduce it – a promise (binding) on Us; surely We shall bring it about. And indeed We wrote in the Book after the reminder that the earth – My righteous servants will inherit it…”
“Those for whom good has already gone forth from Us”, namely people who believe in God, will be kept at a distance from the hellish horrors. Further, the Prophet said that whosoever believes in God and future life and acts righteously, “on him shall come no fear.” Most importantly, the Prophet’s official policy on religion is “There is no compulsion in religion.” Many historians have remarked at length on the international character of Islamic law and its applicability even to enemies, in contrast to the frightful persecutions carried out by crusading Christians. However that may be, we should keep in mind the different historical circumstances of Jesus and Muhammad, and try to understand why, on the one hand, Jesus ordered the Sword sheathed in favor of the Word, pending Constantine’s vision of the Holy Cross on the battlefield, and why, on the other hand, Muhammad could not wait for a Constantine to defend Islam.
We do have evidence of glaring breaches in the Prophet’s official policy of tolerance. Nevertheless, whether Islam’s success is by Word or by Sword or by both Word and Sword, the phenomenal growth of Islam in its infancy seemed to prove that the whole wide world would on the Last Day recognize one deity. Muhammad Ali makes note of that view as follows:
“The Qu’ran has repeatedly stated that Islam would ultimately be made triumphant in the world. The righteous servants of God, we are here told, would one day be masters of the land. The words no doubt contain a prophecy of the possession of the Holy Land by the Muslims, which was fulfilled in the caliphate of Umar. Compare Ps.37:29. But, we are further told that the whole earth would be a Holy Land in the end.”
The Quranic story of the end time, of Gog and Magog, presages the Final Conflict between Good and Evil, the Dualism arising in Paradise with human knowledge of the difference between the two. Man is accordingly booted from the primeval garden, endowed with free will to make the prerequisite choices so that he may return to the virginal womb in heaven if not on Earth – special virgins await martyrs in Paradise. If man in rebellion will not return from evolved complexity to ultimate simplicity, then to Hell with him – as if Earth were not already hellish enough from the consequences of the original sin of being born into the wicked human world in the first place.
On Earth, pain has always had a slight edge on pleasure – bliss is death, for in bliss there is no motive to move. Yet in the final analysis, Good shall win over Evil, thus we may argue that there is a universal good, or a good God over all. In the interim, some sort of objective division between Good and Evil is required, no matter how arbitrary, something clear and concrete to protect us from the roving forces of Evil. A wall might suffice to protect sedentary folk and their precious utensils from bandit bands, hence they would do well to give thanks and kiss the wall protecting them from the curse of evil invaders.
An army might sally forth from behind the walls of one of civilization’s centers and make war in pre-emptive self-defense or simply for the sake of revenge, – then who is the evil barbarian? The world is conquered by the militant force: the defenders are killed or enslaved, settlements burned or exploited. Thus civilization is grounded in crime, and Good arises from Evil; otherwise there would be no Progress to Good. But now we are on the horns of a dilemma, even confronted with the gnostic heresy that the old god who kicked us out of Paradise may have horns, may be a fallen angel, the Devil himself.
The Quran informs us that the two-horned hero named Dhulqarnain, during his travels far and wide, was asked by a certain people whose speech was almost incomprehensible to protect them from the Gog and Magog, whereupon he built them a barrier or wall of iron – an Iron Curtain. The Gog and Magog were typical “barbarians from the north” at the time – Scythians, Cimmerians or other ancestors of later barbarians. There are various accounts of the original event in folklore, handed down with related historical sketches and other fragmentary evidence. Opinions vary as to where the Iron Curtain was built, and, for that matter, who Dhulqarnain really was. The popular position is that Dhulqarnain was Alexander the Great – one of Christianity’s adopted, virtual saints – that it was no less than he who built the wall at Derbent by the Caspian Sea. We may believe otherwise and take the minority view that the two-horned hero was Cyrus the Great – savior of the Jews – and that the prototypical event took place near what is now known as northern Afghanistan, the traditional home of Zoroaster, the hater of nomads who recognized Evil and its roving demonic bandit hordes as distinctly divided from Good and its attendant court of settled virtues. The final score between Good and Evil might then be settled not in Iraq or Israel but in that ancient region.