By Syed Sharfuddin
وَإِذَا وَقَعَ الْقَوْلُ عَلَيْهِمْ أَخْرَجْنَا لَهُمْ دَابَّةً مِنَ الْأَرْضِ تُكَلِّمُهُمْ أَنَّ النَّاسَ كَانُوا بِآَيَاتِنَا لَا يُوقِنُونَ
Bismillah Al Rahman Al Raheem. “Wa iz waqa’ al qawlu a’layhim a’kh rajna lahum, dabbatan min-al-ardi tukallimu hum an nasa, ka’nu bey aya’tina, la yu qenoon”. (27:82)
Translation: “And when the promise will be fulfilled, We shall bring forth out of the earth, a creature who will tell mankind they had no real faith in our signs”. Al-Quran. [Surah An-Naml (27); Verse 82].
There have been many interpretations of this verse in Tafseer Al-Baghwi, Tafseer Al-Tabri and Tafseer Al Muyassar. One interpretation is that the creature of earth referred to in the above verse will appear when people will abandon supporting the good and opposing the bad (amar bil maroof, wa nahi anil munkar) to protect their interests. In other words, people will keep quiet when they see oppression taking place on a community of people or on a nation by another community of people or nation, or they will not side with the truth if they notice that the falsehood is greater than their power to oppose it. The current international order and our national behaviour to everyday events are replete with examples. Very few have the courage to speak up against oppression or evil taking place elsewhere, unless it is too close to home to cause us discomfort. It is the usual “not my problem” attitude we have despite the fact that on the human level of basic necessities, we are all humans, equal and same.
Another interpretation says that the creature will appear when scholars will die in large number and real knowledge will disappear; and the Scripture will be lifted from earth. Apart from the death of scholars, which is understandable, it seems strange that in the world of internet and dissemination of tons of information worldwide on a daily basis, knowledge will disappear and the Scripture will be lifted from the earth. These questions were asked of Prophet Mohammad, peace be upon him by his companions before the age of information even began. He explained that disappearance of knowledge does not mean a void but that so much disinformation will prevail that real knowledge will be hard to find. Lifting of Quran also does not mean ink fading out of the pages of the holy Book. It means people treating Quran as a great masterpiece of art, poetry and balance without taking the message of the Quran seriously and practicing it in their lives. If we look at the condition of Muslims, we can see how much of Quran is exists in their lives even though they are busy in thousands forwarding its verses in text, graphics and audio over the Internet and social media. Only few internalise, understand and absorb it in their lives. Regrettably, much regrettably, the Quran is there in abundance but it is fast leaving our hearts and lives.
Yet another explanation says that the appearance of the creature of earth will be among the ten major signs of the end of time. These are narrated by Al-Tabari and Al-Baghwi as: the sun will rise from the west, appearance of smoke, emergence of the Gog and Mgog; appearance of Dajjal; coming of Jesus on earth, total solar eclipses in the west, east and the Arabian peninsula, and the great fire in Aden.
Each of these events will have a beginning, peak and end. They may not follow the exact sequence in which these are narrated. There may even be a gap of many years between one event and another because cosmic forces are not subject to the short cycle of time observed on earth. They may also not necessarily follow a set sequence of occurrence. It is therefore reasonable to believe that rising of the sun from the west may not occur before the appearance of the creature and may occur many years before or after the appearance of Gog and Mgog. But we do know that certain events will be linked such as the coming of Jesus will follow Dajjal and that the second and final trumpet will not be blown until every living person has died to be raised again on another earth for Divine Judgement.
The appearance of the creature means one thing: the fulfilment of Allah’s promise and a clear sign that the time of final reckoning, i.e. the Day of Judgement has come very near. The appearance of the creature also means that it could be a matter of few years or months that the door of repentance and forgiveness from Allah will close, as is reported in Ahadith. The appearance of the creature will be a loud reminder that no matter how advanced mankind has become in nano-medicine, global communications, space technology, modern warfare and subduing the forces of nature, it is abysmally weak and helpless against Allah’s Will when He decides to manifest it through a fly, mosquito, bacteria or virus.
Commentators have reported that one apparent consequence of the appearance of the creature will be that the real believers would be easily known from the unbelievers due to their actions. When calamity strikes humanity we know from experience that people get divided into two categories: those who immediately come out to help the wounded and injured and those who start looting their possessions and properties. Similarly, when the creature will speak, there will be people who will realise that they have been disobedient and ungrateful to the Almighty and they will rush with fear and hope to seek God’s forgiveness; and there will be people who will take this as a jest and spend their time ridiculing the creature and adding to the confusion and mayhem caused by such extraordinary happenings. For the believers it will be a time to worry and reflect; for the disbelievers it will be business as usual.
According to Tafseer Jalalain the appearance of the earthly creature is a chastisement (Aza’b) of human beings as punishment for their rebellion and crimes against humanity and God. Although chastisement has also come on certain nations before our era in the form of inanimate forces of nature such as earthquakes, lightening, floods or explosions, this particular form of punishment will be caused by the appearance of a living creature. This is what is meant by ‘when the creature of the earth “who will tell mankind they had no real faith in our signs’.
There are examples of a few devastating life-based disasters in human history. The great bubonic plague of 1331 in Europe, which killed around 200 million people and its effects lasted for about 4 decades, was caused by mice. The Spanish flu of 1918 killed 50 million people was due to influenza virus. A virus also caused the 1956 Asian flu and 1968 Hong Kong flu that collectively killed 300,000 people. In 2003 the SARS virus caused thousands of deaths in Far East and South East Asia. But these events were not global in scale. They did not threaten the entire human race at one given time.
The Coronavirus, which started killing people in large numbers China in December 2019, took only four months to spread to 178 countries. By late March 2020 it had affected the entire global population. This extraordinary event in human history has already made the medical community realise that the epidemiological knowledge and biotechnology they possess is helpless against the coronavirus. The only immediate safe way to avoid it is to go in self-isolation and flatten its peak before they discover mitigation techniques and produce an antidote for its cure.
Like the other signs of the end of time, this major event will also pass as the vaccine for its cure is found, but it would have brought our world thousands of deaths with important lessons to learn, and one more notch closer to the end of time. Now that the creature of the earth (the virus) has spoken figuratively to the entire mankind in a manner that no one is ignorant about its presence in our environment, time has come for us to give up wars and oppression and build on the spirit of cooperation, self help and submission to God after the creature of the earth has done its time and gone away.
Let us pray together with utmost sincerity to the one and only Lord to whom we belong and to whom we will all return on our appointed time. Let us raise our hands in humility and say: “I seek forgiveness from Allah, the Mighty, and to Him I repent for my wrong doings. Allah is sufficient for us and he is the best disposer of affairs. O Allah, show us your favour and save us from the torment of scorching winds, and protect us from illness, disease, pandemics and calamities. We ask your forgiveness and for our well-being. And we beseech Allah’s blessings and salutations upon our Master Muhammad, his family and companions.” Ameen.