Explaining Dajjal’s Time on Earth
In the Islamic eschatology it is believed that Dajjal’s rule of extraordinary tribulations and tests for the believers which will take place as a clear sign of the end of time with last forty days before he is killed by prophet Isa with the support of the Mahdi. But these forty days will comprise a total of one year, two months and a fortnight. According to the narration of Nawas bin Sama’an mentioned in in Shahi Muslim and Abu Dawood (4321) and Shahi Jamie (4166) and commented by Al-Nawawi in Shahi Muslim (18/65-66), the first day of his rule will be like a year, the second day like a month, the third day like a week and the remaining 37 days like normal days. There have been many explanations for this time scale. Some scholars say these are literal forty days, while others say these are metaphorical references. This essay explores some of these explanations. Allah knows best.
One explanation of this account is that Dajjal means deceiver. He is not one personality but a regime of kufr and disbelief spanning four periods; the first period comprises a time span lasting a thousand earthly years (equal to one heavenly day); the second period lasting about 82 and quarter years (equal to one heavenly month); the third period lasting about nineteen and quarter years (equal to one heavenly week) and the rest of the days like the usual earthy days. During this period Dajjal would want people to copy his liberal and atheistic lifestyle. In this time span, the idea of separation of church and state would firmly take root even in Muslim societies.
Another explanation suggests that it is not really the heavenly days but the speed of time that is meant by this timeline. Globalisation and the Internet have changed they way we use time. In the not too distant past, the days it used to take to travel to another country to go for Hajj or attend a business meeting are now reduced to hours as people can simply do a virtual conference on the Internet for business consultations. Emails and online messages are now delivered globally in seconds. The speed of time will be become even faster with new technologies and devices at our disposal. However, the cognisance of the fast pace of time will be short lived due to the law of diminishing returns. We will get used to the speed of time without realising how long it took to accomplish the same task in the past. So the awareness of what could be done in one day, which used to take one year in the past would gradually diminish to a month and then a week and then a day to become the new normal. Humans first walked from one place to another which took them a year; then they learnt to ride on mules and horses which took them a month; then they built roads to travel by bus or train which took them a week to complete their journey; then they started flying planes which take only a day. Thus, travel by aeroplanes in a day became the new normal. This is how the forty days of Dajjal are explained according to this interpretation.
A third explanation is that the description of Dajjal’s rule lasting forty days with abnormal variations in the duration of the first three days is literal. According to this explanation it is possible that a major cosmic event caused by man’s interference with space and environment, (littering earth’s outer space with satellites, sending space missions to moon and other planets), or a huge heavenly body crashing against the surface of the earth, or a nuclear explosion going wrong on earth, would cause the earth to bounce on its obit resulting in its rotation to slow down from twenty-fours hours to a full year, but then settle down with two smaller bounces affecting the second day’s rotation to be as long as a month and the third day’s rotation to be as long as a week and then returning to its normal rotation speed of twenty-four hours as every other day. The impact of such changes will obviously result in reduced sunshine on one half of the earth, loss of vegetation, shortage of drinking water and changes in the weather which will severely affect the earth which are all associated with the reports of coming of Dajjal. With extraordinary powers at his disposal, Dajjal will make use of these abnormal times on earth to strengthen his rule over the nations of the world. The reference to his donkey with stretched ears, as his mode of transportation could be a supersonic airborne rocket transport, which would be capable of taking him to any place around the globe within minutes, if not seconds.
The third explanation to me seems to be more realistic because science would find a justification for such an extraordinary cosmic event when it happens. In the Ahadith (No 4075 to 4081) in the Book of Tribulations in Sunan Ibn Majah, it is said that Prophet Mohammed, peace be upon him, said when such a long day comes, the believers should pray their five times prayers according to the calculations of their daily time. It means that the event will be real and not allegorical.
Whatever the real meaning of the Hadith, there are two important points that need elaboration. The first point is that we live in a time when we can instantaneously see, hear and speak to someone on the other side of the world in a different time zone without leaving our homes. According to an account of Dajjal’s power, day and night shall disappear before his power as he will be able to know what is going on in all parts of the world. This means living in a post-satellite age, with 5G communications technology becoming part and parcel of our lives as is water, gas and electricity and increased reliance on automation for mode of transport and other applications. With so much already within our grasp, we are very close to the time of the appearance of Dajjal.