The First Step on the Road
'Count down six events to take place till the occurrence of the Doomsday: the death of me ...,’ thus enunciated Mohammed one day to one of his companions the first “landmark” the world will pass by on its way to its end; and the above incident took place in, or about, 630 A.D.
At the sixty-third year of his age, and after an eventful life crowned finally with a glorious success in executing his prophetical mission, Mohammed died at his home in the arms of his beloved wife, Ayesha. A fortnight earlier, while returning from a funeral ceremony, he had contracted a fever accompanied with a keen headache which made him fell seriously ill. The fever was so severe that someone among those who were attending him during his illness tells us that they “could feel its heat in the cloth-poundage” which Mohammed used to tie his head by it to smooth the pain.
Very weary and exhausted as he was, Mohammed tried not to cease to attending the daily five prayers with his companions in the mosque, nor from sharing and dividing equal times with his wives, as anyone has got more than one wife is ordered to do in Islam. And so Mohammed kept changing his residence, daily, from one house of his wives to another. ‘Where will I be tomorrow?’ he would ask them, and his wives recognized, through the repetition of this question, that he wanted to be attended for in the house of his favorite wife Ayesha, and they generously accepted. Leaning on the shoulders of his cousins, Ali and Al-fadhl, Mohammed, “dragging his feet on the ground”, removed to Ayesha’s house, where, six days later, he passed to his reward.
It may seem strange, thus, to assume that Mohammed’s death was the resultant of an assassination, rather than being a normal death. He died, as have been told, on bed of illness, that is true, but it was Mohammed himself who had told his wife, Ayesha, one day during his agony: ‘I am still suffering the pain of the food I had eaten at Khyber,’ and accordingly we have many accounts of the Khyber story that agree in details.
The word Khyber itself refers to the name of a town about 80 miles north of Medina. It was then a large countryside established, and inhabited, by Jewish tribes whose ancestors had, most probably, migrated to this place from Palestine many centuries earlier to escape the persecution made against them by the Romans. At the time of which our story tells, Khyber was, and had been, famous for its fertile fields and strong defensive fortresses, and Mohammed, so the story goes, was paying a visit there in the company of some Muslims when they were offered, by a Jewish woman, a meal of grilled lamb, which was deliberately poisoned.
‘This lamb tells me that it is poisoned,’ said Mohammed to his companions just as he tasted the meat. But that was a little late to him, for the poison, it can be easily indicated, had already crept through his body, but much too late to one of his companions, who fell at once – dead through the Jews’ coup.
Whether be it considered as assassination or normal death, Mohammed’s death is indeed regarded by the elucidators of the haddieth-science to be one of the Superior Presages of the Hour, regarding to the fact that Mohammed has told his Nation of Muslims that Allah would send no prophet after him, with exception to Jesus, who would return to the worldly life with no new religion. With this incident as a starting point, it can be pronounced, in view of that, that the world has set out on the road towards the end about 1400 years ago.
The Thirty Liars
A little while before the death of Mohammed took place, however, the clouds of another presage was being collecting in the horizon. This presage may justly be regarded as the longest drawn-out one of all those of which Mohammed had told us, for its bleak clouds had indeed rained twice whilst Mohammed’s life was nearing its end, has never ceased to rain ever since, and it will continue to drop its rain, interruptedly, till the second coming of Jesus Christ: ‘Before the occurrence of the Hour,’ said Mohammed, warning his followers, ‘there will appear about 30 liars, each of them will claim that he is a messenger of Allah.’
Accordingly, it is recorded that when he was once asleep, the Prophet saw, in a vision, that vast treasures were brought to him from all the over the world, among which there were two gold bracelets that fell in his hand. These bracelets worried Mohammed intensely in his dream, for he had despised, throughout his life, all kind of extravagance and, moreover, had already forbidden gold to be used as ornaments for a Muslim male. To get rid of them, he was inspired to blow them, and so, as he did that abruptly, the two bracelets ‘flied off’. When he awakened, he interpreted the bracelets to be two liars who would claim prophecy. It was not long before the vision, and its interpretation, became a reality.
In the eighth year of Hegira, eight years after his fleeing from his native town, Mecca, Mohammed, with a mighty army, could gain a bloodless victory on his chief enemy, the Quoraish Tribe, and so Islam could spread its power on the important religious center in Arabia, Mecca. The conquest of Mecca had, indeed, settled down peace in that peninsula, the matter that encouraged peoples of Arabia to embrace Islam, and, in the following year, almost all the local tribes of Arabia sent a delegation of them to make the profession of faith before Mohammed.
That year, the ninth of Hegira, is therefore named in Muslims’ history as the Year of Delegation, and it was during it that charity money flowed to Media from all over Arabia, and during that year, too, two men thought, independently, but simultaneously, of proclaiming prophecy. Mohammed’s brilliant success had soon attracted others to the “trade”.
Al-aswedd Al-ansi, the first prophecy-claimant in the history of Islam, arouse in Sana’a, Yemen, and began to recite some rhymed prose of his own to bear a resemblance to the Holy Quran. He could, as well, gather around him a considerable number of followers by which, and by the aid of some nearby tribes, he could spread his power over almost the entire coastline of Yemen as well as great parts of the interiors.
Mohammed, immediately, sent to certain men of his faithful living in Yemen a message, ordering them to get rid of the man either through plotting or, if that would not be possible, through a plane military clash, and permitting them to ask the help of some certain other faithful of the neighboring regions.
The task was not an easy one, however, for Al-aswed had already taken his precautions and made inaccessible in his stronghold, and it would have been almost impossible without the help of Al-aswed’s wife, whose father had been killed by Al-aswed himself, that a small campaign could get into the stronghold and kill the assumed prophet. Mohammed was informed by the Heavenly Revelation that the mission was duly accomplished, and he told his companions the news. That was on the last night before Mohammed’s death.
It needed more than plotting, nonetheless, to do away with the menace of Mussylema Al-kath-thab, the second, and the most dangerous, prophecy-claimant ever known in Islam history. The first picture we have of the man is as a member of the delegation of the tribe of Beni Hanniefa, who inhabited a town in eastern Arabia known as Al-Yemama. Mussylema was not the chief of his tribe, nor even the head man of their embassy, but, we do not know why, he suggested, arrogantly, to Mohammed that the rule of Arabia should be devolved to him after Mohammed’s death. Mohammed, at once, became aware that Mussylema was one of the two liars he saw in that vision, and, in answering the suggestion, he showed Mussylema a green stick which he was holding in his hand, and addressed the man: ‘If you ask me this stick, I’ll never give it to you,’ and, then, left his orator, Thabet ibn Quais, with Mussylema to answer him any question he had about the religion of Islam.
Things, however, came to such a pass that Mussylema was left to turn back to his tribe’s native land, and, there, he set up in practice. A considerable number of his tribesmen became enthusiastic for the idea. “A prophet from us is much better than a prophet of others,” they thought. He “rewarded” them by, in contrary to Mohammed’s rules, allowing them to commit adultery and intoxicants. With an amazing effrontery, Mussylema sent to Mohammed, in that case, a message in which he assumed that Allah had divided the possession of the land of Arabia between them. ‘If it had been legal to kill ambassadors, I would have killed you both,’ was Mohammed’s answer to the two messengers who carried the message.
But Mohammed had only a very short time to go. He was then suffering the agonies of his last illness, and died soon afterwards. The problem was left, unsolved, to his successor, Abu-Buckr, the first Caliph in Islam. History has it as a fact that Abu-Buckr faced tremendous waves of insurrections that started to rise in the then recently-converted-to-Islam regions of Arabia, and the man, courageously enough, waged a number of vehement wars against the rebellions. These wars are known in Islam history as the Wars of Tergiversation, of which the War of Yemama, in which Mussylema the Liar was defeated and killed, is almost the most famous that it almost overshadowed the man’s other great achievements.
In fact, Abu-Buckr had had to face, during the very short time of his rule that lasted for two years only, two other prophecy-claimants, one of them, curious enough in such a society, was a woman named Sajah Al-Tameemeyae. According to an authentic haddieth of Mohammed, this women is one of three other women among the thirty prophecy-claimants of whom a mention has already been made, and, as a matter of fact, was the only one to appear by the day. Thus, we can pronounce, confidently, that we are waiting for three others.
Of Sajah the woman very little is known. She, says tradition, was a soothsayer belonging to the tribes of Beni Tameem, who inhabited a region in the north eastern part of Arabia. It is said that she had been of so influent speech, prudent and endowed with sound judgment that the headmen of her tribe submitted, contently, to her own opinions and judges. When Sajah claimed prophecy she, very soon, became a serious menace to Mussylema Al-Kath-thab, the prophecy-claimant, who managed to obviate her menace by asking her hand “to be said a prophet married a prophetess”, as he himself said when he put his suggestion. Sajah accepted the offer, but not without imposing upon him half the annual incomings he collected to be paid to her.
Sajah’s fate, like those of the other prophecy-claimants, was a plain defeat on the battle ground to her and her followers, and as consequence she fled northwards to the region of her uncles’ tribe, Beni Assad, where her reputation was to fade away, and she died many years later.
The number of prophecy-claimants since the emergence of Al-Aswed till nowadays has surpassed the mark of twenty. Among the most famous of the relatively recent of these were Mirza Ghulam Ahmed (1835 – 1908), an Indian who rose in the Indian province of Punjab near the end of the nineteenth century and founded a movement known as Ahmadiyya; and the founder of the Nation of Islam, Elijah Mohammed (1897 – 1975), an African American who rise in the United States in the first half of the twentieth century.
In the case of the first four liars – Al-aswed, Mussylema, Sajah, and Tullyha Al-assuddy, who rose in northern parts of Arabia, in the lands of the tribes of Beni Assad, and his movement was contemporary to that of Sajah and Mussylema – a reservation has been stirred that they were motivated, and financed and supported, by the Sassanid rulers of Persia, who had seen in the rise of Islam, and hence a united Arabia, a serious menace to their empire. This suspicion was supposed by a famous Egyptian writer, Abbas Al-Aqaad (1889 – 1964), who established his opinion on the fact that they appeared in regions that were, by that time, subdued to the power of Persia.
From a military aspect, the first four movements were the most dangerous ones in Islam history, but the two later-mentioned movements have been intellectually potent – they both have their numerous adherents, who are still clasping with their founders’ false doctrines. By the way, Britain was accused, by Muslims, of rousing the movement of Ahmadiyya during her occupation of India and Pakistan, but the USA was not accused of the founding of Nation of Islam, however.
The Conquest of Bait Al-Maquedess
It was not long before the next “road-sign” came into the posterity’s sight. In 637, only five years after the death of Mohammed, Muslims could obtain what their prophet had promised them many years earlier – the conquest of Bait Al-Maquedess, Jerusalem. This important historical event took place during the rule of Caliph Omer, the second Caliph who had, a year before, succeeded Abu-Buckr and continued the successful wars of Muslims’ Caliphate against what were then two world powers, the Byzantine Empire and the Sassanid Empire.
Those short five years followed Mohammed’s death were enough for Muslims to capture wide areas of lands in Iraq, which was ruled by the Sassanid, and Syria which was belonging to the Byzantine Empire. In attempt to restore Syria to the possession of Byzantium, Emperor Heraclius had launched, in August 636, a great campaign, but only to be decisively defeated in the Battle of Yarmouk. And, as a result, the Byzantine garrisons in Syria withdrew to the Jerusalem. It remained, thus, only a matter of time for Muslims to make their military arrangements to advance towards “the land in which We have blessed.”
Jerusalem had already been refortified after its recapture, by the Byzantine Emperor Heraclius, from the control of the Sassanid. That was in 628. When Muslims’ troops could gain the neighboring small towns, Sophronius, the Patriarch of the city, began to make some reparations to the city’s fortifications. He also thought, with innate chagrin, it well to send the True Cross, together with some other holy relics of the Church of the Holy Sepulcher, to the coast to be taken across the sea to Constantinople.
It was in November 636 that the Muslims’ army laid siege to the Holy City. The commanders of the army preferred bloodless siege, however, and were sticking to avoiding the military assaults. After a siege lasted about six months, the Patriarch, despaired of any help to come to from any Byzantine territory, began a negotiation with Muslims and, eventually, agreed to surrender, but to none other than the Caliph Omer himself. Abu Obyda, the army’s Commander in Chief, sent to Omer to come to Jerusalem, and the Caliph did not hesitate.
On his donkey set out the caliph on his journey to the Holy Land. He did not start out from Medina in a magnificent procession. Only one slave of his was in his company, together with anyone, be he a rich or a poor, who liked to go with them. Omer had his own donkey, which was ridden by him and his slave in turn: the first turn for the Caliph to ride, the next for the slave, while a third turn was dedicated to the donkey itself to walk carrying no burdens, to give a sense of ease to it.
When they reached the districts of the city it was the slave who was riding, while the Caliph, holding the donkey’s bridle-rein, entered the city on foot. The slave, no doubt, suggested abdicating his turn for Omer or, at least, to entering the city, like the Caliph, on foot. But it was not Omer who would break his promises for any reason. Like his predecessor, Abu-Buckr, and their master, Mohammed, Omer set no great store to such formalities that known to be pervaded among the rulers of every age. It is recoded that the garment he was wearing in this journey had been “bedecked” with about twelve patches.
When they settled in the city, and after a short rest, the Patriarch Sophronius sent his delegation to welcome the Caliph, and, thereafter, a covenant, known in Muslims’ history as the Omerian Covenant, was signed. This gave all the citizens of that great city the religious freedom, and allowed the Jews to return back again to live in the city, from which their ancestors were, about 500 years ago, banished by the Romans. Ten days later, the Caliph started out on his return-back journey to Medina.
The Two Mass Deaths
It is not improbable that the plague that stroke Syria and Palestine, just two years after the conquest of Jerusalem, represents one of the ‘two deaths will take their heavy toll of you’ ( Muslims), to which Mohammed had referred to be the third presage in the “count-down haddieth” mentioned in the forefront. It was the year 369 A.D. when the scourge attacked, relentlessly, the people of those regions.
Before the news of the affliction reached Medina, however, Omer had already started out on a journey to visit the recently-conquered districts in Syria, and it was intended that he would visit the districts which Muslims had conquered in Iraq. When the Caliph reached Tabuke, a spot in the northernmost western border of Arabia, he was received by Abu Obyda, then the governor of Syria, who informed him about the pestilence.
A clamor aroused among the two parties of Muslims who were present at the meeting – some suggested the Caliph should return back to Medina to escape the plague, while the other saw that he should pursue his mission. The discussion was not broken up but by the coming of Abd-Alrahman ibn Aof, one of Mohammed’s first ten proselyte, who told them that he had once heard the Prophet say: ‘if you informed that the plague broke out in a land, do not enter it if you were out, and do not get out of it if you were in.’ And, thus, Omer and those who were in his company from Medina returned in their way back, while Abu Obyda returned, together with his companions, to Syria, just to die there few days later.
The plague’s effect was increasing and Omer was distressed by the news that affirmed the death of Abu Obyda and many other great men of Mohammed’s companions. He wrote, immediately, to his new-assigned commander in chief of the Muslims’ army, Amr ibn Al-aasse, to choose for people clear and much healthier places to remove to. And accordingly, on the constructions of Amr, people began at once to abandon their houses in their towns and took refuge in the nearby mountain and highlands. The transaction proved to be of so ingenious and potent effect, for the intensity of the affliction lessened fast, and in few days the disease was almost totally abated.
This plague, known in Muslims history as the Plague of Emmaus, lasted for a month. Tradition says that this disaster had cost the life of around 25 thousand Muslims, both the civil and the military shared in that huge number.
The Fire of Hejaz Land
More than six hundred years were to come and go before a significant another presage appear on our way towards the end. It was expressed as follow: ‘The Hour will not occur until a fire emits from the Hejaz Land; as an effect of it, the necks of camels will be lightened in Bosra’ In this haddieth, the Hejaz land is the name given to the northern part of the mountainous region that runs along the western border of Arabia; Bosra, which must not be confused with the more famous city of Basra of Iraq, is a township located many hundreds miles northward in the Syrian desert, while ‘a fire’ is a reference to a volcanic eruption.
Arabia, geologically speaking, is impeded on what known as the Arabian Plate, one of the many other major plates that make up Earth’s crust. Geological maps show the boundaries of this plate “outlining”, almost typically, the geographical border of this peninsula, and show as well that there are many dormant volcanoes associated with the plate’s western boundary. The eruptions of these volcanoes are concerned with two presages of the world’s end, one of which is cited in the above haddieth.
The first eruption of one of those volcanoes, proved to be one of the Minor Presages, had taken place in the middle of the year 1256 A.D. near Medina. Being not familiar with volcanic activities, the event stirred such a tremendous sensation and terror among people of the city, who, nevertheless, did not neglect recording the event, in correspondences between men of knowledge of Medina and those of Damascus, giving a detailed description that came down to us in the annals of that year.
“A fire emitted from the Hejaz land, in Medina;” wrote Imam of Cordoba in his book titled The Reminder, “it had started with a great tremor on Wednesday 3rd of Jomada the Second (the sixth month of Muslims’ lunar dating), 654 of Hegira, and continued till the morning of the next Friday, then it had stilled. It had had a thunder-like sound… When the fire passed over a mount, it undermined and melted it. From the collected debris ran a red and blue stream… of which accumulated great rubble that grew up to become like a huge mount…”
This eruption, it is recorded, lasted for months, and it seems it was due to the huge amount of ashes ejected by the volcano into the atmosphere that the sky turned to appear reddish at sunset, and that the reflection of its light caused the necks of camels in Bosra to be lightened. Muslim historians’ annals of the same year record an unusual flood in Baghdad – which may indicate that the eruption had had a relatively wide affection on the climate of the region.
The Broad-faced Invaders
The prior presage quaked Medina and lightened Bosra, but the next one, occurred a few years later, in 1258 A.D., had shook, destroyed and darkened Baghdad, which was, and had been for five centuries, the capital of Abbasid Caliphate and one of many another great center of Islamic culture of that time.
The Prophet has referred to this incident in his well-known-among-Muslims haddieth: ‘The Hour will not occur until you fight red-faced, narrow-eyed, flat-nosed people; their faces look like flattened armors.’ The stages of this invasion, on the other hand, were given, in a general outlook, in another haddieth: ‘My nation (Muslims) will be driven three times by broad-faced people: on the first drive, only those who flee before them will be rescued; on the second drive, some will be rescued while others will be killed; in the third drive they (the invaders) will be abated.’
That was a reference to the Mongol and the Mongolian invasion, which shook Islamic Caliphate in Asia during the thirteenth century. In their way to expand and firm their large empire – the second largest empire known in history, only the British Empire is larger – Mongols’ armies swept first the Islamic provinces in Central Asia that formed what known as Khwarezmid Empire, which was spreading over the lands of present-day Uzbekistan. There, the barbarian Mongols rode their wild destructive way across the region: almost all the cities and towns were destructed, and their inhabitants were slaughtered, with exception to very fewer people who could keep themselves out of sight in underground tunnels. This represents the first drive.
The second drive, on the other hand, aimed Iraq, after the taking over of Iran and, afterwards, large parts of Syria as far south as Gaza. With a force estimated by 150 thousand strong, the Mongols, under the leadership of Hulagu Khan, laid siege to the city of Baghdad, the capital of Islamic Caliphate, in 1258. It was not long before they could sack and destroy and burn the city, leaving considerable part of it no more than smoldering embers. Muslims’ resources estimate the number of victims of the massacre performed by Mongol armies to be around two million inhabitants, but at best the number was not less than 100 thousand, among them was the last Abbasside Caliph.
The route to Egypt was opened up for the Mongols. Messengers were sent by Hulagu to the Egyptian rulers demanding voluntary submission, but the demand was refused and the Mongol messengers were slain. While preparing to invade Egypt, it happened to pass that news of the death of his brother in China, the then Great Khan of the Mongol Empire, reached Hulagu, who decided to withdrew with the vast majority of his army to Persia, leaving behind a small force no more than 20 thousand strong. It is this Mongol army which was totally wiped out, in 1260, by Syffoddine Qutoz, the Mamluk Sultan of Egypt, at the Battle of Ain Jalut. The aftermath of the battle was so great that it is considered by scholars to be a turning point in history, for it marks the beginning of the contraction of the Mongol Empire.
A famous Muslim scholar, named ibn Tymmeia, participated in the war against Mongols and delivers his statement concerning their description in the haddieth cited above: “…Whoever saw those Turkish people, whom Muslims had fought, who came from where Genghis Khan, their great king, and his sons and grandsons and other infidel Turkish had started out, will not be able to describe them better than the description given by the Prophet.”