Living Islam - Islamic Tradition


2021-02-17/ 2008




Age Of The World - Pressure Of The Grave

[Concerning] Timothy Winter's translation of Imam Ghazali's "Remembrance of Death", [there are three points which would need clarification:]

1.) In Chapter 2, pg. 33, it is mentioned in a footnote that Imam Ghazali states, as do the other ulema, that the total age of the world is roughly 7000 years. [Is] the world [not much older] than that? ...

Assuming the sourcing is correct the statement would stem from the unwitting acquiescence of _some_ ulema (not "the") to the report "The age of the world is seven thousand years" which is actually a forgery as stated by our teacher Dr. Nur al-Din `Itr in his encyclopedia of hadith terminology entitled Manhaj al-Naqd fi `Ulum al-Hadith (p. 316). Equally forged is "The total age of the world from the time it was created to its last is seven thousand years" narrated by al-Hakim al-Tirmidhi in Nawadir al-Usul (Asl 102) through al-Mu`alla ibn Hilal who was accused of forgery. When Ibn `Uyayna was told that this Mu`alla had narrated from Ibn Abi Najih, from Mujahid, from `Abd Allah [presumably Ibn Mas`ud]: "The face-veil [for men] is among the high manners of Prophets," Ibn `Uyayna said: "If al-Mu`alla really narrates this from Ibn Abi Najih, he is asking for decapitation!"

There are many such false "End of Times" fabrications of which chiliasts in particular are fond. Imam al-Nawawi said in the commentary attributed to him on his Forty Hadiths (para:2): "As for him who claims that the age of the world is 70,000 years and that 63,000 years remain, it is a false statement reported by al-Tawkhi in Asbab al-Nuzul from certain astrologers and mathematicians. Moreover, whosoever claims that the term of the world is 7,000 years, this is a brazen affirmation concerning the Unknown and it is not permitted to believe it."

Such figures originate in Israelite exegesis. Al-Tabari in his Tafsir relates from Ibn `Abbas and Mujahid with very weak chains: "At the time the Prophet, upon him blessings and peace, arrived in Madina, the Jews used to say that the term of this world was only 7,000 years" (Turki ed. 2:175-176=Shakir ed. 2:277-278=Fikr ed. 1:382-383), also narrated by Ibn Abi Hatim in his Tafsir, al-Wahidi in Asbab al-Nuzul, al-Tabarani in al-Kabir, al-Hakim and others. The continuation of the report states they believed a person would be punished in the hereafter one next-worldly day in requital for each thousand this-worldly days, as one next-worldly day equals one thousand this-worldly days, and so "for the duration of the hereafter which is seven days, after which all punishment shall cease." So the gist of the report is not so much the assessment of the age of this world as it is the Israelite creed in the finality of Hellfire, hence the verse in Surat al-Baqara 2:79: {And the Fire shall not touch us except for a few days}.

Also, there seems to be confusion between the figure of 7,000 years as the age of the world on the one hand and as that of the appearance of our liegelord Adam (upon him peace) on earth. The Tafsirs and reports mention that the earth was populated and built up by the jinns long before mankind colonized it, and Allah Most High knows best.

2.) In Chapter 7, pg. 146, there is the hadith narrated from Hudhayfa that in 'here' (meaning the grave) the believer shall be straightened, and a frightening picture is produced of this punishment.[Was not] only the hypocrite/unbeliever subjected to and threatened by this type of torment?

The hadith from our mother `A'isha (Allah be well-pleased with her) is clear: "Truly the grave has a straightening of which, if anyone were to escape it, it would have been Sa`d ibn Mu`adh."(*) And in Ibn `Umar's narration (Allah be well-pleased with him and his father), the Prophet, upon him blessings and peace, as he said the above, joined three fingers as if shaking his hand, then said: "He was straightened then he was left in peace."(**)

(*) Narrated by Ahmad and al-Tahawi with sound chains.
(**) Narrated by al-Tahawi and Abu Nu`aym with sound chains.

Source: al-Arna'ut's notes on al-Tahawi's Sharh Mushkil al-Aathaar (1:248-250). Both are also narrated by al-Bayhaqi in Ithbat `Adhab al-Qabr.

3.) It is also mentioned on the same page, in a hadith about the Prophet's daughter Zaynab that God had relieved her of her punishment of the grave, namely its straightening. I find this odd, for how could the Prophet's (Peace and Blessing be upon him!) noble daughter be subjected to any punishment whatsoever? Or was the Prophet simply worried about the torment of the grave, by its very nature of being terrible, having not received any confirmation about his daugher's destiny?

Another hadith states that even minors undergo the pressure of the grave. Ibn Hibban in his Sahih has a chapter entitled: Exposition that none in this Umma will evade the pressure of the grave.

However, there are weak narrations suggesting qualitative difference depending on the status of the person. A narration from Hudhayfa says that the pressure of the believer is like the embrace of a tender mother for a child complaining of a headache. Other narrations mention that some are exempt, such as the shuhada'.

And Allah knows best. May Allah Most High fulfill our fervent hopes for His protection from the punishment of the grave.

GF Haddad