Are end times prophecies in Ahadith Islamic? Don’t they contradict other Islamic teachings such as no one knowing the unseen and predicting the future being haram?
Yes, there are narrations stating that fortune telling and similar activities are haram. However, prophecies do not fall under these because of a number of reasons:
The source of fortune telling is not the same as prophecies. Prophecies come from the messengers of Allah through Allah Almighty, the Knower of the past, present, and the future, the One from whom nothing is hidden and the One who Knows and Sees all. Even though some fortune tellers may get their prediction correct at times, comparing them to prophecies is not correct because of the source of knowledge. The information they get is not from Allah and can be from a number of sources such as guesswork, shayateen, or reading the person psychologically among other sources.
Prophecies are from Allah Almighty Himself as He says in the Qur’an:
عَـلِمُ الْغَيْبِ فَلاَ يُظْهِرُ عَلَى غَيْبِهِ أَحَداً – إِلاَّ مَنِ ارْتَضَى مِن رَّسُولٍ فَإِنَّهُ يَسْلُكُ مِن بَيْنِ يَدَيْهِ وَمِنْ خَلْفِهِ رَصَداً
[He (Allah) is] Knower of the unseen, and He does not disclose His [knowledge of the] unseen to anyone. Except whom He has approved of messengers, and indeed, He sends before each messenger and behind him observers. [Qur’an 72: 26, 27]
Future is a matter from the unseen which only Allah knows and to whom He discloses. He may disclose to His messengers or He may allow a believer to know through dreams. What is seen through the dreams is for that person; if they announce something from their dream, it is not a matter of faith to practice upon their instructions. Ahadith, however, are unquestionably true and are binding upon the believers to follow.
These Ahadith do not contradict the Qur’an as well; in fact, the Qur’an speaks of the future as well and points towards these Ahadith. Moreover, the previous nations were also given prophecies and they believed in them wholeheartedly so much so that Bani Israel knew about the Prophet (ﷺ) and the Final Revelation as much as they know their own sons. In fact they had even migrated to the city a few centuries ago to where he (ﷺ) was to migrate to in his anticipation; they knew his whereabouts, details, and times of coming from before and the learned among them knew even more details such as the year and month of his arrival in Madina from Makkah. Foretelling the future has been done by Allah previously as well and He has provided us with such knowledge as well.
Don’t end times prophecies only make us lazier and weaker in the sense that since we already know what is going to happen, why not just accept the bad that is happening to us? Aren’t these Ahadith fabricated by enemies of Muslims so that we continue to accept the evil and terror inflicted upon us by them with the thought that in the end everything will turn out just fine and we will be victorious?
Yes it is true that some people become lazy about these matters and believe everything will be OK even if they don’t do anything but not everyone thinks this way. Most of those taking action against enemies of Muslims by writing, speaking, debating etc. do believe in end times prophecies and these haven’t made them lazy or accepting of hate; in fact, they become more motivated and eager to do more for Islam. A certain thing may motivate an individual while it may demotivate another; it is up to the individual to use it as a motivating factor.
End times prophecies are a blessing from Allah for the believers. These are heads-up for those who take heed. Ahadith of end times are not only negative events that one gets accustomed to and simply accepts them when faced with injustice; such Ahadith also speak of trials and tests, and good times as well.
Being lazy with such Ahadith and accepting the evil inflicted upon us is going against the teachings of the Prophet (ﷺ) as he said:
إِنْ قَامَتْ عَلَى أَحَدِكُمْ الْقِيَامَةُ وَفِي يَدِهِ فَسْلَةٌ فَلْيَغْرِسْهَا
Anas ibn Malik reported that the Messenger of Allah (ﷺ) said, “If the Resurrection were established upon one of you while he has in his hand a sapling, then let him plant it.” [Musnad Aḥmad 12491]
It is the instruction of the Prophet (ﷺ) to finish planting the trees even if the world ends at that moment. The lesson we learn is that even if we know about the signs of the Day of Judgement, we do not stop with our lives, we do not sell our belongings and make our moves based on our understanding of these Ahadith. We continue to perform our obligatory duties and as much voluntary duties as we can in all circumstances.
A prophecy of a suffering to come does not relieve us of our Islamic duties. If we know that Muslims will suffer hunger, starvation, and homelessness, we are not exempted from obligatory and voluntary charity, caring for orphans, widows, elderly, and the poor. If we perform our obligatory and voluntary duties and treat this Deen as our own, then we can go through the prophesied unfortunate events much more smoothly than otherwise.
Wouldn’t one want to be on the right side? Allah does not need us but we need Him. He will give victory to the Deen whether we take action or not. Wouldn’t those with Iman want to be among those that took action? Imagine going to Allah and being questioned about the actions we took while knowing the end times prophecies. Would one want to be from those who did nothing? If one chooses to be lazy about matters they are told in advance, then being asked about it would not be easy on the Day of Judgement.
An important thing to note is that not everyone knows these Ahadith; in fact more than 80% of Muslims would not even know what these Ahadith state and more than 99% would not even know what the prophecies outside the known six books of Hadith state. How many have even heard or read the following Hadith?
“ مَنَعَتِ الْعِرَاقُ دِرْهَمَهَا وَقَفِيزَهَا وَمَنَعَتِ الشَّأْمُ مُدْيَهَا وَدِينَارَهَا وَمَنَعَتْ مِصْرُ إِرْدَبَّهَا وَدِينَارَهَا وَعُدْتُمْ مِنْ حَيْثُ بَدَأْتُمْ وَعُدْتُمْ مِنْ حَيْثُ بَدَأْتُمْ وَعُدْتُمْ مِنْ حَيْثُ بَدَأْتُمْ ” . شَهِدَ عَلَى ذَلِكَ لَحْمُ أَبِي هُرَيْرَةَ وَدَمُهُ
Abu Huraira reported Allah’s Messenger (ﷺ) as saying: Iraq would withhold its dirhams and qafiz; Syria would withhold its mudd and dinar and Egypt would withhold its irdab and dinar and you would recoil to that position from where you started and you would recoil to that position from where you started and you would recoil to that position from where you started, the flesh and blood of Abu Huraira would bear testimony to it. [Sahih al-Muslim, Book 54, Hadith 43]
The above Hadith refers to Roman occupations of these lands. This is just an example of a very famous Hadith out of several and the point here is that most of the Muslims do not even know what their own books contain. I only used a very famous narration; there are several more that are even less known – not sharing here as examples as I do not want to divert from the real topic. If the end times prophecies were fabricated by enemies of Muslims, then they would have made sure to make them famous and known to each and every Muslim. If their intention was to invade a Muslim country and not face any resistance from the population there or elsewhere, they would have made sure to propagate the narration of that country’s invasion a lot so that the people become lazy and simply accept that it is prophesied and hence bound to happen and therefore, not worth fighting for. The fact that it is not done indicates that these narrations are not fabricated by enemies of Muslims.
Yes, there may be some fabricated narrations and even some created within our lifetime but that is what they are. Fabrications! Over a millennia of scholarship has not been playing scrabble all this time and the work they have done is sufficient for us to adhere to in order to follow authentic Islamic teachings.
It is important to distinguish between Ahadith on one hand and tales, interpretations, and dreams of pious on the other. The former cannot be wrong while the latter can be. At times, the former and the latter mix in our minds and what we consider as an end times prophecy is not really so.
Continuing from above… There is a tendency to simply call every unfortunate event as a prophesied event. Since Ahadith mention some unfortunate events to occur, Muslims, many times, simply call any unfortunate event as a sign of end times. The sad state of the Muslim world is pretty much discussed in every gathering of Muslims and such statements of calling the recent events, deaths, wars etc. are labelled as ‘signs of end times’ there. Most would not question and simply agree and false views spread.
Signs of end times can be divided into two parts; major and minor. Minor signs are those that are general such as increase in killings, immorality and so on and if one were to ask someone a few centuries ago, they would also state that they are witnessing these signs. Major signs are major occurrences which none can miss out on and none of those signs has taken place yet (till the time of this writing) and hence to label any unfortunate event as a sign of the hour is not the wisest thing to do.
Indeed, Allah knows the best.
References and footnotes:
The article in the link is a very good piece and a must read; however, if one chooses to ignore due to its length, this Hadith will support the concept of true dreams:
الرُّؤْيَا الصَّالِحَةُ مِنَ اللَّهِ، وَالْحُلْمُ مِنَ الشَّيْطَانِ، فَإِذَا حَلَمَ فَلْيَتَعَوَّذْ مِنْهُ وَلْيَبْصُقْ عَنْ شِمَالِهِ، فَإِنَّهَا لاَ تَضُرُّهُ
Narrated Abu Qatada: The Prophet (ﷺ) said, “A good dream that comes true is from Allah, and a bad dream is from Satan, so if anyone of you sees a bad dream, he should seek refuge with Allah from Satan and should spit on the left, for the bad dream will not harm him.” [Sahih al-Bukhari, Book 91, Hadith 5]
الَّذِينَ ءَاتَيْنَـهُمُ الْكِتَـبَ يَعْرِفُونَهُ كَمَا يَعْرِفُونَ أَبْنَآءَهُمُ الَّذِينَ خَسِرُواْ أَنفُسَهُمْ فَهُمْ لاَ يُؤْمِنُونَ
Those to whom We have given the Scripture recognize it as they recognize their [own] sons. Those who will lose themselves [in the Hereafter] do not believe. [Qur’an 6:20]
 These are not researched or surveyed figures and are my own vague estimates. Also, in my view, majority of the Muslims won’t even know the names of the famous six books; perhaps two at best.