What does interregnum (the time between prophets) mean, what will happen to those who are not aware of the religion?2506
When interregnum is mentioned, we understand the period between the distortion of the religion brought by Hazrat Eesa (Christ) (pbuh) and the first revelation received by the Messenger of Allah (PBUH). But this term can be used for any period or person who is not aware of the religion brought by any prophet. There are some slight differences between the sects of creed about the limits of the responsibilities of those people. The imams of Maturidi and Ashari made different explanations about the word messenger in the verse We would not visit with Our Wrath until We had sent a messenger (to give warning).
According to the sect of Maturidi what is meant by messenger is the mind. The mind is the ability to distinguish right from wrong. Therefore, every person who has a mind can understand that he was created and is responsible of knowing that there is a being that created him. However, since rules abut worships can not be known by the mind only, people of interregnum will not be responsible for worships. That is, interregnum is valid for deeds not for faith and belief.
The sect of Ashari interpreted messenger directly as prophet and argued that a nation without a prophet would not be responsible.
The full translation of the verse is as follows: Whoever goes aright, for his own soul does he go aright; and whoever goes astray, to its detriment only does he go astray: nor can the bearer of a burden bear the burden of another, nor do We chastise until We raise an apostle.(al-Isra, 15)
Some scholars said that the word chastisement in the verse was worldly chastisement and disasters but most scholars said that it was the chastisement of hell and that the verse warned about the chastisement of both the world and the hereafter depending on the hadith The world is the field of the hereafter.
The following verse sheds light on the issue: And those who disbelieve shall be driven to hell in companies; until, when they come to it, its doors shall be opened, and the keepers of it shall say to them: Did not there come to you apostles from among you reciting to you the communications of your Lord and warning you of the meeting of this day of yours? They shall say: Yea! But the sentence of punishment was due against the unbelievers. (Chapter az-Zumar , 71)
The following question can arise: Why were the imams of creed (belief) so much interested in the period of interregnum? Similar causes bring about similar effects. Interregnum is a symbol. It is used for a certain period, but there is no doubt that the decrees of interregnum will be valid when similar conditions occur.
In the chapter al-Kafiroon the following is stated: To you be your religion, and to me mine. Although some people said that that decree was abrogated by the verse of jihad, others agreed that that verse would be valid when certain conditions occurred.
Can we not think as follows? Today, if the Muslims in the United States and Europe acted in accordance with the verse of jihad, would not they be erased from the Earth at once? However, is the aim not being erased but increasing? Then what are they supposed to do? They will act in accordance with the chapter al-Kafiroon and try to live their religion and spread it as much as possible without interfering with the others religions. That is, the decree in the chapter al-Kafiroon is still valid for many countries, that is, it was not abrogated.
As we see in that example, if there are people who live in the darkness of interregnum, the rules that will be applied to them should be the rules of interregnum. We see that some people who ignore this reality oppose some statements of Badiuzzaman Said Nursi about the interregnum and they do it in a rude way.
What matters is not persons but opinions. So, we think it is better to analyze the issue without mentioning any names.
Said Nursi says in his letter, which was appreciated by the scholars of that time but is opposed by some groups today:
In the future, since there will be a veil of heedlessness in religion and in the religion of the Prophet Muhammad at the level of interregnum and the real religion of Christ (pbuh) will reign and will be shoulder to shoulder with Islam, it can be assumed that the disasters of the oppressed Christians who are faithful to Christ (pbuh) suffer are kind of a martyrdom for them. Kastamonu Lâhikası (Kastamonu Addendum).
When the last sentence that is subject to objection is analyzed thoroughly without prejudice, it will be clearly seen that there is nothing to criticize. The sentence is about the Christians who were in the darkness of the interregnum and therefore who were not aware of Islam. The oppressed Christians were kept apart. That keeping apart is for the decree of a kind of martyrdom. Accordingly that sentence should be understood as follows: The people who were exposed to torment and suffered severe misfortunes are in the state of a kind of martyrdom.
Badiuzzaman says the following in an answer to a question: But in accordance with the verse, Nor would We visit with Our wrath until We had sent a prophet [to give warning>, the people who live in interregnum are among those saved. It has been stated unanimously that they are not punished for their mistakes in secondary matters. According to Imam Shafi'i and Imam Ash'ari, even if they are deniers and do not believe in the fundamentals of faith, they still are among those saved. It is because responsibility before God occurs through the sending of prophets, and when prophets are sent, responsibility is established through knowledge of their mission. Since heedlessness and the passage of time obscured the religions of the former prophets, they could not provide the proof for the people of that time. If they obey the former religion, they receive reward; if they do not, they are not punished because since it was hidden, it cannot be a proof. Mektubat (Letters)
It is necessary to pay attention to the word unanimously. According to both sects people of interregnum are not responsible for decrees of deeds, that is, orders and prohibitions. It is unanimous. However, there is disagreement about the belief between the two sects.
We want to mention a very interesting verse about the issue:
Nor was thy Lord the one to destroy a town until He had sent to its center a messengers, rehearsing to them Our Signs; nor are We going to destroy a population except when its members practice iniquity. ( Chapter al-Qasas, 59)
The phrase its center in the verse is very important. The decree differs when the Prophet does not come in a central place but in a remote place and cannot convey divine messages in a way that everybody can hear.
What brings us to this point is the following explanation of Imam Gazali:
Those who do not know that prophets were sent are people of salvation. Those who know it but deny it are people of hell. And we hope that those who hear it but do not search it and mishear it will be people of salvation.
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