Why are hadiths about the time during the end of the world not understood clearly?
Some of the hadiths about the time during the end of the world are ambiguous. That is, they contain some metaphorical expressions stated by some similes and symbols whose meanings are not clear. They contain deep and extended meanings. Therefore they arent interpreted like muhkamat (verses and hadiths that express definite orders of the religion) and their meanings are not known by everybody. Only the people who have deep knowledge in ilm (science) can interpret them. Their interpretations are understood after they take place.
Some of the happenings about ghaib (unknown, unseen) were informed to the Prophet (PBUH) in detail and some in short; and our Prophet (PBUH) described them in the best way in accordance with his understanding.
On the other hand, the Prophet (PBUH) stated some realities using similes and symbols as in the example of The world is on the ox and fish (*), and they were regarded as realities by ordinary people.
Although some hadiths interest only Muslims and some are limited to the center of the Caliphate, some scholars evaluated them as universal. An example for this is the following hadith that shows the dervish lodges will be closed down and the word Allah will be removed from athan (call to prayer) and iqamah, There will be a time when nobody will say Allah Allah (1).
Because of this and similar issues only deep scholars can cope with these questions.
There are muhkam (clear) and ambiguous verses in the Quran as there are clear and ambiguous hadiths. The clear ones are obvious, they are easily understood; interpretation is necessary to understand the ambiguous ones.
We know that Allah informed the Prophet (PBUH) about some happenings relating to ghaib in detail; and the Prophet (PBUH) reported them directly without any interpretation; for instance the clear verses and hadiths.
Allah informed the Prophet (PBUH) about some happenings in short, and left him to explain the details and describe; for instance the happenings in the universe that are not related to belief and happenings about the future. Our prophet (PBUH) explained and described them with rhetoric, symbols and in a way that is appropriate to the secrets of trial. (2)
We should state that similes, symbols and descriptions are used frequently in Arabic literature and that the Messenger of Allah addressed them in a way that they could understand taking into consideration the following advice Talk to people in accordance with their level of minds (3) and sometimes used some similes and symbols.
Yes, the Messenger of Allah sometimes used similes and symbols. For instance, one day while he was talking to his friends, they heard a noise; he said, The noise you have heard is the noise of a stone that has been rolling down towards the bottom of the hell for seventy years; it has reached the bottom. A few minutes after these words, somebody came and said, Oh, the Messenger of Allah! A munafiq (hypocritical person) died at the age of seventy, and went to hell. (4) and showed the meaning of his words.(5)
(*) For the answer http://www.questiononislam.com/index.php?s=article&aid=2705
(1) Tirmizi, Fitan: 35; Hakim, Mustadrak, 4:494, Ibn Hibban, Sahih: 8:299.
(2) Şuâlar (The Rays), p. 498.
(3) Gazali, Ihya Ulumiddin (Cairo: Muassasatul-Halabi and Shurakah nşr.: 1967), 1:82.
(4) Muslim, Jannah: 31 (H. 2844); Musnad, 2:271; 3:341, 346, 360.
(5) Şuâlar (The Rays), p. 498, 499.
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