As part of the lead-up to Centre for Inquiry Ottawa’s Eschaton 2012 conference, Celebrating Reason at the End of the World, I wrote a feature called Apocalypse When, a brief lampooning of some of the many eschatological visions and scenarios that have gained or maintained popularity over the centuries. Eschaton2012.ca is defunct now, so I’m reprising my creation here.
This week’s apocalypse is the one envisioned in the Qur’an and various hadiths and thus central to most interpretations of Islam. Unfortunately, the details of this scenario are dispersed across numerous suras and hadiths, but a few themes and tidbits stand out.
Dozens of “minor signs” presage the coming of the Hour (of Doom). It is always presented this way—“the Hour is upon us! Oh, by the way, DOOM!” Every conceivable deviation from Islamic orthodoxy within the ostensibly devout is held as a sign of the coming doom: dishonesty, murder, money-lending, alcohol, sex, suicidal ideation, loss of devoutness, apostasy, taking apostates seriously, building tall buildings, lots of Christians being around, drunkenness, and dozens more. There are no ordinary crimes or harmless pleasures in this view. Everything but prayer and ritual is a decadent tick on the Doomsday Clock, creeping toward the Hour of Doom. Once enough people have experienced either happiness or being rank bastards to one another, a great trumpet will sound, a world-shaking earthquake will strike, women will suffer miscarriages and forget to nurse their babies, and men will stumble about drunkenly even if their boozing wasn’t part of the lead-in to the Hour of Doom (Qur’an 22:1-2).
So far, Allah’s endgame doesn’t sound much worse than a particularly memorable St. Patrick’s Day, possibly located in a trailer park and featuring shots of RU486. Not being one to disappoint, Allah doesn’t stop there.
The entities Gog and Magog will be released from the prison where Muhammad trapped them and “rush headlong down every hill” (Qur’an 21:96).
Did anyone else read Balrog the first time? Because I did. Also, it turns out Gog and Magog (Ya’juuj and Ma’juuj in Arabic) are species or tribes rather than individuals, so there are hordes of them wreaking carnage on the countryside while people drink themselves catatonic and turn their children loose. Do the toddlers band together in the chaos into Lord of the Flies collectives? That’s one way to manage an invasion of supernatural hellbeasts, I suppose.
A “beast of the earth” will be brought forth to verbally berate speak to the world’s collected non-Muslims and (depending on the sect) a varying fraction of Muslims. Then, the invocation “taste the doom of fire” appears approximately 200 times amidst a number of explicitly described fiery torments involving liquid fire and iron hooks (Qur’an 27:80-90). True believers will have the opportunity to watch (Qur’an 22:7 and elsewhere).
So it’s a particularly memorable St. Patrick’s Day…in Mordor’s trailer park…with talking animals. I can only imagine the horror that goes into the brewing of Mordorian whisky, that it comes with an exceptionally worldly lion or wildebeest telling you that your entire life has been a waste. Of course, with a tag line like “Taste the doom of fire,” I’d probably have a few shots too. That beats “Buy one, get an evening of sadness half off” any day of the week.
Throughout, a demonically-inspired deceiver known as the Daijjal leads throngs of formerly devout believers away from Islam, even as the results of that departure are increasingly apparent, and people copulate in the streets “like donkeys” (in the spaces between gaggles of misplaced toddlers, uterine discharge, and demonic tribesfolk, I guess). At the same time, a messiah figure emerges and eventually impales the Daijjal on a spear, because it wouldn’t be an eschaton without unconcealed homoerotic undertones. Maybe that’s what all the orgiastic drinking was for.
As the rest of the story unfolds, a pleasant breeze will cause all devout Muslims to drop dead and be transposed to heaven, but later the dead will be resurrected to “face judgement,” presumably as ghosts hiding in a mountain waiting for Viggo Mortensen to inspire them. Someone will have to, as by then they’ll have watched all of the Islamic holy sites get destroyed by rampaging demons, murderous children, atheists being atheists, and wanton donkey sex, which is probably a bit of a downer.
To complete the “Lord of the Rings on PCP” feel of the entire story, it doesn’t so much end as splutter along in dribs and drabs for a few hundred pages amidst a lot of unrelated material. Also, “Taste the doom of fire!” I cannot stress that enough.