Whenever the world is in turmoil, and I don't recall a time when it wasn't, people turn to what they know and grew up with. Verses from the Quran offer a good example.
The end of the world notwithstanding, live life every day
'Do they then only wait for the hour that it should come on them suddenly? But already have come some signs thereof, and when it (actually) is on them, how can they benefit then by their admonition?" (47:18).
Whenever the world is in turmoil, and I don't recall a time when it wasn't, people turn to what they know and grew up with. Verses from the Quran like this one offer a good example.
There seems to be a renewed interest in the "signs" leading up to the end of the world - Youm al Qiyama, the Day of Resurrection or judgment day - as foretold in Islam and most other religions, not to mention by mystics.
This week alone, there were several "end of the world" stories making headlines.
In Saudi Arabia at the Grand Mosque of Mecca, a man snatched the microphone from the Imam as he was leading the Asr prayer and declared himself the "Mahdi" to tens of thousands of worshippers. The Mahdi is the prophesied redeemer of Islam who will lead the Muslims, and whose coming is one of the signs on the nearing of the Day of Resurrection. (The man was quickly arrested and later declared mentally unstable.)
Then in Dubai this week, billboards advertising that May 21, 2011 will be the "judgment day" according to the Bible, paid for by a fundamentalist Christian group, started appearing. They were ordered to be pulled down, but continue to make for some active conversation on the internet, with more than a few Christians questioning the date.
Why the sudden influx of prophecies? People seem to have always searched for that exact date when the expiry of Earth may be upon us, documenting omens and signs from the beginning of time.
Nostradamus from the 1500s, and calculations by the ancient Mayan civilisations are said to have predicted 2012 as the end date. But having actually sat and read over some of Nostradamus's predictions, they are far too vague to be read definitively and could mean a lot of things.
Psychics have also tried their hand at predicting the future. The Lebanese clairvoyant Michel Hayek, for instance, predicted this past New Years' Eve that 2011 will "look like" the end of the world is coming, but it won't actually end. Some of his other predictions, like protests and changes in the Middle East, have come true already.
Email forwards with lists of signs that Youm al Qiyama is upon us are also making their rounds again, with some heated discussions taking place on the virtual walls of Facebook and BlackBerry messenger about how many have come true, and how many are authentic.
Such conversations used to be our favourite topic back in the Islamic schools in Saudi Arabia. I recall how the whole classroom would pay attention to the Saudi teacher as she mentioned the signs (from earthquakes to the sun rising in the west, as well as the appearance of Yajuj and Majuj - Gog and Magog - who will bring havoc) and asked our opinions on what we feel may have happened already or is happening.
Being a tree hugger myself, I tend to put a lot of faith in Mother Nature in general. But regardless of belief, there is nothing wrong with stepping back for a moment and reflecting.
As my teacher in Saudi Arabia put it: the most important thing to remember is that no matter what happens, you need to be a good person, a good Muslim, and live each day as if it is your last.