Eschatology is a large subject. It possesses both an individual and a cosmic element in which the fate of the individual is inextricably bound up with the purpose and destiny of the entire creation within a religious vision. Sacred time finds its culmination, fulfilment and, ironically, its negation or deconstruction in the drama of the Last Things. Theologians typically held that it is among the three most fundamental Islamic doctrines - the unity and uniqueness of God (tawhid), prophecy (nubuwwa) and the ultimate "return" (ma'ad). Typically in late kalam manuals eschatological teachings are subsumed under the category of sam'iyyat, "matters heard'', or "receivedin faith", since unlike the other two great categories of theological concern, metaphysics and prophecy, they are considered to lie outside the reach of rational proof. The theologian's task here is simply to defend scriptural predictions from denial or misinterpretation rooted either in false scriptural exegesis or in an inappropriate extension of ratiocination into this uniquely revelatory area.
Islam gives a particularly important place to eschatology, partly because of its own self-understanding as the final revelation, but also because of the qur'anic stress on the intelligibility of history as well as on individual human accountability. Contemporary scholars of apocalyptic note its connection to theodicy, the concept that the things of this world will be brought to completion in a just way in which the good and true will be vindicated. But in addition, the end of things may be considered the binary or corollary of the beginning of things. Our discussion will begin with four important dimensions of the fact of creation which set the context for the specifically eschatological motifs within Islamic theology.
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