Prophecies in the Hadith

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This article looks at different categories of Muhammamd's prophecies with examples. Some of the prophecies are considered "signs of the Hour", which are events that are supposed to indicate that the Day of Judgement is coming.

Predictions of what already happened before the hadiths were written

The hadith collections were written, often by Persian authors, many years after the death of Muhammad. So when the hadiths contain a prophecy about early Islamic history, it might be attributed to Muhamamd after the fact. This category also includes things that always happened, even before Islam (earthquakes, wars...).

It's questionable whether "prophecies" in this category could be considered prophecies when they don't say anything new.

"The caliphate will last 30 years"

Sa'eed bin Jumhan narrated: "Safinah narrated to me, he said: 'The Messenger of Allah(s.a.w) said: "Al-Khilafah will be in my Ummah for thirty years, then there will be monarchy after that."' Then Safinah said to me: 'Count the Khilafah of Abu Bakr,' then he said: 'Count the Khilafah of 'Umar and the Khilafah of 'Uthman.' Then he said to me: 'Count the Khilafah of 'Ali."' He said: "So we found that they add up to thirty years." Sa'eed said: "I said to him: 'Banu Umaiyyah claim that the Khilafah is among them.' He said: 'Banu Az-Zarqa' lie, rather they are a monarchy, among the worst of monarchies."'

  • The first caliphate lasted from 632-661, which is 29 years, not 30
  • Tirmidhi, author of this hadith collection, was born in 824, more than 100 years after the end of the caliphate
  • The hadith in it's text is in the context of discussion about previous caliphates
  • The political system after the first caliphate, was still called a caliphate. There was some form of caliphate until the 20th century

"Earthquakes will increase"

It's a part of a big hadith as one of the signs of the end of the world:

.. and earthquakes will increase in number..

There were always earthquakes, increasing and decreasing. There is a report that earthquake happened also during the life of Muhammad:

He [the Prophet (ﷺ)] prayed during an earthquake six bowings and four prostrations, and said, "This is the way the Prayer of the Signs (of Allah) is offered.

Earthquakes were also already predicted in the Bible:

When you hear of wars and uprisings, do not be frightened. These things must happen first, but the end will not come right away.”

Then he said to them: “Nation will rise against nation, and kingdom against kingdom. There will be great earthquakes, famines and pestilences in various places, and fearful events and great signs from heaven.

Luke 21:9-11

Predictions of the future after the hadiths

In this category are hadiths that don't talk about what already happened before the prophecies were written.

Predictions of opposites from the usual

This is a special category, because it doesn't seem to be a prediction, but rather a statement that the opposite of what was considered granted at that time will happen. For example mountains were considered solid (not moving), so a prophecy says that mountains will be moving. These predictions could be made mechanically just by saying the opposite of what currently happens. So even if they somehow came true, there would still be an alternative explanation for how the prophecy was made.

"Mountains will move"

This hadith is da'eef (thanks to Ufayr bin Ma'daan in the chain), but some Islamic apologists still like to use it and present it as if it was sahih:

The Hour will not begin until the mountains are moved from their places and you see great calamities which you have never seen before.

Mu'jam at-Tabaraani vol 7, n. 6857

Mountains were considered as not moving, so a prophecy could be make simply by saying that the opposite of what usually happens will happen.

Predictions that didn't come true

In this category are predictions that didn't come true. Some of them (like coming of the Dajjal) are not falsifiable, since they could still happen in the future. While others couldn't happen even in the future.

"Rising of the Sun from its setting place"

We were sitting in the shade of the chamber of the Messenger of Allah (ﷺ) discussing (something) and when we mentioned the last hour, our voices rose high. The Messenger of Allah (ﷺ) said: The last hour will not come or happen until there appear ten signs before it : the rising of the sun in its place of setting, the coming forth of the beast, the coming forth of Gog and Magog, the Dajjal (Antichrist), (the descent of) Jesus son of Mary, the smoke, and three collapses of the earth: one in the west, one in the east, and one in the Arabian Peninsula. The last of that will be the emergence of a fire from Yemen, from the lowest part of Aden, and drive mankind to their place of assembly.

This prophecy is definitely wrong, because it assumes that the Sun moves around the Earth (which was a common misconception among 7th century primitive people).

Predictions that didn't fully come true

In this category are predictions that came true only partially.

"Building tall buildings"

..and when you see barefoot, naked, destitute shepherds competing in constructing tall buildings

  • There are currently people who compete in constructing tall buildings, but we don't see barefoot, naked destitute shepherds building them.
  • The Bible contained a story of the Tower of Babel, Egyptians built pyramids long before Islam.. So the desire to build tall buildings was nothing new. So this also falls into the category "Predictions of what already happened before the hadiths were written".
  • The hadith doesn't say skyscrapers, it only says "tall" and "tall" is relative. There might have been people in the 7th century building buildings that could be considered tall in that time.

Underwhelming predictions that came true

In this category are predictions that came true, but weren't hard to predict.

"You shall conquer Constantinople"

This hadith is considered da'eef by Albani, but sahih by Dhahabi:

لتفتحن القسطنطينية، فلنعم الأمير أميرها، ولنعم الجيش ذلك الجيش

Verily you shall conquer Constantinople. What a wonderful leader will her leader be, and what a wonderful army will that army be!

Musnad Ahmad 14:331

Muhammad himself was waging wars, so it was expected that Muslims after his death would continue conquering. Muhammad conquered Arabia and Constantinople wasn't that far away. This wasn't a hard prediction. Also it's not time-specific. So even if it didn't happen, Muslims could still think it would happen in the future. And there are Muslims today who believe that this prediction doesn't refer to the conquest in 15th century, but to a conquest that will happen when the mahdi comes.

Overwhelming predictions that came true

In this category are supposed to be detailed, accurate and verifiable predictions of the future that would be hard to predict in the time they were written. This category is empty.

See also