A well-known hadīth regarding mankind in ākhir az-zamān classifies ninety-nine out of every hundred as belonging to Gog and Magog, therefore destined to the hellfire, not all of them being eternally doomed therein, because even Muslims and their ‘ulamā will be present amongst them.
However, on the contrary, there is a verse in Surah al-Wāqi’ah which clearly states that amongst the people of ākhir az-zamān – the ākhireen – there will be present many of the ashāb al-yamīn, or the Companions of the Right on the Day of Judgement destined for Paradise: Thullatun minal awwaleena wa thullatun minal ākhireen.
There may be some who would like to dismiss this hadith as fabricated, as they are so wont to do to every hadith they do not understand since such would allow them to simply escape the scholarly trouble of having to explain both the verse of the Qur’ān and the hadīth. This they would be quick to do because according to them this hadith does not agree with the Qur’ān. One percent of mankind destined for Paradise certainly does not qualify to be called thullah. They say that the Qur’ān sits in judgement over the hadith, and therefore here, in this case, since the hadith is in conflict with the verse of the Qur’ān, one ought to reject it, fabricated or otherwise, and hold on to the verse of the Qur’ān instead. This is wrong methodology. Though the Qur’ān does indeed sit in judgement over the hadith, it is not the only rule in attempting to look at the modern world using revelation, and hadith is not but wahy as well.
At times the hadith explains the Qur’ān, but here it is the Qur’ān that explains the hadith. It requires just a simple mathematical calculation to understand the matter.
If there is only one out of every hundred who will enter Jannah on the Last Day, then there will be ten out of every thousand, a hundred out of every ten thousand and so forth until there will be ten million to every billion people who will enter Jannah. One percent of the world population which, as of 2016, was estimated at 7,442,000,000 would be 74,420,000 people altogether. This number is far greater than the population of many single nation-states in the world today. But this is only for one generation of people, which is usually averaged at 40 years. Every 40 years adds another 74,420,000 people to the list of mankind destined for Paradise. But Allah, Most High, does not mathematically decide who enters Jannah and who Jahannam. He judges and He is the Wisest and Just. He is also the Generous. From a purely mathematical perspective, looking at the number that one percent of mankind in one generation makes up to, it can certainly be called thullah. However, Allah Most Wise, is greater than mathematics. Though He has said by means of wahy that He will throw ninety-nine out of every hundred into the hellfire, He has also promised that there will be thullatun minal ākhireen.
Consequently, it would be absurd for someone to say, “There is harām and fasād all around me because we are living in ākhir az-zamān; it is very evident how much of the Deen is lost today and forgotten and I cannot find ten men who reflect by their thoughts and actions the people of the Right; let alone ten, I find none.” This is an example of a defeatist. We are not speaking here of as-Sābiqūn, and al-Muqarrabūn. They, the same Surah al-Wāqi’ah has described as qaleelun minal ākhireen. They are rare and difficult to spot, almost like Yahya alayhissalām, crying from the wilderness as it were, calling people to Allah against all odds. Symbolically speaking, the followers of the Sufi path today can wear wool but these men will wear camel raiment. They are coarser and tougher, almost invincible and will be one perhaps in a hundred million. If we ever chance upon them, we will have to hold on to the helm of their cloaks, if not by means of physical company, then by means of trust in their ability to guide and lead.
But they, the qaleel, are not our subject here. We are speaking of the thullah, the many in ākhir az-zamān, who may be spotted here and there without great difficulty. This is a sign and the indication from this sign is that the student of knowledge observant of the times must be able to recognise them and form into a little group, like a little strong wall, the bricks of which buttress one another. This little group need not be made of the Muqarrabeen. Such a wall of the Muqarrabeen would of course be a colossal iron wall reinforced with molten brass. As the poet said,
Ask Hunayn and ask Badr and ask Uhud
How multitude were the torments they suffered
and how death descended upon them
Yes they were men, but yes they were mountains too
Like Time in their daring
They were the tallest leaders!
But this little wall, utterly essential in ākhir az-zamān, emulating the colossal iron wall, need not even be made of the ashāb al-yamīn entirely, but must be of such people for the most part so that perhaps those under the spell of Gog and Magog, because they are part of this little wall, may gradually be freed of the spell and grow little by little in smell as fragrant of Jannah as are the ashāb al-yamīn. This reminds of the Prophet sallallahu alayhi wa sallam who said of keeping good company is like going into a perfumery, and when we exit, we will inevitably smell good. The smell rubs off.
It is imperative that the Muslim man and woman conscious of the challenges of the times cannot afford to be a defeatist. It is the defeatist who always complains. He (and she) must always be on the lookout for the ashāb al-yamīn. They are many. This is a Divine promise. They are usually scattered or perhaps sometimes clustered and their fragrance can be smelt from a distance. If there is no little jamaa’ah or taa-ifah in ākhir az-zamān like a wall with buttressing bricks then life in the modern world will become selfish. Only I am correct; I have the Haqq; I am on the right path; Only I have the correct understanding and reading of the modern world; all these people around me are sinking in harām (while only I am trying not to while they are not even trying) and fasād and therefore descending into hell; I must go away from them because I cannot guide them; I will guide my family; What is important is me and my family; I, I, I. This is not only a defeatist, this is also arrogance. Because he attaches no value to anything but himself, his thoughts and his actions, he is not only arrogant and a defeatist, but is slowly decaying into a nihilist too. He will gradually become a danger to society because of his arrogance and his misreading of the times and the necessary action, here and now.
If a man (or a woman) is unable to smell the fragrance of Jannah anywhere around them, in other words, if no ashāb al-yamīn is visible within a year at the most, then there is something certainly wrong within the man (or within the woman). Why can he not identify them while Allah has promised them to be many amongst the later peoples of ākhir az-zamān? This problem will eventually lead to isolation from society with the arrogance that echoes the self, and just the self: I am right and my family must be with me because I am right and the whole world is wrong.
No wonder Imam al-Qushayri, as early as the 5th Century Hijri, wrote:
“It is the duty of the slave that when he chooses ‘Uzlah, he should believe that he is turning away from people so that the people will be safe from his own harms, and he should not intend his safety from the harms of people…”
But even such ‘Uzlah cannot last long. It should be only until the thullatun minal ākhireen are identified and kept company with. Keeping company only with them is itself ‘Uzlah.