HOW LONG HAVE THE EARTH AND HUMANITY BEEN IN EXISTENCE?
In history lessons, it was taught that the history of humanity started 4,000 years ago, because the invention of writing occured at that time. The term “prehistoric ages” was used for the previous centuries. Then the ruins of the 11,000-years-old city of Jericho were found in Palestine.
Lastly, the archaeological excavations in Istanbul and Göbeklitepe took the history back further. Nowadays, new archaeological findings from all over the world are pushing this history back even further.
It is understood from the genealogies in the Torah currently available that the life span of humanity is 6000 years. The Jewish calendar is also based on this. As a matter of fact, the exodus of the prophet Moses from Egypt took place in the year 2448, which corresponds to 1313 BC. According to this, now is the Jewish year 5782.
Planets or Zodiac Signs?
Ancient astronomers considered the lifetime of the earth, that is, the time from the day it was created to the Day of Judgment, as 7 thousand years by comparing it to the number of planets. Because they knew the number of planets as seven. The “7 thousand years”, which was written in most of the history books and also mentioned in some religious books, stemmed from this.
Some said 12 thousand years as the number of zodiac signs. Others said 360 thousand years, as many as meridian degrees. These numbers were based upon mere assumption or conjecture.
Since the 13th century, scientists have been thinking about this. They said that the lifespan of the earth is hundreds of thousands or even millions of years, sometimes by examining fossils and sometimes by treating substances to white heat and then observing the time required to cool.
With the discovery of radioactivity in 1896, this task became easier. Today, scientists use the technique called the radiometric dating. First, the relative ratio of the amounts of lead and uranium present in the pitchblende ore is determined.
Then, the age of the earth can be found as 4 billion 500 million years, by calculating the time required for the formation of this much lead from the current uranium and the amount of uranium converted to this lead based on the decay constant of uranium I.
There are some interesting narrations in Islamic histories confirming modern scientific discoveries. It is stated in a hadith sharif (saying or teaching of the Prophet Muhammad, peace be upon him): “If a person fulfills the need of a Muslim for the sake of Allah, Allah writes (in the scroll of deeds) the rewards as much as fasting during the day and praying at night in the 7 thousand years of the life of the world.” [Ibn Asakir (d. 1176) and Ibn Adiyy (d. 976) narrated from Anas ibn Malik].
It is stated in another hadith sharif: “The world is seven weeks long like the weeks of the hereafter.” (Ibn Abi al-Dunya narrated from Sa’id ibn Jubayr; Abu Hatim Muhammad ibn Idris al-Razi narrated from Ibn Abbas).
One of the companions of the Prophet Muhammad saw him on the top step of a seven-step pulpit in his dream and asked for his interpretation. The Messenger of Allah said: “The pulpit you saw is seven thousand years, which is the life of this world, and I will be in the last thousand of it.” (Al-Muttaqi al-Hindi, Al-burhan fi 'Alamat al-Mahdi Akhir al-Zaman, 89).
The Prophet Muhammad, on the other hand, likened the life of his ummah (Islamic community) to the afternoon time when compared to the life of this world and stated that it would not exceed 1500 years. (Ahmad ibn Hanbal, Kitab al-'Ilal wa-Ma'rifat al-Rijal; Al-Suyuti, Al-Kashf 'an Mujawazat Hadhihi al-Ummah al-Alf)
It has also been said that the length of a year meant is the year of the hereafter, one day of which corresponds to one earthly year. As a matter of fact, Abu Shuja Shirawayh ibn Shahradar Daylami (d. 1155) said: “The whole length of the world is seven days of the Hereafter. This is the word of Allahu ta'ala, A day in the sight of your Lord is like a thousand years with the year you count.” This is an allusion to the fact that Allah created the heavens and the earth in six days and then settled on the Throne (al-'Arsh) on the seventh day.
A Star Shining Every 70,000 Years
Some scholars are skeptical of these narrations. Even if this is not the case, it is likely to be mutashabih (allegorical), like the depiction of the earth standing on the horns of an ox. Scholars move on without interpreting such narrations in detail. Because it is not clear what the term “year” means in the narrations.
A wide variety of tafsirs (exegeses) and interpretations have been made on this subject. It has been suggested that this is any unit of time whatsoever used to describe the shortness of the world relative to infinity.
The ulama (Muslim scholars) interpreted the narrations that the life of the world was understood as 7 thousand years metaphorically. They may have concluded that this statement was uttered by ijtihad (legal interpretation), not by revelation, because contrary to this, there are other narrations as well.
In a hadith sharif narrated from Abu Hurairah, the Prophet Muhammad asked Jibril (Angel Gabriel): “O Jibril! How old are you?” Jibril replied: “O Messenger of Allah, I don’t know how old I am, but I do know that in the fourth heaven I saw a star shine once every 70,000 years, and I saw this 72,000 times.” Then the Prophet said: “By the honour of Allah I was that star.” This means 5 billion and 40 million years accordingly. Ali Ibn Burhan-ud-din Halabi described this in his book Sirat al-Halbiya. (1/47)
To Jabir ibn Abdullah asking what was the first thing created by Allah, the Prophet Muhammad replied, “The first creation is your Prophet, O Jabir. Allah created your Prophet from His Light (Nur) before creating the other things.” (Abd al-Razzaq al-San'ani) Thus, the creation of the first thing occured 5 billion 40 million years ago. The life of the universe should be compared with this.
Fakhr al-Din al-Razi wrote in Tafsir al-Kabir: At the Mi'raj, the Messenger of Allah came across a group of angels and asked Jibril, “When were you created?” Then Jibril replied “Allah creates a star every 400,000 years. Since He created me, He has created 400,000 stars like it.”
Allah Always Knows Best
It was narrated from Ibn Abbas in Kharidat al-Ajaib that, the Israelites said to the Prophet Moses, “Ask your Lord, how long has it been since the earth was created?” He prayed to Allah and received this response, “O Moses, I created 14 thousand cities out of silver and filled them with mustard seeds. And I created a bird. Every day his sustenance was a mustard seed. It ate them all. After that, I created the earth.”
It was also narrated from Ikrima ibn Amr and Mujahid ibn Jabr in Kharidat al-ajaib that, “It is 50,000 years from the creation of the earth to its end. No one knows how many have passed and how many remain.”
In Ad-Durr Al-Muntakhab by Ibn al-Shihna, it was narrated from Ubayy ibn Ka'b that, “When the jinn remained on earth for 700 thousand years and made a habit of killing each other and causing corruption, Allah destroyed them and angels took their place. Two thousand years later, He created the Prophet Adam.”
It was stated in al-Fawayih al-Miskiyya that “7 thousand years after the creation of the earth, the soil of Adam began to be kneaded.” In another part of the same book, it is said, “The creation of Adam is 60 thousand years after the jinn.”
It is narrated in Mir'at-i Kainat by Nishancizade that, “The Messenger of Allah was asked how much time had passed since the creation of the earth. 'My Lord has informed me that 700 thousand years have passed from the time he created the earth to the day he proclaimed me a prophet' he replied.” Nishancizade Muhyiddin Mehmed, the author of Mir’at-i Kâinat, said: “Since the nusus (explicit statements within the Quran or hadith upon which a ruling is based) are not clear and conclusive on this matter, the words of the scholars who say 'It is better to say that Allah knows best' are more accurate, more religious and stronger.”
Ottoman scholar and sufi Sayyid Abdulhakim Arvasi said, “Allah did not create the earth for a short period of 6-7 thousand years. This is the word of historians and the philosophers. We are not obligated to comply with that.”
When Will the Doomsday Come?
It is easier to understand from the hadiths how long humanity has existed. Based on the following hadiths: “313 Rasools (messengers) sent” (Musnad Ahmad ibn Hanbal , V/265; Sahih Ibn Hibban 361.) and “A Rasool is sent every thousand years” (Al-Tabarani), it has been calculated as 315 thousand years for the time before the Prophet Muhammad.
There is also a narration stating that the number of the Rasools was 315. Ibn Hajar al-Asqalani stated that this hadith is sahih (authentic). (Al-Fatawah al-Hadithiyyah, 2nd printing, Cairo 1390/1970, 180.) Rasool was a prophet who brought an independent religion (sharia), while Nabi was a prophet who invited people to the religion of a Rasool.
The major and minor signs of the Doomsday have been explained in detail. In almost every age, people of all religions have wondered when the Doomsday is due, that is, when the world will perish. Although they made some calculations to find out about this, it remained as a concealed knowledge, which Allah did not inform even his prophets. The Prophet Idris (Enosh) was quoted as saying, “Even though we were Prophets, we did not know the age of the earth.”
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