As I was watching the news coverage of the volcanic ash cloud blanketing parts of Europe, I couldn't help but think of the Dukhan (the Smoke), one of the ten major signs of the Last Day, as taught by the Prophet (saw):
“Allah’s Messenger came to us all of a sudden as we were (busy in a discussion). He asked: What are you discussing? (The Companions) replied: We are discussing (the subject of) the Last Hour. Thereupon he said: It will not come until you see ten signs. And (in this connection) he made a mention of the Dukhan (smoke), Dajjal, the Beast, the Rising of the sun from the west, the Descent of Jesus son of Mary, Gog and Magog, Sinkings of the earth in three places, one in the east, one in the west and one in Arabia, after which a Fire would burn forth from Yemen, and would drive people to the place of their assembly’ (i.e., the place where mankind will be assembled for judgment).” (Sahih Muslim)
Now I'm not claiming this ash cloud is *that* Dukhan. Only Allah (swt) knows. But I'm guessing that a majority of Muslims around the world are completely heedless of the possibility.
My concern is the nonchalant attitude with which we Muslim observers of global affairs treat potential apocalyptic signs.
We have becomes so desensitized to the bizarre occurrences of our world, that nothing seems peculiar anymore. So much so, that I would not be the least surprised if an extraordinary event, like say the coming of Prophet Isa (as), were simply reported by the media, and duly consumed by us viewers, as some delusional individual performing tricks of magic while claiming to be the Messiah.
Or if the appearance of Imam Mahdi was casually written off as some fanatical terrorist claiming to revive the Islamic Khilafa.
I think that most of us are expecting these individuals (Prophet Isa and Imam Mahdi) to be accompanied by some cinematic soundtrack or maybe a ray of light beaming from the heavens.
Or that Yajuj and Majuj (Gog and Magog) will storm down across the lands like the savage beasts in Sauron’s army.
Or that Dajjal will be this immediately recognizable one-eyed monster who will lay waste to the entire world.
The fact is nothing so flashy and jazzy will be taking place. These signs will come and go as ‘normal’ events to which the majority of people will pay no mind.
With regards to the coming of Yajuj and Majuj (Gog/Magog), the Prophet (saw) said “People would continue to perform the Hajj and ‘Umrah even after the release of Gog and Magog, but the Last Hour would not come before the (valid) Hajj no longer existed.”
This hadith demonstrates that the release of Yajuj/Majuj will not be some sensational Hollywood-style climactic event with monstrous zombies running amok, devouring innocent children and dining on human blood. On the contrary, there will remain enough peace and security around the world to allow pilgrims to travel all the way to Mecca and back.
Similarly, with the release of the Dajjal, it will be a normal everyday occurrence, as witnessed by the Prophet seeking to confirm the identity of Ibn Sayyad as the Dajjal:
It is related that 'Abdullah ibn 'Umar reported that 'Umar went with the Messenger of Allah (saw), with a group to visit Ibn Sayyad. They found him playing with some children in the hills of Banu Maghala. Ibn Sayyad, who was approaching puberty, did not notice them until the Prophet (saw)patted him with his hand and then said to him, 'Do you testify that I am the Messenger of Allah?' Ibn Sayyad looked at him and said, 'I testify that you are the Messenger of the unlettered.' Ibn Sayyad said to the Prophet, 'Do you testify that I am the Messenger of Allah?' He refuted it and said, 'I have believed in Allah and His Messengers.' Then he said to him, 'What dreams do you have?' Ibn Sayyad replied, 'Both truthful people and liars come to me.' The Prophet (saw) said, 'You are in a state of confusion.' Then the Prophet (saw) said to him, 'I am concealing something from you.' Ibn Sayyad said, 'It is just smoke.' He said, 'Shame on you! You will not go too far.' 'Umar said, 'Messenger of Allah, let me cut his head off?' The Prophet (saw) said, 'If it is him (i.e. the Dajjal), you will not be able to get the better of him. If it is not him, there is no point in killing him.'"
Salim reported that he heard 'Abdullah ibn 'Umar say, "After that, the Prophet (saw) went with Ubayy ibn Ka'b al-Ansari to the palm-grove where Ibn Sayyad was staying. He wanted to hear something from Ibn Sayyad without Ibn Sayyad seeing him. The Prophet, Messenger of Allah entered and hid behind the palm trunks, trying to hear something from Ibn Sayyad before he saw him. Ibn Sayyad was lying on his bed, covered by a wrapper and there was a murmuring sound coming from him. The mother of Ibn Sayyad saw the Prophet (saw) hiding behind the palm trunk and she said to Ibn Sayyad, 'Saf! (which was a name of Ibn Sayyad) Muhammad is here.' So Ibn Sayyad got up. The Prophet (saw) said, 'If she had left him, the business would have been clear.'"
From these two narrations, it’s evident that the Prophet (saw) saw the release of Dajjal as uneventful, as opposed to the Armageddon-style view that so many of us harbor where we expect the entire earth to shake and the skies to fall upon the Dajjal's arrival.
So back to the ash cloud.
I'm not making any rash predictions about it being one of the major signs of the Day. I'm simply saying that we need to first, become intimately aware of what our Prophet (saw) taught us about the signs (both major and minor) of the Last Day, and second, be on alert for these signs, because when they do occur, there ain't gonna be any thundering announcement coming from the heavens.