“The Qiyāmah is true and will happen, but a full explanation of it, either in theory or in common doctrine, is not easy.”~ Paul Walker, (Abu Yaqub al-Sijistani: Intellectual Missionary, 73)
“We, the Imāms in descent from Imām Husayn, are present until today and we shall remain until the Qiyāmah and even after the Qiyāmah.”~ Imām Shāh Āgā Shāh ‘Alī Shāh
In Islamic thought, the ideas and themes relating to the “end of the world” fall under the doctrine of qiyāmah (“rising”, “resurrection”). The Qur’an contains hundreds of references to qiyāmah under various names including: the Day of Resurrection, 2:85; the Day of Mutual Disillusion, 64:9; the Day of Mutual Calling, 40:32; the Day of Decision, 37:21; the Day they are raised up, 7:14; the Day of Judgement, 1:4; the Day of Gathering together, 50:44; the Day they come forth [from the tombs], 70:43; the Day of Imminence, 40:18; the Day when the Hour comes, 30:12; the Day of Reckoning, 14:41.
For the people of the exoteric (ahl al-ẓāhir), qiyāmah is when physical world comes to an end and all things return to God for the final judgment. They expect qiyāmah to be preceded by a series of natural disasters and physical events including earthquakes, disasters, wars, the opening of the heavens, and other such things.
However, the esoteric (bāṭin) perspective views qiyāmah in an entirely different sense. In this sense, Abū Ya‘qūb al-Sijistānī writes that the real meaning of qiyāmah is hidden from the masses and only available to the People of the True Realities:
“Among the greatest of matters in which the People of Realities (ahl al-ḥaqā’iq) take pride is the recognition of qiyāmah, its causes, and the tokens and signs that follow these, about which the people of the exoteric (ahl al-ẓāhir) are in the dark.”
~ Abū Ya‘qūb al-Sijistānī, (Kitāb al-Iftikhār, 181)
In the esoteric perspective, qiyāmah is not a physical event, but rather, it is a spiritual or soul-related event which has effects and manifestations in the physical world. This is because qiyāmah is related to creation (khalq). Imām Sulṭān Muḥammad Shāh explains that “the creation according to Islam is not a unique act in a given time, but a perpetual and constant event” (Memoirs of the Aga Khan). Similarly, qiyāmah is an event that occurs in every moment and instant – although it is hidden and not perceived by most people.
Just as time is continuous, it can be felt, measured and aggregated in certain intervals – seconds, minutes, hours, days, years, decades, etc, in the same way, the qiyāmah which is ever-occuring can be experienced in intervals. When a being fulfills and actualizes the limit (ḥadd) of its own existence, this is the “metamorphosis of being which esoteric parlance designates as qiyāmah, resurrection.” (Henry Corbin, Temple and Contemplation). Thus, qiyāmah is a direct culmination and the recompense (i.e. reward, punishment) of the previous actions and events in the life of a particular being. All human beings undergo qiyāmah as they ascend from one level of consciousness to the next – such as the progression through the mineral, vegetable, animal, and rational souls in earthly life.
Thus, we can speak of involuntary qiyāmah – when the human soul experiences the death of the physical body and is resurrected in the astral or imaginal body. There is also the voluntary qiyāmah – when the human soul undergoes the final death and attains union with God – such as the spiriual mi‘rāj of the Prophet Muḥammad. A collective qiyāmah is something experienced by a group of human beings – such as a community, a nation, a civilization, or even humanity as a whole.