Friday Sermon: Qiyaama Revisited

By Babatunde Jose

“The Unbelievers say, ‘Never to us will come the Hour’: Say, ‘Nay! but most surely, by my Lord, it will come upon you;- by Him Who knows the unseen,- from Whom is not hidden the least little atom in the heavens or on earth: Nor is there anything less than that, or greater, but is in the Record Perspicuous:’  (Quran, 34:3)”

Surah Qiyāama, Quran 75, Ayat 1-15 is out to answer those who hold this erroneous conviction.  (3. Does man think that We shall not assemble his bones) (4. Yes, We are able to put together in perfect order the tips of his fingers.)

In this New Year, let us reflect on the coming Qiyāama – also known as the Resurrection, the Day of Judgment, Day of Gathering, and the Great Announcement. Allah is the creator and the master of the Day of Judgement. Ezra questioned the possibility of resurrection and Allah made an example of him. He was made to die for a hundred years, resurrected and made to face his people who have all added a hundred years to their age since he left them. He was made to die at the age of 40 and had not added a day to his age when he was resurrected.  His maid who was 20 was now 120 and his son who was 18 had grown to 118. Yet, Uzair was still 40. What a paradox. Allahu Akbar!!!

How Many People Have Ever Lived on Earth? And how many have died? These are troubling questions that agitate the minds of perceptive men. Will Allah bring all those who have died together on the Day of Judgement? This is a great conjecture but without a refutation as no one has gone and returned to tell us how it is up there. It is at best speculative; but on the side of caution.

According to the website of the Population Reference Bureau, “Modern” Homo sapiens (that is, people who were roughly like we are now) first walked the Earth about 50,000 years ago. Since then, more than 108 billion members of our species have ever been born. Given the current global population of about 7.5 billion, that means those of us currently alive represent about 7 percent of the total number of humans who have ever lived. PRB estimates that by 2050 about 113 billion people will have ever lived on Earth.

To be sure, calculating the number of people who have ever lived is part science and part art. No demographic data exist for 99 percent of the span of human existence. Still, with some assumptions about prehistoric populations, we can get a rough idea of this historic number. See 2017 World Population Data Sheet (Washington, DC: Population Reference Bureau, 2017); United Nations Population Division, World Population Prospects: The 2017 Revision (New York: United Nations, 2017).

Any estimate of the total number of people who have ever lived depends essentially on two factors: the length of time humans are thought to have been on Earth and the average size of the human population at different periods.

Fixing a time when the human race actually came into existence is not straightforward. Hominids walked the Earth as early as several million years ago, and various ancestors of Homo sapiens appeared at least as early as 700,000 B.C. According to the United Nations Determinants and Consequences of Population Trends, modern Homo sapiens may have appeared about 50,000 B.C.

At the dawn of agriculture, about 8,000 B.C., the world population was somewhere on the order of 5 million. In all likelihood, human populations in different regions grew or declined in response to famines, the vagaries of animal herds, hostilities, and changing weather and climatic conditions.

Our birth rate assumption will greatly affect the estimate of the number of people who have ever lived. Infant mortality in the modern human race’s earliest days is thought to have been very high—perhaps 500 infant deaths per 1,000 births, or even higher. Children were probably an economic liability among hunter-gatherer societies, a fact likely to have led to the practice of infanticide. Under these circumstances, a disproportionately large number of births would be required to maintain population growth, and that would raise our estimated number of the “ever born.”

By 1 A.D., the world may have held about 300 million people. One estimate of the population of the Roman Empire, spanning Spain to Asia Minor, in 14 A.D., is 45 million. Other historians, however, set the figure twice as high, suggesting how imprecise population estimates of early historical periods can be.

By 1650, the world’s population rose to about 500 million. By 1800, however, the world population passed the 1 billion mark, and it has since continued to grow to its current 7.5 billion. This growth is driven in large part by advances in medicine and nutrition that lowered death rates, allowing more people to live into their reproductive years.

According to estimates by demographic researchers at the Population Reference Bureau (PRB), as of 2015, there have been 108.2 billion who have ever been born. Taking away the roughly 7.4 billion who are alive today, we get 100.8 billion who have died before us. 55.3 million People die each year; 151,600 people die each day; 6,316 people die each hour; 105 people die each minute; Nearly two people die each second. How many of these 100 billion can go to heaven? And how many heavens do we have? What is the third heaven called shamayi h’shamayim  mentioned in such passages as Genesis 28:12, Deuteronomy 10:14 and 1 Kings 8:27 as a distinctly spiritual realm containing (or being traveled by) angels and God.

Samawat is the word for heaven in the Quran in the sense of firmament or celestial sphere, as “seven heavens” (2:29, 78:12). Some sources connect the two in some way. According to Sufi cosmology, Paradise is often depicted over the seven heavens or between the sixth and seventh heaven. The issue begs many questions: Where is the Heaven located? The area of the upper astral plane of Earth in the upper atmosphere where the various heavens are located is called Summerland:  (Theosophists believe hell is located in the lower astral plane of Earth which extends downward from the surface of the earth down to its center).

To this extent therefore, we are in order if we speculate that we should look at this question of Qiyāama with utmost caution, lest it dawns on us suddenly and we have no place to hide if it turns to be true.

However, as men of faith, we are of the belief that the words of Allah shall come to pass. And when it does may we not be caught napping: The more reason why we should resolve to start doing good and open a new chapter in our lives. We need to move near God and become righteous.

We lose nothing by being good and righteous. One day we shall meet our maker. As our elders say A b’olorun lese ogbeji. May it not be too late.

Best wishes in the New Year and new decade. May God speed our individual and collective enterprise; Amen.

Barka Juma’at and a happy weekend


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