In the name of Allah, Most Merciful, Most Compassionate; blessings and peace be upon Prophet Muhammad s.a.w.
"Do not spy one another,
nor let any of you backbite others..." (Hujurat 49: 12)
ITS hard for me to digest what was told by an ‘ustaz’ (religious teacher) in a ‘tazkirah’ (lesson) at a ‘masjid’ near my house recently when he said that people (human beings) would spend about 500,000 years in ‘Padang Mahsyar’ (Hashr). One day in ‘Padang Mahsyar’ equals 50,000 years on earth.
Alhamdulillah (All praise belongs to God) a few days later, I came across this item in a newspaper that helped in my understanding about life. Among others, the report with a heading 'Oldest fossil dated by Aussies at about 3.7 billion-years-old' noted:
Life on Earth is even older than first thought, said Australian scientists as they unveiled fossils dating back 3.7 billion years, providing a potential new spur to study whether Mars once had life.
The fossilised structures — called stromatolites — preserved in ancient rocks along the edge of Greenland’s ice cap were 220 million years older than the previous record holders.
They prove that life emerged just a few hundred million years after the Earth was formed some 4.5 billion years ago, said lead researcher Allen Nutman of the University of Wollongong.
“This discovery represents a new benchmark for the oldest preserved evidence of life on Earth,” said Martin Julian Van Kranendonk, a geology professor at the University of NSW and one of the co-authors of the study published in the journal Nature.
“The structures and geochemistry from the newly exposed outcrops in Greenland display all of the features used in younger rocks to argue for a biological origin. It points to a rapid emergence of life on Earth.”
The 1cm to 4cm high Isua stromatolites — exposed after the melting of a snow patch in the Isua Greenstone Belt — matched other biological evidence on the evolution of the genetic code that placed the origins of life in a similar period, Professor Nutman said.
“This indicates the Earth was no longer some sort of hell 3.7 billion years ago,” he said. “It was a place where life could flourish.”
This news caught my attention; I made a paper cutting of it and put it inside my wallet, and one morning after a ‘kuliah subuh’ (early morning lesson) by an ‘ustaz’, I showed the piece to him and asked whether there’s ‘somebody’ on Earth before the existence of Prophet Adam peace be upon him (a.s.)
The ‘ustaz’ said, some scholars believed that Prophet Adam a.s. was sent to Earth some 10,000 years ago, Ibrahim (Abraham) a.s. some 4,000 years ago, Musa (Moses) a.s. some 3,500 years ago, Isa (Jesus) a.s. some 2,000 years ago while the seal of Prophets, Muhammad s.a.w. some 1,500 years ago. The question is; who ‘flourished’ Earth before the coming of Prophet Adam a.s.?
He said, according to scholars, there is nothing in the Qur’an or ‘sunnah’ (prophetic teachings) to indicate that there were any people living on Earth before Adam a.s. Rather the reports that speak of this are the opinions of ‘mufassireen’ (Qur'an commentators) among the ‘sahabah’ (companions) and ‘tabi‘een’ (successors).
Some said that the Earth was inhabited by the jinn, whom Allah SWT created from fire. At-Tabari narrated in his Tafseer from Ibn ‘Abbas r.a. that he said: “The first ones to dwell on earth were the jinn, and they caused mischief therein, shedding blood and killing one another.” Others said that there was no one on earth, jinn or otherwise, before Adam a.s.
Many scholars of tafseer say that the jinn were created before Adam a.s. and before them on Earth there were the hinn and the binn, then Allah caused the jinn to prevail over them, so they killed them and expelled them from the Earth and inhabited it after them.
After reading that scientists had evidence that there was life on Earth some 3.7 billion years ago, it was easy for me to understand when some ‘ustazs’ said that human beings would spend thousands and thousands of years during the 12 stages of life in the Hereafter such as in ‘barzakh’ (grave), ‘qiyama’ (judgment day), ‘mahsyar’ (al-hashr or gathering), ‘al-mizan’ (the scales of deeds) and ‘as-sirat al-mustaqeem’ (the straight path).
Remember that our life of perhaps 60 to 70 years on Earth was nothing compared to life on Earth which was proved to exist some 3.7 billion years ago what’s more in the Hereafter where we would lead a never-ending life! Our life in this world is temporary and we are just like a traveler. In his 'hadith'; Prophet Muhammad s.a.w. said: "My similitude and that of the life of this world is that of a traveler who took a rest at mid-day under a shade of a tree and then left it." (Ahmad, at-Tirmidhi, Ibn Majah and al-Hakim) Thus, as 'a learned person' please prepare for our long, long (forever and ever) journey in the Hereafter. Remember we only have 'a one ticket' - there's no 'return ticket'!
‘As-sirat al-mustaqeem’ is like a bridge which runs hell underneath. The width of this bridge is like a strand of hair is cut seven and it is sharper than the sword. For believers it will be widened and facilitated crossing. Fudhail bin Iyadh said mesh is time-consuming travel 15,000 years – 5,000 years upward, 5,000 years moving horizontally and 5,000 year of decline.
If some scholars said Prophet Adam a.s. existed some 10,000 years ago, then he a.s. the people of his era were in ‘barzakh’ for that period of time. They are still in their graves, waiting for the ‘qiyama’. Some people would felt it long in their graves, others felt it was short; Allah SWT can do anything to time for He is The Creator of time; He is The Controller of time and space. It is His wish to do anything including time. In Ayahs 80-81 Surah Yasin, Allah SWT says: “Is not He Who created the heavens and the earth Able to create the like of them? Aye, that He is! for He is the All-Wise Creator. But His command, when He intendeth a thing, is only that he saith unto it: Be! And it is.”
The 'ustaz' said that in this world we needed to be on His straight path and perform good deeds as much as possible. It was because, in the Hereafter, we needed a lot of 'pahala' (rewards for good deeds) to 'finance' ourselves during our 'long long journey' before we would rewarded with Paradise or thrown into Hell (nauzubillah - God forbid).
Please remember, the Messenger of Allah (s.a.w.) said: “When a man dies, his deeds come to an end except for three things: sadaqah jariyah (ceaseless charity); knowledge which is beneficial; or a virtuous descendant who prays for him (the deceased).” (Sahih Muslim)
The 'ustaz' told parents to work hard in raising virtuous sons and daughters who would be one of our greatest assets after our death. To have these beneficial off-springs the father must be in His straight path as Allah SWT says in the Qur'an: "O! You who believe, save yourself and your families from Hell-fire, whose fuel are humans and stones (idols) over which are (appointed) angels stern (and) severe, who flinch not (from executing) the Commands they receive from Allah, but do (precisely) what they are commanded." (At-Tahrim 66:6)
He reminded Muslims not to waste their time; there is a hadith which states: "Grasp five things before five others: your youth before your decrepitude, your health before you fall sick, your wealth before going into poverty, your free time before you get busy and lastly your life before your death (Tirmidhi); when we would embark for our long, long journey.