The Smoke and the Beast are among the signs of the Day of Judgment, mentioned in the Qur’an and in rigorously authentic narrations.
Allah Most High states, “So be on the watch for a day when heaven shall bring a manifest smoke covering the people; this is a painful chastisement.” [44: 10-11] The Prophet (Allah bless him and grant him peace) said, “The Hour will not rise until you have seen ten signs: the rising of the sun from the west, the smoke, the beast…” [Muslim]
There is a difference of opinion regarding whether the “smoke” mentioned in the verse of the Qur’an refers to the smoke that was foretold as one of the signs of the Hour. `Abdullah ibn Mas`ud was of the opinion that it did not, while ibn `Abbas, `Ali, ibn `Umar, and others affirmed that it referred to the same smoke mentioned in the Prophetic narratives. [Nawawi, Sharh Sahih Muslim; Qurtubi, Jami` al-Ahkam al-Qur’an]
Imam Qurtubi mentions that the smoke will cover the earth for a period of forty days, effecting both the believers and disbelievers. The former will be effected as if suffering from a common cold, whereas the latter will suffer harder. [Jami` al-Ahkam al-Qur’an]
The Emergence of the Beast
Allah Most High states, “We shall bring forth for them out of the earth a beast that shall speak unto them.” [27: 82] The Prophet (Allah bless him and grant him peace) said, “The first of the signs [the Hour] to appear will be the rising of the sun from the west and the appearance of the Best before the people in the forenoon.” [Muslim]
There scholars differed greatly regarding the details related to the Beast, which, though not important to know, can be mentioned briefly as follows:
(a) Appearance: Some scholars, such as Imam Qurtubi, held that the beast is the she-camel of the Prophet Salih (Allah bless him). Others stated that it was an animal that is a hybrid of many different animals. Another opinion states that it is an actual human being, which is a very weak opinion. [Qurtubi, Tadkhira]
(b) Place of Emergence: Some stated that the Beast will emerge from Makka, basing it on a narration of Hudhayfa (Allah be well-pleased with him). Others stated that it will emerge from a desert, then disappear, then emerge from a village, then disappear, then finally from the Masjid al-Haram in Makka. There is another opinion that states it will emerge from Ta’if. [Qurtubi, Tadkhira; Alusi, Ruh al-Ma`ani]
(c) It’s Speech: The Beast will address the people with the words of Allah, “Mankind did not believe in our signs.” [27: 82] Others stated, quoting ibn `Abbas, that “speaking” refers to the action of the Beast in differentiating the believers and disbelievers.
(d) It’s Role: The Beast will be tasked to differentiate the believers from the disbelievers. Abu Hurayra (Allah be well-pleased with him) narrates that the Prophet (Allah bless him and grant him peace) said, “The Beast of the earth will emerge and have with it the staff of Moses and the ring of Solomon.” [Abu Dawud, Ibn Majah, Musnad Ahmad] It will use these to mark off the believers from the disbelievers. [Qurtubi, Jami` al-Ahkam al-Qur’an]
An important point to note is that many of the opinions regarding the beast may not have sound basis in the texts. As such, believing in these subtle details is not necessary, except that which has come in the authentic narratives of the Prophet (Allah bless him). This includes, first and foremost, believing in the coming of the Beast itself, a point established decisively in the Qur’an, as well as it being a sign of the Last Hour, its speaking to people, and its task of differentiating the believers from the disbelievers.
Details regarding its appearance, where it will arise from, what it will say, and so forth, are matters of secondary importance. The safest route is to consign these modalities and details to Allah, while realizing that ultimately we will all return to Him to be judged for what we did in our worldly life.