The Signs of the Hour are the signs that will precede Yawm al-Qiyaamah (the Day of Judgement) and indicate that it is nigh.
The Hour (al-Saa'ah) means the time of reckoning, and is either:
1. Saa'ah sughra (the lesser hour), which is a person's death, whereupon his reckoning starts when he leaves this world and passes into the Hereafter;
2. Or Saa'ah kubraa (the greater Hour), which is when mankind will be resurrected from their graves to be judged and rewarded or punished accordingly.
When the word al-saa'ah is used on its own in the Qur'aan, it refers to the greater reckoning (the Day of Judgement), as in the aayah (interpretation of the meaning): "People ask you concerning the Hour…" [al-Ahzaab 33:63]
The Signs of the Hour (i.e., the Day of Judgement) are of two types:
1. Ashraat al-Saa'ah al-Sughra (Minor signs of the Hour)
These are signs that will appear a long time before the Hour approaches, such as the decline of knowledge, the spread of ignorance, drinking of wine or alcohol, competition in the construction of tall buildings, and many others. The scholars have listed almost sixty signs, some of which will accompany the major signs, or will appear afterwards.
2. Ashraat al-Saa'ah al-Kubraa (Major Signs of the Hour)
These are major signs that will appear shortly before the Day of Judgement comes.