Islam & the Hereafter
Although the general conception of life after death and the Hereafter is found in all Divine Religions, the emphasis given in Islam is unique.
A glance at the Holy Quran provides the idea that believing in the Hereafter is the most important issue in Islam after believing in God. The topic has covered nearly one third of the Holy Quran with more than 1200 Ayaat. It is almost impossible to find a page in the Quran in which the issue of the Hereafter is not mentioned. Believing in God and the Hereafter are coupled in the Quran approximately 30 times.
Therefore, in Islamic Theology, believing in God and the Hereafter are considered the border between atheism and religious belief.
Believing in the Hereafter in Islam means the soul and the body of the dead will rise on the Day of Resurrection to be judged. Righteous people will be rewarded with eternal blessings in Paradise whilst the sinful and disbelievers will suffer in Hell.
Proofs on the Possibility of the Hereafter
1. First Creation
The human body is made up of several chemical elements. The elements include minerals such as calcium, phosphorus, iron, zinc, copper, etc. Mankind is created from soil and will return to soil. Therefore, as the creation of man from soil happened the first time, it can happen again on the Day of Resurrection.
2. Might of God
Another way to prove the possibility of Resurrection Day is to consider the might of God. As the belief in Hereafter comes after believing in God, we are logically permitted to present religious proof. The Almighty God is capable of bringing the disintegrated parts of bodies back to normal. The Quran 36:81, 46:33
3. Resurrection of Plants
The third way to prove the possibility of resurrection is the continuous resurrection of plants. Every year we observe the law of death and return to life, in the world of plants. They all die in winter and return to life in spring. Also, dead soil returns to life after absorbing the first drops of rain. The Quran 7:57, 35:9, 50:9-11
4. Resurrection of Energy
We are living in a world in which everything dies and its remains remain. However, among all dying things the death of energies is more astonishing. They seem to die forever, yet they change to a different type of energy. The basic law of physics dictates that energy is conserved and can only be changed from one form to another or into matter. That’s what makes the energy renewable. Solar energy for instance, is a renewable energy which replenishes itself naturally in a relatively short time. Therefore, the light of the sun being a solar energy never really dies. It will be stored in another matter, though in a potential form like a compressed spring, until it is released. That’s the secret behind creating energy by burning a piece of wood. Therefore, when a piece of wood is burnt it is as if a dead solar energy resurrected again. The Quran 36:79-80
Proofs on the Coming of Hereafter
1. The Proof of Innate
Innate is what humans are born with. Loving immortality and the attribute of survival after death is a natural desire of mankind and hence, it appears to have been held by human beings from the earliest of times. In general, when there is an instinct there must be a satisfaction for it. As when there is a feeling of thirst, there must be water satisfying the instinct of that thirst.
The instinct of immortality will not be satisfied unless there is an immortal life after this mortal one.
2. Proof of Wisdom
We are living in a meaningful world in which everything has a purpose and an aim. If death were the end of everything the creation of the entire universe would be in vain.
3. Proof of Justice
Justice is one of God’s attributes as mentioned in the fourth meeting. The whole universe is established on justice. However, the history of man presented many criminals that never received their full punishment in this world. How many innocent people are killed without their murderers found? How many properties are stolen and the thieves never caught? Therefore, there must be a great day of judgment in which all tyrants, oppressors, and criminals will be judged with justice.
4. Proof of Movement and Aim
Man is proceeding towards his purpose of creation with a gradual evolution and movement.
If death were the end of life the purpose of life would not be reached. In other words, accepting a purpose for this life is meaningless without believing in the Hereafter. From an Islamic point of view, mankind is like a ship starting a journey from the border of non-existence proceeding within the river of existence and finally anchoring in the eternal ocean of existence towards God.
Physical and Spiritual Resurrection
Human beings are a combination of soul and body. These two ingredients are so mixed up with each other that the pain and pleasure of each one has effects on the other. Psychosomatic disorders are examples of that mixture. Such a mutual effect and relation will be temporarily cut off by physical death. Nevertheless, on the Day of Resurrection both the body and soul go back to each other to gain a thorough pleasure or pain. For, neither the soul nor body will receive a full pleasure or pain by itself. They may have a taste of pain or pleasure by themselves, but the complete one will not be obtained unless both are together. That’s why a painful or pleasurable dream is not the same as that in real life in which both the body and soul are together.
Therefore, from an Islamic point of view, Resurrection is going to be both physical and spiritual. Hundreds of Ayaat in the Holy Quran explicitly indicate that mankind will be raised with the same body they owned in this world.
Some Characteristics of the Day of Judgment
1. Book of Actions
In a number of Ayaat and many Ahadith, the issue of the Book of Actions is mentioned as one of the characteristics of the Day of Resurrection.
In general, the Book of Actions is something that each and every individual or each nation will carry with them which consists of their entire actions in this world, good or bad.
Nature of the Book of Actions
Although there are different interpretations for the nature of the book, it seems it is the soul of humans in which the impacts of all actions are firmly penetrated and rooted. Those impacts are not only rooted in the souls of man but they are also engraved in the entire world around which the action has taken place.
The engravings are not understandable for us while we are in this world, yet they are so natural and irrefutable.
Examples of the Book of Actions in this world
1. An example of the engraving of action in nature are fossils. Fossils are remains of prehistoric organisms. They are a record of the history of life beginning approximately 3.5 billion years ago, the study of which is called Palaeontology. Palaeontologists discover many facts about the life of prehistoric animals by studying the remains of their fossils.
2. Veda Waves: In 1867, Risch Bach an Austrian Scientist, for the first time discovered that there are some waves defused out from our bodies. Later, a German Physicist was able to take a photograph of the waves. He named the waves The Veda Waves meaning the waves which penetrate everywhere. By the effects of these waves on clay pots, Archaeologists can discover even the type of song that a potter sang thousands of years ago whilst making that particular pot.
Book of Actions
The book, according to Ayah 13 in Chapter 17 of the Quran, will be hung around the neck of individuals. The neck is a resemblance of receiving the reward or punishment. For, both the medals of reward and the chains of punishment are hung around the neck.
Read Thy Book!
On the Day of Resurrection, every soul shall read his/her Book of Actions. The book will be handed over to its, and only its, author; i.e. the doer. Once you look at your book, every single action accompanied with its real intention is precisely with all the details engraved in the book. The most comprehensive biography ever seen in your life. It contains the entire life of the person, from cradle to the grave. By then, “..because of what is recorded therein, they will say: Ah! Woe to us! What a book this is! It leaves out nothing small or great, but takes account thereof.”
2. Embodiment of Actions
Another characteristic of the Day of Resurrection is the embodiment of our actions. Numerous Ayaat and Hadiths provide the idea that, on the Day of Resurrection, each and every individual will see the real picture of his/her actions.
From an Islamic point of view, each action has a worldly appearance and a real face. The worldly appearance is what is seen in this world. This appearance may or may not be the same as the real picture of the action. In other words, the relation between this world and the Hereafter is like the world of dreams and that of wakefulness. As what we see in the dream may have different or even an opposite picture in reality, also what we act upon may have a different picture in Hereafter.
A Prophetic saying describes alcoholic drinks as fire, for the Prophet in his ascension has seen the real picture of it. Also, being kind to the parents is seen by the Prophet as a kind and compassionate companion in the Hereafter.
All of the eschatological discussion shall end up with either of the two points; i.e. Heaven or Hell.
The Holy Quran in numerous Ayaat has described heaven, its physical and spiritual pleasures and blessings as well as the dwellers. The precise picture of Paradise, however, is perceivable only when visiting it.
Although numerous blessings, both physical and spiritual, are described in the Quran to be found in Paradise, I would like to briefly clarify the blessing of Celestial Wine.
Many anti-Islamic writers are misusing the similarity of the term ‘wine’ in different usages and suggest that although the Holy Quran in the first chapters tends to prohibit intoxicants, as it goes to the end of the Book, it not only becomes permitted but it is also considered as a Celestial drink.
The author of ‘The Wrath of Allah’, Robert E. Burns, utilising his utmost hostility towards Islam, falsely says: “Allah is becoming more liberal towards alcohol as He goes to the end of the Book.”
First of all, the author has forgotten that the last chapters of the Quran are the ones which were revealed first, and hence, the conclusion would be the other way round.
Secondly, the Ayaat in chapters 76 and 83 are dealing with Celestial drinks, whereas, the ones in chapters 4 and 5 are about intoxicants in this world.
In other words, the Holy Quran when dealing with Celestial drinks has mentioned seven types of drinks among which Honey, Milk, Water and Wine are the major ones.
As it is described in Chapter 47 Ayah 15, the properties of all of the Celestial drinks are different from worldly ones. For instance, contrary to the worldly milk, the taste of the Celestial Milk never changes, and its Water is unable to be contaminated. Also, the properties of Celestial Wine are different from worldly wines. The worldly wine according to the Quran is an abomination and enormity (5:90), whereas, the Celestial Wine is introduced in the Quran as a pure drink free from headiness and the suffer of intoxication (37:47, 56:19, 76:21).
Hurries in the Hereafter
Several Ayaat of the Quran describe the companions of the people of Paradise. They are introduced as ‘Hurul-Ayn’ (fair spouses with wide eyes) 44:54, ‘Azwajun Motahharah’ (purified spouses) 2:25, ‘Khayratun Hesan’ (beautiful and well mannered wives) 55:70 They are heavenly creation of God. According to several Hadiths it seems they are the heavenly face of worshipping acts of the pious people.
Is Paradise Created?
Based on what we can gather from Islamic resources, Paradise is created and constantly expanding. According to a Prophetic saying, on the night of Ascension when the Prophet of Islam passed by Prophet Ibrahim, he was advised by Ibrahim to encourage Muslims in planting trees in Paradise for its land is fertile and pure. Prophet Mohammad (s.a.w.w) said: “‘I asked Ibrahim how they should plant in Paradise? He replied: ‘By remembering God in saying: LA HOWLA WA LA QOWWATA ELLA BELLA.’”
In another Hadith, it is quoted from the Prophet to have said: “‘Whoever made the statement of ‘LA ELAAHA ELLALLAH’ (There is no god but Allah) God will plant a tree for him/her in Paradise. A man from the tribe of Qoraysh said: ‘O Messenger of Allah we have then so many trees in Paradise!’ The Prophet replied: ‘Yes, on the condition you do not send any fire to them.’”
Hell is an alternative terminal in the Hereafter. The careful study of all Islamic resources provides the idea that hell is a horrible fireplace, consisting of various methods of punishment which comes in different levels. It is the place of all criminals, infidels, hypocrites, oppressors and in general, all those who denied the Truth deliberately.
Philosophy of Hell
The philosophy of hell, and the reason it is created for, is a common question in different cultures. Many people may wonder, how can the Merciful God punish His creatures with such a variety of severe punishments in hell?
The following points shall answer the question:
1. Both the punishments and rewards in the Hereafter are direct results of man’s actions. They are examples of the law of cause and effect. For, one reaps what he sows. In a more precise word, they are the reality of man’s actions in this world. In Chapter 66 Ayah 7 we read: “O you unbelievers, make no excuses this Day (the Day of Judgment) you are being requited all that you did.”
2. Any law which has no binding has no sanction to guarantee its performance. Such a law is in fact a pseudo law and will not solve any problems. Imagine a state which is trying to provide security to its citizens without enacting any punishment law. There is no fine for any offence. Both criminals and righteous citizens are provided the same reward and facilities. No doubt, insecurity and injustice will prevail in such a city. This is the major philosophy of the conception of hell and heaven in Divine Religions.
Although not all of those who enter Hell will remain therein forever, there are some groups of people who will suffer in hell for eternity. The eternity in Hell is mentioned in the Quran more than 30 times. This has created another question, i.e. there must be a logical relation between crime and penalty? Let’s assume a person has been, in his entire life, a criminal for the period of 100 years. Is it fair to him to be punished eternally? The answer is, there are two types of punishments: contractual and natural. The contractual punishments are all types of civil fines which vary in different cultures and times. They are types of punishments that are agreed upon for certain offences. The natural punishment is the natural effect of any crime. For instance, prohibited speed in driving may cost two types of penalties for the driver. One is a contractual fine which may be some fiscal penalty and losing some points. The second type of penalty may be a fatal accident.
Religious punishments are also in two types. The Jurisprudential ones which are established for this life are similar to the civil contractual punishments, while the punishments in the Hereafter as well as rewards, are the natural punishments and rewards, for they are nothing more than the reality of deeds good or bad.
May God, the Almighty, associate us all in His Paradise with all of the righteous and the fourteen infallible forever. Amen.
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