And the Life to Come!
We Muslims believe that our short life on earth does not end here. Rather it is only a trial in preparation for a better eternal life in the hereafter. It is a test to determine whether we deserve a better world or not. So we reap what we sow, sowing what we can in this short life to achieve everlasting bliss. This means that we have to decide whether we wish to sacrifice the transitory glitter of this world for a permanent everlasting life; whether we want to hanker after a mirage in preference to an oasis that can provide us the water of life.
Belief in the afterlife allows man to rise above his mortality and attain the elixir of immortality. For he or she knows the Day will surely come when the dead will be resurrected by God to enjoy a life that will never end, each according to his or her desserts. This great resurrection of humanity will be followed by what we call the Day of Judgment. That is the Day when God Himself will judge us, rewarding or punishing according to our beliefs and our deeds. The pious will be rewarded with paradise and the evildoers punished in the hellfire.
How fine a belief this is. It guides men on the straight path and keeps them away from evil deeds. The fear of being brought into account, if not in this world, then in the next, compels them to be good if they are already not so in their hearts and prevents them from using and abusing wealth and power to get away with injustices. God is Fair and Just and its only natural that he reward the good and punish the unrepentant sinners. This is in the fitness of things. How many good men and women suffer patiently in this world and die unsung in unmarked graves? How many evil men and women get away with their sins and crimes, taking them as it were to their graves with costly tombs or mausoleums erected over their dead bodies? Thus a Day of Judgement where all are brought before the Divine Court to receive their just deserts is absolutely necessary, if nothing else, then at least for the sake of justice. Only when evil-doers are punished and their victims avenged can true justice be done and if this is not possible in this life as sometimes happens- where cutthroats, warlords and mass murderers get away with it all – then it will certainly be true in the next and this we can rest assured. We all have to die one day. It will find us whether we like it or not. God tells us:
Every soul will taste death. Then to Us will you be brought back
Wherever ye are, Death will find you out, even if ye are in towers built up strong and high
The Death from which ye flee will truly overtake you. Then will ye be sent back to the Knower of Things secret and open, and He will tell you the things that ye did!
So finally it’s your choice, whether you want to go before God with a clean record on the Day of Judgement when He will judge each and every one of us and accordingly reward us with paradise or punish us in the hellfire.
As God says:
Every soul shall taste of death and only on the Day of Judgement shall you be paid your full recompense. Only he who is saved from the Fire and admitted to the Garden will have attained the object (of life); for the life of this world is but goods and chattels of deception
One Day We shall remove the mountains and you will see the earth as a level stretch, and We shall gather them all together, nor shall we leave out any one of them. And they will be marshaled before your Lord in ranks (and it shall be told them) “Now have you come to Us (bare) as We created you first. Aye. You thought We shall not fulfil the appointment made to you to meet (Us)!
(The Cave: 48)
What is the life of this world but amusement and play? Verily the Home in the Hereafter – that is life indeed – if they but knew
(The Spider: 64)
His Prophet said comparing the life of this world with the Hereafter:
The value of this world compared to that of the Hereafter is like what your finger brings from the sea when you put it in and then take it out
If a woman of the people of Paradise were to look at this earth, she would light up everything in between and fill it with her fragrance; the veil on her head is better than this world and all that is in it
To God We Return
One day we all have to go back to God our Creator in keeping with the dictum “To God we belong and to Him we shall return” (The Heifer:156). This verse is recited when a Muslim hears of another’s death, reminding us of our origin and our ultimate destiny. From (the earth) did We create you, and into it shall We return you, and from it shall We bring you out once again (Ta Ha:55). Not just us, there will come a day when our entire earth, nay our entire universe will be destroyed. But it does not end there. As God reminds us: “What is the life of this world but play and amusement? But best is the Home in the Hereafter” (The Cattle:32).
God speaks of the Resurrection many times, and asks in the Qur’an if He originated creation in the first place, why should it be impossible for him to recreate such creation:
He it is Who originates creation, then repeats it, and for Him it is most easy
(The Romans: 27)
He does not stop there, He gives us many reminders of the resurrection:
It is He who sends the winds like heralds of glad tidings, going before His Mercy, when they have carried the heavy laden clouds, We drive them to a land that is dead, make rain descend upon it, and with it produce every kind of harvest. Thus shall We raise up the dead, perchance ye may remember
And as if even that were not enough, he asks us to reflect further:
O mankind, if you have a doubt about the resurrection (consider) that we created you out of (a lifeless thing like) dust, then out of sperm, then out of a leech-like clot, then out of a morsel of flesh, partly formed and partly unformed, in order that we may manifest (Our Power) to you, and We cause whom We will to rest in the wombs for an appointed term, then do We bring you out as babes, then (foster you) that you may reach your age of full strength, and some of you are called to die, and some are sent back to the feeblest old age, so that they know nothing, after having known (much). And you see the earth barren and lifeless. But when We pour down rain on it, it is stirred (to life), it swells, and it puts forth every kind of beautiful growth in pairs. This is so, because God is the Reality. It is He who gives life to the dead, and it is He who has Power over all things. And verily the Hour will come.There can be no doubt about it, or about (the fact) that God will raise up all who are in the graves
Yes, everything in nature testifies to a resurrection. Like the spring of life following the winter of death even the seasons testify to it. There can be no doubt about it, because God is so very clear about it:
Does man think that We cannot assemble his bones ? Nay, We are able to put together in perfect order the very tips of his fingers
(The Resurrection: 3-4)
How telling indeed. God is telling us that he could restore our very fingertips –each of which you know has a different signature, differing in every individual- when we are dead and gone. Strong language no doubt, but it doesn’t end here. God speaks of the hereafter in many other passages of the Qur’an so that one might think that there is no scripture that focuses so much on the afterlife than Islam. This is because as the final revelation it is more complete and describes the hereafter in more detail than covered in any earlier revelation.
One day the earth will be changed to a different Earth, and so will the heavens, and (men) will be marshaled before God, the One, the Irresistible; and you will see the sinners that day bound together in fetters-their garments of liquid pitch, and their faces covered with fire
God gives you life, then causes you to die, then He will assemble you on the Day of Resurrection about which there is no doubt. But most of mankind know not. And to God belongs the Kingdom of the heavens and the earth. And on the Day that the Hour will be established-On that Day the followers of falsehood shall lose. And you will see each nation humbled to their knees, each nation will be called to its Record (of deeds). This Day you shall be recompensed for what you used to do
(The Kneeling Down: 26-28)
Those who patiently persevere, seeking the Countenance of their Lord; establish regular prayer, spend of what We have bestowed for their sustenance, secretly and openly, and turn off evil with good; for such there is the final attainment of the eternal Home – Gardens of perpetual bliss. They shall enter there, as well as the righteous among their fathers, spouses and offspring and angels shall enter unto them from every gate (with the salutation) “Peace Unto You for your perseverance in patience! Now how excellent is the final Home!”. But those who breach the covenant of God, after having plighted their word, and cut asunder those things which God has commanded to be joined, and work mischief in the land – On them is the Curse;for them is the terrible Home!
The worldly minded may scoff at the idea just as the unbelievers of old did when they said:
When we are dead and have become dust and bones, Shall then we indeed be raised again? – (We) and our fathers of old?
And they say: “What is there but our life in this world? We shall die and we live, and nothing but Time can destroy us”
(The Kneeling Down:24)
A Belief Common to All
The unbelievers, like the Jews of old, mocked and laughed at the Prophet when he spoke of the resurrection, thinking it impossible that their dead, decayed and disintegrated bodies should be resurrected. The worldly-minded still doubt the possibility. People have died, but no one has come back alive to tell their tale, they argue. How can a body that has lost all signs of life and decayed into dust come back to life they ask. But little do they stop to ponder that a belief in a life after death is reflected in all faiths of the world from time immemorial which shows that mankind shares such a belief and that it must have some basis. In some cultures people even went to the extent of burying their dead with material objects in anticipation of the afterlife.
Yes, man has an inexplicable longing for immortality and this instinctive longing for an afterlife is itself strong proof of its existence. Why because God has implanted the seeds of such conviction in the hearts of men. Can the theory of evolution explain this, this belief in an afterlife? Nay, because it is something beyond worldly experience and belongs to a higher realm of spirituality. Since the soul has no physical properties, how can it decompose after death like the body does? There has to be another explanation.
Indeed a good many scientists believe in an afterlife based on scientific reasoning. One such was Werner Von Braun, a German-born American scientist who queried: “In this modern world of ours many people seem to think that science has somehow made such religious ideas as immortality untimely or old fashioned. I think science has a real surprise for the skeptics. Science, for instance, tells us that nothing in nature, not even the tiniest particle, can disappear without a trace. Nature does not know extinction. All it knows is transformation. If God applies this fundamental principle to the most minute and insignificant parts of His universe, doesn’t it make sense to assume that He applies it to the masterpiece of His creation, the human soul?”
In fact, there are many people who have experienced what are known as Out of Body Experiences or Near Death Experiences. These are people who were on the brink of death, but were brought back to life through resuscitation and other means. Some have reported getting this impression that they floated above their lifeless bodies to rest their sight on their corporeal forms and see their doctors or nurses desperately trying to save them. Others have reported feeling an overwhelming sense of peace and wellbeing, going through a sort of tunnel to encounter a being of light who is described as being brighter than the sun. Yet others describe a place of exquisite beauty much like the heaven described in scripture, illuminated by a light that radiates life and love that allows them to feel so at home with a divine presence that they cannot even think of going back to this worldly life.
These accounts come from people from all walks of life across all ages and cultures and includes children and even people blind from birth who say they see an awe-inspiring picture of the afterlife when on the verge of death. They say that in this spiritual body they feel more alive than ever before, as if they had not five, but countless senses. In fact, many come to look upon this exhilarating experience as a preview of the life to come. Thus even scientifically there are grounds to suppose that an afterlife does exist as held by all great faiths. Further, one still cannot rationally explain how the life spirit that is in us all disappears after death without a trace, except to suppose that it has moved to another realm of existence. If life is a journey to death could not death be a passport to another life ?
Take Christianity, good Christians like Muslims believe that the immortal soul will be freed from its mortal clay and will be reunited with their bodies at the resurrection in anticipation of the final and eternal judgment by God of every nation. The righteous would be rewarded with everlasting bliss in the Malkutha D’Alaha ‘Kingdom of God’and the wicked condemned to eternal torment in Gehenna ‘Hellfire’. Did not Jesus say: “I tell you, my friends, do not fear those who kill the body, and after that can do nothing more. But I will warn you whom to fear: fear Him who, after he has killed, has authority to cast into hell. Yes, I tell you, fear Him!” (Luke 12:4–5). Did he not say in the Sermon on the Mount: “Blessed are they who are persecuted for the sake of righteousness, for theirs is the Kingdom of Heaven” (Matthew 5:10). The reality of the afterlife is also illustrated in the Parable of the Rich Man and Lazarus told by Jesus:
There was a rich man who dressed in purple garments and fine linen and dined sumptuously each day. And lying at his door was a poor man named Lazarus, covered with sores, who would have gladly eaten hill fill of the scraps that fell from the rich man’s table. When the poor man died, he was carried away by angels to the bosom of Abraham. The rich man also died and was buried, and from the netherworld, where he was in torment, he raised his eyes and saw Abraham far off and Lazarus at his side. And he cried out ‘Father Abraham, have pity on me. Send Lazarus to dip the tip of his finger in water and cool my tongue, for I am suffering torment in these flames”. Abraham replied “My child, remember that you received what was good during your lifetime, while Lazarus received what was bad; but now he is comforted here, while you are tormented. Moreover between us and you a great chasm is established to prevent anyone from crossing who might wish to go down from our side to yours or from your side to ours’. He said ‘Then I beg you, father, send him to my father’s house, for I have five brothers, so that he may warn them, lest they too come to this place of torment’. But Abraham replied ‘They have Moses and the Prophets. Let them listen to them’. he said “O no father Abraham, but if someone from the dead goes to them, they will repent. Then Abraham said ‘If they will not listen to Moses and the Prophets, neither will they be persuaded if someone should rise from the dead” (Luke 16:19-31).
The Jews, as could be seen from this parable, disputed the resurrection. Why, because they held that the day of judgment happens every year on Rosh Hashanah, a day known as Yom Ha Din ‘Judgement Day’. They therefore held that there was no need for it and that if it were indeed so it applied only to other nations and not the Jews. This is in spite of God’s saying through his prophet Isaiah: “Lo I am about to create new heavens and a new earth. The things of the past shall not be remembered or come to mind. Instead, there shall always be rejoicing and happiness in what I create” (Isaiah 65:17) and his Words spoken through the Prophet Daniel: “Many of those who sleep in the dust of the earth shall awake; some shall live forever, others shall be an everlasting horror and disgrace. But the wise shall shine brightly like the splendour of the firmament, and those who lead the many to justice shall be like the stars forever” (Daniel 12: 2-3).
Thus in the Psalm of Asaph we read of God’s Mercy to Israel: “Time and again, He turned back his anger, unwilling to unleash all His Rage – He was mindful that they were flesh, a breath that passes and does not return” (Psalm 78:38-39). In another Psalm said to be by Moses, we read: “A thousand years in Your eyes are merely a yesterday. But humans you return to dust saying: “Return you mortals!”. Before a watch passes in the night, you have brought them to their end; they disappear like sleep at dawn; they are like grass that dies. It sprouts green in the morning; by evening it is dry and withered” (Psalm 90:4-6).
It is unlikely that these words were uttered by prophets like Moses, even if they were, they only stress on the impermanence of life and not a denial of the afterlife. As seen from the Parable of Jesus, Moses had indeed warned his followers of an afterlife. As Jesus told the Jews who denied the afterlife: That the dead will rise even Moses made known in the Passage about the Bush, when he called ‘Lord’, the God of Abraham, the God of Isaac, and the God of Jacob; and He is not the God of the dead, but of the living, for to him all are alive (Luke 20:27-38). What Jesus meant was that in the Old Testament God speaks of Himself in the present as the God of the patriarchs who died centuries ago. He identifies Himself in relation to them, and because of their relation to Him, the Living God, they too must be alive. That the Jews were promised paradise if they did good is also seen in the Qur’an where it is said:
God did aforetime take a covenant from the children of Israel, and We appointed twelve captains among them. and God said: “I am with you: If ye establish regular prayers, practice regular charity, believe in My Messengers, honour and assist them,and loan to God a beautiful loan; verily I will wipe out from you your evils and admit you to Gardens under which rivers flow”
(The Repast: 12)
It may well be that the Biblical ‘land flowing with milk and honey’ (Deuteronomy 6:3) promised to the Children of Israel was indeed paradise and not just the terrestrial realm they called ‘the promised land’ in other words Palestine. Why, because Palestine the ‘promised land’ did not really flow with milk and honey, but the Qur’an does contain a parable comparing paradise with a garden flowing with milk and honey (47:15). Is it that the Jews confused the paradise of the heavenly rivers with the terrestrial one in the promised land and think that was it? If they thought so, it only shows how worldly-minded they were; so material-minded that they thought it impossible that there should be life after death and so expunged the idea of an afterlife from their scriptures.
This is also perhaps why we find that the nearest equivalent of hell among the Jews of old was what they called Sheol or the Netherworld – the abode of the dead, like when they describe how the Reubenites Dathan and Abiram with their wives and children were swallowed up by the earth in the days of Moses, so that they went down alive to the netherworld (Numbers 16:32-33). The Jews had, and still, have no clear concept of the afterlife. Maybe that explains why the Jews have throughout history been such a hard-hearted race with no desire for heaven or dread of hell.
Zoroastrianism, which is also a monotheistic faith, has it that after a great battle between the forces of good and evil in which the good will triumph, there will be a resurrection of the dead in the bodies they had before died, to be followed by a final judgment by an ordeal where molten metal will be made to flow across the earth like a river and all humanity required to wade through that river, which for the righteous will seem to be a river of warm milk, while the wicked will be burned before it flows down to hell, where it will annihilate the devil and the last vestiges of wickedness in the universe. The righteous will become like the angels known as Amesha Spentas speaking a single language and forming a single nation without borders, all united in praising the One God.
The ancient Egyptians too believed in an afterlife. At death a person faced judgment by a tribunal of judges. If they had led a righteous life they would be welcomed into the Two Fields. If guilty they would be thrown to a “devourer” and would be condemned to the lake of fire. In Greek mythology souls were judged after death and those who received punishment were sent to Tartarus, a deep, gloomy place serving as a dungeon of torment and suffering within the realm of Hades or the underworld. The Fijians called Paradise Burotu where the souls of good people went to live in joy for all time. The ancient Hindus as those of today also believed in a heaven called Svarga and a hell called Naraka despite believing in the transmigration of souls from one existence to another.
Even Buddhism, in spite of its almost endless cycle of births and rebirths knows of heaven and hell, for did not the Buddha see those made to enter the fiery dwelling, serving as food for hungry long-toothed dogs or preyed upon by brain-devouring birds and drinking the bitterest poisons, their fate yet holding them back from death. Death simply means the passage of a soul to another realm of existence and this belief corrupted over time could have well led to the idea of rebirth in different states of existence common to these oriental faiths of Indian origin.
When comparing what Islam teaches us about the hereafter we find many similarities with these earlier faiths. For example Islam tells us that after the Judgment, people will cross a bridge called As-Siraat or ‘The Path’. This bridge is said to be sharper than a sword and thinner than a strand of hair. The blessed will reach Paradise, where angels will greet them while the damned will fall off the bridge into the pit below to suffer torment upon torment in the fire of hell. Such a description is found also in the teachings of Jesus, for did he not say: “Enter ye in at the straight gate: for wide is the gate, and broad is the way, that leadeth to destruction, and many there be which go in thereat: Because straight is the gate, and narrow is the way, which leadeth unto life, and few there be that find it”. (Matthew 7:13-15). They said one unto him “Lord, are there few that be saved?” And he said unto them “Strive to enter in at the straight gate: for many, I say unto you, will seek to enter in, and shall not be able” (Luke 13:23-24).
Here Jesus is talking about the path to paradise being straight and narrow and this is exactly what Islam tells us. Even though he may be speaking metaphorically, meaning that taking a broad (in other words easy) way by indulging in the delights of the world leads to destruction and taking a narrow (hence restricted and difficult) way leads to salvation, we can interpret his words Straight is the gate, and narrow is the way which leadeth unto life in the sense of the way leading to the gates of paradise as taught in Islam. Then take the Chinvat Bridge of the Zoroastrians which stretches from the Peak of Alborz to heaven where the pious easily cross a sharp and narrow razor-edge like bridge over hell as it takes the form of a wide walkway while the wicked simply fall into the hell below. It is of this bridge that Zarathustra warned when he sang (Gathas: 11-11):
Priests and princes yoke people under duress to destroy life with their evil actions, But their souls and consciences shall upbraid them when they approach the sorting bridge
The Resurrection Described
In Islam, the resurrection is described in more vivid terms, so that it appeals to even a very scientific mind. Ayisha, the Prophet’s wife was once told by the Prophet: “The people will be gathered barefooted, naked and uncircumcised”. I said: “O God’s Messenger ! Will the men and the women look at each other ?”. He said: “The situation will be too hard for them to pay attention to that” (Saheeh Al-Bukhari). What we can infer from this is that humans will be resurrected with all their parts intact and in the same state as they issued out of their mothers’ wombs, that is to say, barefooted, naked and uncircumcised.
We are further told that humans will be resurrected from the coccyx, a small triangular bone at the lower part of the spine known in Arabic as the ajbu’dh-dhanab ‘the root of the tail’. The Prophet said of the resurrection:
God will send water from the sky and then the dead bodies will grow like vegetation grows, There is nothing of the human body that does not decay except one bone; that is the little bone at the end of the coccyx of which the human body will be recreated on the Day of Resurrection
Thus everything of the human body will waste away, perish or decay except the last coccyx bone, from which God will resurrect the human body:
All of the son of Adam will (be eaten) by the earth except the coccyx from which he was created and from which he will be resurrected
This saying tells us that humans have their origins in the coccyx, that it never decays and indeed all of humanity will be resurrected from it. Today we know that in the early stages of human embryonic development, a part called the primitive streak, a linear band of cells forming a very minute strand, gives the embryo its bilateral symmetry, that head-to-tail, front-to-back orientation, besides pouring out cells onto the embryonic disc that start to divide and acquire their specific characteristics before eventually going on to form the different organs of the body. The primitive streak then becomes redundant to finally disappear in the coccyx, the last vertebra of the spinal cord. Scientists tell us today that the coccyx is the hardest part of the body.
How fascinating indeed is this idea that we would be recreated from a little bone from our dead bodies. Even modern science tells us that humans could be cloned from a tiny cell which contains all its genetic information. However this does n’t mean that if the Os sacrum is destroyed, we cannot be recreated. With God, all things are possible. The Prophet once related a story to his companions about a man who feared that God would punish him for his sins and who said to his family: “If I die, take me and burn my corpse and throw my ashes into the sea on a hot (or windy) day”’ They did so, but God gathered together his particles and asked him: “What made you do what you did?” He replied, “The only thing that made me do it, was that I was afraid of You”. So God forgave him (Saheeh Al-Bukhari)
The idea of a Resurrection could also stand up to modern scientific thinking. You know as I do that Time has a direction, it invariably moves towards the future. You see a tree decaying or people getting older. Can a decaying tree get back its robustness or a man return from the dead ? No! But that might happen if time ran backwards. Who knows, just as time progresses with the ongoing expansion of the universe, it may reverse when the universe begins to contract. Thus all life could be recreated with the reversal of time. This becomes very pertinent in view of a saying of the Prophet about the end times: “The Last Hour will not come before time contracts, a year being like a month, a month like a week, a week like a day, a day like an hour, and an hour like the kindling of a fire” (Tirmidhi).
In the Qur’an interestingly, the resurrection is compared to physical processes based on nature like the formation of clouds which gives rise to life giving rain which in turn leads to the growth of plants from dormant seeds.
It is God, Who sends the winds so that they raise up the clouds, and We drive them to a land that is dead and revive the earth with it after its death. Even so (will be) the Resurrection
(The Originator of Creation:9)
This might suggest that the revival after death is also based on some physical laws. Think about it. Your sleep at night is like a death and your awakening in the morning like a resurrection. The world around you itself sees a sort of resurrection like when you see how the cold grey winters with lifeless trees are succeeded by the bloom of warm springs. All of nature hints at resurrection and we see it not. The Resurrection is vividly described in the Qur’an as the day on which the heavens shall be rolled up like a scroll and the creation repeated.
The Day that We roll up the heavens like a scroll rolled up for writing. Even as We produced the first creation, so shall We repeat it, a promise binding upon Us. Truly, We shall do it
When the universe contracts, the cosmic play of opposites that ensure balance and harmony in the world could come to an end. This event could easily cause the laws of the universe to reverse. Reversal of gravity for instance could cause cataclysmic events completely transforming the earth. Though gravity is normally an attractive force, it could then become a repulsive force so that it could cause the earth to explode. The earth could expand outwards, throwing out all of its insides, so that it would be like a hollowed out shell. The mountains could fall apart and red-hot lava could be thrown out lighting up the sky like molten copper and making the surface of the earth like a plain.
When the earth is pounded to powder and thy Lord cometh, and His angels rank upon rank
They see the (Day) as a far-off event, but We see it near. The Day that the sky will be like molten brass and the mountains will be like wool
(The Ways of Ascent: 6- 9)
Guard yourselves against a day that will make children hoary-headed, whereon the sky will be cleft asunder
(The Enfolded One:17-18)
When the sky is cleft asunder; when the stars are scattered; when the oceans are suffered to burst forth, and when the graves are turned upside down
(The Cleaving Asunder:1-4)
One Day the earth and the mountains will be in violent commotion, and the mountains will be as a heap of sand poured out and flowing down
(The Enfolded One:14)
Verily the Doom of thy Lord will come to pass. None there is that can avert it. On the day when the firmament will be in dreadful commotion, and the mountains fly, hither and thither
They ask thee about the mountains, say: ‘My Lord will uproot them and scatter them as dust. He will leave them as plains,so that you will see nothing crooked or curved in their place
When the Earth is shaken with her (final) earthquake, And Earth throws up her burdens, And man cries: ‘What is the matter with it? That day will it tell its tidings, because your Lord inspires it
(The Earthquake 99:1-5)
And when the earth is spread out and casts out all that’s within it and becomes empty
(The Rending Asunder: 3-4)
When the sight is dazed, and the moon is buried in darkness and the sun and moon are joined together
(The Resurrection: 7-9)
When the sun is folded up, and the stars fall, losing their lustre, when the mountains vanish, when the she-camels ten months with young are left untended, when the wild beasts are herded together and the oceans boil over with a swell and the souls are sorted out (being joined like with like)
(The Folding Up: 1-6)
So here we are told that the sun, the source of light in our physical world, will break up, and as if that were not enough, the stars in the firmament which have remained fixed in the heavens for ages will fall. Imagine the stars falling. Nothing can be more fixed than the stars, and yet they will fall. And the sky taking the hue of molten brass and breaking apart as it were; and the mountains which have been rooted in the earth since time immemorial becoming flat and level; And the seas, cool and contained as they are will simply boil and surge, perhaps overwhelming all land; and as if that were not enough even children will go grey in the head as the laws of nature as we know it are reversed.
So here we see our entire physical world breaking up, the world as we know it falling apart. This world, after all is a transitory one and it will perish. This material world we knew, the only one we imagined to be real in our craze for the things of this world in spite of the ravages of never resting time would come crumbling like dust before the presence of the supreme reality manifested in all His Glory and accompanied by His beautiful luminous creations, the angels. But this will not be the end of man.
Rather it will be a new beginning-the birth of a new era, the dawn of a permanent reality so unlike the fleeting worldly life we have known. Man will be resurrected and be brought back to God, nation after nation, to be judged:
One day the earth will be changed to a different Earth, and so will the heavens, and (men) will be marshaled before God, the One, the Irresistible
They will come forth, their eyes humbled from graves, like locusts scattered abroad
And you will see each nation humbled, each nation called to its record. And it will be said to them: This day you are repaid for what you used to do
(The Kneeling Down:28)
God will Judge us fairly, for who can be a better judge than God. He will reward the good and punish the evil-doers, taking into account all deeds which will be unfolded before their very eyes.
God created the heavens and the earth for just ends, and in order that each soul may find the recompense of what it has earned, and none of them be wronged
(The Kneeling Down:22)
On that Day will men proceed in companies sorted out, to be shown the deeds that they had done. Then shall anyone who has done an atom’s weight of good, see it! And anyone who has done an atom’s weight of evil shall see it
(The Earthquake: 6–8)
We shall set up scales of justice for the Day of Judgment, so that not a soul will be dealt with unjustly in the least. And if there be (no more than) the weight of a mustard seed, We will bring it into account
(The Prophets: 47)
And verily We shall recount their whole story with knowledge, for We were never absent (at any time or place). The balance that Day will be true (to a nicety). Those whose Scale (of good) is heavy will prosper. Those whose scale will be light, will find their souls in perdition, for they wrongfully treated our Signs
And the Book (of records of good and evil deeds faithfully recorded by the angels) will be placed before you. And you will see the sinful in great terror, because of what is recorded therein. They will say, ‘Oh, woe to us! What book is this? It leaves out nothing, great or small, but takes account of it.’ They will find all that they did, placed before them. And not one will your Lord treat with injustice
(The Cave: 49)
God will judge them in every matter great and small, so that even the killing of a sparrow for sport would be taken into account. The Prophet told us in no uncertain terms: “There is no man who kills (even) a sparrow or anything smaller, without its deserving it, but God (God) will question him about it (on the Day of Judgment)” (An-Nasai). He also said: “Whoever kills a sparrow or anything bigger than that without a just cause, God will hold him accountable on the Day of Judgment“. The listeners asked, “O Messenger of God, what is a just cause?” He replied, “That he will kill it to eat, not simply to chop off its head and then throw it away“. (Nisai, Hakim).
Once the Divine judgement is made, none can turn it back. He or she might plead, beg, or cry but God’s Decision will be final. He will favour those who believed in the unseen, those who believed in Him and His Angels and who faithfully followed the Prophets who came to them and the rest He will overlook just as they had forgotten Him their Creator for the glamour and glitter of this fleeting material life.
The Prophet was once asked: “O Messenger of God! Will we be able to see our Lord on the Day of Judgement?”. He replied: “Have you any difficulty seeing the sun at noon on a cloudless day?”. “No” they replied. He asked them: “Do you need to push and shove each other when you want to see the moon on a cloudless night?”. “No, O Messenger of God” they replied. Then said he: “I swear by the One who holds my soul in His Hands that there will be no pushing and shoving when it comes to seeing your Lord, just as when you don’t have to push and shove each other to see the sun and the moon. God Most High will ask: “O so and so. Did I not favour you? Did I not make you master of all creation? Did I not give you a wife? Did I not make the horse and the camel subservient to you?”. “Yes. O Lord!” the slave will answer. God Most High will then ask: “So did you not think that you would ever meet Me?”. The slave will answer: “No, O Lord!”. God Most High will then say: “In that case, now it is I who is overlooking you, just as you forgot Me in the world” (Saheeh Muslim).
Once judgement is passed, the hordes of men and women would be led on the path to paradise to enjoy supreme bliss or else fall to the pit of hell to suffer torment upon torment. God will come to them and declare: “I am your Lord” to which they will reply “You are our Lord” and will follow Him.. Then a bridge will be laid over the Fire. The Prophet will be the first to cross it and the invocation of the other prophets that Day will be “O God, save us, save us!”. The speed at which the blessed ones cross the bridge will depend on their deeds. The Prophet foretold:
People will come to the Fire and they will pass by according to their deeds. The first group will pass by at the speed of lightning, the second group like the wind, the next group will pass by as quick as horsemen and the next will pass by at the speed of a camel rider
The best will pass the bridge at the speed of light while the worst, hobbling in fear, will find it a bridge too far, its other end leading to the gates of paradise ever so distant, like an island beyond the horizon which they can never hope to reach. And over that bridge there will be hooks Similar to thorns These hooks will snatch the people according to their deeds. Some people will be ruined because of their evil deeds, and some will be cut into pieces and fall down in Hell, but will be saved afterwards, when God has finished His Judgement and intends taking out of the fire whoever He wishes to take out from among those people who testified to His Divinity.
God will order the angels to take them out and the angels will know them by the mark of the traces of prostration (on their foreheads), for as the Prophet said: “God has banned the fire from consuming the traces of prostration on the body of Adam’s son” So they will take them out, and by then they would have burnt (as coal), and then a water called Maul Hayat ‘Water of Life’ will be poured on them, and they will spring out like a seed springs out on the bank of a rainwater stream. But there will remain one man who will be facing the Fire and he will say “O Lord! It’s vapour has poisoned and smoked me and its flame has burnt me; please turn my face away from the Fire”. God will then turn his face away from the Fire. The man will say: “O Lord, bring me near the gate of Paradise”’ and will keep on invoking God till He says: “But if I give you that, you may ask me for something else”. The man will say: “No, by Your Power. I will not ask for anything else”’ . He will promise God not to ask for anything else. So God will bring him near to the gate of Paradise, and when he sees what is in it, he will be silent. Then he will say “O Lord! Let me enter Paradise”. God will say: “Didn’t you promise that you would not ask Me for anything other than that? Woe to you, O son of Adam ! How treacherous you are!‘”. On that, the man will say: “O Lord! Do not make me the most wretched of Your creation” and will keep on invoking God till God smiles and admits him to Paradise (Saheeh Al-Bukhari).