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Death & the Hereafter in Islam


“Every soul shall taste death.”Qur’an 29:57

Death is Near

“Wheresoever you may be, death will overtake you even if you are in fortresses built up strong and high!” Qur’an 4:78

Death is the reality from which none can escape. It draws nearer every day; every hour; every minute. According to the CIA’s The World Factbook 2007, almost two people die each second. That’s a staggering 57.9 million people each year! Every single being will reach this inescapable fate, regardless of their age, health, background, social status or piety. Where are the past kings, the billionaires and the powerful? Where are the once beautiful, the famous, and the intellectual elite?

Death is Near

“Wheresoever you may be, death will overtake you even if you are in fortresses built up strong and high!” Qur’an 4:78

Death is the reality from which none can escape. It draws nearer every day; every hour; every minute. According to the CIA’s The World Factbook 2007, almost two people die each second. That’s a staggering 57.9 million people each year! Every single being will reach this inescapable fate, regardless of their age, health, background, social status or piety. Where are the past kings, the billionaires and the powerful? Where are the once beautiful, the famous, and the intellectual elite?

And I did not create the Jinn and mankind except to worship Me.”Qur’an 51:56

God has also informed us the purpose behind the creation of death and life:

Allah is He who created death and life to test you as to which of you is best in deed.Qur’an

One does not prepare for death by pre-paying funeral services or selecting a coffin in advance. It is about fulfilling one’s purpose in life – to worship Allah alone, to live according to His commandments, and perform good deeds. The concept of worship in Islam is all encompassing and is not merely restricted to praying. In fact, any action that is pleasing to Allah is considered an act of worship, and a person will be rewarded for it.

The Moment of Death

Let every person consider what they have sent ahead for tomorrow.Qur’an

Every day we see examples of death. We perceive a peaceful death as one with neither pain nor violence. However, this is not necessarily the case. When a person dies, the soul leaves the body, and so the physical appearance of the body may not reflect the situation of the soul. The peacefulness or unease of the soul will be a direct result of how well a person fulfilled their purpose in this life, and has little to do with the cause of death.

Consider an example of two people who have a one-way ticket to a destination they have never been to before. The first person takes the time to learn about the language, culture and practices relating to the destination. He acquires the right currency and vaccinations, and when it comes time to travel, he arrives without any surprises. He is safe and content, because he has taken the time to prepare.

In contrast, the second person is careless in his preparations and simply lives for the moment until the time comes to depart. He arrives at the unknown destination scared and confused. His unpreparedness causes him to end up with a dreadful fate, as all of the things he has brought with him were of no use.

Describing such a heedless person, Allah says in the Qur’an:

When death comes to one of them, he says, ‘My Lord, send me back! So that I can do good in the things I neglected.’ By no means! It is a mere word that he speaks. Qur’an 23:99-100

Also consider the response of those people consigned to hell, when they are questioned regarding what put them there:

They will say, ‘We were not of those who prayed, nor did we feed the poor. And we used to enter into vain discourse with those who engaged in it, and we used to deny the Day of Recompense (the Day of Judgement) until there came to us the death that is certain.’  Qur’an 74:43-47

We all have an appointed time with death, and we will all travel to this unfamiliar destination. Ask yourself – have you prepared for it?

Did you think that We (God) created you in play (without any purpose), and that you would not be brought back to Us (God)? Qur’an 23:115

Life is a test which ends in death, but it does not mark the end of one’s existence. Once death arrives, the opportunity to do good ceases. It will be too late to repent and our fate will be determined solely by our beliefs and deeds that we do in our current life. Man’s life is divided into two parts: a brief stay in this world, and an eternal life in the next. Any sane mind will conclude that eternal bliss is far more beneficial than short lived pleasures on Earth.

Allah created mankind and made us responsible for our actions by granting us freedom of choice, and intelligence to discern right and wrong. If there were no afterlife in which the good were rewarded and the bad punished, that would contradict the perfect justice of Allah.

Hence it is an absolute demand of justice that there be a Day of Judgement on which every soul is brought to account.

Shall We then treat the People of Faith like the People of Sin? What is the matter with you? How do you judge?Qur’an 68:35-36

The Day of Judgement

“Death, from which you are running away from, will certainly catch up with you. Then you will be returned to the Knower of the Unseen and the Visible (i.e. Allah) and He will inform you about what you did.”Qur’an 62:8

Everyone’s deeds in this life are meticulously recorded and preserved, as Allah says:

“And the Book (of Deeds) will be placed open, and you will see the sinful in great terror because of what is recorded therein. They will say, “Ah! Woe to us! What is this book that leaves nothing small or great, but takes account thereof!” They will find all that they did placed before them. And your Lord does injustice to no one.”Qur’an 18:49

We will be amazed by the accuracy of such a record of all our actions, as we will be reminded of matters long forgotten. Allah says,

Allah has kept account of it, while they have forgotten it.Qur’an 58:6

Thinking deeply on this should make us ashamed of committing any sin while knowing that it will be recorded against us and exposed on the Day of Judgement in front of Allah.

For those who doubt Allah’s abilities to resurrect and judge them, Allah quotes the disbelievers as saying:

“ ‘Who will give life to these bones when they have rotted away and became dust?’ Say (O Muhammad), ‘He will give life to them Who created them for the first time! And He is the All-Knower of every creation!’ ” Qur’an 36:78-79

Paradise and Hell

Those who believe in Allah as the only God worthy of being worshipped, and perform good deeds, will be rewarded with Paradise.

Verily, the dwellers of the Paradise, that Day, will be busy in joyful things. They and their wives will be in pleasant shade, reclining on thrones. They will have therein fruits (of all kinds) and all that they ask for.Qur’an 36:55-57

Prophet Muhammad (peace be upon him) narrated that Allah said:

“I have prepared for My righteous slaves such excellent things as no eye has ever seen, nor an ear has ever heard, nor a human heart can ever think of.”

This is in sharp contrast to the people who deny the Oneness of Allah, who will be told:

This is the Hell which you were promised! Burn therein this day, for that which you used to disbelieve.Qur’an 36:63-64

For the disbelievers is the worst of punishments:

“Indeed, Hell has been lying in wait for the transgressors, a place of return, in which they will remain for ages [unending]. They will not taste therein any coolness or drink except scalding water and dirty wound discharges – an appropriate recompense [according to their evil acts]! Indeed, they were not expecting an account, and denied our verses with emphatic denial. But all things We have recorded in a Book. ‘So taste the penalty, and never will We (God) increase you except in torment.’ ” Qur’an 78:21-30

Conclusion

“O man! What has deceived you concerning your Lord, the Most Generous? Who created you, fashioned you perfectly, and gave you due proportion. In whatever form He willed, He put you together. No! But you deny the Recompense (reward for good deeds and punishment for evil deeds on the Day of Judgement).”Qur’an 82:6-9
Indeed, the righteous will be in pleasure, and indeed, the wicked will be in Hellfire.Qur’an 82:13-14
Death is inevitable. Our purpose in life is to worship Allah alone, perform acts of righteousness and to avoid all that is forbidden. Our fate is being decided on the basis of our present actions, so we can either make use of our opportunities on Earth to ensure an eternal place for ourselves in Paradise, or we can waste them and condemn ourselves to eternal punishment in Hell.

What is the Purpose of Life?

Where did I come from? Why am I here? Where am I going?

One of the first questions that comes to mind when considering our purpose of life is, “where did we come from?” Are we here based on random natural coincidences or is there a higher intelligent being, a creator? Acknowledging the existence of a creator is the first step in understanding our true purpose in life. There are many logical and rational reasons for believing in a creator. Three reasons are briefly mentioned below.

1. Beginning of the Universe

The first evidence that points to the existence of God relates to understanding the origin of the universe.

Imagine walking in a desert and finding a watch. We know a watch consists of glass, plastic and metal. Glass comes from sand, plastic from oil, and metal extracted from the ground – all these components are found in the desert. Would you believe that the watch formed itself? That the Sun shone, the wind blew, lightning struck, the oil bubbled to the surface and mixed with the sand and metal, and over millions of years the watch came together by random or natural coincidences?

Some may ask, “Who created God”? God, the Creator, is different to His creation. God is eternal, has always existed and has no beginning; therefore the question of who created God is irrational.

Human experience and simple logic tells us that something that has a beginning does not simply come from nothing, nor can something create itself. Therefore, the most rational explanation is that a higher “being” created the universe. This “being” must be powerful and intelligent as it brought the whole universe into existence and created the ‘laws of science’ which govern it. We can also reason that this “being” is timeless and spaceless, because time, space and matter began at the creation of the universe. All of these attributes make up the basic concept of God, the creator of the universe. This is in perfect agreement with modern science which concludes that the universe is finite and has a beginning

2. Perfection of the Universe

The second evidence that points to the existence of an intelligent creator is the order and perfect balance of our complex universe.

Many features in the universe clearly indicate it to be specially designed to support life, such as the earth’s distance from the sun, the thickness of the earth’s crust, the speed at which the earth revolves, the percentage of oxygen in the atmosphere, and even the earth’s tilt. If these measurements were slightly different to what they currently are, life could not exist.

In the same way that a watch has an intelligent maker to keep accurate time, so too must the earth have an intelligent maker to keep accurate time around the sun. Could this occur by itself?

When we see the order, precise laws and systems within ourselves and throughout the universe, is it not rational they have an organiser? This ‘organiser’ is best explained by the existence of God – the one who brought about this order.

3. Revelation from God

The third evidence that points to the existence of God is the actual revelation that God has sent to humankind as a sign of His existence. There are clear signs that the book of Islam, the Quran, is the word of God. Below is a brief summary of reasons that support this claim. The Quran:

  • Is over 1400 years old and contains many scientific facts that were unknown to people of that time and which have only been discovered recently by science. Examples include: water being the origin of all living things (Quran 21:30); the expanding universe (Quran 51:47); and the individual orbits of the sun and moon (Quran 21:33).
  • Contains many historical facts that were unknown to the people of that time as well as numerous predictions which have proven to be correct.
  • Is free from any errors or contradictions despite gradual revelation over 23 years and covering a wide variety of topics.
  • Has been preserved, word-for-word, since its revelation in its original Arabic language, unlike other scriptures which no longer exist in their original form.
  • Has a simple, pure and universal message which appeals to Man’s intellect and inherent beliefs about Almighty God.
  • Has a deep and moving effect on people.
  • Was revealed to Prophet Muhammad (peace be upon him) who was known to be illiterate, yet contains a unique style of language that is universally known as the pinnacle of Arabic eloquence and linguistic beauty.

The most rational explanation for the many unique and miraculous aspects of the Quran is that it is from God.

God Sends Guidance

Upon acknowledging that we have been created by the All-Wise Creator, we would expect to be informed of our purpose. How can we know what God expects from us? Do we live in trial and error, or make our own purpose? Do we “go with the flow” by following others? No. God sent Prophets and revelation to inform us of our purpose.

God sent thousands of Prophets, at least one to every nation, with the same message: to worship God alone and to follow His guidance. They included Adam, Noah, Abraham, Moses, Jesus and Muhammad (peace be upon them all).

Prophet Muhammad (peace be upon him), the last in the chain of Prophets, was the perfect example of an honest, just, compassionate and brave human being. He was sent with the final revelation from God, the Quran, to demonstrate how its teachings should be applied.

The Quran is a book of guidance and explains many concepts such as the purpose of our existence; who God is; the actions liked and disliked by God; the stories of the Prophets and their lessons; accounts of Heaven, Hell, and the Day of Judgement. It aims to clarify misunderstandings about the nature of God, such as clarifying the nature and role of Jesus compared to the nature of God.

Jesus, like all the other Prophets, performed miracles and called to the worship of The One true God (Quran 19:36).

The Nature of Jesus

When trying to understand the concept of God in Islam, it is important to discuss the status of Jesus, given the widespread confusion and claims about his nature.

Some Christians claim that “Jesus is God” or part of a trinity – that is, he is the incarnation of God on earth and that God took on a human form. However, according to the Bible, Jesus was born, ate, slept, prayed and had limited knowledge – all attributes not befitting God. God has attributes of perfection whereas Man is the opposite. So how can anything be two complete opposites both at the same time? This is not rational.

However, some may ask, “If God can do anything, why can’t he become a man?” By definition, God does not do ungodly acts, so if God became man and took on human attributes, he would, necessarily, no longer be God.

Furthermore, the Bible contains many verses in which Jesus speaks and behaves as if God is a separate being to himself. For example, Jesus “fell on his face and prayed” [Matthew 26:39]. If Jesus was God, then would a God fall on his face and pray? And, who would he be praying to?

Some Christians claim that “Jesus is the Son of God.” We should ask ourselves, what does this actually mean? Surely God is far removed from having a physical and literal son. Rather, we find that the term “Son of God” is symbolically used in the earliest biblical languages for a “righteous person”. It is used throughout the Old Testament for many righteous people such as David, Solomon and Israel – not exclusively for Jesus, “…Israel is my firstborn son,” (Exodus 4:22) is one such example.

It is not befitting for Allah to take a son; He is perfect and flawless!

The Islamic belief about Jesus explains who the real Jesus was, whilst maintaining the pure belief about God and His complete Greatness, Uniqueness and Perfection. Jesus was as an honourable Prophet sent by God to call to the worship of God alone.

So…Why am I here?

Everyone would acknowledge that our body parts, such as our eyes, ears, brains and hearts, have a purpose. Wouldn’t it then make sense that the individual, as a whole, also has a purpose?

God, the All Wise, did not create us to simply wander aimlessly or to only fulfil our basic instincts and desires. Rather, we have a higher purpose – to acknowledge and worship God alone, so that we live upon the guidance of our Creator. This guidance enables us to live a successful and blessed life in all aspects. This includes personal acts of virtue like prayer, as well as beneficial acts to society, like being good to one’s neighbours, supporting one’s family, honesty, and caring for animals.

God forbids us from worshiping anything else (e.g. statues, the sun, moon, saints, priests or even Prophets). He does not need any partners or intermediaries. Everyone can always worship God directly.

God describes this life as a test, and people are tested in different ways. We cannot control what happens to us, but we can control how we react. Patience during adversities, and gratitude for blessings, are a means of getting closer to God and attaining eternal Paradise. We are also warned of a terrible punishment in Hell if we choose to disbelieve and ignore His commands.

So… what do I do now?

The test of one’s faith is in using one’s intellect to contemplate and recognise God’s signs and live according to His guidance. This is done by submitting to God’s commands, which in Arabic means to become a “Muslim”.

God, the One and only Creator – ‘Allah’ in Arabic – has made Islam accessible to everyone, regardless of their history, background or present situation. Therefore, anyone can become a Muslim by simply believing in, and uttering the following testimony of faith:

“I testify that there is no god worthy of worship except Allah, and I testify that Muhammad is Allah’s Messenger.”

Isn’t it time for you to fulfil your purpose of life, submit to the truth and acknowledge your Creator?

The True Life

Life should be seen as an eternal process of joyous spiritual discovery and growth: in the beginning stages of earthly life, the individual undergoes a period of training and education which, if it is successful, gives him or her the basic intellectual and spiritual tools necessary for continued growth. When individuals attain physical maturity in adulthood, they become responsible for their further progress, which now depends entirely on the efforts they themselves make. Through the daily struggles of material existence, people gradually deepen their understanding of the spiritual principles underlying reality, and this understanding enables them to relate more effectively to themselves, to others, and to Creator. After physical death, the individual continues to grow and develop in the spiritual world, which is greater than the physical world, just as the physical world is greater than the world we inhabit while in our mother’s womb.

The True Life based on the concept of the soul (also called the spirit the Ruoh in Arabic) and of life after physical death. According to the Creator teachings, the true nature of human beings is spiritual. Beyond the physical body, each human being has a rational soul, created by God. This soul is a nonmaterial entity, which does not depend on the body. Rather, the body serves as its vehicle in the physical world. The soul of an individual comes into being at the moment the physical body is conceived and continues to exist after the death of the physical body. The soul (also called the spirit the Ruoh in Arabic) of the individual is the seat or locus of his or her personality, self, and consciousness.

“They say: There is nothing but our present life; we die, and we live, and nothing but time destroys us. Of that they have no knowledge; they merely conjecture. And when our revelations are recited to them, their only argument is that they say: Bring us our fathers, if you speak truly.” [Al-Qur’an 45:24]

The evolution or development of the soul and its capacities is the basic purpose of human existence. This evolution is towards God and its motive force is knowledge of Creator and love for Him. As we learn about Creator, our love for Him increases; and this, in turn, enables us to attain a closer communion with our Creator. Also, as we draw closer to Creator, our character becomes more refined and our actions reflect more and more the attributes and qualities of God.

“To the righteous soul will be said: O (thou) soul, in (complete) rest and satisfaction! Come back to your Lord,well pleased (yourself), and well pleasing unto Him! Enter you, then, among my devotees! And enter you My Heaven!” [Al-Qur’an 89:27]

God created people and made them responsible for their actions. In this world, we notice that the virtuous often live in a wretched state while the wicked often seem to have the good things in life. Innocent people often suffer at the hands of exploiters and criminals, who seem to gain rather than suffer by their crimes in this world. If there were no future life in which the virtuous are rewarded and the vicious are punished, there would be no justice. There would be no point in creating people with a conscience and in sending Prophets to remind them of their responsibility.

“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 (to account): And enough are We to take account.” [Al-Qur’an: 21:47]

God is the Most Just; He will establish justice among all His creatures and no one can escape from God. Islam, therefore, places great emphasis on having absolute assurance of the Hereafter This assurance should be similar to the certainty we have in death (which can overcome us at any time).

Therefore, striving to earn the pleasure of God becomes the objective of life.

FIRST, there are those who do not believe in the Hereafter and regard life on this earth as the only life and nothing destroys them except time. Naturally, they judge something to be good if it produces desirable results and evil if it brings about undesirable results.

SECOND, there are those who do not deny the Hereafter, but they depend on the intercession or atonement of someone to absolve them of their sins. Among them are some who regard themselves as God’s chosen people, who will receive only nominal punishment, however grave their sins may be. This deprives them of the moral advantage, which they could have derived from their belief in the Hereafter. As a result their behavior becomes very much like that of those who deny the Hereafter.

THIRD, are those who believe in the Hereafter and do not delude themselves that they have any special relationship with God or that anyone can intercede on their behalf. They hold themselves accountable for their actions and their belief in the Hereafter becomes a great moral force. As a result they find a permanent guard, stationed within them, which cautions and admonishes them whenever they deviate from the right path. There may be no court to summon them, no policemen to apprehend them and no public opinion to pressure them. Instead the guard within them is ever alert and ready to remind them when they transgress. The consciousness of this inner presence makes them fear doing anything that is prohibited. Should they succumb to temptation and violate the law of God, they are ever ready to offer sincere regrets and to enter a firm contract with God not to repeat the same mistake in the future.

A person who is focused on successes or failures in this world alone will be concerned with the benefits and harms that come to him in this life only. He may be reluctant to do good deeds that have no worldly benefit. Similarly, he may not be prepared to stop doing a wrong act that will not harm him in this world. On the other hand, a person who believes in life after death would look upon all worldly gains and losses as temporary and would not put at stake eternal bliss for a transitory gain. Belief in the next world instills in one the desire to do well and avoid the wrong, however costly it may be in terms of worldly sacrifices.

“What! Do those who seek after evil ways think that We shall hold them equal with those who believe and do righteous deeds, – that equal with their life and their death? Ill is the judgment that they make. 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.”[Al-Qur’an 45:21]

There is a big difference in the way of life of the two types of people. For one, the idea of a good act may be limited to its value in this temporary life: for example gains in money, property, public recognition or similar things which give one position, power, reputation or worldly happiness. Such things become the objectives of life and they may not deter one from pursuing cruel and unjust means in their achievement. In contrast, for a believer, all that pleases God is good and all that invokes His displeasure and wrath is evil. A good act for a believer will remain good even if it brings no personal benefit in this world.

A believer will be confident that God will reward him in the eternal life and that would be the real success. Similarly, they would not fall a prey to evil deeds merely for some worldly gain, for they would know that even if they escape punishment in this short worldly life, they would still have to answer to God.

“They say: There is nothing but our present life; we die, and we live, and nothing but time destroys us. Of that they have no knowledge; they merely conjecture. And when our revelations are recited to them, their only argument is that they say: Bring us our fathers, if you speak truly.” [Al-Qur’an 45:24]

Beyond this life — the hereafter

What happens after death? Does a world exist beyond this life? Is there such a place as heaven or hell? These are common questions we ask from time to time.

After all, the enigma of death stumps us. We’ve devised various ways of killing other humans. Yet, despite innumerable technological and medical advances, we still cannot prevent an individual from dying. Furthermore, unlike life which we experience daily, we really don’t have firsthand knowledge of life after death. Aside from some near-death incidents, no one has come back from the dead to tell us what they encountered.

Due to their faith in the One God who created this universe and sustains it, Muslims rely on divine guidance for glimpses of a reality invisible to human eyes. Divine guidance comprises prophetic examples and scriptural revelations. God sent prophets to guide humanity, such as Adam, Noah, Abraham, Moses, Jesus and Muhammad, the final prophet of God, peace be upon all of them. Moreover, He also revealed holy books, including the Torah, the Gospel and the Quran. In keeping with the universal message of God, every prophet warned of the certainty of the afterlife and each of the divine books speaks of the existence of the soul. In the Quran, God promises, 

“Every soul will taste death. Then to Us will you be returned”(29:57).

On the Day of Judgment, every individual will be resurrected to account for their lives. God describes this event in the Quran,“On that Day, people will come forward in separate groups to be shown their deeds: whoever has done an atom’s weight of good will see it, but whoever has done an atom’s weight of evil will see that.

God will weigh everyone’s good and bad actions according to His Mercy and His Justice, forgiving many sins and multiplying the reward for many noble deeds. One who excels in goodness will be rewarded generously, but one whose evils and wrongs outweigh his virtues will be punished.

Those who fulfilled their purpose in life and lived righteously will enter an eternal paradise of pure bliss. The people of heaven will reside in beautiful mansions, no longer suffering from fatigue, disease and old age. God will remove animosity and pain from people’s hearts, providing supreme healing in a world of abundance and luxury, of lush gardens and flowing rivers.

In contrast, those who die in a state of transgression against God or oppress others will be led to Hellfire. Despite all of God’s blessings, they neglected their ultimate purpose of leading their lives in accordance with His Will and Guidance. The Quran describes Hell as a place filled with immense suffering, with extreme temperatures, unquenchable thirst and blazing flames.

Truly, God wants each one of us to be salvaged in the afterlife. He has sent guidance and left signs for those who seek Him and reflect. At the same time, He has given us the choice to freely indulge in the world around us or to abide by His laws. In the Quran, God declares, 


“Why should God make you suffer torment if you are thankful and believe in Him? God always rewards gratitude and He knows everything” 

Life Hereafter

Death is one of the few indisputable facts of life. Regardless of faith, race, status or age, we will all die. While the certainty of death is universally accepted, the question of what happens afterwards has been debated throughout history. Islam teaches that one’s life doesn’t end on earth; rather, it is followed by the eternal life of the hereafter. This pamphlet explains how this belief has a major impact on our earthly lives, while instilling hope for healing in a perfect world where God’s ultimate justice will prevail. 

Despite its inevitability, we get so absorbed in living that we forget about death. Our daily routines, the comfort of our homes and our relationships keep us so busy that we have little time left to ponder over the fleeting nature of this world.

Then, suddenly, we are forced to face the reality of our existence when a loved one is afflicted with a debilitating disease or we experience a shocking loss. Helpless, we are jolted by the frailty of life, leading us to question our priorities and reevaluate our lifestyles.

According to Islam, when confronted with a calamity, one should say,“To God we belong and to Him we shall return” (Quran 2:156). This invocation is also recited when someone dies. Reminding us of our origin and our ultimate destiny, it puts the purpose of our lives in perspective. God clearly states in the Quran, the divinely revealed message from God to all humanity, that He has created humankind to worship Him. Since worship is a comprehensive concept in Islam, consisting of specific rituals as well as general actions that promote good, it encourages people to conduct every aspect of their lives with God-consciousness.

Muslims believe they will return to God (Allah in Arabic) when they die. Therefore, instead of the end, death becomes part of a continuum which stretches into eternity.

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