Islamic Faith & Practice

By Maulana Manzoor Naumani

The Hereafter

Among the transcendental truths we are called upon to believe live in, as a matter of fundamental necessity, one is concerning the Hereafter. 'Faith in God', as in the following two verses. As believe in God and the Last Day.

If they have faith in God and the Last Day. (Quran : Baqar, 22)

Faith in the Hereafter implies, in a word, placing of one's complete trust in the revelation made by the Prophets that, at the end of this mortal life, there is to come another life and another world in which men will be required for the good or evil they might have done during their earthly sojourn. (Quran: Baqar, 15)

On the subject of the further world, this much, at least, can be realized by everyone, without any external persuasion, that there ought to be some existence on the other side of death for men to reap the consequences of their doings in material life. We see around us people who, in spite of all their cruelty and wickedness, spend their days in utmost comfort and happiness. Throughout there lives they commit great sins, they loot and plunder and deprive others of their justified claims, they oppress the weak and torment the poor, and yet no calamity befalls them and they live in uninterrupted peace and luxury till the end of their time. At the same time, there are men who are pious and virtuous, they neither deceive nor swindle nor subject anyone to cruelty or injustice, they are loyal to God and his creatures, and, with all this their lives are filled with pain and poverty.

Some-times there is disease, sometimes some other distress till the journey's end is reached. Now, When this world is of God's creation and He sees everything, and we, on our part, find that here neither the virtuous are rewarded for their virtue nor the wicked punished for their sins, it automatically comes to our minds that reward and punishment from God should then be meted out in some other existence. It cannot be that God allows such gross injustice, which makes no distinction between right and wrong and treats the righteous and the wrong-doers alike. What to speak of him, such conduct would not be worthy of an ordinary gentleman. Says He : Shall we, then, treat (alike) the people of faith with the people of Sin? (Quran:Qalam, 2 ) Furthermore, everything in the world is endowed with some properties and the capacity to produce a certain reason. So also do all physical act of a man bring about, as a matter of course, some reciprocal responsive effects within himself : when he eats his appetite is appeased as a natural consequence of the act; when he drinks his thirst is quenched; over-eating gives him indigestion; and when he swallows poison, it kills him. And his normal and spiritual acts being manifestly of a much greater signi ficance than the physical ones, it is impossible that they may not react upon him one way or the other, and produce no results, good or evil, for him. A man gives his food or drink to the needy and goes without it himself, takes care of the sick, the indigent, the orphan and the widow, and spends his hard earned money on them, and along with it, he is also a devout person, he worships God and follows his commands faithfully; how, on earth, it be acceptable to human or conscience that these noble deeds of his should bear no fruit, or that the fruit they bore should not be of higher qualityand merit than those borne out by his physical doings?

Conversely, a man is cruel and unkind; he tyrannizes over the weak and the powerless, is treacherous and a cheat, accepts bribe, commits robbery or sheds blood without reason; in brief, he is an embodiment of all that is despicable and foul; common sense will naturally demand that the consequences of his misdeeds should be equally worse and that they should reveal themselves in due course. When a person cannot make the slightest material folly and get away with it, there seems no reason why it should be different on the moral and spiritual planes. The same process of reasoning has been pursued in the Quran in this verse : 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 will be their life and their death? Ill is the judgement they make. (Quran : Jathiya, 2 )In short, as we observe on all sides, that the effects of the material and physical acts of man make themselves felt in this world while his moral and spiritual behaviour yields no apparent results, we become conscious of the need of a future state where it may bear fruit in the shape of reward or punishment.

The great wisdom behind this arrangement is that if requital for good or evil was to be portioned out in this life, it would cease to be the trial God has intended it to be and which reason he has made it known through the Prophets that those who will obey His commands and lead a life of piety will be rewarded in the world to come with such-and-such blessings and those who will behave otherwise will be punished in such-and-such ways. Were the recompense for every good or evil deed to be handed over at once, the trial would be reduced to a farce, and reward and punishment would lose all meaning for people would then avoid sin as fearfully as they do plunging into the fire, and practice virtue as a matter of habit like eating and drinking. Morever, the favours God proposes to bestow upon his loyal servants cannot be possible in this material world. In the same way, it cannot withstand the terrible Chastisement he has in store for those who are defiant and go astray. The chastisement is so serve that if it is revealed here it will destroy all the peace and happiness there is in the world and burn it down to extinction.

This world is, after all, a weakling and its resources are grievously limited. Again, the pattern of things here is such that joys and sorrow are closely woven into each-other, whereas the reward God has designed for the faithful and the dreadful punishment He has got ready for the transgressors can be possible only in surroundings, respectively, of cloudless bliss and unmitigated suffering. Anyhow, it is the will of God that he will requite His servants for their deeds in the next world. That world is the Hereafter and it is divided, into two parts, Heaven and Hell. In the Heaven there will be the display of God's special Grace and Benevolence and in the Hell of his Severity and warth, and both of these displays will be in their highest forms. It is only there that the Divine Glory will reveal itself in full splendour. For the full exhibition of Divine Benevolence and Anger, too, therefore, it is necessary that there be another existence with its Heaven and Hell because though these attributes are revealed here in this world also, it is on a very limited scale.

The material world cannot cope with an unrestricted display of his qualities. In this display, indeed, lies the very purpose of creation. God has fashioned all that exists in order that His excellent Attributes may find expression. If the possibility of a future world be ruled out, how is this purpose going to be fulfilled? For this reason, also, the Hereafter becomes a necessary. In addition to these things, the Hereafter plays a powerfull role in the reformation of our lives. No one with any knowledge of history or capacity for thinking can deny that no human arrangement or farmula of righteous conduct has succeeded in discouraging people more effectively from evil doing than the belief in futurity. Punitive legislation, cultural advancement, moral consciousness and such-like things do help in the suppression of crime and immorality, but they are not as striking in their usefulness as faith in reward and punishment after death, provided of course, that this faith is a real, live one and not a meaningless formality. it is no empty concept of philosphy but a fact supported by the experience of the ages that the more bereft a society is of faith in futurity and God's last judgement, the more open is it to folly and sin. People in whose hearts the light of faith does burn shrink back from the thought of evil. History tells that the cleanest, purest and noblest lives have been those of men who were charged with a glowing faith in Resurrection and the final Requital.

This conviction acts as a strong deterrent even when there is no one to see or to punish. So, the setting up of another world at the end of the present one in a reality as promised by the Divine Apostles, as well as a necessity according to our own understanding and it is to our own advantag to believe in it. The details about the world of Requital can, however, only be known through the Prophets. It is beyond the realm of controversy that all the Prophets during their lifetime imparted to their people what they needed knowing about God's Final Judgement and Heaven and Hell, but their followers did not pay enough attention to the preservation of their teachings with the result that much of what they preached was either lost or driven out of shape with the passage of the centuries. Now the only authentic knowledge available to us is that supplied by the last of the Prophet, Muhammad (Peace and blessings of Allah be on him), and the Quran, which is maintained intact to this day, and contains nothing that may be repugnant to logic or reason. It is another matter that since we have no personal knowledge or experience of the future world, the idea of it may sound to us rather strange.But it is exactly like this that is if it could be possible, by any means, to tell a child which was still in its mother's womb that it was about to come out into a world that was thousands of times larger, with its vast stretches of land and sea and in which there was the measureless sky, the sum, the moon and the stars, and where the railway trains ran, the airplanes flew and wars were fought and atom bombs dropped, it would, surely, be very difficult for it to lend credence to it all for the simple reason that the world it had known so far was but the tiny pouch within the belly of its mother. It is just the same with us about the world to come. It is a fact that the future world will be as immeasurably more extensive and advanced compared to the present one as the present one is compared to mother's womb, and just as, on comming into the world, the child sees with its own eyes every thing it could never dream of in the narrow cell of the mother's belly, we also will see in the further state all that the prophets have told about it. In sum, the description of the hereafter given by the Prophets is entirely true and with out the semblance of an error or mis statement. Faith and common sense, both, demand that we should repose our whole-hearted trust in it. In the customary course, in matters we are ingorant about we go by the advice of those whose wisdom and integrity are above suspicion in our eyes. We, accordingly, affirm our fullest faith in what the Holy Prophet and the Quran have told us about the intervening period between death and Resurrection, about the happenings in the grave, and about the rising again of men on the last day, God's final Judgement and Heaven and Hell, and believe with all our hearts that all this will come to pass exactly as they have said. This is what affirmation of faith in the Hereafter means. Needless to add, that, after having brought faith in God and the Hereafter, it becomes our bounden duty to discard the undisciplined life of the animals and devote ourselves earnestly to a life of submission and surrender to God in order that our maker and master, who does hold everything in the palm of his hand, may be benevolently inclined towards us and we may succeed in everting His wrath in the never-ending existence of the Futurity and in gaining that paradise and those other exquisite favours He has so graciously promised to his Loyal servants.