Lesson 14 (Life after death)

Chapter No.: 

This much is known to everyone that whoever is born into the world has got to die one day or the other. But nobody knows on his own that happens or will happen after death. This is known only to Allah. Allah vouchsafes the knowledge of it to His Prophets and through the Prophets men like you and me also come to know about it. Every prophet of Allah, in his time, had revealed clearly to his people through what stages they would have to pass after death and how at each stage they would be recompensed for their deeds-good as well as bad-during their earthly sojourn. Since Prophet Mohammad (Peace and Blessings of Allah be upon whom) is the last of the Divine Apostles and Messengers and no Prophet is going to be raised up after him, the different stages through which a man has to pass after death have been explained by him in greatest detail and with utmost clarity. If all that the Prophet (Sallallahu Alaihi Wasallam) has revealed in this connection is brought together it would make a volume by itself. We will, therefore, give a very brief summary of it over here.

There are to follow three stages after death. It is called Barzakh. Whether a person is buried when he dies or he is cremated or cast into the river his soul does not perish with him. It is immortal; it lives. It only migrates from this material world or ours to another world. In this other world the angels question him about his spiritual state. If he is true believer, he gives the correct answers; whereupon the angels impart to him the glad tidings that he is going to live in peace and happiness till the Last Day. And if it is otherwise, that is, he is an unbeliever, an infidel or a sham or hypocritical Muslim, he is, at once, placed under dreadful punishment which is not to cease before the Day of Reckoning.

The next stage comprises of the Last Day and the Resurrection. The Last Day means that there will come a time when the entire material world will be destroyed by the command of Allah. Annihilation will descend suddenly on everything that exists around us. The whole world will be thrown topsy-turvy. Then, after a long time, when Allah will wish, all men will be raised up again. Every person born into the world will be re-created and called upon to render a full account of his doings on the earth. In the Great Reckoning those who will be found worthy of deliverance will be awarded a place in the Paradise and those who will turn out to be guilty and deserving of Divine chastisement will be consigned to Hell.

After this, there will commence the last stage. The dwellers of the Paradise will live in a state of eternal bliss, supremely immune from every kind of pain, anxiety or suffering and exulting in the bounties of their Lord the like of which they would not have dreamt of in the world, while those that will be condemned to Hell will have to live permanently in a condition of unmitigated misery and distress. There will be for them nothing but horrible agony and castigation. This will be the ultimate stage after death. The above was the sum and substance of what the Prophets, specially the last of them, Prophet Muhammad (Sallallahu Alaihi Wasallam), have taught mankind about the Hereafter and what is indicated about it in the Quran and the Traditions. We will now examine some of the relevant verses of the Quran:

نَفْسٍ ذَائِقَةُ الْمَوْتِ ثُمَّ إِلَيْنَا تُرْجَعُونَ ()

Every soul shall have a taste of death: in the end to Us shall ye be brought back. (29:57)

كُلُّ نَفْسٍ ذَائِقَةُ الْمَوْتِ وَإِنَّمَا تُوَفَّوْنَ أُجُورَكُمْ يَوْم

Every soul shall have a taste of death: and only on the Day of Judgment shall you be paid your full recompense. (3:185)

The Last Day will be a frightful, horrible day.

يَا أَيُّهَا النَّاسُ اتَّقُوا رَبَّكُمْ إِنَّ زَلْزَلَةَ السَّاعَةِ شَيْءٌ عَظِيمٌ () يَوْمَ تَرَوْنَهَا تَذْهَلُ كُلُّ مُرْضِعَةٍ عَمَّا أَرْضَعَتْ وَتَضَعُ كُلُّ ذَاتِ حَمْلٍ حَمْلَهَا وَتَرَى النَّاسَ سُكَارَى وَمَا هُمْ بِسُكَارَى وَلَكِنَّ عَذَابَ اللَّهِ شَدِيدٌ ()

O mankind! Fear your Lord! For the convulsion of the Hour (of Judgment) will be a thing terrible! the Day ye shall see it: every mother giving suck shall forget her suckling-babe, and every pregnant female shall drop her load unformed! thou shall see mankind as in a drunken riot, yet not drunk! But dreadful shall be the wrath of Allah. (22:1-2)

يَوْمَ تَرْجُفُ الْأَرْضُ وَالْجِبَالُ وَكَانَتِ الْجِبَالُ كَثِيبًا مَهِيلًا ()

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. (73:14)

فَكَيْفَ تَتَّقُونَ إِنْ كَفَرْتُمْ يَوْمًا يَجْعَلُ الْوِلْدَانَ شِيبًا ()

A day that will make children hoary-headed.” (73:17)

فَإِذَا جَاءَتِ الصَّاخَّةُ () يَوْمَ يَفِرُّ الْمَرْءُ مِنْ أَخِيهِ () وَأُمِّهِ وَأَبِيهِ () وَصَاحِبَتِهِ وَبَنِيهِ () لِكُلِّ امْرِئٍ مِنْهُمْ يَوْمَئِذٍ شَأْنٌ يُغْنِيهِ () وُجُوهٌ يَوْمَئِذٍ مُسْفِرَةٌ () ضَاحِكَةٌ مُسْتَبْشِرَةٌ () وَوُجُوهٌ يَوْمَئِذٍ عَلَيْهَا غَبَرَةٌ () تَرْهَقُهَا قَتَرَةٌ ()

At length, when there comes the deafening noise, that Day shall a men flee from his own brothers, and from his mother and his father, and from his wife and children. Each one of them, that Day, will have enough concern (of his own) to make him indifferent to others. Some faces that Day will be dust-stained; blackness will cover them. (80:33:41)

On the Day of Recompense:

يَوْمَئِذٍ تُعْرَضُونَ لَا تَخْفَى مِنْكُمْ خَافِيَةٌ ()

That Day shall ye be brought to Judgment! not an act of yours that ye hide will be hidden. (69:18)

وَيَوْمَ نُسَيِّرُ الْجِبَالَ وَتَرَى الْأَرْضَ بَارِزَةً وَحَشَرْنَاهُمْ فَلَمْ نُغَادِرْ مِنْهُمْ أَحَدًا () وَعُرِضُوا عَلَى رَبِّكَ صَفًّا لَقَدْ جِئْتُمُونَا كَمَا خَلَقْنَاكُمْ أَوَّلَ مَرَّةٍ بَلْ زَعَمْتُمْ أَنْ لَنْ نَجْعَلَ لَكُمْ مَوْعِدًا () وَوُضِعَ الْكِتَابُ فَتَرَى الْمُجْرِمِينَ مُشْفِقِينَ مِمَّا فِيهِ وَيَقُولُونَ يَا وَيْلَتَنَا مَا لِهَذَا الْكِتَابِ لَا يُغَادِرُ صَغِيرَةً وَلَا كَبِيرَةً إِلَّا أَحْصَاهَا وَوَجَدُوا مَا عَمِلُوا حَاضِرًا وَلَا يَظْلِمُ رَبُّكَ أَحَدًا ()

One day we shall remove the mountains, and thou will see the earth as a level stretch, and we shall gather them, altogether, nor shall leave out any of them, And they will be marshaled before the Lord in ranks, with the announcement, "Now have ye come to US (bare) as We created ye first! Aye, ye thought we shall not fulfill the appointment made to you to meet Us?" And the Book (of Deeds) will be placed before you; and thou will see the sinful in great terror because of what is recorded therein; they will say, "Ah! Woe to us! What a Book is this! It leaves nothing small or great, but takes account thereof! "They will find all that they did placed before them: and not one will thy Lord treat with injustice. (18:47-49)

الْيَوْمَ نَخْتِمُ عَلَى أَفْوَاهِهِمْ وَتُكَلِّمُنَا أَيْدِيهِمْ وَتَشْهَدُ أَرْجُلُهُمْ بِمَا كَانُوا يَكْسِبُونَ ()

A man's own limbs will depose against him before Allah on the Day of Reconing. That day shall be set a seat on their mouths. But their hands will speak to Us, and their feet will bear witness to all that they did. (36:65)

The Quran, in fine, has portrayed most graphically and vividly the happenings of the Last Day: the terrific explosions and the dreadful tremors, the total annihilation of the world-even the mountains will be wiped out of existence, the rising again of men, the gathering together of them for the Judgment, the presentation of the Book of Deeds, the deposing of one's own limbs against oneself, the judgment, and, finally, the execution of the Divine Verdict and the allotment of Heaven and Hell. All these events have been described so candidly in some of the chapters of the Quran that one can obtain a full picture of the happenings of the Last Day by reading them. The Prophet (Sallallahu Alaihi Wasallam), thus, is reported to have observed, "Anyone who wishes to know about the Last Day as if the scene of it was drawn before his eyes should read these chapters of the Quran: Tavkir, Infitar and Inshiqaq.

We will now see a few Traditions of the Prophet (Sallallahu Alaihi Wasallam) appertaining to Barzakh and the Last Day. Says he:

"When anyone of you dies the place that is going to be his abode in the Heaven or in the Hell (on the basis of his conduct in the world) is brought before his eyes every morning and evening and it is said to him, 'Behold, this is your destination, and, surely, you will reach it'."

"When the Trumpet will first be sounded on the Last Day by the command of Allah everyone will faint and drop dead on the ground. When it will be sounded next all men will rise again. They will then be commanded to proceed to make their presence before the Lord. The angels, thereafter, will be told to collect them together and here the investigation into their conduct on the earth will begin."

It is related that a Companion once enquired from the Prophet (Sallallahu Alaihi Wasallam), "O Messenger of Allah, how will Allah raise up his creatures from the dead? Is there anything like it here in this world which may be cited as example?" The Prophet (Peace be upon him) replied, "Has it never accured to you that you may have passed by a stretch of land in your country and found it dry and bereft of all vegetation, and, then, on coming upon it again, after sometime, discovered that it was covered lavishly with fresh, green grass?"

The Prophet (Sallallahu Alaihi Wasallam) remarked, "This typifies resurrection. Allah will raise from the dead in the same manner." The Prophet (Sallallahu Alaihi Wasallam) is reported to have asked, after reciting the Quranic verse, On the Day (the earth) will declare her tidings, "Do you know what it means?" The companions are said to have replied, "Allah and His Apostle know best." The Prophet (Sallallahu Alaihi Wasallam), the Tradition goes on to tell, then said, "On the Day of Judgment the earth will bear witness to all the deeds performed by men on it (i.e., at the bidding of Allah the earth will tell that such and such a person had done such and such a thing on it on such and such a day)."

Speaking of the Day of Recompense the Prophet (Sallallahu Alaihi Wasallam), further, is reported to have said, "On that Day Allah will call upon everyone to come forward and be his own witness. He will say to him, today you are your own witness: Our recording angels are present; this much of evidence is enough'. Then by the command of Allah the lips of the person will become sealed and he will not be able to utter a word. His limbs (arms, legs, etc.) will then be commanded to speak and they will relate the whole story of his doings in the world."

It is reported that once a person went to the Prophet (Sallallahu Alaihi Wasallam) and said, "O Messenger of Allah, I have some slaves who sometimes disobey me, or they steal or tell me a lie. I sometimes scold them and, sometimes, I also punish them. How is it going to turn out for me on the Day of Requital?" The Prophet (Sallallahu Alaihi Wasallam) observed, "Allah will dispense justice correctly on the Day of Judgment. If the punishment you mete out to them is proportionate to their faults you will neither get nor have to give anything; you will be quits. If the punishment turn out to be of a lesser degree than what they merited you will be recompensed for it. If the punishment proves to be excessive you will have to recompense the slaves. "On hearing the Prophet's reply the enquirer began to cry. He said, "Then, O Prophet of Allah, the best thing for me is to send them away. I declare before you that I have set them free." The Prophet (Sallallahu Alaihi Wasallam) is also reported to have recited the following verse of the Quran to him:

وَنَضَعُ الْمَوَازِينَ الْقِسْطَ لِيَوْمِ الْقِيَامَةِ فَلَا تُظْلَمُ نَفْسٌ شَيْئًا وَإِنْ كَانَ مِثْقَالَ حَبَّةٍ مِنْ خَرْدَلٍ أَتَيْنَا بِهَا وَكَفَى بِنَا حَاسِبِينَ ()

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: (21:47)