Muslim beliefs about life after death and how that influences human behaviour (Ethics 1.11)

Life after death: A key consideration when looking at matters of life and death concerns what happens after death. This affects each and every person because death is inevitable. However, it also affects a person who may believe it is right to take life by euthanasia or to deny a foetus the chance of life through abortion. These decisions affect a person’s position in the Hereafter. Muslims call life after death Aakhirah (the Hereafter).

Origins of belief: Muslims believe that humans are placed on earth for a reason, and that is to worship Allah alone, and they are made accountable to Allah for what they do in their life. Prophet Adam (peace be upon him) was the first person on earth. He was promised that if he follows Allah’s instructions whilst on earth and became a true servant of Allah, on Judgement Day he would be physically resurrected and receive a favourable judgement to allow him into Paradise (Jannah). All Muslims believe the same applies to them. Paradise (Jannah) is an eternal place of beauty, happiness and fun that never ever comes to an end. (Please go to salafisounds.com and listen to: “Paradise: Its Bounties and Joys” to get an understanding of what Muslims believe about Paradise). Hellfire (Jahannam or Naar) is a place of terrifying punishments – for some Muslims it is a place of temporary purification for their sins and transgressions before they enter into Paradise. For those who did not submit to Islam and its message once it had reached them, it is a place of eternal punishment. Allah said: That Day mankind will proceed in scattered groups that they may be shown their deeds. So whosoever does good equal to the weight of an atom shall see it. And whosoever does evil equal to the weight of an atom shall see it.” (Qur’an: Suratuz-Zalzalah (The Earthquake) 99:6-8).

Key terms:

Judgement Day: The day when Allah will judge all of creation.

Resurrection: Bringing the dead creation back to life.

Heaven and Hell:

Muslims believe that there are different levels in Paradise (Heaven). The more righteous a person, the more good he does, the higher his place in Paradise. So giving in charity, bringing up two righteous daughters, raising good children, praying extra prayers all raise a person in Paradise. The intercession of the Prophets and the pious on the Day of Judgement also raises people through levels of Paradise. Living a life worshipping Allah and following His ethical teachings are essential in order to reach the eternal Paradise and its highest levels.

The Resurrection is physical. Muslims bury their dead as soon as possible – normally the same day. Cremation is not allowed in Islam. When the body is buried in the ground, two Angels named Munkar and Nakeer ask the deceased three questions:

  1. Who is your Lord?
  2. What is your Religion?
  3. Who was that man (Muhammad) sent amongst you?

Answering these questions correctly and truthfully will fill the grave with pleasurable things. However, answering them incorrectly or with hypocrisy will result in the deceased person being punished in the grave. The person thereafter remains in his or her grave till the Hour is established. The souls are rewarded and punished in accordance to their belief and deeds. On the Day of Judgement all the bodies will be physically resurrected and the souls returned back to them. Then they will be judged in accordance to their belief, worship and deeds. The righteous believers in Paradise and the unbelievers in Hell. Allah stated: “They will in the Gardens of delight. A multitude will be from the first generations who embraced Islam. And a few will be from the later times. They will be seated on thrones woven with gold and precious stones. Reclining upon them, face to face with one another. They will be served by immortal youth with cups, and jugs, and a glass from the flowing wine – they will get neither any aching of the head, nor any intoxication. And can have fruit that they choose and the flesh of game bird that they desire. And there will be for them fair females with wide, lovely eyes as wives for the pious. They will be like unto preserved pearls. A reward for the good they used to do. There will be no filth, false or evil talk therein, nor any backbiting, slander or tale-carrying” (The meanings of the Qur’anic verses from Surat Al-Wāqi`ah (The Inevitable) 56:12-25)

The promise of Heaven (Paradise) and the threat of Hell provides Muslims with a powerful motivation to live their lives in a way that Allah would approve of. If they break the rules, and do not repent or seek forgiveness, then they may be punished in Hell. If they repent, then Muslims believe that Allah is the Oft-Forgiving and Most Merciful. A Muslim may sometimes think he’s doing right but in reality it goes against the Shari’ah. There is great a incentive in Islam to act upon knowledge and guidance and not to forge ahead without asking the scholars who in turn prove their point with evidences from the Qur’an and Sunnah. And if a Muslim acts in ignorance sincerely seeking the truth and thus falls into error, then indeed Allah forgives him and pardons his mistake.

Exam tip:

It is important that you link ideas about Heaven and Hell with how Muslims are expected to behave whilst alive.

Questions:

  1. What do Muslims believe happens when you die?
  2. Explain how believing in life after death may encourage a person to live a ‘good life’.
  3. Give some descriptions of Paradise and Hell.
  4. Explain how Muslims believe life before death influences life after death.
  5. What other motivations are there to live a good life? Are they as strong as the promise of Paradise and the threat of Hell.

NOTE:

I initially compiled these worksheets for my students at the Redstone Academy (aged between 13 and 16 years), Moseley Road, Birmingham, UK who are working towards their General Certificate of Secondary Education (GCSE). I felt that others who do not attend the school can also benefit from these topics since they are presented in simple bitesize chapters. I have relied upon GCSE text books and adapted them for my classes.

 

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