Beliefs & Sources of Authority
1.4. Ākhirah: The Hereafter
According to Islām, death is not the end. It is the beginning of a new and eternal stage in one’s life. Muslims believe that life goes through three stages:
1. The life of this world, 2. The life of the grave, between this world and the next (called the Barzakh), 3. The life of the Hereafter.
The first two are temporary lives, but the final stage is forever. This life is a preparation for the Hereafter. The Qurān and Ahādeeth (singular: hadeeth) describe in vivid detail the events after death as a warning for the heedless and an encouragement for the righteous.
Life After Death
From the Pillars of Faith (Īmān) is the belief in the Hereafter. When a person dies, his soul exits his body and is returned to him after he is buried and he hears the footsteps of his companions as they walk away. Then that person is questioned by two Angels, called Munkar and Nakeer, in his grave about his Lord, his Religion and his Prophet. Depending upon how he answers, he is either rewarded with comfort and bliss or punished. This stage is known as the Barzakh:
“Until, when death comes to one of them (those who join partners with Allah in worship), he says: ‘My Lord! Send me back, So that I may do good in that which I have left behind!’ No! It is but a word that he speaks, and behind them is Barzakh (a barrier) until the Day when they will be resurrected.” (Quran 23:99-100)
Then the deceased awaits until the Final Hour when the world comes to an end. Then all of mankind are gathered together and judged by their creator in accordance with their piety and worship of Allāh, the Most High.
The Last Day & Judgement
Muslims believe that Allāh will bring this universe and the world to an end, and only He knows when that will be. The Angel Isrāfeel has been created for the person of blowing the trumpet that will cause every living thing to perish and die. He will blow it for the second time and they will rise again back to life on the Day of Resurrection, the Day of Judgement. They will be naked, and uncircumcised with the Sun drawn close. Everyone who has ever lived will be called in front of Allāh for judgement and the book of their life will be presented to them, and their deeds will be weighed. Those whose good deeds outweigh their evil deeds will be in bliss, joy and happiness. As for those whose evil deeds outweigh their good deeds, then they will be in terror awaiting their terrible fate. If their book of deeds is presented to them in their right hand, they will go to Paradise; if they get it in their left hand, they will go to Hell. At this time, the Prophets, the truthful believers, the martyrs and the pious will intercede for the sinful believers with the permission of Allāh, so that they are saved from the punishment of Hell. The foremost intercessor on that Day will be the Prophet Muhammad (may peace and blessings be upon him). He will intercede for the people with Allāh seeking that judgement begins.
Paradise And Hell
Paradise for the believers is the reward that Allāh will give them for their Tawhīd – meaning: for them singling Him out with worship to the exclusion of others. Paradise is forbidden for those who associate partners with Allāh in Worship. Allāh said:
“Whoever worships other than Allāh, then Allāh has made Paradise forbidden for him, and his abode is the Hellfire.”
There are many descriptions in the Qurān and Sunnah of Paradise and Hell. Paradise is described as gardens of happiness:
“They will be on thrones woven with gold and precious stones, Reclining on them, facing each other. There will circulate among them young boys made eternal, With vessels, pitchers and a cup [of wine] from a flowing spring; Wherefrom they will get neither any aching of the head, nor any intoxication. And fruit of what they select; And the meat of fowl, from whatever they desire. And there will be Houris (beautiful fair females) with wide, lovely eyes as wives for the pious; The likenesses of pearls well-protected; As reward for what they used to do.”
And of-course each pious believing woman will be with her husband whom Allāh will beautify and make more handsome than she could ever have imagined.
Hell is the punishment for rejecting Allah, disbelieving in His Messengers and His revealed Books, turning away from His sole worship and worshipping other beings alongside Him. For this group, Hell is an eternal abode. For sinful believers who worshipped Allah alone but fell in acts of disobedience such as fornication, drinking alcohol, stealing, and so on – for them, Hell is not eternal, but a temporary place from which they will eventually exit and enter Paradise to remain therein forever. Hell is a terrible place – the Prophet (may peace and blessings be upon him) said: “I saw Hell and I have never seen anything more terrifying than it.” It is held in place by 70,000 reigns, each reign has 70,000 Angels holding it. Allah described it:
“They will be in the midst of a fierce hot wind of fire and in boiling water. And in the shades of black smoke. Nothing will be there to refresh or to please.” (Quran Al-Waqi`ah 56:42-44)
“But those who deny their Lord they will have clothes cut out from fire; Over their heads will be poured out boiling water which will scald what is in their bodies as well as their skins. Every time they wish to get away from anguish, they will be forced back in.” (Quran Al-Hajj 22:19-21)
In the time of the Prophet (may peace and blessings be upon him), his Companions and the early believers, these descriptions were seen to be describing what would actually occur in Paradise and Hell, whilst knowing that Paradise is far more exceptional than what can be perceived and Hell is far more terrifying than one can imagine. A century or so after the Prophet’s death, there appeared a rationalist sects such as the “Mu`tazilites” and “Jahmites” that questioned the physical existence of Paradise and Hell. Later, some who delved into Greek and Indian philosophy thought that Hell and Paradise are mere states of spiritual joy and misery and the Quranic descriptions were metaphoric. The Muslims hold that Paradise (Jannah) and Hell (Jahannam) are just as Allah and His Prophet have described. According to orthodox Muslims (the Salafis), pictorial depictions of Paradise and Hell are not permitted since both are from the affairs of the “Unseen (Ghayb)” and as such no one knows what they will actually look like.
Most Muslims use the term “Unbeliever (Arabic: Kāfir)” to describe non-Muslims. The term refers to any person who does not believe in what was revealed to the Messenger Muhammad (may peace and blessings be upon him). It is not to be used as an insult, but rather as a religious term distinguishing a Muslim from a non-Muslim.
The Importance Of Belief In The Hereafter
Life after death guarantees that people will be rewarded or punished for the deeds that they performed in this world – so it makes life fair. The hope of Paradise encourages people to do good, whereas the threat of Hell discourages them from evil deeds. Muslims believe that life is worthwhile no matter how difficult it may be because it leads to something better and eternal for the pious people. It is, therefore, a fundamental pillar of Islām.
- Is it reasonable to believe in life after death? Why?
- How may a person’s life be affected by his belief in life after death?
- “Muslims obey Allāh only because they are frightened.” Do you agree? Explain with more than one viewpoint.
- “A God who punishes people is not compassionate.” What do you think? Explain your opinion.
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.