Three Qur’anic Insights about the Hereafter
The Holy Qur’an divides into three the conditions that one encounters after death and there are three Qur’anic insights about the hereafter…
The first is that the Holy Qur’an repeatedly states that the hereafter is nothing new but that all its spectacles are the reflections of this worldly life, as it is said:
In this very world, the effect of every person’s doings have We firmly fastened to his neck; and We shall display their hidden effects on the Day of Judgement and show them to him in the shape of an open book.
The word bird [in the Arabic] has been here used metaphorically for deeds. For every deed, good or bad, flies away like a bird; its labour or its delight disappears and only its foulness or fineness remains in the hearts.
It is a Qur’anic principle that every action has its hidden impress. Every action of a person attracts Divine action corresponding to it which preserves the quality of that action and does not let it disappear. Its impress is inscribed upon the heart and the countenance and the eyes and the hands and feet. This is the hidden record of actions which will be made manifest in the life to come.
At another place it is said with regard to those who are admitted to paradise:
That is to say: The light of faith which is bestowed in a hidden manner upon the believers will on that day be seen openly running before them and on their right hands.
At another place the wicked have been addressed:
The excessive desire of worldly possessions prevented you from seeking the hereafter till you reached the graves. Do not be enamoured of this world. You will soon come to know that it is wrong to fall in love with this world. I remind you that you will soon come to know that it is no use loving this world. If only you knew with certainty, you would surely see hell in this very life. Then in the world of Barzakh you will see it with the eyes of certainty. Then, at the time of resurrection, you will have to face full accountability, and that Divine chastisement will overtake you and you will come to know of hell, not theoretically but practically.
[Islami Usul ki Philosophy, Ruhani Khaza’in, vol. 10, pp. 400-402]
The second insight which the Holy Qur’an has set forth with regard to the life after death is that in the hereafter all those matters that were spiritual in this world will be physically personified whether in the state of Barzakh or in the state of resurrection. One of the relevant verses is:
He who is blind in this life shall be blind in the hereafter.
This means that the spiritual blindness of this world will be felt physically in the other world.
At another place it is said:
Seize this denizen of hell and fetter him and burn him in hell-fire and bind him with a chain the length of which is seventy yards.
These verses show that the spiritual torment of this world will appear in physical form in the hereafter. The collar of worldly desires which had bent a person’s head towards the earth will appear manifestly in the second life. In the same way the chain of worldly desires will be seen around the feet. The burning sensation of worldly desires will be seen as a fiercely flaming fire.
A disobedient person has inside of him a hell of worldly desires and feels the burning of that hell in his failures. When he is cast away from his mortal desires and is confronted with eternal despair, God Almighty will cause this despair to appear to him as physical fire. As He has said:
A curtain will be drawn between them and that which they desire.
This will be the root of the torment. The direction to bind him with a chain the length of which is seventy yards is an indication that a disobedient one often attains the age of seventy years. Very often he is granted seventy years of active life leaving out of account his childhood and his extreme old age. The miserable one passes these seventy years caught in the desires of this world and does not wish to be free of this chain. Thus God Almighty says that the seventy years that he passed in his devotion to the world will be personified in the hereafter as a chain, the length of which will be seventy yards, each yard corresponding to a year. It should be remembered that God Almighty imposes no distress from Himself upon a person, but confronts him with his evil deeds. Referring to His eternal law, God Almighty says at another place:
Proceed, O evil doers and misguided ones, towards a shelter which has three sections, neither affording shade nor protecting from the blaze.
In this verse by the three sections are meant the wild and the animal and the speculative faculties. These three faculties, of those who do not cast them into the moral mould and do not coordinate them, will be manifested on the Judgement Day as if they are three branches without leaves which can afford no protection from the blaze in which they will burn.
Again, referring to the same eternal way of His, Allah the Exalted, says in favour of the inmates of Paradise:
On that day, you will see that the light of the believing men and believing women that is hidden in this world, will be manifested running ahead of them and on their right hands.
In the Hereafter Spiritual Conditions will become Visible
He says in another verse:
On that day some faces will be darkened and some will be bright full of light.
At another place it is said:
The paradise promised to the righteous is like a garden in which flow rivers of water that never stagnate; and rivers of milk of which the taste changes not; and rivers of wine full of delight without any intoxication for those who drink; and rivers of honey which is so pure and unadulterated.
At this place it is clearly stated that paradise may be understood as having endless streams flowing with these things. The water of life which a person possessing insight drinks spiritually in this life will be present overtly in the life to come. The spiritual milk of which he drinks spiritually like a suckling babe in this world, will be seen openly in paradise. The wine of the love of God with which he was spiritually inebriated in the world will be made manifest in paradise in streams. The honey of the sweetness of faith which one possessed of insight swallowed spiritually in the world will be felt and observed in the shape of streams in paradise. Every dweller of paradise shall display a spiritual condition openly in his rivers and his gardens and on that day God Himself will emerge from behind the veils for the dwellers of paradise. In short, spiritual conditions will be no longer hidden but will become physically visible.
There will be Continuous Progress in Heaven
The third insight is that in the hereafter there will be unending progress. God Almighty has said:
On the Day of Judgement, the light of those who are blessed with the light of faith in this world will run ahead of them and on their right. They will pray: Lord, perfect our light for us and forgive us, surely Thou hast power over all things.
Their supplication for the perfection of their light indicates that their progress will be unlimited. They will attain one perfection of light and will then behold another, and will consider their previous perfection as deficient and will supplicate for a second perfection, and when they attain that they will behold a third stage of perfection and seeing that they will belittle their previous excellence and will desire that stage of perfection. This desire for progress is indicated by the expression: Perfect our light for us.
In this way, an endless system of progress will continue which will never suffer decline. They will not be expelled from paradise but will advance forward every day and will not move back. A question arises that having entered paradise, why should they seek forgiveness as their sins will have been forgiven? The answer is that the primary meaning of maghfirat [forgiveness] is the suppression and covering up of an imperfect condition. Dwellers of paradise will desire to obtain perfection and to be sunk altogether in light. On beholding the second condition they will find their first condition defective and they will seek to have it suppressed. Then beholding a third perfection, they will desire with regard to their second condition that it should be suppressed and hidden. Thus they will desire unending maghfirat.
This is the same Istighfar [asking for the forgiveness of all sins, past and future] which some ignorant ones make the basis of criticism of the Holy Prophetsa but it will now be clear that this desire for Istighfar is the pride of man. A person who is born of woman and does not make Istighfar his habit is an insect and not a man, is blind and not seeing and is foul and not pure.
[Islami Usul ki Philosophy, Ruhani Khaza’in, vol. 10, pp. 408-413]
1. The Holy Qur’an, 17:14.
2. The Holy Qur’an, 57:13.
3. The Holy Qur’an, 102:2-9.
4. The Holy Qur’an, 17:73.
5. The Holy Qur’an, 69:31-33.
6. The Holy Qur’an, 34:55.
7. The Holy Qur’an, 77:31-32.
8. The Holy Qur’an, 57:13.
9. The Holy Qur’an, 3:107.
10. The Holy Qur’an, 47:16.
11. The Holy Qur’an, 66:9.