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QURANIC INSIGHT

Aakhira:
The Life Hereafter

Q A Ahmad


"Alif. Lam. Mim.

Defeated are the Byzantines in the lands close-by; yet it is they who, notwithstanding this their defeat, shall be victorious within a few years: (for) with Allah rests all power of decision, before and after.

And on that day the believers (too) will rejoice in Allah's succour. He grants victory to whom He wills, since He alone is Almighty, the Merciful."

(Quran, 30:1-5)

 

Surah Ar-Rum (The Byzantines) opens with the prophesy about the Byzantine (Romans). It is a very interesting and eye-opening declaration revealed by Allah about six years before the Hijrah (migration to Madinah) and eight years before the fulfilment of the prophesy. It was revealed in the year in which the migration to Habash (Abyssinia) took place.

The defeats and victories mentioned above are related to the last phases of the centuries-long struggle between the Byzantine and Persian empires. The verse first mentions the event that took place at the time of its revelation. At that time, in the Byzantine occupied territories adjacent to Arabia ie. Jordan, Syria and Palestine, the Romans were completely overpowered by the Persians in 615 AD (corresponding to six years before Hijrah). Thus the total destruction of the Byzantine Empire seemed quite imminent.

The Muslims around the Prophet (s) were frustrated on hearing the news of the defeat of the Byzantines, who were Christians, believing as such in the One God while the pagan Quraish sympathised with the Persians who, according to Quraish, supported the opposition to the One-God idea.

The above verses declared two prophesies: First, the Romans shall be victorious and second, the Muslims also shall win a victory at the same time 'within a few years'. The Arabic term bidi 'cineen denotes any number between three and ten years.

When these verses were revealed, the disbelievers of Makkah ridiculed them because, apparently, there was not even a remote chance of the fulfilment of either prediction in a few years.

In 622 AD, six years after the revelation of the above verses, as the Prophet (s) migrated to Madinah, the emperor Heraclius of Byzantine succeeded in defeating the Persians at Issus, south of the Taurus mountains and subsequently drove them out of Asia Minor. In 624 AD, Heraclius entered Azerbaijan and destroyed Clorumia, the birth-place of Zoroaster, and ravaged the principal fire-temple of Iran. This was eight years after the revelation of the above verses, when the Muslims achieved a decisive victory at Badr for the first time against the Makkan polytheists (mushrik). Thus both the predictions made in these verses were fulfilled simultaneously within the stipulated period of under ten years.

The predictions made in these verses offer the most outstanding evidence of the Quran being the Word of Allah and the Prophet Muhammad (s) being a true Messenger of Allah.

At the end Allah makes it clear that the victory to the Byzantines, or to the Muslims - both were achieved because of the Support and Will of Allah. This support or help is tied with His Justice. Allah is Powerful as well as Merciful. Out of His Mercy, He takes care of the oppressed ones relatively better in conduct and beliefs than their opponents.

Then onward, from the two unequivocal predictions of the events the direction of discourse turns to the central theme of the Hereafter.

"(This is) Allah's promise. Never does Allah fail to fulfil His promise - but most people know (it) not. They know but the outward aspect of this world's life, whereas of the Hereafter they are heedless."

(Quran, 30:6,7)

Man is accustomed to seeing only what is apparent and superficial. That which is behind the apparent and superficial he does not know. Just by relying on the apparent and superficial manifestations man can make wrong estimates owing to the lack of knowledge about the future. Therefore it is essential to plan lifes activities just upon what is visible and apparent.

This leads to the Hereafter. There are plenty of Signs and evidence which point to the Hereafter but people are heedless of these due to their own short-sightedness. They only see the apparent and outward aspect of worldly life and are unaware of what is hidden behind it.

"Have they not reflected on their own selves."

(Quran, 30:8)

It follows that if people reflect on their own selves, apart from the external phenomena, they shall realise the necessity of a second life after the present life. Following are three special characteristics of a human being:

  1. All the bounties of the earth and around it are bestowed upon a human for his use.
  2. He is free to choose a way of life for himself. He can follow virtue or vice, obedience or denial, the way of belief or disbelief as he likes.
  3. He judges the deeds as good and bad and decides spontaneously for a good act to be rewarded and an evil act to be punished.

These three characteristics point to the consequence that man should be called to account for his deeds, for the use of powers relegated to him. This call should happen after man's life-activity has finished. The checking and auditing of the account should be done only after all the activities, of not only one man, or one nation, but of all mankind living in this world, has expired. Hence the very pattern of living in this world demands that after the present life there should be another life when a Court should be established, life-record of every person be examined justly and then reward or punishment be given according to his deeds.

"Allah has not created the heavens and the earth and all that is between them without ( an inner) truth and a term set (by Him). And yet, behold, there are many people who (stubbornly) deny (the truth) that they are destined to meet their Sustainer."

(Quran, 30:8)

Two more arguments are given for the Hereafter in the above passage.

  1. The universe has been created purposefully. It is a well-organised system of which every component testifies that it has been created with great wisdom. Every phenomenon is governed by a law, the discovery of which has established man to design his social and economic living. This all indicates that the Almighty, the Wise Being, must have a purpose and a scheme in creating this world and entrusting its affairs to His creation, human beings, endowed with great mental and physical capabilities, powers and authority, and freedom of action and choice.

Then is it possible and logical that the whole record of man's life-activity will be just set aside after his death without any accountability? Hence justice demands that there should be another life in which man has to live according to the performance of his deeds in this world. That world should be the world for receiving the reward or punishment.

  1. A close observation of the system of the universe indicates that everything in this world has an age appointed for it, after which it dies and expires. Nothing here is immortal. All the forces working in the universe are limited, and the universe too, is to expire as a whole. Science also points out that matter and energy are changeable and non-permanent. The Second law of Thermodynamics proves that there is decrease due to entropy; the material world neither existing since eternity, nor yet lasting till eternity. This again proves the occurrence of resurrection.

"And have they never travelled in the earth and beheld what was the fate of their forbearers. Far mightier were they; they tilled the land and built more on it than they have built. Their Messengers came to them with Clear Signs. Allah did not wrong them, but they wronged themselves. Evil was the end of the evil-doers, because they had denied the revelations of Allah and scoffed at them."

(Quran, 30:9,10)

Now in these verses, a historical argument is presented for the Hereafter. It is claimed here that the denial of the Hereafter is not a new phenomenon, and a large number of people, sometimes entire nations, denied it altogether or lived without caring for accountability after death. History shows that any form of denial, or non-realisation, of the Hereafter resulted in the corruption and immorality of the people. The experience of history proves that denial of the reality of the Hereafter is fatal to mankind.

Many regard material progress as the sign of a nation following the right path. Here the Quran rejects this notion. It is made clear that mere material progress of a people lacking in right belief and conduct is not going to save them from becoming the fuel of Hell.

On the one hand, there is evidence in man's own being and in the universe around him, and the continuous experience of human history; and on the other hand there also came the Prophets(a.s.), one after the other, who showed clear signs, as a proof of their being true Prophets and warned the people that the Hereafter is sure to come.

The persons, or nations, that neither think rightly themselves, nor adopt the right attitude by listening to others, will be themselves responsible for their destruction in the end. Allah had not been unjust to them, they had done injustice to themselves by not following the directions and guidance given by the Prophets of their times.

"Allah brings His creation into being and then He reproduces them. To Him He will recall you all.

And when the Last Hour dawns, the wrong-doers will be speechless with despair. None of their partners will intercede for them; indeed they shall even disown their associates.

And when the Last Hour dawns, (mankind) will be separated one from the other. Those who have believed and done good works shall rejoice in a Garden and those who have disbelieved and denied Our Revelations and the meeting of the life to come, shall be delivered up for punishment."

(Quran, 30:11-16)

It seems easy for man to believe that God is the Creator, but it becomes a little difficult to believe that God will bring dead human beings to life again. Scientifically, reproduction or recreation should be an easier process than original production or creation. But in the case of God, it entirely depends upon the concept of God in one's mind. If we believe in this true attribute of God, then without any hesitation, we will believe that God can recreate or reproduce His creations anytime, any moment.

Wrong-doers mentioned here are not those who have committed murders, robberies and rapes in this world but are all those, as well, who have rebelled against God, denied the accountability of the Hereafter and have been worshipping others than Allah, or themselves. When such people suddenly come back to life in the Hereafter, against their expectations, they will stand dumbfounded.

There are three kinds of associates mentioned here:

  1. The angels, prophets, saints, martyrs and the righteous people to whom the polytheists assign divine attributes and powers, and whom they worship as gods, constitute the first category. On Resurrection Day these persons will rebuke their worshippers that they were made associates without their consent and against their teachings by the worshippers. Hence these alleged associates will declare their complete disavowal of their worshippers.
  2. Inanimate things like the moon, the sun, the planets, trees and stones are worshipped as gods by the polytheists. This forms the second group. These are helpless objects and will not be able to say anything on their behalf or against them.
  3. The arch-criminals e.g. Satan, false religious guides, tyrants and despots, by deception and fraud, or by use of force, compelled the servants of God to worship them, thus belong to the third category. They themselves will be in trouble on the Day of Resurrection. Unable to intercede for others, they will rather try to prove before Allah that their worshippers and followers were, themselves, responsible for their evil-doings and therefore their deviation should not be credited to the account of the arch-criminals.

Hence the polytheists shall not obtain any intercession from anywhere. They will themselves admit their mistake of making associates with Allah. In the Hereafter the polytheists would disown polytheism (shirk) with which they were misled in the world.

On Resurrection Day the groupings of mankind will be different from those in this world. Instead of groups based on race, country, language, tribe and clan, economic and political interests, mankind will be regrouped on the basis of true belief, morality and character. According to Islam, the real differentiation for mankind is belief and morality.

It is important to note that good works are mentioned as a necessary adjunct of faith. In order to enter paradise, belief is not enough, but good works should be the spontaneous outcome of true belief.

"Therefore, glorify Allah when you enter the evening and when you rise in the morning. Praise be to Him in the heavens and the earth, in the afternoon and at the declining of the day."

(Quran, 30:17-18)

This order has been given to the Prophet (s) and through him to all the believers. The disbelievers by denying the life hereafter regard Allah as someone helpless. As opposed to them, the Prophet and the believers glorify Allah and proclaim that He is free from, and exalted above, defects and faults and weaknesses.

The best form of such proclamation and expression is the Prayers - the five-time prescribed prayers.

These verses clearly point to the times of the Fajr (morning), Maghrib (evening), Asr (declining of the day) and the Zuhr (afternoon) prayers.

Following are the verses of the Quran at other places pointing to the time of prayers.

"Establish the salat from the declining of the sun to the darkness of the night, and be particular about the recital of the Quran at dawn."

(Quran, 17:78)

"Establish the salat at the two ends of the day and in the early parts of the night."

(Quran, 11:114)

"And glorify your Sustainer with His praise before the rising of the sun and before its setting, and glorify Him again during the hours of the night and at the extremes of the day."

(Quran, 20:130)

Allah is ever bringing into existence countless animals and human beings by breathing life into dead matter. You witness the phenomenon of lands lying barren, by receiving water start blooming and blossoming. Life and death both are controlled by Allah. For Him the transfer from life to death, or death to life is a reality.

From here onward in this surah, in verses 20 to 27, Signs of Allah are mentioned. These Signs on the one hand, point towards the possibility and occurrence of the life hereafter as mentioned in the above verses. On the other hand, the same Signs also underscore that this universe is under One God alone - the Creator, Master and Ruler. Thus the two beliefs - Resurrection (Aakhira) and Oneness of God (Tawheed) are intertwined.

"And of His Signs is that He created you out of dust - and then, lo! you become human beings scattered far and wide!"

(Quran, 30:20)

Man has been created out of a few dead elements like carbon, calcium etc. This unique creation, as man is, has great powers of sentiment, consciousness, initiative, and choice. Then not only one man was created, but in him and his mate, wonderful procreative powers are given by Allah by which, billions of human beings are being reproduced continuously. This poses some very serious questions.

First, could this unique creation come into existence without the design and creative power of a Wise Creator?

Secondly, could this creation be the result of thinking and design by many gods, or just One God?

Thirdly, that the One God Who has brought man into being from absolute nothingness, would He not be able to bring man back to life after giving death?

The only answer to these questions is that life and death are controlled by the One and only One Allah. For Him the transference from life to death, or death to life, is trivial.

"And of His signs is that He created for you mates out of your own kind, so that you might live in tranquillity with them. And He engendered love and kindness between you. In this behold, there are messages indeed for people who think."

(Quran, 30:21)

In this verse another Sign of Allah's wisdom has been depicted. He has created mankind in two sexes - male and female. Both are identical in humanity having the same basic formula of their figure and form, but different in the bio-sexual performance. There is such a wonderful harmony between the two that each is a perfect counterpoint of the other. Following are the inferences that can be drawn from this phenomenon.

  1. It clearly indicates that Allah has created everything in this universe in pairs. Every entity needs its pair for its completion. Hence this material world also has a pair known as the Hereafter. The worldly life gets fulfilment by having the life-after-death as its complement.
  2. Allah has ingrained sexual attraction between a male and female. This sexual love makes a pair work and live together with full confidence and reliability.
  3. The pairs are of opposite nature but Allah the Creator and the Sustainer arranges for a deep coordination between the two.

"And of His Signs are the creation of the heavens and the earth and the diversity of your tongues and colours. In this, behold, there are messages indeed for the learned."

(Quran, 30:22)

In this verse two more Signs are mentioned: the creation of the heavens and the earth and the diversity of tongues and colours of mankind.

Reflecting over the origin of the initial energy that assumed the form of matter with the combination of the elements, creating an awe-inspiring system of the universe, and then the functioning of this system over billions of centuries, with such regularity and discipline; all this directs a sensible person to conclude that this could not happen by mere chance, without the All-Embracing Will and Command of the All-Knowing, All-Wise Creator.

Attention has been drawn only to the two aspects of diversity of tongues and colours, but if one looks around, one will find countless differences in the species of man, animals, plants and other things. Even the two leaves of a tree are not exactly alike. Anyone who sees this wonderful phenomenon with open eyes would conclude that the Maker of the universe is ever-engaged in His creative and sustaining activity.

"And of His Signs is your sleep, at night or day as well as your search for His bounties. In this, behold, there are messages indeed for those who pay heed."

(Quran, 30:23)

Allah has made day and night for work and sleep in general. But this is not a hard and fast law. So in both day and night you may sleep as well as work for your livelihood.

This Sign of Allah points out that Allah is not only the Creator but also extremely Compassionate and Merciful to arrange for the needs and requirements of His creations.

Allah has placed a powerful urge for sleep in mankind. This sleep empowers him/her automatically and compels him/her to have a few hours of rest to be refreshed.

Man has been given appropriate limits and suitable physical and mental capabilities for exploring means and resources of livelihood.

"And of His Signs is that He shows you the lightning (to cause) fear and hope. He sends down water from the skies, giving life thereby to the earth after its death. In this, behold, there are messages indeed for people who use their reason."

(Quran, 30:24)

Thunder and lightning are the prerequisites for rainstorms. This rain is then the cause of the hope to have the crops as well as the cause of the fear that lightning may damage something or too heavy rain may wash away the land.

The creatures of the world live on the products that come out from the earth. This productivity of the earth depends on rain. This rain directly falls on the earth or its water gathers together on the surface of the earth, or freezes on the mountains and then flows down in the form of rivers. Further, rain itself depends on the heat of the sun, the change of seasons and atmospheric changes in temperature, and circulation of the winds etc.

The establishment of harmony and proportion between different entities existing in the earth to this stage, for millions and millions of years clearly shows the All-embracing Will and Plan and Wisdom of Allah, the Designer.

"And of His signs is that the skies and the earth stand firm at His bidding.

(Remember all this; for) in the end, when He will call you forth from the earth with a single call - lo! you will (all) emerge (for the Judgment).

For, unto Him belongs every being that is in the heavens and on earth; all things directly obey His will.

And He it is Who creates (all life) in the first instance, and then brings it forth nigh: and most easy is this for Him since His is the essence of all that is most sublime in the heavens and on earth, and He alone is Almighty, Truly Wise."

(Quran, 30:25-27)

The heavens and the earth have not only come into being by the command of Allah but their continuous functioning is also due to His command. His command sustains them to stand firm and not to collapse.

Enumerating all the above signs makes man realise the Power and Authority of Allah. About the Resurrection, two things are clearly mentioned here:

Firstly, Allah will have to make no preparation for raising mankind back to life after death. His one call will be enough to raise and muster together from every corner of the earth all human beings.

Secondly, since it was not difficult for Allah to create human beings in the first instance, how can it be difficult for Him to resurrect them again? Reproduction should be easier than production.

The Quran is full of verses directing towards the belief in Aakhirah. Tawheed - the Oneness of Allah and Aakhira - the life after death are the concepts in pair that are essential for the righteous living in this world. Without these two doctrines, mankind, individually or collectively, can never chalk out a life-style leading to peace and justice.



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