Belief in the Hereafter is one of the most important tenets
of Islam. It occupies the central position in the preaching mission of prophets.
It is on the foundation of this belief that the pillars of sharī‘ah, virtue and
righteousness stand. Prophethood is also based on it. A nabī (prophet) is a
because he actually foretells this nabā’ azīm (great news).
A rasūl (messenger) is a rasūl because he brings the message of its advent. The
Qur’ān is a bearer of warning and glad tidings for this Day. It says that the
manner in which people wake up from sleep, the manner in which rain enlivens a
dead and desolate terrain, the manner in which a whole human being comes into
existence from a mere drop of water, in the same manner mankind will be made to
rise one day from their graves. Raising up mankind on that Day would not be of
any bother for the Almighty. When the addressees of the Qur’ān expressed their
doubt about being re-created and inquired after the being who would enliven
these decayed bones, the Almighty replied in the Qur’ān that the very being Who
created them the first time would create them again. This whole process is as
easy for Him as is uttering a word for us.
The testimonies, indications, sites and events of this day
are described both in the Qur’ān and the Hadīth. In the following paragraphs,
these details are mentioned:
i. The Testimonies
The first thing is man’s awareness of good and evil. It is
because of this awareness that his chiding conscience rebukes him on every evil.
It is a small court of justice that is found within every person and which
delivers its unbiased verdict at all times. Whether he accepts it or not, a
person is able to clearly listen to this verdict after every mistake that
emanates from his thoughts and deeds; this continues until he becomes so deeply
involved in evil that it completely surrounds his faculties thereby lulling the
call of his conscience to sleep. This internal system of rebuke is a testimony
of his inner-self and is called the testimony of the rebuking-self. The Qur’ān
presents it and tells man that he will not be left unaccountable for whatever he
does. He should know that just as there exists a lesser abode of judgement
within man, similarly a greater abode of judgement will one day be set up for
the whole world; when it takes place, he will be held accountable before his
Lord and rewarded and punished accordingly on the basis of his deeds. If a
person denies such a day of accountability, then it is like denying himself and
playing mischief before one’s conscience.
The second thing is the nature of man by virtue of which he
likes justice and dislikes injustice. No doubt, in spite of this dislike he
still perpetrates injustice but this is not because he is not able to
distinguish justice from injustice or that he likes the latter – it is because
he loses his balance and poise by being overcome with desires and emotions. All
of us know that a person may want to steal from another person’s house but he
would never like someone to steal from his own house; he may kill someone but
would never like that anyone take his life or that of his relatives. Similarly,
a person may be dishonest in weighing his merchandise for others but would never
be happy if others are dishonest with him in this regard. If one asks these
thieves, killers and swindlers about their actions they would confess that each
of these is a crime and should be eliminated. Thus no one in his senses can
regard good and evil to be equal or that both be dealt with in the same manner.
The Qur’ān presents these facts and asks the rejecters of the Day of Judgement:
“Are We to deal with those who submit to Us as We deal with those who
transgress? What is the matter with you? What is this judgement you give?”
The third thing is the incompleteness found both in man and
in this world. From whatever aspect these two are seen, it is clearly evident
that in every single part of theirs the great power and wisdom of their maker is
apparent. In everything there is great meaning, matchless order and sequence,
unrivalled mathematical perfection and symmetry, extra-ordinary thoroughness and
immense beauty of creativity that astounds one’s intellect. On the other hand,
if one tries to understand both of them in their totality, one sees great
incompleteness and lack of purpose in them. After this, there can only be two
possibilities: first, to regard this world as a meaningless place and come to
the conclusion that it is the workmanship of a merry-maker and nothing more;
second, to understand it in combination with a Day of Judgement and that eternal
kingdom of God which has so vehemently been affirmed and declared by His
prophets. What is the verdict of intellect? Every person can comprehend.
The fourth thing is the attributes of God, the effects of
which are evident in every speck of this universe. The attributes of providence
and mercy in particular need one’s attention. After witnessing the
extra-ordinary arrangement made by the Lord of this world to nurture and nourish
man, how can a person of intellect think that his Lord will leave him
unaccountable and how can it be expected from the merciful and gracious God to
not punish people who have made this world a place of oppression and injustice?
For this very reason, the Qur’ān has pointed out at a number of places that the
Day of Judgement is the consequence of God’s providence and mercy, power and
wisdom. After professing belief in God, no one can deny it.
The fifth thing is the manifestation of God’s judgement in
this very world. This happened through prophets who were
elevated to the status of messengers. The Almighty blessed them with
extra-ordinary miracles, helped them through Gabriel and before the actual Day
of Judgement set up through these messengers miniature Days of Judgement on this
earth. The objective was to prove the existence of God and the Hereafter to the
people in the manner scientific facts are proven through empirical evidence in a
laboratory. After this, obviously no one is left with an excuse before the
Almighty to not accept the truth.
The methodology adopted for presenting
this empirical evidence was that these messengers communicated the truth to
their people and then declared that they would set up a court of justice for
their people on behalf of the Almighty. The reward and punishment on the basis
of one’s faith and deeds which they had been informed of would take place for
their people in this very world. Just as physical laws are unalterable and
manifest themselves come what may, in the same manner, this moral law of God
would manifest itself to them once they were left with no excuse to deny the
truth. Thus those among the people of the messengers who accepted their calls
would attain salvation both in this world and in the next and would dominate
their adversaries. And those who rejected these calls would be humiliated and
receive divine punishment.
Whenever this prediction was made and
about whichever people it was made, it was made in the most impossible and
unbelievable of circumstances; however, it is an amazing historical reality that
it came true whenever it was made and came true in such a manner that people in
fact witnessed God administering justice and the heavens and the earth were
filled with His majesty and grandeur.
The Qur’ān has informed us that
the last time this miniature Day of Judgement took place was
in the seventh century AD. This amazing event of human history occupies
extra-ordinary significance because it took place in the light of known history.
Thus the minutest of details about it are preserved and all its phases are
before us and anyone can witness them by turning the pages of history.
ii. The Signs
When will the Day of Judgement come? The Qur’ān has made it
clear that no one except God has knowledge of this. Only He knows when it will
come and He has not disclosed this matter even to any of His prophets and
angels. However, the signs and portents which will signal its advent are
mentioned in the Qur’ān and the Hadīth and also in previous divine scriptures.
Some of these signs are very general and others are in the form of specific
incidents and happenings. The signs of this first category are not mentioned in
the Qur’ān. Only the Hadīth literature mentions them. Of the signs of the second
category too, only one is mentioned in the Qur’ān: the onslaught of Gog and
Magog. Therefore, this only is the certain sign. Other signs which are generally
known in this regard are found in narratives which the scholars of Hadīth
technically regard as sahih. Some of these signs have already manifested
themselves and others, if their ascription towards the Prophet (sws) is correct,
shall definitely manifest themselves in future.
iii. The Events
How would the Day of Judgement come about? The details of
what will ensue at the advent of this day are mentioned in the Qur’ān at a
number of places. What will happen to the heavens and the earth and what will
befall the sun and the moon, the planets and stars and what situation will be
faced by the creatures of the earth and how people will emerge from their graves
to gather around their Lord is all portrayed in the Qur’ān. A study of
pre-Islamic Arabic literature shows that Arabs relished parables more than
similes. The Qur’ān while taking this into account has portrayed the picture of
the cataclysm that will take place on that day in such a graphic manner that the
reader feels and sees all these events happening before him. The sequence of the
events which will take place as per the Qur’ān is the following:
a. People will be deeply involved in their life-routine.
Some will be on the way, some in the market, some in a meeting and some at their
homes and no one will have the slightest inkling that this whole world is about
to be disrupted when suddenly the trumpet will be blown and the upheaval of the
Day of Judgement will take place. At various places, the Qur’ān has graphically
depicted what will happen to the creatures of this earth when this commotion
ensues. When after the first earthquake tremor the second tremor comes, the
state of the earth will be much like a ship which is being swept by the
tumultuous waves around it and whose inhabitants as a result will be trembling
with fear with eyes horror-struck and they will be so overcome and stricken by
the situation as if the horrific punishment of God has driven them mad.
b. It will be at this time when great disruption in the
physical world will begin. Such great commotion will ensue all over this
universe that mountains will be crushed to grains, seas will burst forth and all
galaxies and heavenly bodies will be displaced and will fuse into one another.
So great will this all-embracing upheaval be that minds cannot imagine it and
words cannot describe it. This turmoil will continue for a period known only to
c. After this, the second phase will begin. In the Qur’ān,
this phase has been called the phase in which mankind will be re-created. Thus
from this very turmoil a new physical world will emerge. All heavenly bodies
including this earth, sun, moon and galaxies made of billions of stars and
planets will change into an earth and heavens having new physical laws.
According to the Qur’ān, at this juncture, the trumpet will be sounded once
again after which mankind will rise from their graves and will advance to the
court of justice set up by their Lord for them.
iv. Phases and Abodes
The phases through which a person passes and the
abodes in which he is lodged during his journey to meet his Lord are also
mentioned in the Qur’ān. Slowly but surely, he is moving to encounter his Lord.
The first phase of this journey is death. After a short stay in this world,
every single person passes through this phase. There is no escape from it. It
can come in the morning and it can come in the evening; one may taste it even
before one’s birth or right after birth. It can come in childhood, in youth or
in old age at any time and every person has to submit to it whether he likes it
or not. According to the Qur’ān at death, the real personality of a person which
is called the soul (nafs) by the Qur’ān and which is independent of his body is
separated from his mortal being. A specific angel – who has a whole staff of
angels – is deputed for this task. He formally comes and claims a person’s soul
just as a government official entrusted for collecting something discharges his
At this instance, what happens to a person is also depicted
in the Qur’ān. The souls of people who have deliberately rejected their prophets
even after being convinced of their veracity are claimed by the angels whilst
they hit and strike these disbelievers and at this juncture of death they inform
them that a terrible torment awaits them because of their evil deeds. On the
other hand, people who profess faith in their prophets and are absolutely
without any stain of disbelief or polytheism and have also not infringed upon
the rights of others or been oppressive in any manner are presented with
salutations from the angels and given glad tidings of Paradise.
After this, are the abodes which are called Barzakh,
Mahshar, Hell and Heaven.
Barzakh is the boundary beyond which the dead shall be kept
till the Day of Judgement. In some Hadīth narratives the word “grave” has been
figuratively used for this world. Here mankind will be alive but this life will
be without any corporal form. Here, the awareness of the soul, the nature of
emotions, observations and experiences will be almost the same as the ones found
in dreams. It is evident from the Qur’an that for people whose fate is
absolutely clear whether they are the righteous who have remained faithful to
God and to their human beings in an exemplary way or are the haughty who have
rejected the truth in sheer arrogance, punishment and reward will begin in the
world of Barzakh. The reason for this is that taking an account from them will
not be required.
The next place people will encounter is the Mahshar. The
Qur’ān says that after the trumpet is sounded the second time all mankind will
rise from their graves and stand in the Mahshar. Each person will be given a
body and a soul. The previous body of each person will be replaced with a new
one which will be appropriate for enduring God’s blessings as well His wrath;
however, each person will have the same personality at that time as he had in
Mankind on that day will be divided into three groups. The
foremost in seeking the truth, the righteous and the wrongdoers. The first and
second of these two groups will be given their record in their right hand whilst
the hands of the third of these groups will be tied and they will be given their
record from behind in their left hands.
At this instance, the accounts of people shall be
presented. Witnesses shall be called so that the wrong-doers are left with no
excuse to deny their sins. Prophets of God shall also be presented as witnesses.
Even the tongues, hands, feet, ears, eyes and skins of people shall bear
witness. After this, judgement will be pronounced and people will be sent to
Paradise or Hell.
Hell is the worst of abodes according to the Qur’ān. In it,
there will be the punishment of the fire. This fire will scorch faces, disfigure
looks, pluck off skins and reach the hearts. The necks of criminals will have
yokes and their feet will be in chains; everything will become a yearning for
them. The greatest punishment will be that sinners will not be able to see the
Almighty nor receive any affection from Him. The Almighty will not even like to
look at some of them.
Paradise is the abode of the righteous. It is as vast as
the universe. It is a place of eternal bliss where in contrast to this world,
there is no concept of death with life, sorrow with happiness, worry with
satisfaction, hardship with ease and torment with blessings. Its comfort is
eternal, its bliss endless and its days and nights unending. Its peace is
forever, its happiness will never cease and its majesty is everlasting and its
perfection matchless. Here the Almighty will provide His servants with that
which eyes have not seen, ears have not heard and which never has any person
ever been able to imagine.
by Dr Shehzad Saleem)
1. This is a reference to the
words of a Qur’ānic verse: 78:2.