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The Hereafter: Why at all?
The Hereafter
Dr. Shehzad Saleem


Belief in the Hereafter is a fundamental tenet of the Islamic faith. The real message of the Qur’ān is that this world is transitory in nature and shall one day give way to an everlasting world where man shall have to face the result of his deeds; if his good deeds outnumber the evil ones, he shall be given an eternal life of bliss, otherwise he shall have to face the grievous penalty of Hell.

The Qur’ān substantiates the need of the Hereafter through various arguments so that man should always remain heedful to this reality. In the following paragraphs, we shall examine some of the important arguments cited by the Qur’ān in this regard.


First and foremost, the Qur’ān draws mans attention to a striking reality so manifest around him. It says that the Almighty has generally created everything in pairs:

"And We have created everything in pairs that you may take heed." (51:39)

Moreover it is apparent that each member of a pair is a masterpiece in its ownself, yet contains certain innate imperfections. In fact, its existence seems meaningless as far as being beneficial to man is concerned unless it is viewed in unison with its counterpart. Both members of a pair complement each other and form a single complete whole which is flawless. The sun and the moon without one another form an incomplete picture. If man needs the brightness of the sun during the day, it also needs the milky light of the moon at night. Similarly, the night and day lose their meaning and purpose for human life without one another. Likewise, the earth and the sky must co-exist to fulfil man's requirements. The human species itself is, perhaps, the most conspicuous example of this `pair phenomenon'. Two distinct entities: man and woman constitute a whole. It is evident that a man's social and moral existence, his psychology and his physical structure, his life style and tendencies, his aims and targets, his actions and reactions have certain deficiencies and inadequacies which make him an incomplete creation. Similar is the case with a woman. Her personality in toto gives the impression of a creation which requires another being to fulfill what she lacks.

The question which comes to mind in the light of these details is that why at all has the Almighty created everything in pairs. The Qur’ān answers this question in the verse quoted earlier: `... that you may take heed'. In other words, the reason for creating everything in pairs is that man should ponder at the deficiencies and shortcomings of this world and of his own reach the conclusion that this world must also have a pair which complements it. In other words, his existence is a single reality which has been divided into two parts: existence in this world and existence in the next one. It is only after viewing both these spheres of his existence together that his existence can be regarded as an explained phenomenon, just as after viewing together the male and female species the entity called `man' can be regarded an explained phenomenon. 

Now one may ask of the imperfections of this world which induce man to reach this conclusion. A perfunctory glance at this world is all that is required to observe these imperfections. Here we shall allude to some of these:

i) Eternal life is the desire of every person on this earth without exception. No one wants to die if he does not have to face the hardships of this world. The world within him is infinite; the world outside finite. The desire in him to be immortal is unquestionable; the tough reality that he is a mortal is equally undeniable. Even when old age overtakes him and his body has lost all its strength and vigour, he wants to carry on in whatever shape possible. Alas! this desire in him can never be fulfilled. He must face the greatest reality of life: death

ii) A person's life can be summed up as a blend of the sorrows of the past and the fears of the future. He plans -- only to see that what he had planned never could materialize. He undertakes a venture -- only to see the invisible hand of fate destroying all his goals and aspirations. He makes a profound effort -- only to find no headway in the right direction. His fears about the future add to his agony and discomfort -- but then he is helpless in this matter also. The world within him shuns such a life given the choice. He wants a life in which he does not have to face the regrets of the past and the apprehensions about the future.

iii) Justice, the queen of all virtues and the pinnacle of all values has perhaps remained one of the greatest ideals of man. It is for this virtue that he surrenders his freedom to form a state and it is for this virtue that he sacrifices his time and energy. Time and again he even gives his life to have its glimpse. But seldom in history could he attain this cherished goal. Many a time the innocent were punished and the guilty acquitted by the courts of law. Oppression and barbarities of man against man seldom brought justice to the afflicted. No one could stop Nero from burning Rome or Hitler from killing the Jews. Even if they had been brought to the courts of justice, no punishment could have made amends for their horrendous crimes.

iv) In the entire universe, there is life only on a very very tiny part of it -- the earth. Thousands of planets and millions of galaxies lie vacant. Man's efforts to find life forms on other planets have always ended in vain. It is the verdict of the Qur’ān that one day all the matter and substance of this world shall transform into a new world -- the Hereafter:

"[Remember] the Day when this earth shall change into another earth and the heavens into new heavens mankind shall stand before Allah, the One, the Almighty." (14:48)

In other words, the unfathomable expanse of this universe with no life in it may seem a meaningless creation, but does seem very meaningful when told that its stuff shall be used by the Almighty in creating the next world.

These are some of the imperfections of our world which clearly point to the fact that this world needs another world to make it seem meaningful. Without that world this world is a purposeless creation and cannot be considered the product of a wise and prudent Creator:

"Do you think that We have created you without any purpose and that you would never be recalled to Us." (23:115)


A major argument which the Qur’ān employs in this regard is that the Hereafter is the necessary requirement of man's ability to discriminate between good and evil. The conscience within every person praises him on every good he does and pricks him on every evil that emanates from him. However, since in this world the result of a good enterprise is not necessarily good and the result of an evil undertaking is not necessarily evil, therefore, it is the ruling of the human conscience that there must come a day when results are in accordance with the nature of deeds. Furthermore, if the Almighty has no intention of evaluating him one Day, why at all has He endowed him with such an internal mechanism? The Qur’ān, therefore, asserts that the mere existence of conscience in a person is enough evidence for the Day of Judgement:

"[They think that the Day of Judgement shall not come]. No! I call to witness the Day of Judgement [itself] and No! I call to witness the reproaching soul [within you]. Does man think that We shall not be able to put his bones together again. Indeed, We can remould the very tips of his fingers. [No this is not so]; in fact [the truth is that] man wants to be mischievous before his conscience. He asks: `When is the Day of Judgement'." (75:1-6)

The Qur’ān also maintains that the Day of Judgement is the natural outcome of the Almighty's attribute of Mercy and on that Day good and evil doers shall never be equal:

"He has decreed Mercy for Himself and will gather you on the Day of Judgement which is sure to come." (6:12)

"Are We to deal with the believers as We deal with the wrongdoers. What has come over you that you judge so ill." (68:35-36)


The Providence found in this Universe is another argument presented by the Qur’ān to draw man's attention to the Hereafter. The Almighty has created this world as very appropriate for providing man all his needs. He has been bestowed with various favours without being entitled to them. Now, if the Almighty has created this world with a purpose, all these favours and privileges entail accountability -- a day wherein man shall be held accountable for his deeds.

The favours enjoyed by man are so extensive that no heedful person can escape noticing them. Even an ordinary glance on the world surrounding us reveals that nature and its various manifestations are at our obedient service:

"[They should behold that] Have We not spread this earth like a bed and made the mountains [its] pegs? And not created you in pairs? And not made your sleep a means of comfort [for you]? And made the night a covering and the Day a time to earn [your] livelihood? And not built above you seven sturdy [skies]? And placed [in them] a dazzling lamp [ --- this sun]? And sent down abundant water from dripping clouds that We may bring forth grain and various plants and gardens of luxurious growth? [All this clearly points to the fact that] indeed the Day of Judgement has an appointed time." (78:6-17)

The sun and the moon, night and day, the stars and the seas, all play their roles in sustaining and nurturing man:

"He has forced the night and the day, the sun and the moon into your service; the stars also service you by his leave. Verily, in this are signs for men of understanding. On the earth, He has spread for you objects of various hues; verily in this is a sign for those who can be reminded.

It is He who has subjected to you the seas so that you may eat of its fresh fish and bring up from it ornaments to wear. Behold the ships ploughing their course through it. All this He created that you may seek His bounty and be grateful to Him.

He set firm mountains upon the earth lest it should move away with you; and rivers, roads and landmarks that you be rightly guided. By the stars too men are directed." (16:12-16)

"It is We who have created you [the first time, so] why do not you attest [to the Hereafter]. Behold the [human seed] that you discharge. Is it you who create it or We? It is We who have ordained death among you. Nothing can hinder Us from replacing you by others like yourselves or resurrecting you into a world you know not. You certainly know of the first creation. Why then do you not reflect.

Consider the seeds you sow. Is it you who gives them growth or We? If We pleased We could turn your harvest into dry powder, and you would be left in wonderment, exclaiming: We are laden with debts; infact, we have been totally deprived [of the fruits of our labour].

Consider the water which you drink. Do you bring it down [in rain] from the clouds or do We ? If We pleased We could turn it bitter. Why then do you not be thankful?

Observe the fire which you light. Is it you who grow the tree which feeds the fire or do We grow it? We have made it a reminder for man and an article of comfort for the traveller." (56:57-73)

It is the verdict of common sense that each privilege and favour entails accountability. If the Almighty has endowed man with so many favours, he shall definitely reward those who fulfil the rights imposed by these favours and punish those who adopt an ungrateful attitude to their Lord.


Another important argument employed by the Qur’ān in favour of a Day of Reward and Punishment is the testimony provided by the rise and fall of various nations and civilizations in history. The gist of this argument runs as follows: The Qur’ān says that definite moral laws govern the rise and fall of nations. If nations in their collective capacities adhere to certain moral principles, they are rewarded for this attitude. This reward generally comes in the shape of national prosperity and a prestigious position among the comity of nations. However, if nations do not adhere to these principles, they become weak and vulnerable and sometimes even fizzle out from the map of the world. Consequently, the Greek and Roman empires and the ancient Hindu and Egyptian civilizations all witnessed their peaks by dominating the world for many centuries and then when they deviated from the moral laws which gave them this prestigious position, they crashed to non-existence. To make this testimony even more glaring and blatant, the Almighty in the course of history sent many Prophets (Rusul) in which this decline or rise -- which normally occurs over a span of centuries -- was reduced to a span of a lifetime. A Prophet decides the fate of his nation. If they accept faith they are rewarded and if they persist in their disbelief they are destroyed. The nation of Noah (sws) and those of Shoaib (sws) and Lot (sws) and the peoples of Aad and Thamud and the Pharoah all were destroyed when they denied the respective Prophets sent to them. Since the truth -- the acceptance of which is the real test for which man has been created -- is revealed to them in its ultimate form, they lose their right to live since they have failed in the very purpose for which they were created. The Qur’ān while describing this fate says:

"How many sinful nations have We destroyed! Their cities lie in ruin; desolate are their lofty places and abandoned their wells. Have they not journeyed through the land? Have they no hearts to reason with, or ears to hear with? It is their hearts and not their eyes that are blind." (22:45-46)

The Qur’ān says that it is this reward and punishment which is going to befall each person one day. Just as nations and civilizations are rewarded and punished for their deeds, individuals shall also one day meet their fate. People must, therefore, take heed from history and from the rise and decline of the nations so manifest around them.


These are some of the important arguments presented by the Qur’ān which positively validate the need of a day of reward and punishment. It says that belief in this day is not merely a dogma; it is a rationally proved reality without which the enigma and mystery which enshrouds this world cannot be explained.

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