Belief in Life After Death

Understanding Islam – Abul Al\’a Maududi

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The fifth article of Islamic Faith is belief in life after death. Prophet Muhammad (peace is upon him) has directed us to believe in resurrection after death and in the Day of Judgment. The essential ingredients of this belief, as the life of this world and of all that is in it will come to an end on an appointed day. Everything will be annihilated. That day is called Qiyamah, i.e., the Last Day. That all the human beings who had lived in the world since its inception will then be restored to life and will be presented before God who will sit in court on that day. This is called Hashr: Resurrection. 

That the entire record of every man and woman of all their doings and misdoings-will be presented before God for final judgment. 

That God shall finally adjudge the reward of every person. He shall weigh everyone\’s good and bad deeds. One who excels in goodness will be rewarded a goodly reward; one whose evils and wrongs overweigh his good deeds, will be punished. 

That the reward and punishment will be administered judiciously. Those who emerge successful in this judgment will go to paradise and the doors of eternal bliss will be opened upon them; those who are condemned and deserve punishment will be sent to Hell-the abode of fire and torture. 

These are the essential constituents of belief in life after death. 

THE NEED OF THIS BELIEF 

Belief in the life after death has always been a part and parcel of the teachings of the Prophets. Every Prophet asked his followers to believe in it, in the same way as the last of the Prophets, Muhammad (peace be upon him), has asked us to do. This has always been an essential condition of being a Muslim. All Prophets have categorically declared that one who disbelieves in it, or casts doubts on it, is a Kafir. This is so because denial of life after death makes all other beliefs meaningless. This denial also destroys the very sanction for good life and man is driven to a life of ignorance and disbelief. A little reflection would make this quite clear. 

In your everyday life, whenever you are asked to do anything, you immediately think: what is the utility of doing it and what harm is involved in doing it? This is the very nature of man. He instinctively regards a useless action as totally unnecessary. You will never be willing to waste your time and energy in useless, wasteful, and unproductive jobs. Similarly, you will not be very eager to avoid a thing that is harmless. And the general rule is that the deeper your conviction about the utility of a thing, the firmer would be your response to it; and the more doubtful you are about its efficacy, the more wavering and shakier would be your attitude. After all, why does a child put his hand in fire? – Because he is not sure that fire burns. Why does he evade studying? -Because he does not fully grasp the importance and benefits of education and does not believe in what his elders try to impress upon his mind. 

Now think of the man who does not believe in the Day of Judgment. Would he not consider belief in God and a life in accordance with His code of no consequence? What value will he attach to a life in pursuit of His pleasure? To him neither obedience to God is of any advantage, nor disobedience to Him of any harm. How, the injunctions of God, Him Prophet, and His Book? What incentive would remain there for him to undergo trials and sacrifices and to avoid worldly pleasures? And if a man does not follow the code of God and lives according to his own likes and dislikes, or what use is his belief in the existence of God, if any such belief he has? 

That is not all. If you reflect still deeper, you will come to the conclusion that belief in life after death is the greatest deciding factor in the life of a man. Its acceptance or rejection determines the very course of his life and behavior. 

A man who has in view the success or failure of this world alone will be concerned with the benefits and harms that accrue to him in this life only. He will not be prepared to undertake any good act if he has no hope of gaining thereby some worldly interest, nor will he be keen to avoid any wrong act if that is not injurious to his interests in this world.

But a man who believes in the next world as well and has a firm conviction of the final consequences of his acts would look upon all world look upon all worldly gains and losses as temporary and transitory and would not stake his eternal bliss for a transitory and would his eternal bliss for a transitory gain. He will look upon things in their wider perspective and will always keep the everlasting benefit or harm in view. He will do the good, however costly it may be to him in terms of worldly gains, or however costly it may be to him in terms of worldly gains, or however injurious it may be to his immediate interests; and he will avoid the wrong, however charming it may look. He will judge the things from the viewpoint of their eternal consequences and would not submit to his whims and caprices. 

Thus, there is a radical difference between the beliefs, approaches, and lives of the two persons. One\’s idea of a good act is limited to its beneficence in this brief temporary life as a gain in the shape of money, property, public applause, and similar other things which give him position, power, reputation, and worldly happiness. Such things become his objectives in life. Fulfilment of his own wishes and self-aggrandizement become the be-all and end-all of his life. And he does not deter even from cruel and unjust means in their achievement. Similarly, his conception of a wrong act is that which may involve a risk of injury to his interests in this world like loss of property and life, spoiling of health, besmirching of reputation, or some other unpleasant consequence. In contrast to this man, the believer\’s concept of good and evil would be quite different. To him all that pleases God is good and all that invokes His displeasure and wrath is evil. A good act, according to him, will remain good even if it brings no benefit to him in this world, or even entails loss of some worldly possession or injury to his personal interests. He will be confident that God will reward him in the eternal life and that would be the real success. similarly, he will not fall a prey to evil deeds merely for some worldly gain, for he knows that even if he escapes punishment in his short worldly life, in would be the loser and would not be able to escape punishment by the court of God. He does not believe in the relativity of morals but sticks to the absolute standards revealed by God and lives according to them irrespective of gain or injury in this word. 

Thus, it is the belief or disbelief in life after death which makes man adopt different courses in life. For one who does not believe in the Day of Judgment it is absolutely impossible to fashion his life as suggested by Islam. Islam says: \”In the way of God give zakat (charity) to the poor.\” His answer is: \”No, zakat will diminish my wealth; I will, instead, take interest on my money.\” And in its collection, he would not hesitate to get attached each and everything belonging to the debtors, though they be poor, or hunger stricken. Islam says: \”Always speak the truth and shun lying, though you may gain ever so much by lying and lose ever so much by speaking the truth.\” But his reply would be: \” Well, what shall I do with a truth which is of no use to me here, and which instead brings loss to me; and why should I avoid lying where it can bring benefit to me without any risk, even that of a bad name?\” He visits a lonely place and finds a precious metal lying there; in such a situation Islam says: \”This is not your property, do not take it”; but he would say: \”This is a thing I have come by without any cost or trouble; why should I not have it? There is no one to see this pick-up, who might report it to the police or give evidence against me in a court of law, to give me a bad name among the people. Why should I not make use of this valuable?\” Someone secretly keeps a deposit with this man, and after that that he dies. Islam says: \”Be honest with the property deposited with you and give it over to the heirs of the deceased.\” He says: \”Why? There is no evidence of his property being with me; his children also have no knowledge about it. When I can appropriate it without any difficulty, without any fear of legal claim, or stain on my reputation, why should I not do so?\” In short, at every step-in life, Islam will direct him to walk in a course of behavior; but he will take recourse to the opposite direction. For Islam Measures and values everything from the viewpoint of its everlasting consequence; while such a person always has in view only the immediate and earthly outcome. Now, you can understand why a man cannot be a Muslim without belief in the Day of Judgment. To be a Muslim is a very great thing; the fact is that one cannot even become a good man without this belief, for the denial of the Day of Judgment degrades man from humanity to a place even lower than that of the lowest of animals. 

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