What is Islam?

by James William Lovegrove (Habeeb-Ullah)

Life after Death

Though all religions speak of life after death, no attempt, at all, has however been made to unveil the secrets of the hereafter. The Holy Quran makes it clear that the state after death is a complete exhibition of our spiritual state in this life. Here the good or bad conditions of the deeds or beliefs of a man are latent within him, but in the life to come they shall become manifest and clear as daylight. Here we are a hidden and concealed entity to others, but there our inner beauties or blemishes of mind will become an unveiled beauty or ugliness which will bring pain or pleasure to us. In this way we shall account for our good or bad deeds in this life.

The Paradise and Hell, as mentioned in the Holy Quran, shall be the places of abode of the righteous and the wicked, respectively. Though the Quran gives physical names to the blessings of the other world, in order to give some idea of things, yet another verse comes to explain it:

“No soul knows the blessings and joys which have been kept secret for it” (The Holy Quran, 32:17).

The Prophet explains this verse in the following words:

“The eye has not seen, nor has the ear heard, nor has it entered into the heart of man to conceive of them.”

Those who say that Muslim paradise smacks of sensuality and physical nature have something in these quotations to ponder over. They give the lie to all that has been said by certain missionaries of the Muslim heaven and hell:

“On that day you shall see the faithful men, and faithful women, their light running before and their light on their right hands” (The Holy Quran, 57:12).

This verse shows that the light of faith by which the righteous men and women were guided in this life, and which could here be seen only with the spiritual eye, shall be clearly seen going before the believers on the day when they will rise in the hereafter. In this life also we feel happy when we do good deeds, and feel pain when we do wrong, but all this we experience mentally. In the life hereafter all this mental experience will become materialized—realities apparent to all others. In our present frame of mind, we are unable to conceive the form in which our pains and pleasures will receive shape, but our belief and actions in this life will be the bedrock of our future growth.

Life after death, though new in its nature, is the continuity of the present life. Death in Islam is not annihilation

(“And do not speak of those who are slain in Allah’s way as dead, nay (they are) alive” – The Holy Quran, 2:154)

or extinction, but the same cessation, of the ever-progressive element, for the time being, which we observe, in everything in the course of evolution that when it finishes a course of one order it enters into another. The interval, between the orders, is always attended with some sort of cessation or stag­nation. The working essence remains in abeyance.

This interval is in Islamic theology called Burzakh, which begins and ends with what are respectively termed death and resurrection, in popular language. Whatever I have said of the Muslim heaven will, as well, apply to the nature of the Muslim hell. It is more or less of a purgatorial nature. It is not a permanent abode; but a temporary sojourn to help further mental and spiritual progress. Islam believes in a continuous life, the progress of which knows no bounds. Life passes through various stages of growth, our sojourn on this plane being one of them. In order to make perfect progress, one stage of evolution prepares us for our growth in the next. But if we have failed to achieve the required qualifications for proper upliftment, we have to undergo certain painful processes to cleanse us from those disqualifying factors in us which impede progress. That life of ordeal has been named Hell in the Quran. The seven heavens of Islam are seven stages of progress, and that again is not the limit; our progress will be continuous till we merge in the Divine Essence.

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