ALLAH HAS CREATED man “in the best of forms” – a state of nature which is wholly pure and free of sin. He has been supremely blessed and bestowed with the priceless gifts of body and mind and innumerable talents and resources. But with all the precious bounties and largesse granted to us by Allah, comes the added responsibility of using these abilities and talents in the way that is worthy of our Bestower – which also brings us to the question of accountability of all our actions. The more man has, the more he will be questioned about – in the variegated sectors of his family, his livelihood, his adherence to his faith (or the lack thereof ) and his commitment to his neighbors and community.
What, does man think that he is to be left aimless [without being punished or rewarded for the obligatory duties enjoined by his Lord Allah on him]? [Sûrat Al-Qiyâmah, 75: 36]
Our life on this earth is temporary, a fleeting mirage – and it is the pathway preparing us for the reality of Al-Âkhirah. Earthly life derives meaning when we understand the message reiterated by the Messengers of Allah and stated clearly in the Quran – that the noble and the pure are rewarded and that the evil and the wicked are punished by Allah. All intentions which precede actions need to be transparent, being subject to scrutiny –especially if the moral plague of doing good things for wrong motives is to become apparent.
To prepare ourselves for the Yawm Al-Dîn –and to lead our lives in the most honorable way– we need to follow the guidance and our ‘briefing’ as delineated in the verses of the Holy Quran and as laid down by our Prophet and the prophets before him in the exemplary way of life led by them.
We have not created heaven and earth and all that is between them without meaning and purpose, as is the surmise of those bent on destroying the truth… Would we treat those who have attained to faith, who believe [in the Oneness of Allah] and do righteous deeds in the same manner as [We shall treat] the mufsidîn, those who spread corruption on Earth? Would we treat the God-conscious, the Muttaqîn, in the same manner as the fujjâr, the disbelievers and the wicked?’ [Sûrat Ṣâd, 38: 27-28]
In these verses, Allah informs us that we need to direct our lives towards Al-Ṣirâṭ-Al-Mustaqîm if we desire to be rewarded and if we wish to share ranks with the righteous and pious in the Hereafter.
The Hereafter is therefore fundamental to clarifying the true purpose of life and the reason we die – that men may see the real ‘ends’ of the kind of life they have been striving for. In fact, the Hereafter is initiated with ‘The Day of Decision’ or the ‘The Day of Truth’ when all of man’s deceptions and deepest emotions will be laid bare before the Creator. It is He who will then decide our fate or show us His ultimate mercy as He deems fit.
It stands to reason therefore that belief in Al–Âkhirah would have a tremendous influence on the life of a Muslim. He is aware that Allah is watching (and the Angels are recording) all his actions big or small. He must account for his behavior, conduct and emotions. Therefore he will exercise the utmost restraint and care in conducting himself as a true Muslim. This will give meaning and purpose to his life, resulting in a greater emotional and psychological balance. His life will not be limited to worldly desires, to greed and materialism. He will stay away from an immoral life, avoid deviant or criminal behavior and will take constant care to repent of any misdeeds he may have committed, knowingly or unknowingly. He will be less tempted to lapse into anxiety, sadness and fear and his faith will be strong enough to give him the courage to face trials, tribulations and challenges in day-to-day life. The fact that Allah, the Master of the Day of Judgement will mete out not only the exact justice in direct proportion to His slave’s deeds, but will also display mercy towards him, will give him the confidence and conviction to follow the true path of Islam.
Belief in the Day of Judgement –the understanding that man will be brought back to a life enduring for eternity– is essential to correcting man’s course of life and to making him prepare diligently for it. The end purpose is for him to live life in this world as an ethical and upright Muslim following the teachings of the Quran and Sunnah.
Mention of the life of the Hereafter in the Quran is commingled with the mention of the Dunya as it is in this interconnection there lies the pathway for souls to be reformed and rejuvenated. Allah has provided us with information regarding the Unseen Day with supreme clarity in the Quran and by understanding this alone can man develop a firm yaqîn –that is, a faith with no room for any remnant of doubt.
It is this faith which fashions the path of life for every true Muslim – man, woman or child. They know they must lead a life truly valuing salah and zakah, observing their duties towards parents, being ever mindful of the needs of their family, relatives and neighbors and orphans. A true Muslim should endeavor to inculcate within himself all the virtues displayed in the persona of our Prophet Muhammad œ – namely those of honesty, trustworthiness, tolerance, kindness, forgiveness, truthfulness, chastity and other innumerable positive qualities of which he was a shining example.
On the authority of Abû Hurairah, the Prophet stated the following:
Allah will most certainly enforce settlement of all the dues to those entitled to receive them on the Day of Judgement; even the wrong done to a hornless goat by a horned goat will be redressed. (Muslim)
The above words imply that a Muslim may not simply rest assured and be complacent that he is leading a commendable sin-free life. Rather, his striving must be continuous and his effort must be ongoing all through his life to avoid the pitfalls and allure of the Dunya. Through constant attention he can successfully maintain the status quo required of a pious, upright Muslim. He must always bear in mind that each offence done by him or to him will be recompensed in just and full measure by Almighty Allah. At the same time, Allah is forgiving and merciful, so if one repents sincerely and pleads forgiveness, he is justified to expect generous clemency from Allah.
Islam repeatedly reiterates and lays the greatest stress on the individual’s accountability to Allah. The human being’s life in this world is transient, a trial and an examination period during which he prepares himself for the next life which is ever lasting. His actions in this world will tilt the scales in his favor or against him, determining the resultant remuneration that will be awarded to him.
Ultimately it is this accountability that has such a sobering effect on the Muslim – in his joyous or darkest days here on earth– knowing that after this worldly life is over, he will have to answer for all his actions to his Maker. He keeps in mind the consequence of his deeds and maintains hope in Allah’s merciful judgement. And that is what keeps him constantly grounded in this tempestuous life full of the Shayṭan’s temptations.
In a hadith narrated by Abû Mûsa the Prophet said,
Near the arrival of the Hour there will be days during which (religious) knowledge will be taken away (vanish) and general ignorance will spread, and there will be Al-Harj in abundance [Al-Harj means killing]. (Bukhâri)
From the above ḥadîth we can see that the person who has conducted his life in submission to Allah is in an entirely different state from the one who has lived his life manifesting ingratitude to Allah or rebelling against the decrees categorically stated in the Quran. Those who do not believe in the Hereafter sooner or later become immoral and irresponsible because, for them, the fleeting life of this world is the be-all and end-all of everything. On the other hand, those who have a firm belief in life after death fear Allah, hold Him in awe, follow the straight path, do good deeds and abstain from anything that might land them in Jahannam.
Therefore, let these words of Allah be a constant reminder and guide for all of us Muslims, making it our cornerstone for determining the way we choose to build the edifice of our lives:
Did you think then that we have created you in play [without any purpose] and that you would not be returned to us? [Sûrat Al-Mu’minûm, 23: 115]
Allah has created the Heavens and Earth with truth, in order that each person may be recompensed what he has earned, and they will not be wronged. [Sûrat Al-Jâthiyah, 45: 22]