In the same way that Muslim believe in God although they cannot see Him, we are slso required to believe in Life after Death, although no dead man has ever come back to tell us his story.
However in the Quran, in Surah 23: verses 99 and 100, and in many other chapters and verses, God has revealed to us what happens to those who have refused to believe:
"Until, when death approaches one to them, he says, "My Lord, send me bacl (to life), so that I may do right in that which I have left undone. "By no means. It is a mere word that he speaks. And behind them is a barrier (barzakh) until the day they are raised up."
From these two verses we can see that:
there is continuity of life immediately after 'death':
the period spent in the grave is an intermediate one, between death and resurrection:
the life hereafter is eternal unlike the life on earth which is rasitory, as a preparation for the higher life;
the fruit of our actions or deeds on earth is accordingly shown to us immediately after death; hence the need to live a virtuous life.
Physical & Spiritual Development
Thus our life is a continuous development of our physical and spiritual being. The Holy Quran has indicated the three stages of physical development namely the stages of dust or clay, embryo and birth. There are also three stages of spiritual development which can also be identified with the physical one thus:
We all know that we were created from dust or clay like our forefather, Adam. The clay contains the elements with which we will be moulded. This is the preparatory stage of our physical development. Surah 23:12 states:
"Verily, We created men from the product of we earth."
Verses 13 and 14 the same Surah further indicates the formative stage of physical development thus;
"Then We placed him as a drop (or seed) in a safe lodging. Then We made the drop a clot; then We made that clot a little lump; then We clothed the bones with flesh..."
And finally the verse shows us the fully developed human being in a new form, unlike the dust from which he was created:
"… and then We developed out of it another creature. So blessed be Allah, the Best of Creators!"
In this developed staged, we are endowed with a body, a soul and mind, or in other words, physical and spiritual being and intellect. This is the most critical stage of our development for whatever physical action we commit on our fellow creatures and how we react to situations in this life on earth have a certain bearing on our spiritual development, which is very essential for the next step in our life as in verses 15 of the same Surah:
"After that, at length you will die."
Death, like dust in our physical development is only the beginning stage into a higher life. The fruits of our deeds in this world is immediately known to us as indicated by spiritual experience of evil one taken by death in verses 99 - 100 of Surah 23 at the beginning of this article.
Thus the virtues and vices we committed during our life on earth become, as it were, the elements for the next formative stage of our spiritual development - the grave or the intervening barzakh - like the embryo in the mother's womb during the physical development.
According to a Hadith transmitted by Bukhari and Muslim, Muhammad s.a.w. is reported by Abdullah bin Umar, as saying, "When a person dies, his abode among the inhabitants of paradise will be shown to him morning and evening if he is to be one of them; but if he is to be one inhabitants of hell. His abode among them will not be shown him. He will be told that this is his abode to which God will finally raise him on the day resurrection."
We have only a glimpse of the happening immediately after death - the reward and the punishment in the grave but there are yet many secrets beyond our perception like Surah 32:17:
"No person knows what is kept hidden from them of joy as a reward for what they used to do."
What resurrection means can be gauged from the various names under which it is referred to in the Holy Quran.
The resurrection refers to a general destruction and a great awakening. The Holy Quran gives some vivid revelations on this great event in the following verses, which are found in the chapter entitled "The Awakening".
"He (the sceptic) asks "When is the day of Resurrection' When the sight is dazzle, and the moon becomes dark, and sun and moon are united. On that day man will cry: "Where can I run away to?" "Alas! There is no place of refuge…some faces on that day will beam in brightness and beauty looking towards their Lord and some faces on that day will be sad and dismal knowing that there will bade to befall on them some great calamity. : -Surah 75:6-25.
And the book (of deeds) shall be put forward, then youwill see the guilty fearing or account of what is in it, and they will say, "Ah! Woe to us! What a book this is! It does not leave out a small(deed) or a great one, but records them all." - Surah 18:49
"And the measuring out that day will be just; then as for those whose measure of good deeds is heavy, they shall be successful. And as for those whose measure of good deeds is light, those it is that have made their souls suffer loss."
Thus this world could be likened to an examination hall where we are constantly being tested and the result will be shown immediately after death. And the basis of the test is our deeds. And how does God weigh our deeds? Through the intention behind the deeds. I have touched on life immediately after death in the grave and the resurrection when our deeds on earth will be put on the 'balance' and a just reward will await us. According to a Hadith transmitted by Bukhari the Holy Prophet said, "Allah says I have prepared for My righteous servants what no eyes has seen and no ear has heard, and what the mind of man has not conceived." "Furthermore, Ibn Abbas is reported to have said, "In Paradise there are no foods of this life except the names." The Resurrection brings a new life and a new order of things, a new heaven and a new earth. Our ideas of space and time on this earth cannot be applied to the next life. That also goes with man-woman relationship in the Hereafter. There is no sensuality now suggestion of procreation in Paradise. In fact on one can paint the exact picture of what the blessings in Heaven and the punishments in hell are as in Surah 32:17
No person know what delights of the eye are in store for them as a reward for their good deeds."
Dwellers of Paradise
Generally those whose good deeds outweigh the bad ones will have a place in Paradise. There are four classifications of people according to various spiritual experinces gained in this life, namely:-
the prophet who taught and led mankind; lovers of truth who upheld it with their person, influence and resources; and the witnesses who testified to the truth either by martydom, the tongue of the true preacher, the pen of the devoted scholar or the life of the man devoted to service; and good people who led ordinary lives but always in righteous way, these will be bestowed with the Grace of God and united in a beautiful fellowship thus a s in Surah 4:69:
"All who obey God and the Apostles are in the company of those on whom is the Grace of god - the prophets, the sincere, the witnesses and the righteous: and what a beautiful fellowship they make." and again:
The righteous will be amid gardens and fountains of clear flowing water. Their greetings will be 'Enter ye here in peace and security." And we shall remove from their hearts and lurking sence of injury. They will be brothers, joyfully facing each other. There no sense of weariness shall touch them, nor shall they ever be asked to leave. Surah 15:45-48
Again, it is our deeds that decide our life in the Hereafter, The Holy Quran states in Surah 43;72-74:
This will be the garden or which you are made heirs for your good deeds in life. You shall have therein abundance of fruit, from which you shall have satisfaction." However, in Islam, the greatest sinner has the opportunity to redeem himself in this life by repetence, for God is Most Merciful and Oft-Forgiving and He promises in Surah 39:53-54:
"Says: O my servants who have transgressed against their souls! Despair not of the Mercy of god: for God forgives all sins: for He is Oft-Forgiving, Most Merciful. Turn ye to your Lord in repentence: bow to His will, before the penalry comes to you: after that ye shall not be helped …"
Life in Hell
When death overtakes sinner before they repent, they will become the citizens of Hell,
"And verily, Hell is the promised abode of them all! To it are seven gates: for each of these gates is a special class for sinners." Surah 15:43-44
Every man's Hell will take its shape according to his evil deeds ensuing from atheistic belief or polytheism, hypocrisy, base passion and evil practices, oppression of the innocent, sensuality and iniquity or vicious activities.
Jahim - intense heat produced by leaping flames of fire;
Saqar - the excessive heat melting everything;
Laza - sweeping flames of fire;
Jahannam - deep pit;
Hutama - that which crushes and grinds everythiung to powder;
Sa'ir - blasting fire; and
Hawiah - bottomless pit.
Like the heaven or paradise described in symbolic terms too is hell. A man's Hell is within his own heart as in Surah 104:4-9:
"He will surely be cast into the crushing fire; and what shall cause thee to understand what the crushing fire is ; It is the fire kindled by Allah which rises from the hearts verily rising over them like a vault on outstreched columns."
What punishment awaits those who disbelieve in God and the sinners? Surah 22:19-22 states;
"Those who deny their Lord, for them will be cut out a garment of Fire and over their heads will be poured out boiling water. With it will be scalded what is within their bodies as well as their skins. In addition, there will be maces of iron to punish them. Every time they wish to get away from it all, they will forced back therein, and (it will be said unto them)"Taste you the penalty f burning!" As for their drink and food, the Holy Quran states:
"The tree of Zaqum. We have truly made it an ordeal to the wrong-doers. It is a tree that springs out of bottom of Hell-fire: Surely they will eat of it and fill their bellies with and then they will be given a mixture of boiling water to drink." Surah 37:62-67
Several verses in the Quran state that sinners will have chains around their necks symbolic of those who were slaves of their lusts and those who were not capable of independent thinking. Some will be in scoarching wind and scalding water with no food except the filthy wash of their wounded bodies or thorns which will neither nourish them from hunger while some will be clothed in shirts of pich. The torment or punishment in hell is continuous. When any part of the body loses its sensitiveness, fresh skins will be substituted so that they will be constantly subject to pain. This is indicated inSurah 4:46:
"Those who reject Our signs. We shall soon cast them into the fire as often as their skins are roasted through. We shall change them for fresh skins so that they may taste the torments. For God is Mighty, Wise." Such is the contrast in life after death that we now see how important is every deed of ours in this world toward God and His creatures. While the promise of reward in Paradise persuades us to aspire towards a higher spiritual life, the punishment in Hell deters us from evil deeds and baser from of life. It is our deeds in this would that decide our abode in the next for;
"Every man's deed have We fastened on his own neck. On the Day of judgement We shall bring out for him a scroll which he will see spread open. Read your own record: only you, you alone on this day make out an account against you"