There are some misconceptions about the Hereafter. Many Muslims and non-Muslims ascribe wonderful beliefs to the Islamic concept. A popular notion of Muslim belief is that Heaven is a place of pleasure, a place of wine and women! Our common sense tells us that the object of human existence according to the Holy Qur’an is to ‘worship God’ and live a godly life. How is it possible then that a godly man in this worldly life should abstain from wine and women, and yet when he enters the Hereafter, he should enter a life of sensual pleasure? We must bear in mind that whilst this life is physical, the next life is spiritual - we cannot enjoy physical things in a spiritual world!
The Holy Prophet Muhammad, may peace and blessings of Allah be upon him, has said concerning Heaven that “its bounties are such as no eye has seen, nor has any ear heard, nor have they been conceived by the mind of man’ (Muslim - Kitab al-Jannat). We understand from this, which is also supported by the Holy Qur’an (32:18), that when Allah describes Heaven where there will be milk, pomegranates and grapes etc. then these bounties will have nothing in common with the bounties of this life, except by name. The fact is that there would be no point in Allah describing the bounties of Heaven to us, as we will have had no previous experience of them, therefore, we would not understand what Allah meant. Therefore, Allah has described the Hereafter with things that we can readily identify. We like milk, etc., therefore, we will enjoy the blessings of Heaven. We hate to be burnt in fire; therefore, we will hate the state of hell.
Secondly, many Muslims believe that both Heaven and Hell will be forever. But Islam teaches that Hell is a temporary state and that eventually every inhabitant will leave the state of Hell and enter Heaven. A permanent Hell is contradictory to Allah being a Merciful God - “My mercy encompasses all things” (7:157). This is the fundamental character of God according to the Holy Qur’an. Everything is ruled by Divine Mercy. The Holy Prophet Muhammad, may peace and blessings of Allah be upon him, said “A time will come in Hell when not a single man would be left in it. Its doors and windows will rattle to the blowing wind” (Kanzul Ummal pg.270). This Hadith describes an empty Hell. The Mercy of God will eventually take every inmate out of the state of Hell and Hell will become empty.
Another misconception is that the states of Heaven and Hell are in two separate places. Heaven and Hell are not two different places occupying separate time and space. According to the Holy Qur’an, the heaven covers the entire universe. “Where would be hell then?” enquired some of the companions of the Holy Prophet. “Where is the moon when the sun is out? He replied. In other words, they are in the same place, in the light of day; you do not see the moon, but it is still there. To understand this we can look to life in this world. Some people are in a state of heaven and some people are in the state of hell, but they are both in the same place! If a person has a severe headache, then the sound of a bird singing will be hell for him, whereas a person who is well will enjoy the same song from the bird. A person who has photosensitive eyes will find sunlight hell, but others will enjoy the light of the sun. It means that according to our physical condition people react in different ways. Likewise, according to our spiritual condition we will react in different ways in the Hereafter. Those people who have bright souls will see and enjoy the blessings and nearness of Allah. But those people who have dark souls will find the same blessings a torture and will not enjoy any of the blessings and nearness of Allah.
Concerning Hell, we look at it as a sort of hospital for the spiritually ill. They will enter the state of Hell, because they have cut themselves off from their Maker, refused to fully submit to His Will and went against His teachings. But as this life is one of progress, so likewise, the next life will also be one of progress. Those people in Heaven will continue to progress nearer to Allah (as you can never reach Allah), whereas, those people in the state of Hell will eventually realise their mistakes and seek Allah’s forgiveness and slowly progress until they eventually come out of the state of Hell into the blessed state of heaven.
Hadhrat Mirza Ghulam Ahmad, may peace be upon him, the Promised Messiah and Mahdi, has explained about the Hereafter in his book ‘Philosophy of the Teachings of Islam - Ch. Three types of Knowledge’.
Explaining about the verses of Sura Al-Takathur (Chapter 102), he has said:
“The Holy Qur’an explains that there are three types of knowledge, namely,
1) ilmul Yaqeen - knowledge by certainty of reason,
2) Ainul Yaqeen - knowledge by certainty of sight, and
3) Haqul Yaqeen - knowledge by certainty of truth and experience.