Life after Death
The state of man after death is not a new state, only his condition in this life is made manifest more clearly in the next life. Whatever is the true condition of a person with respect to his beliefs and actions, righteous or otherwise, in this life, remains hidden inside him. In the life after death it will not be so; everything will manifest itself openly. One experiences a likeness of it in a dream. If a person is suffering from a fever, then he is likely to see fire and flames in his dreams; if he is ill with a severe cold, then he may see himself floating about in water. Thus, whatever the condition of the body at the time of sleep may become visible in his dreams. Likewise, our actions and their consequences will be manifested physically in the next life, and whatever we carry hidden within us from this life will all be displayed openly in the next life. The Holy Qur’an, Chapter 17, verse 14, explains this state:
That condition that the soul is in will first go to the Barzakh (middle state) whilst it awaits the Day of Judgement. At this middle state it will become aware of its condition (either in a state of heaven or hell), but will not be affected by time as time is something related to this world and the movement of sun, etc. Thus everyone in the state of Barzakh will not be aware how long they have remained in that state, it will all seem the same length, whether one year or a thousand years.
On the Day of Judgement, Allah will inform them what their condition is and they will enter the state of Heaven or Hell. Allah being the Master of the Day of Judgement will decide who will enter which state, but as He is Malik (Master), with perfect knowledge, He can decide to make a soul enter Heaven even though it would seem to deserve to be in the state of Hell. He is not tied down to laws, He is above the laws and can make any decision that He decides.
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’ (Bukhari & Muslim) We understand from this, which is also supported by the Holy Qur’an (32:18), that when Allah describes Heaven that 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 identify with. 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, that being, that eventually everyone 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 music from the bird. A person who has photosensitive eyes will find the 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 spiritual 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.
Hazrat Mirza Ghulam Ahmad, the Promised Messiah and Mahdi, has explained about the Hereafter in his book ‘Philosophy of the Teachings of Islam’. 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.
This might be illustrated thus. When a person perceives smoke from a distance his mind conceives that smoke and fire are inseparable, and therefore where there is smoke there must be fire also. This would be knowledge by certainty of reason . Then on a nearer approach he sees the flames of the fire and that is knowledge by certainty of sight . Should he enter into the fire, that would be the knowledge by the certainty of truth and experience. In these verses God Almighty says that knowledge of the existence of Hell as a certainty can be acquired in this life through reason, its knowledge through certainty of sight will be acquired in Barzakh, the intermediate state between death and judgement, and on the Day of Judgement that knowledge would become a certainty by experience.”