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Why should I believe in the Resurrection and the Afterlife?
Oct 1, 2000

Q: Why should I believe in the Resurrection and the Afterlife?

A: After belief in God, this is the main way to secure a peaceful social order. If I don't believe in personal accountability, why should I be honest and upright? The Qur'an declares: In whatever affair you may be, and whichever part of the Qur'an you recite, and whatever deed you do, We are witness over you when you are deeply engrossed therein. Not an atom's weight in the Earth and in the heaven escapes your Lord, nor is there anything smaller or greater, but it is in a Manifest Book (10:61).

Angels record our actions, and God knows our thoughts and deeds. Those who live accordingly find true peace and happiness in both worlds. This belief prevents young people from wasting their lives, gives hope to the elderly, and helps children endure the death of loved ones. It is as necessary as air, water, and bread.

As this belief leads to a life of peace, intellectuals seeking public peace and security should emphasize it. Those who are convinced of: Whoever does an atom's weight of good shall see it, and whoever does an atom's weight of evil shall see it (99:7-8) live responsible lives. A community composed of such people finds true peace and happiness, and its people serve their nation and humanity.

Children are easily affected by events. Their world becomes dark when they see death or are orphaned, and they become depressed. When one of my sisters died during my childhood, I frequently went to her grave and prayed sincerely: O God, please bring her back to life and let me see her beautiful face once more, or let me die so as to be reunited with her. What other than this belief and reunion with loved ones can compensate us for such losses?

How can you compensate the elderly for what they have lost? How can you remove their fear of death and the grave or make them forget death? More and newer worldly pleasures cannot console them. Only convincing them that the grave is a door or a waiting room to a much better world can accomplish this.

The Qur'an voices such feelings through Prophet Zachariah: This is a mention of your Lord's mercy unto His servant Zachariah; when he invoked Him with a secret, sincere call, saying: My Lord, my very bones have become rotten and my head is shining with gray hair. My Lord! I have never been disappointed in my prayer to You (19:2-5).

Fearing that his surviving kinsmen would not be loyal to his mission, Zachariah asked his Lord for a son to continue it. This is the cry of all elderly people. Belief in God and the Resurrection tells them: Death is only a change of worlds, a discharge from this life's distressing duties, a passport to an eternal world where all kinds of beauty and blessing wait for you Only this console them and allows them to face death without fear.

Q: What about our free will?

A: Our free will, which directs our life and makes us unique, is the manifestation of Divine Mercy. If used properly, it will cause us to be rewarded with the fruits of Mercy. Belief in the Resurrection is a most important and compelling factor urging us to use our free will properly.

Sahl ibn Sa'd narrates that God's Messenger was told of a young man who stayed at home for days. The Messenger went to visit him. When the young man saw him appear before him unexpectedly, he threw himself into the Messenger's arms and died instantly. The Messenger said: Lay out your friend's corpse. Fear of Hell frightened him deeply. I swear by Him in Whose hand my life is that God will protect him from Hell. The Qur'an declares: Those who fear to stand before their Lord and curb the desires of the carnal self, Paradise will be their dwelling place (79:40-1).

In a hadith qudsi, God says: I will not unite two securities or two fears. Thus, those who fear His punishment here will be protected from it in the other world, while those who do not fear it here will not be saved from it there.

Q: What impact did this belief have upon early Muslims?

A: Upon seeing a young man bravely protest and resist a wrong, Umar said: Any people deprived of its young are doomed to extinction. If young people waste their transforming energy, your nation's future is undermined. Belief in the Resurrection directs them to lead a disciplined, useful, and virtuous life.

This belief consoles the sick. Secure in this knowledge, all beloved servants of God, Prophets and saints, welcome death with a smile. During his final minutes of life, Prophet Muhammad said: O God, I desire the eternal company in the eternal world. When Umar ruled over a vast area, he prostrated before God and sighed: I can no longer fulfill my responsibility. Let me die and take me to Your Presence.

Such a strong desire for the world of eternal beauty and being blessed with the vision of the Eternally Beautiful One caused the Prophet, Umar, and many others to prefer death to this world.

Q: Does it matter if I believe in the Resurrection?

A: The world is a mixture of opposites. Many instances of wrong (seem) go unnoticed, and many wronged people cannot recover their rights. Only belief in being resurrected in another world of absolute justice dissuades them from revenge. Similarly, the sick and unfortunate are consoled, for they believe that their suffering purifies them and that their loss will be restored in the Hereafter as a blessing, just as if they had been given as alms.

This belief changes a house into a garden of Paradise. A family without religion contains young people pursuing pleasure, children ignorant of religious sentiment and practices, and parents striving for the good life. Grandparents live in an old-folks or nursing home and console themselves with pets Life is a burden. Belief in the Resurrection reminds people of familial responsibilities. By undertaking their duties, an atmosphere of mutual love, affection, and respect begins to pervade the house.

Spouses deepen their mutual love and respect. Physical love is temporary, of little value, and usually disappears quickly. But if spouses believe that their marriage will continue in a world where they will be eternally young and beautiful, their mutual love will remain...

Such a belief-based family life makes its members feel that they are living in Paradise. If a country orders itself accordingly, its inhabitants would enjoy a life far better than that imagined by Plato in his Republic or by al-Farabi in his The Virtuous City. It would be like Madina under the Prophet, or the Muslim lands under Umar.

Q: How did the Prophet establish the ideal society in Madina?

A: To better understand this, we provide several of his sayings on the Resurrection and the afterlife:

O people! You will be resurrected barefoot, naked, and uncircumcised. Listen to me! The one who will be first clothed is Abraham. Heed what I say: That day some from my Umma will be seized on the left side and brought to me. I will say: O Lord! These are my Companions. I will be told: You do not know what disagreeable things they did after you. I will say as the righteous servant [Jesus] said: I was a witness over them while I continued to stay among them. When You took me, You became the watcher over them. You are Witness over all things. If You punish them, they are Your slaves; if You forgive them, surely You are the All-Mighty, the All-Wise.

The most terrible event is death. However, death is easier than what will follow it. People will be so terrified that sweat will cover their bodies until it becomes like a bridle around their chins, until it grows into something like a sea on which, if desired, vessels could be sailed.

People will be resurrected in three groups: those who combined fear of God with expectation [fearing God's punishment and hoping for His mercy and forgiveness], those who [frequently sinned and so] will try to go to Paradise mounted on a mule in twos, threes, fours ... or tens. The rest will be resurrected into Fire [since they indulged in deeds deserving Hellfire]. If they sleep in the forenoon, Hell sleeps with them; when they reach night, Hell reaches night with them; when they reach morning, Hell reaches morning with them; and when they reach evening, Hell reaches evening with them.

God's Messenger made sure his Companions understood exactly what Hell was, and roused in them a great desire for Paradise by conveying its good tidings. Thus they lived in great consciousness of Divine reward and punishment, as well as religious obligations and people's rights.