"Every soul shall taste death. You shall receive your rewards only on the Day of Resurrection. Anyone who is spared the Fire and admitted to the Garden will surely triumph. The life of this world is just the enjoyment of delusion." (Surah Al 'Imran, 185)
Death will come upon every man existing in this world at a predestined time in compliance with the verse, "Every soul shall taste death. In the end you shall return to Us". (Surat al-'Ankabut, 57) Nothing a man possesses, neither property, fortune, status, fame, grandeur nor good looks can ward off death. Death is a law of Allah; no one can escape this absolute and unavoidable fact. As the verse, "Wherever you are, death will catch up with you, even if you are in impregnable fortresses…" (Surat an-Nisa', 78) reminds us, there has never been anyone who could succeed in escaping from death.
This fact is an issue about which people of faith attain a profound understanding. Once they comprehend the certainty and closeness of death, they understand that they need to prepare for the life after death. Fearing an imminent death that may come upon them before attaining the moral perfection Allah demands from His servants and earning His approval, they embrace the religion of Allah with great sincerity and enthusiasm. They lose no time in drawing nearer to Allah and earning His approval, since they realise that they may meet death at any moment. The prayer of believers in the Qur'an is as follows:
... Originator of the heavens and earth, You are my Protector in this world and the Next. So take me as a Muslim at my death and unite me with those who are sincere. (Surah Yusuf, 101)
The people of faith accept death with full submission, since it is a law of Allah. Over and above this, they consider it as a gate through which to attain paradise. Meanwhile, they never forget that they must strive hard to avoid the punishment of hell and earn the approval of Allah. Believers unceasingly feel fear and hope until they meet death. They hope for paradise because they believe. Likewise, they fear hell since they never find themselves self-sufficient.
The severity of the pain and punishment experienced in hell is incomparable to any pain suffered in this world. The torment of fire is of various kinds. The people of hell constantly scream to be saved from fire, they are crammed into narrow places; their hands tied to their necks, they writhe in pain. They are whipped with iron whips. Their hunger and thirst become unbearable. Their pain never abates. This dire situation is exacerbated by profound regret, a feeling of desperation and hopelessness. They wish to disappear for all eternity but to no avail. They are addressed as follows:
Roast in it! And bear it patiently or do not bear it patiently. It makes no difference either way. You are simply being repaid for what you did. (Surat at-Tur, 16)
People of faith continuously contemplate the torment of hell depicted in the Qur'an and turn towards Allah. One of perfected faith always keeps in mind that he can, at any moment, meet the angels of death and thus pass on to the hereafter. His decisions, attitudes, behaviour and the way he speaks reflect his commitment to being worthy of paradise and staying away from hellfire, because no one in this world can be exempt from divine retribution.
Aware that "scales of justice" (Surat al-Anbiya', 47) will be set up on the Day of Judgement, he does not want to miss an atom's weight of good. Allah has warned people on this subject as follows:
That Day people will emerge segregated to see the results of their actions. Whoever does an atom's weight of good will see it. Whoever does an atom's weight of evil will see it. (Surat az-Zilzal, 6-8)
Similarly, he strictly abstains from any act that would incur the disapproval of Allah, because each act he commits will draw him closer either to paradise or to hell. Nothing exists beyond these two places.
Believers who have a certain awareness of these facts feel constant "fear and hope" throughout their lives. They never forget the state of people awaiting to be taken either to paradise or to hell on the Day of Judgement.
How would someone behave if he were at the crossroads of paradise and hell right at this moment and realised that his eternal life would begin in earnest after his being judged?
Being right on the verge of hell, would he ever dare to display a displeasing attitude, which would immediately be taken into account?
Certainly not! On the contrary, anybody in such a dire situation would do anything to attain paradise and would draw on his wisdom and conscience to display the attitude most pleasing to Allah. Even a person who had never engaged in such a serious effort throughout his life, deeming the Day of Judgement distant from himself, would feel great panic and strive to make up for his misdeeds. But on that day, no time is granted to make amends. The time granted terminates with death and records are thereupon finalised. From that moment on, no one will be requited for anything other than what he has done.
Having an unshakable faith in the hereafter, paradise and hell, and keeping their minds occupied with the remembrance of death, account for the unflagging efforts of people of perfected faith. To avoid fear and regret in the hereafter, they consider themselves as if awaiting Allah's verdict on them on the Day of Judgement at every moment of their lives. They prepare themselves for the afterlife with clear consciousness and faith, in the manner of one who has seen the beauty of paradise and the horrors of hell with his own eyes and returned to this life. Therefore, in the face of each situation, they strive to display the best attitude, since they know that any minor heedlessness or unscrupulousness may set them on a course of regret for which there is no remedy.
To conclude, the utter conviction of those of faith ensures an unswerving commitment to draw nearer to Allah and to stand in fear of Him. In the light of the verse, "So fear Allah, as much as you are able to…" (Surat at-Taghabun, 16), believers fear Allah as much as they can and hope to be worthy of paradise.