With characteristic wisdom, the revered Islamic scholar Imam Ghazali has recommended all people to question their consciences:
You must know that this world is not actually everlasting. Either you will leave it, or it will leave you! Hassan says that: "Even if the blessings of this world continue, your life will one day come to an end. That being the case what is the meaning of chasing after the life of this world and spending one's valuable life in doing so?"
As has been described throughout the course of this book, a person's life in this world will inevitably come to an end one day. As Imam Ghazali recalls, the benefits of the life of this world will be unable to make good the damages and troubles which will be suffered by those who waste their time on the sphere of this world.
It is revealed in the Qur'an that Allah will ask such people how many years they lived on the Earth and their reply is revealed thus:
He [Allah] will say: "How many years did you tarry on the Earth?" They will say: "We tarried there for a day or part of a day. Ask those able to count!" He will say: "You only tarried there for a little while if you did but know!" (Surat al- Muminun, 112-14)
These verses show that when a person goes to the Hereafter, a person will understand that he or she has spent far less than a day in this world and even "just one hour of a single day" (Surat al-Ahqaf, 35). All that will remain of his or her long years of endeavor in the life of this world will be a few brief memories in the mind, and everything belonging to this world will vanish.
Despite this, unbelievers will proceed to the Hereafter under a heavy load. In the verse "Those who deny the meeting with Allah have lost, so that, when the Hour comes upon them suddenly, they will say: 'Alas for what we neglected there!' They will bear their burdens on their backs. How evil is what they bear!" (Surat al-An'am, 31), Allah reveals that unbelievers carry the burden of their sins on their backs. In other verses Allah reveals that unbelievers will remain under this burden for all eternity:
… We have given you a reminder direct from Us. Those who turn away from it will bear a heavy burden on the Day of Resurrection. Remaining in it timelessly, for ever. What an evil load they will bear on the Day of Resurrection!(Surah Ta Ha, 99-101)
Alongside all these truths, a person can proceed from the life of this world to that of the Hereafter at any time. As recalled in the verse, "Wherever you are, death will catch up with you, even if you are in impregnable fortresses…" (Surat an- Nisa', 78).
Death is inevitable. A person may well die at an entirely unexpected moment, and will then be unable to consider these truths, even if he or she wishes to. This will lead to an indescribable regret.
If, on the other hand, a person sets aside a brief time to consider all the truths recounted here, while there is still time, he is more likely to step towards that which will bring him great joy and blessings in both this world and the next. Imam Ghazali has reminded people to question their consciences in this way:
There have been so many people who have been caught by death suddenly before their last breath has left their bodies. The fact is though that all you have consists of but a breath; neither a day nor yet an hour! Turn to repentance and obedience to Allah before even that breath is over. Death may find you before you can breathe a second! One must not pause to think too long on the subject of the necessities of life. You may not live long enough to need them. Therefore the time you spend on that will be wasted, and your endeavors will be in vain. That means that all a person's endeavors for a second day, a second hour, a second breath, will all prove empty, because there is no guarantee of attaining them. (Imam Ghazali, Minhajul Abidin, p. 118)
Death may come at any moment. Before that happens, every human being has an opportunity to see the truth and to abide by it. As revealed by Allah in the verse "He Who responds to the oppressed when they call on Him and removes their distress, and has appointed you as inheritors of the Earth. Is there another deity besides Allah? How little you pay heed!" (Surat an- Naml, 62), our Lord is He Who meets all peoples' needs and answers their prayers with His infinite mercy.
What someone who wishes to attain the Hereafter needs to do is to become one of those who make serious endeavors and who are revealed in the Qur'an to receive a beautiful reward:
But as for anyone who desires the Hereafter, and strives for it with the striving it deserves, being a believer, the striving of such people will be gratefully acknowledged.(Surat al-Isra', 19)