As for those who believe and do right actions—We impose on no self any more than it can bear—they are the Companions of the Garden, remaining in it timelessly, for ever. (Surat al-A'raf: 42)
Death And The Life Of The Hereafter
Some people consider death as the ultimate end. But the truth is that death is a transition from the life of this world to the life of the hereafter. It is like a gate to the afterlife.
On the other side of this gate, that is, in the life of the hereafter, whether we will attain the Garden or the Fire depends on our pure belief in Allah's unity and Allah's approval of our deeds and conduct here in this world.
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Death is only the end of a certain period of time. This is similar to the ringing of bell at school signalling the end of an examination. Allah has granted a different period of trial to each man. Some have thirty years, while some others enjoy a life as long as one hundred years. Just as Allah decided your date of birth, which is the beginning of your time of examination, Allah decides the time when this period will end. In other words, only Allah knows at which age you will die.
How should we consider death?
Death, that is, the end of the period of examination in this world, is a source of happiness and joy for believers. One would hardly feel sorry for someone who has successfully passed an examination, would one? Feeling grief over someone who dies is likewise ridiculous. It may well be that you have lost a close relative or someone you love. But a person of faith acknowledges that death is certainly not a permanent separation, and that someone who dies merely finishes his period of examination in this world. He knows that in the hereafter, Allah will gather Muslims who live by His commands together and reward them with the Garden. In this case, rather than being sorry, people will feel great happiness.
Allah can take our souls at any moment. Therefore, we ought to strive to earn Allah's good pleasure.
To conclude, death is not an end but a gate leading us to the hereafter. The life of the hereafter is the real life that will last for all eternity, and we need to prepare for it. Do you think that a person who takes an examination wants it to last forever? Of course not. He only wants to answer the questions correctly and leave the classroom.
In this world, too, a man must strive to pass his examination, earn Allah's good pleasure and attain His Garden.
In this world, the most important goal of man must be to love Allah and to earn His good pleasure. That is because, our Lord, the All-Merciful, loves us and protects us at every moment. One verse of Qur'an, quoting the words of one of the prophets, reads:
"…My Lord is the Preserver of everything." (Surah Hud: 57)
Allah describes the temporary nature of this world in many verses of the Qur'an and stresses that the real abode of man is in the hereafter. A man who is tested in this world will one day be overtaken by death and thus start his life in the hereafter. This is life without end. In his eternal life, the soul of man will not disappear. Allah creates countless blessings in this world. He created the life of this world to see how we will conduct ourselves in return for the blessings we enjoy. As a reward or punishment, Allah has also created the Garden and the Fire.
Allah informs us how a person will be repaid in His presence in the hereafter:
Those who produce a good action will receive ten like it. But those who produce a bad action will only be repaid with its equivalent and they will not be wronged. (Surat al-An'am: 160)
Allah is very merciful towards people. He rewards them generously. But those who deserve punishment are only repaid with the equivalent of their wicked deeds. Allah does not wrong anyone. People may treat one another unjustly. In this world, a guilty person may deceive or mislead others, but in the hereafter if he does not believe in Allah and in His unity, Allah will certainly punish him, and if he is a Muslim Allah may punish or forgive him. Allah sees and knows everything, and thus repays every deed.
Trouble in This World Makes Us Understand Better the Beauty of the Garden
We suffer various troubles in this world. We become sick, we may break arms or legs, we feel very cold or hot, our stomachs become upset, our skins become bruised, etc. Look at your parents' photographs in their youth and think about their faces today. You will notice the difference.
Allah specially creates such weaknesses for man in this world. None of them exist in the hereafter. Once weaknesses in this world are reflected upon, we can better appreciate the worth of the Garden. Attaining the Garden erases all these troubles. Think about what displeases you in this world…None of it exists in the hereafter.
The Garden is decorated with the blessings from which man takes most pleasure. The best of what we eat and drink in this world have their flawless counterparts in the Garden. Man never feels cold or hot in the Garden. He never becomes sick, fears, grieves or grows old. You cannot find a single wicked man there. That is because wicked people, those who disbelieve in Allah and deny Him, remain in the Fire, a place they deserve. People in the Garden speak graciously with one another; they do not curse, become angry, shout or hurt others. All the good people who have a real belief in the unity of Allah and who act in such a way as to please Allah and thus deserve the Garden will be there, residing as friends forever.
From the Qur'an we know that magnificent things exist in the Garden: Splendid mansions, shady gardens and flowing rivers add to the joy of people of the Garden. In fact, what we have outlined above is truly insufficient to describe the blessings of the Garden. The beauty of the Garden is beyond even our imagination.
In the Qur'an, Allah informs us that in the Garden, man will attain more of what he expects. Think of something you want to have or somewhere you want to travel. By Allah's will, you will have them in a single moment. In one verse Allah states the following:
…You will have there everything you demand. (Surah Fussilat: 31)
Some of the verses in the Qur'an that relate the beauty of the Garden are as follows:
An image of the Garden which is promised to the righteous: in it there are rivers of water which will never spoil and rivers of milk whose taste will never change and rivers of wine, delightful to all who drink it, and rivers of honey of undiluted purity; in it they will have fruit of every kind and forgiveness from their Lord… (Surah Muhammad: 15)
As for those who have faith and do right actions, We will lodge them in lofty chambers in the Garden, with rivers flowing under them, remaining in them timelessly, for ever. How excellent is the reward of those who act. (Surat Al-'Ankabut: 58)
They will enter Gardens of Eden where they will be adorned with gold bracelets and pearls, and where their clothing will be of silk. (Surah Fatir: 33)
The Companions of the Garden are busy enjoying themselves today, they and their wives reclining on couches in the shade. They will have fruits there and whatever they request. (Surah Ya Sin: 55-57)
Amid thornless lote-trees and fruit-laden acacias and wide-spreading shade and outpouring water and fruits in abundance never failing, unrestricted. And on elevated couches. (Surat al-Waqi'a: 28-34)
Allah also informs us that the people who deserve the Garden will remain there for all eternity:
As for those who have faith and do right actions—We impose on no self any more than it can bear—they are the Companions of the Garden, remaining in it timelessly, for ever. (Surat al-A'raf: 42)
Essentially, a believer takes pleasure from attaining the good pleasure of Allah. Knowing and feeling this is the greatest joy one can ever have in this world.
The Torment in the Fire
People who rebel against Allah and refuse to accept His existence will also be repaid for what they did. They did not accept Allah or believe that He is the One Who creates everything, and they showed arrogance, failed to perform the acts of worship expected of them and thus they rebelled in this world. In return for all these, they will be punished in the Fire.
Some people commit various crimes in this world. In situations where no one sees them, they may also go unpunished. But these people fail to acknowledge that Allah sees them every moment, and that He knows even their inner thoughts.
Everyone will be repaid for the good or bad acts they perform. Allah has infinite justice, and in the verses of the Qur'an He gives the glad tidings that even the tiniest good deed will be bountifully rewarded. Allah also informs us that people will be rewarded if they repent and ask for forgiveness from Him. Nevertheless, Allah threatens people who do not believe in Him, fail to comply with the commands in the Qur'an and think that no life exists after death.
The Fire is the reward of the guilty and those who do wrong by rebelling against Allah. Allah describes the situation of these people in the Qur'an as follows:
Those who took their religion as a diversion and a game, and were deluded by the life of the world. Today We will forget them just as they forgot the encounter of this Day and denied Our Signs. (Surat al-A'raf: 51)
In the Fire a grievous punishment, which is not comparable with any pain in this world, awaits the people of the Fire. The Fire is a place abounding with fear, pain, desperation and unhappiness. The people of the Fire pray to Allah and ask for a way out of the Fire. But once in the Fire, it is too late to feel sorrow or regret. We mentioned to you earlier about the regret Pharaoh felt. Allah grants man opportunities until the moment of his death. Once he dies and starts his life in the hereafter, however, feeling regret is no longer of any use.
The people of the Fire live a life infinitely worse than that of animals. The only nourishment they have is the fruit of the bitter thorn and the tree of Zaqqum. Their drink is blood and pus. With skin rent, flesh burned, and blood splattering all over, they lead a degrading life. Hands tied to their necks, they are cast into the core of fire. Furthermore, this life of suffering lasts for all eternity, unless Allah wills otherwise.
Allah, states the following in the Qur'an:
Above them is a sealed vault of Fire. (Surat al-Balad: 20)
That is because they say, "The Fire will only touch us for a number of days." Their inventions have deluded them in their religion. (Surah Al 'Imran: 24)
However, what a Muslim person who knows his own errors and wrong actions must do is regret them, pray and seek Allah's forgiveness. In the Qur'an, Allah informs us that He will forgive any wrong action provided that we sincerely repent. The relevant verse reads as follows:
Say: "My slaves, you who have transgressed against yourselves, do not despair of the mercy of Allah. Truly Allah forgives all wrong actions. He is the Ever-Forgiving, the Most Merciful." (Surat az-Zumar: 53)
It is important for a person to know his own errors and ask for forgiveness from Allah in order to avoid regret in the hereafter, and to save himself from the unbearable torment of the Fire.