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IslamiCity > Articles > Life and Beyond
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Belief in the afterlife is often referred to in conjunction with belief in God, as in the expression: 'If you believe in God and the Last Day'. Believers are frequently reminded in the Qur'an, 'Be mindful of God and know that you shall meet Him'
Audio Life and Beyond

Life and Beyond
3/9/2013 - Religious Interfaith Science - Article Ref: IC0805-3573
Number of comments: 13
Opinion Summary: Agree:9  Disagree:0  Neutral:4
By: Muhammad Abdel Haleem
IslamiCity* -

In the Qur'an life in this world is an inseparable part of a continuum, a unified whole - life, death, life - which gives our life a context and relevance. In this context, the life of the individual is made meaningful and enriched inasmuch as it is full of 'good works'. Life in this world leads to the afterlife, a belief which is fundamental in the Qur'an. The afterlife is not treated in the Qur'an in a separate chapter, or as something on its own, for its own sake, but always in relation to life in this world.

Linguistically it is not possible in the Qur'an to talk about this life without semantic reference to the next since every term used for each is comparative with the other. Thus: al- 'ula and al-akhira (the First and the Last life), al-dunya and al-akhira (the nearer and the further/latter life). Neither has a name specific to itself, or independent of the other. Consequently, the frequency of the terms in the Qur'an is the same, in the case of dunya and akhira - each appears 115 times.'

There is a reference, direct or indirect, to one aspect or another of the afterlife on almost every single page of the Qur'an. This follows from the fact that belief in the afterlife is an article of faith which has a bearing on every aspect of the present life and manifests itself in the discussion of the creed, the rituals, the ethics and the laws of Islam. In discussing the afterlife, moreover, the Qur'an addresses both believers and non-believers. The plan of two worlds and the relationship between them has been, from the beginning, part of the divine scheme of things:

It is God who created you, then He provided sustenance for you, then He will cause you to die, then He will give life back to you.

Quran 30:40

It is We who give lift and make to die and to Us is the homecoming.
50:43

He created death and life that He might try you &cording to which of you is best in works.
67:2

According to the Qur'an, belief in the afterlife, which is an issue fundamental to the mission of Muhammad, was also central to the mission of all prophets before him.

Belief in the afterlife is often referred to in conjunction with belief in God, as in the expression: 'If you believe in God and the Last Day'. Believers are frequently reminded in the Qur'an, 'Be mindful of God and know that you shall meet Him' (2:233) (used in this instance to urge fitting treatment of one's wife in intimate situations). 'To Him is the homecoming/ the return' (36:83; 4O:3). As a belief in the afterlife is so fundamental to Islam, it is only right that Muslims should regularly be reminded of it not only throughout the pages of the Qur'an but also in their daily life. practicing Muslims in their five daily prayers repeat their praise of God at least seventeen times a day, 'The Master of the Day of Judgment' (1:4). Being inattentive to the afterlife (30:7) or to the prospect of coming to judgment (32:14) are signs of the unbeliever. All this heightens the believer's sense of responsibility for actions in this life. In fact the principles and details of religion are meant to be seen within the framework of the interdependence of this life and the afterlife and to color the Muslims' conception of life and the universe and have a bearing on their actions in this life.

The Importance of the Resurrection and Judgment in the Afterlife

Divine wisdom and justice necessitate the resurrection of the dead and judgment in an afterlife:

We have not created the heavens and the earth and all that is between them save in truth. Surely the Hour' is coming.

15:85

The resurrection is thus:

...a binding promise from God that shall be fulfilled though most people may not know it, so that He may resolve their differences for them.

In the Qur'an, judgment is so essential to human beings that God has created them with a peculiar, innate permanent judge within themselves, that is 'conscience', the 'reproachful soul'. Indeed this is marked in a chapter entitled The Resurrection in which God declares:

I swear by the Day of Resurrection, and by the reproachful soul! Does man think We shall never put his bones together again? Yes indeed: We can remould his very fingers.
75:1-4

The 'reproachful soul' foreshadows the judgment and is here placed side by side, in the oath, with the resurrection that precedes the judgment. In answer to the unbelievers' incredulity that the scattered bones of dead people can be resurrected into new life, God swears that it will be done. Modem interpreters see in the phrase, 'his very fingers', reference to the power of God who moulds our finger prints in a way unique to each individual: He has done it in this life and can do it again in the afterlife.

The Possibility of the Resurrection of the Dead

In addition to the necessity and desirability of the resurrection and afterlife, the Qur'an turns repeatedly to its possibility. During the Meccan period of the Prophet's mission, a great deal of the Qur'an was concerned with the three fundamental beliefs of the unity of God, the prophethood of Muhammad and other prophets before him, and the resurrection and judgment. The resurrection in particular seemed incredible to unbelievers. Indeed much of what one hears today is reminiscent of what unbelievers said at the time of the revelation of the Qur'an. They felt the resurrection to be biologically impossible, asking again and again:

How, after we die and become dust and bones could we be raised again?
56:47

Against this, the Qur'an employs a basic argument which is not difficult to accept rationally, equating two similar feats: the power that can accomplish something once can do it again. From the fact that human beings now exist, it is clear that divine power was not incapable of making them: Why should it be assumed that such power will be incapable of doing for a second time what it achieved the first (50:: 15)? Indeed a second creation is easier than a first one (30:27). 

The Qur'an repeatedly reminds people that they were made into human beings from something very small:

Is man not aware that We created him from a little germ? Yet he is flagrantly contentious. He raises an argument and forgets his own creation. He asks: 'Who will give life to rotten bones?' Say: 'He who first brought them into being will give them life again: He has knowledge of every creation; who has made for you out of the green tree fire and lo! from it you kindle.'
36:77-80

This last point affirms the ability of a power that generates things from seemingly opposite or different things - a fire from green trees and bodies from bones and dust; just as a full grown man is different from the little germ that was his beginning. If they ask:

'What! When we are lost in the earth shall we be created afresh?'
32:13

The answer comes:

We know all that the earth takes away from them. We have a book which records all things.
50:4

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