The Need of disbelief by Maulana Maududi-Towards Understanding Qur'an
Belief in life after death has always been an integral part of the teachings of the Prophets. Every Prophet asked his followers to believe in it, in the same way as the last of the Prophets, Muhammad, has asked us to do. This has always been an essential condition of being a Muslim. All Prophets have categorically declared that one who does not believe in it, or casts doubts on it, is a Kafir. This is so because denial of the life after death makes all other beliefs meaningless. This denial also destroys the very sanction for a good life and man is driven to a life of ignorance and disbelief. A little reflection makes this quite clear.
In your everyday life, whenever you are asked to do anything, you immediately think: what is the use of doing it and what harm is involved in not doing it? This is the very nature of man. He instinctively regards a useless action as totally unnecessary. You will never be willing to waste your time and energy in useless and unproductive jobs. Similarly, you will not be very eager to avoid a thing that is harmless. And the general rule is that the deeper your conviction about the utility of a thing, the firmer will be your response to it; and the more doubtful you are about its efficacy, the more wavering will be your attitude. After all, why does a child put his hand into fire? Because he is not sure that fire burns. Why does he evade study? Because he does not fully grasp the importance and benefits of education and does not believe in what his elders try to impress on his mind.
Now think of the man who does not believe in the Day of Judgment Will he not consider belief in God and a life in accordance with His code of no consequence? What value will he attach to a life in pursuit of His pleasure? To him neither obedience to God is of any advantage, nor disobedience to Him of any harm. How, then, can it be possible for him to scrupulously follow the injunctions of God, His Prophet, and His Book? What incentive will there be for him to undergo trials and sacrifices and to avoid worldly pleasures? And if a man does not follow the code of God and lives according to his own likes and dislikes, of what use is his belief in the existence of God, if indeed he has any such belief?
That is not all. If you reflect still deeper, you will come to the conclusion that belief in life after death is the most decisive factor in the life of a man. Its acceptance or rejection determines the very course of his life and behavior
A man who has in view success or failure in this world alone will be concerned with immediate benefits and ills. He will not be prepared to undertake any good act if he has no hope of gaining thereby some worldly interest, nor will he be keen to avoid any wrong act if it is not injurious to his interests in this world.
But a man who believes in the next world as well and is convinced of the final consequences of his acts will look on all worldly gains and losses as temporary and transitory and will not put his eternal bliss at stake for a passing gain. He will look on things in their wider perspective and always keep the permanent benefit or harm in view. He will do the good, however costly it may be to him in terms of worldly gains, or however injurious it may be to his immediate interests; and he will avoid the wrong, however tempting it may look. He will judge things from the viewpoint of their eternal consequences and not according to his whims and caprices.
Thus there is a radical difference between the beliefs, approaches and lives of the two persons. One's idea of a good act is limited to whether in this brief temporary life it will bring gain in the shape of money, property, public applause and similar other things which give him position, power, reputation and worldly happiness. Such things become his objectives in life. Fulfillment of his own wishes and self-aggrandizement becomes the be-all and end-all of his life. And he does not draw back even from cruel and unjust means to achieve his ends. Similarly, his conception of a wrong act is one which may involve a risk or injury to his interests in this world such as loss of property and life, harming of health, blackening of reputation or some other unpleasant consequence.
In contrast to this man, the believer's concept of good and evil will be quite different. To him all that pleases God is good and all that invokes His displeasure and wrath is evil. A good act, according to him, will remain good even if it brings no benefit to him in this world, or even entails loss of some worldly possession or injury to his personal interests. He will be confident that God will reward him in the eternal life and this will be the real success. Similarly, he will not fall prey to evil deeds merely for some worldly gain, for he knows that even if he escapes punishment in this short worldly life, in the end he will be the loser because he will not be able to escape punishment from the court of God. He does not believe in the relativity of morals but sticks to the absolute standards revealed by God and lives according to them irrespective of gain or injury in this world.
Thus it is the belief or disbelief in the life after death which makes man adopt different courses in life. For one who does not believe in the Day of Judgment it is absolutely impossible to fashion his life as suggested by Islam.
Islam says "In the way of God give charity (zakah) to the poor." His answer is: "No, zakah will lessen my wealth; I will, instead, take interest on my money." And in its collection he will not hesitate to take everything belonging to the debtors however poor or hungry they may be. Islam says: "Always speak the truth and shun lying, though you may gain ever so much by lying and lose ever so much by speaking the truth." But his reply will be: "Well, what shall I do with a truth which is of no use to me here, and which instead brings loss to me; and why should I avoid lying where it can bring benefit to me without any risk, even that of a bad name?" He visits a lonely place and finds a precious metal lying there; in such a situation Islam says: "This is not your property, do not take it," but he would say: "This is a thing I have come by without any cost or trouble; why should I not have it? There is no one to see me pick this up, no one who might report it to the police or give evidence against me in a court of law, or give me a bad name among the people. Why should I not make use of this valuable?" Someone secretly keeps a deposit with this man, and eventually he dies. Islam says: "Be honest with the property deposited with you and give it over to the hairs of the deceased." He says: "Why? There is no evidence of his property being with me; his children also have no knowledge of it. When I can appropriate it without any difficulty, without any fear of legal claim, or stain on my reputation, why should I not do so?"
In short, at every step in life, Islam will direct him to walk in a certain direction and adopt a certain attitude and course of behavior; but he will go in the opposite direction. For Islam measures and values everything from the viewpoint of its eternal consequence; while such a person always has in view only the immediate and earthly outcome. Now, you can understand why a man cannot be a Muslim without belief in the Day of Judgment To be a Muslim is a very great thing; the fact is that one cannot even become a good man without this belief, for the denial of the Day of Judgment degrades man from humanity to a place even lower than that of the lowest of animals.
Life After Death: A Rational Vindication
So far we have discussed the need and importance of belief in the Day of Judgment Now let us consider how far the constituents of the belief are rationally understandable. The fact is that whatever Muhammad has told us about life after death is clearly borne out by reason. Although our belief in that Day is based on our implicit trust in the Messenger of God, rational reflection not only confirms this belief but also reveals that Muhammad's teachings in this respect are much more reasonable and understandable than any other viewpoint about life after death.