The basic premise of religion is that this world has a creator; He has created this world as a trial; thus He has sent man in this world for a specific period of time; at the conclusion of this period, this world will necessarily end and its earth and heavens shall be replaced by a new earth and new heavens; a new world will then come into being. All mankind shall be raised up there and shall be rewarded or punished on the basis of their beliefs and deeds.
Religion requires us to accept this reality. Obviously, it is essential that such a reality be very well known to man. Consequently, from the very first day of creation the Almighty has made arrangements that no one should be able to deny this reality on the basis of knowledge and intellect, and this reality should remain so evident before people that those who deny it would not be able to present any excuse before the Almighty on the Day of Judgment.
How was this reality communicated to people such that they were not left with any excuse to deny it? The Quran informs us that an acknowledgement of the providence of the Almighty is found innately in man’s nature. It says that this matter manifested itself in the form of a pledge. The Quran refers to this event as a real-life incident and not something metaphorical. Since man has been sent here for trial, the whole incident has been erased from his memory; however, its essence is etched on his heart and ingrained in his soul and nothing can obliterate it.
Consequently, if man is reminded of it in the absence of any hindrance in his surroundings, he leaps to it the way a child leaps to its mother even though it never saw itself emerge from her womb and is drawn towards her with such conviction as if it already knew her. A person feels that this pledge of his with the Almighty was the answer to a very natural need found within him. The Quran says that this testimony of man’s inner-self is so undeniable that as far as the providence of God is considered, man will be held accountable before God merely on the basis of this testimony:
وَإِذْ أَخَذَ رَبُّكَ مِنْ بَنِي آدَمَ مِنْ ظُهُورِهِمْ ذُرِّيَّتَهُمْ وَأَشْهَدَهُمْ عَلَى أَنفُسِهِمْ أَلَسْتُ بِرَبِّكُمْ قَالُوا بَلَى شَهِدْنَا أَنْ تَقُولُوا يَوْمَ الْقِيَامَةِ إِنَّا كُنَّا عَنْ هَذَا غَافِلِينَ. أَوْ تَقُولُوا إِنَّمَا أَشْرَكَ آبَاؤُنَا مِنْ قَبْلُ وَكُنَّا ذُرِّيَّةً مِنْ بَعْدِهِمْ أَفَتُهْلِكُنَا بِمَا فَعَلَ الْمُبْطِلُونَ. وَكَذَلِكَ نُفَصِّلُ الآيَاتِ وَلَعَلَّهُمْ يَرْجِعُونَ.
And remember when your Lord brought forth from the loins of the progeny of Adam their children and made them testify against themselves. He said: “Am I not your Lord?”
They replied: “We bear witness that You are.”
This We did lest you should say on the Day of Judgment: “We had no knowledge of that,” or present the excuse: “Our forefathers had already adopted idolatry and we later became their children so will You destroy us on account of what these false-doers did?”
[We have fully explained things here] and thus do We explain Our revelations [so that people are left with no excuse to deny the truth] and so that they may return to the right path. (Al Aaraaf 7:172-174)
Same is the case with good and evil. A person has innate knowledge of good and evil. The Quran says:
وَنَفْسٍ وَمَا سَوَّاهَا. فَأَلْهَمَهَا فُجُورَهَا وَتَقْوَاهَا. قَدْ أَفْلَحَ مَنْ زَكَّاهَا. وَقَدْ خَابَ مَنْ دَسَّاهَا.
And the soul bears witness and the perfection given to it. Then [God] inspired it with its evil and its good: Indeed successful will be the one who keeps it pure, and indeed failure will be the one who corrupts it! (Al Shams 91:6-10)
In some other verses of the Quran, this aspect is referred to by the words: “We inspired in him the way of good and evil” (76:3) and “Have We not shown him both the paths?” (90:10). In the above quoted verses, the Quran has made it clear that just as the Almighty has blessed a person with eyes to see and ears to hear, similarly, he has blessed him with a moral faculty which distinguishes good and evil for him. This aspect of our soul as per which it can be called the reproaching soul which admonishes us like a preacher on an evil committed springs from this faculty. Thus we see that distinguishing good from evil and the awareness that good is good and evil is evil are universal realities which no one can deny. The Quran says that after this testimony of a person’s inner-self, no one can deny reward and punishment. It says:
لا أُقْسِمُ بِيَوْمِ الْقِيَامَةِ. وَلا أُقْسِمُ بِالنَّفْسِ اللَّوَّامَةِ. أَيَحْسَبُ الإِنسَانُ أَلَّنْ نَجْمَعَ عِظَامَهُ. بَلَى قَادِرِينَ عَلَى أَنْ نُسَوِّيَ بَنَانَهُ. بَلْ يُرِيدُ الإِنسَانُ لِيَفْجُرَ أَمَامَهُ. يَسْأَلُ أَيَّانَ يَوْمُ الْقِيَامَةِ. فَإِذَا بَرِقَ الْبَصَرُ. وَخَسَفَ الْقَمَرُ. وَجُمِعَ الشَّمْسُ وَالْقَمَرُ. يَقُولُ الإِنسَانُ يَوْمَئِذٍ أَيْنَ الْمَفَرُّ. كَلاَّ لا وَزَرَ. إِلَى رَبِّكَ يَوْمَئِذٍ الْمُسْتَقَرُّ. يُنَبَّأُ الإِنسَانُ يَوْمَئِذٍ بِمَا قَدَّمَ وَأَخَّرَ. بَلْ الإِنسَانُ عَلَى نَفْسِهِ بَصِيرَةٌ. وَلَوْ أَلْقَى مَعَاذِيرَهُ.
[They think that the Day of Judgment will never be];
By no means! I present as evidence the Day of Judgment itself.
And [they think that the Day of Judgment is a far-fetched reality].
By no means! I present as evidence this reproaching soul [within you].
Does man think that We will not be able to bring together his bones? Why not? We can put together his very finger tips.
[No this is not so]; in fact [the truth is that] man wants to be mischievous before his [conscience].
He asks: “When will the Day of Judgment be?”
But on the day when the sight is dazed and the moon eclipsed and the sun and the moon brought together, this very man will say:
“Whither to flee?” – No! there is no refuge now! Towards your Lord that Day is the resting place.
On that Day will man be informed what he sent forth and what he left behind.
[No, he cannot deny it]; in fact, he himself is a witness upon his own self however much he may put up excuses. (Al Qiyamah 75: 1-15)
Imam Amin Ahsan Islahi, while explaining this argument of the Quran, writes:
Now the question is that if a person has a guardian within his conscience which chides him on every evil that emanates from him, then how can it be imagined that man will be not be held accountable for his deeds. Why would he go scot-free if he spends a life in whatever manner he wants to while negating the calls of his conscience? If a person will not be held accountable for his deeds, then where has this chiding conscience come into him from?
If his Creator is unconcerned about the good and evil which emanates from him, then why and from where has He given him the feeling of being elated at a good deed and being pricked by his conscience at a bad one?
Then from here another question arises: If God has set up a miniature court of justice in every person, then why will He not set up a greater court of justice which will hold the whole world accountable for good and evil which emanate from it and not reward and punish people accordingly? Any person who deliberates on these questions while disregarding his desires will reach the conclusion that the very being of a person bears witness that he has innate knowledge of good and evil; he will not be left unaccountable; there definitely shall come one day when he will be punished for any misdeeds he may have done and be rewarded for his good deeds.
To remind a person of this very Day, the Almighty has placed a miniature court of justice within a person’s soul so that man does not remain indifferent to it, and if ever he becomes indifferent he can catch a glimpse of it by merely reflecting on his inner-self. It is this very reality which sages have taught us by saying that man is a miniature world and within this miniature world there is a reflection of the greater world. If a person has a true comprehension of his own self, he is able to comprehend both God and the Hereafter.1
Besides this innate guidance, man has also been equipped with the ability of deriving conclusions from what he hears, sees and feels – conclusions which are actually beyond these faculties. A simple example to illustrate this is the law of gravitation. An apple falls on the ground. When a stone is to be lifted from ground, strength must be exerted. It is difficult to ascend stairs than to descend them. The moon and the stars move in the skies.
Man has been witnessing all these phenomena for centuries until it was Newton who discovered that they are a result of the law of gravitation. This law itself cannot be observed; however it is accepted as a scientific reality in the whole world. The reason for this is that all theories and known facts are in harmony with it. All observable realities are explained by this law and as yet no other law is able to explain various phenomenon as it has done.
This process obviously is the derivation of the tangible from the intangible. When a person makes use of this ability of his and studies the universe which stretches around him, then this study of his also vouches for this very reality found in his inner-self.
Thus he sees that everything of this world is a miraculous manifestation of creativity; everything has deep meaningfulness; it has been created with great diligence and thoroughness; there exists amazing wisdom, planning, usefulness and order; there are found superb mathematical and geometrical realities whose only justification is the fact that they have a Creator and this Creator is not an uncontrolled and unrestrained being.
On the contrary, He has an unfathomable mind. This is because if power does not emanate from a wise and all-knowing being, then it should be mere tyranny; the truth of the matter is that this is not so: this expression of power and strength has aptness about it; it is also very harmonious and is very advantageous and produces great marvels which cannot be produced by an uncontrolled and unrestrained force.
This is an indisputable reality; however, there are some other realities also besides it.
Man observes that each object of this world has some purpose and every object seems to be tied to its purpose; however, collectively one is not able to see the purpose of this world. Viewed thus, it appears to be fairy-tale of God and much like a play land of Nero, the Roman emperor.
Man observes that every thing through its very existence proclaims that it has been created for him, but nothing in this world tells him his own purpose of creation.
Also one is not able to see any system which judges if human beings have or have not fulfilled the purpose, if ever there is one, for which they have been created.
Man is innately aware of the fact that he should be held accountable for each favor he has been blessed with; however, he has been left in this world without any such accountability. Thus when he dies, he calmly leaves this world without giving any account of these favors.
To make people adhere to truth and justice is the need of mankind but man is not able to see any real motive for this in himself or in the world around him. Then the circumstances of this world negate what his conscience desires. It is his natural instinct that justice and oppression and good and evil must be discriminated; however, in this world this natural instinct of his is flouted in the worst possible way. Thus, there are many people who have left this world without being rewarded for their good deeds and there are many who have left this world without being punished for their evil deeds.
Contrary to all other creations, man possesses an awareness of the future; however, this future always eludes him.
Hidden within him are great desires, but seldom are they fulfilled and more often than not his wishes are not materialized. So much so, the intense desire of observing God running the affairs of this universe once he professes faith in Him is never fulfilled in this world.
Man is not able to go to the extent his imagination can take him. He wants to pierce the skies, penetrate the earth and infiltrate into his own soul as far as he can. To satisfy his ambitions he has tried to explore the skies and split the atom; however, all this effort has only proven to him that he cannot realize all the potentials of his imagination.
He is always searching for a world in which he can liberate himself from the sorrows and hardships of this world and from its limitations and live a life of happiness and contentment. This desire is found in him since time immemorial. However, he is never able to obtain this sought after world of his; on the contrary, he takes to his grave these cherished desires.
Every single word which a person speaks and every single deed that emanates from him are being safely recorded so that they can be recalled whenever required. All his good and evil thoughts are also permanently noted. The passage of time and change in circumstances do not affect these records. However, what is the purpose of this arrangement? Nothing in this world answers this question.
The personality of a human being has an existence of its own which is independent of his being. The innumerable cells from which his body is made keep dying and are replaced every now and then; however, his real personality always remains intact. His knowledge, memory, ambitions, habits and thoughts all remain the same, and are in no way altered by this cycle. Then where does this personality come from and where does it go? We are unable to answer this question too.
Millions of planets, much larger than the planet man inhabits, exist in the universe but there appears no trace of any life in them. Then why have they been created? Man does not know.
These are some of the questions which perturb a person to the utmost; however, as soon as one gets to know that the Hereafter exists all these questions get an answer and all voids are filled and all known phenomena are explained and everything becomes set in its place; the world now seems to be complete, which in the absence of the Hereafter it did not; the real grandeur of this universe is thus revealed; man can now die with the certainty that whatever he was not able to obtain before his death, he will definitely obtain it after his death; he too will be blessed with the certitude and the calm which is found in the universe; he will be given an eternal world in which he can realize his innumerable and unending desires and where, on the one hand, there will be the eternal Paradise of pleasure, finesse and meaningfulness, and, on the other, the Fire of Hell where the evil will endure their punishments.
As a result, the relationship between this world and the next is that of what each member of a pair has with the other. Consequently, if causes have been joined with effects, potentials with their devices, natures with their intentions and souls with bodies and as a result are presenting a meaningful whole, then the Hereafter too is one member of the pair of which the other member is the Herein and both complement one another and become meaningful:
وَمِنْ كُلِّ شَيْءٍ خَلَقْنَا زَوْجَيْنِ لَعَلَّكُمْ تَذَكَّرُونَ.
And We have made pairs of everything so that you may take heed. (Al Dhariyat 51:49)
It is at this instance when one’s intellect is compelled to accept and acknowledge God and the Hereafter just as it acknowledges information obtained through deduction as scientific facts. After this, the heart of every sensitive person shudders at the concept of accountability and it is as if he sees the Day of Judgment before his very eyes. He sees that the earth and the heavens are burdened with it in the very manner a pregnant lady carries the burden of her child about which it cannot be said when it shall be delivered:
يَسْأَلُونَكَ عَنْ السَّاعَةِ أَيَّانَ مُرْسَاهَا قُلْ إِنَّمَا عِلْمُهَا عِنْدَ رَبِّي لا يُجَلِّيهَا لِوَقْتِهَا إِلاَّ هُوَ ثَقُلَتْ فِي السَّمَوَاتِ وَالأَرْضِ لا تَأْتِيكُمْ إِلاَّ بَغْتَةً.
They ask you about the Hour of Doom: When will it come? Tell [them]: “Only my Lord has knowledge of it. None but He shall reveal it when its appointed time comes. Both the heavens and the earth are under its burden. It will suddenly overtake you.” (Al Aaraaf 7:187)
إِنَّ فِي خَلْقِ السَّمَوَاتِ وَالأَرْضِ وَاخْتِلافِ اللَّيْلِ وَالنَّهَارِ لآيَاتٍ لأُولِي الأَلْبَابِ. الَّذِينَ يَذْكُرُونَ اللَّهَ قِيَاماً وَقُعُوداً وَعَلَى جُنُوبِهِمْ وَيَتَفَكَّرُونَ فِي خَلْقِ السَّمَوَاتِ وَالأَرْضِ رَبَّنَا مَا خَلَقْتَ هَذَا بَاطِلاً سُبْحَانَكَ فَقِنَا عَذَابَ النَّارِ.
In the creation of the heavens and the earth, and in the alternation of night and day, there are many signs for men of understanding; those who remember God while standing, sitting, and lying down, and reflect on the creation of the heavens and the earth. [Their prayer is:] “Lord, You have not created this without a purpose. Glory be to You for you do not do anything in vain! Save us from the punishment of the Fire. (3:190-191)
(This article is presented after a few minor adjustments. It is adopted from the works of Javed Ahmed Ghamdi, Translation: Shehzad Saleem, Thanks to: www.monthly-renaissance.com )
Think about it!
- Discuss the evidence for hereafter deeply embedded in human personality.
- Why people sacrifice their real and unlimited life for their worldly desires?
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