Belief in the Hereafter
The Qur'anic arguments for the reality of another life after death are intended to prove that it is possible and also desirable that there should be such a life, and that without believing in it our belief in the true God cannot be complete.
i. Many of the people whom the Prophet addressed in Makka did believe - as we said before - in a supreme God, but many of them thought that it was impossible for their dead and disintegrated bodies to be resurrected. They therefore mocked and laughed at the Prophet when he told them about it. The Qur'anic reply was that there was no reason for such astonishment and mockery because resurrection is not only logically but physically possible for the following reasons:
a. It if is God who created man in the first place, why should it be impossible for him to recreate him when he dies? Resurrection should be easier than original creation.
"He it is He who originates creation, then brings it back again and this (the latter) is easier for Him." [Rum, XXX: 27]
b. If you think about it carefully, you will come to see that the bringing of life to the dead is a common natural phenomenon. To believe in the possibility of the resurrection of human beings, a thinking person does not need to see a person coming to life again. It is enough to see other dead bodies coming to life.
"And of His signs is that thou seest the earth humble; then, when we send down water upon it, it quivers and swells. Surely He who quickens it is He who quickens the dead; surely He is powerful over everything." [Fussilat, XLI: 39]
"Was he not a sperm-drop ? Then he was a blood clot, and He created and formed and He made of him two kinds, male and female. What! is He not able to quicken the dead?" [Qiyama, LXXV: 37-40]
ii. Why is resurrection desirable? Simply because without it, God would not be the Just and Wise and merciful God He is. God created men and made them responsible for their actions; some behaved well but others did not. If there is no future life in which the virtuous are rewarded and the vicious are punished, there would be no justice and the creation of men in that way and the sending of Prophets to them would be to no purpose at all. But this kind of behaviour is not expected of a man known to be rational and just, let alone the Perfect Creator.
"What! does man reckon he shall be left to roam at will! What! did you think that we created you only for sport and that you would not be returned to Us? [Mu'minun, XXIII: 115]
"Surely for the God, fearing shall be gardens of bliss with their Lord. What! shall we make those who have surrendered like to the sinners? What ails you then, how you judge? [Qaf: LXVIII: 34-36]
We have not created the heavens and earth, and what is between them, for vanity; such is the thought of the unbelievers." [Sad, XXXVIII: 27]
iii. Is the real and only motive for denying the reality of a life after death that which is expressed by the arguments which the deniers put forward, and to which the Qur'an replies! By no means, says the Qur'an. The real motive is often a psychological one. Those who do evil do not wish to be punished and it is this wishful thinking that leads them to deny the reality of a time when such punishment shall take place.
"Does man reckon We shall not gather his bones! Nay, but man desires to continue on as a libertine, asking, 'When shall be the Day of Resurrection!" [Qiyama, LXXV: 3-6] "And none cries lies to it (the day of judgement) but every guilty aggressor." [Mutaffifin, LXXXIII: 12]
A question that is often raised in connection with reward and punishment in the hereafter and which causes some people to doubt the desirability if not the truth of such a life is, 'Do we do what is good because it is good or for fear of punishment and expectation of reward! If we do it for the former, then what is the use of believing in the hereafter, and if we do it for the latter we will not be acting morally. 'The answer to this question depends on whether God enjoins us to do an act because it is good, or whether it is this Divine injunction which makes the action good. And it seems to me to be very clear that the goodness of an act is logically prior to its being an object of a Divine injunction. Otherwise it would be a tautology to say 'God enjoins what is good' because it would only mean God enjoins what He enjoins. But the Qur'an abounds in statements like the former, and it is very clear that they are not intended to be tautological.
The answer to our original question then is that we do what is good because it is good. But since to give good for good is itself good, there is no contradiction in saying that one does good because the God whom he loves and in Whom he puts his trust tells him to do it, and because he expects to be rewarded by Him for doing it.
According to the Qur'an God created man of an original nature--called fitra--which possesses what we might call a moral sense, which enables man to recognize without any external aid certain acts like telling the truth and being grateful as good, and by reason of which he is inclined to do good once he comes to know it. True religion is built on the basis of this original human nature. Religion strengthens nature and brings to fruition the seeds of virtue that reside in it. That is why Islam is said in the Qur'an to be fitrat-Allah and why the Prophet says that he was sent only to perfect good conduct. The Qur'an praises those in whom this moral sense is sharp and condemns those in whom it has become so blunt that the ugliness of vice becomes in their eyes the model of beauty:
"But God has endeared to you belief, decking it fair in your hearts, and He has made detestable to you unbelief and ungodliness and disobedience. Those they are the right minded, by God's favour and blessing, God is All-knowing, All-wise." [Hujurat, XLIX: 7-8]
"Say: 'Shall we tell you who will be the greatest losers in their works.' Those whose striving goes astray in the present life while they think that they are working good deeds." [Kahf, XVIII: 103-104]
"And when he turns his back, he hastens about the earth, to do corruption there, and to destroy the tillage and the stock; and God loves not corruption." [Baqara, 11: 205]
So a Muslim does good because he is endeared to it, and eschews vice because it is detestable to him. But since a Muslim surrenders himself to God and loves and fears Him, and since God loves virtue and enjoins it and hates vice and forbids it, he does the former and avoids the latter in obedience to his Lord. And since those who do good shall--in the hereafter--live a life of bliss, the highest type of which would be the state of being near to God and enjoying His sight, while those who lead an evil life shall suffer all kinds of chastisement the most terrible of which shall be the state of being deprived from that sight, a Muslim would be wise to always have that future and eternal life in mind and endeavour to do here all kinds of work that would help to elevate his position there.
"Say: Is there any of Your associates who guides to the truth? Say: God--He guides to the truth; and which is worthier to be followed--he who guides to the truth, or he who guides not unless he is guided? what then ails you, how you judge ? [Yunus, X: 35]
"Say. If you love God, follow me and God will love you, and forgive you, your sins;" [Al-`Imran, III:31]
"Surely the pious shall be in bliss, upon couches gazing (at their Lord); thou knowest in their faces the radiancy of bliss as they are given to drink of a wine sealed, whose seal is musk. So after that let the strivers strive." [Mutaffifun, LXXXIII: 22-26]
Why should one who did good live in such bliss, one might ask? and the Prompt Qur'anic answer is:
"Shall the recompense of goodness be other than goodness." [Rahman, LV: 60]
These in resume are the basic truths to which the Prophet Muharnmad invited his people. The best proof -besides the foregoing argumets -- of their being truths, and very important truths for man, is the good effect which they produce in man's internal state, and thus his outward beaviour We have already, in dealing with belief in God, pointed to some of the feelings towards Him, brought about by belief in His existence and His attributes of perfection. Since man's atttude in relation to his fellow-human beings is very much connected with his attitude towards God, that belief in God with resulting feelings towards the Divine, is bound to produce in man's heart feelings towards other men that are appropriate to it. And since man's outward behaviour regarding God and other men is generated. by his real beliefs about and feelings towards them, it is only to be expected of true religion to call for a set of behaviour that is both a natural outcome of its set of beliefs and a factor of strengthening them. The internal state to which Muhamrnad invited men is called 'Imaan' (faith or belief). The external behaviour based on it is called Islaam. At the Mnkkan period he concentrated mostly on the first, without entirely neglecting the second, which he elaborated at Madina when the first Muslim independent community was formed. Even at Makka the Prophet Muhammad was directed by God to invite people to the following acts of worship and moral behaviour.
1. To keep their faith alive and strengthen it Muslims were told to recite the Qur'an and study it carefully, to learn from the Prophet and say as often as possible, and especially on some specified occasions, certain prayers, and to perform prayer in the manner which Gabriel demonstrated to the Prophet. All this is salat in its widest sense.
2. After salat the serving of God, comes zakaat which in its broadest sense includes any act of service to other men. Being good to men is the fruit and therefore the proof of the tree of faith. He is not truthful who harms men and yet claims to believe in and love God.
"Hast thou seen him who does not believe in retribution (in the hereafter)? Tthat is he who repulses the orphan and urges not the feeding of the needy. So woe to those that pray and are heedless of their prayers, to those who make display and refuse charity." [Ma'un, CVII]..
Tile first three verses of this Sura were revealed at Makka and the rest at Madina. The Madinan verses speak about the hypocrites who perform outward acts of worship that do not originate from any sincere faith. But their behaviour betrays them, since it is the same as that of the Makkan professed unbelievers.
Following are a few examples of Zakaat which the Qur'an advocated at this early period.
Acquisition of wealth for its own sake or so that it may increase the worth of its collector is condemned. Mere acquisition of wealth counts nothing in the sight of God. It does not give man any merit whether here or in the hereafter.
"Who gathered riches and counted them over thinking that his riches have made him immortal." [Humaza, CIV: 2-3].
Those "who amassed and hoa rded " wealth in this life are to he called in the hereafter by a furnace that 'scathes away the scalp' [Ma'arij, LXX: 15-18]. Wealth for its own sake is among the vices of men which can be eradicated only by the kind of belief and practices which Muhammad taught. [Ma'arij, LXX: 19-27].
Man should acquire wealth with the intention of spending it on his own needs, and the needs of others. "Man, the Prophet tells us, says: 'My wealth! My wealth!' Have you any wealth except that which you wear and tear, eat and consume up, give as alms and thus preserve!" Wealth should be spent on the needy (specially if they are pa rents or relatives), on orphans and those who ask owl ng to poverty, on the freeing of slaves etc. The following verses were among the earliest that were addressed to the Prophet.
"As for the orphan, do not oppress him, as for the beggar, scold him not." [(Dhuha, XCIII: 9-10]
Among the qualities that characterize a true believer is the quality of giving the needy and the outcast, as their right, a specified portion of his wealth. [Ma'arij, LXX: 24-25].
There is on the way to success in the hereafter a steep path that can be attempted only by one who performs the following deeds:
"The freeing of a slave, or giving food upon a day of hunger to an orphan near of kin or a needy man in misery"
And then "become of those who believe and council each other to be steadfast, and counsel each other to be merciful." [Balad, XC: 13-17].
Besides helping his fellowmen in this way man should also be truthful and honest with them and fulfil his promises to them. [Ma'arij, LXX: 32-33]. He should not infringe upon their rights especially those of life [LXXX: 83], and of decency. [Ma'arij, LXX: 29-31].
That briefly, is the message which Muhammad addressed to his Makkan audience.
Dr. Ja`far Sheikh Idris
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