2nd October 2004
“WHO will give life to the bones when they are decayed and rotten (Koran 36:78)?” This was the critical question posed by many of the Makkan contemporaries of the Prophet Muhammad, who found his teaching about the Day of Resurrection (Yawm al-Qiyamah) incredible — and, frankly, unbelievable.
The Koran informs us that all the Prophets of God preached belief in the afterlife to their respective peoples.
In the New Testament, Jesus is reported to have insisted that “men will have to give account on the Day of Judgment for every careless word they have spoken. For by your words you will be acquitted, and by your words you will be condemned (Matthew xii 36-37).”
Al-Akhirah (the afterlife) is an integral part of the Islamic worldview, and almost one quarter of the Koran is devoted to it; so to reject it is regarded as tantamount to unbelief in Islam (kufr). Certainly, its denial makes other Islamic beliefs quite meaningless.
Islam holds that all human beings who have ever lived on earth will be raised up on the Last Day. Given the freedom of will that we human beings enjoy, a Day of Judgment must be viewed as inevitable. Indeed, if there was no future life in which the virtuous are rewarded and the vicious made to suffer loss, then there would be no true justice.
This day is regarded as so momentous that it is descri- bed in the Koran in various forms including the Day of Decision, Day of Discrimination, Day of Truth, and the Day of Distress.
“What, did you think that We created you in mere idle play, and that you would not be returned to Us (Koran 23:115)?” On that day, our individual record will be placed by God in front of us to examine before His judgment. Every single good action and every single bad action will be listed therein.
“And the book shall be set in place; and you will see the sinners fearful at what is in it, and saying, ‘Alas for us! How is it with this book, that it leaves nothing behind, small or great, but it has numbered it?’ And they shall find all that they did present, and your Lord shall not wrong anyone (Koran 18:49).”
Belief in and consciousness of al-Akhirah has a necessarily immediate and fundamental impact on our attitudes, actions and emotions while living in this world.
In everyday life, it is only natural to ask oneself: what is the point of doing this? Will it benefit me? Might I perhaps harm myself through doing this? In general, the firmer our conviction about the merit of a certain course of action, the greater is our determination to carry on, and the more doubts we have, the more wavering and less committed we shall be.
A child, for example, may try to evade study if he is not convinced by parental exhortations about the value and importance of education.
A believer in the afterlife should be fully seized of the consequences of his deeds, and will try to look upon worldly gains and losses as transitory: he will think twice before risking eternal loss for the sake of an unlawful and fleeting gain.
A less materialistic outlook helps the believer to face up to challenges and to overcome the severe trials in life, because he will trust in the mercy and justice of the Sovereign on the Day of Judgment.
The sceptics may well echo the pagans of old who argued with the blessed Prophet Muhammad, and say that there is no evidence of life after death, that there is no evidence that we can be brought back to life. A moment’s reflection on this will surely confirm that all they can say with certainty is that they do not know what will happen after death.
The Koran answers these sceptics by drawing their attention to an everyday natural phenomenon.
“God is He that looses the winds, that stir up cloud, then we drive it to a dead land, and therewith give life to the earth, after it is dead. Even so will be the Resurrection (Koran 35: 9)!”
Inayat Bunglawala is media secretary of the Muslim Council of Britain