Belief in the Afterlife 2
There should be death on earth so that there will be space for the new comers, new human beings. And, in fact, there are some other reasons. For an example, take people who are really old, imagine a person who is now 500 years old. How does this person take care of himself or herself? Therefore, for such a person, death also becomes a gift. And the Quranic verse is indicating that. If you look at the world of nature, again death is considered a gift. If there is no death, the seas will not be able to accommodate all the fish.
One can feel, especially for those who are suffering from severe diseases, how death can be a gift for such a person. Because every moment is terrible and difficult for them. But when death comes they are rescued, they are freed from such a difficult situation. And therefore, for such people, death really becomes a gift.
Death is also not eternal separation according to the Islamic teaching, because even if a child is separated from his or her mother by death, it is Islamic principle that this person, this individual, this child in the afterlife, will meet his or her mother. There is a place where they meet and reunite. In order to have a good life in the afterlife, people are encouraged to do good things. Therefore, when we say people are accountable for their actions, eventually they will see the result of their actions. And therefore, they have to do good deeds, and they have to do good actions. Like what? For example, to be just, truthful and helpful in this world. If they do these good things, the result in the afterlife will also be very good and very positive.
If people are good in this world and do good deeds with good intentions (it is important, with good intentions), then they will be rewarded in the afterlife as well. In the Islamic teaching, when you do something good, it has to accompany with good intention, with beautiful intention. Because of that intention, the result of that deed will be very positive in the afterlife.
This is what is known in the Islamic tradition as sincerity. To have sincerity in actions. Therefore, in the afterlife, the quantity of actions is not what is most important, but in fact what is important is the quality of actions. Sometimes, even a small thing can be very important and very reward worthy in the sight of God, even if it is a small thing, because of the sincerity and quality that was found in that action. And a person may have done many actions, apparently good actions, but the intention is not good. If it is not good, those actions are not very useful for the person in the afterlife.
The quality of an action is based on intention. Therefore, it is important on all actions to have good intention. There is a saying of the Prophet of Islam (pbuh). The Prophet says,
“Be merciful to the people on earth so that the One in heaven will be merciful to you.”
Now, to be merciful is a good action. And therefore when you are merciful to people in your life, in the afterlife, in this world and in the afterlife, actually God will be merciful toward you. But even your action that is mercy which is very significant, should have a good intention. You should have a good intention when you have that action.
Therefore, even small acts of goodness should not be disregarded. Yes, it might be small but it should not be disregarded. Some sincere small actions may be a reason for the Divine mercy to be bestowed on the individuals in the afterlife. There are some hadith which suggest that a prostitute, for example, entered paradise just because she helped a dog to find water and helped with that animal’s thirst. Again, another hadith mentions a person who entered hell because of not allowing a cat to eat or drink until this cat dies. These appear to be small actions. Giving water to a dog is not too big an issue, apparently. But in the sight of God, that action becomes so reward worthy to the extent that it made this woman to be worthy of being in paradise. The other action apparently just causes the death of a cat, but this is important from an Islamic perspective, you cannot take the life of a living creature unjustly. This is true for this case, that you know this cat is prevented from eating and drinking, but because this action was so important in the sight of God, this bad action was so important in the sight of God, this person enters hell because of this action. Because at that moment perhaps it caused divine wrath on that individual.
Therefore, the Quran speaks of variety of good actions, a variety of them. It also speaks of two eternal abodes of human beings in the afterlife. So when we speak of the afterlife, what comes to our mind is two eternal abodes. One is called jennah which means paradise and the other is called jahannam which means hell. So the people of faith, the people of goodness, the people of righteousness eventually will end up in paradise. The people of bad things, the people who are criminals, the people who have taken the life of people, the people of bad characters, bad behaviors, disbelief, eventually they will end up in hell.
There is a saying of the prophets, also found in the Bible which says that God has prepared in the afterlife something which eyes have never seen nor ears heard nor have the hearts of human being experienced. This hadith indicates the mystery of paradise- how God has prepared such a beautiful place for human beings to be allowed into it.
A Muslims scholar speaks of paradise and makes a comparison. He says living 1000 years in this world cannot be compared to one hour in paradise. But even life in paradise is not the highest. There is something more. He says living 1000 years in paradise with utmost happiness cannot be compared to seeing one hour of the beauty of God. One hour of seeing the beauty of God is incomparable and therefore one thousand years of paradise is lower than seeing the beauty of God for one hour. It is very, very significant in Islamic teaching. The description of paradise in the Quran is remarkable. We can elaborate on these descriptions based on many, many Quranic verses. But here I will be brief and I will refer to the Quran and to the Quranic verses about the description of paradise in the afterlife.
The people of hell, again the Quran speaks of them, according to the Islamic tradition, there is hell and there will be people in hell. But there are some sayings of the Prophet and in fact some Quranic verses as well that if they have faith in their hearts at the size, even at the size of a mustard seed, the Prophet says they will not remain in hell forever. Even a small amount of faith matters. A small amount of faith matters. Therefore, that small amount, the Prophet uses an analogy of mustard seed, even if it is that size, that will be eventually a reason for people to get out of hell and be in paradise. With this regard, people after a certain period of staying in hell based on their crimes on earth, eventually, because there is faith in their heart, a little faith in their heart, will also be in paradise according to the Islamic teaching.
So with this, I would like to be brief. The very final point that I’d like to make, in the afterlife people’s bad deeds and good deeds will be weighed according to what the Quran says. We don’t know the nature of that measurement but they will be measured. If their good deeds overweigh their bad deeds, in the
Quranic teaching and according to the divine justice, they will be in paradise. Every individual will be satisfied of the divine justice. God is just. They will have a very clear understanding about the result of their actions in the afterlife. A Quranic verse which indicates this says, today your eyes are sharp. You can see the things as they are. In other words, you can see the reality of things. And therefore the good is seen as good and bad is seen as bad. People will understand the consequences of their actions in the afterlife.