Chapter 18: What is Islam by Dr. Muhammad Sharif Chaudhry



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What is Islam

By Dr. Muhammad Sharif Chaudhry


Life After Death

I- Death

II- Doomsday or the Day of Judgment

III- Paradise and Hell

Islam, unlike many other faiths, believes in this world as well as in the Hereafter. It wishes well-being of its followers not only in this world but also in the next world. Therefore, Islam guides them to happy and useful life in this world and prepares them for success in a longer and eternal life which would commence after death. We have not been provided much knowledge about the life after death but we can make some idea from the hints given in the Qur’an and traditions of Prophet Muhammad as to what would happen. All living beings would die. Heavens and earth and everything would be destroyed on the Doomsday. Then every living being would be resurrected. God would judge the deeds of the human beings on the Day of Judgement. He would reward the good with Paradise and punish the wicked with Hell.

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I- Death

“Every soul will taste of death”, thus says the Holy Qur’an, the revealed book of Islam (3:185). Therefore death is inevitable. There is no escape from it. You may be anywhere the death will overtake you when its fixed time comes. The Holy Qur’an brings home this fact in its following verses:

  • O ye who believe! Be not as those who disbelieved and said of their brethren who went abroad in the land or were fighting in the field: If they had been (here) with us they would not have died or been killed; that Allah may make it anguish in their hearts. Allah giveth life and causeth   death; and Allah is Seer of what ye do.  (3:Al-Imran:156)

  • Those who, while they sat at home, said of their brethren (who were fighting for the cause of Allah): If they had been guided by us they would not have been slain. Say (unto them, O Muhammad): Then avert death from yourselves if ye are truthful.  (3:Al-Imran:168)

  • Wheresoever ye may be, death will overtake you, even though ye were in lofty towers …..  (4:An-Nisa:78)

Death does not spare anybody. It makes no distinction between high and low, between rich and poor, between old and young, between pious and sinner. Death laid its hands even on the Prophets who were the most favoured and the most blessed human beings. “Sceptre and crown”, as a poet says, “must tumple down” before death. No doctor, no scientist, no wise man has been able to invent a method or medicine which could help one escape death. Death snatches a son from lap of his affectionate mother, a husband from the bosom of his loving wife, a wealthy man from his vast riches, and a powerful king from his big empire.

Death, in fact, is nothing but God’s law that every living thing and every mortal being must taste it. Death affirms one’s belief in God as He is God who gives life and death. The Holy Qur’an says:

  • How disbelieve ye in Allah when ye were dead and He gave life to you! Then He will give you death, then life again, and then unto Him ye will return.  (2:Al-Baqarah:28)

  • Allah is He Who created you and then sustained you, then causeth you to die, then giveth life to you again.  (30: Ar-Rum:40)

  • Say (unto them, O Muhammad): Allah giveth life to you, then causeth you to die, then gathereth you unto the Day of Resurrection whereof there is no doubt. But most of mankind know not.  (45:Al-Jathiyah:26)

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II- Doomsday or the Day of Judgment

The Doomsday or the Day of Judgment or the Day of Resurrection has been mentioned hundreds of times in the Qur’an and with various names. Besides these three names, it has been called the day of requital, the last day, the day of trial, the hour, the day of destruction, the day of grief, the day of repentance, the day of separation, the day of congregation, the day of manifestation of defects, the day of shaking, the great event, the striking calamity, the day of meeting, the promised day, etc. In a way the names denote the various aspects or attributes of the same day which would be equal to fifty thousand worldly years (Al-Qur’an 70:4).

Nobody knows about this day except God. When it would come? What would exactly happen on this day? No mortal being not even a Prophet can tell.

The Qur’an says:

  • They ask thee of the (destined) Hour, when will it come to port. Say: Knowledge thereof is with my Lord only. He alone will manifest it at its proper time …….     (7:Al-Araf:187)

  • Lo! Allah! With Him is the knowledge of the Hour ….. (31: Luqman:34)

However, we have been told some signs of the Hour by Prophet Muhammad (PBUH) which the Prophet described before his companions during a discussion. The relevant tradition is:

Huzaifah-b-Osaid al Gefari reported: The Holy Prophet suddenly came to us while we were talking. He asked: What do you talk about? They replied: We are talking about the last Hour. He said: It will never come to pass till you see ten signs previous to it. He then mentioned the smoke (44:10) and Dajjal, and the beast (27:82) and the rising of the sun in its place of setting, and the descent of Jesus son of Mary, and Gog and Magog (8:94) and three earth-sinkings–one earth-sinking in the east, one earth-sinking in the west and one earth-sinking in the Peninsula of Arabia, and the last one will be a fire that will break out from Yemen and that will drive the people to their place of gathering. And in narration: A fire shall come out from the lowest part of Aden and drive away the people to the place of gathering. And in a narration: And in the tenth (sign), there will be a tempest which shall blow off the people to the sea.  (Muslim)

Although we do not know what would happen on the Last Day (also called Doomsday or Day of Resurrection or Day of Judgment) as we have been given but little knowledge, yet we can make a plain picture of the course of events with the help of the Qur’an and the traditions of the Prophet of Islam. The Trumpet would be blown for the first time with the result that every living creature would die and every thing including heavens and the earth, the sun and the moon, the stars and the planets, the mountains and the hills would be destroyed. The Trumpet would be blown for the second time and all the dead will be brought back to life and the heavens and the earth would come into existence in a changed form. The whole of mankind would be brought before God who will be the sole Judge and Sovereign on that day. He will judge between men and those who are righteous would be rewarded by Him and those who are wicked would be punished by Him.

Let us now discuss these concepts in a little detail as follows:

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The Doom or the Destruction

The Doomsday would come all of a sudden, just as a twinkling of eye even sooner than it. The day would be heavy in the heavens and the earth. The sky will become as molten copper, the hills would become as flakes of wool, mountains would be broken into scattered dust and earth would be left as an empty plain with no curve nor ruggedness. Every nursing mother will forget her nursling and every pregnant one will be delivered of her burden. Every living creature will die all of a sudden. Every thing will perish in no time. All this would happen on the first blowing of the Trumpet. The Qur’an says about Doomsday:

  1. They ask thee of the (destined) Hour, when will it come to port. Say: knowledge thereof is with my Lord only. He alone will manifest it at its proper time. It is heavy in the heavens and the earth. It cometh not to you save unawares. They question thee as if thou couldst be well informed thereof. Say: knowledge thereof is with Allah only, but most of mankind know not.  (7: Al-A’raf:187)

  2. And unto Allah belongeth the Unseen of the heavens and the earth and the matter of the Hour (of Doom) is but as a twinkling of the eye, or it is nearer still. Lo! Allah is Able to do all things.   (16: An-Nahl:77)

  3. O mankind! Fear your Lord. Lo! the earthquake of the Hour (of Doom) is a tremendous thing. On the day when ye behold it, every nursing mother will forget her nursling and every pregnant one will be delivered of her burden, and thou (Muhammad) wilt see mankind as drunken, yet they will not be drunken, but the Doom of Allah will be strong (upon them).  (22:Al-Hajj:1-2)

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The Resurrection of the dead

The Holy Qur’an tells us that after our death, God would raise us and give us life again. This would be our resurrection (of body and soul) which would happen on the Day of Resurrection, also called Day of Judgment. Every living soul would taste death and on the Day of Resurrection it would be revived to be paid recompense for its deeds done in this world. The non-believers, in every age, have been ridiculing the idea of resurrection raising silly questions before the prophets. Such questions were also raised before Prophet Muhammad (PBUH). The idea of resurrection, when they would be dead and reduced to bones and dust, looks to such people very strange. The Qur’an tells them that Almighty God who gave them life when they were nothing would revive them after their death as their resurrection is not more difficult for the Creator of the Heavens and the Earth than their first creation. When God intends to do a thing He only says unto it: Be! and it is.

To make the non-believers understand the process of revival of the dead, the Qur’an gives example of rain again and again which revives the dead and barren land and makes it produce every kind of vegetation, plants, crops, fruits and grass to provide food to the humans and the animals. Besides, the Qur’an gives us some practical examples how the Prophets and pious persons were actually shown the process of revival of the dead. To Prophet Jesus Christ, God gave miracle that he could raise the dead with God’s leave, while Prophet Abraham was shown the revival of the birds when he had killed them, and some other man (reportedly Uzair, the Prophet of Jews) was himself given death and was revived thereafter. The Holy Qur’an in the following verses highlights how resurrection of the dead would take place:

  1. And they swear by Allah their most binding oaths (that) Allah will not raise up him who dieth. Nay, but it is a promise (binding) upon Him in truth but most of mankind know not. That he may explain unto them that wherein they differ, and that those who disbelieved may know that they were liars. And our word unto a thing, when We intend it, is only that We say unto it: Be! and it is.  (16: An-Nahl:38-40)

  2. And they say: When we are bones and fragments, shall we, forsooth, be raised up as a new creation? Say: Be ye stones or iron. Or some created thing that is yet greater in your thoughts! Then they will say: Who shall bring us back (to life). Say: He Who created you at the first. Then will they shake their heads at thee, and say: When will it be? Say: it will perhaps be soon; A day when He will call you and ye will answer with His praise, and ye will think that ye have tarried but a little while.  (17:Bani Isra’il:49-52)

  3. And man saith: When I am dead, shall I forsooth be brought forth alive? Doth not man remember that We created him before, when he was naught? (19: Maryam:66-67)

  4. O mankind! If ye are in doubt concerning the Resurrection, then Lo! We have created you from dust, then from a drop of seed, then from a clot, then from a little lump of flesh shapely and shapeless, that We may make (it) clear for you. And We cause what we will to remain in the wombs for an appointed time, and afterward We bring you forth as infants, then (give you growth) that ye attain your full strength. And among you there is he who dieth (young), and among you there is he who is brought back to the most adject time of life, so that, after knowledge, he knoweth naught. And thou (Muhammad) seest the earth barren, but when We send down water thereon, it doth thrill and swell and put forth every lovely kind (of growth). That is because Allah, He is the Truth. Lo! He quickeneth the dead, and lo! He is Able to do all things; And because the Hour will come, there is no doubt thereof; and because Allah will raise those who are in the graves.   (22: Al-Hajj:5-7)

  5. And Allah it is who sendeth the winds and they raise a cloud; then We lead it unto a dead land and revive therewith the earth after its death. Such is the Resurrection.  (35: Al-Fatir:9)

  6. And the trumpet is blown and lo? from the graves they hie unto their Lord. Crying: Woe upon us! Who hath raised us from our place of sleep? This is that which the Beneficent did promise, and the messengers spoke truth.   (36:Ya Sin:51-52)

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The Judgement

After the resurrection, the people would be brought before God, the Almighty Lord of the universe and the Master of the Day of Judgement, Who would judge between them. Every soul on that day will find itself confronted with all that it has done of good and all that it has done of evil. No intercession will be accepted for evil-doers nor any compensation or ransom will be accepted from such people though it is earthful of gold.

On the Day of Judgment, Book of Records would be set up, the Prophets and the witnesses would be called, mankind would look as drunken (although actually not), the voices would be hushed and God would Judge between the men to reward the virtuous and punish the wicked.

The righteous will be given their statements of deeds in their right hand, while the sinners would be given their statements in their left hands. The former will be happy while the latter would be gloomy as the former would be successful and hopeful of reward while the latter would be fearful of the punishment. The sinners would desire to be sent back to the world so that they may do good deeds to earn their salvation but they would not be allowed.

The Prophets would be called upon as witnesses on their communities of followers. The records prepared by Kiram-al-Katibeen (the two angels deputed by God with each human being to prepare record of his life deeds) would be produced. Earth would also record her evidence. Even the tongues, hands and feet of a man would give evidence against him.

God would pass judgment and His judgment would be final. The virtuous would be rewarded and the wicked would be punished.

The Holy Qur’an presents a picture of the Day of Judgement in its following verses:

  1. And (bethink you of) the Day when We remove the hills and ye see the earth emerging, and We gather them together so as to leave not one of them behind. And they are set before thy Lord in ranks (and it is said unto them): Now verily have ye come unto Us as We created you at the first. But ye thought that We had set no tryst for you. And the book is placed, and thou seest the guilty fearful of that which is therein, and they say: What kind of a book is this that leaveth not a small thing nor a great thing but hath counted it! And they find all that they did confronting them, and thy Lord wrongeth no one.  (18: Al-Kahf:47-49)

  2. They will ask thee of the mountains (on that day). Say: My Lord will break them into scattered dust. And leave it as an empty plain. Wherein thou seest neither curve nor ruggedness. On that day they follow the summoner who deceiveth not, and voices are hushed for the Beneficent, and thou hearest but a faint murmur. On that Day no intercession availeth save (that of) him unto whom the Beneficent hath given leave and whose word He accepteth. He knoweth (all) that is before them and (all) that is behind them, while they cannot compass it in knowledge. And faces humble themselves before the Living, the Eternal. And he who beareth (a burden of) wrongdoing is indeed a failure (on that Day). And he who hath done some good works, being a believer, he feareth not injustice nor begrudging (of his wage).   (20:Ta Ha:105-112)

  3. And We set a just balance for the Day of Resurrection so that no soul is wronged in aught. Though it be of the weight of a grain of mustard seed, We bring it. And We suffice for reckoners.  (21:Al-Anbiya:47)

  4. On the day when their tongues and their hands and their feet testify against them as to what they used to do,   (24:An-Nur:24)

  5. And they esteem not Allah as He hath the right to be esteemed, when the whole earth is His handful on the Day of Resurrection, and the heavens are rolled in His right hand. Glorified is He and High Exalted from all that they ascribe as partner (unto Him). And the trumpet is blown, and all who are in the heavens, and the earth swoon away, save him whom Allah willeth. Then it is blown a second time, and behold them standing waiting! And the earth shineth with the light of her Lord, and the Book is set up, and the Prophets and the witnesses are brought, and it is judged between them with truth, and they are not wronged. And each soul is paid in full for what it did. And He is best aware of what they do. (39:Az-Zumar:67-70)

  6. The day when the sky will become as molten copper, And the hills become as flakes of wool, And no familiar friend will ask a question of his friend. Though they will be given sight of them. The guilty man will long to be able to ransom himself from the punishment of that day at the price of his children: And his spouse and his brother. And his kin that harboured him. And all that are in the earth, if then it might deliver him.  (70:Al-Ma’arij:8-14)

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III- Paradise and Hell

On the Day of Judgement those who are adjudged righteous and hence successful would be rewarded with paradise, while those who are adjudged as sinners and hence guilty would be punished with hell.

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On the Day of Judgment the righteous people would be rewarded with Paradise wherein they will enter and abide for ever. They may live then in the company of their parents, wives and children provided they are also pious and are rewarded with Paradise. They would be welcomed by Angels and would be greeted and served by beautiful females and handsome young male servants. They will wear green robes of finest silver and gold embroidery and armlets of gold. They would sit on thrones and lie in beautiful couches. They would take pure wine causing no intoxication.

Paradise, according to the Qur’an, is a garden as wide as are the heavens and the earth. It has every conceivable blessing underneath which rivers flow. Foods of all types, fruits of all varieties, pure wine, water springs, canals with flowing honey and milk, beautiful virgins with modest gaze and lovely eyes as pure as if they were hidden eggs, handsome boys, finest robes, thrones and couches of gold, etc. would be there in the Paradise in plenty. Its rightful owners are only those who believe and do good works. Those who donot believe and do evil deeds would never enter in it.

In its following verses, the Qur’an paints a very beautiful and attractive picture of Paradise and the life of its inhabitants:

  1. And give glad tidings (O Muhammad) unto those who believe and do good works; that theirs are Gardens underneath which rivers flow; as often as they are regaled with food of the fruits thereof they say: This is what was given us afore-time; and it is given to them in resemblance. There for them are pure companions; there for ever they abide.  (2: Al-Baqarah:25)

  2. And vie one with another for forgiveness from your Lord, and for a Paradise as wide as are the heavens and the earth, prepared for those who ward off (evil); (3: Al-Imran:133)

  3. And as for those who will be glad (that day) they will be in the Garden, abiding there so long as the heavens and the earth endure save for that which thy Lord willeth: a gift unfailing. (11: Hud:108)

  4. Gardens of Eden which they enter, along with all who do right of their fathers and their helpmates and their seed. The angels enter unto them from every gate. (Saying): Peace be unto you because ye persevered. Ah, passing sweet will be the sequel of the (heavenly) Home.  (13: Ar-Ra’d:23-24)

  5. Save single-minded slaves of Allah; For them there is a known provision, Fruits. And they will be honoured. In the Gardens of delight. On couches facing one another; A cup from a gushing spring is brought round for them. White, delicious to the drinkers, Wherein there is no headache nor are they made mad thereby. And with them are those of modest gaze, with lovely eyes, (Pure) as they were hidden eggs (of the ostrich).  (37: As-Saffat:40-49)

  6. O My slaves! For you there is no fear this day, nor is it ye who grieve; (ye) who believed Our revelations and were self-surrendered. Enter the Garden, ye and your wives, to be made glad. Therein are brought round for them trays of gold and goblets, and therein is all that souls desire and eyes find sweet. And ye are immortal therein. This is the Garden which ye are made to inherit because of what ye used to do. Therein for you is fruit in plenty whence to eat.  (43: Az-Zukhruf:68-73)

  7. Lo! Those who kept their duty will be in a place secure amid gardens and water-springs, Attired in silk and silk embroidery, facing one another. Even so (it will be). And We shall wed them unto fair ones with wide, lovely eyes. They call therein for every fruit in safety. They taste not death therein, save the first death. And He hath saved them from the doom of Hell, A bounty from thy Lord. That is the supreme triumph. (44: Ad-Dukhan:51-57)

  8. A similitude of the Garden which those who keep their duty (to Allah) are promised: Therein are rivers of water unpolluted, and rivers of milk whereof the flavour changeth not, and rivers of wine delicious to the drinkers, and rivers of clear-run honey; therein for them is every kind of fruit, with pardon from their Lord.  (47: Muhammad:15)

  9. Those are they who will be brought nigh. In gardens of delight; A multitude of those of old. And a few of those of later time. On lined couches. Reclining therein face to face. There wait on them immortal youths. With bowls and ewers and a cup ‘from a pure spring. Wherefrom they get no aching of the head nor any madness. And fruit that they prefer. And flesh of fowls that they desire. And (there are) fair ones with wide, lovely eyes, Like unto hidden pearls. Reward for, what they used to do. There hear they no vain speaking nor recrimination, (Naught) but the saying: Peace, (and again) Peace.  (56: Al-Waqi’ah:11-26)

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Those who disbelieve Allah, Allah’s messengers and scorn Allah’s revelations, those who do evil deeds and commit sins, those who transgress limits prescribed by Allah and violate Divine Laws, those who do not worship Allah alone and hold partners unto Him, those who follow the Satan and rebel against God, will be thrown into Hell after their deeds are judged on the Day of Judgment as they are the rightful owners of fire. They will dwell there for ever; their’s will be a shameful doom.

Hell is full of fire and all horrible and terrible things –which human mind can imagine – to punish the wrong – doers. When their skins are consumed by fire, they will be provided fresh skins to taste the torment. Theirs will be bed of Hell, and over them coverings of Hell; sighing and wailing will be their portion and they will be abiding therein so long as the heavens and the earth endure or God wills. They will be made to drink a festering water which one can sip but can hardly swallow. Death would come to them from every side while yet they cannot die. Garments of fire will be cut out for them; boiling fluid like molten lead will be thrown on their head. Wrong-doers from the humankind and the Jinn will enter Hell. It is so spacious that it would not be filled to its full and would cry for more.

Following verses of the Qur’an draw a horrible picture of Hell and of the life of those who would be thrown into it because of their sins and evil deeds:

  1. And whoso disobeyeth Allah and His messenger and transgresseth His limits, He will make him enter Fire where such will dwell for ever; his will be a shameful doom.   (4: An-Nisa:14)

  2. Lo! Those who disbelieve Our revelations, We shall expose them to the Fire. As often as their skins are consumed We shall exchange them for fresh skins that they may taste the torment. Lo! Allah is ever Mighty, Wise.  (4: An-Nisa:56)

  3. Theirs will be bed of Hell, and over them coverings (of Hell). Thus do We requite wrong-doers. (7: Al-A’raf:41)

  4. As for those who will be wretched (on that day) they will be in the Fire; sighing and wailing will be their portion therein. Abiding there so long as the heavens and the earth endure save for that which thy Lord willeth. Lo! thy Lord is Doer of what He will. (11:Hud:106-107)

  5. Hell is before him, and he is made to drink festering water. Which he sippeth but can hardly swallow, and death cometh unto him from every side while yet he cannot die, and before him is a harsh doom.  (14:Ibrahim:16-17)

  6. These twain (the believers and the disbelievers) are two opponents who contend concerning their Lord. But as for those who disbelieve, garments of fire will be cut out for them; boiling fluid will be pored down on their heads. Whereby that which is in their bellies, and their skins too, will be melted; And for them are booked rods of iron. Whenever in their anguish, they would go forth from thence they are driven back therein and (it is said unto them): Taste the doom of burning.  (22:Al-Hajj:19-22)

  7. And those who disbelieve are driven unto Hell in troops till, when they reach it and the gates thereof are opened, and the warders thereof say unto them: Came there not unto you messengers of your own, reciting unto you the revelations of your Lord and warning you of the meeting of this your Day? they say: Yea verily. But the word of doom for disbelievers is fulfilled. It is said (unto them): Enter ye the gates of Hell to dwell therein. Thus hapless is the journey’s end of the scorners.    (39: Az-Zumar:71-72)

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