Relation Between This Life and the Next
A very basic point to which the revealed Books have drawn our attention is the relation between the life of these two worlds. The life of the next world is inseparable from the life of this world. The seed of the life after death is sown in this world by man himself, who determines in this life what is going to happen to him in the next life.
Pure faith, correct belief, realistic conception of the world, excellent human habits free from jealousy, cheating, malice, hatred and fraud, as well as the good deeds conducive to the development of the individual and society performed with sincerity of purpose, are the things which ensure happy eternal life. In contrast, disbelief, wrong conceptions, dirty habits, selfishness, self-importance, self-conceitedness, tyranny, oppression, hypocrisy, taking usury, telling lies, calumny, back-biting, fault-finding, creating rift, abstention from the worship of the Creator and other similar qualities and habits are the things which make one's life very miserable in the next world.
There is a beautiful saying of the Holy Prophet. He said:
"This world is the cultivation field of the next world. As you sow in this world, so you will reap in the next."
AS it is not possible for anyone to sow barley and reap wheat, to sow thorns and pluck flowers, or to sow colocynth and pick dates, similarly it is also impossible for a man whose conduct is bad in this world, to be happy and comfortable in the next.
Embodiment and Eternity of Human Deeds
It is gathered from the Holy Quran and the sayings of the Imams that not only man continues to exist after his death, but his deeds and works are also so preserved that they do not disappear. In his post-Resurrection life man will see all his past deeds depicted and embodied. Good deeds will have very beautiful, attractive and pleasing forms. They will be a source of delight and enjoyment. The forms of the evil deeds will be very ugly, repulsive and horrible. They will be a source of pain, suffering and torture.
Here we confine ourselves to the mention of three verses of the Quran and two sayings of the Holy Prophet in this connection:
(i) "On the Day when every soul will find itself confronted with all that it has done of good and all that it has done of evil. Every soul will long that there might be a mighty space between it and that evil." (Surah Ale Imran, 3 : 30)
This verse expressly says that man will find before him the actual good and bad deeds of his. The good deeds will be presented in pleasing and attractive forms, but the forms in which bad deeds will appear will be so repulsive and loathsome, that man would like to remove them from his sight or to run away from them. But he would not be able to do either, because in that world man's deeds are almost a part of his existence and cannot be separated from him.
(ii) "They will find before them whatever they did in this world." (Surah al-Kahf, 18 : 49)
This verse says exactly the same thing as the previous one.
(iii) "That day mankind will issue forth in scattered groups to be shown their deeds (in the display centre of the deeds). And whosoever does an atom's weight of good will see it then, and whosoever does an atom's weight of evil will see it then." (Surah Zilzal, 99:6-8)
Man is immortal and eternal, and so are his deeds and works. In the next world he will be living with the deeds with which he has lived in this world. Man's deeds are his good or bad assets. It depends on them whether his everlasting life in the next world will be happy or miserable.
Some Muslims who came from a distant place were received by the Holy Prophet. In the course of their conversation with him they asked the Holy Prophet to prescribe for them some useful rules of conduct. Among other things the Holy Prophet counselled them to take immediate action to choose good companions for the next world, where the living companions of everybody would be the embodiments of his own deeds.
A man who has a belief in the eternal life of the next world is always very particular about his thoughts, habits and actions, for he knows that these things should not be looked upon as transient affairs. They constitute his baggage which he sends to the next world in advance. He will have to live with it.
Common and Uncommon Points of This Life and the Next
A point common to the life of this world and to the life of the next is that both the lives are real and exist actually. In both the lives man is conscious of himself and whatever relates to him. In both the lives he feels pain and pleasure and is happy and miserable. In both the lives his actions are governed by his instincts, both animal and purely human. In both the lives he lives with his body and all his limbs and organs. Anyhow, there are some basic differences also.
In this world there is a system of procreation and reproduction as well as that of childhood, youth and old age followed by death. These systems do not exist in the next world. In this world it is necessary to work, to sow seeds and prepare the ground. In the next world that which was sown in this world will be reaped. This world is the place of doing work and the next world is the place of drawing results and giving account. In this world man can change his destiny by changing the course of his actions. In the next world there is no such possibility. In this world life is mixed with death. Every life is entwined with lifeless matter. In addition to that, the dead comes out of the living and the living comes out of the dead. The lifeless matter under certain conditions turns into the living organism and the living organism turns into the lifeless matter. But in that world pure life prevails. The matter of that world is also living. The earth and the sky of that world are living. The gardens and their fruits are living as much as man's own embodied works. The fire and its chastisement are also living and conscious. Here everything is governed by its causes and spatial and temporal conditions. This world is that of motion and development. In that world there exist only Divine Will and Divine sovereignty. There man's perception and his consciousness are stronger and his faculties of sight and hearing sharper than in this world. In other words, there the curtains will be lifted and man will see the inner truths far better. The Holy Quran says:
"Now we have removed from you your covering and piercing is your sight this day." (Surah Qaf, 55:22)
Here in this world man always had a feeling of being dejected, tired and fed up, especially of monotony. It appears as if he has lost something and is looking for it. Anything he comes across he takes it to be his lost thing, and feels happy for a while. But soon he realizes that it is not what he wanted. He again begins to feel dejected and goes after something else. Man always wants something which he has not and is fed up with that which he has.
But in the next world, where man will get what he has wanted from the depth of his heart and what he has really missed, that is eternal life in the proximity of Allah, there will be no question of being tired, fed up or dejected. The Qur'an hints at this very point when it says:
"They have no desire to be removed from there." (Surah al-Khaf, 18:108)
Unlike this world, in the next world people will not wish any change. In spite of abiding in Paradise forever, its inmates will never be bored. As everything they may desire will be available to them, they will not be troubled by any unsatisfied craving.
Arguments of the Quran
Although our belief in Resurrection is a corollary of our belief in the Holy Quran and the teachings of the Prophets and hence it is not necessary to advance any arguments or to produce any scientific evidence in respect of it, yet in view of the fact that the Qur'an itself in order to impress the point logically on our minds, has put forward some arguments, we propose to mention them here briefly.
The arguments of the Quran consist of a series of replies to those who denied Resurrection. Some of these replies have been given to show that there is nothing wrong with the idea of Resurrection. They have been given to those who claimed that Resurrection was impossible to take place. Some other verses go a step further and say that even in this world there exist certain phenomena resembling Resurrection and hence there is no reason why it should be regarded as impossible or improbable. Some verses go even further and declare that Resurrection is an inevitable and natural result of the judicious scheme of the creation of the universe. Thus these verses can be arranged into three groups. We mention them here one by one.
I. The Holy Quran says:
"He has coined for Us a similitude and forgotten the fact of his creation, saying: 'Who will revive them bones when they have rotten away.' Say: 'He will revive them who produced them for the first time. He is the Knower of every creation." (Surah Yasin 36 : 78)
This verse is in reply to that disbeliever who came to the Holy Prophet with a rotten bone in his hand. He pressed the bone and powdered it. Then he scattered the powder in the air. Thereafter he asked: 'Who will revive these scattered particles'. The Quran answers: 'He who created the bones at the first. '
Sometimes man judges the things by the standard of his own capacity and on this basis divides them into those that are possible and those that are impossible. When he finds a thing to be beyond his power he declares it to be impossible in itself. The Qur'an says that to accomplish a thing may be impossible for man, but that cannot be impossible for the Power that created life in the dead matter for the first time. For that Power it is possible to revive the dead also.
II. The second group of the verses which mention some instances of the revival is further divided into two sets of verses.
" There are verses which recount a particular event of the past when a dead body was revived, like the verses which narrate the story of Prophet Ibrahim, who said to Allah:
"My Lord, show me how You give life to the dead. He said: 'Do you not believe? 'Ibrahim said: 'Yes, but I ask in order that my heart be at ease.' His Lord said: 'Take four of the birds, cut off their heads and cut their bodies into pieces. Then place a part of them on each hill. Then call those birds. You will see that the birds will come to life and will rush to you." (Surah al Baqarah 2 : 260)
" There are other verses which are not based on any supernatural event. They cite the existing system known to everybody. The grass which withers and dies during autumn and winter again comes to life during spring. As it is observed by everybody, the earth after being verdant and full of life loses its vitality and vigor and dies, and when the conditions change with the change of season, it once again comes to life and the plants, the trees and the grass begin to thrive and blossom. A time will come when the entire system of the world will shrivel and dry up. The sun and the stars will be blown up. The whole world will die, but not for ever. Everything will come to life again, though in a different form and under different conditions.
At present we, human beings live on the earth. We see that in 365 days the earth passes through a cycle of death and life. Normally we live up to 50, 60 or 70 and sometime even up to 100 years or more. During this period we see this cycle of life and death dozens of times. That is why it causes us no surprise that the earth dies and again comes to life. Suppose the duration of our life had been only a few months as is the case with some insects, and suppose we had not known how to read and were not aware of the annual revolution of the earth, we would not have believed that the dead earth comes to life again, because we would not have observed this phenomenon. Naturally for a mosquito that appears in the spring and dies in the autumn and winter the conception of the renewal of the life of a garden is unimaginable.
Can a worm living in a tree or a mosquito living in a garden, whose entire world is that tree or that garden, imagine that that tree or that garden is a subordinate part of a bigger system called farm, that farm in its turn is a part of another system called district, that district is a part of another system called province, that province is a part of another system called country, that country is a part of another system called the system of the earth and that the earth is a part of our solar system?
How can we be sure that our solar system, the stars and the galaxies of which we know are not a part of an overall bigger system? May be that millions and billions years of the existence of the universe known to us are equivalent to just a part or just a day of an overall season. May be that the present season of life is to be followed by another season of silence and dullness, and thereafter once again the entire system including our solar system, the stars and the galaxies will acquire a new lease of life in some other form.
The Prophets have told us on behalf of Allah of an all round destruction and silence followed by a new life and the Resurrection of the dead under a new system. As we are sure of their truthfulness, we believe what they have said is true, including what they have said about the universal renewal of life.
The Qur'an has cited an example of the system of life and death on the face of the earth so that we may regard it as a small specimen of the universal system of life and may not think that Resurrection is improbable and inconsistent with the total system of creation.
The Qur'an says that Resurrection is a renewal of life and the renewal of life is a thing of which a small specimen we see on the face of the earth. The Holy Prophet has said:
"When you see the spring, think much of Resurrection."
In other words the spring is a specimen of Resurrection.
"Spring time after the falling of leaves from the trees is a proof of the Resurrection. Fire, air, clouds, water and sun dispel many illusions. In the spring season many mysteries are unveiled. The earth springs up what it has absorbed."
There are so many Qur'anic verses which cite the existing system of life and death as evidence:
"Allah it is who sends the winds and they raise a cloud; then We lead it to a dead land and revive therewith the earth after its death. Such is the Resurrection." (Surah Fatir 35 : 9)
"You see the earth barren, but when We send down water thereon, it does thrill and swell and put forth every lovely kind of growth. That is because only Allah is the Truth. He brings the dead to life. Surely He is Able to do everything. And surely the Hour will come. There is no doubt about that. And Allah will surely raise those who are in the graves." (Surah al-Hajj 22:5-7)
There are many other verses which consider Resurrection a part of the system of life and death prevailing in the universe. We see a small specimen of Resurrection ourselves on the face of the earth. Here we confine ourselves to quoting two verses only. These verses differ from the verses of the first set in as much as these verses do not exclusively rely on Allah's ability. They also cite a specimen resembling Resurrection to show that in the perceptible world also Allah's Power has been manifesting itself on the same pattern.
The third group of verses describes the Resurrection as inevitable. Should there be no Resurrection that would amount to something improper on Allah's part. This point has been elaborated in two ways:
" On the Basis of Divine Justice - Allah bestows on every creation of His what that creation deserves and what is befitting of that creation;
" On the basis of Infinite Divine Wisdom - Allah has created everything for a purpose. The Divine wisdom requires that everything should be led to its appropriate perfection and target.
The Qur'an says that it would be a sort of injustice if there were no Resurrection, eternal life, ever-lasting bliss and Divine retribution, and injustice cannot be imputed to Allah because that would be contrary to the principle of Divine justice. It also says that if there was no eternal life the creation would be futile, and it is wrong to say that Allah does anything in vain.
There are so many verses in which return to Allah and eternal life have been described as inevitable and unfailing either because of Divine justice or because of Divine wisdom.
Here we quote verses from two surahs of the Qur'an in which the argument has been based either on Divine justice or Divine wisdom or both.
(i) The Holy Quran, after declaring that those who deviate from the right path and forget the Day of Reckoning will be severely punished, says:
"We created not the heavens and the earth and all that is between them in vain. That is the opinion of those who disbelieve. And woe unto those who disbelieve from the Fire. Shall We regard those who believe and do good works as those who spread corruption in the earth or shall we treat the pious as the wicked?" (Surah Sad, 38:27-28)
As we see, in the first one of these two verses the argument is based on Divine wisdom and sensibility of the creation and in the second verse it is based on Divine justice.
II. In the first of these two verses a reference has been made to the principle of justice and in the second to the principle of wisdom. Then in the second verse also Divine justice has been mentioned once again and described as the ultimate aim of the Resurrection.
"Do those who commit evil deeds suppose that We shall make them as those who believe and do good deeds, while their life and death is just the same? Bad is their judgement! And Allah has created the heavens and the earth with truth, and that everyone may be repaid what he has earned. And they will not be wronged." (Surah al Jathiyah, 45:21 - 22)
Explanation: Here it is necessary to give an explanation as to how the two principles of Divine justice and Divine wisdom necessitate eternal life, and how it is that if we presume that the limited life of this world is not going to be followed by an eternal life, the creation of man cannot be justified, neither from the angle of Divine justice nor from that of Divine wisdom. Let us begin with Divine justice.
Divine Justice: Justice in its wider sense means to render everyone his due without any discrimination. As it is against justice not to give anyone his due, it is also against justice to make discrimination in this regard and to give what is their due to some and not to give it to some others.
It would be injustice if a teacher at the time of examination gives to the students less marks than they deserve or gives to some of them as many as they deserve but gives to some other less.
Justice is in a way concomitant with equality, which means to treat all equally and not to believe in discrimination. Such an equality results in justice, that is giving everyone as much as is his due. But equality in giving in disregard of what is due and how much is due is tantamount to injustice. Similarly equality in withholding is also contrary to justice. It is also objectionable to deprive all of what is due to them without any discrimination.
As such Divine justice means that the blessing of Allah is extended to every existing thing in accordance with the degree of its potential capacity and ability to receive it. If any existing thing lacks some quality that means that under the existing conditions it has not the capacity of possessing it.
We may further say that it would have been contrary to Divine justice if favors befitting their potential capacity were permanently withheld from any existing things. Justice requires that favours appropriate to and commensurate with their ability and merit should be conferred on all existing things without any discrimination.
Among existing things man has been furnished with a especially high degree of capacity and potentiality. Man is not motivated merely by his animal instincts and propensities. Animals have only those instincts which are related to their material life. On the other hand, man has, as we explained earlier, certain higher instincts also, which are of the level of eternity and not of this world.
Man has moral, scientific, aesthetic and religious motives. He accomplishes so many things under the impact of these motives, and sometimes even sacrifices his material and animal life for the sake of his high human objectives.
It is man who sets up, in the words of the Qur'an, his system of actions' on the basis of faith and good deeds, and aims at attaining eternal life and Allah's good pleasure. The idea of eternity and a desire to achieve it; His instincts push him in that direction.
All this indicates that man is capable of being eternal, and that his soul is not material. This means that in this world man is like an embryo. A fetus in the mother's womb is furnished with certain systems and faculties, such as respiratory system, circulatory system, nervous system, reproductive system, hearing system and the system of vision.
But all these systems are in keeping only with the requirements of the post-natal world. They are not consistent with the temporary nine-month life of the womb.
It is true that in this world also man is benefitted by the system of faith and good deeds. But this benefit is of secondary importance. Actually this system is tantamount to a seed which can grow and bear fruit only in the happy eternal life. In other words, the real significance of this system is only in relation with the life of the other world.
Not only in the system of faith and good deeds man soars above nature and scatters the seeds of supernatural relations but also in the opposite system called by the Quran the system of disbelief and wickedness his actions go outside the domain of natural calculations and physical needs, and acquire spiritual and eternal aspect, although in a devious way. Thus the disbelievers and the wicked also in a way become fit to attain eternal life, but unfortunately their eternal life brings to them pain and grief and in religious terms, consigns them to Hell.
If man does not move in the orbit of faith and good deeds, it is not that he confines himself to the orbit of the animals, but he falls below zero. In the words of the Qur'an such people are lower in rank and more erroneous than the animals.
Should there be no eternal life, those who work under the system of faith and good deeds and those who work under the opposite system will be like the students some of whom did their duty well and some of whom wasted their time in joking and gossip, but the teacher treated them all alike and gave no marks to anyone of them. This whole-sale depriving obviously is bad and against the principle of justice.
To explain this point in simpler terms it may be said that Allah has called people to faith and piety.
Some people have accepted this call and modified their conduct, their way of thinking and their moral system accordingly. Some others have not responded to the call and have taken to evil-doing and corruption. But in this world we see no such system wherein all good deeds be rewarded and all wicked men be punished. Therefore there must be another world where the righteous and the wicked could be reattributed according to their deeds. Otherwise, there can be no Divine justice.
Divine Wisdom: Our acts that are the acts of the human beings are of two kinds:
I. Frivolous Acts, which are of no real advantage to us and are ineffectual in helping us attain the virtues latent in us;
II. Wise and Rational Acts, which produce good results and help us, attain the befitting virtues.
The first kinds of acts are futile and meaningless and the second kinds of acts are wise and judicious. As such our wise acts are those which lead us to a perfection befitting us. Now what about the wise acts of Allah? Are His wise acts also those which lead Him to perfection and His frivolous acts those which do not lead Him to perfection? No, that is not valid in the case of Allah, who is above all needs, wants and imperfections. Whatever He does is His favour, blessing and benevolence.
He does not do anything to meet any need of His or to gain anything for Himself. His wise acts are those which lead any of His creation to a perfection befitting it. A futile act may be imputed to Him only in the sense that He may create something and may not lead it to a perfection befitting it. Thus the conception of wisdom in respect of Allah is different from that which applies to man.
Wisdom of man consists in his sagacity and his taking steps to advance towards human perfection. Wisdom of Allah consists in leading His creation to perfection befitting it or, in other words, creating things on the basis of pushing them to a goal befitting them.
As wisdom in so far as it concerns man, means his doing things with a view to achieve his own betterment, it is not necessary that there should be any real relationship between what he does and the result that he desires. In other words, it is not necessary that the desired result should be a natural consequence of his actions or that it should be regarded as the merit of his actions. For example, man makes so many useful things of clay, wood, stone, metal, leather, wool, cotton etc.
and obtains sensible results. For instance, he makes a chair, a house, a motor car or some cloth. But a chair cannot be considered a merit of wood, nor a house a merit of stones, bricks and mortar, nor a motor car of a number of different metals used in its manufacture, for these stuffs themselves do not move towards their final forms and shapes. Of course, the results which man obtains from these products such as sitting on the chair, living in the house, moving in the car or wearing the clothes may be regarded as his merit or at least something useful to him.
In the case of Allah, on the other hand, there exists a real and natural relationship between His action and the results which they produce. In other words, the result of every action of His is really a merit of that action. As we see, every seed and every grain in this world moves itself to its goal and its best form.
Now the position is that this world and everything in it is unstable and liable to a change. Any final shape of anything which we may take into consideration is not final, and is liable to a change in its turn. In other words, everything is temporary, transient and will come to an end. All stages of nature are halting places on the way and none of them is the final destination.
From here some people have got the idea that the creation has no definite purpose or plan. The world is a caravan which is always on the move, going from one stage to another. Obviously a journey can be meaningful only if it has some destination in view. A journey can have no meaning if all destinations are no more than halting places and there is no possibility of finally reaching anywhere.
As every existence in the world is followed by its non-existence and every construction is followed by its destruction, the whole system governing the world is nothing but bewilderment and a repetition of what has already been repeated. Thus the whole system of life and existence is based on frivolity.
The Qur'an's reply is that this specious argument would have been correct if there had been this world alone, all births had ended in death and the fate of all that grew and bloomed had been to dry up and vanish. But such a view is short sighted and based on the presumption that life is confined to this world, while the fact is that life is not so confined. This world is the First Day. It will be followed by the Last Day. As Imam Ali has put it:
"This world is the abode of passing and the next world will be the abode of staying".
It is the next world which gives a meaning to the present world. It is the next world which is the destination and which gives a meaning to the motion and the hustle and bustle of this world.
Had not there been the next world, which is eternal, there would have been no final destination, this world would have been a sort of labyrinth, and the creation, in the words of the Qur'an, would have been in vain, futile and a mere pastime. But the Prophets have come to remove any doubts in this respect and to acquaint us with the truth, the ignorance of which would have made the entire world meaningless in our eyes. With the fixation of this idea of frivolity in our minds, our own existence becomes meaningless and to no purpose. One effect of the belief in the next world is that it delivers us from thinking that our existence has no purpose and gives a meaning to ourselves, our thinking and our life.