Death & The Hereafter
When God created people, He intended that they would live forever and not simply vanish after their time span on earth expires. Surely all men and women will taste death on earth. Some people will live long life-spans, some quite short, some ranging between the two, but all have spans that nonetheless come to an end. Yet death is a doorway to the Hereafter, not the end of all. Life on earth is considered one stage of the long road of human existence. This worldly life, however, is extremely important, for it is the only chance in which one can demonstrate faith in God and morality; it is an arena of trials that test our beliefs and our resolve to keep to them.
Those who persevere faithfully, Heaven awaits them in the Hereafter (“Janna” in Arabic): an abode that is immensely beautiful, peaceful, and so sublime that our earthly senses cannot possibly perceive them at present. The Quran offers glimpses of Heaven, of God’s generosity: running rivers; fantastic lush gardens, the grandest trees, banquets of delectable food and drink, endless estates, gushing springs, cushions of brocade, virtuous and lovely companions; people living forever without malice, jealousy, evil, lies, and envy that, as we all know, can insult, offend, and break hearts. Callousness, competition, back-stabbing, and ignorance are not just gone, but impossible in Heaven. Instead, there is profound intelligence far beyond what our minds can even imagine now; there are no obligations, only complete freedom and whatever a person desires. People experience closeness to God and the right to gaze upon His Divine Countenance. All of this without end, without aging, boredom, or any kind of burden, duty, work, pain, or sickness. What is astonishing is that any description that has ever been revealed about Heaven in any of the scriptures are, at best, glimpses. The Prophet Muhammad said that in Heaven one finds what no eye has ever beheld or what no ear has ever heard, or what never has come to anyone’s mind. This is for those who are faithful and patient in this very brief life.
There is also Hell, the unrelenting chastisement, for those who chose to deny God, ridicule or reject His Prophets and teachings, and live with lewdness, never repenting or turning their lives around. Hell is an inferno of fire whose evils and pains are beyond imagination. Its inhabitants live with pain, humiliation, and terrible regret. But whatever a person’s past may be like, one has recourse to God’s forgiveness and mercy. God’s mercy outstrips His anger. So the Quran frequently invites people to seek out God and ask for His mercy, for God loves to forgive and is infinitely generous with mercy.