10 Nov Belief in The Hereafter: Part 4
Stages of Life in the Hereafter
Sirat is used to mean a bridge or road laid across Hell. Everybody, whether a believer or an unbeliever, will cross this bridge.
It is stated in the hadiths of the Prophet (PBUH) that in accordance with their deeds some of the believers will cross it like lightning, some like wind, and some creeping, that all of the unbelievers and some of the believers whose sins are not forgiven will be thrown into Hell. Those crossing Sirat will enter Paradise (Bukhari, Riqaq, 52).
It is stated in the Quran that everybody will come round to Hell:
“Not one of you but will pass over it: this is, with thy Lord, a Decree which must be accomplished. But We shall save those who guarded against evil, and We shall leave the wrongdoers therein, (humbled) to their knees.” (Maryam, 71-72).
Sirat will definitely be in the form that Allah and His Messenger informed us and in the state that Allah knows and wishes. This bridge stretching across Hell to Paradise is in fact a bridge that man constructs during his life in the world with belief and good deeds. The deeds of man in this world come as a bridge in front of him in the hereafter. As a matter of fact we cross Sirat in this world. That is, we deserve to cross Sirat in this world by believing in the fundamentals of belief and by doing good deeds. Those who believe and do good deeds in the world will be able to cross it and those who do not believe and do not do good deeds will not be able to cross it.
As a matter of fact, since the hereafter world is a world of ghaib (unknown unseen, unfelt), we cannot understand the happenings there while we are in this world with our limited mind and organs. As the world and everything in it is ghaib for an unborn baby in the uterus the hereafter world is ghaib for us. Therefore we can only know the existence of Sirat bridge through the revelation Allah sends to His Messenger. However, we cannot understand its true nature.
A verse: “No intercessor (can plead with Him) except after His leave (hath been obtained).”(Yunus, 3).
Allah addresses us, men, in a style we can understand. He tells us about the unknown concepts related to life in the hereafter like Trumpet, Book of Deeds, Pool, Sirat, Scale, etc using the names of the objects we know in the world. Actually there are no relations or similarities between the beings there and those here. For instance, there are no similarities but similarities of name between Sirat bridge and the bridges in the world, the scale there and the scales here, the trumpet there and the trumpets and bugles here, the books there and the books here. Allah knows the true nature of them.
11. Intercession (Shafaat):
It means for the believers who have sins to ask prophets, ulama (scholars) and martyrs, whom Allah allowed to intercede, to pray and beg Allah for their forgiveness and for those who do not have any sins to ask for ascension to higher degrees.
The Quran gives special significance to intercession and connects it with the issue of oneness. Some of the Quranic verses related to this issue are as follows:
“O Who is there can intercede in His presence except as He permitteth?” (al-Baqara, 255).
“They offer no intercession except for those who are acceptable” (al-Anbiya, 28).
Allah can consent to the intercession of only His slaves who deserve to be forgiven as a necessity of His divine justice. The Prophet said the following in a hadith:
“Every prophet has a prayer peculiar to him that is accepted, and they have always prayed. However, I keep my prayer for the intercession for my umma in the hereafter.” (Bukhari, Daawat, 1).
However, Muslims should not rely on the intercession and show laziness in applying the orders and the prohibitions of the religion, and they should never leave them. On the contrary, they should make a greater effort to act in accordance with those orders and prohibitions in order to deserve intercession. Or else, they may be deprived of intercession.
12. Purgatory (Araf)
Araf is the name given to the high castle and tower separating Paradise and Hell. In other words, Araf is a buffer zone between Paradise and Hell, separating them. There are some disputes over who will be the people of Araf; there are two views that became prominent.
1. People who were not informed about the call of any prophets and children of polytheists who died very young.
2. Believers whose good deeds and bad deeds are equal. They will have to wait between Paradise and Hell before they enter Paradise.
The followings is stated in the Quranic verse about the people of Araf:
“Between them shall be a veil, and on the Heights will be men who would know everyone by his marks: they will call out to the companions of the Garden “peace on you” they will not have entered, but they will have an assurance (thereof.) When their eyes shall be turned towards the companions of the Fire, they will say: “Our Lord! Send us not to the company of the wrong- doers.” (al-Araf 46-47.).
However, Araf is not a place of permanent resident. After making the people of Araf wait there for a while temporarily, Allah will make a decision for them and send them to Paradise with his blessing.
Hell is a place of torture where unbelievers will stay continuously and where sinful believers will be punished and stay temporarily in accordance with their sins.
When we have a look at all of the verses about Hell in the Quran, we understand the following from their meanings concisely: Although fire punishment forms the main punishment in hell, it is a vast place of punishment where, spiritual and material, what we can think of and what we cannot think of, all kinds of anguish, pain, torture that influence all of the feelings of man are present.
Unbelievers will stay in Hell eternally and they will never be able to leave Hell. As for sinful believers, they will suffer punishment in accordance with their sins and then they will be taken out of Hell and sent to Paradise.
As it happens in all stages of life in the hereafter, the spirit and the body together will suffer Hell torture. However, the pain, anguish, agony, torture, fire, etc cannot be likened to those in this world. Only Allah knows their true nature and inside; it is impossible for men to know them in this world.
Paradise is a place in the hereafter which is adorned with various blessings and which believers will live eternally.
When we examine the Quran, we see that the Quran describes Paradise and the people of Paradise as follows: Paradise is a place whose width is that of the heavens and of the earth; and a place where neither excessive heat nor excessive cold is present. There are rivers of clean water, rivers of incorruptible milk and pure honey, a fresh water spring with a scent of ginger and a drink that leaves the scent of musk after drinking. Paradise wine is a kind of drink that does not give headache nor makes drunk; it gives joy to drinkers and it comes out of a snow-white spring. It does not make drunk or give headache, it does not tempt people to commit sins, or make people do nonsense things. There are various fruits, dates, pomegranates, grapevines, cedar trees without thorns, banana-trees with fruits piled one above another and various bird flesh. (Aal-e-Imran, 3/133; al-Insan, 76/13, 18; Muhammad, 47/15; al-Mutaffifin, 83/25-26; as-Saaffat, 37/45-47; al-Waqia, 56/21, 28-29; at-Tur, 52/23; ar-Rahman, 55/68; an-Naba, 78/32.)
The clothes of the people of Paradise are of fine silk and heavy brocade; their adornments are of gold, their houses are beautiful, immortal youths walk around them to serve them, these youths are thought to be scattered pearls because of their beauties; they will pass round dishes and goblets of gold. There will be there all that the souls could desire all that the eyes could delight in. there are mansions built one above another beneath which flow rivers. There are pure companions with special creation. They and their associates will be in pleasant shade, reclining on thrones. The people of Paradise whose spite in their hearts were taken away by Allah sit facing each other on thrones as brothers. There is no tiredness or inconvenience here for them. They will not hear any vanity or untruth. (Ak-Kahf, 21, 31; al-Insan, 19, 21; al-Hajj, 23; al-Fatır, 33; at-Tauba, 72; az-Zukhruf, 71; az-Zumar, 20; al-Baqara, 25; al-Waqia, 35-38; as-Saaffat, 48-49; an-Naba, 33, 35; Ya Seen, 56; al-Hijr, 47.)
Paradise blessings are so beautiful that man’s mind and imagination cannot envisage them. There are all kinds of immaterial and material, bodily and spiritual tastes and joys with all details there. When Allah mentions the blessings there, He explains them by likening them to the worldly blessings so that we can understand them. As a matter of fact, only their names resemble the blessings here, not any other qualities. They are unique blessings prepared in accordance with the conditions of Paradise not the conditions of the world. The Prophet explains the blessings of Paradise in a divine hadith as follows:
“Allah said, “I have prepared for My righteous slaves such excellent things as no eye has ever seen, nor an ear has ever heard nor a human heart can ever think of.” (Bukhari, Tafseer, sura 32; Tawheed, 35; Muslim, Jannah, 1; Tirmizi, Tafseer, sura 32).
No doubt, the greatest blessing in Paradise is to receive the consent of Allah and to see Allah. The following is stated in the Quran related to this issue:
“…the greatest bliss is in the Good Pleasure of Allah: that is the Supreme Felicity.” (At-Tauba, 72).
On the other hand, believers in the hereafter will see Allah after they enter Paradise. There is no definite information about the true nature and quality of this sight.
The following is stated in a verse in the Quran: “Some faces, that Day, will beam (in brightness and beauty)― Looking towards their Lord.” (Al-Qiyama, 22-23.).
Our Prophet (PBUH) says the following when talking about how believers will see Allah:
“Certainly you will see your Lord as you see this moon.” (Bukhari, Mawakit, 16; Tawheed, 24; Muslim, Eeman, 81; Tirmizi, Jannah, 15).
Paradise and the life there is eternal and the people of Paradise will live there eternally. What makes Paradise and what makes the life there valuable is the fact that it is eternal and immortal. If Paradise were temporary and mortal like this world and if there were death there, it would not have any value in spite of all of its beauties and advantageous blessings. So, eternity and immortality alone are great blessings in Paradise; and what makes Paradise valuable is this property.
We should not forget that Paradise is obtained in this world. To obtain Paradise it is necessary to believe in the existence and oneness of Allah, His angels, His books, His prophets, Day of Judgment, decree and destiny; to do good deeds in accordance with the Quran and the sunnah of the Prophet (PBUH) encompassed by the consent of Allah and to live in accordance with Islamic ethic. There is no other way of salvation. Therefore we should all make a great effort in this world to obtain Paradise. May Allah let all of us enter Paradise and live there eternally reaching His consent. Amen.