Summary of 4.10 "Signs of the Hour"
As far as the final day as we mentioned before the sky would be unveiled or opened, the stars will be dispersed, the oceans will burst into fire, mountains will vanish or be thrown around like flakes of teased wood, the earth will have severe earthquakes but above all, all people who lived on this earth at any point in history will be resurrected. Again like we discussed before, this is not a matter that we can measure materially as God is able to raise all people who lived throughout history. The Quran makes it clear to us for example in (80:34) that this would be a day when everybody would be worried about himself and the terror, fear and apprehension will be so prominent that they wont think much about his closest relatives let alone friends. It will be a very stressful day and in chapter 22 it gives an explanation of that day that even a mother who nurses her baby would forget about her baby. This shows that this is not a picnic and is a day when everybody will be apprehensive as to what their final destiny will look like.
4.11 Accountability, Paradise and Hellfire
Host: How does this come to an end and what marks the beginning of The Day of Judgment?
In one of the sayings of Prophet Muhammad he says that people will be so stressed and worried that they go to some of the prophets and they will ask them to plead with God to get it over with and get it started. They will go to Prophet Moses and other prophets and each of them even though they are great and respected Prophets the situation is so ominous they would say that they don’t feel fit enough to do so. So people end up going to Prophet Muhammad (PBUH) and they plead with him to plead with God. Prophet Muhammad would then pray to God to get things over and start the accountability. This saying of the Prophet (PBUH) is consistent with one verse in the Quran in (17:79) in which it addresses Prophet Muhammad telling him to wake up and make night prayers (it is very difficult to wake up in the middle of the night to pray) then it says that maybe as a result of this God will raise you up on The Day of Judgment in an honored and high state. Many interpreters explain this high state of that which will allow him to intercede on behalf all of humanity to start the process of judgment.
Host: Is there anything in the Quran that explains the nature of the judgment and what will happen?
There are plenty of references to this in the Quran because of the belief in The Day of Judgment and the belief in the life hereafter is a very integral component in the Muslim belief which tremendously affects his attitude and perspective on life.
The first thing that should be emphasized is that the judgment is done with full justice. We find numerous references in the Quran for example (40:17) “no injustice will there be that Day.” In another widely quoted verse in (18:49)* “And not one will thy Lord treat with injustice.” The Quran also says that God would not do the least injustice, not even a portion of an atom of injustice in (4:40)**. We find the same thing in (10:44) which also emphasizes that no injustice will be done to anyone.
In fact things will be so clear on The Day of Judgment that it is possible that a human being would be appointed as his own judge. There is an interesting concept that we find in the Quran about the book of deeds for example in (17:13-14) “Every man’s fate We have fastened on his own neck: On the Day of Judgment We shall bring out for him a scroll, which he will see spread open.(It will be said to him:) “Read thine (own) record: Sufficient is thy soul this day to make out an account against thee.”
In any judgment there is the question of evidence that will be presented. The evidence is the book of deeds. And if one recalls when we were discussing the topic on angels and that some of the functions of angels is to keep track of our deeds. For example we find in (82:10-12) that God has appointed guardian angels who know everything that one does. In (50:18) it also talks about angels who would not be unaware of a single word that one may utter. In that cense the evidence is that book of deeds. In (18:49)* it says that the book is put forward and one finds that the wicked are very apprehensive of what it contains and they say “Ah! woe to us! what a Book is this! It leaves out nothing small or great, but takes account thereof!” So in terms of comprehensive evidence will be presented of both good and evil deeds.
Another interesting thing that we find in the Quran is that there are witnesses and they are ones own organs. Interesting enough we find in (24:24) “On the Day when their tongues, their hands, and their feet will bear witness against them as to their actions.” In other words the tongue would say this fellow who holds me said this and that. This is also confirmed in (36:65) and (41:22) as they clarify that the organs will be witnesses against us. Another thing that is related to the process of judgment is the concept of mezan which means scale. This scale is used to weigh our deeds but of course we should not always think that it is a physical scale where our good deeds would be put on one side to see if they outweigh the bad deeds or the reverse. It could be a physical scale but we find that the description in the Quran given to the scale is a process of evaluation of good and bad deeds. For example in (21:47) “We shall set up scales of justice for the Day of Judgment.” We also find in chapter 101 and 23 that those whose good deeds outweigh their bad deeds will go to paradise and the reverse will go to hell fire.
Host: What role does grace play in Islam?
There is ample room in Islam for grace, but it is grace for those who deserve it. It is grace for people who through their firm belief and whom tried their best to live up to the requirements and the challenges of that belief. Grace is not a loose thing for example if a teacher says that no matter what one does one will pass is not grace but mediocrity. One has to work for that grace that is there for the taking. I think it is important to realize that no matter how many good deeds we may do on earth it by not mean guaranty our salvation.
It’s not a matter of being spiritually proud and saying that one will go to paradise if they are good. The point here is that when God holds us accountable it is not a mechanical type of judgment. The Quran says that when a person does an evil deed it is counted as one deed for one action, whereas there are numerous places in the Quran that talk about multiplication of good deeds. In other words if one does one good deed it is counted ten times more or seventy times more. In one of the sayings of Prophet Muhammad he said it could be counted 700 times more. The Quran says that God can multiply the value of the reward for whomever he pleases! We find also that if a person intends to do something wrong but doesn’t actually commit it for any reason it is not counted against him. It is a very generous type of accountability but there must at least be some earned credit to be multiplied.
In this sense we find that Prophet Muhammad has given us very good guidance as he says that if any person is really held accountable in great details he will parish and he would have no chance. This is saying that out of the generosity and grace of God if one is good in terms of belief and tries to do their best then God will not hold one accountable for every little thing but rather forgives ones sins. In a verse in the Quran it says that good deeds wipe out bad deeds.
The Quran also describes people as belonging in different groups a group whom will be given their book of deeds in their right hand, left hand or behind ones back. If one is given their book in their left hand or behind their back it is an indication that he is in trouble or that he was a wicked person. If a person is given the book of deeds in his right hand it is an indication that many of his deeds will be forgiven. For example in (84:7-8) “Then he who is given his Record in his right hand, soon will his account be taken by an easy reckoning.” Just to clarify Prophet Muhammad (PBUH) said that when a person is judged if he is basically good God will ask “did you do this and that” and the person would answer “yes” and ask for forgiveness and God will conceal it for him. This doesn’t happen to everyone as a person must accept some effort in order to receive this grace from God. Grace is not absent or loose but rather subject to some criteria.
Host: How do things proceed after the judgment has taken place?
One of the concepts that is quite crucial in Islam is known as Asserat and it means the path. In fact the first chapter in the Quran which is repeated several times everyday in the prayers says in (1:5) “Show us the straight way.” Islam is called the Strait Path and in fact there was a book edited by Morgan called Islam: The Strait Path. In fact one can call the whole of Islam as the strait path or the path that helps us reach God. The same concept of path is also repeated in The Day of Judgment. That is to say all human beings after The Day of Reckoning finishes start moving along a path. In some of the sayings of Prophet Muhammad (PBUH) he described the path as being a narrow, very delicate path that will pass over hell fire. Whoever was wicked and rejected God would not be able to cross the bridge successfully into paradise and would fall down into hell fire.
This can be taken literally or symbolically that this path is very narrow just like our life here, if we are really trying to follow the path of God then we are walking a narrow path and hell fire is not only underneath us but all around us. All temptations to deviate from the truth, confusion of belief and of deeds are constantly pulling us down. By following the path of God one has to sacrifice, be determinate and have faith to keep doing what is right.
By the same token also we can say that in The Day of Judgment the situation is not a joke and is serious to the point that every person is walking on a narrow path but no skill or acrobat that will allow passage but rather ones deeds that would allow passage. One beautiful explanation of a believer would pass over this path (57:12) “One Day shalt thou see the believing men and the believing women- how their Light runs forward before them and by their right hands: (their greeting will be): “Good News for you this Day! Gardens beneath which flow rivers! to dwell therein for aye! This is indeed the highest Achievement!” In other words their deeds will be like light guiding them through this critical path between accountability and paradise.
Host: What is the Islamic conception of what hell will be like?
The picture as depicted in the Quran (it is mentioned in so many places) is so horrifying that I bet any person would say this is not who knows of it would do anything to stay away from it. The description given is that first the intensity of the fire is very great. The food would be like thorns that would cut a person’s intestines and the water would be boiling water. This is mentioned in (47:15) and (18:29). In (22:19)*** it says that the unbelievers will have clothing of fire. In (7:41) it says in regards to beds that there would be fire underneath and above them so that they are totally engulfed in fire. What is even worst is that they don’t die as they don’t totally burn as they would in the earthly life. The suffering will not end. In (20:74) and (87:13) it talks about people not really dying when they are in hell fire, they just keep on going. What is even more painful in (4:55) it says that whenever their skins are burned God will replace them with new skins so that they may really experience the punishment. When someone has a third degree burn they don’t feel the pain as much afterwards because the nerves are close to the surface. This is an interesting thing having been revealed 1400 years ago and really described in a vivid and accurate way conveying the nature of torture that the most sensitive parts are replaced whenever they are burned so that the person keeps getting the punishment. After all the Quran indicates that this is the just reward for those who rejected God and who ignored the guidance he provided through Adam and ending with the last Prophet Muhammad (PBUH)
Host: What is the description of paradise?
The description of hell fire is beyond imagination even with the picture given just makes it easier to understand but it could be worst. The same thing applies to the description of paradise. This description communicates felicity, enjoyment and pleasure but we can’t totally comprehend the real picture of paradise.
The Quran describes things that exist in paradise like fresh milk, fresh sparkling sweet water, delicious honey and all kinds of delicious foods instantaneously available whenever the person wants them. One doesn’t even have to make an effort. Clothing is of pure silk, there are beautiful comfortable places to sleep and sit on. There are palaces with rivers flowing underneath them. There are descriptions of gold and precious stones readily available. There will be pure spouses which includes spouses of this life, in other words a good male believer would have his believing spouse with him on The Day of Judgment. One verse in the Quran says “they and their spouses” (husbands or wives). There is also a description of drinks that are pleasing. On that point some people say how come Islam prohibits wine drinking while the Quran mentions people drinking khamr wine in paradise. This is a misunderstanding because if one takes the world khamr literally it means something fermented or intoxicating but we have evidence from the Quran is the pleasure of the drinks but it is not necessarily something that beclouds the mind. More specifically in (56:19) it talks about pleasurable drinks that don’t becloud the mind as it is not champagne, whisky or vodka. Some people think it is too material but what they forget is that this description is of a material nature but different from what we understand. As we find in (2:25) it talks about fruits that look like what we have on earth but it tastes quite different.
Above all we find that the Quran describes different kinds of pleasures for people who have more spiritual inclinations. It talks about the company of pure angels like in (13:24) and it talks about the feeling of God’s pleasure in (9:72). But the greatest of all is that the perceptual barriers would be removed in such a way that we would be able to look at God as the Quran says that there would be faces on that day shining with light looking at their Lord. Above all the description of paradise is only something that will make it comprehendible to use because as the Quran says no soul knows what is hidden by way of surprises for them on The Day of Judgment. As the Prophet was quoted as saying that God has prepared for His servants in paradise things that no eye has ever seen, no ear has ever heard and no thought could have made it imaginable to any human being.