The Nature of Afterlife (Ma’ad)

The Essence of Death


Death and the nature of life after that, have always been mysterious to human beings. Everybody is willing to either find it out himself or to have faith in what has been said and discovered about it. Muslims seek the answer in the Quran, the holy book they believe in. In Quranic thoughts, death is nothing but the transfer of human soul from the natural universe to the spiritual world, going back to the one who created it all, i.e., God; “Indeed we belong to Allah, and to Him do we indeed return” (2:156).



According to the Holy Quran, death is no inexistence or destruction, But a threshold to the next stage of life and existence. However, it is noteworthy that what forms the exact nature of humankind is not the physical and material composition that disintegrates and gets destroyed after death; in fact, our real self is made up of our soul that is seized and  released from the captivity of the body and then returns to its origin, the Divine presence, God.



Therefore death in Islamic viewpoint happens when the immortal soul or self of human cuts its attachment and relationship from the body and consequently, the body perishes while the soul continues its life without it.



“Say: You will be taken away by the angel of death, who has been charged with you. Then you will be brought back to your Lord” (32:11).

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Life after Death


Now one might wonder what happens to us after death; are we going to begin our lives in the hereafter right away, or we will experience a different temporary stage of life that lasts up until the Day of Judgment?



Muslims get the information about this issue, through revelations received by the last Prophet, Muhammad (PBUH), in verses of Quran. Based on what has been revealed to our prophet, the afterlife does not begin right after we die. Human beings will enter an intermediate world called “Barzakh” in which they would feel, see and hear everything differently; there would be things they enjoy and ones they suffer from, based on their deeds in this earthly life. In short, man will go through two different stages of life after death; one temporary that is to come right after death, and one that lasts forever and will never end.



The Intermediate World (Barzakh)



“…And ahead of them is a barrier until the day they will be resurrected” (23:100).



Literally speaking, “Barzakh” is a barrier that stands between two things; Quran, however, introduces it as an interval between the death of a man and the forthcoming hereafter (Ma’ad); a stage at which human leads either a blissful or miserable life, based on his deeds on earth.



The Day of Judgment


The second stage of eternal life starts on the Day of Judgment (Yawm Al-Hisab). Unlike “Barzakh”, at which humans enter individually after death, this occurs to all the beings and the whole universe at the same time; every being starts a new permanent stage of life.



“And you will see the angels surrounding the Throne, celebrating the praise of their Lord, and judgment will be made between them with justice, and it will be said," All praise belongs to Allah, the Lord of all the worlds” (39:68).



Near the time of resurrection, all beings will cease to exist after hearing the first blow of the Horn (Israfil’s Horn). Then there will be a second blowing, and all Creation from the beginning till the end of time will be resurrected. People will be coming out of their graves in their physical bodies, standing and waiting, severely worried, under the sun to be judged by their Lord and to see rewards and retributions for their benevolent and malevolent actions in earthly life.



“And when the Trumpet is blown, behold, there they will be, scrambling from their graves towards their Lord” (36:51).


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Paradise and Hell


That day humans will be either granted admission to enter Paradise, where they will enjoy spiritual and physical pleasure, or sentenced to suffer spiritual and physical torment in Hell forever.



“[To the righteous it will be said], O soul at peace! Return to your Lord, pleased, pleasing! Then enter among My servants! And enter My paradise” (89:27-30).



 “... and whoever disobeys Allah and His apostle, indeed there will be for him the fire of hell, to remain in it forever” (72:23).



The nature of Heaven and Hell has been analogously described in the Quran many times. However, there are verses that say:



“No one knows what has been kept hidden for them of comfort as a reward for what they used to do” (32:17).



Accordingly, What Heaven and Hell are really like is far beyond our comprehension and so cannot be explained for us unless they are allegorical.



The Relation between Earthly Life and Afterlife



In fact, the earthly affairs of mankind here are not separable from those of hereafter; that is the otherworldly destiny of a man is determined by himself in this world.  Many verses of Quran indicate that the same good or bad deeds man commits in this life, will return to him, as their own reward or punishment, on the day of requital. People will live with the embodiment of their good or evil deeds, which are going to be their eternal companions.



The Similarities and Differences of Earthly Life and Afterlife



One of the common features of this earthly life and the hereafter is that they are both real and actual; in other words, human beings are aware of themselves and what belongs to them in both worlds. There are joy and pleasure, suffering and pain or happiness and misery in both lives. In both worlds, human possesses a physical body and particular instincts. Nevertheless, there are basic differences too.



The reproduction, childhood, youth, senescence, and death we experience here will not exist in the hereafter. Here is the place of action while hereafter is where we should pay for what we have done and compensate for our deeds. The life in this world is followed by death whereas we will lead an eternal life in the other world. Quran says:


“The life of this world is nothing but a diversion and play, but the abode of the Hereafter is indeed Life, had they known” (29:64).



 Man’s perception will be heightened in the afterlife, and he will realize the truth of everything -every action or every being- more vividly. “[It will be said], You were certainly oblivious of this. We have removed your veil from you, and so your sight is acute today” (50:22).



In this earthly life, the man easily gets bored and tired of everything; he is always seeking what he does not have, and once he finds it he soon feels jaded and starts looking for something else. It seems as though he has lost something he can hardly find. In the hereafter, however, he will find what he has always longed for and what he has been attached to deep in his nature; that is Allah, the Lord of the universe.