LastProphet regular writer Fatma Bayram offers some thoughts on the Islamic understanding of the Hereafter (akhira), presented as a dialogue between a friend [E] and herself, discussing the precepts and confusing perceptions which are sometimes offered on the subject.
What if there is no afterlife?
E: The people around me seem to have the hardest time in believing in an afterlife. And I think to myself: “If there is no afterlife, what does Allah do? What does he do other than meeting our endless demands”?
F. This is called a “Servant/Lord” relationship. According to this belief system, God does whatever I ask and should do so. There are many people who lose their faith in God when they cannot attain that which they really want.
E: Since there is God and no Afterlife, does this not then mean that there are no Prophets and no religions?
F: This is what they think anyway. According to them, the Lord is only a Creator and as such we must be thankful to him. It is wonderful that He (swt) has created this universe and me with unparalleled beauty. But that is all. He does not meddle in our affairs. They say that we can know what is right and what is wrong through the strength that He (swt) gives us.
Then why do we believe in the Afterlife? What is our knowledge about what will take place there based on? We believe in the Afterlife because Allah (swt) says so, and the existence of the Afterlife is confirmed in the message of all Prophets and the Last Prophet, as well as the states which we will encounter there. When looked at from this perspective, not believing the Afterlife is also denying the message that comes from Allah.
Even though the existence of the Afterlife, an account, rewards and punishment are all the requirements of the mind, they don’t say anything about how they will occur. Whatever has been revealed is what holds. Because in matters have to do with the unknown, all roads of knowledge outside of revelation are truly inadequate.
When there is no Afterlife, this means there is no infinity, absolute justice, equity and perfection. But all of these exist within us as a thought and part of our imagination. Would it not be impossible to dream of something that does not exist?
E: I would like to say this on behalf of myself: “If there is no Afterlife, then did Allah create all of this for me who is here for a very short period of time?” This seems really ridiculous to me. And I say that “there must be more to this.”
How must the Afterlife be explained?
E: How must one explain the Afterlife to those who believe in Allah, but not the Afterlife, so that they can understand and more easily believe?
F: Can share my real opinion on this? I think that most people do believe, it’s just that they don’t think about it. They fall for the comfort of living as though an afterlife doesn’t exist. They would like to comprehend, too, it’s not that they don’t. They chose to veil their concern and not think about it because they don’t want to take on the responsibility of their lives. They want to act as they please, and do whatever they want and not be held accountable (who wouldn’t want this?). In short, they don’t have a sense of responsibility and nor do they want it. And the reason for this is very simple; they wish to lead a life based on satisfaction and impulses.
E: What we must do in this case is cause them to confront themselves. We must have them face the questions of “Why would a person not believe in the Afterlife? What would happen if they did believe? And what would happen if they didn’t believe?”
F: What we read on mental health and personal development teaches us that the basic condition of establishing a healthy life is taking responsibility for our own decisions. When looked at from this perspective alone we see how important belief in the afterlife, as explained by Islam, is in terms of our mental well-being and our success in life. The human beings of today, who sanctify success, might perhaps not remain heedless to such a perspective.
E: But if there is an afterlife, and if someone there is going to hold me responsible, then what will this accounting for be in accordance with? Can there be crimes without law?
F: This is why Allah the Almighty reveals books, ordains laws and says that He will hold us in account accordingly. The words “Maliki yawm ad din” (The possessor of the Day of Religion) in Surah Al Fatiha, for example, are very interesting. According to interpretations of the Qur’an, what is meant by the “Day of Religion” is in fact ‘The Day of Judgement.” Even though the term “The Day of Judgement” is used in the Qur’an, the term “Day of Religion” being used here, emphasizes, in my opinion, that the only criterion that day will be religion. No amount of nobility, status or intellect will be factored into the evaluation that will take place on that day. The only measure will be religion.
Here we must also be cautious of those who try to make the laws of religion (sharia) out to be bad and tasawwuf, which they represent as religion with no laws, as good.