Life after Life

There are many instances in Hadith literature of the unerring justice of divine retribution for, in the life after death, man will be rewarded or punished strictly in accor¬dance with the virtues or vices of his deeds in this world.

The Quran gives us this notable example: "Proclaim a woeful punishment to those that hoard up gold and silver and do not spend it in God's cause. The day will surely come when their treasures shall be heated in the fire of Hell, and their foreheads, sides and backs branded with them. Their tormentors will say to them; "These are the riches which you hoarded, taste then the punishment which is your due" (9:34-35).

When the Prophet went on his Night Journey to the Heavens, amongst the things that he was shown was a world of allegory in which man's worldly actions appeared in an otherworldly form. He was not only shown the results of good deeds in the everlasting life after death, but was also given an insight into the forms which evil deeds would assume in that eternal world.

When he saw people having their heads smashed with mighty rocks, he asked the Archangel who they were, and was told that they were those whose heaviness of head prevented them from rising for prayer. Then there were people grazing in the manner of cattle, with patches all over their clothes. When he asked who they were, the Archangel told him that they were the ones who did not spend their wealth to advance God's cause. Then he saw someone trying to lift a bundle of wood he had gathered, but each time he was on the point of doing so, a few more sticks would be added to the bundle. This time the Prophet was told that this was a man who, instead of trying to diminish an already overwhelming load of responsibilities, took more and more of a burden upon himself.

Others were having their tongues and lips cut with scis¬sors. The Angel accompanying the Prophet explained to him that these were people whose tongues wagged uncon¬trollably and irresponsibly, causing corruption in the land. In one place the Prophet saw a huge ox emerging from a hole in a rock. When it tried to re-enter it, it was unable to do so, even after a mighty struggle. When the Prophet asked what this meant, the Angel told him that this repre¬sented a person who, having uttered contentious words and seen their evil consequences, wanted to take back his words but was unable to do so. At another point, people were cut¬ting off pieces of their own flesh and eating them. The Prophet was told that these were the ones who accused and derided their fellow men.

Next were individuals whose nails were made of copper. With these they were scratching their own faces and chests. These turned out to be people who sought to expose the faults of others, attacking their honour and dignity. There were some too, with lips like those of camels, consuming fire. The angel told the Prophet that they were the devourers of orphans' property. Then came people with en¬larged stomachs full of writhing snakes. Passersby were trampling on them, but they could not escape, for they were rooted to the spot, unable to move. "These," said the Angel, “are the usurers.” Further on there were people who had piles of meat placed on both sides of them. On one side was good, fresh meat, and on the other side was rotten, foul ¬smelling meat. These people, ignoring the good meat, were eating the meat which had gone bad. The Angel explained that these were the men and women who had forsaken their own legitimate spouses and taken to unlawful partners for the satisfaction of their desires."

The state of affairs in Paradise is the same. The Quran explains that the reward given in Heaven will be of the same hue as one's actions in this world. "Proclaim good tidings to those who have faith and do good works. They shall dwell in gardens watered by running streams. When¬ever they are given fruit to eat, they will say: 'This is what we used to eat before,’ for they shall be given the like" (2:25). This means that the rewards of the Hereafter will be in exact accordance with one's actions in this world. The form of the reward will be exactly suited to our deeds.

At one place during the same Night Journey, the Prophet saw some harvesters at work. The more they cut, the more their harvest increased. When he asked who they were, he was told by the Archangel that they were people who struggled on earth in the path of God.