There are certain philosophies that say that our life finishes when we die. Others say that our life is a never-ending cycle of births and rebirths. According to the belief of Islam we have a life after life. This can be understood with the help of the following example.
Those huge masses of ice, which we know as icebergs, found floating in the seas of the North and South poles, number amongst the most deceptive and, therefore, most dangerous phenomena to be found in nature. Their deceptiveness lies in the fact that no matter how huge, or wonderful in configuration, what we see of them amounts to only one tenth of their enormous bulk. What lies below the surface of the ocean, spreading far and beyond the visible perimeter, poses tremendous hazards to the unwary. In some ways, our lives are like those floating mountains of ice. The part we spend in this world — about a hundred years, or less — is one part of our life – like the part of the iceberg, which is visible above the surface. We can see it, touch it, feel it. We can take its measure and deal with it effectively. But the part, which comes after death, is like the submerged part — vast, unfathomable and fraught with peril. It is something which defies the imagination, but which we must nevertheless try to comprehend, for that is the part of human life which God has decreed should be eternal and, as such, ineluctable. This part of our life that comes after death is life after life. Let us understand this in this section.
We are all familiar with the facts of our origin and the course which life takes from the womb until death. But at the end of our lifespan, whether it terminates in youth or in old age, our familiarity with the nature of things comes to an end. It has been surmised that death means total and final annihilation. But this is not so. Death is simply a means of consigning us to a new womb, to the womb of the universe itself. From that point, we are ushered into another world: the Hereafter – the life after life. While the present, physical world as we know it has a finite time-frame, the Hereafter stretches away from us into infinity. We fondly imagine that there is some parallel between the pleasures and pains of this world and those of the next, but, in truth, nothing that we can experience in this world will ever match the extremes of agony and bliss of life after death. Those who merit punishment in the Hereafter will be condemned to suffer the most horrific pain for all time to come. But those who merit God’s blessings in the Hereafter shall know the most wonderful joy and contentment.
Let us understand this in another way. The existence of man is such a unique phenomenon that no other such example can be found throughout the vastness of the cosmos. Man is rightly called the ‘best of all creations’, which means the best and most meaningful ‘being’ among all the things created. Such a ‘meaningful being’ cannot have been created without a purpose.
The Creator of man has created him according to a special Plan. This is the Creation Plan of God. His intention being that man must spend a period of trial in this present, imperfect world and subsequent to this, according to his deeds, he will earn the right to inhabit the perfect and eternal world, another name for which is Paradise.
The Creator of the world has created this world, as one half of a pair — the present world, in which we pass our lives after birth, is the first half; and the next eternal world where we live after death is the other half. The Creator of man has thus created him as an eternal creature and has divided his life into two stages - the pre-death period or the life in this world and the post death period or the life after death. The limited period before death is meant to be a test for man, while the period after his death will be the period for his reward or punishment, based on his performance in the test in this life. This is the scheme of existence for this world as devised by its Creator. The real aim of creation is to select those who are fit to inhabit the world of Paradise. Evil people will not be selected to inhabit Paradise.
To become acquainted with this plan is necessary for a man to have a thorough understanding of himself – just as the workings of a machine can only be understood when we study the drawings of the engineer who made it. Besides the mind of the engineer, there is no other thing that can clarify what the machine is meant for. The case of man is the same.