Akhirat or the Hereafter is another fundamental articles of faith in Islam. A Muslim should believe in the world of the Hereafter that will come after we die.
Man is an eternal creature. However, God has divided his life span into two parts. A very tiny part of it has been placed in this world, while all of the remainder has been placed in the Hereafter. The present world is the world of action, while the world of the Hereafter is the place for reaping the harvest of actions. The present world is imperfect, but the world of the Hereafter is perfect in every respect. The Hereafter is a limitless world where all things have been provided in their ideal state.
God has placed His heaven - full of all kinds of blessings - in that world of the Hereafter. Those who prove to be God-fearing and pious in this world will enter into that world to find the gates of heaven eternally open for them.
But those who are oblivious of God in this present world or who opt for the path of contumacy in regard to God's matters are criminals in God's eyes. All such people will be deprived of the blessings of the Hereafter.
God is invisible in this present world, and will appear in all His power and majesty only in the world of the Hereafter. Then all human beings will bow low before Him. But at that time, surrendering will be of no avail. Self-abnegation and acceptance of God is desired only while God is still invisible. Surrendering before God after seeing Him in the Hereafter will not benefit anyone.
Death is not the end of a person's life. It is only the beginning of the next stage of life. Death is that interim stage when man leaves this temporary world of today for the eternal world of tomorrow. He goes out of the temporary accommodation of the world to enter the eternal resting place of the Hereafter. The coming of this stage in the Hereafter is the greatest certainty in one's life. No one can save himself from this fate in the Hereafter.
The grave divides this world from the Hereafter. The next world lies across this great divide. Today we are on this side of the divide; tomorrow we will cross it. All living men will taste death; no one will be able to escape it. But man is oblivious of death—the greatest reality of life.
We have all seen people entering the grave never to return, but few of us realize that we are also going to meet the selfsame fate. The door of the grave will open for us and then close on us forever.
How strange it is that man witnesses others dying every day, but himself lives as if he was never going to die. He can see others being summoned before God every day, but he excludes himself from death’s list; he acts as if he was never going to come before the Lord to be judged.
We are closer to death than life. If we could realize this we would look on everyone’s death as our own; it would seem as if we ourselves were being carried to the grave when we saw someone else’s funeral.
Therefore, according to Islam, the present world is not an eternal abode. The Quran tells us that man is placed here only temporarily, so that his moral fibre may be tested in terms of his obedience to God’s will. He must always remember that there will be the life Hereafter, or Akhirat as it is known in Islamic terminology. This is also referred to as Ma‘ad, which means a place to which one returns.
There is a time limit to mortal existence. Death marks the end of the testing period for all human beings. But death only means a change of abode, for the soul never dies. Man returns to the realm whence he came, so that he may wait for the Day of Judgement. That realm, the life Hereafter, is the eternal world. Thus man’s life is divided into two parts: a brief stay in this world and an eternal life in the next world. To the ungodly, it is only then that it becomes obvious that a life which is eternal is far more important than this present existence.
God created human beings and made them responsible for their actions by granting them freedom. If there were no Afterlife, in which the good were rewarded and the bad punished, there would be no justice; in which case, it would appear meaningless to create people with a conscience and a sense of responsibility. But God is just and always acts justly. Hence it is the absolute demand of justice that there should be a Day of Judgement when everyone is brought to book.
After death, human beings will, therefore, leave this present, ephemeral abode and, on the Day of Judgement, will enter another world, which will be eternal. When the time comes for the Last Reckoning, God will destroy this world and replace it with a permanent, everlasting world. All human beings will then be resurrected and brought before the Almighty to be judged. On that day, everyone will stand alone before God. Those who have done good deeds in the world they have left behind will be rewarded. Their reward will be paradise, a state of joy, happiness and peace.
The Quran states:
“God has created death and life to test which one of you is best in conduct.” (67:1)
Furthermore, the concept of the Hereafter gives a fuller meaning and purpose to the life of the believer. One who firmly believes in this concept will not give in to greed or to any other such worldly failings. He will not be a materialist, for he knows that this material life will surely come to an end with death, whereas there will be a whole eternity before him in the Afterlife, during which he will certainly rejoice in having paid due attention to the spiritual side of life on this earth.
Death is not the end of our lives; it is the beginning of our real life. Because our future fate is to be decided on the basis of our present performance, we can either make use of our opportunities on earth to ensure a well-deserved place for ourselves in Paradise, or we can throw them away and condemn ourselves to punishment in Hell.
The belief in the Hereafter naturally has a great influence on the life of a believer. When he knows that God is watching all his actions, his behaviour will be responsible. He will always endeavour to lead his life in consonance with the will of God and will inevitably avoid any course which will incur God’s displeasure.
So we can say that man is an immortal being. He passes part of his time on earth and the rest of his time in the hereafter. This world is for actions; in the next world we will reap the consequences of our actions. The only chance we have to work for the Hereafter is in this world. Afterwards we shall not be able to act: we shall rather have to bear the consequences of our actions. We have very little time on earth. Many who were once among us on earth are now dead and gone. In the same way we shall be removed one day from the land of the living. Our lives will end and we shall be brought before the Lord.
This life is the first and last chance that we shall have to build an eternal future for ourselves. We have only one life on earth, and it is in this life that we must prove our worth. We are being tried on earth, and this trial is sure to reach a decisive outcome. We shall not be able to escape the consequences of our actions. Every second that passes is conclusive, for time that has passed can never return. We have only one chance to show our worth; we can either waste it or put it to good use. We have only one life on earth; we can either grow for ourselves a heavenly crop or an infernal one.