Imān(faith) is a religious term. If something is accepted with the certitude of the heart then this is called īmān. The foundation of this word is īmān (faith) in God. If a person accepts the Almighty such that he submits his heart and mind to Him to the utmost, then in the terminology of the Qur'ān, he is a mu'min (believer). It is this very essence of faith on account of which the Qur'ān demands from a person that besides substantiation from the heart, his words and deeds should also testify to it. Thus it calls every act of virtue emanating from īmān an essential quality of a believer.
No doubt, in the eyes of law every person who professes faith in Islam with his tongue is a Muslim. The extent of his faith can also not be ascertained as far as law is concerned; however, as far as true faith is concerned, it is never static. The faith of a person grows stronger when he remembers God and hears His revelations and witnesses His signs in the world within him and in that around him. The Qur'ān has compared faith to a tree whose roots are deep in the soil and branches spread in the vastness of the sky.
Same is the case of one's faith growing weaker. Thus if a person instead of making it stronger through sound knowledge and righteous deeds does acts which are against the requirements of faith, it grows weaker, and in some cases is totally wiped out.
It is evident from this that both faith and righteous deeds are essential to one another. Thus just as righteous deeds are necessary for faith, similarly faith is necessary for righteous deeds. At all places, the Qur'ān has stated this professing faith to be the very first condition for salvation.
This faith consists of the following five:
1. Belief in God
2. Belief in the Angels
3. Belief in the Prophets
4. Belief in Divine Books
5. Belief in the Day of Judgement
Belief in God
Allah is the name of the being Who is the Creator of the heavens and the earth and all other creations. Since the very beginning this name has been specifically used for the Lord of this world. Before the advent of the Prophet (sws), in the times of Arab jāhiliyyah also this name was used for Him. This word was also one of the remnants of the religion of Abraham (sws) which the Arabs inherited.
An acknowledgement of the existence of God is found innately in man's nature. The Qur'ān says that this matter manifested itself in the form of a pledge. It refers to this event as a real-life incident and not something metaphorical. Since man has been sent here for trial, the whole incident has been erased from his memory; however, its essence is etched on his heart and ingrained in his soul and nothing can obliterate it. Consequently, if man is reminded of it in the absence of any hindrance in his surroundings, he leaps to it the way a child leaps to its mother even though it never saw itself emerge from her womb and is drawn towards her with such conviction as if it already knew her. A person feels that this pledge of his with the Almighty was the answer to a very natural need found within him. Once he found it, it was as if all the requisites and demands of his psyche were fulfilled. The Qur'ān says that this testimony of man's inner-self is so undeniable that as far as the providence of God is considered, man will be held accountable before God merely on the basis of this testimony.
Besides this innate guidance, man has also been equipped with the ability of deriving conclusions from what he hears, sees and feels – conclusions which are actually beyond these faculties. A simple example to illustrate this is the law of gravitation. An apple falls on the ground. When a stone is to be lifted from ground, strength must be exerted. It is difficult to ascend stairs than to descend them. The moon and the stars move in the skies. Man has been witnessing all these phenomena for centuries until it was Newton who discovered that they are a result of the law of gravitation. This law itself cannot be observed; however it is accepted as a scientific reality in the whole world. The reason for this is that all theories and known facts are in harmony with it. All observable realities are explained by this law and as yet no other law is able to explain various phenomenon as it has done.
This process obviously is the derivation of the tangible from the intangible. When a person makes use of this ability of his and studies the universe which stretches around him, then this study of his also vouches for this very reality found in his inner-self.
Thus he sees that everything of this world is a miraculous manifestation of creativity; everything has deep meaningfulness; it has been created with great diligence and thoroughness; there exists amazing wisdom, planning, usefulness and order; there are found superb mathematical and geometrical realities whose only justification is the fact that they have a Creator and this Creator is not an uncontrolled and unrestrained being. On the contrary, He has an unfathomable mind. This is because if power does not emanate from a wise and all-knowing being, then it should be mere tyranny; the truth of the matter is that this is not so: this expression of power and strength has aptness about it; it is also very harmonious and is very advantageous and produces great marvels which cannot be produced by an uncontrolled and unrestrained force.
Although these testimonies were sufficient, however in order to leave people with no excuse in rejecting them the Almighty took a step further: He initiated mankind by a human being who directly heard from God, saw his angels and in this manner bore direct witness to the truth. The Almighty took this step so that after the death of Adam, the first human being, this information could be transmitted to the descendents of Adam generation after generation and so that the concept of God and the Hereafter should not become alien in any period of time, in any place on the earth and in any generation of mankind.
Not only this, once Adam and Eve were sent to live in this world, the Almighty, for a considerable period of time, made a means for them to know and judge if their faith and deeds were acceptable to God or not. This was like making every person of that time directly experience and observe the truth so that he too could become among the witnesses along with his progenitors. The means adopted for this purpose was that people would offer sacrifice before God; then, as a sign of divine acceptance, fire would descend from the heavens to consume this sacrifice.
It is evident from this discussion that the existence of God is an obvious reality whose conception has been transmitted to man from his ancestors and whose testimony is borne by both matter and by life. However, who is this being? What are His attributes? What are the laws and practices He has set for Himself? These are the questions which arise in the mind of a person for comprehending Allah. This comprehension is essential for faith. When the Qur'ān demanded from people to profess faith in God, it answered these questions. In the following pages, we will take a look at these answers.
The Qur'ān has explicitly stated that no mind can comprehend the being of God. The reason for this is that the being who has created these means of comprehension can certainly comprehend human beings but these means can in no way be able to comprehend Him who comprehends these means.
Contrary to the person of God, His attributes can be comprehended to some extent by a human being. The reason is that man himself finds some of these attributes within him, though at a very small scale. God has granted man some portion of His knowledge, power, providence, wisdom and mercy. Man can thus analogously have some idea of the attributes of God. Consequently, when the Qur'ān says that He is al-Khāliq (the Creator), al-Qadīr (the powerful), al-Rahmān and al-Rahīm (the Gracious and the Ever-Merciful), al-'Alīm and al-Hakīm (the Knower and the Wise), al-Awwal and al-A%khir (the First and the Last), al-Zāhir and al-Bātin (the Apparent and the Hidden), then we are able to have some concept of the attributes of God.
In understanding the attributes of God, the aspect of finesse in them however should always remain in consideration because power is praiseworthy only when it is complemented by mercy, affection and justice. If anger, revenge, rage and fury manifest against oppression and injustice then it is commendable too. Mercy, forgiveness and generosity are laudable in their right context. The mention of the attribute of hamīd (praiseworthy) with ghanī (self-sufficient), hakīm (wise) with 'alīm (knowledgeable) and ghafūr (merciful) with 'azīz (powerful) in the Qur'ān guides us to this very aspect of finesse and poise.
Similarly, whatever conception of God one perceives, it cannot be devoid of majesty, splendour and perfection. Consequently, attributes such as al-Wāhid (the only one), al-Ahad (the unique) and al-Samad (the rock) depict perfection; the attributes of al-Quddūs (the holy), al-Salām (the one who is peace in entirety) and al-Mu'min (the peace giver) are attributes of splendour and al-Malik (the king), al-'Azīz (the powerful) and al-Jabbār (the dominant) are attributes of majesty. The attributes of majesty produce fear, respect and praise in a person; the attributes of splendour produce praise and love for Him and instil hope in a person. The attributes of majesty are more apparent to his senses and the attributes of splendour are more apparent to his intellect and heart. If God is kept in consideration, the attributes of splendour appear more dominant and if a human soul is kept in consideration, the attributes of majesty appear dominant. Man while fearing God leaps towards Him for this very reason and tries to seek refuge in His attributes of splendour. When the Qur'ān says that all gracious names are His, it means that every name which depicts His majesty, splendour and perfection is gracious and He can be called by these names.
The greatness of the Almighty becomes evident from His attributes of perfection. When a person acquires the correct understanding of these attributes, he professes faith in a God Who is unique, peerless and only one of a kind; He is the rock of shelter for all; to Him solely belong the heavens and the earth and whatever is between them; no one shares His sovereignty and no one is His partner in running the affairs of this universe; there is nothing in this world which is hidden from Him; no affair of this world is beyond His jurisdiction and control; everything needs Him, but He needs no one; matter, plants and animals all prostrate before Him and are busy in celebrating His praises and glorifying Him; His power is immense and He is all-embracing and every particle of this universe is subservient to His will; Whenever He wants, He can destroy any thing at any time and whenever He wants He can re-create it; it is He who bestows honour or humiliation; every thing is mortal and He is the only immortal; He is beyond what is the beyond, yet He is closer to man than his life-vein; His knowledge and wisdom encompass everything; He even knows what is concealed in the hearts; His intention supersedes all intentions and His command supersedes all commands; He is free of all faults and is without any blemish and beyond any allegation.
Among the attributes of perfection, the attribute of tawhīd occupies the most importance. It is this attribute of tawhīd which is the most explained and emphasized upon by the Qur'ān. So much so, the sūrah on which the last group of the Qur'ān effectively ends directs the Prophet (sws) to declare the concept of tawhīd openly before the people thatGod is alone; He is everyone' support. He is neither anyone's father nor anyone's son; and there is none like Him.
It is this importance of tawhīd on account of which the Qur'ān has explicitly stated that without adhering to it no deed of a person is acceptable and if a person adheres to it then there is hope that every sin may be forgiven. The reason for this is that a person cannot remain persistent on his sin if he professes faith in tawhīd, and if he happens to sin, he will find that the grace and blessing of God will induce him to repent and to seek God's forgiveness. Such a person will surely turn to God and as such become entitled to be forgiven before the Day of Judgement.
Arguments of tawhīd which are cited by the Qur'ān are very sound and based on established facts derived from knowledge and reason. Here it should suffice to know that the argument which nullifies polytheism is that no one has any basis of associating partners with God. At more than one place, the Qur'ān has demanded from its addressees to present if they can any grounds for polytheism whether based on intellect or on divine sources. Only God Himself could have informed us if He had any associates and the only way to have knowledge of God's will in this regard were the Divine books He revealed or the traditions and narratives which have been transferred generation after generation from his prophets and messengers. None of these contain anything which substantiates polytheism in any way.
Dealings and Practices of God
The dealings of God with His servants and the manner in which He deals with them are called sunnatullāh by the Qur'ān. The Almighty says that these practices are permanent and unalterable. Consequently, for a true comprehension of God, just as knowledge of His attributes is essential, knowledge of His dealings with His creation is also essential.
Following are the sunan (practices and dealings) of God:
1. Tests and Trials
God has created this world for trial and test. Every single person on this earth faces these trials and as such His practice of putting mankind through trials is a universal phenomenon. Whatever is ingrained in human nature comes to surface because of these trials; the secrets of the inner personality of a person are revealed through these very trials and the levels attained by a person in his ideologies and in his deeds are ascertained through these very trials. The Qur'ān says that life and death have been created for the very purpose of judging that who among mankind adopts a rebellious attitude towards his Creator and who leads a life according to the liking of his Creator. No doubt, the Almighty has knowledge of everything; however, He has set the practice for Himself that He does not merely reward and punish people on the basis of His knowledge; on the contrary, He does so on the basis of their deeds. For this very purpose, He has implemented the system of trial on this earth.
The circumstances of sorrow and happiness, poverty and affluence, grief and joy which befall a person in this world are governed by this very practice of God. Through such circumstances, the Almighty tests His servants and differentiates the good among them from the evil. When He blesses someone with affluence and status, He tests whether such people will remain grateful to Him or not and when He afflicts someone with poverty and hardships, He tests whether such people will remain patient or not
2. Guidance and Error
In this trial, man has been asked to guard himself from going astray and consciously adopt the guided path. The Qur'ān has informed us that this guidance is found in the very nature of a person. Moreover, once a person attains the age of intellectual maturity, the signs of the heavens and the earth around him direct his attention to this guidance. If a person values and treasures this guidance and benefits from it and is grateful to his Lord for it, it is the practice and law of God that He increases the glow of this guidance and creates in a person a further desire for this guidance and as a result of this induces in him the urge to benefit from the guidance brought by the prophets of God.
If a person decides upon evading this ingrained guidance, refuses to use his intellect, and deliberately deviates from the truth, then in the words of the Qur'ān this is zulm (wronging the soul) and fisq (defiance) and the Almighty never guides a person who continues to wrong his soul and persists in defiance and He leaves him to wander in the darkness of error and misguidance.
3. Beyond-Capacity Directives
In the sharī'ah revealed through His Prophets, the Almighty never gives a directive to human beings which is beyond their capacity. In all that emanates from God for human beings, it is always made sure that they are not burdened beyond what they can bear and whatever directive be given is given keeping in view human capacity and capability. Consequently, a person will not be held liable for sins done out of forgetfulness or misunderstanding or done inadvertently, and God's only requirement of man is that he should follow His directives in both form and spirit with full veracity and honesty. However, this does not mean that if people adopt a rebellious behaviour, then too the Almighty does not burden them beyond their capacity. It is evident from the Qur'ān that for reprimand and training or for punishment or to show them the consequences of their evil deeds or to make them aware of their helplessness against the power of God people are certainly burdened beyond their means.
4.Rise and Fall of Nations
Under the law of trial which has been mentioned earlier just as God selects people to make them undergo a trial of patience or of gratitude, in a similar manner He also selects nations for this purpose. As a result of this selection, when a nation once rises among the comity of nations the practice of God with it is that He keeps it on this position until it itself plunges into lowliness with regard to morality and knowledge. This is an unchangeable practice of God and when, after repeated warnings, He decides to humiliate and depose a nation no one can stop Him and no power of this world can help that nation against the Almighty. The whole history of mankind bears witness to this practice of God.
When the Almighty entrusts a person or a group with any of His missions and asks them to achieve it, then He also provides His help to them. This mission can relate to propagation of His message and it can also relate to jihād and warfare. The Almighty has held it mandatory on Himself to help the believers who have taken up such a mission. This help does not come randomly. It is based on a principle. This principle is mentioned in the Qur'ān and it is in accordance with this principle that his people receive this help from Him.
6. Remorse and Repentance
If a person commits a sin, there exists a chance for him to repent. In this regard, the rule is that if people repent immediately after they commit a sin the Almighty definitely forgives them; however, He does not forgive people who deeply indulge in sin all their lives and when they see death approaching start to repent and seek forgiveness from the Almighty. Similarly, He also does not forgive people who deliberately deny the truth if they continue on this denial till death.
7. Reward and Punishment
In the Hereafter, reward and punishment is a certain reality; however, it is evident from the Qur'ān that at times this reward and punishment also takes place in this world. This lesser day of judgement is a prelude to the greater day of judgement which will take place in the Hereafter. The various forms of this reward and punishment which the Almighty has spelled out in the Qur'ān are:
Firstly, people who are only after this world, live and die for it and are absolutely indifferent to the Hereafter are given whatever worldly benefits the Almighty wants to give them and then their account is settled by Him in this very world and they are rewarded or punished on the basis of their deeds right in this world.
Secondly, those who reject their respective rasūl (messenger) even after being communicated the truth to the extent that they are left with no excuse to deny it are punished in this very world and those who profess faith in him, blessings of God embrace them from all sides.
Thirdly, the Almighty has promised the progeny of Abraham that if they adhere to the truth, they will lead all nations of the world and if they deviate from it, they will be deposed from this position and will have to face the punishment of humiliation and subjugation.
Belief in the Angels
The beings through whom the Almighty sends down His directives for His creation are called angels. The Qur'ān uses the word المَلائِكَة (al-malā'ikah) for them, which is a plural of the word مَلَك (malak), which means "a messenger". Consequently, it is evident from the Qur'ān that it is through the angels that communication between this world and the one beyond it is established, and the Almighty is running the affairs of this world through them. The way this is done is that whatever directive they receive from the Almighty is implemented by them as His obedient subordinates. Their own intention or exercise of authority is not involved in this process in any way. They are an embodiment of obedience and are busy all the time in glorifying Him and in celebrating His praises and never disobey Him in the slightest of way.
Belief in the Prophets
People through whom the Almighty completed providing His guidance to mankind are called prophets. They were, in fact, human beings; however, the Almighty selected them for this purpose on the basis of His all embracing knowledge and wisdom. As such, prophethood is God-given and cannot be acquired through self-effort or training. It is evident from the Qur'ān that only those people are chosen as prophets who are able to shield themselves from the lures of their inner-self as well as those of Satan, guard themselves against sin and are the righteous and pious among their people.
These prophets are sent to every community. God had promised Adam (sws) that He would guide his progeny through guidance revealed by Him. This guidance was given to mankind through these very prophets. After receiving revelations from God, they tell what the truth is to people, give glad tidings to those who believe in Him and warn those who do not believe in Him of a dreadful fate.
Prophets were not needed to make people recognize their Lord or give them a means to distinguish between good and evil. These facts are ingrained in his nature and innately found in him. Thus the need for prophets did not arise to inform man of these things; it arose because of two other reasons.
Firstly, for completion of guidance. This means that man be reminded of whatever is ingrained in his nature in concise form and of whatever he has known eternally and all its details be specified for him.
Secondly, for itmām al-hujjah. This means to awaken man from his slumber of unawareness and after providing the testimony of his intellect and knowledge provide another testimony through these prophets to such an extent that no one is left with any excuse to deny the truth.
Through the prophethood of Muhammad (sws) both these objectives have been achieved at the global level and accomplished to the utmost. Hence the institution of prophethood has been terminated. The Qur'ān has declared him to be the last prophet. After him, no prophet or messenger shall come.
Every right-minded person has no difficulty in recognizing a prophet. If a person has a discerning mind and a vibrant heart, then the very person of a prophet is a miracle. However, besides this, the Almighty blesses a prophet with potent signs which though may not induce his adversaries to openly acknowledge him but are enough to leave them with no excuse to deny his veracity. It is evident from the Qur'ān that these signs are given to every prophet and their nature depends upon his times and circumstances. We shall mention a few of these in the following paragraphs.
1. A prophet generally comes in accordance with the prediction of the prophet who precedes him and comes as fulfillment of this prediction. Viewed thus, he is not an un-introduced personality. People are familiar with him and also await him. It is known from the Qur'ān that the prophet John (sws) foretold the coming of Jesus (sws) all over Jerusalem. The predictions of the advent of Muhammad (sws) are mentioned both in the Old and the New Testaments. One of the primary objectives of the advent of Jesus (sws), was to prophesy about the coming of an unlettered prophet in Arabia. The Qur'ān has presented the fact that the scholars of the Israelites recognize Muhammad (sws) the way an estranged father recognizes his son as a conclusive proof of its own authenticity. This means that they also fully recognized Muhammad (sws).
2. Whatever a prophet presents as the word and message of God is without any contradiction and inconsistency. Even the most ultimate of geniuses of this world like Socrates and Aristotle, Kant and Einstein, Ghālib and Iqbāl, Rāzī and Zamakhsharī cannot make such a claim about the works they have produced. However, the Qur'ān has vehemently asserted about itself that there is not a semblance of contradiction in the philosophy and ideology it presents and there is not the slightest evolution or development in its style that a person can detect. Is it possible that for years a person should give speeches on a variety of topics in different situations and circumstances and when these speeches are compiled from the beginning to the end they form such a harmonious and congruous discourse that it has no contradiction of views and does not reflect any the effects of mood change of the speaker and also does not depict and revision or change of views? Only the Qur'ān has this characteristic.
3. A prophet is blessed with miracles from God. The Qur'ān has specified that one of the reasons for which extra-ordinary miracles were given to Jesus (sws) and Moses (sws) was to authenticate them as messengers of God. No one can reject these miracles by pronouncing them as magic or trickery. The reason for this is that the reality behind such things is very much known to those adept in such disciplines and they too are compelled to acknowledge such miracles.
The miracle given to the Prophet (sws) to validate his prophethood is the Qur'ān. When those who are aware of the stylistic features of Arabic language and of its literary tradition and also have a literary appreciation of the language read the Qur'ān, they clearly feel that this could not have been produced by human beings. Thus, at more than one instance, it has challenged its addressees who do not regard it to be of divine origin to produce just a single sūrah like it. If a person from amongst them in their own opinion can produce such a discourse without any literary and academic background, then they should also have no problem in doing so.
This Book of God is still with us. Fourteen centuries have passed ever since it was revealed. During this period, our world has undergone tremendous changes. Many ideologies and thoughts were presented by man only to be rejected later by him. Theories regarding man's being and those regarding the universe around him were put forth every now and then. Each underwent a process of acceptance or rejection at various periods of time. His intellectual journey took him through various paths and destinations; however, this Book of God is the only book which is as unassailable and sound today regarding the various facts it presents and which have remained under academic discussion in the last two centuries as they were fourteen centuries ago. Knowledge and intellect helplessly acknowledged its superiority at that time the way they do today. Every statement it has given has stood the test of time. The world, in spite of its astounding scientific and academic discoveries, has failed to present a better alternative to the views it presents.
4. The Almighty informs a prophet of certain unknown things which are impossible to come into the knowledge of any other human being. One example of this is the predictions made by divine revelations which were fulfilled to the utmost. Some of these predictions are mentioned in the Qur'ān and some in the Hadīth narratives. Every student of the Qur'ān is aware of the predictions regarding the supremacy of the Prophet Muhammad (sws) in Arabia, the conquest of Makkah and the people entering the folds of Islam in multitudes. Another great prediction made by the Qur'ān was the victory of the Romans after being defeated by the Iranians.
When this prediction was made, then in the words of Edward Gibbon: "No prophecy could be more distant from its accomplishment, since the first twelve years of Heraclius announced the approaching dissolution of the empire." However, it was fulfilled at the very time it was meant to and in March 628 AD the Roman emperor returned to Constantinople with such splendour that four elephants were pulling his chariot and numerous people stood outside the city with lanterns and branches of olive to welcome back their hero.
5. Prophets who are also designated as Messengers (rusul) are a symbol of divine justice in this world and decide the fate of their people in this very world. The way this is brought about is that if these Messengers abide by their covenant with God they are rewarded in this world and if they deviate from it they are punished in this world. The result is that the very existence of these Messengers becomes a sign of God and it is as if they witness God walking with these Messengers on earth and administering justice. It is this situation which becomes the basis of passing judgement by the Almighty both in this world and in that to come. Consequently, the Almighty grants supremacy to these Messengers and punish those who reject their message.
The Almighty has directed people to obey a prophet. He has made it very clear in His Book that a prophet is not merely to be revered, he is to be obeyed also. He is not sent that people merely regard him to be a prophet and then leave him aside; he is not merely one who counsels and preaches; he is a guide who must be obeyed. The very objective of his coming is that whatever guidance he provides in all affairs of life must be followed without any hesitation. Moreover, obeying a prophet is not merely a ritual. The Qur'ān requires from a believer to obey him with the spirit of following him and with full sincerity and full reverence and devotion.
Belief in Divine Books
Just as the Almighty has sent prophets to guide mankind, similarly He has revealed His Books to these prophets for this purpose. The purpose of these Books is that people have with them the written guidance of God in His very words so that they can judge between what is right and what is wrong through these Books and are able to resolve their differences through them and in this manner they are able to adhere to justice regarding the religion.
At this point of time, the anthology of books found in the Bible shows that apparently these Books were given to each and every prophet in some form or the other. Just as the Qur'ān mentions the Torah and the Gospel, it also refers to the scripture of Abraham (sws). All these Books are Books of God. Thus the Qur'ān requires of the Muslims to broadly profess faith in these Books without any discrimination.
Out of these, however, four Books occupy exceptional importance: The Torah, The Psalms, The Gospel, The Qur'ān. The Torah was revealed to Moses (sws), the Psalms to David (sws) and the Gospel to Jesus (sws). The Qur'ān was revealed to Muhammad (sws), the last prophet of God. In divine literature, this is the only Book about which it can be said with full certainty that it is present with us in its original form, shape, language and arrangement without the slightest bit of change.
Belief in the Hereafter
Belief in the Hereafter is one of the most important tenets of Islam. It occupies the central position in the preaching mission of prophets. It is on the foundation of this belief that the pillars of sharī'ah, virtue and righteousness stand. Prophethood is also based on it. A nabī (prophet) is a nabī because he actually foretells this nabā' azīm (great news).A rasūl (messenger) is a rasūl because he brings the message of its advent. John (sws) and Jesus (sws), Moses (sws) and Abraham (sws) all have proclaimed it. The Torah tacitly refers to it and the Psalms clearly mentions it. In the Gospel, Jesus (sws) has warned that on the Day of Judgement only those people will enter the Kingdom of Heaven who will please his father in heaven. The Qur'ān is a bearer of warning and glad tidings for this Day. It says that the manner in which people wake up from sleep, the manner in which rain enlivens a dead and desolate terrain, the manner in which a whole human being comes into existence from a mere drop of water, in the same manner mankind will be made to rise one day from their graves. Raising up mankind on that Day would not be of any bother for the Almighty. When the addressees of the Qur'ān expressed their wonder on being re-created and inquired after the being who would enliven these decayed bones, the Almighty replied in the Qur'ān that the very being Who created them the first time would create them again. This whole process is as easy for Him as uttering a word for us is.
The testimonies, indications, sites and events of this day are described both in the Qur'ān and the Hadīth. In the following paragraphs, these details are mentioned.
The first thing is man's awareness of good and evil. It is because of this awareness that his chiding conscience rebukes him on every evil. It is a small court of justice which is found within every person which delivers its unbiased verdict at all times. Whether he accepts it or not, a person is able to clearly listen to this verdict after every blemish that emanates in his thoughts and deeds; this continues until he becomes so deeply involved in evil that this evil completely surrounds his faculties thereby lulling the calls of his conscience to sleep. This internal system of rebuke is a testimony of his own inner-self and is called the testimony of the rebuking-self. The Qur'ān presents it and tells man that he will not be left unaccountable for whatever he does. He should know that just as there exists a lesser abode of judgement within man, similarly a greater abode of judgement will one day be set up for the whole world; when it takes place, he will be held accountable before his Lord and rewarded and punished accordingly on the basis of his deeds. If a person denies such a day of accountability, then it is like denying himself and playing mischief before one's conscience.
The second thing is the nature of man by virtue of which he likes justice and dislikes injustice. No doubt, in spite of this dislike he still perpetrates injustice but this is not because he is not able to distinguish justice from injustice or that he likes the latter – it is because he loses his balance and poise by being overcome with desires and emotions. All of us know that a person may want to steal from another person's house but he would never like someone to steal from his own house; he may kill someone but would never like that anyone take his life or that of his relatives. Similarly, a person may be dishonest in weighing his merchandise for others but would never be happy if others are dishonest with him in this regard. If one asks these thieves, killers and swindlers about their actions they would confess that each of these is a crime and should be eliminated. Thus no one in his senses can regard good and evil to be equal or that both be dealt with in the same manner. The Qur'ān presents these facts and asks the rejecters of the Day of Judgement: "Are We to deal with those who submit to Us as We deal with those who transgress? What is the matter with you? What is this judgement you give?"
The third thing is the incompleteness found both in man and in this world. From whatever aspect these two are seen, it is clearly evident that in every single part of theirs the great power and wisdom of their maker is apparent. In everything great meaningfulness, matchless order and sequence, unrivalled mathametical perfection and symmetry, extra-ordinary thoroughness and immense beauty of creativity astounds one's intellect. On the other hand, if one tries to understand both of them in their totality, one sees great incompleteness and lack of purpose in them. After this, there can only be two possibilities: first, to regard this world as a meaningless place and come to the conclusion that it is the workmanship of a merry-maker and nothing more; second, to understand it in combination with a Day of Judgement and that eternal kingdom of God which has been so vehemently been affirmed and declared by His prophets. What is the verdict of intellect? Every person can comprehend.
The fourth thing is the attributes of God the effects of which are evident in every speck of this universe. The attributes of providence and mercy in particular need one's attention. After witnessing the extra-ordinary arrangement made by the Lord of this world to nurture and nourish man, how can a person of intellect think that his Lord will leave him unaccountable and how can it be expected from the merciful and gracious God to not punish people who have made this world a place of oppression and injustice. For this very reason, the Qur'ān has pointed out at a number of places that the Day of Judgement is the consequence of God's providence and mercy, power and wisdom. After professing belief in God, no one can deny it.
The fifth thing is the manifestation of God's judgement in this very world. This happened through prophets who were elevated to the status of messengers. The Almighty blessed them with extra-ordinary miracles, helped them through Gabriel and before the actual Day of Judgement set up through these messengers miniature Days of Judgement on this earth. The objective was to prove the existence of God and the Hereafter before the people in the very manner scientific facts are proven through empirical evidence in a laboratory. After this, obviously no one is left with an excuse before the Almighty to not accept the truth.
The methodology adopted for presenting this empirical evidence was that these messengers communicated the truth to their people and then declared that they will set up a court of justice for their people on behalf of the Almighty. The reward and punishment on the basis of one's faith and deeds which they have been informed of will take place for their people in this very world. Just as physical laws are unalterable and manifest come what may, in the same manner this moral law of God shall manifest itself before them once they are left with no excuse to deny the truth. Thus those among the people of these messengers who accept their calls shall attain salvation both in this world and in the next and shall be dominant on their adversaries. And those who reject these calls shall be humiliated and will receive divine punishment.
Whenever this prediction was made and about whichever people it was made, it was made in the most impossible and unbelievable of circumstances; however, it is an amazing historical reality that it came true whenever it was made and came true in such a manner that people in fact witnessed God administering justice and the heavens and the earth were filled with His majesty and grandeur.
The last time this miniature Day of Judgement took place was in seventh century AD. This amazing event of human history occupies extra-ordinary significance because it took place in the light of known history. Thus the minutest of the details about it are preserved and all its phases are before us and anyone can witness them by turning the pages of history.
When will the Day of Judgement come? The Qur'ān has made it clear that no one except God has knowledge of this. Only He knows when it will come and He has not disclosed this matter even to any of His prophets and angels. However, the signs and portents which will signal its advent are mentioned in the Qur'ān and the Hadīth and also in previous divine scriptures. Some of these signs are very general and others are in the form of specific incidents and happenings. The signs of this first category are not mentioned in the Qur'ān. Only the Hadīth literature mentions them. Of the signs of the second category too, only one is mentioned in the Qur'ān: the onslaught of Gog and Magog. Therefore, this only is the certain sign. Other signs which are generally known in this regard are found in narratives which the scholars of Hadīth technically regard as sahih. Some of these signs have already manifested themselves and others, if their ascription towards the Prophet (sws) is correct, shall definitely manifest themselves in future.
How would the Day of Judgement come about? The details of what will ensue at the advent of this day are mentioned in the Qur'ān at a number of places. What will happen to the heavens and the earth and what will befall the sun and the moon, the planets and stars and what situation will be faced by the creatures of the earth and how will people emerge from their graves to gather around their Lord is all portrayed in the Qur'ān. A study of pre-Islamic Arabic literature shows that Arabs relished parables more than similes. The Qur'ān while taking this into account has portrayed the picture of the cataclysm that will take place on that day in such a graphic manner that the reader feels and sees all these events happening before him. The sequence of the events which will take place as per the Qur'ān is the following:
1. People would be deeply involved in their life-routine. Some would be on the way, some in the market, some in a meeting and some at their homes and no one would have the slightest inkling that this whole world is about to be disrupted when suddenly the trumpet will be blown and the upheaval of the Day of Judgement will take place. At various places, the Qur'ān has graphically depicted what will happen to the creatures of this earth when this commotion ensues. When after the first earthquake tremor the second tremor comes, the state of the earth will be much like a ship which is being swept by the tumultuous waves around it and whose inhabitants as a result will be trembling with fear with eyes horror-struck and they would be so overcome and stricken by the situation as if the horrific punishment of God has driven them mad.
2. It will be at this time when great disruption in the physical world will begin. Such great commotion will ensue all over this universe that mountains will be crushed to grains, seas will burst forth and all galaxies and heavenly bodies will be displaced and will fuse into one another. So great will this all-embracing upheaval be that minds cannot imagine it and words cannot describe it. This turmoil will continue for a period known only to God.
3. After this, the second phase will begin. In the Qur'ān this phase has been called the phase in which mankind will be re-created. Thus from this very turmoil a new physical world will emerge. All heavenly bodies including this earth, sun, moon and galaxies made of billions of stars and planets will change into a earth and heavens having new physical laws.According to the Qur'ān, at this juncture, the trumpet will be sounded once again after which mankind will rise from their graves and will advance to the court of justice set up by their Lord for them.
Phases and Abodes
The phases through which a person passes and the abodes in which he is lodged during his journey to meet his Lord are also mentioned in the Qur'ān. Slowly but surely, he is moving to encounter his Lord. The first phase of this journey is death. After a short stay in this world, every single person passes through this phase. There is no escape from it. It can come in the morning and it can come in the evening; one may taste it even before one's birth or right after birth. It can come in childhood, in youth or in old age at any time and every person has to submit to it whether he likes it or not. According to the Qur'ān at death, the real personality of a person which is called the soul by the Qur'ān and which is independent of his body is separated from his mortal being.A specific angel – who has a whole staff of angels – is deputed for this task. He formally comes and collects a person's soul just as a government official entrusted for collecting something discharges his responsibility.
At this instance, what happens to a person is also depicted in the Qur'ān. The souls of people who have deliberately rejected their prophets even after being convinced of their veracity are claimed by the angels whilst they hit and strike these disbelievers and at this very juncture of death they inform them that a terrible torment awaits them because of their evil deeds. On the other hand, people who profess faith in their prophets and are absolutely without any stain of disbelief or polytheism and have also not infringed upon the rights of others or been oppressive in any manner are presented with salutations from the angels and given glad tidings of Paradise.
After this, are the abodes which are called Barzakh, Mahshar, Hell and Heaven.
Barzakh is the boundary beyond which the dead shall be kept till the Day of Judgement. In some Hadīth narratives the word "grave" has been figuratively used for this world. Here mankind would be alive but this life would be without any corporal form. Here, the awareness of the soul, the nature of emotions, observations and experiences would be almost the same as the one found during dreams. It is evident from the Qur'an that people whose fate would be absolutely clear whether they are the righteous who have remained faithful to God and to their human beings in an exemplary way or are the haughty who have rejected the truth in sheer arrogance, for them punishment and reward will begin in this world of Barzakh. The reason for this is that taking an account from them would not be required.
It is this torment of the graves which is mentioned in certain narratives. The Prophet (sws) has further informed us that the first question that would be asked from the people in whom he was sent was regarding his own status. The reason for this is obvious. Once a rasūl (messenger) is sent to his people, it is he who becomes the only distinguisher of good and evil for them. Hence after professing faith in him, there is no need to ask anything from any other person.
The next place people would encounter is the Mahshar. The Qur'ān says that after the trumpet is sounded the second time all mankind born from. All mankind will be given life and will rise from their graves. Each person will be given a body and a soul. The previous body of each person will be replaced with a new one which will be appropriate to endure God's blessings as well His wrath; however, each person will have the same personality at that time as he had in this world.
Mankind on that day will be divided into three groups. The foremost in faith, the righteous and the wrongdoers. The first and second of these two groups will be given their record in their right hand whilst the hands of the third of these groups will be tied and they will be given their account record from behind in their left hand.
At this instance, the accounts of people shall be presented. Witnesses shall be presented so that the wrong-doers are left with no excuse to deny their sins. Prophets of God shall also be presented as witnesses. Even the tongues, hands, feet, ears, eyes and skins of people will bear witness. After this, judgement shall be passed and people shall be sent to Paradise or Hell.
Hell is the worst of abodes according to the Qur'ān. In it, there will be the punishment of the fire. This fire will scorch skins, burn faces, pluck out skins and reach the hearts. The necks of criminalswill have yokes and their feet will be in chains; everything will become a yearning for them. The greatest punishment will be that sinners will not be able to see the Almighty nor receive any attention from Him. The Almighty would not even like to look at some of them.
Paradiseis the abode of the righteous. It is as vast as the universe. It is a place of eternal bliss where in contrast to this world, there is no concept of death with life, sorrow with happiness, worry with satisfaction, hardship with ease and torment with blessings. Its comfort is eternal, its bliss endless and its days and nights unending. Its peace is forever, its happiness will never cease and its majesty is everlasting and its perfection boundless. Here the Almighty will provide His servants with that which eyes have not seen, ears have not heard and never has any person ever been able to imagine what is in it.