Al-Akhira (The Afterlife). The phenomenon of which we are the most afraid. It is something that we just have no way of knowing until the day of our passing from this world. It’s anonymity and uncertainty are the driving forces for the forgiveness we ask of Allah for our sins and the good works we conduct in our lives. There are some who even believe that there is no Afterlife whatsoever, and that our final destination will be in the ground, condemned to absolute nothingness for eternity.
But for those who do believe in an afterlife, we have primarily two choices: either Heaven or Hell. We all know that Heaven is the place to strive for, and everyday of our lives we remember Allah in order to increase our chances for the eternal pleasure of paradise. However, we are also aware of the damnation we receive when we are bound for the atrocities of Hell. But what makes Heaven so bright and beautiful. What actually makes Hell the place of despair that we fear so much? The Qur’an describes these two opposite worlds in a very direct and open way, so the reader will know full well what choices they should and shouldn’t make in Dunya (Present world).
The aspects of Heaven are brighter than anything we could ever imagine, and this description that I am about to tell you would not do it justice. First of all, Heaven is not only a physical entity, but an emotional and psychological change in the subject that enters it. In paradise, one will only have positive emotions. There will be no hint of depression, anxiety, anger or sadness that we usually see in our day and age. Only happiness, dignity, respect, and love will ensue in this world. Second, Heaven is considered to be a huge garden of lush greenery and flowing water. We become so awestruck at the natural wonders of the Earth, imagine how infatuated we would be with the natural wonders of heaven. Whatever natural beauties we see in the present world, the gardens of Heaven are over a hundred times more beautiful. Lastly, one characteristic of paradise that I feel we will all be grateful for, is the fact that we will be together with our families. Allah SWT knows that no matter how beautiful a location can be, it means nothing without our family and friends.
Hell, however, is a completely different story. The descriptions of this place from the Qur’an will make anyone cringe in horror and disgust. The physical nature of hell is composed mainly of pure fire and extreme heat. Even the garments of the men and women who are sent to this place are made of burning fire. Nothing will be able to stop the extreme heat that manifests it. We think of air, water, and shade, as things that are used to cool us down. But in Hell, even the air will be a stroke of hot wind, the water will be boiled, and the shade will be a shadow of black smoke. According to the verses from the Qur’an, Hell has levels, and the deeper the level, the greater the turmoil. The deepest level will house the men and women considered to be hypocrites, and they will receive an even far greater punishment than the rest of the inhabitants of this place.
So in the end, we have a choice between two paths that completely contrast one another. But why make it this way? Why have one path that leads to lush gardens and the other that leads to eternal fire. Well, just imagine, for a moment, that there was no concept of Heaven or Hell, and therefore, no consequences for one’s actions in the present world. Even the very ideas of good and evil would be meaningless. The descriptions of these two outcomes are not only designed to make one fearful of God, but they are also created in order to establish the very concepts of right and wrong, and guide us towards what is right.
Nouman Ali Khan, ICNA Baltimore conference 2016
Picture Reference: https://uk.pinterest.com/pin/545991154797373993/