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Belief in the Divine Decree

Belief in the Divine Decree

The sixth and last article of Islamic faith is belief in divine decree which means that everything good or bad, all moments of happiness or sorrow, pleasure or pain, come from God.

First, God’s foreknowledge is infallible.  God is not indifferent to this world or its people.  He is Wise and Loving, but this should not make us fatalists, throwing up our hands and saying, ‘what’s the point of making any effort?’  God’s foreknowledge does not compromise human responsibility.

God holds us accountable for what we can do, what is within our capability, but  He does not hold us accountable for things we cannot do.  He is Just and, as He has given us only limited responsibility, judges us accordingly.  We should think, plan and make the right choices, but, if sometimes things do not turn out the way we want, we need not lose hope or get depressed.  We should pray to God and try again.  If in the end we still do not achieve what we wanted, we should know we have tried our best and are not responsible for the results.

God knows what the creatures will do, encompassing everything by His knowledge.  He knows all that exists, in entirety and totality, by virtue of His eternal foreknowledge.

Truly, nothing is hidden from God, in the earth or in the heavens. (Aal `Imran 3:5)

Whoever refuses this denies God’s perfection, because the opposite of knowledge is either ignorance or forgetfulness.  It would mean God would have been mistaken in his foreknowledge of future events; He would no longer be omniscient.  Both are deficiencies which God is free of.

Second, God has recorded everything that will occur until the Day of Judgment in the Preserved Tablet (al-Lauh al-Mahfuz in Arabic).  The life spans of all human beings are written and the amount of their sustenance apportioned.  Everything that is created or occurs in the universe is according to what is recorded there.  God has said:

Did you not know that God knows (all) that is in the heavens and the earth?  It is (all) in a record.  Surely that is easy for God. (Al-Hajj 22:70)

Third, whatever God wills to happen happens, and whatever God does not will does not happen.  Nothing occurs in the heavens or on earth without the Will of God.

Fourth, God is the Creator of everything.

…He has created everything, and has ordained for it a measure. (Al-Furqan 25:2)

In Islamic doctrine every human act both in material and spiritual life is predestined, yet it is incorrect to believe the action of fate is blind, arbitrary, and relentless. Without denying divine interference in human affairs, human liberty is kept intact.  It does not discount the principle of man’s moral freedom and responsibility.  All is known, but freedom is also granted.

Man is not a helpless creature borne along by destiny. Rather, each person is responsible for his acts.  Lethargic nations and individuals indolent to ordinary affairs of life are to blame themselves, not God.

Man is bound to obey the moral law; and he will receive merited punishment or reward as he violates or observes that law.  However, if such is so, man must have within his power the ability to break or keep the law.  God would not hold us responsible for something unless we were capable of doing it:

God does not burden any human being with more than he is well able to bear. (Al-Baqarah 2:286)

Belief in divine decree strengthens one’s belief in God.  A person realizes that God alone controls everything, so he trusts and relies on Him.  Even though a person tries his best, at the same time he relies on God for the final outcome.  His hard work or intelligence does not make him arrogant, for God is the source of all that comes his way.

Finally, a person attains peace of mind in the realization that God is the Wise and His Actions are dictated by wisdom.  Things don’t happen without a purpose.  If something reached him, he realizes it could never have escaped him.  If something misses him, he realizes it was never meant to be.  A man achieves an inner peace, inwardly at rest with this realization.

 

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Belief in Life After Death

Belief in Life After Death

Everyone is scared of dying and rightly so.  The uncertainty of what lies beyond is frightening. It may be that of all religions, Islam, provides the most graphic details of what comes after death and lies beyond.  Islam views death to be a natural threshold to the next stage of existence.

Islamic doctrine holds that human existence continues after the death of the human body in the form of spiritual and physical resurrection.  There is a direct relation between conduct on earth and the life beyond.  The afterlife will be one of rewards and punishments which is commensurate with earthily conduct.  A Day will come when God will resurrect and gather the first and the last of His creation and judge everyone justly.  People will enter their final abode, Hell or Paradise.  Faith in life after death urges us to do right and to stay away from sin.  In this life we sometimes see the pious suffer and the impious enjoy.  All shall be judged one day and justice will be served.

Faith in life after death is one of the six fundamental beliefs required of a Muslim to complete his faith.  Rejecting it renders all other beliefs meaningless.  Think of a child who does not put his hand in fire.  He does not do so because he is sure it will burn. When it comes to doing school work, the same child may feel lazy because he does not quite understand what a sound education will do for his future.  Now, think of a man who does not believe in the Day of Judgment.  Would he consider belief in God and a life driven by his belief in God to be of any consequence?  To him, neither obedience to God is of use, nor is disobedience of any harm.  How, then, can he live a God-conscious life?  What incentive would he have to suffer the trials of life with patience and avoid overindulgence in worldly pleasures?  And if a man does not follow the way of God, then what use is his belief in God, if he has any?  The acceptance or rejection of life after death is perhaps the greatest factor in determining the course of an individual’s life.

The dead have a continued and conscious existence of a kind in the grave.  Muslims believe that, upon dieing, a person enters an intermediate phase of life between death and resurrection.  Many events take place in this new “world”, such as the “trial” of the grave, where everyone will be questioned by angels about their religion, prophet, and Lord.  The grave is a garden of paradise or a pit of hell; angels of mercy visit the souls of believers and angels of punishment come for the unbelievers.

Resurrection will be preceded by the end of the world.  God will command a magnificent angel to blow the Horn.  At its first blowing, all the inhabitants of the heavens and the earth will fall unconscious, except those spared by God.  The earth will be flattened, the mountains turned into dust, the sky will crack, planets will be dispersed, and the graves overturned.

People will be resurrected into their original physical bodies from their graves, thereby entering the third and final phase of life.  The Horn will blow again upon which people will rise up from their graves, resurrected!

God will gather all humans, believers and the impious, jinns, demons, even wild animals.  It will be a universal gathering.  The angels will drive all human beings naked, uncircumcised, and bare-footed to the Great Plain of Gathering.  People will stand in wait for judgment and humanity will sweat in agony.  The righteous will be sheltered under the shade of God’s Magnificent Throne.

When the condition becomes unbearable, people will request the prophets and the messengers to intercede with God on their behalf to save them from distress.

The balances will be set and the deeds of men will be weighed.  Disclosure of the Records of the deeds performed in this life will follow.  The one who will receive his record in his right hand will have an easy reckoning.  He will happily return to his family.  However, the person who will receive his record in his left hand would wish he were dead as he will be thrown into the Fire.  He will be full of regrets and will wish that he were not handed his Record or he had not known it.

Then God will judge His creation.  They will be reminded and informed of their good deeds and sins.  The faithful will acknowledge their failings and be forgiven.  The disbelievers will have no good deeds to declare because an unbeliever is rewarded for them in this life.  Some scholars are of the opinion that the punishment of an unbeliever may be reduced in lieu of his good deeds, except the punishment of the great sin of disbelief.

The Siraat is a bridge that will be established over Hell extending to Paradise.  Anyone who is steadfast on God’s religion in this life will find it easy to pass it.

Paradise and Hell will be the final dwelling places for the faithful and the damned after the Last Judgment.  They are real and eternal.  The bliss of the people of Paradise shall never end and the punishment of unbelievers condemned to Hell shall never cease.  Unlike a pass-fail system in some other belief-systems, the Islamic view is more sophisticated and conveys a higher level of divine justice.  This can be seen in two ways.  First, some believers may suffer in Hell for unrepented, cardinal sins.  Second, both Paradise and Hell have levels.

Paradise is the eternal garden of physical pleasures and spiritual delights.  Suffering will be absent and bodily desires will be satisfied.  All wishes will be met.  Palaces, servants, riches, streams of wine, milk and honey, pleasant fragrances, soothing voices, pure partners for intimacy; a person will never get bored or have enough!

The greatest bliss, though, will be the vision of their Lord of which the unbelievers will be deprived.

Hell is an infernal place of punishment for unbelievers and purification for sinful believers.  Torture and punishment: for the body and the soul: burning by fire, boiling water to drink, scalding food to eat, chains, and choking columns of fire.  Unbelievers will be eternally damned to it, whereas sinful believers will eventually be taken out of Hell and enter Paradise.

Paradise is for those who worshipped God alone, believed and followed their prophet, and lived moral lives according to the teachings of scripture.

Hell will be the final dwelling place of those who denied God, worshipped other beings besides God, rejected the call of the prophets, and lead sinful, unrepentant lives.

 

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