Khutba: Iman in the Last Day
9th July 1999
"On the Day the Hour arrives, that day they will be split up. As for those who had iman and did
right actions, they will be made joyful in a verdant meadow. But as for those who were kafir and
denied Our Signs and the meeting of the akhira, they will be summoned to the punishment." (30:13-15)
We will continue our examination of of the pillars of iman by seeing something of what it means to believe in the Last Day. From one point of view this is the absolute crux of the matter; it is what all of our lives are about; it is the whole point of human existence. If we have iman in it we have got the point and if we fail to have it we have missed the point completely. Allah ta'ala says that the ulu'l-albab, the people of true intelligence, of deep insight, say to Him:
'You have not created this for nothing, glory be to You, so safeguard us from the punishment of the Fire.'
By saying this they are clearly indicating that the purpose of Allah's creation is in order that human beings may be judged for their actions in this world, which will result for them in either the reward of the Garden or the punishment of the Fire. There is no page of Allah's Book in which we are not reminded either implicitly or explicitly of the Day when we will be called to account for our actions during our lives in the dunya and, indeed, it is only the fact of accountability which gives meaning to the words right and wrong. Right is what is pleasing to Allah and leads to the Garden and wrong is what is displeasing to Allah and leads to the Fire. Without this accountability there is no basis for moral values whatsoever. This is why the world we live in is in such a mess and why the back to basics campaign and similar initiatives attempting to bring back moral standards to todays society are inevitably doomed to failure. It is impossible for them to be anything but empty rhetoric because it is only in the context of iman in Allah and the Last Day that the language of morality can have any meaning and only when it restored to people's hearts that the present moral chaos has any chance of being resolved. One thing, however, which even people who have iman in the Last Day tend to do and which we must not do if our iman in it is to be strong, is to project the whole thing into the distant future. Allah says about the Last Hour in Surat al-A'raf:
"It hangs heavy in the heavens and the earth. It will not come upon you except suddenly." (7:187)
This hanging heavily is a reference to its imminence and to the fact that just on the other side of the fragile fabric of the space\time dimension in which we live lies a greater reality where time and space are governed by completely different laws than those which pertain here. Allah says in Surat ar-Rum and there are many similar ayats:
"On the Day the Last Hour arrives the evildoers will swear they have not even tarried for an hour.
That is the extent to which they are deceived." (30:54)
So it will appear when we arrive in the akhira that our time in the dunya was almost nothing. One way of understanding this is to think about what happens when we wake from a dream. We may feel intensely alive and travel great distances and spend much time in our dream world but when we wake up the whole experience immediately fades into complete insubstantiality, leaving us with nothing more than a pleasant or unpleasant aftertaste depending on the nature of the dream. Our lives in this world will have the same quality for us when we arrive in the Next World, as dreams have for us in this one when we wake in the morning. This is one of the meanings of the saying attributed to the Prophet, salla'Llahu 'alayhi wa sallam, 'People are asleep and when they die they wake up.'
The point I am getting at is that this world is not really real at all in an absolute sense. I am always amused when I hear people say, 'You should live in the real world,' when the world they are talking about is frequently less real than some people's dreams. What does Allah say:
"The life of the dunya is nothing but a game and a diversion. The abode of the akhira
that is truly Life if they only knew". (29:64)
So true reality is what we experience after we die. This world is a shadow of what we will find on the other side of death. Allah says in Surat al-Baqara about some people in the Garden:
"When they are given fruit there as provision, they will say, 'This is what we were given before.'
But they were only given a simulation of it." (2:24)
In other words the things we have in the dunya are in fact a faint shadow of their true reality which we will only experience fully in the akhira, either as the blissful delights of the Garden or as the agonising terrors of the Fire and that is why Allah ta'ala describes them for us in His Book in such vivid and graphic detail. And do not make the mistake of thinking that these things are distant from us. As the Book and Sunna make clear we ourselves are moulding our own fates, minute by minute, hour by hour, and day by day and are only prevented from perceiving their reality by the thinnest of veils. Allah ta'ala says in Surat al-'Ankabut.
"They ask you to hasten the punishment but Hell already encircles the kafirun." (29:54)
When the Prophet, salla'Llahu 'alayhi wa sallam, was performing the eclipse prayer with the Companions, he at one point reached his hand out towards the right and then withdrew it and at another leaned his whole body back and away from the left. When they asked him why he had done that, he said that first he had seen a bunch of grapes from the Garden and had wanted to reach out and pluck it to show people what was in store for them and then he had seen the Fire and had recoiled from the intensity of its heat.
No, the other world is very close and very real. One thing that really brought this home to me was something that happened while I was living in Atlanta at the end of the 70's. A woman who had recently entered Islam came and told me about a dream that her ten year old daughter had had the previous night. The girl had seen herself with a lot of other people on a very high narrow bridge crossing over an immensely deep chasm of fire. She was finding it increasingly difficult to move and finally she toppled from it and found herself turning over and over falling towards the fire. When she looked up she could see people looking down at her from the bridge praying for help for her. Suddenly an angel swooped down, gathered her up, and she found herself back on the bridge. She woke up in quite a state and told her mother what she had seen.
I told the woman about the Sirat and the events of the Last Day but the significance of the dream did not finally hit home until almost ten years later when I was living here in Norwich. The mother of the girl had kept in loose touch over the years and we received news that her daughter was soon to be married. What had happened was that in her early teens the girl had gone completely off the rails and totally rejected the deen and basically gone on the streets. But recently she had returned wholeheartedly to Islam and was going to marry a young Muslim man of very high reputation.
So the events of the Next World truly do mirror our lives in this one. May we be people who really take this to heart so that we send ahead for ourselves what will bring us closer to Allah and gain us His mercy and preserve ourselves from anything other than that.
"Allah's promise is true. So do not let the life of the dunya delude you
and do not let the Deluder delude you concerning Allah." (31:32)
"As for him who is given his Book in his right hand, he will say, 'Here, come and read my Book!
I counted on meeting my Reckoning.' He will have a very pleasant life in an elevated Garden,
its ripe fruit hanging close to hand." (69:18-22)
"As for him who is given his Book in his left hand, he will say, 'If only I had not been given my Book
and had not known about my Reckoning! If only death had really been the end!
My wealth has been of no use to me. My power has vanished.'
Seize him and truss him up.Then roast him in the Blazing Fire." (69: 24-30)
What I am going to present now is a kind of sketch plan gleaned from the Book and Sunna of the events of the Last Day, with the caveat, of course, that what is being described takes place outside the space/time laws that govern us here and so cannot be fixed in anyway. What is certain is that we will know exactly what these things are when we see them from the descriptions we were given.
When we die we go first to the inbetween world of the grave. There we will be questioned by the angels, Munkar and Nakir. They will ask us who was our Lord, what was our deen, and who was our Messenger. Do not be too sure that you will have the answers to hand. Many find themselves tongue-tied and unable to answer. When it is said to them: 'How is it that you can't answer when we saw you praying and fasting with the Muslims?' they reply that they just said what people said and did what they did. So we have to make sure that every aspect of our deen is thoroughly internalised. According to our state the grave will either be spacious and sweet for us with a window opening onto our promised place in the Garden or it will close in on us and crush us and we will be beaten by angels with iron bars and tormented in other ways and there will be a window in it opening onto our destined place in the Fire. We seek refuge with Allah from that.
Israfil's final trumpet blast will call us out from our graves and we will all be gathered together, every human being Allah created from the beginning to the end of time, on a vast plain. It will be extremely hot there and some will literally be up to their necks in their own perspiration. It will only be comparatively comfortable for those Allah gives shade to among whom, according to the famous hadith are: just rulers, those who spent their youth in 'ibada, those whose hearts are attached to the mosque, people who love one another for the sake of Allah alone, those who do dhikr alone and weep, those who restrain themselves in the face of an open invitation to unlawful sex, and those who give secretly to the extent that their right hand does not know what their left hand has given.
While there we will be given our books, that detailed and intimate record of every moment of our lives from which nothing whatsoever is omitted, that journal which is being written down moment by moment, even as we sit here now. As we heard from the ayat at the beginning, being given our book in our right hand will be a sign of success whereas getting it in our left hand or behind our back will be a sign of abysmal failure.
Then the Mizan, the Balance, is set up in which the actions recorded in our books are weighed and:
"As for him whose balance is heavy, he will have a most pleasant life.
But as for him whose balance is light, his motherland is Hawiya.
And what will convey to you what that is? A raging Fire!" (101:5-10)
In respect of this the Prophet, salla'Llahu 'alayhi wa sallam, warned us to be careful of giving to other people the rights which are due to them from us because if we do not, it is at this point that they come to claim them from us, removing them from the good actions in our balances and transferring them to their own; and many will find their balances changing from heavy to light on account of this.
From here we set off across the Sirat so vividly pictured by the young girl in her dream. As we live in this world, so we will cross the Sirat. Those who spent their lives truly striving in the path of Allah and His Messenger will cross like the wind. Some will cross running, others walking, others crawling on their hands and knees being snagged by their wrong actions which appear as sharp hooks which claw at them as they pass, and there are others who fail to cross and fall into the river of fire below. We seek refuge with Allah from that.
Those Muslims who cross come to the Hawd of the Prophet, salla'Llahu 'alayhi wa sallam, a huge reservoir whose water is whiter than milk, sweeter than honey, colder than snow and sweeter smelling than musk. It is surrounded by beautiful cups and all those who drink from it will never thirst again. Some, however, will be driven away from it by angels and they are those who deviate from the Sunna of the Messenger of Allah. Once again we find the connection between this world and the Next. Our drinking from the Prophet, salla'Llahu 'alayhi wa sallam, on the Last Day depends on our having drunk from him here in the dunya.
Then those whose self-chosen destiny is the Fire and its timeless, endless, unspeakably atrocious tortures are herded together in chains and driven away into it. We seek refuge with Allah from that. Those who have chosen the Garden for themselves by having iman in Allah and His Messengers and following the path set down by Allah and His Messengers will be conducted to their places in the Garden where they will be with those they love and have all they could possibly desire and even more. Then those among them who are chosen will be taken to the Lookout Point from which they will be permitted to gaze on the Face of Allah, before which even the greatest of the unparalleled delights of Paradise will pale into total insignificance. May Allah increase our yearning for the vision of His Face and put us among those people who are blessed with it.
This, then, is a brief outline of the Last Day and what happens on it. The question is, have we prepared ourselves for it? Surely we could not have been given a greater incentive than that presented to us by the sudden death of our Egyptian brother two weeks ago, may Allah have mercy on him. The same could happen to any of us at any moment. As far as all of us are concerned the Last Day is the day we leave this world, because at that moment all possibility of further action is cut off. So let us be people who take this matter seriously and who, therefore, have the best possible time in our determined efforts to obey Allah and His Messenger and see Islam once more established on the earth. Let us take the way of the Companions, and those who have followed in their footsteps, and be people who see the akhira as nearer to us than the dunya, so that it may be said of us, as it was said of some of our forebears by someone in the British government a century ago: 'How can you defeat a people who, when they see the mouths of our cannons, see the gates of Paradise opening in front of them.'
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