You should know that this life is a grazing pasture for the Hereafter, a storehouse of gains and a place where provisions can be taken as well as profitable gains; these gains have been taken advantage of and in this way the orthodox preceded us and the pious have been saved.
Those who act have been victorious and those who have engaged in vanities have lost everything. This present life is just a hint of what is to come for the People of the Paradise or those who belong to the Fire.
Allah has already proclaimed of the People of the Fire:
And they will be crying for help therein, saying, ‘Our Lord! Release us so that we might return and do good deeds, other than that which we used to do’.3
The Glorified One has also said:
And if you could see when they are brought to the Fire! They will say, ‘Woe be to us! If only we could return, we would not deny the signs of our Lord. And we would be believers’.4
The companion,5 `Abdullah ibn Mas`ūd,6 may Allah be pleased with him, said regarding this issue:
“Indeed, the souls of the martyrs are like green birds, they take rest in the Paradise where they will. Then they are brought to the lamps hanging from the Throne. So they may remain like that until the Lord speaks to them and He says, ‘My Slaves! Ask me what you will’. They say, ‘Our Lord! We ask to have our souls put back into our bodies, so we can go back into the world and then be killed for Your Sake again’. But He sees that they do not ask except for that, so they are left to their bliss.”7
May Allah have mercy upon you!
My brother, Allah the Exalted, knew that they would ask for that and that they would not be returning to this life. He only intends to show the believers who are in this life that the martyrs in the Paradise desire to die in His Cause. He is showing them to encourage those in this life to do that.
Imām Ibrāhīm at-Taymī,8 may Allah have mercy upon him, has said:
“I imagined myself in the Paradise eating from its fruits, enjoying the company of the maidens therein, enjoying its favours. Then I said to myself, ‘My Soul! What do you hope for?’ It answered, ‘To go back to the world and do more deeds that made me reach this enjoyment’. Then I imagined myself in the Fire. I was being burned by its searing heat and torn apart by the scorching hot water I was drinking.9 I was being fed from the wretched Zaqqūm tree.10
I said to myself, ‘My soul! What do you hope for?’ My soul said, ‘I want to go back into the world so that I might do a righteous act that I might be purified from this fate’. I said to my soul, ‘My soul, you are in a state of safety for the moment, so act’.”11
One of the first generations dug a grave for himself after a break in his worship. When he had finished digging, he went down into it and lay on the shelf for the body to be interred.
“Oh, Myself! It would have been better for me if you had died and been placed on this shelf right now, so for which thing are you hoping?”
The self said:
“I want to come back to this life and do righteous deeds.”
So he would say to the soul:
“Your hope has been fulfilled. Get started and act righteously.”
May Allah have mercy upon you!
You need to know that the people of the graves – any one of them – are hoping to do something that might raise them to levels of righteousness in the sight of Allah. This could be accomplished by increasing their good deeds by glorifying Allah, sincere repentance that remits sins or one rak`ah12 of fervent prayer.
We will mention what was narrated of a man who once did two rak`ah of prayer right next to a grave, then he leaned against it. He was overtaken by sleep and saw the soul of the deceased in a dream.
The deceased said:
“Step away from me as you have caused me harm. By Allah, if you did these two rak`ah of prayer for me, then they are more beloved to me than this life and all that is in it. You are doing something while not knowing what you are doing, but we knew and we do not act!”
May Allah have mercy on you!
Take stock of this story to make use of your precious life and endeavour to guard your time wisely. You should know that your life is short and your days are numbered while every breath that you take steals away some part of your life.
Whatever remains of your time on Earth after that is paltry. Every aspect of your time alive is precious, there being no equal to time spent and no replacement for time lost. This life leads either to eternal bliss and favour or to eternal judgement and perdition.13
When you put things on a par between this life and the eternal life, you will come to know that every soul would gladly trade one billion years or more of this life for a split second of eternal bliss, as there is no price for the eternal life.
You should only spend the precious moments of your life engaged in some useful activity. Do not go through life without engaging in something that will render some return. Use the life that you have been given to strive in some action or form of obedience to Allah, and leave nothing to chance or left undone.
If you had any precious gem from this life and it was taken from you, you would be saddened. You would be devastated at its loss. In fact, if any of you just lost a coin of wealth you would be vigilant. You would not rest until you found that lost coin.
Why are you not just as sad and vigilant about the loss of your life when it is slipping away and you can never replace it?
3 Sūrah Fātir (35), āyah 37
4 Sūrat ul-An`ām (6), āyah 27
5 Ar. Sahābī (SAW-HOBBY). According to the first three generations, this is someone who met, knew the Prophet Muhammad, peace and blessings be upon him, and died upon Islam. There were some 124,000 companions, a large number of them being women.
6 d. 32/3 AH/AD 652. One of the closest companions of the Prophet Muhammad, peace and blessings be upon him. He began his career as a shepherd, but upon embracing Islam went to live with the Prophet, peace and blessings be upon him. Not only was he a great companion, he shared the designation as being the sixth one to embrace Islam in Makkah during the times of persecution. He became one of the outstanding teachers of Islam, witnessing the revelations being given, angels coming, as well as being one of the 3,000 companions depended upon as a source of fiqh for those who later came to be known as the Hanafī madhhab.
7 Collected in Jāmi` us-Sahīh by Imām Muslim, Book of Leadership under the chapter, Souls of the Martyrs are in the Paradise and they are Alive in the Sight of their Lord being Sustained, and classed by him as authentic.
8 53-92 AH/AD 672-710. He was a famous Imām in Kūfah and was known for his knowledge of fiqh and good manners. His father preceded him as a scholar of high standing. He soon fell out of favour with the provincial governor, Al-Hajjāj ibn Yūsuf, who had him killed for contesting his rule. He was just under 40 years of age.
9 The reference is being made to what is mentioned in Sūrat ur-Rahmān (55), āyāt 37- 44.
10 This is an allusion to where Allah has proclaimed in the Qur’ān about the Zaqqūm tree, And we said to you that your Lord encompasses humanity. We only showed you the vision of the cursed tree mentioned in the Qur’ān to be as a test to the people.
‘We strike terror in them, but they only increase in wrong and rebellion’. Sūrat ul-Isrā’ (17), āyah 60
He also says, ‘Is that better or do they prefer the tree of Zaqqūm? We have made it a tribulation for those who are oppressors. It is a tree that is rooted in and springs from the bottom of the Great Fire, its leaves come out like the heads of devils. They will eat of it and their bellies will be filled with its contents’. Sūrat us-Sāffāt (37), āyāt 62-66
He has further revealed, ‘Indeed the tree of Zaqqūm will be the mainstay of the people of sin’. Sūrat ud- Dukhān (44), āyāt 43-44
He has said, ‘So eat from the tree of Zaqqūm’. Sūrat ul- Wāqi`ah (56), āyah 52
11 Hilyat ul-Awliyā’, V. 4, pp.210-212
12 A rak`ah is composed of standing, then bowing, rising from bowing, going into prostration, sitting, then prostrating again and coming up from that second prostration. This represents one rak`ah or unit of prayer.
13 This is where we would direct some advice to the reader. There is no changing the reality that the choices you make in this life have eternal consequences. We all know that we should be serving our Lord, but some of us choose not to do so. Idolatry has taken root in most of humanity. Those who take part in idolatry may be resting their hopes on false gods in the form of statues, false religions, cults or personal inclinations, which also become ‘gods’ for that person.
This is the result of the first idolatry that took place in the time of the Prophet Nuh, peace be upon him. And they said, “And do not aabbaannddoonn your gods, whether it is Wadd, Suwā’, Yaghūth, Ya`ūq or Nasr.” Sūrah Nūh (71), āyah 24
It is this very idolatry that led to a flood that destroyed that rebellious people, but Allah always had a clear plan for His Creation. Never once did He abandon them. With the advent of idolatry, people began to construct their own realities based upon how they had deceived themselves. Some had and do place their salvation or goodness in sacrifices, animal or human.
‘Do they not realise that Allah rejects this as a way to salvation? Neither the meat nor blood of the sacrifices will ever reach Allah, but it is the piety from you that reaches Allah’. Sūrat ul-Hajj (22), āyah 37
There are those who believe they can somehow merit righteousness, salvation or truth through other people’s deeds – a sort of ‘goodness by association.
’No one may bear the burden of another, but the human being only has what he has put forth’. Sūrat un-Najm (53), āyāt 37-39
No one may bear another’s sin, or save or declare another righteous and saved. How could we hide behind someone else’s goodness when we know in ourselves that the same idolatry, selfishness and evil desires that we might accept in ourselves also exist in others? We most certainly cannot depend on ourselves for righteousness or salvation. Those who do not believe, their deeds are like a mirage in a sandy desert. Those taking part in it think they will find refreshment and water, until when they come to it, they find nothing but Allah waiting to give them their account – and Allah is swift in taking account. Sūrat un- Nūr (24), āyah 39
We know how we really are, what we are really like when we look in the mirror. The original righteous state that Allah gave us when we were born; many of us have chosen to corrupt. We made the conscious decision to head towards the darkness. How could we hope to merit our own goodness and salvation when we know (especially when we really look at ourselves truthfully in the mirror of sober reality) that we could never erase our sins? Even terrible deeds that we committed and now seek to forget, hang on doggedly in our minds, flashing back. This need not be a surprise, as rectification, sanctification and forgiveness could never be realised by ourselves. And who forgives sins other than Allah? Sūrah Āli Imrān (3), āyah 135
We go on saying, “I am a good person. I haven’t done anything to anybody. I do not murder. I do not steal. I am better than a lot of people out there.” But are you? The looks of envy, contempt, hate and rage you have given others are just as deadly, or more deadly than you stretching out your hand to physically harm them. The desire to ‘get ahead’, stepping on others in the process; how you are hurting them being the farthest thing from your mind as you are number one. All the earthly trinkets with which you try to clothe yourself are of no use.
Being good never saved anyone, built any civilisation or even saved the human race. Human beings have their actions guided by the beliefs they hold. Your actions, whatever good there might be in them, are driven by ulterior motives such as, impressing the opposite sex, humiliating opponents or making yourself appear in the best possible light when, in reality, you acted treacherously.
Did not the Prophet Muhammad, peace and blessings be upon him, warn:
No one of you will be saved because of his deeds…
No one is entering Paradise because of his deeds.
Collected by Imām Muslim ibn al-Hajjāj in his Jāmi` us-Sahīh, Book of the Description of the Day of Resurrection, the Paradise and the Fire, chapter: No One is Entering Paradise Because of His Deeds but by the Mercy of Allah, and classed by him as authentic.
How does one become saved? How do they reconcile to their Lord? There must be some way. If you have asked this question, you are already on the way to the truth. The Prophet Muhammad, peace and blessings be upon him, witnessed his uncle die, a man who lived by his own righteousness and played life by his own rules.
He was asked, “What is salvation?”
His answer was important. Salvation is accepting the word that my uncle today rejected. Collected by Imām Ahmad ibn Hanbal in his Musnad, hadith #21 and classified by him as authentic.
But what is this word? What does this word entail?
Again, Allah has told us, You should know there is no god but Allah. Then ask forgiveness for your sin. Sūrah Muhammad (47), āyah 19
The Prophet Muhammad, peace and blessings be upon him, state:
‘Whoever testified that there is no god but Allah and that Muhammad is the Messenger of Allah, will enter the Paradise’.
Collected by Imām Muslim ibn al-Hajjāj in his Jāmi` us-Sahīh, Book of Faith, under the chapter: Whoever dies on Tawhid Entered the Paradise, and classed by him as authentic.
This is the salvation that has always been offered by Allah, from the first to the last prophets. The choice comes down to you. Allah speaks the truth when He says, And Allah gives salvation to those that have faith and no evil will touch them, nor will they grieve. Sūrat uz-Zumar (39), āyah 61
My people! How strange I find it that I call you to salvation and you call me to the Fire. You call me to associate partners with Him that I have no knowledge of and to disbelieve, while I am calling you to the Forgiving, the Almighty. Sūrah Ghāfir (40), āyah 41
The fruits of salvation are many, but all of them fall under general headings. The fruits of salvation is how you benefit, what you get out of it. Safety from Eternal Judgement.
‘O you who believe, fear Allah as is His Right to be feared and do not die except as Muslims. Hold fast to the rope of Allah and do not become divided. Remember the favour of Allah upon you when you were enemies and then by His Favour he put love between your hearts and made you brothers. You were on the very edge of the pit of the Fire and He gave you salvation from it. Sūrah Āli Imrān (3), āyāt 102-103
Allah never rejects anyone who comes to Him. He has saved you from Eternal Judgement. As long as you believe in Him, you will be saved, but if you reject faith, then you go back into the world as you were.
‘When My slaves ask you about Me, indeed I am Near. Sūrat ul-Baqarah (2), āyah 186
Indeed He is the All Hearing, the Near. Sūrah Saba (34), āyah 50
There is no need to go to anyone else for your salvation, you go straight to your Lord. You always have direct access to Him, no matter in what situation you find yourself at any time in your life. He hears your sincere hopes and is never unmindful of His Slaves.
Seeing Allah Faces that day will be radiant, looking at their Lord. Sūrat ul-Qiyāmah (75), āyāt 22- 23
In the Paradise, the believers have been promised that they will see Allah. Indeed, to ‘meet one’s maker’ is the greatest gift someone could ever be given! Allah has made this promise more than once in the Qur’ān. Allah in turn takes your deeds that you do after faith and blesses them. Allah will exalt those among you who believe who have knowledge in ranks.
‘Allah knows everything you do’. Sūrat ul- Mujādilah (58), ayah 11
After salvation, you will obviously make mistakes, intentionally or unintentionally. You will feel repentant and want to change. Allah uses righteous deeds to continually purify you in your journey back to Him.
Righteous deeds wipe out evil deeds. Sūrah Hūd (11), ayah 114
Further, as a believer, you will want to obey Allah and do things pleasing to Him. Believers do good deeds because Allah saved them, not to become saved. Your obedience shows that you are in a committed relationship,
Say, “If you love Allah, then follow me. Allah will love you and forgive your sins. Allah is Forgiving, Merciful.” Say, “Obey Allah and Obey the Messenger. Allah does not love the unbelievers.” Sūrah Āli Imrān (3), āyāt 31-32
But again, this invitation is only if you desire it. You could follow the rest of humanity if you choose.
Indeed most of humanity does not believe in the meeting with their Lord. Sūrat ur- Rūm (30), āyah 8
Assuredly, you do not want to die in this state. You may be an unbeliever. Perhaps you are in a cult, false religion or are a wayward Muslim who has lost his faith or backslid. Will you not fall in prostration to Allah, forsake your false religion or cult and come home to faith? Salvation awaits those who ask Him. Indeed, He accepts all those who come to Him.
A Word of Advice, by Ibn Qudamah Rahimahullah