Wednesday, February 3, 2010

The Quran Project - The Day of Judgement

According to the Quran, there will be a Day of Judgement. On this day we’ll all be raised from the dead and face the consequences, both good and bad, for the deeds we did in our lives. The Quraysh, the powerful Arab tribe that Muhammad was a part of, found this part of his message one of the hardest to accept. Like many people today, they were extremely secular and thought of religion as one big fairy tale. To address this issue, Fazlur Rahman mentions three points: the need for the day of judgement, being made “public”, and the remaking of this world in the hereafter.

Need for Day of Judgment

“When the great cataclysm comes, that day man will recall what he had been striving for.” (79:34-35)

The end of the world is mentioned by many names in the Quran. One of these names is “The Hour.” This implies a moment when all human beings that have ever lived will suddenly become aware of each of their deeds. They’ll “remember” everything they did in their life, including everything they could have done but didn’t do. All actions have consequences, whether good or bad, and on the Day of Judgment (another name for The Hour) these consequences are revealed.

So the Day of Judgment isn’t just a time when some harsh God doles out the fates of poor, unsuspecting people. It’s a state of heightened consciousness, where we humans begin see much more than the limited things we could see while we were caught up in our lives. We recognize what our actions really mean, and because of that we have to move towards their consequences. It would be impossible not to, at that state of consciousness.

Being Made “Public”

“And the day when the foes of God shall be gathered towards the Fire … their own ears and eyes and skins will give evidence against them of what they knew.” (41: 19-20)

One the Day of Judgement, every thought and action a person has or does during their lifetime becomes public. The Quran says that people’s own bodies will be making these thoughts and ideas public if the people themselves do not chose to. The reason for this, according to Rahman, is to make humans conscious of their every thought and action in this life. If you know your thoughts and actions will never stay private, then you will want to ensure that those thoughts and actions are good. This is what taqwa (consciousness of God) is all about: being conscious of both your public and private acts, and bringing the separate public and private spheres together to have a character that this holistically aiming to be and do “good.”

The Hereafter – Remaking this World

“All praise to God Who has kept His promise with us and has given us the earth as inheritance; we will make our abode in its Garden wherever we will – what an excellent reward for those who do good!” (39:74)

At this point in the chapter, Rahman makes a very interesting statement. Most Quranic verses talk about the destruction of the world on the Day of Judgement, with God alone remaining indestructible. But Rahman says that in these verses, the universe as a whole isn’t being destroyed – only the contents inside it are. He then cites several other verses that seem to be saying that this world that we live in now will be transformed into The Garden (the Quranic name for Paradise). We humans, and the whole universe we live in, will be transformed into “the next creation” (29:20, 53:47).

I’m not sure why, but this section of the chapter shocked me. I’d always thought that Paradise was some place completely removed from this universe we live in – something much more elevated than this “lowly” world. But I like this idea of Paradise coming from the transformation of this very world we live in. It gives this world such a higher status, and a new respect in my eyes. And it gives you hope: in this very imperfect world is the potential for perfection. It won’t come without the help of the All-Merciful and All-Powerful, but it will come.

And what is this “next creation”? Obviously, it involves us humans being in a higher state of consciousness, as stated above. But what else? And if Islam doesn’t believe in reincarnation, why is this the next creation? Will there be more?

Well, that’s enough questions to keep one wondering for a long time.

Till the next post!