حَتَّي إِذَا جَآءَ أَحَدَهُمُ الْمَوْتُ قَالَ رَبِّ ارْجِعُونِ
لَعَلّـِي أَعْمَلُ صَالِحاً فِيمَا تَرَكْتُ كَلآَّ إِنَّهَا كَلِمَةٌ هُوَ قَآئِلُهَا وَمِن وَرَآئِهِم بَرْزَخٌ إِلَي يَوْمِ يُبْعَثُونَ
99. “Until, when death conies unto one of them, he says: ‘My Lord! Send me back again, ”
100. “That I might do righteousness in that which I have left behind!’ Nay! It is but a (mere) word that he says; and, behind them, is a partition until the Day when they shall be raised up.”
One day the deviant will awaken and ask to be returned to the world, but his request cannot be fulfilled.
The former verses spoke about the stubbornness of pagans and sinners in their wrong way. These verses depict the painful state of the unbelievers when they are on the threshold of death.
They continue their wrong way in the world until when death comes to them, as the verse says:
“Until, when death comes unto one of them...”
At the time when they are about to depart this world and enter the afterlife, the curtains of conceit and ignorance will be lifted from before their eyes and they will see the terrible fate ahead of them.
They will observe the lives they had led, the potentialities they had stifled, the duties they had neglected, and the dreadful consequences of the sins they had committed.
And at this time, such a person will cry out and:
“...he says: ‘My Lord! Send me back again, ”
Then, in the next verse, he continues saying:
“That I might do righteousness in that which I have left behind!’...”
But since the law of divine creation does not allow anyone, whether righteous or wrongdoer, to return, the answer to him will be:
“...Nay! It is but a (mere) word that he says...”
These are only words without thinking and sincerity. This is what many wrongdoers usually say when they are about to be punished and what every murderer says when his eyes fall upon the gallows, but when the impending disaster is removed, the guilty again continue along their previous paths.
This is similar to what we read in verse 28 of Sura Al-’An‘am, No. 6:
“...And even if they were returned they would revert to that which they were prohibited...”
Finally, the verse briefly and expressively refers to the mysterious intermediate world, the ‘Barzakh’, and says:
“...and, behind them, is a partition until the Day when they shall be raised up.”
1) In the above verses, we read when the unbelievers are on the verge of death they will ask to be returned to the world, so that they can do good deeds in what they have left behind.
Some believe that the Qur’anic phrase, ‘fi ma taraktu’ (in that which I have left behind) here refers to the properties that are left behind from them as their legacy, which we usually call 'the estate of the deceased’.
There is a tradition narrated from Imam Sadiq (as), which corroborates this meaning.
“One who does not pay (even) the slightest amount of his alms-tax is neither a believer nor a Muslim, and the words of Allah, the Exalted, is (that he says):
‘...My Lord! Send me back again, that I might do righteousness in that which I have left behind ...’.”1
While some other commentators maintain that it has a more extensive meaning. They say that the Qur’anic phrase /ma taraktu/ refers to all the good deeds that one has abandoned.
Therefore, the verse means that they would ask Allah to return them to the world, so that they can make amends for those good deeds that have not been accomplished. The tradition that we have mentioned above is not contrary to this vast and conclusive commentary.
Considering that these persons are repentant because of all the chances they have lost and they intend to make amends for all of them, the second comment seems to be more correct.
The word ‘la‘alla’ in the Qur’anic sentence /la‘alla ’a‘malu salihan/
(“That I might do righteousness...”)
probably indicates that these sinners are not absolutely sure about their future state. They know more or less that this newly found penitence and their being on the verge of death might have caused this regret but if they were returned, they might perhaps continue to behave the same way they had before.
2) The word /kalla/ is used in the Arabic language to indicate complete disagreement with the words of a speaker. It is, in fact, a word opposite to ‘yes’ which is used for acceptance. Some have said that the word ‘kalla’ indicates a categorical rejection of the claim of the sinners that they would do good if they were returned to the world.
“.. .It is but a (mere) word that he says”
(This is an unfounded claim. If they are sent to the world, they will continue to behave as they used to.)
It is also necessary to note that although this verse in a literal sense talks about the desire of the polymeists to return to the world, it is not limited to them at all. When wrongdoers and oppressors, on the brink of death, see their painful destinies, they become regretful about their past and ask to be sent back to the world to undo what they had done, but they are all refused.
3) What is the intermediate world? What kind of world is it? Where is it? How can it be proved that such a world exists between this world and the Hereafter? Must all people enter this world or is it only for a special group of people to enter? Finally, what is the state and situation of believers, the righteous, the unbelievers, and the wrongdoers in the intermediate world?
These are the questions which exist in this field, and there are some hints to it in the verses of the Qur’an and the Islamic traditions, and it is necessary to answer them as much as possible.
The Arabic word ‘barzakh’ originally means that which stands between two things, later, whatever stood between any two affairs came to be called a ‘barzakh’. As a consequence, the world that exists between this world and the Hereafter is called the barzakh and is also sometimes called ‘the world of the grave’ or ‘the world of spirits’.
The reason for the existence of this world is based upon traditional proofs, and there are numerous Qur’anic verses that explicitly or implicitly refer to the barzakh.
“...and behind them is a partition until the Day when they are raised up”
apparently indicates the existence of such a world. Some scholars say that the word ‘barzakh’ is a barrier that prevents human beings from returning to this world after they die, while the phrase:
“...until the day when they are raised up”
indicates that this barrier is between this world and the Day of Judgment and is not between human beings and the world.
Among the verses that explicitly show the existence of such a world are those that speak about the life of the martyrs; such as the one which says:
“And do not say of those, who are slain in the way of Allah, as dead. Nay, they are alive...”2
The Prophet (S) is addressed in this verse, but all the believers are addressed in verse 154 of Sura al-Baqarah, No. 2 which announces:
“And call not those who are slain in the way of Allah as “dead.” Nay, they are living, only you perceive not.”
The intermediate world not only exists for high-ranking believers such as the martyrs, but it also exists for the disobedient unbelievers such as Pharaoh and his associates.
The concept of ‘Barzakh’ is explicitly mentioned in verse 46 of Sura Al-Mu’min, No. 40 where it says:
“In front of the Fire they will be brought (every) morning and evening. And on the day when the Hour is established (it will be said): Cast the people of Pharaoh into the most awful chastisement.”
There are other verses that relate to this subject but they are not as explicit and clear as the verses mentioned above. What is important to be noted is that apart from the verses mentioned, which treat of the barzakh in the general sense, other verses discuss it exclusively with respect to the destiny of particular groups such as the martyrs or the people of Pharaoh.
It is obvious, however, that neither the people of Pharaoh nor the martyrs are unique inhabitants of the barzakh for there are many people similar to them. For example, the Holy Qur’an counts a group of the righteous and the elect as sharing the same high rank as the martyrs.
In verse 69 of Sura An-Nisa’, No. 4, the Holy Qur’an puts the Prophets, the Sincere and the Righteous in the same category:
“And whoever obeys Allah and the Messenger, these are with those upon whom Allah has bestowed favours, of the prophets, and the truthful, and the martyrs and the righteous...”
At the end of this discussion we will refer to the generality of barzakh, Allah willing.
There are many narrations in authoritative Sunni and Shi‘ah sources about the barzakh, but they speak of it differently: and illustrate the world between this world and the world Hereafter, which occurs in the grave, with some utterly different explanations.
1. There is a related tradition among the aphorisms of Imam ‘Ali in part 130 of the Nahj-ul-Balaqah. It says that once Imam Ali (as) was returning from the Battle of Siffin and arrived at a cemetery outside the city of Kufah.
The Imam (as) turned towards the graves and said:
“O Inhabitants of terrible houses, empty places and dark graves! O People of the earth! O Strangers! O you in Solitude! O you who are Terrified! You preceded us in going this way and we will join you.
If you ask us about the news of this world, we will tell you that others occupy your homes, others have married your wives, and your possessions have been distributed. These are some of the news we have, what news do you have?”
Then Imam Ali (as) addressed his companions and said:
“If they were given permission to speak, they would certainly have told you that the best supplies for this journey are piety and God-wariness.”
It is obvious that all these words cannot be interpreted as allusions and metaphors. They all reveal the fact that when a human being dies, that person will experience a type of life in the intermediate world where he will be able to understand and think and if he were given permission to speak, he would do so.
2. There is another tradition narrated by ’Asbaq ibn Nabatah about Imam Ali (as):
One day Imam Ali left Kufah and arrived a place called Qaryy (Najaf) on his journey. ’Asbaq says that when they reached him (as) they saw the Imam lying on the ground.
“Would you like me to spread my cloak under your feet, O’Amir ul-Mu’mineen?”
“No, it is a place that has the soils of the believers (i.e., believers are buried in this place). You will bother them by your action.”
“I understand what you mean by the soils of the believers, but what does bothering them mean?”
“O son of Nabatah, if the curtains are pulled back from in front of your eyes, you will see the souls of believers sitting in circles, visiting each other and conversing. This is where the believers are, and Barahut3 is where the souls of unbelievers reside.”4
3. Imam Ali ibn al-Hussayn (as) said:
“The grave is either one of the gardens of Paradise or one of the pits of Hell.”5
4. Imam Sadiq (as) says:
“The barzakh (the intermediate world) is the grave itself, which is the punishment and the reward given between this world and the Hereafter. We swear by Allah that we only fear of the intermediate world for you!”6
5. There is a tradition in the book of al-Kafi which says that after mentioning the verse, the narrator asked the Imam:
“What is the ‘barzakh’ (the intermediate world)?”
The Imam said:
“The grave which spans the period from death until the Day of Resurrection.”7
6. There is another tradition from Imam Sadiq (as). It says that one day a man came to him and said:
“It is said that the souls of believers after death will enter the chests of green birds that fly around Divine Throne.”
The Imam said:
“No, that is not the case. The believer is more respectable in the eyes of Allah than to be confined within the chest of a bird. The souls of believers are rather clothed in bodies like their own bodies.”8
This tradition refers to a substantial body that is somehow like this material body here, but it is as immaterial as the intermediate world.
7. There is another tradition cited in the book of Al-Kafi attributed to Imam Sadiq (as): The Imam was asked about the souls of believers.
“They are in the chambers of Paradise, they eat the foods of Paradise and drink its drinks. And they say: ‘O’ Allah! Establish the Day of Resurrection and make the promises You have made to us come to pass.’”9
8. There is another tradition by the Imam in the same book where he says that when a believer passes away, the souls of other believers will gather around him and ask him about those who were in the world and whether they were alive or dead.
If he says that such and such a person had died but they do not see him among themselves, they will say that that person had certainly fallen (i.e. he has gone into Hell).10
Certainly, Paradise and Hell in the narrations mentioned above mean paradisaical or hellish states in the intermediate world, not those after the Day of Judgment, for they are very different from each other.
There are many narrations about the subject of the barzakh compiled under different categories and headings.
Some of them are as follows:
Many narrations that speak of the pressure and punishment of the grave and the questions put to its inhabitants.
Narrations about the contact of the souls of the dead with their families and observing the conditions they are in.
Some narrations mention of the incidents that had occurred to the Prophet on the night of his ascension, and his meeting with the souls of prophets and messengers.
Narrations that say the results of man’s good and evil deeds will be manifest after he dies.11
Although many people who claim they communicate with the world of souls are either liars or deluded, researches now show that it is possible to communicate with the world of spirits. Some experts have investigated and experimented this phenomenon and have become aware that there is some truth in the claim that it is possible, thus proving that the world of intermediate exists.
This fact itself is a clear evidence upon the existence of the intermediate world and that it is a reality. It shows that after this world and the death of the body, and before the appearance of Hereafter, there exists another world.
Aside from details, and with few exceptions, there is broad consensus among Shi’ah and Sunni scholars of Islam, with some insignificant exceptions, concerning the barzakh and the punishments and rewards found there.
The reason for this agreement is obvious, for The Holy Qur’an explicitly mentions the existence of the world of barzakh and its punishments and blessings.
Concerning the martyrs, the Holy Qur’an says:
“Do not think of those who were killed in the way of Allah to be dead. Nay, they are alive, being provided sustenance with their Lord.”
“They are happy with what Allah has given them out of His grace, and rejoicing for those who have not yet joined them from behind them, no fear come shall be upon them nor shall they grieve.”12
Not only is this group of believers blessed and rewarded there, but the worst of the wrongdoers and the disobedient are punished there as well, such as the people of Pharaoh as mentioned before.13
There are numerous reliable traditions from many sources with well-established chains of transmissions that confirm the existence of the barzakh. Therefore, the principle that the barzakh exists is without question an element of Islamic belief. The important matter is that we want to know how the life of the barzakh is.
We have different expressive illustrations, mentioned here, concerning life in the barzakh. One of them is that when a human being dies, his soul will be placed in a subtle body. This body is completely unlike the corporeal body for it is not subject to the accidents that affect the physical body in the world of matter.
Since this subtle body is in every other aspect like the worldly body, it is idiomatically called an atom-like body or form. It is neither completely non-material nor is it completely material, but it participates in a kind of immateriality of the intermediate world.
Some scholars have likened the state of the soul in the barzakh to the state of the soul when a human being is asleep. In the state of sleep, the soul may really experience pleasure and pain in an even sharper way than when in the physical state.
It can enjoy a pleasure so much or can get so upset by a painful experience that their effects can sometimes be seen on the body itself, the body will smile, cry, jerk in surprise or writhe in pain.
Some even believe that at the time of sleep, the soul really acts in the atom-like body and, more importantly, some believe that those who have powerful souls, when they are not asleep, can also be in the state of non-materiality of the intermediate world while being conscious.
This means that they can leave the body and travel in this atom-like body and be aware of their surroundings and their state and consciously witness events.14
Some even specify that an atom-like form exists in every human body, but when a person is going to die and begins the life of the intermediate world, the atom-like form leaves the body; and sometime, as we said, it is possible that in this very material life in this world, too, it separates from the body.
If, now, we do not accept these characteristics of the atom-like body, the main principle cannot be denied, i.e., the reality of the barzakh, for it is rationally possible and it is referred to in many narrations as well.
Thus, basing on what was said, the answer to this objection became clear that some critics say that the belief in the existence of the atom-like body would necessitate belief in metempsychosis, we assert that reincarnation is nothing but the transference of one soul into different bodies.
The Late Shaykh Baha’i, an Islamic scholar, in response to this criticism said very clearly that the reincarnation that all Muslims unanimously reject is the rebirth of the soul in another body in this world after the destruction of one’s body.
But the soul’s inhabitance of an atom-like body in the world of barzakh until the Day of Resurrection when it returns to the first body by Allah’s commandment is by no means a reincarnation.
The belief in reincarnation requires the belief that the soul is pre eternal and eternally migrates from one body to another and seriously denies the resurrection of the body, and because it denies a fundamental tenet of faith, Muslims, who believe in eternality of souls and that they constantly transfer from one body to another, are considered outside the religion of Islam.15
Moreover, if, as some say, the atom-like body is in fact itself in the inner side of this very material (physical) body, the answer to the issue of reincarnation will become more obvious, for the soul would not leave its own form or body and enter another, however it could leave some of its forms and continue living in the intermediate world in another form.
Another issue that is brought up by reading some verses of the Holy Qur’an is that there is a group of people that does not live in the intermediate world. Verses 55 and 56 of Sura Al-Rum say:
“And on the day when the Hour will be established, the guilty will swear that they did not remain but for an hour thus were they used to being deluded. But those to whom knowledge and faith are given will say: Indeed, you have tarried, by Allah’s decree, until the Day of Resurrection. This is the Day of Resurrection, but you were not aware.”
There are many narrations that answer this issue. They divide mankind into: real believers, real unbelievers, and those who are weak and mediocre in their belief and practice. The intermediate world is only for the first two groups, but the third group passes the barzakh in a state of ignorance and unconsciousness.16
فَإِذَا نُفِخَ فِي الصُّورِ فَلآ أَنسَابَ بَيْنَهُمْ يَوْمَئِذٍ وَلاَ يَتَسآءَلُونَ
101. “And when the Trumpet is blown there will be no relationship between them that day, nor will they ask of one another.”
In the previous verses, the statement was upon the barzakh, and now this verse talks about the Day of Resurrection and a part of the state of the wrongdoers in that world.
“And when the Trumpet is blown there will be no relationship between them that day, nor will they ask of one another.”
According to the verses of the Holy Qur’an, the Trumpet will be blown twice. The first blast heralds the death of the universe. After this blast everyone on the earth and in the heavens will die and death will descend over the universe.
The second blast of the Trumpet heralds the resurrection from the dead and all the human beings will return to a new life and mankind will begin to be assembled for the Great Reckoning.
The blowing of the trumpet is meant for every trumpet but here it has a special meaning and interpretation, and we will turn to it, Allah willing, in the commentary on verse 68 of Sura Az-Zumar.
The two aspects of the Day of Resurrection are mentioned in this verse. One aspect is that the ties of kinship and parentage are no longer effective.
Family relationships, in this world, are very important as a natural resource for help in solving various problems, and many sinful persons may escape of a lot of punishments by means of their tribal relationships.
But, on the Day of Resurrection, this avenue for help will be closed and similarly relationships with powerful families in society would be of no advantage to anyone.
People here usually ask their kin for help for solving their problems, while on the Day of Resurrection a person’s only companion and friend would be his deeds, and no one, not even that person's brother, offspring or parent will be able to defend him or negate his punishment.
The second aspect is that, indeed, they will be too terrified by the Divine Reckoning and punishment to ask anything of each other.
The Day of Resurrection will be a day when a mother would ignore her suckling child, when brother will forget his brother, and when people will be seemed as if they were drunk in bewilderment but they are not drank.
It is a time when Allah’s chastisement would be severe, as we read in the beginning of the Sura Al-Hajj:
“O Mankind! Be in awe of your Lord! Verily the earthquake of the Hour (of doom) is a grievous thing. On the Day you shall behold it, every suckling mother shall forsake her suckling babe, and every pregnant woman shall lay down her burden, and you shall see the people (as) intoxicated, yet they are not intoxicated, but the chastisement of Allah is severe.”17
There is also another probable interpretation for the Qur’anic sentence /wa la yatasa’alun/:
(“...nor will they ask of one another.”)
that the purpose is that they will not ask each other for help, for they know that this request is not of any use. Some commentators have also said that the verse means that they will not ask each other about their lineage and parentage also and this has been emphasized on the preceding phrase: /fa la ’ansaba baynahum/
(“..., there will be no relationship between them...”)
The first commentary seems more probable although there is no contradiction and conflict between them for it is possible that the above sentence could refer to all of these meanings.
In other verses of the Qur’an, we read that people have different questions to ask of each other, for example in this verse:
“And some of them draw near unto others, mutually questioning.”18
Or, the inhabitants of Paradise will ask the inhabitants of Hell:
“What has brought you to this burning?”19
But why does this holy verse say,
“...nor will they ask of one another”?
These two matters do not contradict each other. The first instance of questioning mentioned above concerns the situation after Reckoning and it concerns the people of Paradise questioning the people of Hell.
But the verse in question:
(“...nor will they ask of one another.”)
concerns the onset of the Day of Resurrection and the phase before people are sent to Paradise or Hell.
فَمَن ثَقُلَتْ مَوَازِينُهُ فَأُوْلَئِكَ هُمُ الْمُفْلِحُونَ
وَمَنْ خَفَّتْ مَوَازِينُهُ فَأُوْلَئِكَ الَّذِينَ خَسِرُوا أَنفُسَهُمْ فِي جَهَنَّمَ خَالِدُونَ
102. “Then whoever’ s scale be heavy, those are they who shall be prosperous.”
103. “And whoever’s scale be light, those are they who have ruined their souls, in Hell will they abide.”
For every task there is a measure.
On Judgment Day, the first event is the evaluation of deeds according to a special measure which has been appointed for it. A group of people have some noble and righteous actions which will weigh heavy on that measure and they will be successful.
The verse says:
“Then whoever’s scale be heavy, those are they who shall be prosperous.”
The Arabic word /mawazin/ is the plural form of the word /mizan/ meaning ‘a scale’. The concept of a scale is not meant here an ordinary scale and the like of it, used for measuring the things, and also it is not restricted to just the common means whereby physical quantities are measured, but includes non-material objects as well.
In other words, ‘scale’ has a vast meaning here which envelops all means of measurement. According to different narrations, the scales or criteria for measuring human beings, the actions of human and even humans themselves, are the great leaders and ideal human beings.
There is a tradition that says:
“Amir ul-Mu’mineen Ali (as) and the Imams among his descendants are the scales of measure.”20
Thus, human beings and their deeds will be compared with the great prophets and their legatees. This comparison will make it clear to what extent they are on par with each other.
In this way good deeds and people can be distinguished from their bad deeds and good deeds worthy and unworthy, and heavy from light. The application of the word mawazin, which is in the plural form, is also made clear. The secret of this is that the great leaders who are the criteria of this measuring are numerous.
Another possibility is that all of the prophets, Imams and the elect of Allah were models and ideals in one or many different respects according to the conditions of their lives. Each one of them represented a shining example of one particular quality or other and will be the criterion by which that quality or deed will be measured in others.
The next verse implies that those whose scale of their deeds is light, because of lacking faith and righteous deeds, are the ones who have lost the capital of their own selves and are the real losers, because they will abide in Hell forever.
The verse says:
“And whoever's scale be light, those are they who have ruined their souls, in Hell will they abide.”
The use of the sentence ‘khasiru’anfusahum’
(“...those who have lost their souls”)
in the verse is a subtle reference to the fact that they have lost their greatest capital, that is, their existence in the marketplace of this world and did not obtain anything valuable for it.
تَلْفَحُ وُجُوهَهُمُ النَّارُ وَهُمْ فِيهَا كَالِحُونَ
أَلَمْ تَكُنْ ءَايَاتِي تُتْلَي عَلَيْكُمْ فَكُنتُم بِهَا تُكَذِّبُونَ
104. “The Fire will burn their faces, and they are glum therein (with the.ir lips displaced).”
105. “ (They will be told:) Were not My Signs recited to you, then you used to belie them?”
The fire burns the faces of the inhabitants of the Hell continuously and without any respite.21
The unbelievers suffer both physically
(“The Fire will burn their faces...”)
and spiritually in their painful punishment and the verse mentions a part of them.
“The Fire will burn their faces, and they are glum therein (with their lips displaced).”
The Qur’anic word /talfahu/ is derived from the word ‘lafh’ and originally means the blow of a sword. Since the effect of a flame or the intense light of the sun, when they hit the human face, is like that of a sword, so this word is used as an allusion to this meaning.
The word /kalih’/ is derived from the word /kuluh/ means to become grim-faced or to grimace. Many commentators have interpreted the word in this way, because when the skin of the face feels the heat of fire, it becomes contorted in such a way that the lips would remain open.
We have already mentioned that the Divine punishment in the Hereafter, and even in this world, proportionately reflects the sins committed. It is not such that any kind of punishment would be inflicted upon any kind of wrongdoer.
In this verse, the burning inflicted upon faces by the flames of Hell will be so severe that these faces will be contorted and their lips will peel back as a punishment for those whose scales are light and are unbelievers.
When we reflect that most of them are those who had sneered derisively when they heard the Divine verses recited to them and who sometimes smiled in mockery at them, the proportionality of this punishment to their deeds becomes evident.
Those who are righteous and love Allah are vastly different to those whose balance is light. They have always shed tears and supplicated to Him (s.w.t.) as if they were people who had committed great sins.
The following narration provides an excellent insight into such a noble personality:
“One moonlit night I was in Mecca. When I was circumambulating the Sacred House, a sad yet beautiful voice gently touched my ears. I looked for the person who possessed the voice and my eyes fell upon a tall, handsome youth whose face showed the signs of goodness.
With the curtain of the Sacred House in his hand, he was supplicating to Allah in the following way:
“O’ my Master and my Lord! The eyes of Your servants are now closed by sleep and the stars of the sky (one by one) are going toward the west, (so the eyes can no longer perceive them). You, Allah, the Alive, the Eternal, neither slumber nor does sleep overtake You.
Now at this time, in the depths of the night, kings have the gates of their palaces closed and have assigned guardians to watch them, and friends are visiting each other in privacy.The only door opened to the supplicants is the door of Your House.
Now I have come, a wrongdoer and needful, to the door of Your House. I have come hoping that You, The Merciful, will shower me with blessings. O The Generous, I have come begging Your grace.”
Then the young man started reciting these lines of poetry:
O The One Who, in the darkness of the night, answers the prayers of those who are driven by necessities.
O The One Who removes and obliterates pains, disasters and sufferings.
Your guests are sleeping around Your House and will get up,
But Your eyes of generosity will never ever be overcome by sleep,
O The Eternal! If Your generosity and benevolence were only desired by the honorable ones around Your Throne,
Then to whose house must wrongdoers go and whose forgiveness should they desire?”
Then he turned his head toward the heavens and continued:
“My Lord, my Master! If I have worshipped You out of knowledge and awareness, praise will be to You and I am indebted to Your grace. And if I have committed sins out of ignorance, You have presented Your argument to me without any shortcomings...”
Then he again turned his head toward the heavens and said in a loud voice:
“O my Master and my Lord! Impure is the world in which there is no remembrance of You. Without Your pardon, the Hereafter is not pleasant. Without worshipping You, the days of life have no value. Impure are those hearts that show no affection for You. Blessings are unpleasant if there is none of Your forgiveness...”
“The young man continued and recited some more astonishing and interesting poems in this content and he continued supplication until he fainted and fell on the ground.I went up to him and stared at his face.
I looked at him carefully and I recognized him, he was Hadrat Zayn ul-‘Aabidin, Ali ibn al-Hussein, Imam Sajjad (as). I put his head on my lap and wept uncontrollably for his condition. One of my teardrops fell on his face and he opened his eyes and said:
‘Who is it that has distracted me from remembering my Lord?’”
“My master, it is me, ’Isma‘i. Why do you cry so much and why are you so restless? You are from the household of the Prophet (S). Has not the verse of purification been sent down concerning you?
Has not Allah said about you:
‘...Allah’s wish is but to remove uncleanness far from you, O People of the Household, and to purify you with a thorough purification’?22
The Imam sat up and said:
“O ’Isma‘i! How far! How far! Allah has created Paradise for those who obey Him, even if that person is an Ethiopian slave. He has also created Hell for those who disobey Him, even if that person is one of the nobles of the tribe of Quraysh. Have not you read the Holy Qur’an and have not you heard this verse:
‘And when the Trumpet is blown there will be no relationship between them that day, nor will they ask of one another’.”23
“When I saw that this was the case, I went away and left him alone.”24
1. The Prophet (S) said:
“Two (kinds of) eyes are saved from the Fire of Hell: one eye that weeps inside the night out of fear of Allah, and another that does not sleep in the way of Allah.”25
2. The Prophet (S) said:
“One who sheds tears out of fear of Allah will not be burnt by the Fire as milked milk does not return to the udder.”26
3. Zayd ibn Suhan asked Imam Ali (as):
“Who is the best of people in the sight of Allah?
The Imam said:
“Whoever fears Allah and is acquainted with piety and austerity more than others and behaves abstinently more than others do.”27
4. The Prophet (S) said:
“He who is the best among mankind in the sight of Allah is the one who fears Allah the most.”28
5. Imam Ali (as) said:
“When Allah gathers all of mankind together (in the gathering-place), a crier will speak in a loud voice among them:
’O‘ mankind! Today he is the favorite of Allah who had feared Allah the most.’”29
6. Imam Ali ibn al-Hussayn (as) said:
“The top and source of any knowledge is the fear of Allah.”30
7. The Prophet (S) said:
“If you fear Allah as He deserves to be feared of, you will obtain a kind of knowledge where every thing will become clear to you and you will no longer be ignorant, and if you know Allah as He deserves to be known, you can move mountains by your prayers.”31
8. Imam Sadiq (as) said:
“It is suitable for the believer to fear Allah to such an extent that it would be as if he were about to fall into Hell, and trust Allah to such an extent as if he were one of the people of Paradise.”
The next verse mentions part of Allah’s conversation with the unbelievers and He, addressing them scornfully, inquire them, as the verse says:
“ (They will be told:) Were not My Signs recited to you, then you used to belie them?”
It implies that even though Allah sent them enough signs and reasons through His prophets and gave them a strong argument they continued in their denial and rejection.
With regard to the Arabic verbs /tutla/, translated here as ‘recited’ and ‘tukazzibun/, translated here as ‘you used to belie’, both of which are in the future tense in the Arabic text, it makes the fact clear that the Divine verses were recited to them continually and they also continually denied them.
قَالُوا رَبَّنَا غَلَبَتْ عَلَيْنَا شِقْوَتُنَا وَكُنَّا قَوْماً ضَآلّـِينَ
رَبَّنَآ أَخْرِجْنَا مِنْهَا فَإِنْ عُدْنَا فَإِنَّا ظَالِمُونَ
قَالَ اخْسَئُوا فِيهَا وَلاَ تُكَلّـِمُونِ
106. “They will say: ‘Our Lord! Our adversity conquered us, and we were a people gone astray.”
107. “Our Lord! bring us forth out of it! Then if we return (to evil) then verily we shall be unjust.”
108. “He will say: ‘Be you driven into it, and speak not to Me.”
Consciences of men will be awakened on the Resurrection Day and wrongdoers will confess their sins, but they will be humiliated and Allah will speak to them in the harsh terms.
It was mentioned in the previous verse that Allah would address them with reproach:
“Were not My Signs recited to you, then you used to belie them?”
In this verse they will confess it and as the verse says:
“They will say: ‘Our Lord! Our adversity conquered us, and we were a people gone astray.”
The Arabic word /šiqwah/ and /šiqawat/ (misfortune) is the opposite of felicity and means the trouble, punishment and calamity prepared for a person. In other words, the wrongdoer will be overwhelmed by evils and disasters, while felicity, on the other hand, means the blessings and goodness in store for the person who does good.
In both cases, adversity and felicity, are only the consequences of our intentions, words, and deeds. The belief that felicity and adversity are realities in themselves with which someone is born is only a product of our imagination which goes against the call of all apostles and the efforts of all the great divine guides and teachers of mankind.
It is an idea proffered for those who want to avoid their responsibilities and a means whereby they can justify their evil actions or justify their ignorance.
The Hellish wrongdoers in the core of their being indeed confess that they are aware of Allah’s ultimatum and that they were an erring people, but they themselves had prepared the ground for their misfortune.
In the next verse, they try to use their confession to attract Allah’s blessings, so they immediately say implying that He would return them back to the world so that they do righteous deeds and that if they commit wrong again they are oppressors.
The verse says:
“Our Lord! bring us forth out of it! Then if we return (to evil) then verily we shall be unjust.”
They make this request as if they were not aware of the fact that the Hereafter was a place where they would be confronted by the results of their wrongdoings. Because they would not be able to return to the world, they could no longer act in it and thus they could not rectify their sinful deeds.
Thus in the third verse, Allah gives them a firm answer, this verse says:
“He will say: ‘Be you driven into it, and speak not to Me.”
The Arabic phrase /ikhsa’u/ (Be you driven into it) is an imperative verb meaning ‘go away.’ It is usually used to chase away a dog, and when it is told to a human being, it indicates the person’s disgrace and that he deserves punishment.
إِنَّهُ كَانَ فَرِيقٌ مِنْ عِبَادِي يَقُولُونَ رَبَّنَآ ءَامَنَّا فَاغْفِرْ لَنَا وَارْحَمْنَا وَأَنتَ خَيْرُ الرَّاحِمِينَ
فَاتَّخَذْتُمُوهُمْ سِخْرِيّاً حَتَّي أَنسَوْكُمْ ذِكْرِي وَكُنتُم مِنْهُمْ تَضْحَكُونَ
109. “Verily there was a party among My servants who used to say: ‘Our Lord! We believe, therefore forgive us and have mercy on us for You are the Best of the mercifulness;”
110. “But you took them with ridicule, until they made you forget My remembrance and you were laughing at them!”
Faith is the beginning of forgiveness, and forgiveness is the beginning of Allah’s mercy. The servants of Allah are always concerned about their shortcomings and ask for Divine pardon.
The verse says:
“Verily there was a party among My servants who used to say: ‘Our Lord! We believe, therefore forgive us and have mercy on us for You are the Best of the mercifulness;”
In the next verse, Allah says:
“But you took them with ridicule, until they made you forget My remembrance and you were laughing at them!”
In other words, you used to laugh at them and scorn them and their words, beliefs and behaviour.
Meanwhile it should be noted that there is a great difference between the Arabic words ‘sukhriyan’ (to take for a mockery) and ‘sikhriyan’ (to, put others under subjection andservice).
If the relations between members of society were based on sympathy, cooperation and mutual assistance, and they benefited from each other’s skills, arts and labour, then society would develop, become stronger and most of its problems would be solved.
This concept is stated in the verse saying:
“...that some of them may take labour from others...”32
But if social relations are mainly based upon humiliation, disenfranchisement, discrimination and hopelessness, such a society will forget Allah (s.w.t.) and decline.
The verse under discussion indicates this concept by saying:
"But you took them with ridicule...”
إِنّـِي جَزَيْتُهُمُ الْيَوْمَ بِمَا صَبَرُوا أَنَّهُمْ هُمُ الْفَآئِزُونَ
111. “Verily I have recompensed them this day for they were patient and steadfast, (that) they are indeed the triumphant.”
The Arabic word /fauz/ means to achieve an aim.
Allah Himself will reward those who are patient. In this holy verse He therefore implies that, on the Day of Judgment, those who were patient before the unbelievers’ ridicules and were steadfast in their divine programs will receive rewards from the side of Allah and will be prosperous.
The verse says:
“Verily I have recompensed them this day for they were patient and steadfast, (that) they are indeed the triumphant.”
But on that very Day, the situation of the wrongdoers will be different. They will be in the worst condition they had ever experienced, suffering the most painful punishments with no one to help them, and they will always be in this condition because they deserve it.
Thus, in the recent four verses mentioned, the Qur’an clearly shows us the main causes for the suffering of the dwellers of Hell and the felicity of the dwellers of Paradise.
The people of Hell prepared the causes of their suffering themselves by mocking the people of Truth and ridiculing their pure beliefs. Yes, those who despised the believers in the world should suffer the worst despising.
The people of Paradise, however, achieved a greater victory in the sight of Allah, for they endured with exemplary patience the arrogance, complacency and irrationality of their enemies and held themselves on the path of “Allah”.
قَالَ كَمْ لَبِثْتُمْ فِي الاَرْضِ عَدَدَ سِنِينَ
قَالُوا لَبِثْنَا يَوْماً أَوْ بَعْضَ يَوْمٍ فَسْأَلِ الْعَآدِّينَ
قَالَ إِن لَبِثْتُمْ إِلاَّ قَلِيلاً لَوْ أَنَّكُمْ كُنتُمْ تَعْلَمُونَ
112. “He will say: ‘How many years did you tarry in the earth?’”
113. “They will say: ‘We tarried but a day or part of a day; but ask those who keep account’.”
114. “He will say: ‘You tarried but a little if you had only known’.”
It is very unfortunate that most of mankind buy Hell and eternal punishment in exchange for the fleeting pleasures and comforts of this world.
In view of the fact that previous verses referred to a part of the painful chastisement of the, people of Hell, these verses talk about their other kinds of mental punishments in the form of a Divine reproach.
At first, it says:
“He will say: ‘How many years did you tarry in the earth?’”
The Arabic word /ard/ used in these verses shows that the purpose of this question is to compare the duration they had lived in this world with the higher reality of duration in the Hereafter.
This view would render unlikely the opinion of some commentators that the question refers to the duration of their stay in the intermediate world, although there is some little evidence for this notion in other verses.
An entire lifetime in this transient world would amount to no more than a day, or a part of a day, when compared to the eternality of the rewards and punishments in the Hereafter:
“They will say: 'We tarried but a day or part of a day...”
In fact, the long life-times in this world comparing the life in Hereafter, where not only the blessings of it are eternal but also the punishments of it are infinite, seem as some fleeting moments.
Then, as an emphasis on their own saying, or in order to deliver a more accurate answer, they say:
“...but ask those who keep account’.”
Perhaps, the purpose of ‘those who keep account’ is the same angels that carefully count and record every instant of our lives and the deeds done in them, because they know the account of these things better than others.
To affirm the new sense of time they are experiencing and to reproach them, the Qur’an says:
“He will say: ‘You tarried but a little if you had only known’.”
On the Day of Resurrection, indeed, they will be aware that life in the world in comparison to life in the Hereafter lasts only a day or less, but when they were in this world their hearts and minds were sealed with negligence and arrogance so they behaved as if the world was eternal and considered the Hereafter as a figment of the imagination and an empty promise.
That is why the Qur’an implies that if they had known this reality that they understood in Hereafter, they would have recognized it in the world.
أَفَحَسِبْتُمْ أَنَّمَا خَلَقْنَاكُمْ عَبَثاً وَأَنَّكُمْ إِلَيْنَا لاَ تُرْجَعُونَ
115. “What! Do you then think that We created you aimlessly and that you shall not be returned to Us?”
Allah does nothing in vain and created man for a purpose. Without the Hereafter, the life of the world would be useless, and therefore the aim of the creation of man is not peculiar to or limited for this world. This verse thus reflects this truth and becomes a very effective and instructive means to awaken those who are centered upon this world alone.
“What! Do you then think that We created you aimlessly and that you shall not be returned to Us?”
This short, meaningful sentence gives a compelling reason for the reality of the Day of Judgment and the existence of Reckoning; which is that if the Day of Judgment were not a reality this worldly life would remain without purpose.
This life has many difficulties and hazards which Allah has prepared as preliminaries and conditions for the life to come. If this short life on the earth was all there had been, all our sufferings and struggles here would have been meaningless and vain. We will discuss this subject in greater detail later.
The Holy Qur’an has mentioned some of the purposes for the creation of man:
“I created the jinn and humankind only that they might worship Me.”
(And through this means they might become perfect and close to Allah).33
“Who has created life and death that He may try you, which of you is best in conduct...”34
3. Receiving Divine Mercy:
“Except those on whom your Lord has mercy; and for that (mercy) did He create them .. .”35
Imam Ali (as) said:
“May Allah have mercy on him who is aware of his value.”
(And knows from what place he has come, where he is now, and where he will go to).36
Imam Hussayn (as) said:
“Allah has not created his servants but to know Him, then when they knew Him they would worship Him, and when they worshipped Him they would no longer need to worship others.”37
Imam Ali (as) said:
“The world is created for something else not for its own sake.”38
(This world is a means to achieve the Hereafter).
Surly those who seek all of their goals in this world will become world-oriented and cling to the earth, as verse 176 of Sura Al-’A‘raf says:
“...but he clung to the earth...”
There is a poem that says:
فَتَعَالَي اللَّهُ الْمَلِكُ الْحَقُّ لآ إِلَهَ إِلاَّ هُوَ رَبُّ الْعَرْشِ الْكَرِيمِ
116. “Therefore, high exalted is Allah, the King of the Truth! There is no god but He, the Lord of ‘Arsh (the Throne) of Grace.”
Sovereignty belongs only to Allah.
(“...the King of the Truth...”)
The entire universe is under His Divine lordship and administration.
Thus, this verse says:
“Therefore, high exalted is Allah, the King of the Truth! There is no god but He, the Lord of 'Arsh (the Throne) of Grace.”
(He is above creating the universe in vain). One who does something in vain is ignorant, weak and powerless or is a vain and false entity in his essence. It is therefore impossible for Allah, the Ruler of the universe, Who is absolutely perfect, Who is the Truth and issues nothing save the Truth, to create something in vain and aimless.
If it is imagined that someone might be able to prevent Him from achieving His aim, by the sentence
“...There is no god but He...”
The Qur’an nullifies this idea.
Moreover, by emphasizing the divinity of Allah through the holy phrase:
“...the Lord of ‘Arsh (the Throne) of Grace”,
it indicates His Ownership from the point of view of His capacity as One Who rectifies, and more clearly shows the purposefulness of the universe.
In short, in addition to mentioning the word ‘Allah’, which itself generally refers to His all attributes of perfection, the verse specifies four of His attributes: His ownership and sovereignty, the truthfulness of His essence, the non existence of any partners with Him, and His lordship.
All of these attributes indicate that He never does anything in vain and He has not created man and the world for no end.
As already mentioned, the Arabic word /‘arsh/ refers to the entire world of existence which, in fact, is under Allah’s sovereignty, (because ‘Arsh philologically means: Throne with long legs and the Throne of the rulers, and this is an implicit declaration to Allah’s sovereignty).
This can be clearly seen in the verse that says:
“...then He mounted the Throne (of authority)...”39
which alludes to Allah’s command of the heavens and the earth after He had created them. In other words, not only is Allah the Creator, but He is also the Sovereign and Manager of the world.
The Qur’anic word /‘arsh/ is qualified by the adjective /karim/ (of Grace), this is because the word ‘karim’, in Arabic, originally means honorable, beneficial, and good. Since Allah’s Throne has all these attributes, the adjective ‘karim’ has been used.
It should be noted that the attribute of ‘karim’ is not used only for an entity that possesses wisdom such as man or Allah, but in the Arabic language it is used for many other things, too.
Verse 50 of Sura Al-Hajj concerning the righteous believers says:
“...for them is forgiveness and an honourable (karim) provision;”
In Mufradat, Raqib says that this adjective is not used for small and trifle kindnesses, it is rather used in cases where these kindnesses are very important.
We would finally like to draw your attention to this matter: The study of the order and system of this world is one of the reasons used in the discussion of the Resurrection to confirm the existence of another world. In other words, the study upon this ‘first creation’ testifies that there is ‘later creation’ after it.40
Now it becomes necessary to explain further: We know that the world of creation is very ordered, vast, glorious and miraculous. Its ysteries are so numerous that great scientists confess that all of the knowledge of mankind compared to it is like a single page of a great book.
Each galaxy of this world comprises millions of stars. The number of galaxies and the distances between them are so astoundingly immense that even when we calculate them using the speed of light which travels at the speed of 300, 000 km per second they seem terrible.
The order and accuracy found in the structure of the smallest unit of this world is the same order found in the structures of its greatest units.
As far as we know, man is the most complete and the most sublime being in this material universe. At the same time, we know that with all his sublimity and lofty reputation, man is confronted many difficulties and miseries in his short lifetime.
He has still barely graduated from his infancy with all its difficulties and problems when he comes up against his tumultuous youth with all its social and psychological storms. And not yet does he gain a foothold in adolescence when old age knocks at the door of his life with all its concomitant miseries.
Is it possible to believe that the purpose of this great system and man, this miracle of creation, is just to exist for a short time, passing these three periods of life with difficulty, eating a little food, wearing clothes, sleeping and waking up, and men passing away into nothingness?
If this were really the case would not creation be vain and useless? Would any wise being create this great system for such a small aim?
Suppose that humankind tarried in this world for millions of years and generations came and went one by one, and the material sciences advanced so much that man could avail himself to the best nutrition, garments and dwellings, would eating, drinking, dressing and sleeping be so valuable that they would be the sole purpose of his institutions and systems?
Thus, the study of this great world merely indicates that this life is an introduction to a greater, vaster, and eternal world. It is only the existence of such a world that makes our lives meaningful and purposeful.
Consequently, it is not strange that the materialistic philosophers, who do not believe in the Resurrection and the Hereafter, count this world as vain and aimless. In fact, if we did not believe in such a world, we would concur with them. This is why we say if death .were the end of everything, the creation of the world would be vain and purposeless.
We read in Sura Al-Waqi‘ah, No. 56, verse 62:
“And verily you know the first creation. Why, then, do you not take admonition?”
وَمَن يَدْعُ مَعَ اللَّهِ إِلَهاً ءَاخَرَ لاَ بُرْهَانَ لَهُ بِهِ فإِنَّمَا حِسَابُهُ عِندَ رَبّـِهِ إِنَّهُ لاَ يُفْلِحُ الْكَافِرُونَ
وَقُل رَّبِّ اغْفِرْ وَارْحَمْ وَأَنتَ خَيْرُ الرَّاحِمِينَ
117. “And whoever invokes with Allah another god, he has no proof there of; therefore his reckoning is only with his Lord. Verily, the disbelievers will not prosper.”
118. “And (O Muhammad) say: ‘My Lord! Forgive and have mercy, (for) You are the best of the merciful ones’.”
Polytheism, in whatever form it appears, is condemned. Man’s belief and conduct must be based on intellect and logical proof A pagan or polytheist has not any logic.
(... he has no proof...)
The previous verses emphasized the Day of Resurrection and Allah’s attributes. The above noble verse emphasizes monotheism and negates any kind of polytheism. Thus, it has completed the discussion up on the origin and the Resurrection.
“And whoever invokes with Allah another god, he has no proof there of; therefore his reckoning is only with his Lord...”
Indeed, polytheists only rely upon hollow claims and the reasons they advance for their beliefs include such things as the blind imitation of ancestors and various unfounded superstitions.
They deny the Day of Resurrection which is based upon very clear arguments and evidence while they accept polytheism which has not been founded upon similar sound reasoning and evidence.
Allah will certainly hold to account those who do not obey the command of reason, and consciously enter the deviated ways of unbelief. The verse ends with the sentence implying that the disbelievers will not be successful, and the consequence of their behaviour will be made clear in this Divine Reckoning.
The verse says:
“...verily, the disbelievers will not prosper.”
It is interesting that this Sura begins with the sentence:
“Successful indeed are the believers.”
and ends its discourse with the sentence:
“...verily the disbelievers will not prosper.”
This, in summary, is the Qur’anic perspective on the life of the believers and unbelievers.
In the last verse of this Sura, the Prophet (S) is addressed and as a general conclusion it says:
“And (O Muhammad) say: ‘My Lord! Forgive and have mercy, (for) You are the best of the merciful ones’.”
The verse implies that some people are wandering on the path of polytheism and some are committing oppression and tyranny, the Prophet should rely on Allah’s grace and favour and ask His pardon and forgiveness.
It is certain that this is a command for all the believers although the verse is ostensibly addressed to the holy Prophet (S).
A narration says that the verses of the beginning and the end of this Sura are among the treasures of Allah’s Throne, and that anyone who puts the first three holy verses of this Sura into practice and learns advice from its last four verses will be successful.41
It is likely that the first three verses of this Sura are the first three verses that come after the sentence
“Successful indeed are the believers.”
One of them invites the believers to humility in the ritual prayer, the second invites them to refrain from what is vain and useless, and the third exhorts them to pay the alms-tax.
The first verse concerns the relationship between man and Allah, the second concerns the relationship between man and himself, and the third concerns the relationship between man and society. The last four verses are those holy verses that come after verse 114.
They speak of the purposefulness of the creation of Allah, the issue of Resurrection, monotheism, devotion to Allah, and focusing our attention upon Him.
Oh Allah! By the believers who are promised success in this Sura and for whom the Prophet (S) and his family are the forerunners, place us in this group and make us successful!
Oh Allah! Bestow Your pardon and forgiveness upon us, for You are The Beneficent, The Merciful.
Oh Allah! Render our destinies blissful and save us from any kind of deviation and error. Indeed, You are All-Powerful over every thing.