Chapter 12: Our Future

We mean by this title our situation after death. We can define death as the separation of the spirit from the body. Sleeping is to some extent like death. There is however a difference. During sleep the spirit is still connected with the body, but to a lesser degree than waking. But during the death the spirit is disconnected from the body and belongs to another body which has the qualities of a material body like shape and size without the mass. Philosophers compare it with the bodies of dreams. They call them 'Barzakh' or 'mithali'. This continues until the resurrection. Then our spirits will belong to another body which is like the body in its present situation. In this way we believe in the physical-spiritual resurrection.

This topic is very controversial. Even those people who believe in the physical-spiritual resurrection have reached no consensus about the nature of the bodies in that universe. But what we have said can be easily understood from the Glorious Qur'an and Islamic traditions on which great Islamic scholars agree, and this suffices us in our discussion. As we know, the most important part of our being which makes our personality is the spirit. All rewards and punishments are in one way or another related to the spirit. The body is just a means for the spirit. Note the following two verses of the Glorious Qur'an.

قُلْ يَتَوَفَّاكُمْ مَلَكُ الْمَوْتِ الَّذِي وُكِّلَ بِكُمْ

“Say: The angel of death who is given charge of you shall take you.” (32:11).

اللَّهُ يَتَوَفَّى الْأَنْفُسَ حِينَ مَوْتِهَا وَالَّتِي لَمْ تَمُتْ فِي مَنَامِهَا فَيُمْسِكُ الَّتِي قَضَىٰ عَلَيْهَا الْمَوْتَ وَيُرْسِلُ الْأُخْرَىٰ إِلَىٰ أَجَلٍ مُسَمًّى

“Allah takes the souls at the time of their death, and those that die not during their sleep; then He withholds those on whom He has passed the decree of death and sends the others back till an appointed term.” (39:42).

These verses show that death is not an end of our being, that during death our spirits will be completely received by Allah or according to the other verse we will be completely received by Him1 and that sleeping is to some extent like death. These verses answer many questions about the resurrection, but they are not closely related to our discussion.

Heaven And Hell

There are many facts about heaven and hell. We try to explain only those facts which help us in our project. Heaven and hell have been created now. If we had purified ourselves, we would be able to see them. Imam Ali says about the pious:

فَهُمْ وَالْجَنَّةُ كَمَنْ قَدْ رَآهَا، فَهُمْ فِيهَا مُنَعَّمُونَ، وَهُمْ وَالنَّارُ كَمَنْ قَدْ رَآهَا، فَهُمْ فِيهَا مُعَذَّبُونَ.

“To them paradise is as though they have seen it and are enjoying its favours. To them hell is also as if they have seen it and are suffering punishment in it.”2

The Glorious Qur'an also speaks about hell:

كَلَّا لَوْ تَعْلَمُونَ عِلْمَ الْيَقِينِ

“Nay! If you had known with a certain knowledge” (102:5).

لَتَرَوُنَّ الْجَحِيمَ

“You should most certainly have seen hell” (102:6).

In this way we can say that our future is now present. Whoever is good, is now in heaven and criminals or sinners are now in hell. I hope the reader remembers that the companion of the Noble Prophet (S) who reached certainty said that he could declare among those who were with the Prophet who were people of hell and who were people of heaven.

The Prophet (S) has also said that during the ascension, 'miraj' he saw workers (angels) planting trees. Sometimes they were working and sometimes they stopped working. Then he was told that when a person recites certain invocations of God a tree is planted for him and when he stops no tree is planted for him. This tradition like many other traditions shows that punishments and rewards are synchronous with the actions.

Three kinds of relationships can be conceived between acts and rewards or punishments:

A. Conventional Relationship

Ordinary rewards or punishments are decided (defined) by some law-refiners. So they vary in different societies. For example, penalties for breaking traffic laws are from this kind.

B. Causal Relationship

Sometimes rewards or punishments are effects of the acts. For example, when a person drinks wine, one of his punishments is loss of his health; or if a student studies well one of his rewards is to learn his lessons. The loss of health and knowledge are effects brought into being by those acts.

C. Unity

Sometimes rewards or punishments are nothing other than the actions. They are just the realities of those actions made manifest in another universe.

According to the Glorious Qur'an in the Hereafter the realities of the acts will be seen. This is what we mean by the embodiment of deeds (tajassum al-a'mal):

يَوْمَئِذٍ يَصْدُرُ النَّاسُ أَشْتَاتًا لِيُرَوْا أَعْمَالَهُمْ

“On that day men shall come forth in sundry bodies that they may be shown their works.” (99:6).

فَمَنْ يَعْمَلْ مِثْقَالَ ذَرَّةٍ خَيْرًا يَرَهُ

“So he who has done an atom's weight of good shall see it.” (99:7).

وَمَنْ يَعْمَلْ مِثْقَالَ ذَرَّةٍ شَرًّا يَرَهُ

“And he who has done an atom's weight of evil shall see it.” (99:8)

إِنَّ الَّذِينَ يَأْكُلُونَ أَمْوَالَ الْيَتَامَىٰ ظُلْمًا إِنَّمَا يَأْكُلُونَ فِي بُطُونِهِمْ نَارًا وَسَيَصْلَوْنَ سَعِيرًا

“[As for] those who swallow the property of the orphans unjustly, surely they only swallow flre into their bellies and they shall enter burning fire.” (4:10)

According to these and some other verses we will see our acts themselves. if we had that sight today we would be able to see their realities today. Whoever is swallowing the property of the orphans unjustly is really swallowing fire now. Whoever is back-biting is really eating the flesh of his dead brother or sister now. So we should take care of our acts, otherwise we will enter hell just now (not only in the future). If we think constantly about the ugliness of the sins and their realities we will not commit any sin.

Endless Future

Every person lives in this universe for a limited time. Death is the unquestionable end for this life. Nothing can save men from death:

أَيْنَمَا تَكُونُوا يُدْرِكْكُمُ الْمَوْتُ وَلَوْ كُنْتُمْ فِي بُرُوجٍ مُشَيَّدَةٍ

“Wherever you are, death will overtake you, though you are in lofty towers.” (4:78).

After Barzakh those who enter heaven will be there forever:

مَنْ خَشِيَ الرَّحْمَٰنَ بِالْغَيْبِ وَجَاءَ بِقَلْبٍ مُنِيبٍ

“Those who are in awe of the Beneficent God in secret and come with a penitent heart” (50:33).

ادْخُلُوهَا بِسَلَامٍ ذَٰلِكَ يَوْمُ الْخُلُودِ

“Enter it in peace, that is the day of abiding” (50:34).

Those people who enter bell are of two kinds. Unbelievers who are against the truth will stay there forever. But those believers who will enter hell for their bad deeds will finally enter heaven after they will have been cleansed.

فَأَمَّا الَّذِينَ شَقُوا فَفِي النَّارِ لَهُمْ فِيهَا زَفِيرٌ وَشَهِيقٌ

“So as to those who are unhappy, they shall be in the fire; for them shall be sighing and groaning in it” (11:106).

خَالِدِينَ فِيهَا مَا دَامَتِ السَّمَاوَاتُ وَالْأَرْضُ إِلَّا مَا شَاءَ رَبُّكَ ۚ إِنَّ رَبَّكَ فَعَّالٌ لِمَا يُرِيدُ

“Abiding therein so long as the heavens and the earth endure, except as your Lord please; surely your Lord is the mighty doer of what He intends.” (11:107).

وَأَمَّا الَّذِينَ سُعِدُوا فَفِي الْجَنَّةِ خَالِدِينَ فِيهَا مَا دَامَتِ السَّمَاوَاتُ وَالْأَرْضُ إِلَّا مَا شَاءَ رَبُّكَ عَطَاءً غَيْرَ مَجْذُوذٍ

“And as to those who are made happy, they shall be in the garden, abiding in it as long as the heavens and the earth endure, except as your Lord please; which shall never be cut off.” (11:108).

وَالَّذِينَ كَفَرُوا أَوْلِيَاؤُهُمُ الطَّاغُوتُ يُخْرِجُونَهُمْ مِنَ النُّورِ إِلَى الظُّلُمَاتِ أُولَٰئِكَ أَصْحَابُ النَّارِ هُمْ فِيهَا خَالِدُونَ

“And (as to) those who disbelieve, their guardians are Shaytans who take them out of the light into the darkness; they are the inmates of the fire, in it they shall abide.” (2:257).

Infinite Rewards Or Punishments

A group of people will enter heaven and stay there forever. This entrance might be immediately after the judgement or after some interval. The other group will enter hell and stay there forever. So in respect to time there is no limitation. There is also no limitation in respect to the intention (the quantity and the quality). We cannot compare His rewards with the pleasurable things in this universe. According to the Glorious Qur'an there is whatever they like in heaven.

يهَا مَا تَشْتَهِيهِ الْأَنْفُسُ وَتَلَذُّ الْأَعْيُنُ

“Therein shall be what their souls yearn after and (wherein) the eyes shall delight.” (43:71).

لَهُمْ مَا يَشَاءُونَ فِيهَا وَلَدَيْنَا مَزِيدٌ

“They have therein what they wish and with Us is more yet” (50:35).

Not only they can get and enjoy whatever they want, but also there are things which they were not able to conceive. We usually wish what we have seen or generally experienced in advance. For example, people like to have a big house (with a big garden in a size and with qualities which cannot be found in this world). But there are still some blessings in heaven which are not familiar to men so they will receive them without any previous want or request.

فَلَا تَعْلَمُ نَفْسٌ مَا أُخْفِيَ لَهُمْ مِنْ قُرَّةِ أَعْيُنٍ جَزَاءً بِمَا كَانُوا يَعْمَلُونَ

“So no soul knows what is hidden for them of that which will refresh the eyes; a reward for what they did.” (32:17).

According to traditions there is in Paradise what no eye has seen and no ear has heard and no heart has conceived (imagined).3 We cannot understand the torments either. The fire there is not comparable with ordinary fires. That fire burns the spirit as well as the body.

وَمَا أَدْرَاكَ مَا الْحُطَمَةُ

“And what will make you realise what the crushing disaster is?” (104:5).

نَارُ اللَّهِ الْمُوقَدَةُ

“It is the fire kindled by Allah,” (104:6).

الَّتِي تَطَّلِعُ عَلَى الْأَفْئِدَةِ

“which rises above the hearts.” (104:7).

إِنَّهَا عَلَيْهِمْ مُؤْصَدَةٌ

“Surely it shall be closed over upon them.” (104:8)

فِي عَمَدٍ مُمَدَّدَةٍ

“in extended columns.” (104:9).

Those who enter hell and suffer its torments wish to die. They think in this way they can get rid of the torments.

وَنَادَوْا يَا مَالِكُ لِيَقْضِ عَلَيْنَا رَبُّكَ قَالَ إِنَّكُمْ مَاكِثُونَ

“And they shall call out: O Malik! Let your Lord make an end of us. He shall say: Surely you shall tarry.” (43:77).

ثُمَّ لَا يَمُوتُ فِيهَا وَلَا يَحْيَىٰ

“Then therein he shall neither live nor die.” (87:13).

Whenever the fire bums their skin, Allah renews their skin to suffer again:

كُلَّمَا نَضِجَتْ جُلُودُهُمْ بَدَّلْنَاهُمْ جُلُودًا غَيْرَهَا لِيَذُوقُوا الْعَذَابَ

“So often as their skins are thoroughly burned, We will change them for other skins.” (4:56).

Listen to Imam Ali (‘a) in his prayer when he says:

يارَبِّ وَأَنْتَ تَعْلَمُ ضَعْفِي عَنْ قَلِيلٍ مِنْ بَلاءِ الدُّنْيا وَعُقُوباتِها وَمايَجْرِي فِيها مِنَ المَكارِهِ عَلى أَهْلِها عَلى أَنَّ ذلِكَ بَلاٌ وَمَكْروهٌ قَلِيلٌ مَكْثُهُ ، يَسِيرٌ بَقاؤهُ قَصِيٌر مُدَّتُهُ فَكَيْفَ إِحْتِمالِي لِبَلاءِ الاخِرَةِ وَجَلِيلِ وُقُوعِ المَكارِهِ فِيها وَهُوَ بَلاٌ تَطُولُ مُدَّتُهُ وَيَدُومُ مَقامُهُ وَلايُخَفَّفُ عَنْ أَهْلِهِ لاَنَّهُ لايَكُونُ إِلاّ عَنْ غَضَبِكَ وَانْتِقامِكَ وَسَخَطِكَ وَهذا ما لاتَقُومُ لَهُ السَّماواتُ وَالارْضُ

“O My Lord! And You know that I cannot endure the tribulations and punishments of this world and whatever ordeals happen to its inhabitants, while they are not so difficult and so long. So how can I endure the tribulations of the Hereafter and its great ordeals, while they are very long in their time and endless and their sufferers are not given any respite, because they are from of Your anger and vengeance and discontent and These cannot be withstood by the heavens and the earth.4

  • 1. In Arabic the term 'tawaffi ' means to take (or to receive) something completely. Comparing these two verses we understand that the soul (spirit) is equal to the self, because in the verse (32:11) the object of taking is ourselves and in the verse (39:42) it is the souls.
  • 2. Nahj Al-Balaghah, Sermon 193 or Khutbah Al-Muttaqin.
  • 3. See Bihar al-Anwar, Vol. 33, p. 81.
  • 4. Du’a Kumayl, the full text available online at: