Life in this world
In the teachings of Islam, the moment we are born we enter the life of the world.
This is the third stage of life. In this environment we will need to learn how to lead a moral and upright lifestyle pleasing to God. If we are denied the opportunity to learn as children because of neglect or abandonment by our parents, then our fitrah (inner feeling from Allah) will help to guide us in seeking such knowledge. When we enter puberty, the standard for adulthood in Islam, God will hold us account able for our beliefs and actions.
Shaytan (devil) will continually attempt to corrupt us by whispering evil suggestions into our minds.
All the pleasures of the world will present themselves on a platter,tempting our lower animal desires. Our animal self will rule over us until we begin to use our reason and inner spiritual motivations to motivate our heart and mind to seek God. The Qur’an describes this world as an illusory place of deception and play, rivalry and amusement, boasting and hoarding. If as new adults we aren’t careful, we just might fall into this trap.
The span of our life, which was recorded in our book of deeds, will not last a minute longer than it is supposed to. While we are alive, however, we will be confronted with a series of challenges and tests in life: The car breaks down; whom should I marry; I got a big raise; someone stole my credit card; my mother passed away, and so on.
All of these daily life circumstances happen in order to give us the opportunity to improve ourselves and to draw closer to God. According to Islam, these tests and challenges in life serve a purpose. They can bring out the best in us and cause us to dig deep within ourselves where bravery, courage, perseverance, and fortitude reside.
Without being tested, how would we know that we have the guts to carry through in times of crisis?
The Qur’an asks,“Do people think they can just say,‘We believe’ and they wouldn’t be tested in what they claimed? You can be sure We tested those before them and Allah will show those who are true and those who are false.” (Qur’an 29:2–3)
Many people take the opposite approach, though, and choose not to rise to the occasion. They fail their tests and forget about God. They resort to lying, cheating, back biting, corruption, violence, or worse when faced with life’s difficult choices. The Qur’an describes them as people who are sitting on the edge of a fence: When times are good, they are satisfied; but when the going gets tough, they engage in evil deeds with no regard for the rights of anyone else.
Does God Try to Fool Us?
Some people have charged that God turns us into unbelievers or believers. There are several verses in the Qur’an that say such things as, “God will mislead them” or “Nobody believes unless it is God’s will.” When taken out of context, these verses can give a false impression. The Qur’an is very clear about this principle: God wants us to believe in Him. He’s not going to keep us from surrendering to Him. The problem occurs when we reject God first. He warned that if we do that, He will let us wander off in error as much as we want, and as an added punishment He will cover our hearts with a veil so we understand even less about the truth. The more we reject God, the more we lose our way. If we move closer to God, however, He opens our hearts more and more to the reality of all things. The Qur’an puts it this way:
“No soul can believe except by the Will of Allah and He will place doubt in the hearts of those who refuse to understand. You can say to people, ‘Hey, look at all the signs of God in space and on Earth …’ but neither signs nor Warners profit those who won’t believe. So do they expect anything besides what happened in the days of the people who passed away before them? Tell them, ‘Wait then, for I, too, will wait with you.’ In the end We deliver Our messengers and those who believe. Thus is it fitting on Our part that We should deliver those who believe!” (Qur’an 10:100–103).
Careful! You’re Being Watched
The Qur’an says that we all have two angels who follow us around throughout our lives. They are called the Kiraman Katibeen, or the Noble Writers. One figuratively sits on our right shoulder while the other sits on our left shoulder. Their only job is to write in our book of deeds every action, thought, or feeling we have each day. The right angel records our good deeds and the left angel our bad deeds. (Imagine if someone followed you around all day with a camcorder!) Muslims often joke with their children that one of their two angels is very busy writing: Which one is getting a tired hand?
This book in which the angels are writing is our cumulative record, which we will be confronted with on the Day of Judgment after our death. There is a widely circulated story in the Muslim world to bring home the point of God’s omnipotence. A religious scholar, or Shaykh, wanted to test his young students.
He gave each one a piece of candy and told them to go and eat it where no one could see them. All of the students went away and came back some time later. The teacher asked if everyone had eaten their sweets, and they all raised their hands except one boy. When the Shaykh questioned the boy about eating the candy, he answered, “I couldn’t find a place where Allah couldn’t see me.”
The Qur’an calls this life a time of trial and testing to show who among us has the most consciousness of God and behaves the best. “O People!” the Qur’an announces, “We created you from a single pair of a male and a female and made you into nations and groups so you can come to know each other. Certainly the noblest among you in the sight of Allah is the one with the most Taqwa [awareness of Allah].” (Qur’an 49:13)
The preferred lifestyle Islam envisions is one based on prayer, repentance, contemplation, responsibility, and morality. Islam doesn’t demand that we become perfect. It merely states that we have to use this life to be the best we can be in all spheres of life.
The Prophet Muhammad said, “Allah loves a person who, when they do something , they try their best. According to the Prophet Muhammad, Allah said, “O son of Adam, so long as you call upon Me and ask of Me, I shall forgive you for what you have done, and I shall not mind.
O son of Adam, were your sins to reach the clouds of the sky and were you then to ask forgiveness of Me, I would forgive you. O son of Adam, were you to come to Me with sins nearly as great as the earth and were you then to face Me, ascribing no partner to Me, I would bring you forgiveness nearly as great as that”. A Muslim who lives a normal life span is expected to work, marry, have a family, participate in social activities, and do his or her part to advance the cause of Godliness.
Waste and extravagance are to be avoided, and thrift and conservation are praiseworthy values to acquire. In every sphere of life, religious guidance must be consulted and followed.
Islam says that if you really believe this, then you must act like it and not merely feel smug and do whatever you want. Follow the straight path of Islam in your life and you will please God Whom you will have to face regardless of your personal opinions about His existence on a day that you cannot avoid.
A person may live for 20, 50, or even 100 years, and every day will still be a continuous challenge to remain on the path of surrender to God. There are no easy tickets to Heaven. There is no salvation moment whereby we are guaranteed admittance to Heaven regardless of what we do for the rest of our lives.
If we believe in God one day but reject Him a day later and then die, our whole life will be judged by the condition of our belief when we left the physical world.
Life in the Grave One of the more graphic and compelling teachings of Islam begins with the moment of our death. Islam teaches that when we are dying, our soul rises in our body and collects in our throat. An angel called Malikul Mawt,or the Angel of Death, arrives and is given the task of removing the soul. This angel isn’t the handsome young person. He’s stern and unflinching in his duty and has no crisis of identity.So how does the angel remove our soul from our body? Our soul, or ruh, is an otherworldly substance.
The angel merely takes hold of it as it separates from our physical body and pulls.
If the person believed in God and led a virtuous life, then the Angel of Death and his assistants gently draw out the soul from the body. But if the soul was that of a person who denied God or a person who led an evil life, then the angels will tear out the soul violently, like yanking cotton through a metal grate.
The exact moment when death is inevitable is described in the Qur’an as a moment of complete realization:
“When a dying person breathes his last, when, ‘Can any doctor save him?’ the people ask, then, in the pangs of death he’ll know his time is due.His knees will shake as death approaches and then he will return to his Lord.” (Qur’an 75:27–30)
When you take your last breath, you finally know your time is up and you may panic or be filled with regret. But repentance is too late then. God accepts no repentance from a person who is that close to death.
When the process is moments away from completion, the cutoff point has arrived.
The Qur’an records the final minutes of the Pharaoh’s life, just before he was drowned in the Red Sea while chasing the fleeing Israelites. The Pharaoh said, “Now I believe.” But God answered by saying he was too late.