Posted Posted on 2015-07-30
“Death is the most inescapable part of life. Upon entering into the world, no one can say, with absolute certainty, if a particular individual will be rich or poor, a glowing success or an abject failure. No one can predict if they, or anyone else, will live a long and healthy life or see their earthly stint end during their youth. No one knows if they will be tried by disease or some other physical or psychiatric challenge. The only thing we can say about life with absolute certainty is that anyone coming into the world will eventually leave it.
Despite the absolute certainty of death, most people fail to reflect on its nature and the finality it represents. Fewer still are those who actually prepare for death by leading lives steeped in the reality that this worldly sojourn is but an introduction to another life, the everlasting life that commences with our death. One of the great gifts of religion, regardless of how it manifested itself in the teachings of a specific Prophet in a particular time and place, is that it brings its adherents face-to-face with death. This confrontation with our mortality is usually coupled with a sense of moral responsibility and accountability.
Perhaps no family of religions has stressed the idea of worldly moral responsibility determining the fate of the soul so much as the Abrahamic faiths, which include Judaism, Islam and Christianity; the latter two faiths being especially insistent in this regard. These are the faiths that have, more than any others, vouchsafed unto humanity the ideas of Heaven and Hell, salvation and damnation, eternal suffering and eternal bliss. The Bible states, “I the Lord search the heart and test the mind, to give every man according to his ways, according to the fruit of his deeds” (Jeremiah 17:10). Similarly, the New Testament states, “I tell you, on the Day of Judgment, people will give account for every word they speak; for by your words you will be acquitted, and by your words you will be condemned” (Matthew 12:37).
Islam, the youngest of the Abrahamic faiths, is perhaps the strongest in terms of the power and force with which it emphasizes accountability after death. A single Qur’anic verse, in succinct yet stirring words, captures the inevitability of death, the moral responsibility life demands of us, the accountability awaiting us in the next life, the reality of Heaven and Hell and how easily we are deluded by the world into discounting what we will encounter after death. We read, “Every soul will taste death and you will be given your recompense in full on the Day of Resurrection. Therefore, one distanced from Hell and entered into Paradise has triumphed; and what is the life of this world except a deceptive enjoyment” (3:185).”
Excerpted from Imam Zaid Shakir’s introduction to Shaykh Abdullah Ali’s important new book, “Tears of the Yearners.” The book is available at the following website: http://www.lamppostproductions.com/tears-of-the-yearners-s…