What are the stages of man's journey to the Hereafter

What Are the Stages of Man’s Journey to the Hereafter?

The Hereafter is one of the pillars of Islamic beliefs. The Hereafter is the world to come where people live after they depart from the world. The gate of this permanent life is death. God loves His servants. Therefore, He does not end their life with death, He only transfers them to the world to come. This transfer is like a journey but what is the reality of this journey? What are the stages of a human’s journey to the Hereafter? In this article on Islam4u, you will learn the stages of the human journey to the Hereafter. These stages are as follows:

Death

Death! Many people think that death is a terrifying experience. They believe that when they die they meet their end and they will not continue living, but the Quran teaches us that death is not an end for people’s lives, but rather the beginning of our journey to Allah.

كُلُّ نَفْسٍ ذَائِقَةُ الْمَوْتِ ۖ ثُمَّ إِلَيْنَا تُرْجَعُونَ ‎﴿٥٧﴾

Everyone will meet death, then you will be brought back to Us.1

Death is the beginning of our spiritual journey to the Hereafter. Death is a reality that everyone will experience. When death comes, a human’s soul leaves his physical body. The angels of God take the soul from the body to the world to come. This separation of the soul from the body is a different experience.

When good people meet their death, they enjoy it but when death comes to the disbelievers and sinful people, they experience a very hard condition.

وَلَوْ تَرَىٰ إِذْ يَتَوَفَّى الَّذِينَ كَفَرُوا ۙ الْمَلَائِكَةُ يَضْرِبُونَ وُجُوهَهُمْ وَأَدْبَارَهُمْ وَذُوقُوا عَذَابَ الْحَرِيقِ ‎﴿٥٠﴾

And if you [were able to] see [the bad condition of] the disbelievers when the angels take out their soul, beating their faces and backs saying, “Taste the burning punishment.”2

فَكَيْفَ إِذَا تَوَفَّتْهُمُ الْمَلَائِكَةُ يَضْرِبُونَ وُجُوهَهُمْ وَأَدْبَارَهُمْ ‎﴿٢٧﴾‏ ذَٰلِكَ بِأَنَّهُمُ اتَّبَعُوا مَا أَسْخَطَ اللَّهَ وَكَرِهُوا رِضْوَانَهُ فَأَحْبَطَ أَعْمَالَهُمْ ‎﴿٢٨﴾‏ أَمْ حَسِبَ الَّذِينَ فِي قُلُوبِهِم مَّرَضٌ أَن لَّن يُخْرِجَ اللَّهُ أَضْغَانَهُمْ ‎﴿٢٩﴾

So how [will their condition be] when [their death arrives and] the angels take out their souls striking their faces and backs, that is because they followed [evil deeds] which makes God wrathful and [they] hated His pleasure, so God made their deeds fruitless. Or do those in whose heart is a [spiritual] disease imagine that God will not make their spite [publicly] known?3

الَّذِينَ تَتَوَفَّاهُمُ الْمَلَائِكَةُ طَيِّبِينَ ۙ يَقُولُونَ سَلَامٌ عَلَيْكُمُ ادْخُلُوا الْجَنَّةَ بِمَا كُنتُمْ تَعْمَلُونَ

But those whom the angels will take their souls [to the Hereafter] while they are in a state of purity angels will say, “Peace be on you. Enter the paradise for what you used to perform.”4

Barzakh

When a human being dies, his soul departs from the world and stays in barzakh or the afterlife. Barzakh is a new world where human beings live before the Day of Judgment (Qiyamah). The good-doers will have a good life in barzakh and the evildoers will be punished.

حَتَّىٰ إِذَا جَاءَ أَحَدَهُمُ الْمَوْتُ قَالَ رَبِّ ارْجِعُونِ ‎﴿٩٩﴾‏ لَعَلِّي أَعْمَلُ صَالِحًا فِيمَا تَرَكْتُ ۚ كَلَّا ۚ إِنَّهَا كَلِمَةٌ هُوَ قَائِلُهَا ۖ وَمِن وَرَائِهِم بَرْزَخٌ إِلَىٰ يَوْمِ يُبْعَثُونَ

Until when death comes to one of them, he says, “O my Lord! Return me [to the world]. That I may perform good deeds in [the world] where I left.” [But they will be told,] “Never!” It is a word he only utters [and he will never come back to the world] and there is a barrier behind him until the Day they are resurrected.5

The first stage of barzakh is the grave where a human being will be questioned about his beliefs and deeds. The disbelievers, hypocrites, and the sinful will experience a terrible condition in the grave. Those who did not perform their daily prayers and those who abandon belief in the messenger of God, Mohammad (s), and his household as the divine successors of the prophet of Islam will be in trouble. 

Day of Judgment

A promised day! After barzakh, the Day of Judgment will come. All the messengers of God promised that the Day of Judgment will come and people will see the outcome of their deeds and intentions. God promises that He will gather all the people on the Day of Judgment and He never breaks His promises.

اللَّهُ لَا إِلَٰهَ إِلَّا هُوَ ۚ لَيَجْمَعَنَّكُمْ إِلَىٰ يَوْمِ الْقِيَامَةِ لَا رَيْبَ فِيهِ ۗ وَمَنْ أَصْدَقُ مِنَ اللَّهِ حَدِيثًا ‎﴿٨٧﴾‏

Allah! There is no god but Him. He will certainly gather you on the Day of Judgment, which is beyond doubt. Who is more truthful than Him in the statement?6

رَبَّنَا وَآتِنَا مَا وَعَدتَّنَا عَلَىٰ رُسُلِكَ وَلَا تُخْزِنَا يَوْمَ الْقِيَامَةِ ۗ إِنَّكَ لَا تُخْلِفُ الْمِيعَادَ ‎﴿١٩٤﴾‏

O our Lord! Give us [the rewards] which you have promised us through Your messengers, and do not [let our wrong deeds bring] disgrace [to] us on the Day of Judgment. Indeed, you do not break Your promise.7

God will judge among the people on the Day of Judgment. He will be just and fair, so no one will be oppressed.

وَنَضَعُ الْمَوَازِينَ الْقِسْطَ لِيَوْمِ الْقِيَامَةِ فَلَا تُظْلَمُ نَفْسٌ شَيْئًا ۖ وَإِن كَانَ مِثْقَالَ حَبَّةٍ مِّنْ خَرْدَلٍ أَتَيْنَا بِهَا ۗ وَكَفَىٰ بِنَا حَاسِبِينَ ‎﴿٤٧﴾

And We will set the scales of justice for the Day of Judgment [to judge justly], therefore, no one will be wronged in the least, so even if it be the weight of a mustard seed, We will bring [and take] it [into consideration] and as a reckoner, We are enough.8

Final Destination; Heaven or Hell

Human deeds are the key factors that determine the final destination of people on the Day of Judgment, therefore, the believers who observed God’s law and obeyed the Messenger of God and performed good deeds in the world will be admitted into heaven:

وَمَن يَعْمَلْ مِنَ الصَّالِحَاتِ مِن ذَكَرٍ أَوْ أُنثَىٰ وَهُوَ مُؤْمِنٌ فَأُولَٰئِكَ يَدْخُلُونَ الْجَنَّةَ وَلَا يُظْلَمُونَ نَقِيرًا ‎﴿١٢٤﴾

And whoever performs good deeds, whether male or female, while he is a believer, such [is allowed to] enter paradise. And they will not be wronged at all.9

Unlike the believers, the disbelievers, hypocrites, and wrongdoers will reside in hell. Hell is the outcome of what they did in the world.

وَقَدْ نَزَّلَ عَلَيْكُمْ فِي الْكِتَابِ أَنْ إِذَا سَمِعْتُمْ آيَاتِ اللَّهِ يُكْفَرُ بِهَا وَيُسْتَهْزَأُ بِهَا فَلَا تَقْعُدُوا مَعَهُمْ حَتَّىٰ يَخُوضُوا فِي حَدِيثٍ غَيْرِهِ ۚ إِنَّكُمْ إِذًا مِّثْلُهُمْ ۗ إِنَّ اللَّهَ جَامِعُ الْمُنَافِقِينَ وَالْكَافِرِينَ فِي جَهَنَّمَ جَمِيعًا ‎﴿١٤٠﴾‏

And indeed, God has sent down to you in the Book that when you hear God’s signs are rejected and derided do not sit with them [who do so] until they engage in another talk, [but if you do not leave them] you would be like them, and God certainly will gather all of the hypocrites and disbelievers [together] in hell.10

Conclusion

Human beings have a journey to the Hereafter; this journey has four stages. The first stage is death when the soul will depart from the body and the world. The second stage is life in barzakh in which one will reside until the Day of Judgment. The third stage is the Day of Judgment. God will judge people on the Day of Judgment and people will be divided into good-doers and evildoers. The fourth stage is hell or heaven. The good-doers will be admitted into heaven and the evildoers will enter hell.


References

  1. Quran 29:57 (Foroutan).
  2. Quran 8:50 (Foroutan).
  3. Quran 47:27-29 (Foroutan).
  4. Quran 16:32 (Foroutan).
  5. Quran 23:99 (Foroutan).
  6. Quran 4:87 (Foroutan).
  7. Quran 3:194 (Foroutan).
  8. Quran 21:47 (Foroutan).
  9. Quran 4:124 (Foroutan).
  10. Quran 4:140 (Foroutan).
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Dr.Behrouz Foroutan
Dr.Behrouz Foroutan
Dr. Behrouz Foroutan is a scholar, author, and international lecturer in Islamic studies. He has been involved in scripture translation and its commentary for approximately two decades now but he put most of his focus on translating the Qur’an and its commentary in English in a way that makes it easier for the reader to understand, without losing its credibility. The product of that was books on spirituality, beliefs, and a new English translation of the Qur’an and its commentary in 12 volumes.

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