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Living for the hereafter

As Muslims we are supposed to prepare ourselves for the hereafter.

By Nawar Fakhry Ezzi  | 04 May 2012

As Muslims, our birth and death mark the beginning and end of our journey in this life, where we are supposed to prepare ourselves for the hereafter. "Preparation" is a bit debatable though since some Muslims believe that building this earth, "worldly" knowledge, and enjoying life in general take away from our "preparation time", which is supposed to be completely dedicated to actions of worship and learning religious studies.

They also assume that one of the reasons behind the fall of the Islamic civilization is Muslims’ indulgence in this life and its pleasures, and the way to bring it back is to work for the life after death is as if we are going to die tomorrow as Prophet Muhammad (peace be upon him) has commanded us.

According to Islam, we were created to be God’s viceroys on this earth, to worship Him and to live peacefully, when possible, with other human beings in order to build this land. If it were only about acts of worship and recitations of prayers, angels would have been much better in inhabiting this earth. God Almighty does not need our acts of worship; we are the ones who need it. Our happiness and survival in this life includes physical as well as spiritual well-being, which is a need that most people, even atheists acknowledge.

The examples from the Qur’an and the Sunnah are too many to be mentioned in one article, but a prominent one is a saying by Prophet Muhammad (peace be upon him) in which he says, “If the ‘hour’ (the Day of Judgment) is established upon you and in your hand is a plant, if you are able, do not stand until you have planted it into the ground.” Imagine when the world is ending, as we know it, we are commanded to be hopeful and dedicated by continuing our work on earth if we can. This indicates that working to benefit humanity and one’s own society is just as sacred as acts of worship.

The absolute belief in the temporariness of this world and a promise of a better life after death if one followed God’s commandments makes our lives more meaningful. Throughout history, we find that this belief has also provided a great coping mechanism to oppressed individuals, groups or even whole nations in different religious traditions. However, if people try to use this belief to escape from reality and give up on this life, as some Muslims have done, they lose the essence of what religions are all about.

Religions are supposed to enrich our lives and motivate us to be better people in this world and the world to come. This is the way Muslims believed it to be from the early days of Islam throughout the Islamic golden age. In that period, amazing mosques as well as some of the largest libraries in the world were built. People did not see any contradiction between worshipping God and working to develop their societies.

The golden age had its roots in a culture that supported a life-embracing attitude where education and work were encouraged. Dedicating their lives to studying Islam did not prevent them from translating the work of Aristotle and Plato and reciting poems in their gatherings. Scientists, such as Ibn Sina, or Avicenna as known in the West, who was the most famous and influential polymath in the 11th century, memorized the Qur’an at the age of 10, and studied fiqh and Islamic theology while excelled in many subjects, such as astrology, alchemy, philosophy, mathematics, and medicine, which he was most famous for.

Thus, early Muslims were not a group of ascetics who dedicated their lives to worship alone, but rather they learned, worked, and encouraged inventions in all fields while preforming their religious duties. Because this life is impermanent, we should appreciate it and value its knowledge and beauty according to God’s commandments, which helps in deepening our faith and complements our acts of worship. It is true that this life is a passage for an individual, but it is a home to many generations until the Day of Judgment comes.

Those who value materialism over spirituality are doomed to fall at the end, and those who value spirituality and turn their back on life; life has turned its back on them. We should rearrange our priorities by realizing that worshipping God can be through praying as well as building. In order to resurrect a civilization that built some of the most beautiful buildings in the world, we should do more than praying for a miracle from God to build our economies and develop our countries while we are bounded to our mosques.



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