Life after Death
Death is a natural event that none of us can escape. Throughout time, religions have tried to explain what happens to us after death.
Muslims believe that a person's soul leaves the body and awaits a final Day of Judgment before God. At the time of that Judgment, God will show mercy and justice and decide who will be rewarded and who will be punished. He will reward those who have “believed and worked deeds of righteousness” with eternal paradise, called Jannah (the Garden). As for those who have rejected faith and done evil, Allah will either forgive them in His mercy, or punish them in eternal Hellfire, called Jahannam (a word related to other Arabic words that mean “displeasure,” “ignorance,” and “frown”).
This Life and the Hereafter
Muslims live their lives — work, marry, and raise children — with the Hereafter in mind. They strive to use every opportunity to deepen their faith in God, follow His guidance, and do good deeds. It is very easy to get caught up in the hustle and bustle of life without a thought to what comes next. In Islamic terms, the life we are living now is called the dunya — something earthly, temporal, and low.
The Islamic term taqwa is used to describe how human beings should relate to God. While it is often translated as “fear God,” a more accurate meaning would be “to approach God with piety and reverence.” Muslims are not afraid of God but revere Him and strive to do His will.
The Hereafter is what Muslims believe is most important; in Islamic terminology, it is called the akhirah, “the end” or “the last.” The akhirah is what is to come at the end of our lives here, and the final aim of all believers is to be in a good place for the rest of eternity. To this end, Muslims try not to get distracted from their true purpose: to worship God and to strive in righteousness. The Qur'an reminds: “Oh you who believe! Revere God, and let every soul look to what he has sent forth for tomorrow [the Hereafter]. Yes, revere God, for God is Well-Acquainted with all that you do. And do not be like those who forgot God, and He made them forget themselves. Such are the rebellious transgressors” (Qur'an 59:18–19).
Salvation in God
Muslims believe that God is merciful and compassionate and does not require of us more than we can handle. In Islam, salvation requires piety and good action but is only possible through the Mercy of God. To keep this knowledge at the forefront of believers' minds, nearly all of the chapters of the Qur'an begin with the phrase, “In the name of Allah, Most Gracious, Most Merciful.”
In the Qur'an, God promises the reward of Paradise for those who show piety and reverence to Him, who conduct themselves in accordance with their faith, who obey His will and law, who make sacrifices for His sake, and who repent of their misconduct. The important thing is to make a sincere effort to live as God has requested, for God knows our hearts and our intentions.
Despite our best efforts, we will always fall short. We are human and we all make mistakes. Muslims believe that God, the One Who created us, knows this and shows us mercy. We do not “earn” our way into Heaven; only by the Mercy and Grace of God does He reward our efforts.
Above all, Allah is quick to forgive and show mercy to those who struggle, make errors, and then repent. “If anyone errs or wrongs his own soul, but afterwards seeks Allah's forgiveness, he will find Allah Oft-Forgiving, Most Merciful” (Qur'an 4:110).