Does one directly enter the Day of Resurrection after death and is one's futurity than decided? Or, does one pass into a special world in the interval between death and the Great Day of Judgement? (Evidently only God has the knowledge of the time of the Great Day of Judgement, even the prophets are unaware of it.)
According to the Holy Quran and successive and indisputable reports and narratives from the Holy Prophet (peace be upon him and his household) and the immaculate Imams (A.S.), no one enters the world of the Great Day of Judgement right after death because the Great Resurrection coincides with a series of fundamental revolution and transformations in all the earthly and celestial bodies such as mountains, seas, the moon, the sun, the stars and constellations. On the Great of Judgement, nothing will remain in its usual condition. Moreover, on that day, the first and last will come together. We see that the world still exists and will perhaps exist for millions, even billions of years with billions and billions of people coming afterwards.
Besides, from the Quran's point of view, no one undergoes an unconscious or senseless state in the interval between death and the Great Day of Judgement. After death, one enters another stage of life where one feels everything. One experiences joy, pleasures, pain, and sorrow. One's enjoyment and suffering has a direct relation to one's thoughts, morals and deeds in this world. This stage continues until the Great Day of Judgement when a series of unique revolutions and transformations will simultaneously take place all over the universe, from the farthest stars to our earth. This stage or world, which is an interval and medial stage between the world and the Resurrection for everyone, will eventually terminate.
Therefore, according to the Holy Quran, the world after death consists of two stages, that is, one passes through two worlds after death. The first, called purgatory, is finite, as the present world. The second is the world of the Great Judgement which is infinite. The following discussion involves purgatory and the Resurrection.
The word purgatory means barrier. The Holy Quran interprets the life between death and the Great Day of Judgement as purgatory.
Until when death overtakes one of them, he says ﴾Send me back my lord, send me back. Perhaps I may do good in that which I have left. By no means! it is mere words that he speaks; and before them is purgatory until the day they are raised.﴿ (23-99-100)
This is the only verse which calls the interval between death and the Last Judgement, purgatory. Islamic scholars, drawing from the verse, have designated the stage between death and the Great Day of Judgement as purgatory. This verse refers to life after death only in so far as mentioning that some people are repentant after death and ask to be returned to the world, but are answered in the negative. It explicitly reveals that, after death, one lives a kind of life which makes one request to be returned to the world, but his request is not accepted.
There are plenty of verses stating that one will be living after death and till the Resurrection. During that period, one will feel intense, converse and hear, feel happy, suffer and grieve, and will ultimately attain a certain happiness. There are fifteen verses altogether which depicts in one way or another, a kind of life proving that one lives a complete life between death and the Day of Judgement. These verses are classified as follows:
First, there are numerous verses which refer to the conversation between the virtuous and benevolent or the corrupt, wicked people and the divine angels immediately after death such as, the following verse:
﴾Surely (as for) those whom the angels cause to die while they are unjust to their souls, they shall say: In what state were you? They shall say: We were weak in the earth. they shall say: Was not Allah's earth spacious, so that you should have migrated therein? So these it is whose abode is hell, and it is an evil resort;﴿ (4:97)
Second, there are verses which, in addition to the above verse, confirm that after conversation, the angels will tell the virtuous, benevolent people to enjoy all God's blessings, that is, they will not have to wait for the Great Day of Judgement. The following two verses express this point:
The angels will receive the souls of good men saying:
﴾Peace be with you. Enter Paradise, and he exclaimed: Wished that my people know how Gracious my Nourisher has been to me, how highly He has exalted and included me among His favorite ones.﴿ (36: 26-7)
In the verses previous to this one, a discussion between this believer (from the Yasin family) and his people is stated. He invites them to obey the Messenger in Antioch (a city), who persuade the people to worship God devotedly and nothing but Him. He declares his belief in the Messengers and asks his people to pay attention to his statements and follow them.
It is said in these verses that he passed away while those people did not follow him. Experiencing God's forgiveness and generosity in the other world, he wished his people who were still alive, would be informed of his happiness. These events obviously happen before the Great Day of Resurrection when the first and the last shall gather and no one will remain on earth.
Another point is that, there are several heavens for the blessed, not just one. That is, there are various heavens according to the proximity of the believers to God. Besides, as stated by the Prophet's Household, praise be upon them, some of these heavens are reserved for purgatory and not for the Resurrection. Consequently, the word heaven in the above two verses should not be connected to the Resurrection.
Third, these verses do not imply any conversation between the angels and man. They speak directly about the life of blissful, benevolent people, their welfare; and that of the interval between death and the Resurrection. The following two verses are of this type.
﴾You must not think that those who were slain in the cause of God are dead. They are alive, and well-provided for by their Nourisher; pleased with His gifts and rejoicing that those whom they left behind and who have not yet joined them have nothing to fear or to regret, rejoicing in God's grace and bounty.﴿(3:169-170)
﴾And a grievous scourge fell on Pharaoh's people. They shall be brought before the Fire, morning and evening, and when the last Day comes, a voice will cry: 'Let the people of Pharaoh be sternly punished!﴿(40:45-46)
This holy verse points out two kinds of torture for Pharaoh's people. One will be before the Day of Judgement and called, 'severe punishment', when they will be brought before the Fire twice a day without being put into it. The other will be after the Day of Judgement, and has been referred to as "the most severe punishment", when at the word of command, the people will be put into the Fire. The time of punishment is not clarified for the second one, contrary to the first punishment in which the words morning and evening are mentioned.
According to the interpretation of Imam Ali, Commander of the Faithful, praise be to him, of this verse, the first punishment refers to purgatory where, similar to this world, there are mornings, evenings, weeks, months, and years, while the second punishment refers to the Resurrection which is timeless. In the narratives of the Holy Prophet, and Imam Ali, Commander of the Faithful, and those of the other Imam (A.S.) plenty of emphasis has been placed on purgatory and lives of the believers and wrong-doers.
After the Muslims' conquest in the battle of Badr, a group of the arrogant Quraish tribal chiefs were killed and thrown into a well near Badr. the Messenger of God addressed the chiefs from the mouth of the well and said "What God had promised to us came true, what about you?"
Some of the companions said to the Messenger of God: "Are you speaking to the dead!? Do they hear what you say?" The Messenger said: "They are now more perceptive than you are." According to this report and others, although death separates the body and life, the spirit does not completely cut off its connection with the body with which it has lived and been united for years.
On the tenth of Moharram, after performing the morning prayer in assembly with his companions, Imam Husein (A.S.) while giving a short speech addressed them: "Have patience and perseverance, death is but a bridge which leads you from pain and suffering towards happiness, generosity and the vast heavens."
According to tradition, one's life is nothing but a sleep, one wakes up the minute one dies. That is, after death there is a higher and more complete stage of life. In the same way that a sleeping man has a weaker life in terms of perception compared with a man who is awake and leads a more complete life, so man's present life is compared with his life in purgatory where it becomes more complete.
We should mention two points here:
First, as stated in the narratives and reports by religious leaders, in purgatory, one will be interrogated and questioned only on the problems of faith and belief, whereas on Resurrection Day the rest of the problems will be brought up and dealt with.
Second, the dead will enjoy happiness, comfort and blessings through their descendants' pious acts intended for them. All sorts of offerings made on behalf of dead parents, friends, teachers or others, will be considered as gifts resulting in their happiness. Among them are permanent offerings such as establishing charitable institutions which will remain to benefit the people as well as temporary offerings. The same result comes through prayer, asking for forgiveness, pilgrimage to Mecca or simply circling the Ka'ba, the House of God at Mecca and going on other pilgrimages on their behalf.
God forbids, but some children may greatly disappoint their parents. But after the parents die, the children may make amends and thus bring about their parents' contentment. The contrary might also be the case.
The Great Day Of Judgment
The Great Day of Judgement is the second stage of everlasting life. In contrast to purgatory which involves the individual and ones' immediate arrival there, the Great Day of Judgement concerns the whole world. This is an event which concerns everything and all mankind, an event which embodies the whole world. The whole universe enters a new stage, life and system.
The Holy Quran informs us of the great event of the Resurrection. According to this information, this great event will coincide with the extinction of the stars and the sun, the drying up of the seas, the leveling of high and low lands, the disintegration of the mountains, universal quakes, thunder and great, unique transformations and revolutions. All the world will move towards destruction, disintegration and everything will be annihilated. Then it will be reconstructed and revived, continuing and surviving forever with new rules and systems different from the present ones.
The Resurrection is referred to by several names and expressions in the Quran, each signifying a special condition and system ascribed to it. For example, it is called "the Day of Resurrection", "the Day of Assembly "or "the Day of Encounter "since the first and the last will have the same stand regardless of their role in history. It is known as "the Day of Revealing Secrets" or "the Day of Laying Open One's Deeds" because the innermost being will be revealed, since it is indestructible and eternal. Another expression for it is "the Woeful Day" or "the Day of Repentance" as some people will regret and repent for not having prepared themselves for that "stage". As it will be the greatest occurrence and the most important event, it is also called "the Fateful Message".
The Connection Between This World and the Next World
A very significant, essential subject pointed out to us by the holy books is the connection between these two worlds. These are related to each other. In the other world, one will reap the harvest of one's own deeds in this world. What brings about eternal happiness for one is a pure, proper, real faith and belief (a realistic world view), correct moral standards, freedom from jealousy, deceit, fraud, hatred and cheating, as well as benevolent deeds such as benignity and devotion resulting in the perfection of society and mankind. On the contrary, what brings a very grievous, unhappy life in the other world is disbelief, false beliefs, evil morals, selfishness, egotism, self-conceit, oppression, injustice, hypocrisy, usury, lies, slander, treachery, backbiting, tale-bearing, sedition, abstention from praying and worshipping God.
The Messenger of God, peace be upon him, pointedly expressed this point. "This world is the farm for the other world ", (i.e. what you sow here, you will reap there). The quality of your harvest depends on what you sow. It is impossible to sow barley and reap wheat, to get flowers from planting thorns or grow dates from colocynth. In the same manner, having evil thoughts, morals and deeds in this world will not profit one in the next world.
Manifestations and Eternaliness Of The Human Being's Deeds And Acquisitions
According to the verses in the Holy Quran and the religious leaders' report and narratives, one is eternal and one's deeds are somehow recorded and preserved forever. One will find one's past deeds illustrated and manifested on Resurrection Day. Virtuous deeds and acquisitions will be manifested in beautiful, attractive, pleasant figures and will be a source of joy and happiness, while one's evil deeds will be manifested in hideous, loathsome, terrifying, harmful figures and will be a source of pain, suffering and torture.
At this stage, three verses from the Holy Quran and two narratives will be sufficient to illustrate these points:
﴾The day will surely come when each soul will be confronted with whatever good or evil it has done. As for its evil deeds, it will wish they were a long way off.﴿(3:30)
The fact that man will see his virtuous deeds as very desirable and pleasant and his evil deeds as terrifying and disgusting is made explicit in this verse. He would like to escape or be kept away from them, but that will not be possible. In the other world, man's manifested, presented deeds will be part of him, thus inseparable.
"And they shall find their deeds recorded there."
The point stressed in this verse is the same as the previous one.
﴾On that day mankind will come out in broken bands to be shown their deeds. Whoever has done an infinitesimal weight of good shall see it, and whoever has done an infinitesimal weight of evil shall see it too.﴿(99:6-8)
Man is eternal. One's deeds and acquisitions are also recorded and everlasting. In other words, one will live with deeds and morals acquired in this world. They will be good or bad assets, and a perpetual good or evil companion for one in the everlasting world.
It is stated in a narrative that a group of Muslims from a distant land had the honor of meeting the Messenger of God. They asked for some advice. The Holy Messenger (peace be upon him and his household) made a few statements, one of which was:
"Since your deeds and behavior here will be your living friends and companions there, now it is time you tried to choose good ones for the other world."
A believer in eternal life always considers his thoughts, morals, deeds and behavior seriously, knowing that these will remain and be sent in advance to the other world in the reserve for his living there.
﴾And the measure of the deeds that day will be just; so whom so-ever’s weight be heavy, those are they who shall be successful.﴿(7:8)
﴾And those whose measure of the deeds is light, those are they whose souls suffer lose for what they, with Our signs, did behave unjustly.﴿(7:9)
Weighing in measure literally means of knowing or valuing the correct weight or measures or worth of a thing. Weighing by God means that every matter will be dealt with, with perfect justice.
This information was extracted from:
* Ash-Shaykh As-Sadiq. A Shi’ite Creed. Published by the World Organization for Islamic Services. Tehran, Iran, 1982.