The major religions generally have striking similarities of the journey to the afterlife.
The journey of a soul to its Creator is believed from an Islamic perspective to be broken down into four stages; the moment of death, the life in the grave, the day of Judgment, and the Eternal life.
The inevitability of death is seldom thought about by the average person, whereas our Prophet Muhammad (peace be upon him) informed us to remember and ponder about death often:
Death is an inevitable end for any human being. The Quran mentions this point in many verses.
“O you who believe! Do not let your wealth or children divert you from the remembrance of Allah. Whoever does that is lost. Give from what We have provided for you before death comes to one of you and he says, ‘O Lord, if only you would give me a little more time so that I can give charity and be one of the righteous.’ Allah will not give anyone more time, once their time has come. Allah is aware of everything you do.” (Qur’an 63:9-11)
And in another verse the Quran reminds us that death will surely come and to prepare for it:
Everyone shall taste death. And only on the Day of Resurrection shall you be paid your wages in full. And whoever is removed away from the fire and admitted to Paradise, he indeed is successful. The life of this world is only the enjoyment of deception (a deceiving thing).Qur'an Chapter 3, Verse 185
The Life of the Grave
To get an understanding of what this period of the journey to the Afterlife is like, we will share a story from one of the Companions of Prophet Muhammad (peace be upon him), his friend Uthman.
One day a story was narrated by Uthman’s freed slave Hani.
Hani narrates that when Uthman would stand in front of a grave he would cry until his beard would become moist.
It was once said to Uthman; “You mention Heaven and Hell and you don’t cry yet you cry from this (i.e. the grave)?”
Uthman replied; “Allah’s Messenger said: ‘Verily the grave is the first hurdle from the hurdles of the Hereafter (the next life). If one succeeds in it, then what is to come after it will be easier for him. However, if does not succeed in it, then what is to come after it will be harder for him.’”
Muslims believe that when a person is buried in their grave, two angels will pay them a visit and ask 3 important questions:
“Who is your Lord?
What is your religion?
Who is this man who was sent among you? “
The good soul will able to answer each question respectively; “Allah, Islam, and Muhammad.” Whereas the evil soul, although they may have known these answers in this life, will not be able to respond to these questions and will instead say: “Oh, oh, I do not know”.
It is after the questioning of the angels that a life of either blessings or torment will begin for the soul. The good soul will have a life of goodness for eternity in Heaven. As for the evil soul, it will have an eternal life in Hell. What determines whether a person will end up in Hell or Heaven is based on two things: their beliefs and their deeds. Muslims believe that if a person believes in Islam and performs more good deeds than sins, then they will have a good ending in the afterlife.
Day of Judgment
The Day of Judgement is called by many names in Islam such as the Day of Recompense, the Day of Rising, and the Hour.
The Hour is one of the many pieces of knowledge which no one besides Allah possesses. Only Allah (Exalted and High) knows when it will arise.
People ask you (O Muhammad) concerning the Hour. Say, ‘Knowledge of it is only with Allah. What do you know? Perhaps the Hour is near.’ Qur'an - Chapter 33, Verse 63
We will discuss the many scenes that will happen on the day of reckoning through the Book of Allah (Exalted and High) and the sayings of our Noble Prophet Muhammad (peace be upon him).
Allah will order one of His Angels, Israfeel, to blow a special horn and at that moment everything in existence will come to an end. Allah painted vivid pictures in the Noble Quran of this day in a number of verses.
And the Horn will be blown, and whoever is in the heavens and whoever is on the earth will fall dead except whom Allah wills. Then it will blown a second time and behold, they will be standing, looking on (waiting).
Qur'an Chapter 39, Verse 68
When the Hour comes every human being will only think about themselves. For example, mothers will forget about their children, brothers and sisters will forget about their siblings, and friends will forget about their closest companions. Every human will only worry about their own salvation because of the terrors of the Day of Judgement.
All of mankind from the first generation to the last generation will all be gathered on a great plain. The sun will be brought much closer and everyone will be sweating except those whom Allah grants His Shade. This great day will feel like fifty thousand years according to the words of Prophet Muhammad (peace be upon him). The hearts of man will be in terror, not knowing what the outcome will be. And soon thereafter the judgement will begin. Everyone’s deeds will be accounted for and judged by Allah.
On the Day when every person will be confronted with all the good he has done, and all the evil he has done, he will wish that there were a great distance between him and his evil. And Allah warns you against Himself (His Punishment) and Allah is Kind to (His) servants.
Qur'an - Chapter 3, Verse 30
After the judgment is complete there will be a party of people admitted into Paradise and a party of people admitted into Hell. And then the eternal life begins.
The Eternal Life
After being judged by the Most Just, Allah (Exalted and High), everyone will be admitted into their eternal home. Allah will admit the dwellers of the Hell into the Hell (May Allah protect us from that) and admits the dwellers of Paradise into Paradise (May Allah make us among them).
The dwellers of Hell will have the worst imaginable punishment. Allah says:
So taste (of that which you have earned), and never will We increase you except in torment. Qur'an - Chapter 78, Verse 30
The dwellers of Paradise will be given every type of pleasure. Rivers of water, milk, wine and honey will flow under perfect gardens and golden mansions. The Prophet (peace be upon him) said:
Imagine having beaches in palaces made of gold and silver.
Imagine having palm trees coming out in the middle of golden tables which every type of fruit comes from.
Imagine beautiful mountains surrounding your palace and having conversations with believers from all generations of mankind. Imagine being with your loved ones, sharing stories with one another and tasting the best wine with no intoxication.
What the Prophet (peace be upon him) meant by the statement above is that Paradise will be full of things we can imagine. He also goes on to say that whatever we could possibly imagine, the reward that Allah has prepared is even greater than that.
We can imagine all we want and yet, what lies in Paradise has never been thought of by any human heart or mind.