Saturday, September 8, 2012

Heaven and Hell and the DIVINE WILL

One of the questions that many people raise is this: what will be done to the people who reject the Divine Message of an era and His Messengers? 

The grandeur of the Divine scheme of things is such that the unique Lord, the Almighty Allah, does what He wills. His Mercy and Forgiveness encompass the whole world so much so that He may forgive whomsoever He wants. And no one can question Him as to what He does. The practical operations of the Divine Will, thus, remains for the most part, shrouded as a matter of profound mystery. Except, of course, what He teaches and informs His Messengers through the angels and the Spirit of Holiness. Even His Messengers had only the duty to convey what had been conveyed to them. They had also been instructed to openly declare that they would not know about what would be done to them in this life or in the life to come.

It is plausible to consider that that people might have failed to recognize the Divine Message as a consequence of the complex circumstances and varied conditions of social life of their times.  The limits of our awareness at a humane level to factor in all those colours of human situations through our myopic eyes can and will blur our vision of reality. The essential un-know-ability of the Divine Will also must be kept in mind while interpreting the mystical, spiritual ideas such as fear of Hell and hope for Heaven and salvation of the believers and the damnation of the disbelievers,

In his Friday Sermon of 07 September 2012, the Khalifatullah Hadhrat Munir Ahmad Azim Sahib (atba) of Mauritius shared some light on the meaning of these concepts for the benefit of our everyday life. The discourse of the Messenger of Allah of our times deeply underscores the limits of human knowledge to comprehend the Divine Will. He exhorts us to “remain ever at the service of God and humanity also so that you may earn not this world, but everlastingness through your devotion to God”.  

Read the Extracts from the Friday Sermon:

“Surely those who believe and the Jews and the Christians and the Sabians – whosoever truly believe in God and the Last Day and do good deeds, shall have their reward with their Lord, and no fear shall come upon them, nor shall they grieve.” (2: 63)

By the grace of Allah, He has given me the blessed opportunity to continue my last week’s sermon based on the same Quranic verse which I have just recited before you. All praise be to Allah!

Therefore, in the context of the subject matter of the sermon, the question also arises as to what happened to those who rejected the messengers sent to them by God. Were they not condemned to hell? Again this question is beyond our capacity to answer, because the decision in each individual case rests with God and not with us. Only God knows what is in the hearts of people, and on what basis they have made their decisions and taken their choices.

For instance, it is a common feature at the time of the advent of a prophet of God that the established religious leadership oppose him absolutely. They broadcast propaganda against the prophet which presents such a distorted image of that holy personage that if this is all the individual has to base his judgement upon, then it is understandable that he will reject that image as not being from God. In such cases the individual is not rejecting the Prophet in reality, but only a false image of that prophet created by his opponents.

Unfortunately, somewhat different but equally false images of prophets are sometimes painted by those who claim to be followers of those prophets, the true image having been lost with the passage of time. The rejection of the prophets and thereby the message of God is the responsibility of the religious leadership who, knowingly, have spread lies about the prophets of God.

For instance, soon after the advent of Jesus (as) those who opposed him amongst the Jewish religious leadership spread so many lies about him being a sorcerer and malicious stories about his birth and his death, that it would have been difficult for any Jewish person who had not met him personally nor had any relationship with his companions and followers to have accepted him as one sent by God. But surely God would have understood their position, and He would understand whether they were being truthful to themselves and to God. Surely God takes everything into account when He judges individual souls and He wrongs no one.

But it must be borne in mind that one must also seek the help of Allah concerning the seeking of truth and he must not put 100% trust in so-called religious leaders lest he commits a blunder in his thoughts and decisions. That is why it is essential for each person to become seekers of truth, especially concerning Allah and he goes in search of the one whom Allah has sent as messenger whenever he hears of his advent. Therefore, surely Allah shall know with which intention he has received the message and in which way; whether he was really at fault or it was only the evil persons, the so-called leaders who have caused him to take a deviating path, thus falling right into their trap!

Whether someone is going to heaven or hell is totally dependent on God’s will and not on ours. God alone is the Knower of the hearts of people. We cannot say whether someone is sacrificing for the sake of God alone or for some selfish motives. Neither is it for us to judge, except in the case of our own selves, so that we may check ourselves and improve the quality of our own actions. It has been expounded by the founder of Islam that God judges people’s actions by the motives behind them and rewards them accordingly. For instance, if someone gives in charity for the sake of winning the approval of others then he is granted his wish, and if someone gives for the sake of winning the pleasure of God then he is granted his desire – and to attain the pleasure of God is to attain heaven.

There is a tradition narrated by Abu Huraira (ra) in which the Holy Prophet (sa) of Islam relates a story about a man who desired to give charity for the sake of God. He went out at night and unknowingly gave it to a thief. Next day the people began to say: “Last night a thief was bestowed alms.” The man prayed: “O God, to You belong all praise; I will give again in charity.” He went out and again gave in charity and put it in the hand of an adulteress.

Next day the people talked saying: “Last night alms were bestowed on an adulteress.” The man supplicated: “O God, I praise You for enabling me to bestow alms even on an adulteress and I shall give alms once more.” He went out again and gave charity to a rich man. The next day the people talked: “Last night charity was given to a wealthy person.” The man prayed: “O God, all praise to You, in respect of the thief, the adulteress and the rich man.”

He was told in his dream: “The charity which you gave to the thief might persuade him to abstain from stealing and in consequence of your alms the adulteress might give up her misconduct and the rich man might draw a lesson from your alms and start spending in God’s cause out of that which God has given him.” This story illustrates that God puts beneficence into the actions of those who seek to please Him and can create good out of what on the surface might appear bad. Conversely, what on the surface might appear good may in reality lead to an evil end – God alone is the Master.

However, what is important from our own personal perspective, is the question of how we should lead our lives and in this respect it is clear that fear and hope are the prime motivating factors in the lives of all living creatures, great and small. The fear of loss restrains us from certain actions and the hope of gain encourages us to do other actions. In promoting or preserving higher values nature is always ready to sacrifice lower values. Thus minerals are sacrificed for the sake of plant life, plants are sacrificed for the sake of animal life, animal life forms are sacrificed for higher forms of life and so on.

Similarly, within man it is necessary for him to realise that his spiritual life comprises the highest values and that he should not oppose the nature created by God by sacrificing his spirituality for the sake of lesser values. Such an act in reality can only be called foolishness, which we can clearly recognise on the material and physical levels, but is not so clearly recognised by many with reference to the spiritual level. Thus development and improvement in all spheres of life depend upon the awareness of loss or gain. In man we may call this awareness, fear and hope.

Fear of hell and hope for heaven constitute a low form of worship and that love of God transcends these desires but even love of God is accompanied by fear and hope – the fear of losing God’s love and the hope of increasing that love. Therefore, it is my belief that fear and hope are an essential part of our nature that will accompany us to the point of death – they are essential for our improvement and our development. I believe that the best and highest expression of our fears and our hopes is to centre them on God, fearing Him alone and placing all hopes in Him alone.

May Allah guide each heart to the understanding of this sermon. We never know in which act we make Allah shall be pleased with us. Therefore, remain ever at the service of God and humanity also so that you may earn not this world, but everlastingness through your devotion to God. Insha-Allah, Ameen.