We observe that in this world the good and evil deeds of men are
not subject to any final accounting. Criminals and oppressive rulers encroach on men’s lives and their freedom and many times also enjoy opulence and luxury until the end of their lives. They are not caught in the firm grasp of justice and law, and they do not suffer the natural consequences of their deeds. There is no global power or authority to prevent their oppression or stop their encroachment on the rights of others.
In the end, the oppressor and the oppressed, the sinner and the noble one all will close their eyes on the world. It is true that religion forbids all forms of submission to unbelieving rulers, the oppressors and the tyrants and that it regards resistance to all kinds of aggression as a necessary principle of religion.
Nonetheless, confrontation with oppressors does not always yield a positive result, and in the course of the struggle, people may be trampled by the power of the oppressors and lose their lives. Should the file to be closed in this world on the deeds of the good and the evil so that they were buried forever in the cemetery of nothingness? What would become of the infinite justice, wisdom, and mercy that God cherishes for His creation manifested throughout this universe?
What we call it but oppression and injustice if we accept that God has created an environment in which numerous evildoers and oppressors are able to continue on their chosen path until the last moment of their lives. Is it not unfair that without recognizing any limit on their behavior if we accept that this is possible without their being called to account and that the oppressed continue to follow their evil desires beneath the lash of injustice and deprivation until their last gasp?
Now we know that nobody who has the slightest notion of love and justice would consent to such a state of affairs; how then could the most Sacred Essence of God, from Whose being infinite pity, love, and justice flow forth, accept such injustice and place on it His seal of approval? How would the creative mind of man, the most sublime aspect of his being that guides him to knowledge of himself and the universe judge this matter?
While it is true that divine justice is prevailed in each and every corner of this universe such as in the creation of galaxies and stars, in the creation of sun and moon, in the creation of life, in the creation of day and night, and even in the human body and soul, divine justice will particularly reveal itself in the Hereafter.
Justice in retribution and in recompense, justice in the classification of the deeds, and the ranking and grading of men, the demonstration of their qualities and characters and all that is deduced from the Qur’an in respect of the Hereafter ‑ all these things show that justice has a special connection with the Hereafter.
The deeds of man are the product of his own free‑will, and he is held responsible for them and for his good or bad future. Through the preaching of the Prophets and his own intellectual faculty and intuition he is expected to know the value of his deeds and their positive or negative effects.
Human nature demands a fair compensation for good deeds and also expects facing consequences of what is done wrong. As such when a man performs a deed intentionally and as result benefit or harm himself or society, full justice demands that: he should receive a proportionate recompense for his deeds; he should be ranked according to his actions.
The Qur’an says:
“And for all are degrees according to what they did, and that He may pay them back fully their deeds and they shall not be wronged.” (Quran, 46:19).
He should be repaid in full for whatever efforts he has made by God for whom there is no doubt in his justice.
The Qur’an says:
“Then how will it be when We shall gather them together on a day about which there is no doubt, and every soul shall be fully paid what it has earned, and they shall not be dealt with unjustly?” (Quran, 3:25)
A complete record of all his actions and deeds is maintained so that even what he has forgotten should not be missed.
The Qur’an says:
"Allah will tell them of what they did. He has kept an account o f it, while they have forgotten it". (Quran, 58:6).
This record includes even the slightest thing performed in any form and under any circumstances. The man will not be able to deny the soundness of witnesses and proofs presented to him because even the parts of human body will witness. The Eyes will witness what were they used for, hands will witness what was performed by them, ears will witness what had been listened through them.
In fact in the Hereafter only his faith, good deeds and spirituality will benefit man, who will be called to a very detailed account and will be judged rightly and justly on the basis of his own dossier containing every detail of all that he did. The Judge will be Allah, who is just, All knowing, absolutely independent and far above any partiality or opportunism. He is not at all prone to any threat or temptation.
“On the day when their tongues and their hands and their feet shall bear witness against them as to what they did.” (Quran, 24:24)
“On that day We will set a seal upon their mouths, and their hands shall speak to Us, and their feet shall bear witness of what they earned.” (Quran, 36:65).
The Qur’an, in the course of Luqman’s exhortations to his son, says:
“My dear son! Even if your deeds be so small that it can be compared to a mustard seed, which is hidden in a rock or in the heavens or in the earth, Allah will bring it forth. Indeed Allah is Subtle, Aware". (Quran, 31:17).
There is such a proportion and harmony between a deed and its recompense that it may be said that the very deed will present itself in the Hereafter. "On that Day everyone will find himself confronted with whatever good and evil he has done”: (Quran, 3:30).
Everyone himself is responsible for his own deeds, not anyone else, who has played no role in their performance. "No one shall bear the burden of someone else". (Quran, Surah al‑Fatir, 35:18). "Whoever does what is right, he does that to his own advantage and whoever does what is wrong, he does that to his own person ". (Quran, 41:46).
In that Court of Justice family position, social influence, wealth or any party or group affiliation will avail nothing.
"The day when wealth and sons will be o f no use ". (Quan, 26:88). "The wrong‑doers shall have no friend nor any intercessor who will be beard". (Quran, 40:18).
"Believers spend (in charity) a part of what we have provided you with before that day comes when
there will be no bargaining, no friendship and no intercession". (Quran, 2:254).
"When the Trumpet is on that day there will be no kinship". (Quran, 3:101).
It is true that God has not directly permitted the commission of a cruelty against any person. However, the fact that a freedom of action, grants some criminal oppressor the freedom and power to act as he wills and in the end exempts him from all punishment is in itself a clear form of injustice. The link between God’s justice and the need for a precise accounting of men’s deeds thus makes irrefutably clear the necessity for resurrection.
In addition, certain crimes and evils are so extensive in their effects that they cannot be adequately punished in this world, with its limited time span. Crimes are sometimes so grave that the punishment inflicted by men is not equal to the task of imposing on the criminal the punishment he deserves. The criminal plunderer for whom the world is nothing but a carcass on which to feed kills and consumes at will; his hands are stained with the blood of hundreds or thousands of people whom he drags into the slaughterhouse.
He is so sunk in the mire of vice and injustice that he is incapable of learning lessons from the past or thinking of a better and more enlightened future. If despite all his crimes his soul were to be taken in just the same way as that of one of his victims, the punishment involved would be unjust and grossly unequal, for he would then have been punished simply for one of his victims and all his other crimes would remain unpunished.
Many crimes are, then, beyond the scope of worldly retribution. If we wish to analyze matters more logically, we must look further, beyond this world. There is also the consideration that no authority in this world has the power to restore to men all the rights which have been violated.
Similarly, the world does not have the capacity to reward virtue in a fitting and complete manner. When we attempt to assess the value of the unrelenting efforts that the pure and the virtuous expend in this world, which is full of trouble and pain, we realize that the rewards available here are very slight.
What reward commensurate with the value of his efforts can be given in this world to one who has benefited millions of people with his treasury of knowledge and learning or sincere and devoted service?
How and where in this world will one be rewarded who devotes all his life to the worship of God and the support of His servants, whose services extend in manifold ways to whole societies, and who ultimately gives up his life for the sake of divine goals?
No life remains for him in this world to enable him to reap the fruits of his devotion and self-sacrifice. The temporal limitation imposed on life in this world does not even permit the pious to receive their reward.
The Qur’an says. "Shall We make those who believe in God and do good deeds like those who work corruption on earth? Shall We requite pious and God fearing men like the sinful and the doers of evil? Do those who have committed foul and sinful deeds imagine that We will grant them a rank like that of those who believe in God and do good works, so that they will be alike in death and in life? Theirs is a false and ignorant notion. God has created the heavens and the earth in justice, and ultimately every soul shall receive the requital for its deeds, without any injustice" (Quran, 45:21-22).
From the day that he first steps into this abode of dust until the moment the earth draws him into its embrace, man has to struggle with hardships, difficulties, problems and misfortunes.
The Commander of the Faithful, `Ali, peace be upon him, depicts this transient, pain-filled world as follows:
"The world is a dwelling the inhabitants of which are overcome by sorrow and pain. It is a world well-known for its deceit and trickery and lacking in all stability. Those who enter this dwelling will never enjoy safety or tranquility. Its circumstances are constantly changing, and its pleasures are reprehensible and blameworthy. Repose and tranquility are nowhere to be found in it. Every instant it fires the arrow of disaster at man, before finally dispatching him to the jaws of death and destruction."
Can it be believed that such a world, replete with pain, misfortune and hardship, should be the final aim and goal of creation? That a God all of Whose actions are based on excellence and order and the signs of Whose justice and wisdom are manifest throughout creation, should have created man only for the sake of such a world?
Comprehensive and Universal Order
It must be remarked at this point that the order we see in the world is a divine order, one that includes all things in its scope. All created objects in the universe, whether large or small, ranging from the minute particles of the atom to the countless planets that are scattered throughout space, are created and take form from the justice that rules the whole scheme of creation. This vast system of being does not escape the direct influence of the rule of justice for a single instant; this is a reality that can be deduced from all the phenomena in the world of creation.
Should the component parts of this system deviate even so slightly from their prescribed orbit, the necessary principles on which the order, of the universe is based would collapse, resulting in its destruction.
Despite all his remarkable talents, a man as a part of this universal order, cannot be regarded as exempt from its comprehensive and universal rules. The only factor that sets him apart is his possession of freedom which enables him to be creative and inventive; it opens up before him a path for attaining his goals and purposes. It is indeed a source of pride for him that alone among all the creatures of the phenomenal world he is able thanks to this unique quality and the potentialities it yields to tame his destructive impulses and reconcile them with his constructive activities. By creating man free, God has demonstrated both the underlying order of the universe and the changes that are brought about in that order by the disobedience of man.
Were man to be directed ineluctably toward the acquisition of spiritual riches and the path leading to happiness, were a deterministic power to conduct him toward lofty values, there would be no pride in this for man. We must therefore accept that by receiving the gift of freedom and will from God, man must one day stand in the court of God’s justice to be judged there according to the universal principle of all creation justice. It cannot be believed that man should be exempt from the justice of the Creator that prevails throughout the universe, thus becoming an element of disharmony.
If we take into consideration on the hand the functioning of the principle of justice throughout the entire scheme of being and on the other hand the fact that many rewards and punishments cannot be dispensed in this world, it becomes obvious that the nature of men’s deeds and accomplishments must be subjected to examination in another world and at an appropriate time. Thus we can understand well that God will never destroy or obliterate our being before it attains perfection. This is unthinkable, and no intelligent person would consent to such an erroneous notion.
The Requital of Deeds
It is obvious that the deeds of all sinners cannot be fully requited in this world. Nonetheless, some punishments do occur in this world, as can be seen from those pages of history which record the disastrous fate of certain wrongdoers. Indeed we ourselves witness time and again the bitter and painful fates they undergo; after suffering torment and humiliation, they go to their deaths in utter disgrace, although no one had been able to predict such an inauspicious end for those powerful tyrants.
The existence of such a remarkable linkage between corrupt action and ultimate disgrace cannot be ascribed to simple coincidence; it must on the contrary be regarded as an instance of requital taking place in this world.
The Qur’an says: "God will cause them to taste humiliation in this world, and the torment of the hereafter will be much greater, if they but knew" (39:26).
Such chastisements sometimes function as alarm bells, as warnings to the sinners, encouraging them to come to their senses, to change direction and reform themselves before it is too late. These warnings remind them that good and evil are the two pans of the balance in which our deeds will be weighed, and that no abomination or moral corruption will go unpunished, in just the same way that no good deed will remain unrewarded.
In order for His justice to reach the fullest extent possible, God has freed man of the shadow of determinism and granted him the divine. Ascent to the lofty station of true humanity is possible only through effort and striving, by passing through the furnace of trial. The Qur’an says: "Every man is a pledge for his own deeds" (Quran, 74: 38).
What is meant by this is that whatever appears in this world in the form of a sin or misdeed takes on in the hereafter the shape of the implementation of justice and the punishment of the transgressor. It is belief in the pre-eternal source of all existence and His all-embracing justice that impels man to act correctly and with justice himself.
Imam al-Sajjad, upon whom be peace, made this supplication to God:
"O God, I know that there is no cruelty or oppression in any of Your decrees or commands, and that You do not hasten to punish anyone, for only he hastens to perform an act who fears he may miss the opportunity, and only he who is weak and impotent feels the need to commit oppression and cruelty. You, O Creator, are pure and exalted above both these defects."
A theologian says:
"It is better for all mankind that they spend their lives in the service of the One God, for the spirit that serves God is the legitimate commander of the body, and the mind that serves God brings under control the passions and unruly emotions of man. I ask therefore what justice can possibly exist in the person who does not serve God. It can plainly be seen that such an individual does not rule over his bodily form by means of his spirit, nor over his emotions by means of his intellect."
For those who do serve God the ideal life is that which comes after death. As the Qur’an says: "The hereafter is the abode of true life, and the life of this world is but play and amusement"(29:64).
Those devoted to God not only do not fear death, but even wait longingly for the moment that the angel of death shall whisper melodiously in their ear: "O sacred spirit, return to your Creator, satisfied and well-pleased" (Quran, 89:27-28).
These verses of the Qur’an are also relevant:
On that day your journeying shall bring you to the presence of your Lord. (Quran, 75:12).
Your return will be to your Lord (Quran, 96:8).
There is none in the heavens and the earth but will come before God as His servant. He is aware of the number of all His creation, and they shall all individually be present before Him on the day of resurrection. (Quran, 19:93-95).
In short, this life full of pain and oppression is only a small part of the totality of life. One group will earn as the final result of its deeds permanent abode in the propinquity of God’s mercy, while another group will find itself condemned to be criminals in eternal torment. Are these two destinies in any way equal the misery of hellfire and the blessing of paradise? It is up to man to choose freely between them.
The following sources are used to prepare the above article.
1. Group of Scholars, Rationality of Islam (1978), under the auspices of Ayatullah Sayyid Abu’l Qasim al-Khu’I, Publisher: Islamic Seminary Publications, Pakistan
2. Mujtaba Musavi Lari, Resurrection Judgment And The Hereafter (1992), Publisher: Qum, Iran: Foundation of Islamic Cultural Propagation in the World, 1992. 251 p.