Allah (swt) has decreed that in the next life man will be in one of two abodes: Jannah or Jahannam. Jannah will be the resting place of all those who believed in Allah (swt) and persevered in good. Those who did otherwise will be cast into Jahannam. This essay discusses the Divine Wisdom in the creation of these two abodes.
This world is a testing ground. What happens here determines our situation in the life to come. The end of the muhsinun (people who do good) cannot be the same as that of the fasiqun (transgressors). Were it so, it would render void the attribute of Allah (swt) of ‘adalah (justice). Those who do good must of necessity be recompensed for their actions. For this, Jannah was created. It is everything that this world is not. The life of this world, its pains and its pleasures, is nothing more than the blink of an eye; Jannah is everlasting. This world is transient; the next, eternal. The inhabitants of the Garden shall have whatever their hearts desire1. They will know no pain or grief and will receive that which no eye has seen, nor any mind has conceived of. Ease and comfort is all that they will experience. This is the reward the Almighty has promised to those of his believing slaves who do good. Its reason for having been created is nothing more than to amply reward those who are successful.
Allah (swt) is al-Rahman (the Beneficent) and al-Rahim (the Merciful), but he is also al-‘Adil (the Just). So just as the muhsinun must be rewarded, so too must those who do evil be punished. The harm they cause to other people and to themselves cannot go unpunished. The Day of Judgment is thus also known as the Day of Taghabun (mutual recompense) because on that Day those who suffered at the hands of others will take from their good deeds as a form of recompense for the suffering they endured in this world2. Allah (swt) is aware of all that men do, whether they conceal it or do it openly, and in the Hereafter He will exact retribution from them3. They will be thrown on their faces into the blazing fire to abide therein forever. Every time they die they will be restored to life only to die again. They will know only agony. It is for this, the punishing of the kafirun (disbelievers) and fasiqun, that Jahannam was created4.
Allah Most Gracious desires only good for his slaves5. He does not wish to punish them, even though He has every right to do so. In His wisdom He has therefore decided to convey to us some of the delights of Jannah, that we may be spurred on to good. The descriptions given in the Quran about Jannah is thus only that which is most beautiful and pleasing, that which would shake man from his lethargy to become of the muhsinun. Allah (swt) says: “For them will be Gardens of Eternity; beneath them rivers will flow; they will be adorned therein with bracelets of gold, and they will wear green garments of fine silk and heavy brocade: They will recline therein on raised thrones. How good the recompense! How beautiful a couch to recline on!”6
It is the nature of man that he always wants something in return for anything he may have to do. The knowledge of Jannah is thus an assurance to him that he will not go unrewarded. He engages in those deeds which are pleasing to his Lord and tries to abstain from those which are displeasing to Him. This, so that he may acquire the good of the next world.
“The promise of Allah is true”7. The believing servant knows this, and when he reads about what is promised to him of the pleasures of Jannah in the Book of Allah, it is an encouragement for him to do good8. He submits himself to Allah (swt), knowing that the sufferings of this world are but a trifle compared to the joys of Jannah.
Man is in a constant battle against his own desires. It is only through taqwa (God-consciousness) that he is able to overcome these desires. Allah (swt) has therefore informed us of the chastisement of Jahannam in order to strike fear into the hearts of the believers. Jahannam is thus described in the most frightening terms. One example is the ayah of Allah (swt): “In front of such a one is Hell, and he is given, for drink, boiling fetid water. In gulps will he sip it, but never will he be near swallowing it down his throat: death will come to him from every quarter, yet will he not die: and in front of him will be a chastisement unrelenting”9. And also: “By no means! For it would be the Fire of Hell! Plucking out (his being) right to the skull!”10 It is a reminder to him, when he is tempted to sin, of the consequences of that action. The fear of the anger of Allah (swt) is thus prevents him from falling into error.
Allah (swt) is al-Basir (All-Seeing) and al-‘Alim (All-Knowing). He is informed about everything which happens in the heavens and the earth. The actions of his slaves and the suffering they endure are all known by Him. He therefore says: “And their Lord hath accepted of them, and answered them: ‘Never will I suffer to be lost the work of any of you, be he male or female: Ye are members, one of another: Those who have left their homes, or been driven out therefrom, or suffered harm in My Cause, or fought or been slain, verily, I will blot out from them their iniquities, and admit them into Gardens with rivers flowing beneath’. A reward from the presence of Allah, and from His presence is the best of rewards”11. We learn from this ayah that our sins will be blotted out as if they had never occurred, if only we bear with patience and fortitude the trials of this world. We will become inhabitants of Jannah. But Jannah itself is not the ultimate achievement. There is a reward greater than it and that is to attain the pleasure of Allah (swt).
Our fate will be determined by our actions. There are angels assigned to each one of us to record what we do. They know and see all our commissions and omissions and do not fail in recording it. We therefore cannot escape from Allah (swt). Rather we should turn to Him in repentance before death overtakes us. We should strive our utmost to be of those who will enter Jannah and should hate to become of the inhabitants of Jahannam. Insha-Allah He will accept from us and place us “in the company of those on whom is the Grace of Allah, of the Prophets (who teach), the Sincere (lovers of Truth), the Witnesses (who testify), and the Righteous (who do good): Ah! what a beautiful fellowship!”
1) Gardens of Eternity which they will enter: beneath them flow (pleasant) rivers: they will have therein all that they wish: thus doth Allah reward the righteous. (al-Qur’an 16: 31)
2) The Day that He assembles you (all) for a Day of Assembly,- that will be a Day of mutual loss and gain (among you). (al-Qur’an 64: 9)
3) Whether ye reveal anything or conceal it, verily Allah has full knowledge of all things. (al-Qur’an 33: 54)
4) That was the Requital We gave them because they ungratefully rejected Faith: and never do We give (such) requital except to such as are ungrateful rejecters. (al-Qur’an 34:17)
5) Allah intends every facility for you; He does not want to put to difficulties. (al-Qur’an 2:185)
6) (al-Qur’an 18:31)
7) (al-Qur’an 4: 122)
8 ) For, Believers are those who, when Allah is mentioned, feel a tremor in their hearts, and when they hear His signs rehearsed, find their faith strengthened, and put (all) their trust in their Lord. (al-Qur’an 8: 2)
9) (al-Qur’an 14: 16 -17)
10) (al-Qur’an 70: 15 -16)
11) (al-Qur’an 3: 195)
12) (al-Qur’an 4: 69)