By Ghulam Abbas Hunzai
This life of the world is but a pastime and a game. Lo! the home of the Hereafter — that is Life, if they but knew — Holy Qur’an, 29:64
The belief in akhirat (life hereafter) is one of the fundamental principles of Islam and as such its importance can hardly be over emphasized.
A discussion on akhirat seems to pre-suppose a certain amount of inquiry on the concept of soul which in turn involves an inquiry into the possibility of level of existence, other than material. The concept of soul is related to the concept of akhirat for the reason that it is the soul which is going to exist after the bodily death. The survival of the soul can only be possible if there are other forms of existence beyond this life and which are not physical.
The association of body and soul constitutes human physical life. The body is visible, since by its nature it cannot be invisible. On the other hand, the soul manifests itself through the body, because by itself, it cannot be visible due to its non-physical nature. The soul, therefore, can be known without experiencing it through sense-perception. The soul cannot be apparent to our senses because it belongs to a different level of existence which is not material. On the other hand, the physical body cannot exist without being visible because it belongs to the physical realm. However both body and soul “exist”.
The term “physical death” is used to refer to the permanent separation of the soul from the body. The body was living because of the soul, therefore the latter’s separation renders the former dead. The dead body will continue to exist in a disintegrated form after its separation from the soul. The soul on the other hand will continue to live on its own level.
The appropriate examples to understand the nature of life hereafter are found in the phenomena of dream and imagination. In dreams we experience a life which does not involve our external senses. Similarly, in our imagination we can cover any distance and do anything without involving time and space. The soul, in the life hereafter, will have a life that does not involve sensory perceptions. The sensory perceptions function only in the realm of time and space whereas the soul exists even without these limitations.
Article continues after farman quote
….Life on earth is but a very short passage in eternity and you must not believe that you are here for what is only one existence and that thereafter you have to account for nothing. It is most important that you should be regular in prayers and I insist on this because I know my Jamats will understand this and that they will get from prayers and from observance of their religious duties that happiness which cannot be found nor replaced by anything else — Mawlana Shah Karim al-Hussaini Hazar Imam, His Highness the Aga Khan, the 49th Ismaili Imam. 
The state and quality of life hereafter depends on what we intend and what we actually do in this world. Each intention and action has an effect on our soul. Good intentions and actions have a positive and healthy effect whereas bad ones have negative and unhealthy effects on the soul. Prayers, humility, simplicity, honesty and love have an enlightening effect whereas neglect of prayers, arrogant behaviour, vanity, dishonesty and hatred damage and weaken the soul. Since intentions are the source of actions, they should be pure and protected and this is possible through zikr, that is carrying Allah’s name in the heart.
An enlightened, pure and healthy soul acquires satisfaction and contentment because it is through these conditions that it finds nearness to its Origin, that is Allah, as the Holy Qur’an says:
“O soul that is satisfied, return to thy Lord well pleased with Him, well pleasing Him, so enter among my servants and enter into My paradise.” — Holy Qur’an, 89:27-30
On the other hand, a soul which has attached itself a great deal to material life will be restless and discontented because all its material attachments are fickle and transient. Such a soul remains far from its origin, that is Allah. As Allah’s nearness for a soul is a state of being in paradise, its staying away from Him is hell.
During the physical life, if one succeeds in submitting his will totally to the Divine Will, the material understanding of the world is transformed into spiritual knowledge. This is the self-discovery whereby he experiences his soul. This is the state in which the believer comes into contact with the spiritual level of existence which he finds more real than the material level. In fact, the latter is relative to the former. This is the level of haq al-yaqin (certainty of truth) where the believer experiences akhirat even before the physical death. Prophet Muhammad (s.a.s) therefore, is reported to have said: “Die before you die”.
Date posted: Saturday, February 23, 2013.
Date updated: Sunday, February 24, 2013 (Farman reference added, see notes)
 Farman excerpt quoted is taken from the backcover of Ilm, July 1978, Volume 4, Number 1. The Farman was made by Mawlana Hazar Imam in Lahore, Pakistan on November 25, 1964, and published in Farman Mubarak, Pakistan visit 1964, Ismailia Association for Pakistan.
This piece has been adapted from The Concept of Akhirat, which first appeared in the July 1986 issue of Ilm, the flagship magazine of the Ismaili Tariqah and Religious Education Board for the United Kingdom. The magazine’s final issue appeared in 1991-1992 after 17 years of uninterrupted publication.
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