Despite the differences between the Quranic Judgements day, paradise and hellfire, they share the overarching characteristic of Truth. It is, ultimately, the truth of our actions that we are faced with on Judgement day. This truth can either grant us paradise or define the torment we suffer in Hellfire. Furthermore, truth presents itself in various ways throughout the different concepts, in Quranic Judgement it is used to evaluate us, in paradise it presents us with fruitful connection and in hell its weight tortures us.
Of these three qur’anic concepts, truth is perhaps most easily identified in the Quranic Judgement day. The Qur’an presents Judgement day as the moment when everything is measured fully, and everything comes into the open.[i] We can no longer hid behind constructed public images of ourselves.[ii] Most importantly, all our actions are revealed for what they truly are through an examination of our intentions, thoughts and knowledge. This intense and total examination is particularly important because it reveals the complexity of an action. An action is cannot be deemed good or bad only because it is considered as such in the Quran. One’s intention, knowledge, potential and the impact of one’s actions on the world ultimately define our actions. A good example of this complex judgement for example would be charity. Charity is an action praised by the Quran, it is one of the five pillars of faith and thus, a good action. But the goodness, of this act can be negated if one has done charity because of pride, hoping to increase their reputation.[iii] It can also be looked at badly, if one is very wealthy but donates less than they are able to do. This is because the person did not donate with the intention to help others and because they have not helped at a level worthy of their potential.
Despite the importance of truth, one must also remember that our sense of truth is also affect by our knowledge. In his book, Major Themes of the Quran, Rahman states “Every community shall be judged by the standards set for them by their prophet and in accordance with the teachings of their respective Revelations…..a community from the ancient past cannot be judged by the standards set for new communities.”[iv] God acknowledges that humanity’s knowledge varies. Therefore, if there is no way for one to know about God’s truth, God will not hold it against then on Judgement Day. On the other hand, this means that those who know of God but choose to ignore this knowledge will be more severely punished. This is because by lying to themselves and doing bad they are rejecting God and His gifts.
Although one is given what they deserve, this exchange is not mathematical.[v] In Quranic paradise, one is not given gifts based the weight of their good deeds.[vi] The Qur’an describes states the following about Paradise: “Today the denizens of the garden are preoccupied with joy, they and their spouses, inclining on cushions under the shade. There they shall have fruits, and all they wish for. Peace shall be the word from a compassionate Lord.”[vii] This quote not only presents Paradise as a place of abundance, but also one of filled with the company of others. Paradise does not have the constraints or needs that one has on earth. We no longer fight for limited resources or do bad.[viii] Instead we are placed in a place of abundance, where all our desire come true.[ix] From these descriptions of Paradise in the Qur’an perhaps one can think of Paradise as a reflection of what place dictated by truth can be. A paradise in which everyone can finally express themselves and understand each other in much more honestly and with more consideration. This will not only be due because we have lost our exterior images during Judgement Day but also because we will no longer constrained by the pressures of life that may encourage us to do wrong in times of weakness.
In contrast to paradise, hell is place of need. It is described as a place where people are perpetually hungry and thirsty.[x] This pattern of lack extends to a lack of company. Hellfire is said to be made of hostility and loneliness.[xi] Furthermore, in Quranic Hell, God does not punish us, instead we are punishing ourselves. This form of punishment is perhaps more powerful when one thinks about in terms of truth, lies and consequences. It is inhuman nature to forget since it helps us survive.[xii] In the process of forgetting we can potentially forget the wrongs we have done or the terrible truths of our actions. Thus, after Judgement day, in the hellfire, we are confronted with our lies and the truth of the pain we have done on to others. Perhaps because of this the Quran states “The fire of hell will burn them from within and will proceed outwards its first spark will strike the heart.”[xiii] It burns on the inside as guilt from the truth of our actions becomes clear to us. Furthermore, many of those who have been condemned to hell are there because of the lack of honest in their actions. The Qur’an states “The hypocrites are in the lowest reaches of the Fire and you will not find anyone to assist them.”[xiv] Those who lie, both to themselves and others, are condemned to suffer. They have turned their backs from God with their lies and therefore they are truly alone and must bear the total weight of their lies without any mercy from God.
Truth is an overarching characteristic of the Quranic Judgement day, paradise and hellfire. It defines what we may potential experience by setting the bar of our potential rewards or our torment. In paradise truth gives one beauty, but most importantly fulfilling relationships with others, unhindered by the troubles of earthly life. Hellfire, on the other hand, reminds us of the wrong we have done and punishes us.
[i] M. Jafar Mahallati, Lecture (course on Introduction to The Qur’an, Oberlin College, Oberlin, March 29, 2018)
[ii] M. Jafar Mahallati, Lecture (course on Introduction to The Qur’an, Oberlin College, Oberlin, March 29, 2018)
[iii] Toshihiko Izutsu, Ethico-Religious Concepts in the Qur’an, 77.
[iv] Fazlur Rahman, Major themes of the Quran (Chicago: University of Chicago Press, 2009), 79.
[v] M. Jafar Mahallati, Lecture (course on Introduction to The Qur’an, Oberlin College, Oberlin, March 29, 2018)
[vi] M. Jafar Mahallati, Lecture (course on Introduction to The Qur’an, Oberlin College, Oberlin, March 29, 2018)
[vii] Quran 36:55-58
[viii] Sayyid Mujtaba Musavi Lari, Resurrection Judgement and the Hereafter, Translated by Hamid Algar, (1998), 150.
[ix] Ibid, 149.
[x] Tottoli, Roberto, and روبرتو توتولي. “The Qur’an, Qur’anic Exegesis and Muslim Traditions: The Case of Zamharīr (Q. 76:13) Among Hell’s Punishments / القرآن والتفاسير والروايات الاسلامية: سورة الانسان آية رقم 13: الزمهرير من ألوان العقوبة في جهنم.” Journal of Qur’anic Studies 10, no. 1 (2008): 142-52. http://www.jstor.org/stable/25728276, 142.
[xi] M. Jafar Mahallati, Lecture (course on Introduction to The Qur’an, Oberlin College, Oberlin, March 29, 2018)
[xii] M. Jafar Mahallati, Lecture (course on Introduction to The Qur’an, Oberlin College, Oberlin, March 29, 2018)
[xiii] Sayyid Mujtaba Musavi Lari, Resurrection Judgement and the Hereafter, 151.
[xiv] Quran 4:145