Islamic and Friendship Studies at Oberlin College

Deena Zaki: Eschatology in Qur’an

 The Qur’anic depictions of the Day of Judgment, Paradise, and Hellfire are elaborate, making up a significant part of the book, perhaps because this is where the human being spends the majority of their time, not in this life, but the next.  This is according to the Qur’anic account. 

     Judgment Day is where an individual’s whole life is laid out in front of them and a few of the characteristics of this day include individuality, transparency, and accountability. On the Day of Judgment, one is questioned on the actions one took in this life as well as why one took them. It is a wakeup call, in a way, to the ultimate test of self-awareness, where one  has no choice but to face the truth and hiding from one’s mask is not possible. God says in the Qur’an,“Whoever does an atom’s weight of good will see it, and whoever does an atom’s weight of evil will see it.” (Q 99:7-8)  The descriptions in the Qur’an, “When every human will be shaken into a unique and unprecedented self-awareness of his deeds: he will squarely and starkly face his own doings, not-doings, and misdoings and accept the judgement upon them as a ‘necessary sequel.’ ” (Rahman, 106) is detailed and harrowing, meant to serve as a reminder to the human in this life to be aware of the nafs or ego, and the principle of evil, Satan. It is also the state of loneliness that one is in along with being miserable and God will say on that day, “You have, indeed, come to Us [today] alone—as alone as We had created you in the first place” (‘ām:94; cf. 

Deeds are also weighed on a scale, “So for him whose scale [of good acts] shall be weighty, he shall lead a happy life; but he whose scale is light, his mother shall be the Ditch” (101:6-9). In the historical sense, scholars took this as a literal weighting of deeds, but it speaks more as a holistic sense. 

     There is also an allusion to the pre-Islamic era when the Arabs during and before the Prophet Muhammad’s time were unbelievers. Sura 91 refers to the civilization of the Thamud and how God caused its destruction. This is because of the refusal of the Arabians to heed the words of the Prophet Muhammad (PBUH). In the disobedience towards their prophet, Salih, the people of the Thamud slaughtered God’s camel mare, which was an improper killing, and by Qur’an standards, an abomination. Also, the descriptions of the destruction of Thamud are like descriptions of the events of the day of reckoning. 

     The descriptions of hell fire in the Qur’an are not as one might expect. They don’t go into great detail about the flame itself and how it is eternal. Rather, it mentions the loneliness of hellfire, where there is no collective burning of people. It is a punishment that one faces in solitude whereas Paradise is full of companionship. The eternal presence, or khulud, in Paradise, has no fear nor sadness. And of course, this reward is mentioned in the Qur’an:, “Their reward with their Lord is the Gardens of Eden beneath which flow streams. There they will abide forever. Allah will be please with them, and they will be pleased with him. This is for him who fears the Lord.”

     Judgment Day, besides holding man’s individuality accountable, also tests human’s righteousness. There is a plethora of verses in the Qur’an that pertain to this characteristic, such as, ““Those who have accepted the true faith and do good deeds shall be admitted among the righteous, “ (Q. 29:9).” They serve as reminders in this life so that on Judgement Day, one’s scale will hopefully be weighted heavily with good deeds rather than bad ones.

     Finally, God tells readers of the Qur’an to come to Him on the Day of Judgment with a sound heart, qalb salim, and a sound heart comes from a life of being aware of God and the rights of God in addition to the rights that humans have upon one another and the environment, non-human animals and other creatures whom occupy Earth. 

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