Normally people do not like to think of such things. For them, there is one life—that of the world—and they try to live it in as prestigious and comfortable way as possible, for afterwards, neither man, nor anything that concerns him, will remain. Some do think about this matter, but only on a philosophical level. They seek a theoretical explanation of the world. Such explanations are interesting from a philosophical point of view, but they are of no basic value to man. Theoretical discussions about whether a cosmic spirit keeps the whole universe revolving for its own fulfillment, or whether everything is part of some sublime being, do not raise any personal issues for man. Some have a religious answer to the question, but their solution is also of no importance to man. Some religions hold that the son of God was crucified in atonement for man’s sins; others see life as a mysterious, recurring cycle, with man repeatedly being born and dying; some claim that man will be rewarded and punished in this world. These are the creeds of which most religions are made.
All such solutions to the problems of life differ from one another considerably but in so much as none of them raises any serious personal issue for man, they are all the same. They are either explanations of events or a means of providing us with some sort of spiritual satisfaction. They do not issue us with any warning or stir us into any action.
But the answer provided by the Prophet Muhammad is of an entirely different nature. Whereas the other answers do not raise any critical issue for man, the answer provided by the Prophet places every individual in a precarious position from which the next step leads either to an awesome abyss of destruction or to a world of eternal bliss. It requires every man to take a serious view of his situation—even more so than a traveler in the night whose torch reveals a black snake slithering menacingly in front of him.
The message taught by Muhammad, may God’s peace and blessings be upon him, contains a greater warning for all mankind. He taught that after this world a vaster world is awaiting us, where every person will be judged and then punished or rewarded according to his deeds. The props which man relies on in this world will not support him there, for there will be no trading, no friendship and no acceptable intercession.
The warning, which the Prophet delivered, to mankind makes his existence a matter of personal importance to everyone. Everyone’s fate, according to his teachings, hangs in the balance. Either one can believe in his message and follow his guidance, thus preparing oneself for everlasting paradise, or one can ignore his teachings, thus resigning oneself to eternal hellfire.
There are two things, which make this matter even more worthy of our attention. Firstly, the arguments of those who have expounded other theories on this matter have been very dubious. Those who consider material aggrandizement to be all that is worthwhile in life have no proof for their theory; their ideas are based on superficial attractions. Those who speak in philosophical terms have only analogies to offer as evidence. They themselves do not have full faith in what they say, so how can others be expected to accept their theories?
Then there are those who speak with reference to the prophets and scriptures. Basically their platform is solid, but the prophets and books to which they refer belong to an age long past. We have no reliable historical information regarding them at our disposal. Even though the original source of these religions is sound, we still cannot rely on their teachings as they are at present. The criterion with which to judge the past is history, and history does not verify the authenticity of their dogmas.
With the Prophet Muhammad, however, the case is quite different. On the one hand, his prophetic credentials stand up to any scrutiny. He was the epitome of everything a prophet should be. There is no doubt about his prophethood; it is an established historical fact, which no one can deny.
The facts of the Holy Prophet’s life and teachings have also been carefully preserved; their historical credibility cannot be contested. The Qur’an exists in its revealed form. The Holy Prophet’s words and actions are recorded in book-form, so one has no difficulty in establishing exactly what he said and did in his life.
The Prophet warned us that we are confronted with a reality, which we can never change; we have no choice but to face it. Death and suicide only transfer us to another world; they do not obliterate us altogether. The Creator has established an eternal scheme for success and failure, which no one can alter or opt out of. We have to choose between heaven and hell; we have no other choice.
If the meteorological department forecasts a hurricane, it is telling us about an impending disaster in which those affected will have no say in the matter; another power will control events. One can either escape or expose oneself to destruction. So, when the earthquake of the Last day occurs there will be no path to safety save that which the Prophet of Islam has laid down. We ignore that path at our own peril.