The fifth belief in the day of judgement

The Qur'an frequently evokes the beauty and diversity of the natural world, and belief in a final end gives sense and purpose to the whole creation. But for the judgement, the world would be in vain (23:115-16; 95:7-8), which is why the next life is mentioned in the Qur'an exactly as often as the life of this world. The semantic logic of the qur'anic text makes the domain we presently occupy the ''first world'' (al-ula), which exists only with reference to the ''other'' world which is to come (al-akhira). Almost every page of the scripture presents a direct or implicit reference to the afterlife and the judgement, often in connection with the need to respect a commandment (2:232; 65:2). The Arabs who first heard the revelation found this aspect of its teaching the hardest to accept: ''What! When we are dead and turned into dust and bones, shall we be resurrected again? And our fathers and our ancestors too?'' (56:47-8).

It is in connection with this Arab inability to imagine a transition from one form of life to another after death that the Qur'an supplies arguments for God's ability to take life from one stage to another, frequently referring to the physical world which the Arabs could not deny.

People, remember, if you doubt the Resurrection, that We created you from dust, then a drop of fluid, then a clinging form, then a lump of flesh, both shaped and unshaped - We mean to make Our power clear to you. Whatever We choose We cause to remain in the womb for an appointed time, then We bring you forth as babies and then you grow and reach maturity - some die young and some are left to live on to such an age that they forget all they once knew. You can perceive the earth to be barren, yet when We send down water it stirs and swells and yields every kind of joyous growth: this is because God is the Truth; He brings the dead back to life; He has power over everything. (22:5-6; see also 56:57-74)

Insistent arguments for a resurrection are also set out in 36:77-81:

Can man not see that We created him from a drop of fluid? Yet - lo and behold! - he disputes openly, producing arguments against Us, forgetting his own creation. He says: ''Who can give life back to bones after they have decayed?'' Say, ''He who created them in the first place will give them life again: He has full knowledge of every act of creation. It is He who produces fire for you out of the green tree: you kindle your fire from it - lo and behold! Is He who created the heavens and earth not able to create the likes of these people? Indeed He is! He is the All-knowing Creator: when He wills something to be, He only says to it, ''Be!'' - and it is! So glory be to Him whose hand holds control over all things. It is to Him that you will all be brought back.

The hadith material, presumably because it addresses those who already accept the Qur'an's doctrines, does not offer this kind of argumentation, but simply builds on this belief to establish further teachings.

Whoever believes in God and the Last Day, let him speak in goodness, or hold his peace.18

Everyone will be resurrected in the state of faith and conduct in which he died.19

Finally, the Qur'an and hadith also provide lengthy descriptions of heaven and hell.20

In supplying arguments for belief, the Qur'an appears to assume that faith is to be accepted by free and conscientious human agents, since ''there is no compulsion in religion'' (2:256). The Prophet is addressed as follows:

Had your Lord willed, all the people on earth would have believed. So can you compel people to believe? (10:99)

His task is clearly demarcated:

Say: ''Now the Truth has come to you from your Lord: let those who wish to believe in it do so, and let those who wish to reject it do so.'' (18:29)


The beliefs commended by the Muslim scriptures appear to share two basic features. They are to be based on revealed texts whose mode of transmission cannot be contested, and they appeal to a thinking, questing humanity. The Qur'an proclaims, but it also offers arguments. It does not merely command faith, but commands the kind of thinking that can lead to the discovery of ultimate truth. When asking its audience to believe, or to adopt a virtue, the Qur'an invariably presents arguments based on premises that it takes to be universally accessible, since it addresses unbelievers as well as those who have accepted it as the word of God. It thus provides an original model for dialectical theology. The hadith, by contrast, are largely addressed to believers, and furnish later generations of theologians with data on which to reflect.

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