THE FIVE STAGES OF LIFE .by Zeenah Ibrahim -Introduction -The Ruh (spirit stage) -The Early stage -The Barzakh stage -The Day of Judgement -The final Destination - Conclusion INTRODUCTION: My aim in writing this piece is to remind us as human beings of the three fundamental questions that should bother any sane mind. And to some extent provide answers to the three questions. In doing this I hope to wake us up from our deep slumber. Our waking up from our deep and prolonged slumber, I hope, will make us realize how much we have missed and how much harder we should work to achieve the aim for which we have been created. This is very important because when we return to our Lord not having achieved the purpose of our creation, we are doomed to abide in hell forever! The journey of man from the moment he is created by Allah,through the time he is placed on earth to the time he finally returns to Allah and to his final abode passes through five stages namely: The Ruh stage The earthly stage The Barzakh stage The Day of Resurrection The final abodes THE RUH (SPIRIT) STAGE: In the first stage of our journey, a very great assembly was held by Allah the Almighty, which involves all forms of creations. At this great assembly, Allah offered a trust to all creations, and promise that whoever fulfils the trust shall be rewarded with paradise (jannah) and whoever shall abuse the trust shall be rewarded with hell (jahannam). The trust is: to be placed on earth as vicegerents of Allah, to act according to the will and commandments of Allah, and rebel against anything or anyone contrary to the will of Allah. In a nutshell to make one’s will submissive to the will of Allah. All other creations except man, begged to be relieved of this great trust, for fear of not fulfilling it . All other creations implored Allah to set them firm on the path of obedience and to deprive them of the freewill which they fear may lead them to disobedience. But man, having heard of the great bliss and glory awaiting anyone who fulfils the trust, implored Allah to be given the trust and promise to uphold it . This episode is related in the glorious Qur’an it following verses: "We offered the trust to the heavens, to the earth and to the mountains, but they refused to bear it, and were afraid of it. Man undertook to bear it, but he has proved unjust and foolish. Allah will surely punish the hypocrites men and women, and the unbelievers, both men and women; but Allah pardons believing men and believing women. Allah is Forgiving and Merciful" (Ahzab: 72 and 73) In some other verses of the glorious Qur’an, Allah related concerning another smaller assembly which involves only mankind. Allah Ta’ala says : "When your Lord brought forth descendants from the loins of Adam’s children, and made them testify against themselves, (He said) Am I not your Lord?" They replied: "We bear witness that you are ." (This He did ) lest you should say on the Day of Resurrection : ‘We had no knowledge of that, or: ‘Our forefathers set up partners with Allah; but will you destroy us, their descendants, on account of what the followers of falsehood did?’ Thus We make plain Our revelations so that they may return to the right path. (A’araf: 171-172). The above verses of the holy Qur’an are references to another assembly which involves the descendants of Adam alone in which Allah reaffirm to mankind the fact that He is our Lord and that we will be brought to earth to act as His vicegerents. There and then Allah the Almighty made us realize what that implies in detail. That we shall act according to His Will. That we shall make our wills submissive to that of Allah. And that we shall not attribute this kind of status to any other than Allah our Creator. We all promised solemnly to be obedient to Allah and disobedient and rebellious to any other will or authority other than Allah’s. It is infact after reaffirming this to Allah that mankind were being sent generation after generation to be tried and tested as to how sincere each individual was when it took the trust and promised to uphold it. All the above assemblies took place while man was still in the form of spirit (Ruh). In other words the biological body or form has not been made. But after the Almighty amalgamated the spirit into the body of Adam (A.S.) which is meant for the earthly life, where man is destined to stay for the period of the aforesaid examination, something remarkable happened. The remarkable incident is referred to in many parts of the Holy Qur’an. One of it is: "We created you and gave you form. Then we said to the Angels: ‘Prostrate yourselves before Adam.’ They all prostrated themselves except Satan, who did not. ‘Why did you not prostrate yourself when I commanded you? Allah asked. ‘I am nobler than Adam,’ he replied. You created me of fire and him of clay.’ He said: ‘Begone from it! This is no place for your contemptuous pride. Away with you! Henceforth you shall be humble.’ Satan replied: ‘Reprieve me till the Day of Resurrection.’ ‘You are reprieved.’ Said He. ‘Because You have allowed me to sin,’ said Satan, ‘I will waylay them as they walk on your straight path, and spring upon them from their left. Then You shall find the greater part of them ungrateful.’ ‘Begone’ said Allah. A despicable outcast. With those that follow you I shall fill the pit of Hell.’ (A’araf : 10-14) This incident is also referred to in another part of the glorious Qur’an thus: "When your Lord said to the Angels: ‘I am placing on earth one that shall be My deputy,’ they replied: ‘Will You put therein one that will do evil and shed blood, when we have for so long sung Your praise and sanctified Your name?’ He said I know what you do not know.’ He taught Adam the names of all things and then set them before the angels, saying ‘Tell Me the names of these if what you say be true.’ ‘Glory to you,’ they replied, ‘we have no knowledge except that which you have given us. You alone are Wise, Knowing.’ Then said He to Adam: ‘Tell them their names.’ And when Adam had named them, He said: ‘Did I not tell you that I know the secrets of the heavens and earth and all that you reveal and all that you hide?’ And when We said to the Angels: ‘Prostrate yourselves before Adam.’ They all prostrate themselves except Satan, who in his pride refused and became an unbeliever. And to Adam We said: ‘Dwell with your wife in Paradise and eat of it as much as you wish and whatever you will. But never approach this tree or you shall both become transgressors.’ But Satan made them slip from it and caused them to depart from that in which they had been. ‘Go hence,’ We said, and be enemies to each other. The earth will for a while provide your dwelling-place and sustenance.’ Then Adam received commandments from his Lord, and his Lord relented towards him. He is the Forgiving one the Merciful. ‘Go down hence, all ,’ We said, ‘Whenever Our guidance is revealed, those that accept it shall have nothing to fear or to regret; but those that deny and reject Our revelations shall be the people of the Fire, and there they shall abide forever." (Baqarah: 30-39). Now, from the above verses the following conclusions should be seriously considered: That Allah the Almighty honoured and raised man to an esteemed position, by endowing him with knowledge of which not even the Angels know. That as a result of this honoured position, Satan was jealous of man. That as a result of this jealousy, Satan in pride refused to prostrate before Adam therefore disobeying Allah. That therefore Allah cursed him and promised to abide him in Hell forever. That Satan due to his haughtiness and anger at his own predicament, decided henceforth to prove to Allah that man is not worthy of the position bestowed him by Allah. And so set out to deceive and deviate man in order to deprive man of this esteemed position. That due to this unfortunate incident, man , when placed on earth to fulfill his covenant with Allah was not here alone. There is now Iblis who strives as much as he can to deter man from fulfilling the covenant with Allah. This last point is very important, because fulfilling the covenant without the deterrence of Satan is a hectic task. And now, with Satan and his forces out to hamper man, the task has grown even tougher. Which means the effort needed by man is even greater and his vigilance should be even sharper. THE EARTHLY STAGE: Man having taken a solemn promise to fulfill the trust of ambassadorship of Allah on earth is now placed on earth to be tested as to the truthfulness of his promise. Due to the nature of man, by the time he is matured to be tested, he has totally forgotten all about the first stage in his journey and needed to be reminded. This is not surprising because is by his very nature forgetful. For instance, who among us can remember his life in the womb or the first sound he heard on being delivered in to the world? Certainly none. Does that mean we never stayed in the womb or heard any sound or voice on being born? So the fact that one does not remember an incident does not imply that it never took place. Allah in His infinite mercy and ultimate kindness, knowing the nature of man, Had not left us to find out ourselves. He had, true to His promise sent a great hosts of messengers to remind us of our covenant and warn us of terrible consequences awaiting anyone who breaks the covenant. These holy Messengers have from after Adam (A.S.), up to the time of the last and most honourable of Allah’s Messengers, Muhammad (S.A.W.A) being sent by Allah one after another to remind mankind to worship Allah and rebel against taghut. (anyone arrogating to himself the status of Allah) But unfortunately, each time a Prophet is sent, the people of his time disregard his call. They do not only disregard the message but also persecuted the Messenger and the few who believe in him. Many of these Messengers were killed by the rebellious people. In some cases, Allah destroyed the rebellious people and save only the Prophets and those who believe in them. While in other cases, the Prophets were killed and sometimes those believed were killed at the hands of the unbelievers. This has generally been the order of things until the time of Musa (A.S.). After the destruction of Fir’aun, the general pattern has been that Allah punishes the unbelievers at the hands of the believers. It is important for us to always remember that we are here on the planet earth to worship Allah, to act according to His Will, to surrender the free will He bestows on us to His Will. To act as His vicegerents or representatives on earth. Even though we were given freewill we must realize that this was done to test us. We should always bear in mind that the earth is a transit camp, not a permanent abode. Our life on earth, no matter how long we perceive it to be is but a flash compared to the life Hereafter. So it will be very foolish of us indeed to waste this precious examination moment (by following our whims and caprices or the whims and caprices of others). Most terrible of it all is following the dictates of Satan our enemy. This foolishness will cost man everlasting bliss and gain him everlasting wrath and punishments. After this short term on earth man has to pass on to the third stage which is a place called Barzakh. To pass on to Barzakh, one has die. Death is the separation of the spirit (ruh) from the biological form of man. The biological form of man has been created to allow man to perform the earthly duties he has been assigned to by Allah. At death one will start to perceive the result of his earthly mission. Because at that time the veil will be removed from his perception and he will perceive the reality. But then it will be too late to cry when the head is off. Man will at death know the result of his actions in this world. From the kind of appearance put on by the Angel of death at the time he comes to extract the soul and the kind of Angels that will accompany him when extracting the soul, one will know if he had been successful in his mission or had been a total failure. If he had been successful they will appear to him in very beautiful forms and will give him glad tidings of the great bliss awaiting him. But unfortunately, if he had been a failure, they will appear in very fearful forms and will start striking him with swords of hell and will inform him of the terrible abode awaiting him. THE BARZAKH STAGE: After death, life continues in the spiritual form and in spiritual worlds. As I have previously mentioned, the reality is that the Ruh (soul or spirit) since its creation is everlasting. What actually happens at the time of death is the separation of the soul or Ruh from the biological body. As for the body, it rots, decays and disintegrates into dusts, to be raised up again on the Day of Judgment. But as for the soul or spirit, it lives on in a spiritual world. On earth both the virtuous and the disobedient servants of Allah live side by side, interacting with each other. But after death, they will part ways. Henceforth, the Barzakh of the virtuous slaves will defer from that of evil and disobedient slaves. In fact Barzakh is the reception world or the waiting world. Just like the reception of a hotel room in this world. From the way the reception looks, one could guess what to expect when he is checked in. The Barzakh is the world the soul continues to live in after being separated from the biological form of man. It has been reported in a tradition of the Prophet (S.A.W.A.) that one who died and among the virtuous slaves of Allah will be taken to the Barzakh of the virtuous. On reaching there, he would be received happily by the virtuous residents that were already there before him. They will inquire from him about some people they left along with him in the world who are well known to them and to him. The newcomer will reply that those people left the world before him. They will then proclaim to him that they must have been taken to the Barzakh of the evil ones. A person is either here or there depending on whether he is successful in his examination on earth or not. Life in Barzakh is either a mini form of paradise or a mini form of hell. There are punishments and enjoyments in Barzakh. Whichever of these conditions one finds himself will perpetuate until the Day of Resurrection. This implies that even before the Day of Judgment, one will start reaping the fruits of his endeavors on earth, be it good or bad. May Allah make us sincere slaves of His! May He include us among his virtuous slaves and save us from His wrath! THE FOURTH STAGE: THE DAY OF JUDGEMENT The Day of judgment has been called different names in the Glorious Qur’an. It is a great day indeed! As we may have already noticed from my write-up, I have been brief in describing the previous three stages of man’s existence. This is because I do not want to make my write-up unnecessarily lengthy. My aim is to get the message across in a simple way. Based on this, I would insha Allah be very brief in describing the 4th and 5th stage. The accounts of the Day of Judgement in the Glorious Qur’an is so numerous that so many voluminous books have been written about it. It is the day of reckoning. It is the day when all creations will be assembled in one place and our deeds will be brought before our Lord in the presence of all creations. We will then be judged according to the nature of our deeds. Allah in His infinite mercy will conduct the reckoning in such a super-transparent way that even those condemned to Hell will acknowledge to the justice of Allah. They will believe from the depths of their hearts that they do not deserve other than what has been decreed for them by their Creator as a result of their actions. The condemned will testify from the depths of their hearts that it is they who have wronged their souls by depriving themselves the blissful life of the Hereafter! Alas! What a sad end for the miserable?! Alas! What a regretful end when it is already late?! May Allah the Almighty protect us from being among these miserable lots! First of all everyone will be given his file or book in which all his actions on earth has been recorded by the guardian Angels. He will not only read it but also will watch and listen to the video and audio recordings of his actions on earth. At this point, judging from what is in the book, he would guess the kind of abode he deserves even before it is declared. Then followed by being questioned about his actions or deeds. If he tries to tell lies, Allah will make him dumb and order the different parts of his body to testify! Man will ask the parts of his body; ‘Why are you testifying against us?’ they will reply ‘Allah, who enable everything to speak today has enable us also.’ Witnesses would be brought forward to testify. At this point, the evil one will be dumbfounded and will have no recourse but to resign to the Will and justice of Allah! Then this will be followed by weighing of our deeds on the scale. Whosoever his good actions weighs heavy, is indeed successful. That is of course after he has been made to pay whosoever he has cheated wronged in this world in one way or the other. The only currency on that day are the deeds of man. You either pay with your good deeds or if you lack any good deed, the bad deeds of the one you cheated or wronged is apportioned to you! A man may come with a mountain of good deeds and end up with a greater mountain of evil deeds! May Allah protect us! Then, the passing over the ‘SIRAT’. The Sirat is a bridge laid over the hell over which everyone must pass. Some will pass over it without even realizing it because they will pass over it with the speed of lightening. Others will be slower in passing over it. And yet others will fall over into the fire of Hell. The speed with which one passes over it depends on one’s virtuousness or evilness. Like it has been indicated in the glorious Qur’an: "There is not one of you who shall not pass through it. Such is the absolute decree of your Lord. We will deliver those who fear Us, but the wrongdoers shall be left there on their knees." (Mary: 71). At the end of it all, only those who lived their lives according to the system Allah ordained will receive Allah’s mercy on that day. But those who were arrogant and as a result follow their whims and desires on earth will deserve Allah’s wrath and condemned to an everlasting torment in hell!! May Allah make us submissive to His will and protect us from his wrath!! THE FINAL DESTINATION: Paradise or Hell. After the great events that will occur on the day of resurrection, and after the judgement every one will be taken to his abode. There are only two abodes; Paradise and Hell. All mankind right from the first man to last man will be taken to one of these two abodes! If one is absent in Paradise, he must necessarily be present in the Hell and vice-versa. There is no third abode. Both Paradise and Hell are everlasting for their dwellers. Naturally enough, no one that is admitted into paradise will ever wish to come out of it. But as for hell, anyone thrown into it will wish to come out of it. But alas! They will never be able to do so except him who Allah pardons. Allah Has created paradise and install therein everything great. In fact the paradise cannot be described because it cannot be perceived. Like it has been related in different traditions of the Holy Prophet of Allah; Muhammad (S.A.W.A.), that paradise contains the peak of all bliss the like of which no eye had ever beheld, ears never heard of it, and mind had ever imagined it! One can only experience it when one is admitted into it. Likewise hell-fire contains the greatest of torments and calamities that cannot be described because it can never be perceived by the perceiving mind. It has never also been seen or heard of!!! In fact one can only understand it when one is thrown into it! May Allah protect us from it! Just as in paradise, there are houses, palaces, castles, gardens, flowers, trees food, drinks, transportations, clothes, spouses etc. so also there are in hell. The only difference is while every of these things in paradise are in their highest form of beauty and enjoyment, in hell, they are in their highest form of ugliness and torments. For example, the houses of the inmates of hell will be made of fire bricks, the roof of fire, the beds of fire and thorns, the carpet of thorns, snakes and scorpions. Their spouses will be terrible looking monsters with smokes and fire coming out from their mouths and noses and their voices will be much louder than that of the most fearful thunder we know in this world!!! Allah the Almighty created the paradise to be the reward of those who fulfill their covenant with Allah and worship Him alone. While He created hell-fire for those who rebel against Allah by refusing to fulfill their covenant with Allah and instead followed the devil and their base desires. Everyone of us will either end up in paradise or in hell depending on which of the above group one belongs to. There is no one that will escape being in one of these two abodes. There is no in between! Whoever wins Allah’s pleasure and is admitted to paradise will dwell therein forever and ever. It is an everlasting abode. It will never come to an end. As for hell, some will be there forever end ever while others will be forgiven by Allah after being purified with punishments in the hell-fire. It is said that anyone who truly believes in Allah and His Prophet (SAWA), but committed some great sins will be saved from hell after being thrown into it and purified. May Allah protect us from being among these group of people! CONCLUSION: Man in his present state on earth is in a state of a trance. He wakes up from this trance immediately after his death. The moment a man dies, he instantly becomes aware of the reality! He immediately remembers the first and the second assemblies. He remembers the solemn promise he took in the presence of his Lord. He instantly becomes aware of the fact that he had only spent a day or part of a day on earth. How short a period it had been!! What an everlasting bliss or calamity this short moment on earth had earned man, depending on how he had spent this short moment. He immediately realizes that he had been an actor in the theatre called earth. And that everything had been a drama. And he now faces the reality that his true status is of a slave, a slave of Allah. And that everything that has been bestowed on him, even the free-will is meant to test him! These facts he was told time and again in the world, but he never took them seriously but now, here is the reality! Alas! There is no second chance of coming back to the world and making up for what he missed! The Prophet (SAWA) had declared in one of his famous sayings that man is in a state of sleep. He wakes up only when he dies. He further advised us to die before our real death. That is, in essence to wake up in this world before death wakes us up to reality. Then it will be too late to cry when the head is chopped off!