Paid in Full…


كُلُّ نَفْسٍ ذَائِقَةُ الْمَوْتِ وَإِنَّمَا تُوَفَّوْنَ أُجُورَكُمْ يَوْمَ الْقِيَامَةِ فَمَنْ زُحْزِحَ عَنْ النَّارِ وَأُدْخِلَ الْجَنَّةَ فَقَدْ فَازَ وَمَا الْحَيَاةُ الدُّنْيَا إِلاَّ مَتَاعُ الْغُرُورِ

“Every soul shall taste death, and you will indeed be paid your full rewards on the Day of Resurrection. Whoever is delivered from the fire and admitted to paradise has certainly succeeded. The life of this world is nothing but the wares of delusion.” (Al-Qur’an, Surat Ale Imran (3), Verse 185)

One of the universal truths which nothing in existence can escape from is death. This reality is so undeniable that in English we have a saying that, “There are two things in life which are inevitable: death and taxes.” Although today, we know that the extremely wealthy are able to avoid taxes through off-shore bank accounts, hiring the best accountants and other slick tactics, but even they are beginning to feel the crunch of the law. Death however, is something which no matter how advanced science and technology will become, and no matter how clever people think they are, no one can ever escape. Therefore, rather than trying to flee from death and attempting to circumvent the system which God has put into place, everyone needs to understand death and what comes after it, and make the best of the life of this world for the future abode.

Although there are numerous verses which describe different aspects of death and the after-life, the one which we want to reflect upon in this article comes from Surat Ale Imran (3), verse 185 in which Allah has used some very interesting expressions which we need to review in greater depth.

Allah starts out the verse by saying that every soul (نفس) will taste (ذائقة) death (الموت). Let us first review each of these words individually.

  1. The word, soul (نفس), has been employed, however we know from a review of the commentary of this verse that Allah does not refer to the “soul” as we know it – and its death – but rather the human being (and really everything in creation) in general; because the “soul” in itself does not die.
  2. The method of experiencing death is referred to as tasting (ذائقة) – and this is a very interesting word. If we think about our five senses: sight, touch, taste, smell and hearing, they all have their own competencies. There are some things which we can only see and our other senses are of no use when trying to understand it – such as the sun. There are other things in existence which we can use multiple senses to comprehend and get a complete impression of – such as food. When someone brings a plate of our favourite food to the table we employ many senses: we see the food with our eyes; we smell the food with our nose; if it is still piping hot, we may hear the sizzle of the food with our ears, depending on what the food is, we may even feel it with our hands – however none of these truly tell us what that food “is” until we “taste” it and our taste buds allow is to savour the food and the spices it has been cooked with. Thus, this (tasting) is one of the more powerful senses and it is indeed interesting that Allah uses this word to describe how we will “experience” death.
  3. The next thing mentioned in this verse is death (الموت). Death, as we know from the verses of the Qur’an, such as Surat al-Mulk (67), is a creation of Allah, where He has said: “He, who created death and life that He may test you [to see] which of you is best in conduct. And He is the All-Mighty, the All-Forgiving.” (67:2) Death, from the Islamic point of view is not ‘non-existence’, but rather, it is a mere transfer from one world to another, and can be compared to the birth of a child and how it leaves the womb of its mother (one world) to come into this world.

Allah then gives us a guarantee and says: “…and you will indeed be paid your full rewards on the Day of Resurrection.” Once we leave this world and are in the next realm, that is when the true ‘reward’ and ‘punishment’ will be meted out. In essence this world is a plane which is “actions and no retributions” while the next world is the place of “retributions and no actions”. In this verse, the word “be paid your full” (توفون) refers to a complete payment – not partial, not incomplete or fractional, but rather a full, maximum and complete repayment for actions which were done in this temporal world. Yes it is possible that the good which a person does in this world may be rewarded somewhat while in this temporal realm, however the full and complete payment will not take place here; likewise it is possible that the evil which a person does here may also be remunerated with a form of punishment in this world, however the full chastisement awaits a person in the next realm.

The phrase “who is delivered” (زحزح) means ‘to be torn away from something’ or ‘to be moved away from something’ and therefore we understand from this word that: “Those who have been torn away or kept aside from making their way into the fires of hell and have been granted permission to enter paradise have achieved true success.” It is almost as if the hellfire and all of its punishments have a strong gravitational pull upon us – and why should this not be the case when Satan, our sworn enemy has told us: “He said, ‘By Your might, I will surely pervert them, except Your exclusive servants among them.’” (38:82-83)

Therefore, if we are able to pull ourselves out of the strong allure and attraction which hell and all of the paths which lead to it have, then we will have attained true salvation! Indeed, the path to hell is beautiful, “…But their hearts had hardened, and Satan had made to seem decorous to them what they had been doing.” (6:43) So to leave a path which has been made attractive and alluring is a challenge, however not impossible; and we always need to keep in mind that Satan himself will declare his immunity from us and will petition to God that he is innocent from our actions: “When the matter has been decided, Satan will say, ‘Indeed God made you a promise that was true and I [too] made you a promise, but I failed you.  I had no authority over you, except that I called you and you responded to me. So do not blame me, but blame yourselves. I cannot respond to your distress calls, neither can you respond to my distress calls. Indeed I disavow your taking me for [God’s] partner aforetime. There is indeed a painful punishment for the wrongdoers.’” (14:22)

When we look at the world around us, who can deny it is not full of “temptations”? The pleasures of the flesh, the allure of power and authority, the intoxication of wealth and all that it brings and so many other sins which are readily available – many today at the tips of our fingers! However as the Qur’an shows us, the one who is the truly successful one is the person who has managed to pull away from such temptations and vices and purify their lives and lead a path of righteousness.

God then closes off this verse with a reality of the life of this world that it is nothing more than a “temporary pleasure” (متاع الغرور).

With such a vivid display of death in the Qur’an, is it not time that we look into our hearts and begin to make a change of character so that we can ensure our success in this world and more importantly – the next!?

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