There is a very deliberate nature to the world around us. Every single thing, from a mountain to a sea, from a star to an atom, is governed by laws. When contemplating the wondrous universe, it is obvious that there was deliberation, intention, and purpose to creation, to our creation. A given purpose also means that there is an expectation for how one lives, and that there must be a way to be held accountable and rewarded. God has created a set of physical and spiritual laws by which all creation is bound: physical laws such as gravity, and spiritual laws such as rewarding good and punishing evil. The physical laws are very apparent in the world around us. However, the spiritual laws are not always quite so visible. Given that both laws were created and are maintained by the same God, why is there a difference in their application? This world does not have the capacity to bring all spiritual laws to fruition. This world is limited by time. Each creation is bound by the span of its own life, making it impossible to mete out justice for every good or evil done. Thus, there must be another time, another place where God shall carry out His justice. This time and place is the Day of Judgement.
Judgement as an Extension of Tawhid
Once the existence of an all-powerful and knowledgeable God is recognized, so too is His role in creation. All that has been created from the numerous stars and galaxies, to the mountains and seas, to the various creatures, everything down to the minute atom has been created with deliberation and is bound by laws that regulate their functioning. It is illogical to presume that this wondrous system has been created without a purpose, as it does not befit a wise creator to act without purpose (Lari, n.d.). In the Quran, Allah (s) Himself speaks to the intentionality behind His creation by saying, “We did not create as a game the heavens and the earth and all they contain; We created them in justice and in accordance with wisdom, but most men know not” (The Quran 44:38-39). Here, He calls on the reader to think about how the justice and wisdom seen in creation are indicative of the fact that the creation has a higher purpose, that it was not made as a game. If Allah (s) created this world as a transient place where one can exercise free will and is expected to live a certain way, then there must be a way for one to be held accountable. There must be a way for one to be rewarded for making the right decisions and face the consequences for one’s wrong choices.
The same God who created the physical realities of the world and the physical laws that govern existence, such as fire-burning and gravity, created the spiritual realities of existence too. Allah (s) has prescribed a religion for His creation and decreed that kindness will be returned with kindness and that being unjust will bring harm unto oneself. The physical laws are very observably consistent, while the application of the spiritual laws is not as apparent. However, given that both sets of laws were created and are maintained by the same All-Powerful Being, it only makes sense that they are applied in the same manner. If the physical laws are unchangeable, the spiritual laws must be so as well. Thus, it stands to reason that God’s promise of justice will come to fruition at a later point in time if it has not already (Rizvi, 1994). Note that the when and where of how this judgement will come to pass cannot entirely be reasoned out. Thus, the guidance of God through His divinely appointed representatives is required to clarify the specifics of humanity’s accounting (Rizvi, 1994). Through this guidance, it is understood that the justice of God will be served in the form of the Day of Judgement.
Why Judgement in the Next Life?
A good question that comes to mind is, why must God’s justice occur in the next life in the form of a day of judgement, rather than now? To put it simply, the world as one knows it has a limited capacity to reward all good and punish all wrongs.
The constraint of time: The finite and unidirectional nature of time that structures this world limits its capacity to mete out justice (Lari, n.d.). Not all consequences (positive or negative) can take place during one’s lifespan. If they were to be limited in this way, then what justice would there be for one who spent their life in the service of others? Surely the good they did is equal to multiple lifetimes, for they have touched many lives.
Accounting for one’s last day: If all justice were to be dispensed in this lifetime, how would all the deeds done on the last day of one’s life be rewarded? It is not possible. Thus, there needs to be a time independent of this life where all of one’s actions can be separately weighed and rewarded.
God’s role in this world and free will: As God has gifted humans with free will-the ability to make their own decisions-judgement becomes necessary in the next life. This world is influenced by the free will of humans and God does not interfere with their actions. If He were to completely mete out justice, this would remove from the free will one has. Directly serving justice or directly removing injustice from the world is a limitation on one’s free will, as it removes their ability to make choices (Lari, n.d.)
True justice requires absolute knowledge and power: There is no creation with the authority or knowledge to fairly reward all virtues, or allocate retribution for all wrongs, because no one has complete knowledge of all actions, the intentions behind them, and their complete outcomes (Lari, n.d.). Even if there was a creation with this knowledge, they would also need the power to mete out justice. There is no creation with these abilities. This further supports the need for a day of judgement in which God, the all-knowing and all-powerful, can reward every, “atom’s weight of good” (The Quran 99:7) and punish every “atom’s weight of evil” (The Quran 99:8).
Putting It Together
God created a deliberate system in his infinite power and wisdom. Recognizing this, it only makes sense to think that God has given humans a purpose and placed expectations on how one should exercise his or her free will. If expectations are placed, there will be a time for accounting and judgement as well, so that recognition can be given to those who struggled in God’s way. Allah (s) honours the believers by acknowledging that one who believes is not like one who does not (The Quran 32:18), and thereafter treats each group differently. This system of reward and punishment is a promise of God which cannot be entirely fulfilled in this world due to its limitations. Thus, one knows that there must be a day of judgement where justice will take place. Note that it is important to remember that God is He who introduces Himself as Merciful and that the truth and infinite nature of God’s mercy will never change. Even in one’s death and the next world, God is still the Loving and Merciful Lord who brought about one’s creation, nurturing, sustenance, and guidance. Thus, in His justice, there is also mercy and beauty.
Lari, S. M. M. (n.d.). Resurrection, Judgement and the Hereafter: Lessons on Islamic Doctrine.
(H. Algar, Trans.; Vol. 1). Islamic Education Center.
Rizvi, S. S. A. (1994). Day of Judgement (4th ed.). Bilal Muslim Mission of Tanzania.