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Perspectives on Afterlife: What We Can Learn from Islam

As turmoil and unrest continue to plague the Middle East, it is worthwhile to note that there is a great deal more common ground than disagreement between the Islamic faith and the Judeo-Christian belief system.

In many ways, the Islamic belief in the afterlife mirrors Christianity quite closely. Much like Christianity, there is a Heaven, more commonly referred to as Paradise. There is also a Hell or Jahannem. The idea of a Judgement Day or the Last Day is also quite prevalent and is instrumental in deciding the fate of the deceased.

The difference are slight but present. The dead do not immediately ascend to Paradise or get cast into Jahannem, they instead await judgment in their graves—either peacefully or torturously. It seems that hellish conditions can exist beyond the physical realm.

Similarly to the ancient Egyptian tradition of weighing souls, Muslim beliefs dictate that on Judgement Day, each deceased person walks across a narrow bridge that extends over Jahannem and leads to Paradise. If your misdeeds are heavy, you will not be able to bear them across and instead will be pushed into the hellish underworld; if on the other hand you are light and free of sin, your path to Paradise is made easy.

An interesting aspect of Islamic afterlife is the ability to continue striving after death. Judgment Day may decide your fate for a time, but it is not necessarily permanent. There is room to grow to greater heights within Paradise and there is also the chance for redemption out of Jahannem. In a sense, this is similar to the Christian belief of purgatory, however purgatory is reserved only for some, yet there is no limit to the number of repentant sinners who may escape eternal torment.

So what can we learn from all this? Perhaps only that our differences are fewer than we think. We are all unique in our own special way, but we also have the common core of humanity that binds us to each other, makes it more preferable for us to work together than try to push apart. But more than that, we are never perfect, but there is room to improve. If you have made mistakes, as we all do, you can fix them, maybe even after death. Nothing is unforgivable, nothing is forever lost and you can always strive to make “it” better, be it life, relationships, or job prospects.

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