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Allah, The Exalted, created the Universe. He created man amongst other creatures. He created Paradise and Hell. He gave him the ability to understand, to speak and to judge between right and wrong. He also gave him the ability to make improvements to his environment to suit his needs. By giving man these faculties, God, in fact, made him different from His other creations. This is why man is made accountable for all his actions.
Moreover, Allah also taught him the good path and showed him the evil one. Allah says in the Holy Qur'an, Su'rat As-Shams (Chapter 91 Verses 8-10): "Then He showed him what is wrong for him and what is right for him (8). Indeed he succeeds who purifies his ownself (9). And indeed he fails who corrupts his ownself (10)." (Study the Noble Qur'an — Word-for-Word).
فَأَلۡهَمَهَا فُجُورَهَا وَتَقۡوَٮٰهَا (8) قَدۡ أَفۡلَحَ مَن زَكَّٮٰهَا (9) وَقَدۡ خَابَ مَن دَسَّٮٰهَا (10)
Having taught man what is moral and what is immoral, Allah gave him the ability to choose what he wants to do and so made him responsible for all his actions. The grant of free-will simply means that God does not compel man to behave in the manner prescribed by Him. In other words, he can decide to recognize God (though unseen) as his true Master and use his faculties and possessions in the manner prescribed by Him, or misuse them as he may, contrary to Allah's directions and follow Satan's foot-steps.
Having said that, a Muslim must also accept that Allah is All-Powerful and there is no ability or power except through Him. Because of this claim, some people raise the question: "Why then are we held responsible for our actions?" This claim of theirs is supported by the way our parents used to explain destiny in such a simple way. They said, "Everything is already written down in the heavens!" In other words, they said, 'what hits you was not going to miss you, and what misses you was not going to hit you.'
Some Islamic theologians, however, explain the meaning of destiny in a much more precise manner. They say, "Allah has willed that your action is based on choice. We are held responsible for choosing an act but not for creating the act itself. In other words, Allah creates the act and by our choosing it, we 'acquire' it and are thereby held responsible for it. Thus, human actions are created by Allah but performed by us. The above explanation may perhaps help explain this. Additionally, let us take the following example. For instance, a child or an insane person who fails to perform daily prayers or commit an offence is not held accountable for his action on the Day of Judgement, according to Sacred Law. This is because both are not capable of choosing their course of action intelligently or make decisions by reasoning as a normal human being would do. As such their condition is not very different from that of an animal.
WHEN DID ISLAM START?
Islam did not start with the prophethood of Muhammad, peace be upon him. It started since the creation of man and the teachings of Islam were passed on from generation to generation by the various messengers and prophets of Allah. God tells us in the Holy Qur'an, Su'rat AI-Baqarah, (Chapter 2 Verse 131-132), "When his Lord said to him (Abraham), 'Submit (i.e. be a Muslim)!' He said, 'I have submitted myself (as a Muslim) to the Lord of the Alamin (Lord of mankind, jinn and all that exists)' (131). And this (submission to Allah, Islam) was enjoined by Ibrahim (Abraham) upon his sons and by Ya'aqub (Jacob) saying, 'O my sons! Allah has chosen for you the (true) religion, then die not except in the Faith of Islam (as Muslims — Islamic Monotheism)' (132)." (Study the Noble Qur'an — Word-for-Word).
إِذۡ قَالَ لَهُ ۥ رَبُّهُ ۥۤ أَسۡلِمۡۖ قَالَ أَسۡلَمۡتُ لِرَبِّ ٱلۡعَـٰلَمِينَ (131) وَوَصَّىٰ بِہَآ إِبۡرَٲهِـۧمُ بَنِيهِ وَيَعۡقُوبُ يَـٰبَنِىَّ إِنَّ ٱللَّهَ ٱصۡطَفَىٰ لَكُمُ ٱلدِّينَ فَلَا تَمُوتُنَّ إِلَّا وَأَنتُم مُّسۡلِمُونَ (132)
The Qur'an also says in Su'rat Al-Imran (Chapter 3 Verse 67), "Ibrahim (Abraham) was neither a Jew nor a Christian, but he was a true Muslim Hanifa (Islamic Monotheism — to worship none but Allah alone) and he was not of AI-Mushrikun (the idolaters, polytheists, disbelievers in the Oneness of Allah, pagans) (67)". (Study the Noble Qur'an — Word-for-Word).
مَا كَانَ إِبۡرَٲهِيمُ يَہُودِيًّ۬ا وَلَا نَصۡرَانِيًّ۬ا وَلَـٰكِن كَانَ حَنِيفً۬ا مُّسۡلِمً۬ا وَمَا كَانَ مِنَ ٱلۡمُشۡرِكِينَ (67)
The Qur'an also says in Su'rat Yunus (Chapter 10 Verse 90), "And We took the Children of Israel across the sea, and Fir'aun (Pharaoh) with his hosts followed them in oppression and enmity, till when drowning overtook him, he said, 'I believe that none has the right to be worshipped but He (Allah) in Whom the Children of Israel believe, and I am one of the Muslims (those who submit to Allah's Will)' (90)." (Study the Noble Qur'an — Word-for-Word).
وَجَـٰوَزۡنَا بِبَنِىٓ إِسۡرَٲٓءِيلَ ٱلۡبَحۡرَ فَأَتۡبَعَهُمۡ فِرۡعَوۡنُ وَجُنُودُهُ ۥ بَغۡيً۬ا وَعَدۡوًاۖ حَتَّىٰٓ إِذَآ أَدۡرَڪَهُ ٱلۡغَرَقُ قَالَ ءَامَنتُ أَنَّهُ ۥ لَآ إِلَـٰهَ إِلَّا ٱلَّذِىٓ ءَامَنَتۡ بِهِۦ بَنُوٓاْ إِسۡرَٲٓءِيلَ وَأَنَا۟ مِنَ ٱلۡمُسۡلِمِينَ (90)
Once again, Allah says in Su'rat An-Nisaa (Chapter 4 Verses 163-164), "Verily, We have sent the Revelation to you (O Muhammad) as We sent the Revelation to Nu`h (Noah) and the Prophets after him; We (also) sent the Revelation to Ibrahim (Abraham), Isma'il (Ishmael), Is`haq (Isaac), Ya'qub (Jacob), and Al-Asbat, Isa (Jesus), Ayyub (Job), Yunus (Jonah), Haru'n (Aaron), and Sulaiman (Solomon); and to Dawud (David) We gave the Zabur (Psalms) (163). And Messengers We have mentioned to you before, and Messengers We have not mentioned to you, - and to Mu`sa (Moses) Allah spoke directly (164)." (Study the Noble Qur'an — Word-for-Word).
إِنَّآ أَوۡحَيۡنَآ إِلَيۡكَ كَمَآ أَوۡحَيۡنَآ إِلَىٰ نُوحٍ۬ وَٱلنَّبِيِّـۧنَ مِنۢ بَعۡدِهِۦۚ وَأَوۡحَيۡنَآ إِلَىٰٓ إِبۡرَٲهِيمَ وَإِسۡمَـٰعِيلَ وَإِسۡحَـٰقَ وَيَعۡقُوبَ وَٱلۡأَسۡبَاطِ وَعِيسَىٰ وَأَيُّوبَ وَيُونُسَ وَهَـٰرُونَ وَسُلَيۡمَـٰنَۚ وَءَاتَيۡنَا دَاوُ ۥدَ زَبُورً۬ا (163) وَرُسُلاً۬ قَدۡ قَصَصۡنَـٰهُمۡ عَلَيۡكَ مِن قَبۡلُ وَرُسُلاً۬ لَّمۡ نَقۡصُصۡهُمۡ عَلَيۡكَۚ وَكَلَّمَ ٱللَّهُ مُوسَىٰ تَڪۡلِيمً۬ا (164)
It follows, therefore, that all the Messengers of God were Muslims and so were all their followers who adhered to their teachings and, by the grace of God, they will enter Paradise. Quite often we hear non-Muslims accuse the Muslims, and sometimes rightly so, of erroneously claiming that only those followers of Prophet Muhammad would enter Paradise. This idea of some Muslims is completely wrong; for all true followers of the Prophets or Messengers of God before Muhammad were Muslims (monotheists). They continued to be Muslims until when the laws of Islam (monotheism), as taught by their respective Messengers were lost, and so the people started going astray by becoming polytheists as well as committing some major sins.
With the exception of atheists, we all believe (Muslims, People of The Book, Hindus, Buddhists, etc.) that, depending on our deeds in this life, we will either be rewarded or punished after death. Some of us, however, believe in the Day of Judgement and others don't.
According to the Holy Qur'an, people will appear in three groups on the Day of Resurrection:
-Those foremost in Islamic faith of Monotheism and in performing righteous deeds in the life of this world.
-Those who believe in Islamic Monotheism but their deeds are mixed between good and bad.
-Those who do not believe in Islamic Monotheism [Atheists or Polytheists (Mushrikuun)].
We will find more explanation about these three groups in Chapter Four - (The Day of Resurrection).
Let us, however, say a little more on the subject of those people who do not believe or those who are believers but are influenced by the attractions of this world, and so live a sinful life. If one chooses not to believe, then he becomes a sinner. This is 'kufr'. The word 'kufr', if spoken of technically, holds two main meanings, namely 'kufr Shirk and kufr Nniima.' Care should be taken not to confuse between these two types of kufr. The first one signifies categorical disbelief in Allah, His angels, His books, His prophets and the Day of Judgement. Anyone who commits this sin is 'Kaafir' and will enter Hell-Fire unless he becomes a believer (Islamic Monotheism). The second one signifies those Muslims who, in-spite of their belief in Islam, commit such sins as neglecting their daily prayers, consuming alcohol, committing adultery or devour usury. Although they are sinners, they are still considered and treated as Muslims. (Even when they die, a funeral prayer is still said for them). Once these Muslims stop their sinful life, repent and earnestly ask Allah's forgiveness, it is most likely that Allah will accept their repentance, for Allah is Most-Forgiving, Most-Merciful.
The following are five steps of repentance:-
1. One ought to feel bad for the sin and determine never to return to it.
2. He must hate the sin, and then seek forgiveness for it every time the thought of it occurs.
3. He must be genuine, truthful and sincere in his repentance.
4. He must be concerned about his repentance not being accepted.
5. His repentance must be made out of fear and hope, and be accompanied by consistency in worship.
These points will be explained in more detail in Chapter Three — Summary of Repentance or [Taubat-an-Nasuuha (Earnest Repentance)].
Before I close this chapter, I would like to say something regarding those people who concentrate all their attention and effort in worldly achievements and pay no heed to the Hereafter. The following is a Prophet's Hadith quoted by Al-Albany in 'Kitaabun Silsilatu Al-Ahaadith Al-Dhaliif', Part 1, pages 63-65, Hadith number 8, (The Book on a Series of Weak Sayings — i.e. The Sayings which are not approved by some scholars as originating from the Prophet).The Hadith reads as follows, "Prepare for your world as if you will live forever and prepare for the Last Day as if you will die tomorrow." Although this Hadith is regarded as inauthentic, it carries an important meaning by urging us to do everything in our power to improve our living environment while, at the same time, emphasizing the need for us to dedicate all our efforts to Allah by worshipping Him and seeking His refuge in the Hereafter. Allah, the Almighty, tells us in Surah Hud (Chapter 11 Verses 15-16), "Whosoever desires the life of the world and its glitter, to them We shall pay in full (the wages of) their deeds therein, and they will have no diminution therein (15). They are those for whom there is nothing in the Hereafter but Fire, and vain are the deeds they did therein. And no effect is that which they used to do (16)." (Study the Noble Qur'an — Word-for-Word),
مَن كَانَ يُرِيدُ ٱلۡحَيَوٰةَ ٱلدُّنۡيَا وَزِينَتَہَا نُوَفِّ إِلَيۡہِمۡ أَعۡمَـٰلَهُمۡ فِيہَا وَهُمۡ فِيہَا لَا يُبۡخَسُونَ (15) أُوْلَـٰٓٮِٕكَ ٱلَّذِينَ لَيۡسَ لَهُمۡ فِى
ٱلۡأَخِرَةِ إِلَّا ٱلنَّارُۖ وَحَبِطَ مَا صَنَعُواْ فِيہَا وَبَـٰطِلٌ۬ مَّا ڪَانُواْ يَعۡمَلُونَ (16)
It follows, therefore, that those people whose attention is focused on this world and its attractions, and do not believe in the Day of Judgement, will only reap worldly benefits in proportion to their expectations. There is no reason to suppose that their efforts will also include benefits of the Hereafter since they have not earned them.
It also says in Surah Al-Fajr (Chapter 89 Verses 21-30), "Nay! When the Earth is ground to powder (21), and your Lord comes with the angels in rows (22). And Hell will be brought near that Day. On that Day will man remember, but how will that remembrance (then) avail him? (23). He will say, 'Alas! Would that I sent forth (good deeds) for (this) my life!' (24). So on that Day none will punish as He will punish (25). And none will bind as He will bind (26). (It will be said to the pious — believers to Islamic Monotheism), 'O (you) the one in (complete) rest and satisfaction! (27). Come back to your Lord, - well-pleased (yourself) and well-pleasing (unto Him)! (28). Enter you among My (honoured) slaves (29), And enter you My Paradise!' (30)." (Study the Noble Qur'an — Word-for-Word).
كَلَّآ إِذَا دُكَّتِ ٱلۡأَرۡضُ دَكًّ۬ا دَكًّ۬ا (21) وَجَآءَ رَبُّكَ وَٱلۡمَلَكُ صَفًّ۬ا صَفًّ۬ا (22) وَجِاْىٓءَ يَوۡمَٮِٕذِۭ بِجَهَنَّمَۚ يَوۡمَٮِٕذٍ۬ يَتَذَڪَّرُ ٱلۡإِنسَـٰنُ وَأَنَّىٰ لَهُ ٱلذِّكۡرَىٰ (23) يَقُولُ يَـٰلَيۡتَنِى قَدَّمۡتُ لِحَيَاتِى (24) فَيَوۡمَٮِٕذٍ۬ لَّا يُعَذِّبُ عَذَابَهُ ۥۤ أَحَدٌ۬ (25) وَلَا يُوثِقُ وَثَاقَهُ ۥۤ أَحَدٌ۬ (26) يَـٰٓأَيَّتُہَا ٱلنَّفۡسُ ٱلۡمُطۡمَٮِٕنَّةُ (27) ٱرۡجِعِىٓ إِلَىٰ رَبِّكِ رَاضِيَةً۬ مَّرۡضِيَّةً۬ (28) فَٱدۡخُلِى فِى عِبَـٰدِى (29) وَٱدۡخُلِى جَنَّتِى (30)
It is most unfortunate that Man has always been obstinate and reluctant to accept the Truth which was sent down to him all along his existence on Earth. Every time a new prophet or messenger was sent by God to re-direct man to the right path, some of the people did not recognize him and opted to stick to the corrupt religion of theirs, which had been distorted over the centuries. Instead they continued to worship the false gods of their forefathers. This obstinacy of the people is reflected upon several times in the Holy Qur'an. The following are a few examples of people of the past who refused to recognize the true prophets of God and consequently Allah punished them, here on earth and, promised them further punishment on the Day of Judgment.