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So Much Emphasis on the Hereafter; What About Now?

31 January, 2024
Q A friend of mine, non-Muslim, once asked me: Why you Muslims don’t love life? No wonder many of your nations languish in poverty. Is that true, that we Muslims don’t love life? And why also there are many verses in the Quran detesting worldly life, and urging Muslims to shun wealth and worldly enjoyment, why? Isn’t this enough reason and perfect tool for so-called “Jihadists’ recruiting youths to go on suicidal operations, killing non-Muslims, and even Muslims as well? The Quran is full of these verses praising the Hereafter and talking negatively about this life (worldly life)…why?


Salam (Peace) Dear Reader,

Thank you for your question and for contacting Ask About Islam.

Islam has come to protect the Five Essentials of life: faith, life, honor, wealth, and the intellect. As we can see, the protection of these five essentials allows for a good life. Islam stresses the value of life:

Islam stresses the value of life:

“Because of that, We decreed upon the Children of Israel that whoever kills a soul unless for a soul or for corruption [done] in the land – it is as if he had slain mankind entirely. And whoever saves one – it is as if he had saved mankind entirely.” [Quran 5:32]

Suicide Forbidden

It is due to the sanctity of life that Islam has forbidden suicide:

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“And do not kill yourselves [or one another]. Indeed, Allah is to you ever Merciful.” [Quran 4:29]

Since a longer life provides more chances to do good the Prophet Muhammad forbade one to wish for an end to one’s life- an end to opportunities:

“No one should wish for death, nor should one pray for it before it comes to him. Surely, when one dies their deeds cease. Surely, the life of a believer only increases him in good.” [Muslim]

The Prophet Muhammad also praised long life with good by saying,

“The best of people are those who live long and whose deeds are good.” [at-Tirmidhi- Sahih]

Balance is Key

The verses in the Quran that speak about the life of this world are defining the true nature of this world in comparison to the hereafter.

In comparison to the hereafter, the life of this world pales to the luxuries of Paradise. This is not something new, but a message consistent with previous prophets as well:

“But you prefer the worldly life, while the Hereafter is better and more enduring. Indeed, this is in the former scriptures- the scriptures of Abraham and Moses.” [Quran 87:16-19]

This does not mean that one should abandon this life. The message is that one should not indulge in this life in such a way that compromises their hereafter and lose out on what is better and more enduring.

In reality, Islam forbids shunning this life or monasticism. Allah says:

“Then We sent following their footsteps Our messengers and followed [them] with Jesus, the son of Mary, and gave him the Gospel. And We placed in the hearts of those who followed him compassion and mercy. And monasticism, which they innovated; We did not prescribe it for them except [that they did so] seeking the approval of Allah.” [Quran 57:27]

A Muslim is required to keep a balance where one fulfills their responsibilities in this life in a manner that can reap rewards in the hereafter. Islam does not forbid us from loving life. In essence, Islam gives us the formula on how to optimize living in this life and the next without compromising either one.

“But among them is he who says, ‘Our Lord, give us in this world [that which is] good and in the Hereafter [that which is] good and protect us from the punishment of the Fire.’ Those will have a share of what they have earned, and Allah is swift in account. [Quran 2:201,202]

The previous texts drove Muslim scholars to reach great heights in discovery and exploration. Their findings brought about many inventions that made life more convenient.

Success in this Life

This life is seen as a premise to the hereafter. One can find success or failure in the hereafter based on what was done with the opportunities present in this worldly life.

Islam encourages one to be the best they can in all matters of life.  As a result, there are many texts that motivate the Muslim to excel:

“Surely, Allah has prescribed perfection in everything.” [Muslim]

“Strive for that which benefits you.” [Muslim]

Muslim scholars, inspired by Islam, created an environment of knowledge and discovery that spurred the renaissance in Europe bringing them out of the Dark Ages. Even till this day we are benefiting from their discoveries.

Regarding Wealth

In regards to wealth, the first Muslims like Uthman ibn Affan and Abdurahman ibn ‘Awf were wealthy. Even the Prophet sought refuge from poverty daily. He used to say:

“O Allah, I seek your refuge from disbelief and poverty.” [Abu Dawud- Hasan]

However, wealth is something that Allah gives to those whom He loves and those whom He does not love. Wealth and luxuries in this life are not signs that Allah is pleased with someone. Allah debunks this myth by saying:

“And as for man, when his Lord tries him and [thus] is generous to him and favors him, he says, ‘My Lord has honored me.’ But when He tries him and restricts his provision, he says, ‘My Lord has humiliated me.’ No!” [Quran 89:15-17]

Worldly possessions are not a bad thing as long as one is not distracted by them from preparing for the hereafter. There are many rewards for one who is grateful to Allah for the many bounties bestowed upon him.

Why So Much Poverty?

Having said that, we need to look back into history. Some Muslim nations are in poverty today because of European colonialism and imperialism that stole their resources and in many cases forbade the teachings of Islam.

Following the tenets of Islam creates a good economy, not poverty. Allah says:

“And if only the people of the cities had believed and feared Allah , We would have opened upon them blessings from the heaven and the earth; but they denied [the messengers], so We seized them for what they were earning.”[Quran 7:96]

As far as the political radicals and extremists, we can expect them to misuse the texts of revelation to substantiate their political agendas that have nothing to do with Islam.

I hope this helps answer your question.

Salam and please keep in touch.

(From Ask About Islam archive)

Please continue feeding your curiosity, and find more info in the following links:

All That Glitters Is Not Gold

Balancing Life Between Work & Worship

Balancing Life As A Muslim: How Do You Do It?

Young and Muslim: How Can I Lead a Balanced Life?