أَفَحَسِبْتُمْ أَنَّمَا خَلَقْنَاكُمْ عَبَثًا وَأَنَّكُمْ إِلَيْنَا لَا تُرْجَعُونَ
Did you suppose that We created you aimlessly, and that you will not be brought back to Us?’
(Sūrat al-Mu’minūn, No. 23, Āyat 115)
The above noble verse is an indication of the intellectual proof put forward in Islamic theology for the necessity of the hereafter, known as “the proof of wisdom.” It depends on two fundamental ideas: firstly, that man has an immaterial soul, and secondly that Allah is all-Wise.
To explain further: beyond the physical body that we have, Allah has given us an immaterial soul. The existence of this soul can be proven in different ways. For example, consider the essential knowledge you have of emotions such as happiness and pain, or the decisions you make and the doubts you have. Clearly, all these types of knowledge are not mediated by your senses. There is no picture in your mind for them and they are not prone to mistakes. The fundamental question is: what is the reality of ‘me’ that feels these emotions, that recognizes these doubts or knows the fact that I have made a decision? Is this my body or a property of it? The fact that this ‘me’ is perceived without the mediation of any physical senses, the fact that it is something that remains constant as I age and shed all my previous body cells, or the fact that it is a single reality that cannot be divided, all indicate that it is an immaterial reality. These matters are discussed in more detail in the subject of Islamic philosophy.
This immaterial aspect is not just a part of our reality. In fact, it is what constitutes who we really are. For this reason, in another verse, Allah says that we are that which the angel of death comes to take from us:
قُلْ يَتَوَفَّاكُم مَّلَكُ الْمَوْتِ الَّذِي وُكِّلَ بِكُمْ
Say, ‘You will be taken away by the angel of death, who has been charged with you.’ (32:11)
Clearly, the angel of death doesn’t take our physical body!
The second idea that is required for the proof of wisdom is that Allah’s infinite perfection entails that all His actions are done in the best manner. He is all-Wise (al-hakīm) and therefore has created the best of systems. By combining these two points together we can conclude that it would contradict Allah’s wisdom for man’s immaterial existence to end with the death of his physical body. If there was no hereafter, it would render the entire creation ‘aimless’ as was said in the above verse.
The complicated and beautiful universe that Allah has created allows for man to attain lofty perfections and purify his soul after undergoing countless trials and tribulations. All this, only for man’s life to terminate after a few years in this world?! Would that not be against wisdom? If there is indeed an immaterial soul that is not bound by time and worldly constraints, why not allow this soul to remain and reap that which it has earned?
As the Commander of the Faithful says, “O my child, know that you have been created for the next world, not for this world.” (Letter 31, Nahj al-Balāghah). We pray to Allah the Mighty and the Exalted to allow us to always bear in mind the hereafter, like those prophets of His who are referred to in Sūrat Sād when He said, “Indeed We purified them with an exclusive remembrance of the abode [of the Hereafter].” We pray to Allah to allow us to purify ourselves by means of this constant remembrance and allow us to only act in a manner that which will avail us in that final abode.
Sources: Āyatullāh Misbāh, Theological Instructions