Without a doubt, our faces are the most honorable part of our body. Allah subhanahu wa ta`ala (exalted is He) has fashioned our faces in perfect proportion and has made them unique for every one of us. When Allah (swt) mentions the qualities of `Isa `alayhi assalaam (peace be upon him) to his mother, He describes him as wajeehan, honorable, which is from the Arabic word for ‘face’, wajh. We learn from this that Allah (swt) has put honor in the faces of the children of Adam, and that `Isa (as) was a person who others felt reverence and respect towards when they saw his face.
When we look in the Qur’an and Sunnah (tradition of the Prophet ﷺ, peace be upon him), we find that Allah (swt) has chosen the most honorable part of our body for the most important Day to honor or abase His servants.
When the Day of Judgment arrives, immediately the faces of the disbelievers and criminals will change:
“But when they see it approaching, the faces of those who disbelieve will be distressed, and it will be said, ‘This is that for which you used to call!’” (Qur’an 67:27).
Allah (swt) tells us how they will be recognized:
“But they who have earned [blame for] evil doings – the recompense of an evil deed is its equivalent, and humiliation will cover them. They will have from Allah no protector. It will be as if their faces are covered with pieces of the night – so dark [are they]. Those are the companions of the Fire; they will abide therein eternally,” (Qur’an 10:27).
They will feel so much humiliation that it will be noticeable on their faces. Allah (swt) uses a comparison in this verse, “as if their faces are covered with pieces of the night”, to show the extent of the disgrace that will cover them. When Allah (swt) describes faces in the hereafter as “white” or “black”, it does not refer to race or skin color. Rather the scholars of tafsir (exegesis or interpretation, i.e. of the Qur’an) explain it to be figurative for happiness and disgrace1 .
The faces of those who enter the Fire will be full of emotion:
“And [some] faces, that Day, will be contorted, / Expecting that there will be done to them [something] backbreaking,” (Qur’an 75:24-25).
Allah (swt) gives us an image of their faces by using the word basirah, meaning gloomy, miserable, scowling and scared. He (swt) further describes that if we were to see them, their faces would look as if they are expecting a great calamity. Imam as-Sa’di says that their faces will change because they know the magnitude of their punishment. Their inward feelings of humiliation result in the outwards manifestation of their gloomy and dejected faces.
In another verse, Allah (swt) depicts the state of their eyes:
“And [when] the true promise has approached; then suddenly the eyes of those who disbelieved will be staring [in horror, while they say], ‘O woe to us; we had been unmindful of this; rather, we were wrongdoers!’” (Qur’an 21:97).
Their eyes will be shakishah, which is used to describe the fixed eyes of a dead person. This word gives us a deeper meaning, showing that they will not blink out of fear and that their eyes will look disturbed and scary, just like the wide-open eyes of a dead person.
Finally, in one of the scariest descriptive verses, Allah (swt) shows us the effect of the Fire on their faces:
“The Fire will sear their faces, and they therein will have taut smiles,” (Qur’an 23:104).
Ya Rabb! (O Lord!) The Fire will burn their faces so badly that their lips will burn off to the point that their teeth only remain – giving a disturbing appearance, as if they are grinning.
How did these faces look in the dunya?
They were full of arrogant refusal:
“And when Our verses are recited to them as clear evidences, you recognize in the faces of those who disbelieve disapproval. They are almost on the verge of assaulting those who recite to them Our verses […]” (Qur’an 22:72).
And they would mock the Believers with their eyes:
“Indeed, those who committed crimes used to laugh at those who believed. / And when they passed by them, they would exchange derisive glances,” (Qur’an 83:29-30).
Our faces are a way for us to express our feelings and thoughts, sometimes unintentionally. Allah (swt) has recorded astonishing descriptions of the feelings that will show on the faces of people in the hereafter. We see through these graphic verses that the Hereafter will be an emotional time for everyone – a time of ample joy and satisfaction for one group, and a time of humiliation and sadness for another.