Becoming the Servants of the Most Merciful Series
True Servants of the Merciful are well aware of and fear the possibility of being punished in Hell. In life, we are constantly concerned about that possibility. This is not because God is out to get us; rather it is a means to keeping ourselves in check and staying on our toes regarding our spiritual and character refinement. According to the texts, if we have this immediate concern for the risk of being punished in Hell, then at the same time we have a certainty that in the long run we will inherit heaven and its eternal bliss. Perhaps that is the wisdom behind the order in which things were mentioned in this series of verses at the end of surat al-Furqan. In most verses that mention God’s mercy and His punishment, we find that the forgiveness is generally mentioned first denoting his mercy is preceding and overcoming His wrath which is simply retribution for our sins. This is a matter relating to the merciful forgiving nature of God. We must not use this beautiful divine reality to fool ourselves to an over relaxed attitude to our self-refinement or accountability.
Our Merciful God declares that, after His servants have entered His blessed presence as a result of their perseverance,
“They will be eternally abiding therein. How good and beautiful is that for a place of settlement and residence?” (Qur’an, 25:76)
According to many verses and ahadith, Heaven and Hell are eternal. Some of the inhabitants of Hell will be punished for a time as just retribution and purification from their sins. There is a beautiful authentic hadith regarding the eternity of heaven. God will say,
“Indeed you will be healthy and never sick again. You will live forever and never to die again. You will be young and never grow old again. You will be content in comfort and luxury never to face misery or hardship again.” (Muslim)
The bliss of eternal paradise is something unique beyond our wildest imagination. God said,
“I have prepared pleasures for my servant which no eye has seen, no ear has heard and no human mind has ever dreamed of…” (Bukhari)
In understanding Heaven we must do our best to not judge it by human standards or earthly realities. No doubt we have a strong notion of some of the types of heavenly bliss, but it can’t be completely understood in a human earthly context. Yes, we will have physical bodies in heaven and enjoy life with very similar perceptions to what we have in this world. But it will be different. Our life here on Earth is full of flaws, defects, corruption and hardship. That is part of the test of life. Heaven, on the other hand, is free from all of that. According to the ahadith, the people of heaven eat and drink and never get full, yet at the same time they never have to urinate or defecate. Their sweat has a pleasant scent. They do not need sleep; there is no sun or moon, or night and day. There is a soothing eternal light that emanates from the great throne.
There is no conflict or enmity between anyone in heaven. When some hear that the people of Heaven are different in status and rewards, they assume that this should create jealousy and covetousness. The fact is that they are judging heaven by earthly standards which they should refrain from doing. God Almighty said,
“We will remove from their hearts any jealousy or enmity…” (Qur’an, 7:43)
There is no sin, corruption, or hardship in Heaven—it is indeed eternal bliss. What do we mean by bliss? This bliss has been described in the Qur’an and Sunnah. The dirt is pure and smells sweet, the buildings are made of gold and silver, and the roofs are made of pearl and there are the most brilliant shining gems everywhere as decoration. The fruits are always ripe and juicy, coming from the most beautiful trees of the most beautiful colors. It is beyond whatever you can imagine – and far better than the most desirable worldly pleasures.
“They will have therein whatever they desire and We have more than that for them.” (Qur’an, 50:35)
The most magnificent pleasure of heaven is undoubtedly the sight of God. It is authentically narrated by many ahadith that this is the meaning of the word “more” (ziyaadah) in God’s statement,
“The people who lived a pious life will have a good reward and more…” (Qur’an, 10:26)
It was narrated that when the people of heaven enter Paradise, it will be said to them, “Indeed you have an appointment. He wants to complete His reward for you. They respond, ‘What is that? Didn’t You make our faces shine bright, You made our scales heavy, You entered us into heaven and You saved us from Hell?’ Then He removes the veil. By Almighty God, He didn’t give them something more beloved than that.” (Muslim)
The struggle of life is passing up the immediate enjoyment of that which we can physically see and desire, in exchange for something we know based on faith: the world of the unseen. This is a heavy trade, but worth it. The Qur’an says,
“…while Heaven is better and eternal.” (87:16-17)
The Prophet ﷺsaid, “The smallest pleasure of Heaven is better than this world and all of its pleasures.” (Bukhari)
As we mentioned in the beginning, we must not let ourselves be fooled by the fact that God’s Mercy overcomes His wrath. The Qur’an says,
“…How wonderful is the reward for those who work for it.” (Qur’an, 3:136)
The Prophet ﷺ undoubtedly said, “Hell is surrounded by worldly desire, while Heaven is surrounded by difficulty and hardship.” (Muslim)
Imam al-Nawawi commented about this saying of the Prophet ﷺ: “… it is understood that to get to the desired goal, we must get through the outer layer. So as for the hardship and difficulty surrounding heaven, we must keep up with the mandatory worship and work hard to keep up and persevere with optional worship too. We must refine our character [so] that we may be adorned by the characteristics of patience, forbearance, forgiveness, generosity and truthfulness. We must also avoid all sinful desires and anything else along these lines.” (Al-Minhaj, 17:165)
We hope and pray that we can all get lost in the sight of our Sublime Creator of Transcendent Beauty and Perfection. Who would not want the opportunity to witness the essence of all life and reality? O Merciful One who hears the prayers and answers them, please make it easy for us to be among those who will be blessed with the eternal bliss You have in Heaven! Ameen.