The Sorting Out

“On the Day that the hour shall be established, that Day shall all men be sorted out. Then those who have believed and worked righteous deeds shall be made happy in a mead of delight, and those who have falsely denied our signs, and the meeting in the hereafter, such shall be brought forth to punishment…It is God who brings out the living from the dead, and brings out the dead from the living, and who gives life to the earth after it is dead; and thus shall you be brought out from the dead.”

— (Holy Qur’an 30: 14-16 &19)

People who are familiar with religious texts and thinking are familiar with the term, Day of Judgment, and know that it is usually used to describe the end of time, or life, as we know it. Seldom do people use the concept of judgment to describe a period of awakening, or the beginning of another era in man’s existence, wherein we have been separated, the good from the bad, some people after judgment, reaping the rewards for good deeds, and others of us suffering the consequences of our evil deeds. Seldom do we read, or hear of Judgment as preceding the reawakening, or new beginning, even though it is perhaps equally, if not more important than the perceived ending.

As we read the Qur’an, it becomes clear that there are many Days of such judgment in the life of a human being, and that in fact, each day is such a day. Verses from the Chapter of Qur’an named “Al Rum” or The Romans shows us that mankind goes through various stages of development, and as part of that development, we can grow and advance spiritually and materially beyond what, and who we were in the past, achieving along the way many blessings and advantages, or like something that is dead, we can stand still and succumb to death, or ignorance, the result of which is to rot, or to decay, and live empty and meaningless lives that are like hell. We constantly go through stages of life and death, or rather periods of awareness, and periods of ignorance. Depending upon where we are in that 24-hour cycle, and where we begin any one of our many days of judgment, can determine whether or not our lives will be blessed, or whether they will be burdened with hardship due to repeated violations of God’s laws. Since God has kept the timing of such judgments secret, we cannot anticipate at what point our deeds are examined. That is perhaps one of the reasons why it is necessary and important to spend time each day in prayer, seeking God’s forgiveness periodically throughout the day, while also performing good deeds. Some say that the cycle ends when we lay down at night to sleep, and others say that this is where our new day begins. Whichever one of these ideas is true, we know that with the end of each past day, and at the beginning of each new day, God gives us another chance to make the choice to live awakened, or to stumble through life as if dead. “By the token of time (through the ages), verily man is in loss, except such as have faith and do righteous deeds, and (join together) in the mutual teaching of truth, and of patience and constancy” — (Holy Qur’an, Sura Asr, or “Time” 103: 1-3).

Of course those who don’t believe in God, or a day of judgment will find it difficult to accept that actions result in consequences due to the judgment, or the will of a Divine Creator or God. Perhaps they can accept, or at least consider that life, whether created by a God, or whether it originated in any other way, is governed and ordered by laws. You may call these laws of God, laws of science, laws of physics, or natural law. When the laws are violated there are consequences. When we live in harmony with the law, life yields its treasures to us as rewards, yet when we repeatedly violate the universal laws, the consequence is chaos, and disorder, which manifests as various types of hardships. That is why we say that mankind has limited freedom in this realm, since absolute freedom would mean that there are no consequences, or choices, and perhaps only desires and fulfillment of desire, or heaven. In this respect, some people believe that heaven represents a final stage, or achievement of absolute freedom, resulting from the attainment of perfection, or mastery over the self and creation that causes all things to submit, and to yield to our perfected wills, and to obey our commands, which is fulfillment of all desire mentioned so often in Holy scriptures as the ultimate reward for those who reach heaven, or the Paradise.

Consider for a moment that if this is true, then what it could mean is that Judgment, or the culmination of one period of time, and the beginning of another, can be a cause for hope, rather than merely a cause for anxiety, and that is empowering. We never have to, or want to be what we used to be, and in fact we should never be the same as we were yesterday. The cycle of life creates possibilities for positive transformations that advance us towards completion and perfection. The Imam Ali Ibn Abu Talib (as) said the man who is the same from one day to the next day is an unfortunate man, and woe to him. Each day we should be drawing closer to goals, and for the righteous man or woman, one such goal is to achieve mastery. The Qur’an says that indeed we will achieve mastery, according to our desire. Desire is akin to hope, and hope is as much a part of judgment, as is assessment, reward and punishment, since it is perhaps hope, and false hopes that have guided many of our choices. The Apostle Timothy said in the Bible that “faith is belief in the thing that is hoped for.” Due to righteous actions, the fruits of true faith, and belief in and hope for mastery and stewardship, God grants victory.

The meaning of mastery is to have power, which is the ultimate gift from God in this realm, and that power is vice regency, or righteous stewardship. When God has given his reward of stewardship to a righteous servant, it is different from the usurpation of power that is always the aim of the wicked. The only way the wicked can attain power is when they usurp the power of the righteous servants of God through deceit, or violence, since creation will not naturally submit to the wicked, since they are not in the line of legitimate succession, God said, “Oh Adam, tell them the Names” (Adam had acquired knowledge of God) and when he (Adam) had told them, (demonstrated his mastery) God said, “Did I not tell you that I know all the secrets of heaven and earth, and I know what you reveal and what you conceal? (God’s knowledge of Satan’s envy of Adam is to be revealed). And behold We said to the angels, “Bow Down to Adam” (submit to his authority as a test of obedience to God and recognition of the right of the righteous to vice regency) and they bowed down, but not so Iblis (Satan), he refused and was haughty, he was of those who reject faith — (Holy Qur’an 2:34).

And so the struggle between good (Adam and his righteous progeny) and evil (Satan and his followers) becomes the struggle between men in pursuit of perfection, against the hopeless and dead man, who can only satiate his innate desire to rule his environment by usurping the power of Adam’s legitimate beneficiaries. Since like Satan, wicked man lacks real power, he resorts to manipulation of nature through sorcery, and fakery through illusion crafted with lies, and by brute force, ” So there came the sorcerers to Pharaoh, they said, “Of course we shall have a suitable reward if we win!” he (Pharaoh) said, “Yes, and more, for you shall in that case be raised to posts nearest to my person.” They said, “Oh Moses, Will you throw first, or shall we have the first throw?” Said Moses, “Throw ye first.” So when they threw, they bewitched the eyes of the people, and struck terror into them, for they did a great feat of magic (deception). We put it into Moses’ mind by inspiration, “Throw now thy rod!” and behold, it swallows up all the falsehoods, which they fake. Thus truth was confirmed, and all that they did was made of no effect. So the great ones were vanquished and made to look small” — (Holy Qur’an 7:112-119)

The cycle of judgment is marked with milestones that allow the righteous servant of God to measure his or her stages towards judgment. These milestones are sometimes like a light, or a word that illuminates for us the path, so that we can see, not only where we are, and where we are going, but we also see the traps and snares placed upon the path by Satan, and his followers in attempts to ambush us, or to deceive us. Satan’s illusion, or magic is always aimed at making us believe that he, and his followers have power, and that they can cause poverty, or disease, or hardship, or give us freedom, or take our freedom, give us life, or take life. Satan has no power, except to suggest, and his followers have none at all, they can only accomplish what God allows, and God does allow the righteous to be tested and tried by evil, but never conquered.

God says in the Qur’an that we must be patient during all periods of trial, such as the period of sorting out, wherein He (God) tests the good and evil with commands, such as submit, or “bow down” to His (God’s) will, His decisions, His commands, and bestowal of vice regency upon whom He pleases. Based upon our response, God separates us, the righteous from the wicked. Those who line up in opposition to God’s will, in concert with Satan, hoping that by so doing they will usurp the authority of the vice regent of God, and as a reward enjoy prestige, and wealth and power will soon be undeceived, and their judgment will yield disappointment, and despair, and their awakening will be to darkness, and suffering. As for the righteous steward, who has reached a Day of Judgment and attained victory, God has said in the Qur’an, “To thee have I granted the font of abundance. Therefore to thy Lord turn in prayer and service, for he who hates you, he will be cut off” — (Holy Qur’an, Kauthar, 1-3). In Sura Al-Saffat, 171-182, God says, “Already has our word been passed before, to Our servants sent by us, that they would certainly be assisted, and that Our forces, they must surely conquer. So turn away from them (your adversaries) for a little while, and watch them how they fare, and they shall see how you fare. Do they wish to hurry on our punishment? But when it descends into the open space before them, evil will be the morning (awakening) for those who were warned and heeded not. So turn thou away from them for a little while. And watch how they fare, and they shall soon see how you fare. Glory to thy Lord, the Lord of honor and power. He (God) is free from what they ascribe to Him (favoritism except for the righteous). And peace to the messengers, and Praise to God, the Lord and Cherisher of the World.”

“Be patient with what they say and celebrate constantly the Praises of thy Lord, before the rising of the sun, and before its setting, yes celebrate them for part of the hours of the night, and at the sides of the day, that thou might have spiritual joy”

— (Holy Qur’an 20:124-130).