Infinite Progress

[CONTENTS] The third point of importance that the Holy Quran has described in connection with the life after death is that the progress that can be made in that life is infinite:

"And those who believe with him (the Prophet), their light will gleam before them and on their right hands - they will say: Our Lord, make perfect for us our light, and grant us protection! Lo'. Thou art Able to do all things " - (66:8.)

This unceasing desire for perfection shows clearly that progress in paradise will be endless. For, when they will have attained one excellence they will not stop there but, seeing a higher stage of excellence, will consider that to which they will have attained as imperfect and will, therefore, desire the attainment of the higher excellence. When they will have attained to this, they will yet see another higher excellence and thus they will continue to pray for the attainment of higher and higher excellences. This ceaseless desire for perfection shows that they will be endlessly attaining to excellences: the righteous will go on making progress and will never recede a step nor shall they ever be deprived of those blessings.

The question may arise here as to the seeking of maghfirat after entry into paradise and obtaining God's pardon. Such a question is, however, based upon ignorance of the actual meaning of maghfirat and istighfar. Maghfirat really means "suppression of a defective state". The righteous will be continually praying to the Lord for the attainment of perfection and complete immersion in light. They will be ever ascending upwards and will regard every state as defective in comparison with a higher one to which they will aspire and will, therefore, pray to God to suppress the defective state that they may be able to get to the higher one. Their desire for maghfirat will, therefore, be endless because the progress which they will have to make will also be endless. We can clearly see from this that the true significance of the word istighfar and also that the desire of it is really the pride of man, because it is the only thing which leads him on to the highest excellences which a man can possess.

In short, heaven and hell, according to the Quran, are images and representations of a man's own spiritual life in this world. They are not new material worlds which come from outside. It is true that they will be visible and palpable, call them material, if you will, but they are only embodiments of the spiritual facts of this life. We call them material not in the sense that there will be trees planted in the paradisiacal fields just like those that are planted here below and that there will be brimstone and sulfur in hell, but in the sense that we shall there find the embodiments of the spiritual facts of this life. Heaven and hell, according to Islamic belief, are the images of the actions which we perform down here.