This Testing Continues Until Death
Each person is tested in this world until the day that he or she dies. For this reason, all people must make every moment of life conform to Allah's commands, remember Him, seek His good pleasure, and perform the acts of worship.
This reality brings with it another important truth: If people somehow depart from the true path and show ungratefulness to Allah at the moment of death, they may fail the test and their whole life may amount to nothing. Even if they have spent their life up until that moment in a way that earned His good pleasure, that one final moment of rebellion may render all of the earlier efforts null and void.
All Muslims must take this danger seriously, because Satan, humanity's greatest enemy, will spare no effort to exploit their weakest points and unguarded moments, even up to the moment of death, to get them to abandon the true path. Therefore, the moment of death is a very important time. A person who says: "Well, I believe in Allah. I have done this much to gain His favor. Certainly by now I have earned salvation," is under a great delusion, for the Qur'an says that a person must pray for salvation "in fear and ardent hope" until the last moment of life (Surat as-Sajda, 16). Every Muslim is invited to consider this command:
O you who believe! Fear [and respect] Allah the way He should be feared [and respected], and do not die except as Muslims. (Surah Al `Imran, 102)
Those who Come to Belief but Later Reject It
Belief is one of Allah's greatest blessings, for it leads to happiness and well-being in this world as well as to salvation in the next. Therefore, as with every blessing, we must thank Allah for belief, which He grants and withholds as He wills. Those to whom Allah does not grant belief will never be able to acquire it, even if the whole world tried to get them to believe, for the Qur'an states that:
However eager you are for them to be guided, Allah will not guide those whom He misguides. They will have no helpers. (Surat an-Nahl, 37)
Praise be to Allah, Who has guided us to this! We would not have been guided had Allah not guided us. The Messengers of our Lord came with the Truth... (Surat al-A`raf, 43)
To give thanks for a blessing means to praise Allah verbally and to act in a way that earns His good pleasure. Since prayer is a thanksgiving for belief, every Muslim must say their prayers with great care and attention as a thanksgiving for this great gift, do all that they can to earn His good pleasure, and devote themselves to Him totally.
If they do not do so, mistakenly thinking that their current status as believers means that they are already on the way to Paradise, or if they forget that they are being tested, then these blessings may be removed. As the Qur'an proclaims, their hearts may be hardened and, finally, they may deny Allah. At that point, all that they have done or believed up to that point loses its value, and all rewards are cancelled. Allah reveals this reality in several verses:
… As for any of you who revert from their religion and die as an unbeliever, their actions will come to nothing in this world and the Hereafter. They are the Companions of the Fire, remaining in it timelessly, forever. (Surat al-Baqara, 217)
It has been revealed to you and those before you: "If you associate others with Allah, your actions will come to nothing and you will be among the losers." (Surat az-Zumar, 65)
Those who believe ask: "Are these the people who swore by Allah, with their most earnest oaths, that they were with you?" Their actions have come to nothing, and they now are losers. O you who believe. If any of you renounce your religion, Allah will bring forward a people whom He loves and who love Him, humble to the believers, fierce to the unbelievers, who strive in the Way of Allah and do not fear the blame of any censurer. That is the unbounded favor of Allah, which He gives to whoever He wills. Allah is Boundless, All-Knowing. (Surat al-Ma'ida, 53-54)
In the Qur'an, Allah tells us that some believers later rejected their belief and how far they deviated from the true path:
As for those who believe and then return to unbelief, and then again believe and then return to unbelief, and then increase in unbelief, Allah will not forgive them or guide them on any path. (Surat an-Nisa', 137)
Those who reject belief after believing and then increase in their unbelief, their repentance will not be accepted. They are the misguided. (Surah Al `Imran, 90)
He also describes their state in the afterlife:
… on the Day when faces are whitened and faces are blackened. As for those whose faces are blackened: "What! Did you reject belief after having believed? Taste the punishment for your unbelief!" (Surah Al `Imran, 106)
These verses show the danger of abandoning faith to follow the wrong path. Such people spend a part of their lives believing in His existence and living according to His commands. But later on, their lower self leads them away from Allah's religion and into denial. As a result, they become irreligious, perhaps even more irreligious than others, because they had learned what was right, accepted and lived according to Allah's religion, but then had abandoned it. For this reason, all of their good works are completely cancelled. (Allah knows best)Therefore, people should not forget for even one moment that they are being tested in this world and that Satan will try to tempt them off the right path through various suggestions and doubts that these tests will never end. To deny Allah after believing in Him is the way to endless agony.
In addition, these people who reject belief live miserable lives. Even if they have attained a certain measure of material wealth and comfort, they suffer a spiritual pain for the rest of their life. Since they know the truth, they always try to suppress their conscience; however, a sense of guilt always burns in their souls. But the pain that they experience in this life is nothing compared to what they will suffer after death. The Qur'an reveals:
As for those who do not believe and die while they are unbelievers, the whole Earth filled with gold would not be accepted from any of them if they were to offer it as a ransom. They will have a painful punishment. They will have no helpers. (Surah Al `Imran, 91)
Since such a danger exists, believers must be aware of it up until the very last moment of their lives. They should never fall away. The moment they think that they have done enough to attain eternal life, they may begin to act with abandon. As the Qur'an says: "No indeed! Truly man is unbridled, seeing himself as self-sufficient" (Surat al-'Alaq, 6-7). So, always remember this danger and act in such a way to gain Allah's good pleasure. The trials of this world continue up to the very last moment of life.
Those who Lag Behind in the Struggle and Those who Avoid It
People with little or no belief may live among Muslims as if nothing were wrong, apparently following the rules of religion. But Allah has created certain tests to bring out their real character. Muslims who endure being tested by difficulties, hunger, need, illness, or the loss of possessions or loved ones become strong; those with a sickness in their heart draw closer to unbelief with every passing moment.
So, once again we see the importance of every moment. Some people may spend the greater part of their life believing in Allah, promoting the religion, and doing good works. But if they stop acting according to their conscience, become lax and hard-hearted, they will not be able to show the required discernment when necessary. Worldly concerns and cares for this life may overpower their sense of the need to seek Allah's good pleasure, a development that will lead them to unbelief.
Many verses relate the Prophets' struggles to protect innocent people from an aggressive society and guard Allah's religion. In those days, this struggle was a very important act of worship. Our Prophet (saas) engaged in a very tough struggle against his unbelieving society. Every struggle undertaken at the command of Allah and the Prophet (saas) is a religious responsibility. The Qur'an says that those who try to escape this responsibility will have their hearts sealed, for this desire to escape shows that they have completely departed from belief.
Today, the Muslims' struggle against unbelievers is carried on in the realm of ideas. This struggle seeks to refute all of the arguments of those who use science to deny Allah's existence. Each Muslim has a great responsibility, and none of them can remain in the background or uninvolved. In the Qur'an, Allah says that those who choose to do so have had their hearts hardened:
When a surah is sent down saying: "Believe in Allah and strive together with His Messenger," those among them with wealth will ask you to excuse them, saying: "Let us remain with those who stay behind." They are pleased to be with those who stay behind. Their hearts have been stamped, so they do not understand. (Surat at-Tawba, 86-87)
Another example is those who make excuses when confronted with difficulty and kill their own spirit in trying to escape their responsibility, as follows:
If it had been a case of easy gains and a short journey, they would have followed you. But the distance was too great for them. They will swear by Allah: "Had we been able to, we would have gone out with you." They are destroying their own selves. Allah knows that they are lying. (Surat at-Tawba, 42)
These examples from the time of our Prophet (saas) and from earlier Prophets show a very important reality: Allah tests people continually and has created separate realms for those who tell the truth and those who lie. While Muslims show strength and determination in times of difficulty and frustration, those who are weak reveal themselves and turn away from religion. An example of this happened in the time of our Prophet (saas) when there was a war between the Muslims and the unbelievers. According to the Qur'an, some Muslims showed weakness at this time and became overwhelmed with anxious thoughts, thinking other than the truth about Allah. In this time of difficulty, Satan tried to make these Muslims leave the true path:
Those of you who turned their backs on the day the two armies clashed—it was Satan who made them slip for what they had done. But Allah has pardoned them. Allah is Ever-Forgiving, All-Forbearing. (Surah Al `Imran, 155)
This occurrence contains an important lesson for believers: Allah has promised that people must be tested in order to separate the good from the evil, and the only way to endure these difficult moments is to have a strong and sincere belief in Him. Certainly, Allah makes things easier for His devout servants, steadies their feet, and places a sense of well-being and security in their hearts in all times of difficulty. But we must not forget that His promise to test all people in this world and separate the good from the evil is sure:
Or did you suppose that you would be left without Allah knowing those of you who have strived and who have not taken anyone as their intimate friends besides Allah, His Messenger, and the believers? Allah is aware of what you do. (Surat at-Tawba, 16)
Do people imagine that they will be left to say: "We believe" and will not be tested? We tested those before them so that Allah would know the truthful and would know the liars. (Surat al-`Ankabut, 2-3)