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February 13, 2019 No.
1440

Review Of Qatari Islamic Education School Textbooks – Part VI: The Subject Of Death, With Focus On The Pleasures Of Paradise And Torments Of Hell

By: MEMRI Staff

Introduction

The website of the Qatari Education Ministry posted its Islamic Education school textbooks for grades 1-12 in Qatari state schools, for the first half of the 2018/2019 school year. While encouraging jihad and the sacrifice of the soul,[1] presenting secularism as heresy and a danger to Islam,[2] discussing the Islamic perception of non-Muslims and the need to renounce them,[3] presenting Judaism and Christianity as "distorted" religions and the Jews as treacherous,[4] and presenting oriental studies as a Western and Christian conspiracy against Islam, [5] the textbooks also deal with the subject of death and its significance in Islam, and the fate of Muslims and unbelievers in the afterlife: in the grave, on the Day of Resurrection (Judgement Day), and in Paradise or Hell.

Despite the grim nature of this subject, students are introduced to it in grade 8, at age 13-14. The Islamic Education textbook for grade 8 states that the believing Muslim must always keep death in mind and prepare for it. It describes how the Angel of Death grabs the soul, and how the believing Muslim experiences pleasure in the grave while the unbeliever suffers torment.

The grade 12 textbook addresses the topic in greater detail and depth, focusing on the horrors of the Day of Resurrection, the pleasures awaiting the believers in Paradise and the torments awaiting the unbelievers in Hell. The students are taught that the highest level of Paradise is reserved for the prophets, the righteous, and the martyrs, whereas Hell is the destination of the infidels, of people who were arrogant about Allah and His signs, and of those who failed to observe the commandments of Islam, such as prayer and fasting. The messages are clearly meant to instill fear in the students and convince them to follow the directives of the religion. The chapters  on this issue include a particularly large number of quotations from the Quran and Hadith, apparently in order to underscore its importance in Islam and in the Islamic sources. The chapters on this subject conclude with questions asking students to summarize the material and deduce from it how they should behave.

This report reviews the subject of death as addressed in the Qatari Islamic Education textbooks for grades 8 and 12.

A Muslim Must Always Remember Death And Prepare For It

As stated, the subject of death is introduced as early as grade 8. The grade 8 book devotes an entire chapter to it and to the fate awaiting the believers and unbelievers  in the grave, while presenting relevant Quranic verses and hadiths. The chapter stresses that a believing Muslim must always be conscious of death and prepare for what follows it, while emphasizing that sinners are doomed to torment in the grave.

The chapter opens with Quranic verses dealing with death and the hereafter. Death is defined as "the removal of the soul from the body by the Angel of Death, who grabs it. This happens only when Allah the Almighty orders him to do so, for it is stated by Allah [in Quran 32:11]: 'Say, The angel of death will take you who has been entrusted with you. Then to your Lord you will be returned."' The chapter adds: "When the believer feels that his end is near, his trust in Allah grows stronger, as well as his confidence that [Allah] will have more mercy for His servant than a mother has for her child."[6] 


Opening page of the chapter on death in the grade 8 textbook (Islamic Education for Grade 8, p.135)

The chapter states further that death is a fact that all people acknowledge, regardless of faith or gender, "but the believing Muslim differs from others in that he is aware of the implications of death." The "belief in death," it explains, has several implications that the Muslim must always remember:

  • "Death is the unavoidable fate of all creatures: men, djinns, angels and others."

  • "Every living thing has an allotted lifespan that nothing can extend or cut short."

  • "The duration of life is decreed exclusively by Allah. Nobody knows the hour of his death, and nobody has the ability to hasten or postpone its arrival."

  • "One must always keep death in mind, lest one become distracted."

  • "One must always prepare for death and the events and horrors that will follow it, by doing good deeds and repenting [all sins]."

  • "Belief in what awaits one in the grave: pleasure for the believers and torment for the unbelievers."[7] 


The elements of the "belief in death": "an unavoidable fact," "a finite lifespan," "duration decreed by Allah," "remember death," "prepare for what follows it," "the pleasure and torment of the grave" (Islamic Education for grade 8, p.136)

The Grave, An Interim Stage Of Life Between This Life And The Next: Pleasure For The Believer, Torment For The Unbeliever

Explaining what awaits one in the grave, the grade 8 textbook explains that at the hour of death, each person falls into one of two categories: that of the believers or that of the unbelievers. The believer,  experiences great calm when he dies, his heart is pure, and angels bring him good tidings of Paradise as stated in Quran 41:30: "Indeed, those who have said, Our Lord is Allah and then remained on a right course the angels will descend upon them, [saying]: Do not fear and do not grieve but receive good tidings of Paradise, which you were promised." Conversely, the unbeliever  experiences terror when he dies; his heart is impure. The angels forcefully remove his soul while rebuking him and informing him that he is destined for Hell, as stated in Quran 6:93: "And if you could but see when the wrongdoers are in the overwhelming pangs of death while the angels extend their hands, [saying], Discharge your souls! Today you will be awarded the punishment of [extreme] humiliation for what you used to say against Allah other than the truth and [that] you were, toward His verses, being arrogant. "[8]


Diagram explains the fates of believers vs. that of unbelievers after death (Islamic Education for grade 8, p.137)

The chapter explains further that "the stage of the grave" is "an interim stage of life between death and the world to come," and that "pleasure [in the grave] is the fate of he who obeyed Allah the Almighty. Allah honors him and grants him the pleasures of the grave."  Conversely, "the torments [of the grave] are the fate of he who disobeyed Allah. Allah inflicts humiliation and torment upon him in the grave." This is followed by relevant Quranic verses.[9]   

The Day Of Resurrection – The Day Of Horrors And Dangers

The grade 8 and grade 12 textbooks also address the subject of the Day of Resurrection, or Judgement Day, and the horrors it will hold, especially for those who disobeyed Allah. The grade 8 textbook focuses on the element of the trumpet: On the Day of Resurrection there will be two blasts of the trumpet, blown by the angel Israfil who was appointed by Allah; the first blast will kill all living creatures, and the second will revive them to give an account of their deeds and receive their reward or punishment. The textbook then presents verses and hadiths about this.[10]

The grade 12 textbook deals with the Day of Resurrection more extensively. The chapter on the Day of Resurrection describes it as "the day of horrors and dangers," and recounts that at the moment when "the people escape one horror [they] will immediately encounter another," and "their hearts will be filled with terror and fear."[11] The chapter also describes the features of the Day of Resurrection, the first of which is the hawd, the reservoir from which the believers will drink: "On the Day of Resurrection, when the sun draws close to peoples' heads, they will become thirsty and their suffering will increase. Then Allah's compassion for the believers will become apparent. He will not let them suffer thirst but grant them reservoirs from which they will drink." Each prophet will have a reservoir from which he and his followers will drink.[12] The Prophet Muhammad's reservoir is fed by the waters of Al-Kawthar, a flowing river of Paradise, and only believers destined for Paradise will drink from it. The chapter explains further that on this tremendous occasion of the Day of Resurrection, Allah will honor the Prophet Muhammad with a wide reservoir whose waters are whiter than milk and sweeter than honey. The chapter quotes a hadith which relates that the water will be more fragrant than musk and those who drink from it will never again feel thirst. It quotes additional hadiths stating that those who deviated from the path of Islam and did not follow the Prophet will not be allowed to drink the waters of this reservoir.[13]  

Another feature discussed in the chapter is Al-Sirat, "the bridge over Hell which people will cross on the way to Paradise." The righteous will cross it safely but the wicked will fall into the Hellfire. The chapter explains that "the crossing of Al-Sirat is one of the most terrible and dangerous horrors of the Day of Resurrection," for it is "thinner than a hair, sharp as a blade and hotter than coals... It is wide enough for the believers but narrow for the unbelievers and disobedient."[14]


"The crossing of Al-Sirat is one of the most terrible and dangerous horrors of the Day of Resurrection" (Islamic Education for Grade 12, p. 68)

Describing how those destined for Hell will fall off the bridge of Al-Sirat, the chapter states: "The people of Hell will be grouped together like a herd of sheep, and will be yelled at the way a shepherd yells at his beasts." They will see nothing, hear nothing and say nothing, and as they cross the bridge "it will fall to the bottom of Hell, taking them with it." This is followed by a quote from Quran 17:97: "And We will gather them on the Day of Resurrection [fallen] on their faces blind, deaf, and dumb. Their refuge is Hell; every time it subsides We increase them in blazing fire."[15]

With respect to those who will cross the bridge to Paradise, it is stated that the manner in which they cross will be determined by their deeds in this life: "Some will cross it in the twinkling of an eye, some as fast as lightning, some like the wind, some like thoroughbred horses, some like those riding on camels, some walking, and some crawling." Quoting a hadith from the collection of Muslim (Sahih Muslim), the chapter explains that there are three groups of people who will cross the bridge to Paradise: a) those who will cross unscathed; b) those who will be lacerated by the thorns on the bridge because of their misdeeds, but will nevertheless manage to reach the other side, and c) those who will fall off the bridge into the fire, but who, after being punished for their misdeeds, will escape Hell and ascend to Paradise.[16]  

In the last part of the chapter, the students are asked to explain the lessons they learned from it and write about how they intend to behave in light of what they learned. [17]

Paradise Offers Pleasure, Eternal Life; Its Highest Level Is Achieved By The Prophets, Righteous, And Martyrs

As noted, the subject of death is addressed extensively and in depth in the book for grade 12. In addition to the chapter about the Day of Resurrection, the book includes a chapter on Paradise and Hell, including detailed descriptions of both and of the fate of those who enter therein. Paradise is depicted as a place to aspire to reach, particularly its highest level which is reserved for the righteous and martyrs, while Hell is depicted in a frightening manner.

The chapter opens by stating: "Paradise is the place prepared by Allah in the World to Come for His believing worshippers, and Hell is the place prepared by Allah for unbelievers. [Allah] said about Paradise: 'It is prepared for the righteous' (Quran 3:133), and about Hell, He said that it is 'prepared for the unbelievers' (2:24)." It adds: "Paradise is located above the seven heavens, and underneath is [Allah's] royal throne, while Hell is in a place whose location only [He] knows."[18]

Following this, the chapter describes Paradise as follows:

  • "It will never be extinguished..."

  • "Human intelligence cannot grasp the pleasures of Paradise that Allah has prepared for his worshippers who revere Him. They are perfect, flawless pleasures... There is no point in comparing them to the pleasures of this world, because the enjoyment of this world is miserable and pathetic compared to the pleasures of the World to Come..."

  • "In Paradise, there is good plateau land, and sweet water."

  •  "Paradise is built of bricks – one of gold, and [next to it] one of silver – and musk is the mortar that joins them. The pebbles there are pearls, and its soil is saffron."

  • "The residents of Paradise live a life of pleasure and ease, and do not suffer. They have eternal life, and do not die; their clothing does not wear out, and their youth is not lost. Allah the Supreme said: 'They will not taste death therein except the first death' (44:56)." The chapter goes on to cite a hadith from the Sunan Al-Darimi collection that quotes the Prophet Muhammad as saying: "The announcer will cry, Oh people of Paradise, you will be healthy and will not fall ill; you will be young and will never age; you will live and will never die."[19]

Students then learn that Paradise has several levels, and that the individual is placed in them according to his faith, his fear of Allah, and his good deeds. The book explains: "There is a difference in the pleasures enjoyed by the inhabitants of Paradise in accordance with the level on which they are situated. Thus, someone in Firdaus, the highest level, is not like those in the lower levels." It emphasizes that Firdaus is for "the prophets, the righteous, the martyrs, and the virtuous," and supports this by quoting Quran 4:69, which states: "And whoever obeys Allah and the Messenger – those will be with the ones upon whom Allah has bestowed favor of the prophets, the righteous, the martyrs and the virtuous. And excellent are those as companions."[20]

Hell Holds Atrocities and "Terrible Torments"; It Is For Unbelievers And Those Who Do Not Fulfill The Obligations Of The Religion

The chapter then focuses on the subject of Hell – "the place prepared by Allah the Supreme in the World to Come for unbelievers" – describing it as follows:

  • Hell is "created [by Allah], like Paradise."
  • "Like Paradise, Hell will never be extinguished," as it states in Quran 33:64-65: "Indeed, Allah has cursed the disbelievers and prepared for them a Blaze. Abiding therein forever, they will not find a protector or a helper."
  • "Hell is broad, and its floor is expansive..."
  • "Hell is built of ranked sections, differentiated by their heat [which increases as the unbelievers descend]. All those in Hell suffer terrible torments, but some more then others. In the lowest [i.e. hottest] section are the hypocrites..."
  • "Hell has seven gates [to the seven sections], one above the next. The first gate is filled first, then the second, and then the third, until all are filled and the gates close on the criminals [and they have] no hope of leaving there..."[21]

The chapter explains that the occupants of Hell suffer differently, and drives the message home with a hadith from the collection of Muslim (Sahih Muslim) that quotes Muhammad as saying: "There are among them those whom the fire burns up to their ankles; there are those whom the fire burns up to their knees; there are those whom the fire burns up to their waist; and there are those whom the fire burns up to their breastbone." There is also a version of this hadith that states "up to their neck."[22]

To underline to students the horrors and the profound torments in Hell, the chapter presents a hadith from the collection of Muslim, in which Muhammad explains: "The one among the denizens of Hell who will suffer the fewest torments on the Day of Resurrection will have two coals placed on the arches of his feet until his brain boils like the pot or the kettle."[23]

Following that, the chapter explains the deeds and crimes for which one is sent to Hell and therefore should be avoided:

  • Unbelief in Allah, and polytheism, about which Allah the Supreme said: "Indeed, they who disbelieved among the People of the Scripture and the polytheists will be in the fire of Hell, abiding eternally therein. Those are the worst of creatures." (Quran 98:6)

  • Hypocrisy

  • Arrogance

  • Failure to carry out religious obligations, such as praying, fasting, and giving charity. Here too, as in previous sections, Quran verses are provided to underline and support these statements.

The chapter also explains that the believing Muslim fears ending up in Hell, and therefore, never stops praying to Allah and asking Him to protect him from the torments there.[24]

Toward the end, the chapter mentions several people whose fate is Paradise: the four caliphs following Muhammad Abu Bakr; Omar bin Al-Khattab; Othman bin 'Affan; Ali bin Abu Taleb; and other figures from early Islam. It also lists those who were told that their fate is Hell: Satan; Pharaoh and his soldiers; Noah's wife; Lot's wife; and others.

The chapter concludes by asking students to summarize the features and pleasures of Paradise and the features and torments of Hell, and to again list how it is best to behave.[25]


"Based on what I have learned in this chapter, I will behave as follows..." Islamic Education for Grade 12, p. 168

 

[6] Islamic Education for Grade 8, p. 135-136.

[7] Islamic Education for Grade 8, p. 137.

[8] Islamic Education for Grade 8, p. 137-138.

[9] Islamic Education for Grade 8, p. 139.

[10] Islamic Education for Grade 8, pp. 139-140.

[11] Islamic Education for Grade 12, p. 68.

[12] Islamic Education for Grade 12, p. 66.

[13] Islamic Education for Grade 12, p. 66-67.

[14] Islamic Education for Grade 12, p. 68.

[15] Islamic Education for Grade 12, p. 68.

[16] Islamic Education for Grade 12, p. 69. The hadith is taken from the Book of Faith, Hadith collection of Muslim (Sahih Muslim), No. 183.

[17] Islamic Education for Grade 12, p. 70.

[18] Islamic Education for Grade 12, p. 161.

[19] Islamic Education for Grade 12, pp. 161-162. Taken from the Book of Preparing the Hearts for Judgment Day, hadith No. 2824, from the Hadith Sunan Al-Darimi, a collection of hadith also known as Musnad Ahmad ibn Hanbal, comprising 3455 suras and edited by Abdallah bin Abd Al-Rahman Al-Daarmi Al-Samarkandi (d. 869)

[20] Islamic Education for Grade 12, pp. 161-163.

[21] Islamic Education for Grade 12, p. 164.

[22] Taken from the Book of Paradise and Description of Its Pleasures And Residents, Hadith collection of Muslim (Sahih Muslim), No. 2845.

[23] Taken from the Book of Faith, Hadith collection of Muslim, No. 213.

[24] Islamic Education for Grade 12, p. 165.

[25] Islamic Education for Grade 12, pp. 167-168.