fear of resurrection and the day of judgment
a third reason prevented the quraysh from following muhammad, namely, the terror of the resurrection on the day of judgment with its punishment of hell. they were a people immersed in recreation and the pursuit of pleasure; trade and usury were their means to its attainment. those of them who could afford to indulge in these pursuits did not see in them anything immoral and felt no imperative to avoid them. through their idol worship they thought that their evil deeds and sins could all be atoned for and forgiven. it was sufficient for a man to strike a few arrows at the foot of the statue of hubal for him to think that anything he was about to undertake was blessed if not commanded by the god. it was sufficient to sacrifice something to these idols for him to have his sins and guilt wiped out and forgotten. therefore, to kill, to rob, to commit adultery, to indulge in unbecoming speech and indecency were all proper and permissible as long as one was capable of bribing those gods and placating them with sacrifices.
on the other hand, muhammad was proclaiming that the lord was standing in wait for them, that they will be resurrected on the day of judgment, and that their works will be their only credit. moreover, he did so with verses of such tremendous, power that they shook men's hearts to the foundation and threw their consciousness into horror and panic. the qur'an proclaimed: "but when the deafening cry is heard, when man would flee from his brother, from his father and mother, his wife and children, everyone will have enough to concern himself with his own destiny. on that day some faces will be bright, joyous and gay. others will be dark and gloomy. the latter are the unbelievers, the wicked." [qur'an, 80:33-42] it proclaimed that the deafening cry would come-"the day when heaven will be like molten copper, when mountains will be like flakes of wool, when no friend will be able to concern himself for his friends. beholding the fate which is to be theirs, the condemned will wish to ransom themselves with their own children, their wives and brothers, their tribes that gave them protection, even the whole of mankind if such could save them from the impending doom. no indeed! there shall be a flame of fire, burning and dismembering, grasping without relief him who turned his back to the call of god, who played deaf to the moral imperative, who hoarded wealth and withheld it from the needy . . . ."[qur'an, 70:8-18]
"on that day you will be presented before god; none of your secrets will be hidden. then, he who has received his record with his right hand will say: `come, read my record. i had rightly thought that i was to meet my reckoning.' such a man will lead a blessed life in a lofty garden whose fruits are ripe and within reach. when he is brought therein he will be told: eat and drink joyfully for in the days gone by, you have done the good deeds.' as for him who is given his record in his left hand he will say: `would i that i had never been given my record; that i never knew of my reckoning. oh, would that death had made an end of me! my wealth is of no avail, and my power has come to naught.' to him god will say: `seize him and fetter him. broil him in the fire. then bind him in a chain seventy cubits long. for he did not believe in almighty god, nor did he urge the feeding of the hungry. today, he shall have no loyal friends and no food except what is foul, which none eat except his fellow sinners.”[qur'an, 69:18-37]
after this i may ask the reader: have you read this well? did you ponder every word of it? have you fully understood its meaning? are you not petrified and panic-stricken? but that is only a portion of muhammad's warning to his people. you read these verses today and remember that you have read them many times over before. concurrently with your reading, you will remember the qur'an's description of hell. "on that day, we shall ask hell, `are you full?' and hell will answer: `give me more!' . . . whenever their skins wear out, we shall give them new skins that they may continue to suffer the punishment." [qur'an, 50:30; 4:56]. you can well imagine then the horror which must have struck quraysh, especially the rich among them wallowing in the protection of their gods and idols whenever muhammad warned them of the imminent punishment. it would then become easy for you to appreciate the degree of their enthusiasm in belying muhammad, opposing him, and urging the people to fight him. previous to the prophet's preaching, the arabs had no idea of the day of judgment or of the resurrection, and they did not believe what they heard thereof from non-arabs. none of them thought that he would be reckoned with after death for what he had done in this world. whatever concern they had for the future was limited to this world. they feared disease, loss of wealth and children, of power and social prestige. this life, to them, was all there is to life. their energies were exhausted in the amassing of the means with which to enjoy this life and to keep it safe from misfortune. the future was utterly opaque. whenever their consciences were disturbed by a premonition of evil following upon their misdeeds, they had recourse to divination by arrows, pebbles, or bird chasing in order to dissipate the fear or confirm it. if confirmed they would sacrifice to their idols and thereby avoid the imminent misfortune.
as for reckoning after death, resurrection, and the day of judgment-paradise for the virtuous and hell for the unjust-all this completely escaped them despite the fact that they had heard of it in connection with the religion of the jews and of the christians. nonetheless, they never heard of it described with such emphatic, frightening, indeed horrifying, terms and seriousness such as muhammad's revelation had brought to them. what they had heard of before muhammad never succeeded in pressing home to them the recognition that their continued life of pleasure, pursuit of wealth, exploitation of the weak, robbery of the orphan, neglect of the poor, and excess in usury, would surely incur eternal punishment. they had no idea of impending suffering in the depth of hell, and when they heard of it described in these terms, it was natural for them to be seized with panic. how strongly they must have felt when they realized, though they did not openly admit it, that the other world with its reward and punishment is truly there, waiting for them only one step beyond this life which was soon to end in death!