The Struggle of Good and Evil
one may indeed wonder how the arabs locked their minds against any idea of the other world and its reckoning when the struggle of good and evil in this world has been raging eternally without letup or peace. thousands of years before muhammad, the ancient egyptians provided their dead with their needs for the other world. in the coffins, they enclosed the book of the dead, which was full of psalms, invocations, and other prayers, and in their graves they painted pictures of judgment and scenes of repentance and punishment. the indians, too, conceived of the other world in terms of nirvana and transmigration of souls. a soul, they held, may suffer for thousands and millions of years before it is guided to the truth, purified, and rehabilitated to the good life at the end of which is nirvana. likewise, the zoroastrians of persia recognized the struggle of good and evil, and their gods were gods of light and darkness. so, too, did the mosaic and the christian religions, both of which describe a life of eternity dependent upon god's pleasure or wrath. did the arabs not know any of all this, though they were a people of trade in continual contact through their voyages with all the adherents of these religions? how could the case be otherwise? why did they not have similar notions of their own when, as people of the desert, they were closer to infinity and eternity, to a conception of the spiritual existence induced by the heat of noon and the darkness of night, to good and evil spirits, which they had already conceived of as residing within the statues which interceded for them with god? undoubtedly, they must have had an idea of the existence of the other world, but since they were a people of trade, they were more realistic and hence appreciative of that which they could see and touch. they were one and all bon vivants and, hence, all the more determined to deny punishment or reward in the hereafter. they thought that what man needs in this world is precisely the consequence of his deed whether good or evil. further consequences of his deeds in the other world were therefore superfluous. that is why most of the revelations of muhammad which warned, threatened, and made promises concerning the other world were revealed in makkah at the beginning of muhammad's commission. this revelation answered the need for saving those among whom muhammad was sent. it was natural that muhammad draw their attention as strongly as he could to their error and misguidance and that he call them to rise above idol worship to the worship of the one almighty god.
for the sake of salvation
in the course of bringing spiritual salvation to his people and to all mankind, muhammad and his followers suffered great harm. they were subjected to many travails of body and spirit, to emigration, to alienation from peers and relatives, and they bore these sacrifices with gallantry and patience. it was as if the more his people harmed muhammad, the stronger became his love for them and the greater his desire and care to bring about their salvation. resurrection and the day of judgment were the supreme ideas to which they were to give their attention if they were to be saved from their idolatry and evil deeds. consequently, in the first years of muhammad's prophethood, revelation constantly repeated divine threats and warnings that the makkans might open their eyes and recognize the veracity of resurrection and the day of judgment. it was this constant assault by revelation which, in final analysis, had inflamed the terrible war between muhammad and makkah whose rage did not subside until god had given victory to islam, his religion, over the religions of man.