Who Are the Shia and What Do They Say?

Lesson 8: Ma’ad

In the Name of God

Based on the words of: Masoud Basiti

Collected By: Zahra Moradi

Translated By: Ali Mansouri


Over the course of "Who Are The Shia And What Do They Say?", we will examine the advent of Shi’ism, discuss the foundations of Shia belief, and present authentic Islam.


Lesson 8: Ma’ad

In the previous lessons, we spoke about the foundations of Shia thought (Ilm and Aql) and studied the principles of Shia belief, including Touhid, Divine Justice, Prophethood, and Imamate. In this lesson we will look into the final principle of Shia belief, Ma’ad.


The Fifth Principle of Shia Belief: Ma’ad

The word Ma’ad literally means to return[1] and refers to the return of the soul to the body on the Day of Resurrection and judgement of each human’s worldly actions in the presence of God.

The Shia believe that life in this world is only a small portion of a person’s life. With the death of the body, the soul will continue to live in a world called Barzakh[2]. However, on a special day named the Day of Qiyamah[3] or Resurrection, every human’s soul will return to their body, by God’s command and power, and each person will be resurrected in physical form so that they can be held accountable for their actions and deeds in the world. If a person accepted the truth and lived following their Aql in the Dunya (the temporal world we live in today), they will achieve Heavenly Blessings. On the other hand, if a person preferred to follow their ego and desires over the satisfaction of God, they will be punished for their improper deeds.


The Return of the Soul to the Body

Some people invented the idea of reincarnation to explain the fact that this current world does not have the capacity to compensate human’s good and bad actions. Proponents of this idea believe that after death, each person’s soul will reenter the world in a new body. The nature of this body depends on how that person lived their previous life.

Proponents of reincarnation, who have strayed far from the guidance of the Divine Messengers, assume that moral people that did good actions, but faced difficulties, poverty, disease, or oppression, will receive the reward for their actions in their next reincarnation in a life full of prosperity and good health. But those that acted immorally in their life and tormented the people will reincarnate in the form of animals, plants, objects, or sick and outcast humans and be afflicted with spiritual and physical suffering.

Such ideas have been explicitly rejected by God and His Messenger[4]. Based on the teachings of Shi’ism, the human soul separates from the body after death and continues its life in the world of Barzakh until the Day of Judgement[5]. The Shia believe that the souls of good doers will enjoy Divine Blessings and Rewards in Barzakh, while the souls of the evil doers will be in a state of torment and sorrow[6]. This will continue until the promised hour is reached and, by God’s Will and Command, the souls will return to their bodies and be summoned in the presence of God to answer for each and every one of their actions.

The Prophet Muhammad (PBUH) described how death and another life will occur in Ma’ad as such,

“You will die just as you fall asleep, and will become alive again just as you wake up”[7].

How is it possible for the soul to return to the body after the body has decomposed? How can the soul return while most people’s bones disintegrate completely within a few decades? God Almighty answers this question in the Holy Quran,

            “Does man not see that we created him from a sperm drop?

And he [in a contentious manner] … forgets his own creation and says, ‘Who will give life to these bones, while they are disintegrated?’

[Oh Prophet, to them] say, ‘He will give them life Who Created them the first time’.

He is All Knowing of all creation …

Is the One that created the Heavens and the Earth, not capable to [again] create the like of them?”[8]


Examples of Ma’ad in the Dunya

God the Merciful has shown the people examples of the dead coming to life as signs and lessons, so they come out of doubt.

One of these examples is the reviving of nature after the cold of the winter, or the growth of plants in barren land[9].  

Another example is the reviving of the dead at the hands of the Divine Messengers, by God’s permission and through God’s power. For example, the Prophets Moses[10], Jesus[11], and Muhammad[12], as well as Imam Ali[13] and other Imams[14], peace be upon them all, brought the dead back to life in front of the people’s eyes, so that it be a proof for them that if God Wills, He can bestow (dead) humans with another life.


The Dunya is a Farm for the Afterlife

According to the Prophet Muhammad (PBUH), the short life of this world, is a farm for the Akhira (the afterlife)[15]. Just like a farmer cannot plant barley in his farm and expect to harvest wheat, a human being that does not have good intentions and do good actions should not expect rewards and heavenly blessings in the Eternal Realm. Therefore, someone that wishes to be in calm and prosperity in their eternal life, and make use of Divine Blessings, must strive to leave behind the best actions from themselves during the short time that they live in the Dunya.


The Connection Between Ma’ad and Divine Justice

In the Dunya, some humans listen to what the Divine Guides and Messengers instructed them to, and, by overcoming their selfish desires, embark upon the path that their Aql confirms. Naturally in this path they will also face some difficulties. For example, even though they may easily be able to usurp other people’s rights and wealth and live in greater prosperity, they will resort to working in difficulty and making a Halal [religiously legitimate] living. Even though they can use lies to reach a high status and credibility, they will restrain their selfish desires through the Aql and tell the truth, even if it is to their disadvantage.

On the other hand, there are people that easily violate other people’s wealth, life, and honor through oppression and corruption and live in pleasure and prosperity.

Would it make sense for these two groups to share the same fate? Does it conform with the Aql? Would it be ok that evil doers be treated the same as good doers? Would it be just for the Pharaoh’s, Genghis Khan’s, and Hitler’s of the world to get away with the massive suffering they caused without any consequences or recompense?

Obviously not. Thus, from this perspective, Ma’ad has a closer connection with Divine Justice[16]. God the Most Wise has pointed this out, saying,

“Do those that committed evil deeds suppose that We shall hold them equal to those that believed, committed good works [make them] equal in their life and in their dead? Ill is the judgement that they make”[17].

Based on the teachings of the Ahlulbayt (AS), those whose rights were violated in the Dunya by others will have them restored by God in the Akhirah. Thus, the good deeds of the person that violated the rights of others will be given to the people whose rights were violated by them. If the person that is in debt does not have enough good deeds, the sins and mistakes of the person that was oppressed will be taken away and added to the violator as a punishment for their oppression[18]. Thus, it would follow the Aql to listen to the Prophet Muhammad (PBUH)’s advice when he stated, “Scrutinize your deeds before they are examined in the presence of God” [19] and carry out those responsibilities that we have towards other people.


A Human or Divine Court?

It is true that a group of evil doers and oppressors will face the consequences, or a portion of the consequences of their deeds while still alive in this Dunya.

It is also true that sometimes the oppression and corruption that a person commits come back to hurt themselves.

Furthermore, there is no doubt that our conscience itself can be part of our sentence and cause us to suffer while living through the consequences of our actions.

Despite this all, none of the abovementioned examples is universal enough to properly hold every single oppressor and evil doer accountable for their level of oppression and sin. Therefore, there is still the need for judgement to occur to hold humans accountable for their actions.

However, no human judgement or court can have completely take into account every perspective of a person’s actions and hand out justified judgements for every single person without any mistakes. Even if it is assumed that the one leading the proceedings is quite skilled and completely honest, what judge, arbitrator, or referee can claim they are aware of all the intentions of an individual? This is while intentions are what give actions their credibility[20]. An identical action made with two different intentions can be deserving of different rewards or punishments. This issue is so important in Shia teachings that if a person is physically or financially unable to perform a good deed, but deeply desires to do it, they will be rewarded for their intention. On the other hand, if a person builds a hospital for the needy with the intention of showing off, or fills the stomach of someone that is hungry, they will not receive any Divine Reward. Rather, because their intention was to satisfy their selfish desires, at most they will achieve what they sought in this Dunya (meaning that others will thank them, their name will be mentioned favorably, and they will get the pleasant feeling that they were aiming for)[21]. What human court possess the knowledge and capability to take these details into account and issue a final judgement by considering all aspects of an action[22]?

Furthermore, some actions, whether good or bad, are of a nature that does not bring about a meaningful, just, retribution in this world. For example, what justice can be given to a person that tortured thousands of innocent human beings and killed them? Would it be possible to punish them for each one of their murders? Or what worldly reward could be imagined for someone that wrote a book that caused thousands of people to become guided and continues to do so after their own death?

Therefore, it can be concluded that this world does not have the capacity for complete judgement, while taking into account all aspects of good or bad deeds. Therefore there is a need for a Divine Judgement to hold human beings accountable in a just manner for their actions and behavior. God the Merciful states that,

            “On that Day, the people will go forth separated to be shown their deeds.

            So, whoever did an atom’s weight of good shall see it.

            And whoever did an atom’s weight of evil will see it”[23].


A Point for Those That Doubt Ma’ad

All of the Divine Messengers, in addition to bringing forth religion (a plan and method of living), emphasized that human being’s lives are not limited to the short life of this world. Rather there is another world after this one in which they will be blessed with heavenly blessings or punished with hellish retribution according to how much their life was lived according to the satisfaction of the Creator. Essentially, Ma’ad is a religious guarantee that justice will be carried out. If there was no hope for justice after death, many people would go after achieving maximum worldly pleasure, even if it came at the cost of violating other people’s rights.

However, one point that should be made towards those that have doubts about Ma’ad is what do those that believe in the afterlife have to lose other than a small amount of the transitory pleasures of the Dunya? On the other hand, if the afterlife is true, what do those that do not believe in it have to lose? Eternal prosperity, peace, and Divine Blessings[24]!


The Result of Believing in Ma’ad

A person that believes in the principle of Ma’ad and the ultimate return to God will be careful in their deeds and intentions and shun bad characteristics away from themselves. They will not easily lie, violate other’s rights, be greedy for temporary wealth, or betray others.

A person that believes that a person’s eternal fate depends on this brief and fleeting world will not waste their limited time on worthless things.

A person that sees God Almighty witnessing all their inner states and knows that sooner or later they will be returned to Him, will not lose themselves over the ups and downs of life, and will put their trust in God in their difficulties. They will know that neither the struggles nor sorrows of this world are permeant, nor are the joys and pleasures. Rather at the end, everyone will come back to God and will see the results of their good and bad actions.

إِنَّا لِلَّهِ‏ وَ إِنَّا إِلَيْهِ‏ راجِعُون [25]

Indeed, we belong to God, and indeed to Him we shall return.


Main Points of this Lesson

-     Ma’ad is one of the important principles of Shia belief and refers to the establishment of Judgement Day, the punishment or reward of human beings for their actions and intentions in the Dunya, and their eternal life after death.

-    Based on Shia teachings, the soul will continue its existence after death in a world called Barzakh. Then on the Day of Judgement, by God’s command, the souls will return to the bodies. The Shia reject reincarnation.

-    If Ma’ad did not exist, the fate of good doers and oppressors would be equal. This goes against justice.

-    This world does not have the capacity to give the consequences for all good and evil deeds. Therefore, there is the need for a Divine Judgement for the deeds and behavior of all human beings.

-    Without the belief in Ma’ad, the Prophet’s teachings and plans about religion would not have an enforceable guarantee.

-   If Ma’ad was not true, those that believe in life after dead lost nothing but a small portion of the transient pleasures of the Dunya. However, if Ma’ad is true, those that do not believe in it will lose eternal peace and prosperity.

-    As a consequence of believing in Ma’ad, a person will shun away bad characteristics from themselves. They will refrain from wasting their finite time on useless actions. They will remain firm in the face of the trials of life. They will always keep into account that God will soon show them the consequences of their good and evil actions when making decisions.


و الْمَعَادُ يقال للعود و للزّمان الذي يَعُودُ فيه، و قد يكون للمكان الذي يَعُودُ إليه

meaning, “Ma’ad means to return, as well as the time during which one returns, and the place to which one returns (it is both the word for the verb as well as the word for the place and time)”. Mufradat Raghib, Volume 1, Page 594.

[2] The word Barzakh literally means “the buffer between two things” and refers to “the interval between the Dunya and Akhira”. Lisan al-Arab, Volume 3, Page 8.

God states in the Holy Quran,

مِنْ وَرائِهِمْ بَرْزَخٌ إِلى‏ يَوْمِ يُبْعَثُون

meaning, “Behind them is a Barzakh until the Day they will be resurrected”. The Holy Quran, Surah Al-Mu’minun (23:100).

[3]Qiyamah comes from the word Qiyam, meaning to rise. It refers to the rising of people from the first and their presence in the world after death”. Lisan al-Arab, Volume 12, Page 506.

Qiyamah means the state and rise that suddenly results from a person and refers to the Resurrection”. Mufradat Alfadh Quran, Volume 1, Page 691.

[4] For example, God Almighty states in the Holy Quran,

حَتّى إِذا جاءَ أَحَدَهُمُ الْمَوْتُ قالَ رَبِّ ارْجِعُونِ* لَعَلِّی أَعْمَلُ صالِحاً فِیما تَرَکْتُ کَلاّ إِنَّها کَلِمَةٌ هُوَ قائِلُها وَ مِنْ وَرائِهِمْ بَرْزَخٌ إِلى یَوْمِ یُبْعَثُونَ

meaning, “Until, when death comes to one of them, he says, ‘My Lord! Return me [to the Dunya]. Perhaps I may do good in which I have left behind’. [However it will be said to him] No! It is but a word that he speaks. And behind them is a Barzakh until the Day they will be resurrected”. The Holy Quran, Surah Al-Mu’minun (23:99-100).

Furthermore, Imam Ridha (AS), the eighth Imam and successor to the Prophet Muhammad (PBUH) stated,

مَنْ قَالَ بِالتَّنَاسُخِ فَهُوَ كَافِرٌ بِاللَّهِ الْعَظِيمِ يُكَذِّبُ بِالْجَنَّةِ وَ النَّار

meaning, “Someone that believes in reincarnation has committed Kufr [disbelief] towards God and considered Heaven and Hell to be unreal”. Bihar al-Anwar, Volume 4, Page 320.

[5] Refer to Footnote 2.

[6] The Seal of the Prophets (PBUH) stated,

إِنَّ أَحَدَكُمْ إِذَا مَاتَ عُرِضَ عَلَيْهِ‏ مَقْعَدُهُ‏ بِالْغَدَاةِ وَ الْعَشِيِّ إِنْ كَانَ مِنْ أَهْلِ الْجَنَّةِ فَمِنَ الْجَنَّةِ وَ إِنْ كَانَ مِنْ أَهْلِ النَّارِ فَمِنَ النَّارِ فَيُقَالُ هَذَا مَقْعَدُكَ حَتَّى نَبْعَثَكَ يَوْمَ الْقِيَامَة

meaning, “When one of you leaves the world, their place will be offered to them in the morning and the evening. If they are of the inhabitants of Heaven, their place will be in Heaven, and if they are of the inhabitants of Hell, their place will be in Hell. And it will be said to them that this is your status until God appoints you in Qiyamah”. Bihar al-Anwar, Volume 6, Page 275.


لَتَمُوتُنَّ كَمَا تَنَامُونَ وَ لَتَبْعَثُنَّ كَمَا تَسْتَيْقِظُون‏

Bihar al-Anwar , Volume 7, Page 47.


أَوَ لَمْ يَرَ الْإِنْسانُ أَنَّا خَلَقْناهُ مِنْ نُطْفَةٍ فَإِذا هُوَ خَصِيمٌ مُبِينٌ * وَ ضَرَبَ لَنا مَثَلًا وَ نَسِيَ خَلْقَهُ قالَ مَنْ يُحْيِ الْعِظامَ وَ هِيَ رَمِيمٌ * قُلْ يُحْيِيهَا الَّذِي أَنْشَأَها أَوَّلَ مَرَّةٍ وَ هُوَ بِكُلِّ خَلْقٍ عَلِيمٌ ... أَوَ لَيْسَ الَّذِي خَلَقَ السَّماواتِ وَ الْأَرْضَ بِقادِرٍ عَلى‏ أَنْ يَخْلُقَ مِثْلَهُمْ بَلى‏ وَ هُوَ الْخَلَّاقُ الْعَلِيمُ *إِنَّما أَمْرُهُ إِذا أَرادَ شَيْئاً أَنْ يَقُولَ لَهُ كُنْ فَيَكُونُ

The Holy Quran, Surah Yasin (36:77-82).

[9] God Almighty states in the Holy Quran,

وَ اللَّهُ الَّذِي أَرْسَلَ الرِّياحَ فَتُثِيرُ سَحاباً فَسُقْناهُ إِلى‏ بَلَدٍ مَيِّتٍ فَأَحْيَيْنا بِهِ الْأَرْضَ بَعْدَ مَوْتِها كَذلِكَ النُّشُور

meaning, “And it is God who sends the winds to stir the clouds, and We drive them to a dead land, and give life through it to the earth after its lifelessness. Thus is the resurrection”. The Holy Quran, Surah Fatir (35:9).

[10] One of the Children of Israel was killed. There was a disagreement in his tribe about the identity of the murderer. Prophet Moses (AS), with God’s permission and power, brought the victim back to life to reveal the name of the murderer. For more details about this event, refer to the Holy Quran, Surah al-Baqarah (2:67-73). And also, Bihar al-Anwar, Volume 13, Page 266.

[11] One of the miracles of Prophet Jesus (AS), which is referred to in both the Holy Bible and the Holy Quran is the coming to life of the dead by his hands. For example, refer to,

وَ إِذْ تُخْرِجُ الْمَوْتى‏ بِإِذْنِي‏ 

meaning, “And when you brought forth the dead [to life] with My permission”. The Holy Quran, Surah al-Ma’idah (5:110).

And also the Holy Bible, The Gospel of John (11:1-44).

[12] For example, refer to the incident of the coming to life of two children by the hands of the Prophet Muhammad (PBUH) in Bihar al-Anwar, Volume 18, page 16.

[13] For example, refer to the incident of the coming to life of Shem, the son of the Prophet Noah (AS) by Imam Ali (AS) by the request by a group of non-Muslims in Yemen in Bihar al-Anwar, Volume 41, Page 212.

[14] For example, refer to the incident of the coming to life of an infant by the hands of Imam Baqir (AS), the fifth Imam and successor to the Prophet Muhammad (PBUH) in al-Hidaya al-Kubra, Page 306.


الدُّنْيَا مَزْرَعَةُ الْآخِرَة

Majmu’a Warram , Volume 1, Page 183.

[16] The Prophet Muhammad (PBUH) stated,

سُبْحَانَ الَّذِي فِي الْقِيَامَةِ عَدْلُه‏

meaning, “Exalted is He [God] whose Justice [will become evident] during Qiyamah”. Al-Misbah (by Kaf’ami), Page 661.


أَمْ حَسِبَ اَلَّذِينَ اِجْتَرَحُوا اَلسَّيِّئٰاتِ أَنْ نَجْعَلَهُمْ كَالَّذِينَ آمَنُوا وَ عَمِلُوا اَلصّٰالِحٰاتِ سَوٰاءً مَحْيٰاهُمْ وَ مَمٰاتُهُمْ سٰاءَ مٰا يَحْكُمُونَ

The Holy Quran, Surah al-Jathiya (45:21).

It also states,

أَمْ‏ نَجْعَلُ‏ الَّذينَ‏ آمَنُوا وَ عَمِلُوا الصَّالِحاتِ‏ كَالْمُفْسِدينَ فِي الْأَرْضِ أَمْ نَجْعَلُ الْمُتَّقينَ كَالْفُجَّار

meaning, “Shall we treat those who believe and do righteous deeds in the same way as those that spread mischief in the land?” The Holy Quran, Surah Sad (38:28).

[18] Either Imam Baqir (AS) or Imam Sadiq (AS) stated,

يُؤْتَى يَوْمَ الْقِيَامَةِ بِصَاحِبِ الدَّيْنِ يَشْكُو الْوَحْشَةَ فَإِنْ كَانَتْ لَهُ حَسَنَاتٌ أُخِذَ مِنْهُ لِصَاحِبِ الدَّيْنِ وَ قَالَ وَ إِنْ لَمْ تَكُنْ لَهُ حَسَنَاتٌ أُلْقِيَ عَلَيْهِ مِنْ سَيِّئَاتِ صَاحِبِ الدَّيْن‏

meaning, “They will bring forth the one in debt on the Day of Judgement while they are extremely fearful and worried. If they have any good deeds they will be taken from them and give it to the one they owe, and if they do not have any good deeds, they will take sins from the debtor and give them to the one that is in debt”. Bihar al-Anwar, Volume 7, Page 274.


حَاسِبُوا أَنْفُسَكُمْ قَبْلَ أَنْ تُحَاسَبُوا وَ زِنُوهَا قَبْلَ أَنْ تُوزَنُوا وَ تَجَهَّزُوا لِلْعَرْضِ الْأَكْبَر

meaning, “Before your account is examined, you should scrutinize it yourself, and before they weight your deeds with the Mizan [the Divine Scale on the Day of Judgement], evaluate them yourself and thus make yourself ready for the grand display of the deeds”. Bihar al-Anwar, Volume 67, Page 73.


إِنَّمَا الْأَعْمَالُ بِالنِّيَّاتِ وَ إِنَّمَا لِكُلِّ امْرِئٍ مَا نَوَى فَمَنْ كَانَتْ هِجْرَتُهُ إِلَى اللَّهِ وَ رَسُولِهِ فَهِجْرَتُهُ إِلَى اللَّهِ وَ رَسُولِهِ وَ مَنْ كَانَتْ هِجْرَتُهُ إِلَى دُنْيَا يُصِيبُهَا أَوِ امْرَأَةٍ يَتَزَوَّجُهَا فَهِجْرَتُهُ إِلَى مَا هَاجَرَ إِلَيْه‏

meaning, “The value of actions is according to their intentions. And each person will take benefit according to their intentions. A person that moves for the sake of God and his Messenger, his Hijrah [migration] will be for the sake of God and his Messenger (they will reach that high goal). However, if someone does something in order to reach a status for the statuses of the Dunya, or (for example) takes an action in order to marry a particular person, will not reach anything other than that goal”. Bihar al-Anwar, Volume 67, Page 211.

[21] Refer to the previous footnote.

[22] God states that,

يَعْلَمُ اَلسِّرَّ وَ أَخْفى

meaning, “He [God] knows what is secret and what is even more hidden”. The Holy Quran, Surah Taha (20:7).


يَوْمَئِذٍ يَصْدُرُ النَّاسُ أَشْتَاتاً لِّيُرَوْاْ أَعْمَالَهُمْ * فَمَنْ يَعْمَلْ مِثْقالَ‏ ذَرَّةٍ خَيْراً يَرَه‏ * وَ مَنْ يَعْمَلْ مِثْقالَ‏ ذَرَّةٍ شَرًّا يَرَه

The Holy Quran, Surah al-Zalzalah (99:7-9).

[24] Imam Ridha (AS), told one of the deniers of Ma’ad and the Day of Judgement,

أَيُّهَا الرَّجُلُ أَ رَأَيْتَ إِنْ كَانَ الْقَوْلُ قَوْلَكُمْ وَ لَيْسَ هُوَ كَمَا تَقُولُونَ أَ لَسْنَا وَ إِيَّاكُمْ شَرَعاً سَوَاءً لَا يَضُرُّنَا مَا صَلَّيْنَا وَ صُمْنَا وَ ... إِنْ يَكُنْ الْقَوْلُ قَوْلَنَا وَ هُوَ كَمَا نَقُولُ أَ لَسْتُمْ قَدْ هَلَكْتُمْ وَ نَجَوْنَا

meaning, “If the truth is with you [and there is no Day of Resurrection], which is not the case, will it not be other than such that we and you be equal? And from what we prayed and fasted and … will not bring us any harm or loss. But if the truth is with us, which it is, will it not be that you will perish and we will be saved?” Bihar al-Anwar, Volume 3, Page 36.

[25] The Holy Quran, Surah al-Baqarah (2:156).



Mohammad Foundation


Join us