Without a doubt, our faces are the most honorable part of our body.
God, exalted is He, has fashioned our faces in perfect proportion and has made them unique for every one of us.
When He mentions the qualities of Jesus, peace be upon him, to his mother, He describes him as ‘wajeehan’, honorable, which is from the Arabic word for face ‘wajh’. We learn from this that Allah has put honor in the faces of the children of Adam, and that Prophet Jesus was a person who others felt reverence and respect towards when they saw his face.
When we look in the Qur’an and Sunnah of the Prophet (peace be upon him), we find that God has chosen the most honorable part of our body for the most important Day to honor or abase His servants.
When the Day of Judgment arrives, immediately the faces of the disbelievers and criminals will change:
فَلَمَّا رَأَوْهُ زُلْفَةً سِيئَتْ وُجُوهُ الَّذِينَ كَفَرُوا وَقِيلَ هَٰذَا الَّذِي كُنْتُمْ بِهِ تَدَّعُونَ
But when they shall see it nigh, the faces of those who disbelieve shall be sorry, and it shall be said; This is that which you used to call for, (QS: Al-Mulk : 27).
God tells us how they will be recognized:
وَالَّذِينَ كَسَبُوا السَّيِّئَاتِ جَزَاءُ سَيِّئَةٍ بِمِثْلِهَا وَتَرْهَقُهُمْ ذِلَّةٌ ۖ مَا لَهُمْ مِنَ اللَّهِ مِنْ عَاصِمٍ ۖ كَأَنَّمَا أُغْشِيَتْ وُجُوهُهُمْ قِطَعًا مِنَ اللَّيْلِ مُظْلِمًا ۚ أُولَٰئِكَ أَصْحَابُ النَّارِ ۖ هُمْ فِيهَا خَالِدُونَ
And (as for) those who have earned evil, the punishment of an evil is the like of it, and abasement shall come upon them, they shall have none to protect them from Allah– as if their faces had been covered with slices of the dense darkness of night; these are the inmates of the fire; in it they shall abide, (QS:Yunus : 27).
They will feel so much humiliation that it will be noticeable on their faces. God uses a comparison in this verse, “as if their faces are covered with pieces of the night”, to show the extent of the disgrace that will cover them.
When He describes faces in the hereafter as “white” or “black”, it does not refer to race or skin color. Rather the scholars of tafsir (exegesis of the Qur’an) explain it to be figurative for happiness and disgrace.
Humiliated and Disgraced
The faces of those who enter the Fire will be full of emotion:
وَوُجُوهٌ يَوْمَئِذٍ بَاسِرَةٌ
And (other) faces on that day shall be gloomy, (QS: Al-Qiyyamah :24).
تَظُنُّ أَنْ يُفْعَلَ بِهَا فَاقِرَةٌ
Knowing that there will be made to befall them some great calamity, (QS: Al-Qiyyamah : 25).
Allah gives us an image of their faces by using the word ‘basirah’, meaning gloomy, miserable, scowling and scared. He further describes that if we were to see them, their faces would look as if they are expecting a great calamity. Imam Al-Sa`di says that their faces will change because they know the magnitude of their punishment. Their inward feelings of humiliation result in the outwards manifestation of their gloomy and dejected faces.
In another verse, Allah depicts the state of their eyes:
وَاقْتَرَبَ الْوَعْدُ الْحَقُّ فَإِذَا هِيَ شَاخِصَةٌ أَبْصَارُ الَّذِينَ كَفَرُوا يَا وَيْلَنَا قَدْ كُنَّا فِي غَفْلَةٍ مِنْ هَٰذَا بَلْ كُنَّا ظَالِمِينَ
And the true promise shall draw nigh, then lo! the eyes of those who disbelieved shall be fixedly open: O woe to us! surely we were in a state of heedlessness as to this; nay, we were unjust, (QS: Al-Anbiya :97).
Their eyes will be ‘shakhisah’, which is used to describe the fixed eyes of a dead person. This word gives us a deeper meaning, showing that they will not blink out of fear and that their eyes will look disturbed and scary, just like the wide-open eyes of a dead person.
Finally, in one of the scariest descriptive verses, God shows us the effect of the Fire on their faces:
تَلْفَحُ وُجُوهَهُمُ النَّارُ وَهُمْ فِيهَا كَالِحُونَ
The fire shall scorch their faces, and they therein shall be in severe affliction, (QS: Al-Mu’minun:104).
O Lord! The Fire will burn their faces so badly that their lips will burn off to the point that their teeth only remain – giving a disturbing appearance, as if they are grinning.
How did these faces look in the dunya (this life)?
They were full of arrogant refusal:
وَإِذَا تُتْلَىٰ عَلَيْهِمْ آيَاتُنَا بَيِّنَاتٍ تَعْرِفُ فِي وُجُوهِ الَّذِينَ كَفَرُوا الْمُنْكَرَ ۖ يَكَادُونَ يَسْطُونَ بِالَّذِينَ يَتْلُونَ عَلَيْهِمْ آيَاتِنَا ۗ قُلْ أَفَأُنَبِّئُكُمْ بِشَرٍّ مِنْ ذَٰلِكُمُ ۗ النَّارُ وَعَدَهَا اللَّهُ الَّذِينَ كَفَرُوا ۖ وَبِئْسَ الْمَصِيرُ
And when Our clear communications are recited to them you will find denial on the faces of those who disbelieve; they almost spring upon those who recite to them Our communications. Say: Shall I inform you of what is worse than this? The fire; Allah has promised it to those who disbelieve; and how evil the resort. (QS:Al-Hajj : 72)
And they would mock the Believers with their eyes:
إِنَّ الَّذِينَ أَجْرَمُوا كَانُوا مِنَ الَّذِينَ آمَنُوا يَضْحَكُونَ
Surely they who are guilty used to laugh at those who believe. (QS: Al-Mutaffifin :29)
وَإِذَا مَرُّوا بِهِمْ يَتَغَامَزُونَ
And when they passed by them, they winked at one another. (QS: Al-Mutaffifin : 30)
Our faces are a way for us to express our feelings and thoughts, sometimes unintentionally. God has recorded astonishing descriptions of the feelings that will show on the faces of people in the hereafter.
We see through these graphic verses that the Hereafter will be an emotional time for everyone a time of ample joy and satisfaction for one group, and a time of humiliation and sadness for another.
Radiant and Joyous
With our faces, the most honorable parts of our bodies, we are able to express our emotions and feelings. That’s why Allah describes the faces of humankind in the hereafter to make their emotions more real so that we, in this lifetime, are able to imagine their expressions.
After God mentions the Day when family members will run away from their loved ones, He tells us:
وُجُوهٌ يَوْمَئِذٍ مُسْفِرَةٌ (Many) faces on that day shall be bright, (QS: Abasa: 38), ضَاحِكَةٌ مُسْتَبْشِرَةٌ Laughing, joyous. (QS: Abasa: 39),
For the Believers, that Day will be one of celebration. They made it into Paradise, by God’s mercy:
وَأَمَّا الَّذِينَ سُعِدُوا فَفِي الْجَنَّةِ خَالِدِينَ فِيهَا مَا دَامَتِ السَّمَاوَاتُ وَالْأَرْضُ إِلَّا مَا شَاءَ رَبُّكَ ۖ عَطَاءً غَيْرَ مَجْذُوذٍ
And as to those who are made happy, they shall be in the garden, abiding in it as long as the heavens and the earth endure, except as your Lord please; a gift which shall never be cut off. (QS: Hud : 108)
When I think of celebrations, I immediately remember the crowds at Tahrir Square when Mubarak stepped down. I remember the happiness and joy on the faces of Egyptians. They were hugging each other, jumping up and down, waving their flags and chanting in celebration of their success.
Take that image and multiply it by a million. That will be the celebration of the Believers in the hereafter. Their joy will not come from winning a game, winning the lottery, or winning freedom for their country. Their joy will come from being among the special ones who receive the mercy of Allah in its greatest manifestation. Their joy will come from being in Paradise with their beloved Messenger, peace be upon him. Their joy will come from being saved from the Fire. Their joy will come from finally being with their Lord.
Their faces will beam with light and radiating expressions of happiness:
وُجُوهٌ يَوْمَئِذٍ نَاعِمَةٌ (Other) faces on that day shall be happy. (QS: Al-Ghashiyah :8), لِسَعْيِهَا رَاضِيَةٌ Well-pleased because of their striving, (QS: Al-Ghashiyah :9), فِي جَنَّةٍ عَالِيَةٍ In a lofty garden, (QS: Al-Ghashiyah :10).
Allah describes in another verse:
وُجُوهٌ يَوْمَئِذٍ نَاضِرَةٌ
(Some) faces on that day shall be bright, (QS: Al-Qiyamah :22)
Radiance implies beauty, so their faces will not only be joyous and smiling, but beautiful and glowing. Some Believers will be blessed with having the brightest of faces. The Prophet (peace be upon him), said:
“A group of my Ummah (community) consisting of seventy thousand persons would enter Paradise; their faces would be as bright as the brightness of the full moon.” ( H.R. Muslim)
If you have ever been outside during a full moon, then you know how bright it can be. The full moon gives off a serene light. Unlike the sun, it is not a light with intense heat. Looking directly at the sun can hurt your eyes, but looking directly at a full moon is enjoyable. The Prophet used the example of the full moon to imply that their faces will be beautiful, radiant, and easy to look at.
Once, the Companions asked the Prophet, peace be upon him, how he will recognize his followers that he has not met yet. He told them:
“My people would come with bright faces and bright hands and feet on account of the marks of ablution.” (H.R. Muslim)
While we may not see the physical remnants of our Wudu’ (ablution) now, the parts of our body we wash in the course of our Wudu’ will be illuminated on the Day of Judgment. And what is even more amazing is that these marks of Wudu’ will be how our Prophet will recognize us!
How did these bright and radiant faces look in the worldly life (dunya)?
They were humble and submissive:
وَمَنْ أَرَادَ الْآخِرَةَ وَسَعَىٰ لَهَا سَعْيَهَا وَهُوَ مُؤْمِنٌ فَأُولَٰئِكَ كَانَ سَعْيُهُمْ مَشْكُورًا
And whoever desires the hereafter and strives for it as he ought to strive and he is a believer; (as for) these, their striving shall surely be accepted. (QS: Al-Isra’ :109)
Recognizable through their worship:
مُحَمَّدٌ رَسُولُ اللَّهِ ۚ وَالَّذِينَ مَعَهُ أَشِدَّاءُ عَلَى الْكُفَّارِ رُحَمَاءُ بَيْنَهُمْ ۖ تَرَاهُمْ رُكَّعًا سُجَّدًا يَبْتَغُونَ فَضْلًا مِنَ اللَّهِ وَرِضْوَانًا ۖ سِيمَاهُمْ فِي وُجُوهِهِمْ مِنْ أَثَرِ السُّجُودِ ۚ ذَٰلِكَ مَثَلُهُمْ فِي التَّوْرَاةِ ۚ وَمَثَلُهُمْ فِي الْإِنْجِيلِ كَزَرْعٍ أَخْرَجَ شَطْأَهُ فَآزَرَهُ فَاسْتَغْلَظَ فَاسْتَوَىٰ عَلَىٰ سُوقِهِ يُعْجِبُ الزُّرَّاعَ لِيَغِيظَ بِهِمُ الْكُفَّارَ ۗ وَعَدَ اللَّهُ الَّذِينَ آمَنُوا وَعَمِلُوا الصَّالِحَاتِ مِنْهُمْ مَغْفِرَةً وَأَجْرًا عَظِيمًا
Muhammad is the Messenger of Allah, and those with him are firm of heart against the unbelievers, compassionate among themselves; you will see them bowing down, prostrating themselves, seeking grace from Allah and pleasure; their marks are in their faces because of the effect of prostration; that is their description in the Taurat and their description in the Injeel; like as seed-produce that puts forth its sprout, then strengthens it, so it becomes stout and stands firmly on its stem, delighting the sowers that He may enrage the unbelievers on account of them; Allah has promised those among them who believe and do good, forgiveness and a great reward. (QS: Al-Fath:29)
Kind and forgiving:
الَّذِينَ يُنْفِقُونَ فِي السَّرَّاءِ وَالضَّرَّاءِ وَالْكَاظِمِينَ الْغَيْظَ وَالْعَافِينَ عَنِ النَّاسِ ۗ وَاللَّهُ يُحِبُّ الْمُحْسِنِينَ
Those who spend (benevolently) in ease as well as in straitness, and those who restrain (their) anger and pardon men; and Allah loves the doers of good (to others). (QS: Imran : 134)
These faces were humble, obedient and kind during the worldly life and God will bless them with glowing faces in the hereafter. (Imt/R03)
Mi’raj Islamic News Agency (MINA)