The Islamic conception of heaven is referred to by many names, such as jannat and garden of Allah–a place where the inhabitants have a life of eternal bliss. Where is this garden and how can one go there?
In many religious traditions, heaven is depicted as a physical or transcendent place inhabited by heavenly beings, including angels and God. Heaven is often described as a higher place or the holiest place, in contrast to hell or the nether world. It is commonly believed that humans can ascend to heaven after death if they have led a pious life and performed good deeds, or simply by the will of God.
Heaven, in fact, exists in this very world in the Golden Age. It is the period when humans are endowed with divine qualities and life is characterised by unalloyed joy, comfort, abundance and harmonious relationships. During that period the elements of nature are also in perfect balance and cater to the needs of all creatures.
In other words, the world is like a garden–a pleasant place of joy–and the inhabitants of that world are like flowers–full of virtues and free of vices, they never hurt anyone even in their thoughts, or experience sorrow. Everything there happens at the right time, in the right place and the right manner.
Such a garden is developed at the end of the Iron Age in every cycle of time when the world has turned into a forest of thorns, in the sense that it is enveloped in the darkness of ignorance and humans have become like thorns. They hurt each other under the influence of vices such as lust, anger, greed, attachment and ego.
God, the Gardener, appears in this world when the darkness is complete, and proceeds to turn the forest into a garden. He does this by reminding souls of their true identity, their relationship with Him, and the cycle of time. His words of truth stir in the soul’s long-buried memories of a happy past. By recognising their true self and connecting with it, the souls begin to experience the qualities latent in them.
As they continue this process of self-empowerment, the souls get enriched with peace, love, purity and power. The traits they had acquired due to their inner impoverishment–selfishness, anger, greed, ego, giving and taking sorrow–begin to fall away.
This metamorphosis in human souls is accompanied by great changes in the external world, whereby the forest gets destroyed, clearing the ground for a garden to be laid out.