From the start of our creation, we go through six stages [of life] before we settle down in our final destination:
The first stage: The creation from clay
The second stage: The semen proceeding to the womb
The third stage: Transference from inside the womb to the outside world.
The fourth stage: Transference from life to the grave
The fifth stage: Transference from the grave to Judgement
The sixth stage: Transference from the Judgement to the final destination (i.e. Paradise or Hell)
So far, people have crossed half this journey, but what is about to come is indeed more difficult.
O brothers, the years are like phases, the months are like miles, the days are like years, and breaths are like footsteps; good deeds are like your capital wealth and sins are like highway robbers; Paradise is like the profit earned from the journey and Hellfire is the loss. For this reason, the pious make good use of all the time they have, trading good deeds at the marketplace of worship and therefore abandoning worldly pleasures.
Whenever they come across a boat of life sailing in the sea of existence, their dedication to Allah’s worship makes them overlook the wonders of the sea. And as soon as they disembark at their final destination, they become overwhelmed with a sense of comfort, and so they are admitted into a land where they are assured a firm bond with their Lord, while at the same time they have assured for themselves a profitable gain for all eternity.
O you whose endeavours and aspirations are low; if you contemplated with an insightful heart upon what these people have gained, your tongue would surely wail deploringly: O how I wish I were with them! But in reality, you are far from them as the sky is from the earth!
Woe to you, the merchandise [deeds] of the pious have been paid into the safe-deposit of days, and they have sewn in the farm of this life the seeds of their love for their Lord. Then when you see them start to reap the harvest of their deeds, the voice of reproach will call you: You are like a person who has wasted a drink of cold water in the sweltering summer!
The barrier of heedlessness was removed from in front of their eyes, so they were able to see without having to look and speak without needing to utter words. The eyes [of the heart] see Him, though He is beyond the grasp of the creation’s vision. They exhausted their bodies in the journey of love until they arrived at their final destination; indeed “There are a people who have passed away; theirs is that which they earned and yours that which you earn.” (Baqarah 2:141)
Once a man with a pallid face and emaciated body entered upon Umar Ibn And Al-Aziz so he said to him: “Why do you look that way (i.e. weak and ill)?” The man said, “I tasted the sweetness of this life, and realised its bitterness; and since then I have been spending the nights in prayer and the days in fasting. And all of that is nothing compared with the punishment of Allah.”
Their hearts have melted in the fires of Allah’s fear, the flames burning the very root of their desires; their skin colours turned sallow due to their fears Allah’s punishment and their heads lowered down in shame. If you wish to know their state and circumstances then you ought to listen to the words they utter in between sighs and breaths [i.e. their remembrance of Allah constantly between each breath].
Seeds of Admonishment and Reform by Imam Ibn Jawzi Pages 189-191