What death brings to us? Is life restricted to this present terrestrial existence which stretches from the moment of birth to the moment of death? Is it confined to the brief interval during which those who have come to this world take, one after another, the place of those who have left it? Should it be imagined that there is no existence other than the three-dimensional existence of this world, and that our individual characteristics and personalities bear the imprint of non-being? Is it a complete end of a man or is it the door to a perfect and more advanced world?
Or is it true that beyond this existence an eternal morrow awaits man, which will enable him to perceive a new himself and the world? Will the physical system of this world be transformed into another world and manifest a new and perfected form? Finally, in all these arrivals and departures, in these assumptions of form and annihilations, is there some divine purpose at work? In other words, did God's will determine that man, the choice part of His creation, should live in this world as a traveler, a transient, and move ultimately to another world which will be his eternal abode?
In broader sense, is there an end of this world and will everything be wiped out? Is there a resurrection and that all the dead ones will be raised and then be restored to life and will be presented before God Who will sit in judgment on that day? Is it true that the entire record of every man and woman — of all their doings and misdoings — will be presented before God for the final judgment? Is there a Hell and Heaven?
In the following sections we will answer these vital questions of life from the view point of Islam and bring forth clear arguments based on wisdom.
The concept of resurrection is one of the founding principal of Islam and has been an essential part of teaching of all the prophets. According to this principle, the life of this world and of all that is in it will come to an end on an appointed day, The Last Day or Qiyamah. That all the human being's who have lived in the world since its inception will then be restored to life and will be presented before God Who will make the final judgment.
That one who excels in goodness will be rewarded; one whose evils and wrongs outweigh his good deeds will be punished. That those who emerge successful in this judgment will go to Paradise and the doors of eternal bliss will be opened to them; those who are condemned and deserve punishment will be sent to Hell — the abode of fire and torture.
Death means separation of soul from the body; Islam tells us that man is not annihilated as the result of death. He is only transferred from one world to another, where he begins a new life. The Holy Prophet has said: "You have not been created for annihilation. You have been created for everlasting life. The only thing is that you are moved from one world to another."
According to Islam, separation of soul from the body does not take place in a uniform manner in the case of all individuals. The souls of the sinners and of those who are too much attached to this world are separated with violence and force, but the souls of the virtuous and those who love Allah and are in communion with the next world are separated with ease and gentleness.
If we conceive of death as the end of everything for a person, then life, under whatever circumstances it is spent, will be full of misery and pain, for the anticipation of annihilation and non-being inevitably arouses fear in man and paralyses him with the undeniable torment it induces.
The second view point is that of a person who finds refuge in the concept of a world beyond nature which enables him to place this world in perspective. He is convinced that man and the universe advance together in a pattern determined by God's unity and that their forward movement is unending. For such a person death is simply the breaking of the narrow and confining cage of the body and his being liberated from it, entering thereby an ideal and enrapturing realm.
For such a person death is merely the substitution of one form to another, a change of outer garb. When death arrives man abandons this garb and his form of clay and puts on the garment of the transitional realm. Then, ascending from that stage to the next and flying toward infinity, he casts off in turn the garb of the transitional realm and puts on the raiment of eternity.
For those who hold this exalted and precious belief, the end of life is a transformation overflowing with good, a transformation that enables all things to recover their identity and to be purified.
The bitterness and unpleasantness of leaving this world are seen as natural and inevitable by those who imagine that their passage through the wall of death spells an end to all dimensions of their existence and that there is no life beyond that frontier.
But for those who believe that this world is nothing more than an elaborate game, similar to that in which children or artists engage, and that quitting this world of matter is a form of progress and ascent in the direction of infinity, the matter takes on a quite different aspect. Not only does the countenance of death lose for them its horror and awe; they even wait impatiently for release from their body of clay in order to be joined in union with Him.
Such an understanding of the nature of death impels man to pursue pure and exalted aims, to the point of heroically sacrificing his life for their sake. Then, like a moth freed from its prison he circles over his former place of confinement; like a warrior on the field of battle he accepts a bloody death. He sacrifices his personal motives and desires in order to attain a morrow filled with pride, glory, and lofty and positive ideals.
In the view of such a person, man has a two-dimensional life as an attribute that is uniquely his. One of the two dimensions is his material life, in which he is subject to biological circumstances and social necessities, and the other is his inner and spiritual life, a life in which he engages in thought, inventiveness, creativity, and the cultivation of ideals, gives external existence to his inner ferment and enthusiasm, and moulds to his will the society in which he lives and even history.
All prophets and sacred books unanimously agree that with death human life does not come to an end, and after this world, there exists another world where human beings will be rewarded or punished according to their deeds. The virtuous will lead a happy and pleasant life, and the evil-doers will be punished and tormented. Belief in resurrection and the next world is one of the fundamentals of all religions and a believer in prophets has to believe in resurrection, too.
The idea that with death everything comes to an end and man is completely annihilated, is not only appalling but appears to be odd and illogical also. Especially after the acceptance of the doctrine of divine unity and acknowledgement of the existence of Allah, it is totally incomprehensible.
It is unbelievable that the aim of all the complex laws of evolution is simply to first transform a simple and invaluable being into a highly developed intellectual being like Avicenna (lbn-Sina) or Einstein and then to annihilate him altogether. It does not stand to reason that annihilation should be the fate of the entire human race and its culture. Such a theory is incredible, unreasonable and incompatible with the knowledge, wisdom and skill of the Creator. This looks as if a great engineer builds a carefully designed and well-executed magnificent workshop or factory and then blows it into pieces.
Will it not be more logical if we admit that life continues in another form after death and the process of evolution does not come to an end? Here we can give a beautiful example. Our life in this world is like that of a fetus which after passing through several evolutionary stages, is transferred to a wider and more perfect environment of which it could not even have imagined (if it had any power of imagination).
Had human life been limited to a fetal period and every fetus died immediately after birth? Would such a life not have been illogical and unreasonable? It would be more logical if human life in this world after passing through intricate and difficult routes of physical, intellectual and moral evolution is a prelude to the beginning of a higher and wider life in the next world. The life of that world should bear the same relation to the life of this world as the life of this world to the fetal life.
That is why all those who believe in Allah also believe that with death man is not annihilated, but is transferred to another world whose full details and characteristics are beyond our comprehension, for we are confined to the four walls of this world. Anyhow; we know this much that leaving this world does not mean the end of life and that another world does exist.
Study of the laws of the Universe, of the forces which push man forward along the path of evolution and of the systematic grandeur of this world convincingly testify to this truth.
The Holy Quran says; "Did you think that we had made you in vain and that you were not going to return to us?"
It also says: "And surely you have known the first evolution then why do you not think?" In other words it says you have seen the life of this world, then why do you not conclude that there is another world also, for the study of this world and the laws concerning the evolution of human life here show that there is another world where the process of evolution will continue.
Scientific Laws and Resurrection
It is remarkable that Science with its modern discoveries has taken a long step forward towards proving the possibility of resurrection and life hereafter, and with the enunciation of the doctrine of the imperishability of matter and energy, the resurrection which previously appeared to be impossible, has now become logical and comprehensible.
The doctrine of the imperishability of matter which was first discovered by Lavoisier has rendered the question of complete annihilation totally unscientific. According to it, the particles of man, howsoever, decomposed and scattered they may become, still exist in this very world, and it is possible that one day they are recollected. This is the first step forward towards the possibility of the resurrection of man and his return to life after death.
This doctrine was further reinforced by the discovery of radio-active bodies by Marie Curie. Her discovery confirmed that not only matter but energy is also everlasting and that there is no duality between matter and energy, for they are convertible with each other.
On this basis, we should admit that our ideas, our deeds and all our movements which are all produced by the transformation of our various bodily energies, continue to exist in this world. Our vocal waves are not obliterated and their traces always exist in the air and the objects which surround us. Only their form is changed. The same is the case with all our works and deeds.
This is another step forward towards the possibility of resurrection and even physically seeing the deeds themselves. Anyhow, with the progress of science the question of resurrection is no longer as complicated as once it was. Now it is comprehensible and from a scientific stand-point fully admissible.
The following sources are used to prepare the above article.
1. Group of Scholars, Rationality of Islam (1978), under the auspices of Ayatullah Sayyid Abu'l Qasim al-Khu'I, Publisher: Islamic Seminary Publications, Pakistan
2. Mujtaba Musavi Lari, Resurrection Judgment And The Hereafter (1992), Publisher: Qum, Iran: Foundation of Islamic Cultural Propagation in the World, 1992. 251 p.
3. Abul Ala Mawdudi, Towards Understanding Islam (1963), Publisher: Islamic Publications
4. Dr. M. H. Behishti, Dr. M. J. Bahonar, Philosophy of Islam, Islamic Seminary Publications (1984)