The Philosophy of the Teachings of Islam – Part 12No Comments | December 2011
Translated from Urdu by
Sir Muhammad Zafrulla Khan
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It might be explained at this stage that according to the Holy Qur’an there are three states of existence.
The first is the world, which is called the first creation and is the state of effort. In this world man works good or evil. After resurrection the virtuous will continue their advance in goodness but that would be by the sheer grace of God and would not be the result of any effort of man.
The second is the intermediate state which is called Barzakh. In Arabic idiom Barzakh is something which is situated between two other things. As that state will be between the first creation and the resurrection it is called Barzakh. This expression has always been employed for the intermediate state. Thus it comprehends a great hidden testimony in support of the existence of the intermediate state. I have established in my book Minanur-Rahman that the words of Arabic have issued from the mouth of God and that this is the only language which is the language of the Most Holy God and is the most ancient tongue, and is the fountainhead of all types of knowledge, and is the mother of all languages, and is the first and last throne of Divine revelation. It is the first throne of Divine revelation because Arabic was the language of God that was with God since the beginning. Then that language came down to the world and people converted it into their respective languages. It is the last throne of Divine revelation, inasmuch as the last book of God, which is the Holy Qur’an, was revealed in Arabic. Barzakh is an Arabic word which is compounded of Barra and Zakhkha, which means that the manner of earning through action has ended and has fallen into a hidden state. Barzakh is a state in which the mortal condition of man is dissolved and the soul and the body are separated. The body is buried in a pit and the soul also falls into a sort of pit which is indicated by the expression Zakhkha, because it is no longer able to earn good or evil which it could only do through its relationship with the body. It is obvious that the health of the soul is dependent upon the health of the body. An injury inflicted upon one part of a person’s brain causes loss of memory, and an injury occasioned to another part destroys the faculty of reflection and brings about unconsciousness. Similarly a convulsion of the brain muscle, or a swelling or a hemorrhage or morbidity may, by causing obstruction, lead to insensibility, epilepsy, or cerebral apoplexy. Thus our experience teaches us definitely that the soul, divorced from the body, is utterly useless. It is entirely vain to imagine that our soul, without its body, can enjoy any kind of bliss. We might entertain such a fancy but reason lends it no support. We cannot conceive that our soul which is rendered helpless by minor upsets of the body could continue in a perfect condition when its relationship with the body comes to an end altogether. Does not our daily experience teach us that the health of the body is essential for the health of the soul? When one of us reaches extreme old age his soul also falls into dotage. Its store of knowledge is stolen by old age as is said by God, the Glorious, that in old age a person arrives at a stage in which, after having acquired much knowledge, he loses it all.1
All this observation of ours is proof enough that the soul without the body amounts to nothing. This is reinforced by the thought that if the soul without the body had amounted to anything, it would have been without purpose for God Almighty to set up a relationship between it and a mortal body. Further, it is worthy of note, that God Almighty has created man for limitless progress. Then if the soul is not able to achieve the progress possible in this brief life without the companionship of the body, how can we expect that it would be able, by itself, without the companionship of the body, achieve limitless progress in the hereafter.
All this shows that according to Islamic principles, for the soul to act perfectly, it is necessary for it to enjoy the companionship of a body at all times. On death the soul departs from this mortal body, but in the intermediate state every soul is invested with a body in order to enable it to react to the conditions of that state. That body is not like this physical body, but is prepared from light or from darkness, according to the quality of the person’s actions in this life, as if a man’s actions serve as a body for the soul in that state. In the Word of God it is repeatedly mentioned that some bodies will be bright and some will be dark. They will be prepared from the light or from the darkness of human actions. This is a fine mystery but is not opposed to reason. A perfect human being can enjoy an illumined body in this very life and there are many instances of this which are experienced in a state of vision. This may be difficult to comprehend by a person of average intelligence, but those who have some experience of the state of vision will not regard such a body as is prepared from human actions as a matter of surprise and improbability, but will duly appreciate this phenomenon.
In short, this body which is acquired according to the condition of one’s actions becomes a source of the recompense of good and evil in the intermediate state. I have experience of this. I have often had experience in a complete state of wakefulness of meeting some persons who had died, and I saw that the bodies of some evil-doers and misguided ones were so dark as if they had been made of smoke. In short, I am personally acquainted with these matters and I affirm emphatically that, as God Almighty has said, everyone is invested with a body after death which is either bright or dark. It would be a mistake on the part of man to seek to establish these fine insights through the mere exercise of reason. It should be realised that as the eye cannot discover the taste of something sweet, nor can the tongue behold anything, in the same way the knowledge of the life after death, which can only be acquired through holy visions, cannot be explained fully on the basis of reason. God Almighty has appointed diverse means for acquiring knowledge in this world of that which is unknown. Therefore, it is necessary to seek everything through its proper means. It is only then that it can be discovered.
Another matter that must be kept in mind is that in His Word, God has described as dead those people who are involved in vice and error and has declared the virtuous as alive. The reason for this is that the functions of the lives of those who die in a state of neglect of God, for instance, eating and drinking and indulgence of their passions are cut off, and they have no share of spiritual sustenance. They are truly dead and will be revived only for punishment. As God, the Glorious, has said, that the portion of him who comes to his Lord a sinner is hell; he shall neither die therein nor live.2 But those whom God loves do not die with their physical death, for their sustenance is with them. After Barzakh there is the third state of resurrection. In that state every soul, good or bad, righteous or disobedient, will be bestowed a visible body. That day has been appointed for the perfect manifestations of God, when every person will get to know the Being of his Lord fully, and everyone will arrive at the climax of his recompense. This should not be a matter for surprise for God has every power and does whatever He wills, as He has said; does not man know that We have created him from a mere sperm-drop injected into the womb? Then he becomes a persistent disputer. He forgets the process of his own creation but has much to say concerning Us. He asks: How shall a person be revived when even his bones have decayed? Who has the power to revive him? Tell them: He, Who created them the first time will revive them. He knows well every type of creation.3 His power is such that when He determines upon a thing He says concerning it Be; and it is. Thus Holy is He, in Whose hand is the kingdom over all things. To Him will you all be brought back.4
In these verses God, the Glorious, has set forth that nothing is beyond His power. Has He Who created man from a lowly drop not the power to create him a second time? An ignorant person might object that as the third state, which is the state of resurrection, would arrive after a long period, the state of Barzakh would only be a sort of lock-up for the good and the bad and this would be purposeless. The answer is that this is a misunderstanding which is due to lack of knowledge. In the Book of God there are two states mentioned for the recompense of the good and the bad, one of which is the state of Barzakh in which everyone will receive his recompense in a covert manner. The wicked would enter hell immediately on death and the virtuous will find comfort in heaven immediately after death. There are several verses in the Holy Qur’an to the effect that every person will, immediately on his death, encounter the recompense of his actions. For instance, it is said concerning a righteous one, that his Lord said to him: Enter thou into paradise.5 And concerning a wicked one this has reference to two friends one of whom was admitted to heaven and the other was condemned to hell.6 The one who was admitted to heaven was anxious to find out where his friend was. He was shown that his friend was in the midst of hell. Thus reward and punishment start immediately and those condemned to hell go to hell, and those who are to be admitted to heaven go to heaven. But thereafter there is a day of grand manifestation which has been appointed out of the great wisdom of God. He created man so that He should be recognised through His power of creation. Then He will destroy everything so that He might be recognised through His Supremacy over everything, and then He will gather everyone after bestowing perfect life on them so that He might be recognised through His Power.
Continues in the Next Edition
- …That they know nothing after having had knowledge… (Ch.22:V.6).
- Verily, he who comes to his Lord a sinner—for him is Hell; he shall neither die therein nor live (Ch.20:V.75)
- Does not man see that We have created him from a mere sperm-drop? Yet lo! He is an open quarreller! And he coins similitudes for Us and forgets his own creation. He says, ‘Who can quicken the bones when they are decayed?’ Say, ‘He, Who created them the first time, will quicken them; and He knows every kind of creation full well, (Ch.36:Vs.78-80)
- ‘Has not He Who created the heavens and the earth the power to create the like of them?’ Yea, and He is indeed the Supreme Creator, the All-Knowing. Verily His command, when He intends a thing, is only that He says to it, ‘Be!,’ and it is. So Holy is He, in Whose hand is the kingdom of all things. And to Him will you all be brought back. (Ch.36:Vs.82-84)
- It was said to him, ‘Enter Paradise’… (Ch.36:V.27)
- Then he will look and see him in the midst of the Fire. (Ch.37:56)