Death and the Afterlife

QUESTION & ANSWER: Belief in the Hereafter

Could you, please, explain the concept of heaven and hell—where are they and what are their chara c – teristics? Hadhrat Mirza Tahir Ahmad: In what terms would you describe the concept of waves that exist all around us? Are you able to touch them? Are you able to smell them or feel them in any way when it is a fact that this room is filled with thousands of such waves which can be received by television or radio and other similar instruments. However, one cannot deny their existence simply because one is unable to actually see them without the aid of special instruments, even though they belong to the four dimensions that we know of here on earth. Moreover, scientists have begun to understand and believe in the existence of things that are of yet different dimen- sions. According to the Holy Qur’ a n which was revealed about fourteen hundred years ago, this was exactly the concept of heaven and hell presented to the world. It is amazing that the Holy Qur’an speaks of Jannah, that is heaven or paradise, as occupying the whole of the universe. It was amazing for a book of fourteen hundred years ago to have declared that the heaven or paradise is everywhere, even at 29Review of Religions – March 2002 Belief in the Hereafter Hadhrat Mirza Tahir Ahmad, the Fourth Head of the Ahmadiyya Movement in Islam, from time to time offers to people of all nationalities, faiths and beliefs the opportunity of asking questions and raising issues that are of interest to them. Presented below are answers to questions that were asked in a session held in London, on 25 February, 1998. Prepared by Amatul Hadi Ahmad QUESTIONER the places which people of that age occupied. It was so extra- ordinary a declaration for the people of that time who had very limited understanding of the universe, that one of the Companions of the Holy Pr o p h e t( s a ) stood up and raised a question. His question was posed in a very different but interesting way. He asked that if paradise is spread all over the universe, where then is hell? The Holy Prophet(sa) was so enlightened by Allah that he understood the concept of different dimensions otherwise he could not have given the a n s w e r, which he gave. He replied that ‘hell is also present here in the same universe but you can not understand’. Indeed the people of that time were not able to understood such a notion but the man of today can understand this to a degree that if there are things possessing differing dimensions, they can coexist in the same, so called, space. They do not interfere with each other and they do not relate to each other. It is as if one exists and the other does not but they can still coexist. This is the idea of heaven and hell that has been presented in the Holy Qur’an. Do you believe that there is life after death? Belief in life after death is c e n t ral to the Christian faith. What form does spiritual life take? Hadhrat Mirza Tahir Ahmad: We believe in life after death as an essential and integral part of our belief. If one does not believe in life after death, one does not believe in anything. This is so because not believing in the hereafter gives license to do whatever one likes here on earth and death is seen as a road to redemption. Whatever crime is committed here by a person, if he does not believe in the hereafter, he will not see himself as being answer- able to anyone and in this way it 30 Belief in the Hereafter Review of Religions – March 2002 QUESTIONER ‘WE BELIEVE IN LIFE AFTER DEATH AS AN ESSENTIAL AND INTEGRAL PART OF OUR BELIEF. IF ONE DOES NOT BELIEVE IN LIFE AFTER DEATH, ONE DOES NOT BELIEVE IN ANYTHING’. is his road to redemption. A criminal may have murdered hundreds of people and at times, by exploding bombs, one person can be responsible for killing thousands of innocent people. When he is hanged or other forms of capital punishment need to be applied only once, he cannot be hanged a hundred times or a thousand times. Hence he gets away with all the damage he has done in life. This is the reason why in Islam there is such a great emphasis on the belief in the hereafter and that is why, as I have stated before, all the divinely revealed religions do pay special importance to the question of life after death. The ideas may, however, differ and the ideas may become greatly distorted because it is the case that people do not wish to be punished for long. For instance, many Jewish people believe that if they are punished at all they will be punished for three days and that will be all. This is a wish on their part but God does not follow human wishes. Allah knows best whom He would forgive and whom He will not, but generally speaking, a man who has lived a life of sin here on earth, unless forgiven by God, would face a punishment that will be an extension of his life here on earth. It is the case that such people are given numerous chances and options during their life to turn to God and to abandon their evil way. These options appear before them repeatedly but if they continue to ignore the voice of their conscience and continue to live a life of sin, how should they be dealt with? Despite the numerous chances and opportunities they are granted, they do not return to a life of goodness and in such a case we can say that death ended their vicious life—a life that may have continued in its evil ways till eternity had they been permitted to live for an eternity. Hence, the belief in life after death, in my view, is of great 31 Belief in the Hereafter Review of Religions – March 2002 ‘THE BELIEF IN LIFE AFTER DEATH, IN MY VIEW, IS OF GREAT IMPORTANCE AND ITS SIGNIFICANCE IS A REALITY. IF IT WERE NOT A REALITY, THEN RELIGION WOULD NOT BE A R E A L I T Y—I T W O U L D B E MEANINGLESS’. importance and its significance is a reality. If it were not a reality, then religion would not be a reality—it would be meaningless. What is the Islamic vi e w about re-incarnation? Does our spirit exist before we are born? If so, can it choose its parents? Hadhrat Mirza Tahir Ahmad: We do not believe in re- incarnation in any form. We do not believe that souls live with God permanently and eternally. This is a Hindu mythology and the western people tend to believe in it only because they do not fully understand this mythology. They wish to be able to live and re-live among their friends and relatives. This desire is wishful thinking on their part and it leads them to want to believe in this mythology. There are no souls existing independently—all the souls occupy a body and are born of the body that we have here. However, once they leave the body, then they go to God. They do not have any choice to return to this earth. They go to God and He decides as to how they are to be judged in accordance with the acts performed here on earth. Hence, there is no return from the hereafter. This is the belief that Jesus(as) held —this is the belief that all the divinely revealed religions hold. Against this, the rest is just mythology and wishful thinking— that is all. 32 Belief in the Hereafter Review of Religions – March 2002 QUESTIONER