Death and the Afterlife

Guide Posts

Guide Posts Glimpses Beyond the Grave (Bashir Ahmad Orchard) “Treat this day as if thy life had already been spent, and this were an extra day granted thee by special favour of the Almighty. What can be greater folly than to lose it?” (Imam Abu Hamid Muhammad A-Ghazali). Belief in the existence of the Hereafter is a cardinal doctrine of Islam. Disbelief in it is tantamount to a denial of Islam (5:70). Nevertheless mere belief is not sufficient to satisfy the yearnings of the zealous Muslim who is anxious to acquire conviction and certainty through the medium of personal experience. All Muslims claim to believe in the existence of God; but there are few who possess a certainty of conviction. Their belief does not extend beyond an assumption. Similarly no Muslim will deny belief in the life to come; but few possess that assured certainty. Man does not know the exact nature of the rewards which lie in store for the righteous in heaven because they have been withheld from his knowledge (32:18); but although they cannot be understood in their full measure they can be comprehended to some extent. It is impossible for man to experience the intense heat within the sun; but he can experience something of its glow even on this far away planet. Likewise the balm of paradise can be experienced to a lesser degree even on this side of the grave for God tells us in the Holy Quran that heavenly life begins right here. The Holy Quran tells us that God is the Lord of all the worlds (1:2). Broadly speaking there are two universes — the material and the spiritual. God is the Creator and Lord of all the innumerable galaxies of stars and planets spinning and revolving in space; and He is also the Creator and Lord of all the spiritual conditions and stages in the realm of the spirit. The eyes of the soul can see beyond the vision of the physical eyes into the intangible world of the spirit; but still their vision is extremely limited. The GUIDE POSTS 3 polished lenses of the powerful telescope can penetrate deep into space beyond the vision of the naked eye; but no telescope can capture the immensity of the universe; nor can the soul know of the full glory of paradise before it departs this world; but it can experience a glimmer. The greatest of all God’s Messengers was the Holy Prophet Muhammad (may peace be on him). He was completely shrouded in the mantle of God’s Grace. During his heavenly journey known as the Miraj the thin but opaque veil which screens this world from the next was lifted and some of the unknown secrets of paradise were disclosed to him; but it should be remembered that this was a spiritual experience seen in a dream and therefore does not contradict the Quranic verses which states that the blessings of the next life are hidden from man. The Holy Prophet Muhammad (may peace be on him) was the most righteous of all men and as heavenly life commences in this world for those who are truly righteous the Holy Prophet was not among those who belong only to this world and who think, see and hear only with their physical brains, eyes and ears. Life is a Dream The Hereafter is the real and permanent abode because it is everlasting (11:109). It is the life of this world which has no permanency although man is inclined to think it is the real thing. Existence on this planet is no more than a dream for everything concerning it is temporary, evanescent and unstable. These same distinctions characterise a dream. A dream appears to be real while it lasts. Joy and sorrow, pleasure and pain which are experienced in a dream are as real to the dreamer as they are to him in a state of consciousness. When he awakens he concludes that his nocturnal vision was not real; but the unreal certainty seemed to be real as long as it lasted. Conversely, cannot that which seems to be real be unreal? May not our conscious experiences be as much a dream as our unconscious experiences? When awakening from the dream world visited in sleep we exclaim “Ah — it was just a dream!” Likewise when we awaken in the Hereafter might we not also utter the same words relating to this life? This thought is well worth our reflective attention: If the unreal (a dream) seems to be real then may it not be possible that that which seems to be real (life) may also be unreal? This planet on which we live appears to be a solid ball of rock and mineral; but in fact it is no more solid than the finest of gases. All substance is composed of atoms which are so minute that a million times a million of them make a lump too small to see. Not only are all atoms separated from one another by space but every atom itself is mostly space in the same manner as there is more space than matter within our solar system. Every atom is a 4 REVIEW OF RELIGIONS miniature solar system which has its own planets (electrons) revolving around its nucleus, A grain of sand may be likened to a galaxy of stars such as the Milky Way which to the naked eye appears as a mass of light whereas in reality it comprises thousands of millions of stars so widely separated from one another that light travelling at 186,000 miles per second takes a hundred thousand years to travel from one end of this galaxy to the other. The vision of the eye is so restricted that the unreal appears real and the real appears unreal. Like a dream this world is evanescent and \mstable. Everything is constantly changing and disappearing. Iron has been known to disappear completely through the process of rusting. The cells of the body are said to be renewed every so often producing a completely new body. An object submerged in the ocean is encompassed by water; and a dream is encompassed by a sea of consciousness. The dreamer enters the dream world from the realm of wakefulness; and then he returns from the dream world to the realm of wakefulness. Likewise this life is immersed in the ocean of obscurity. Man comes from the obscure and returns to the obscure although the state he comes from and the state he returns to may be different conditions. In this respect there exists a parallel between the dream of life and the dream of sleep. Every nocturnal dream comes to an end; so does every form of life on this unstable planet. Hereafter Everlasting When it is clearly understood that this life is evanescent like a dream and that the life of permanent abode lies on the other side of the grave then humanity will cease concentrating on riches and worldly honour and take to heart God’s., counsel: “O my people, this life of the world is but a temporary provision; and the Hereafter is certainly the home of permanent stay.” (40:40). Thousands of generations comprising billions of human beings have passed on to the great beyond. Not a single individual now breathing away its existence has long to live; yet man is so engrossed with the embellishments of this life that he .scarcely gives thought to the Hereafter; and there are many who give no thought to it at all. Ah! If man would but give attention to the Word of God: PUIDE POSTS 5 “And the life of this world is only a play and a sport, but surely the abode of the Hereafter is better for those who are pious. Will you not then have sense”? (6;33). Know it for certain that the Promised Messiah whose advent has been foretold by the earlier prophets including Jesus and Muhammad (may peace be on them) has appeared in these times in the person of Hazrat Mirza Ghulam Ahmad of Qadian. Let every God-fearing individual take heed and reflect time and time again on his words of advice: “Always bear in mind that your death stands very near. You have no idea when that hour will come.” These words of warning ring with truth yet few persons heed them. People do not like to think that their death may be close at hand and they prefer to assume that long years lie ahead of them. But life is always short. Astronomers have been able to ascertain that the universe has been in existence for at least six thousand million years; and shortly they expect to have evidence available to prove that it has existed for a much longer period. The few score years which sometimes run the gamut of a life span amount to no more than a tick of the clock in relation to the age of the universe. The Hereafter is no illusion or dream because it is a stable and everlasting world. There the soul will develop into a new creation according to its condition when leaving this life; and its development will also be subject to the Mercy of God. The purification of the soul should be man’s highest goal in this life; and this special grace is attainable by all who earnestly desire it; but it only comes through complete submission and devotion to Allah. All other paths are closed. The Promised Messiah has emphasised the conditions necessary for spiritual purification: “Turn wholly and solely to Him, so that you lose interest in this world. Become entirely His,, living wholly for His will and pleasure, for His sweet sake, hating everything impure and sinful, for indeed He is Holy.” (Our Teaching). “Let him who would walk on the right path, completely submit himself with all his faculties and powers to the will of God and then pray unceasingly and untiringly for the divine union and thus realize the’reality of divine existence through divine assistance.” (Philosophy of the Teachings of Islam). 6 REVIEW OF RELIGIONS Only through submission to Islam can the polluted soul become cleansed of its impurities. Every Muslim should ardently desire and strive for self purification. This should be the real objective of living and the most dominant thought in his mind. Nothing else should be of greater concern to him; not even his love for family, wealth and property (9.24). This philosophy is the quintessence of Islam. God is Merciful Islam teaches that God exercises His attribute of Mercy both in this life and in the next. On the other hand Christian preachers talk of everlasting hell and punishment. This belief divests God of His mantle of Mercy and reveals the blurred spiritual vision of Christian evangelists. Certainly evil doers and deniers of truth will experience some punishment; but when they have suffered their desserts they will be released from their torments. The Holy Prophet Muhammad (may peace and the blessings of God be upon him) is reported to have said that there will come a time when hell will be empty. All praise to the Beneficent and Merciful God of Islam. Islam does not teach, however, that all souls in paradise will enjoy the same status. God tells us in His Word — the Holy Quran: “And for all there are grades of rank according to what they did.” (46:20). “Therein (paradise) they will hear no idle talk nor lying. A recompense from thy Lord — a gift in proportion to their works.” (78:36, 37). In this respect the Holy Prophet has said: “There are a hundred grades in paradise prepared by Allah for those who fight in the path of Allah and, in between each, is as great a distance as is between earth and heaven . . .” (Bukhari). The Promised Messiah — the Holy Founder of the Ahmadiyya Movement —• has also stressed this encouraging truth: “Those who accept God here, who lose themselves in divine love and who take their stand on the right path, have in store special honours which would not be attained by other people.” (The Will). GUIDE POSTS 7 Islam encourages spiritual initiative; and every true Muslim hankers to be among the elect and looks forward to the special delights of the Hereafter promised to the distinguished servants of God. Anticipation of these fruits is in itself a taste of paradise on earth. Fruits of Paradise have Roots in this Life There is a world of difference between wild grapes and the sweet luscious fruit which hangs in bunches from the pruned vine. Likewise there is no comparison between the spiritual joys vouchsafed to man in this life and the sweet nectar of paradise in the Hereafter. The Holy Quran has compared the blessings of paradise with the good things of this life. The analogy is symbolic but it is the only way of giving man some indication and understanding of the fruits of paradise. The rewards of the Hereafter will be embodiments of a person’s conduct in this life; and so it is here where they have their roots. The righteous soul can taste the ecstasy of heaven while it still dwells in its mortal frame on earth; but the full abundance of joy in store for it cannot be known until death opens the gate to the garden of Allah. There the soul will recognise a degree of resemblance between these new joys and those experienced on earth. They will cry out: “This is what was given us before” (2:26). A few illustrations will help in understanding the philosophy of spiritual embodiment. Creation is the embodiment of thought. Every invention was once no more than an intangible thought in the mind of man; and from this state it came to be embodied into physical reality. Character is also the embodiment of thought. Vulgar thoughts become translated into coarse and indecent habits while noble and graceful habits are the embodiments of pure thoughts. Worry is the result of depressed thoughts while the sunny disposition materialises from cheerful thoughts. Everything is the embodiment of thought. The intangible materialises into the physical. As thought is the seed of achievement on earth so the condition of the soul is the seed of a new spiritual creation in the Hereafter. To a great extent health is the embodiment of food. Man is not only what he thinks but he is also what he eats. Health flourishes or suffers according to the nature of the food absorbed into the system. However, health and food are not one and the same thing. The former is an embodiment of the latter; and in a more or less similar manner the blessings of the next life are embodiments of the good things of this life. As there is a connexion between health and food which is discernible to the mind of man so there is a connexion between the 8 REVIEW OF RELIGIONS blessings of this life and the blessings of the Hereafter which will be cognizant to the soul after death: “This is what was given us before” (2:26). The blessings of paradise have their roots in this world; and a glow of their heavenly lustre may be felt by the righteous man while he is still on this side of the grave for, in truth, he has already forsaken this world through his dedication to God and discovered for himself that heavenly life commences right here. All Praise is due Allah the Lord of all the worlds. Sayings of Muhammad (Peace be on him) The Lord doth not regard a prayer in which the heart doth not accompany the body. The love of the world is the root of all evils. All actions are judged by the motives prompting them. Do not speak ill of the dead. The most excellent Jihad (Striving in the way of God) is that for the conquest of self. Kill not your hearts with excess of eating and drinking. Strive always to excel in virtue and truth. All God’s creatures are His family; and he is the most belove3 of God’who trieth to do most good to God’s creatures. Be persistent in good actions. Humility and courtesy are acts of piety.