Death and the Afterlife Health The Origins of the Universe

QUESTION & ANSWER – Response to Questions

How can we develop ourselves spiritually when we have to spend so much of our day dealing with materialistic matters? Hadhrat Mirza Tahir Ahmad(ru): The question has its in-built answer. The only way for you to become spiritual is by dealing with the matter and yet remaining aloof enough so that you are not influenced by the material life, instead you influence the material life. There are two types of people. Those who shape things around them with their goodness and in the area in which they move other people become better than before because of their good influence. There are others who are themselves influenced by the evil atmosphere in which they move or by people with whom they make friends. These people gradually drift away from righteousness to ill practices. Hence, when we talk of materialism it is the latter group that we have in mind, people who in their daily contact with the material world become overwhelmed by it yet the QUESTIONER 26 The Review of Religions – August 2003 Response to Questions Hadhrat Mirza Tahir Ahmad, the F o u rth Head of the Ahmadiyya Movement in Islam, (May God’s mercy be upon his soul), offered to people of all nationalities, faiths and beliefs the opportunity of raising questions and issues that were of interest to them. Presented below are answers to some questions that were raised in sessions held in London in 1993 and 1997. Compiled by Amatul Hadi Ahmad contact itself must exist in the case of every one who is living. It is impossible for a man to be living and yet to break away entirely from his contact with m a t t e r. The Prophets of God have this contact with the material world when they are married or when they are not married, when they eat, when they feel hungry, when they walk and talk. It is impossible for the living to break the link with the material world that is around them but the way one goes about it is the distinguishing factor. Hadhrat Maulana Rum has spoken of this in one of his poems and described this process as a contact between the boat and water. I am not going to quote him verbatim but the meaning of what he has said is simply this that you cannot conceive of a boat without water. Anything lying uselessly on the ground cannot be a boat until you have an association of that thing with water. Hence, a boat must have a counterpart that is water. However, as soon as it becomes submerged it is a boat no longer. So this is the state of material life here on earth according to Maulana Rum who was one of the greatest Sufis in Islam. He says that you cannot do away with your contact with matter or you will not be human. Therefore, keep that contact but be above it. One should be the master of the world around one with the spiritual teachings one receives from God. One should not permit oneself to be mastered by the material world. S p i r i t u a l i t y, as the questioner asked, is bound to develop, remaining within the material realm and material contacts, not otherwise. As a Muslim, I understand that the object of human existence is to seek consciousness of God and to become a manifestation of His attributes. However, it is clear that God takes away the lives of some human beings without giving them the opportunity of achieving this objective. In particular, I would like to find out, from an Islamic point of view, what the fate of infants and QUESTIONER 27 Response to Questions The Review of Religions – August 2003 children would be on the Day of Judgement? Hadhrat Mirza Tahir Ahmad(ru): These are, in fact, two questions rolled into one. The second part of your question is easier to understand and explain and I will begin with that. As far as children are concerned, they are the closest to God and to their objective because they have not yet reached an age where they would be tried or be gradually influenced by such things as ungodly conduct and b e h a v i o u r. They do not face temptation by Satan because that is an age of innocence. That is why the Holy Qur’an states that all children are created in accordance with ‘nature’. However, the question arises as to what is ‘nature’? It is Fitratullah, that is, the ‘nature’ of God and every child is created based upon that nature. Hence, children have already achieved the goal by the act of having been born. As they travel towards maturity, gradually and steadily they begin to be transformed. They start to make choices, and also wrong choices, in early childhood and here they can be monitored as moving in the right or wrong direction. Once a course of action is maintained and when that is extended and projected further into the age of m a t u r i t y, it then begins to manifest itself as pious behaviour or as bad behaviour. Hence, when some children are called back by God, they are fortunate in the sense that they were saved from trials and the possibility of failure. However, they are not fortunate in another sense because trials are not meaningless. If one goes through the age of trial and then achieves correctness, that is a much higher achievement than remaining correct without ever having been tried. It has been stated by the Holy Prophet(sa) in a tradition that such people who die early before reaching the age of maturity will be forgiven, of course, because they are innocent, but they will have missed something and that something would be taught to them by Prophet Abraham( a s ). 28 Response to Questions The Review of Religions – August 2003 The Holy Prophet( s a ) f u r t h e r stated that Prophet Abraham(as) would have an ‘institution’ in the hereafter for training such children who died early and, hence, did not achieve the purpose of creation of mankind. They would, therefore, undergo a lengthy period of training in the hereafter and when they success- fully complete that training, they will, God willing, be given a similar treatment to the rest of humanity, similar to those who succeeded in life and became good people. Turning to the first part of the question, what happens when God decides to have someone (who is not a child) called back to him, that is, when he decides for someone to die? By the time of his death, a person’s trends are already visible and under- standable. He had already started moving along a certain trajectory. If life were to be terminated e a r l i e r, a person would only reach a certain portion of that trajectory, but if it were to be extended f u r t h e r, we would be able to see that he is moving in the same direction until he reaches an extended point. Thus, when one considers a person dying at a mature age, one thinks, m i s t a k e n l y, that it should be enough. However, if we think in terms of eternity, the question would arise: why end his life there, at only seventy or eighty years? Maybe, if he had much l o n g e r, a thousand years or so, he would have rectified himself or changed from bad to good or from good to bad. The question, it would seem, is always there [as to what may have been the case had the time of death been different]. 29 Response to Questions The Review of Religions – August 2003 THE HOLY PROPHET(SA) FURTHER STATED THAT PROPHET ABRAHAM(AS) WOULD HAVE AN ‘INSTITUTION’ IN THE HEREAFTER FOR TRAINING SUCH CHILDREN WHO DIED EARLY AND, HENCE, DID NOT ACHIEVE THE PURPOSE OF CREATION OF MANKIND. The decision is taken by an All- Knowing Being who knows to what degree a person had become set in his goodness or in his badness. The Holy Qur’an repeatedly tells us that when at the time of death a person says, ‘Oh God, give me some more time and I will do goods deeds’, or after death he says, ‘Please send me back to the earth. This time I promise I will do good deeds’. According to God, that person is a liar, ‘Even if We did send him back, he would do exactly the same as he did previously’ – this is the verdict of the Holy Qur’an. This is in fact something that applies to all mankind in that this is exactly how people behave. When someone is about to die, they are often observed to have said, ‘Oh, we were not just to you, we were not good to you. If we were given a longer lease of life, we would mend these shortcomings and would be very good and kind to you’, and so on. They almost never do. Whenever they are saved, they begin to behave in exactly the same way as before. Thus, the question of coming to an end early or late is immaterial. God knows whether some characteristics have acquired permanence or not. According to some people, slaughtering of animals is a cruelty. Why should we then eat animal meat at all when we can live on vegetables? Hadhrat Mirza Tahir Ahmad(ru): But when people live on vegetables do they know how much animal life they kill with every mouthful? Bacteria and other insects that live on vegetables are destroyed by man through the use of pesticides or by fumigation and such practices. Apart from that, the vegetable that they eat is also a living cell and the scientists have now reached a stage in their understanding that they cannot rule out some sort of a ‘nervous’ system existing in vegetable life. There is certain evidence of plant life behaving as if it possessed a ‘nervous’ system. That evidence is so powerful that nobody can QUESTIONER 30 Response to Questions The Review of Religions – August 2003 ignore it. There is a plant known as ‘touch-me-not’ that shrinks as one brings a finger close to it. This is a visible sign. But apart from that, the fact is that every plant follows a course of behaviour that requires the existence of some ‘nervous’ system because when the plant grows there are two parts of it. One begins to grow away from the light and then gets embedded as a root in the soil, and the other begins to grow towards light. Why should the same type of cells have different preferences and why should they grow away from light? Moreover, when the position of the plant in relation to the sun is changed and as it changes also in the difference regions of the earth, from north to south, the branches of trees are d i fferently patterned, and they always tend to grow more in the direction of the sun. There are other similar behaviour patterns which indicate that there is some sort of a ‘nervous’ system that we cannot trace yet it does exist in the plant kingdom. That is also a sort of life. Why destroy life at all? That is the question. We live in a world in which life lives on life. This is the plan of things and when one understands the plan of things, one can go further and begin to understand God’s philosophy that the lower order of life is permitted to be sacrificed for life of the higher order. There is an entire plan of eco-system in life. Hence, when this is true of the stage below that of man, why should man be 31 Response to Questions The Review of Religions – August 2003 ……SCIENTISTS HAVE NOW REACHED A STAGE IN THEIR UNDERSTANDING THAT THEY CANNOT RULE OUT SOME SORT OF A ‘NERVOUS’ SYSTEM EXISTING IN VEGETABLE L I F E. T H E R E I S C E RTA I N E V I D E N C E O F P L A N T L I F E BEHAVING AS IF IT POSSESSED A ‘NERVOUS’ SYSTEM. ….THERE IS A PLANT KNOWN AS ‘TOUCH-ME-NOT’ THAT SHRINKS AS ONE BRINGS A FINGER CLOSE TO IT. THIS IS A VISIBLE SIGN. deprived of it? When in nature all other species of animals below man are permitted by God to survive on the comparatively lower order of species, why should man be deprived of it? If a person takes pity on a hen, we need to ask has he ever observed the hen eating worms or insects? Whatever animal you eat, it lives somehow on lower orders of life and all birds do the same thing. Birds of comparatively higher order kill their own species – birds of a lower order. This is a general plan of things and nobody can change it. There is no reason why man should be exempt from this. Islam teaches not to idolise human beings. So, what does it think of ‘pop stars’ and other people that teenagers follow and idolise? Hadhrat Mirza Tahir Ahmad(ru): Idolising is a different thing from having ideals. Strictly speaking, the term idolising means to raise someone’s status to the status of God, a deity whom you worship. Idealising, on the other hand, means that you believe in imaginary principles, ideals, which do not exist in real life. For example, some people live an ideal life, or attempt to live an ideal life or want to have an ideal husband which means a husband that can only be found in ideas but not in real life whereas to make an idol of somebody is a d i fferent thing altogether. Idolising is to follow somebody in such total submission that nothing of your own will is left and you are, in a way, enslaved or captured by that person. This is idolising as I understand it – I may be wrong. Now that I have explained these differences, what is your question in view of this? Some people say that those who continually follow ‘pop stars’ are idolising them but what about idealising them? Hadhrat Mirza Tahir Ahmad(ru): Without idealising you cannot do justice to yourself because every- QUESTIONER QUESTIONER 32 Response to Questions The Review of Religions – August 2003 body’s concept of what is perfect is different. For instance, you may have a completely different ideal from mine. Therefore, you must realise what your ideal is and you must remain in search of that ideal. If you find your ideal and it so happens that you are also an ideal for that person then in that case life can be heaven on earth, a real paradise. However, most often this does not happen. More often than not what we find is that one may believe someone to be one’s ideal but it turns out not to be the case and this is because of acting and deceit – because of distorted human attitude in that people are prone to cheat others in relation to their own inner selves. What they pose as and what they purport to be is most often not true. Someone may present a personality that is your own ideal but if that person is acting then you could be deceived and fall into the trap of his acting. Idealising, therefore, is a must but with this precaution that when you search for your ideal you should remember that people sometimes try to cheat others and they are not what they show themselves to be. The test for this is very simple. In the ordinary daily practice of life, if they easily tell lies to please you, leave them alone. This is because if a person is true he does not at any stage, even in extreme compulsion, tell lies to save himself or gain some advantage from others. Such a person is the only person who will be trustworthy. If he happens to be your ideal then you are the luckiest person on earth. Without truth no one must ever be trusted and it is not difficult to judge at all because it is impossible for a false man to pose as true in every situation. It is absolutely impos- sible. He may be true from one side, but from another he will be false. His inner self will reveal itself from this or that corner. An untrue person will be caught and he should be caught. In short, with this principle to guard your interests, I hope, God willing, you will find your ideal – so I hope and pray. 33 Response to Questions The Review of Religions – August 2003