Death and the Afterlife

Contact with Departed Souls

38 CONTACT WITH DEPARTED SOULS (Hazrat Mirza Bashir Ahmad) The Holy Quran says concerning the origin of the soul: Verily, We created man from an extract of clay; then We placed him as a drop of sperm in a safe depository (womb) then We fashioned the sperm into a clot; then We fashioned the clot into a shapeless lump; then We clothed the bones with flesh; and then We developed it into another creation. So blessed be Allah, the Best of creators. (23:13-15). In these verses God has beautifully described both the process of the birth of the body and soul of man along with an exposition of the different stages. Firstly, the creation of man’s body has been described stage by stage: from an extract of clay to a sperm, and then into a loose clot, and then into a compact lump, then into bones and then into a covering of flesh and skin and concluded with the creation of the soul from within this body as indicated in the original words * /f 12U.** (a new birth) and then prefixing it with the words **,t&t*** (developed and elevated it), hinted thereby that it is actually the soul in man which distinguishes him from other animals and makes him stand apart from all other living species. According to the teachings of Islam the soul is really a developed and elevated essence of the body, evolved from within after its perfection into a new and sublime creation. The view held by the Arya Samajists that the soul is a foreign element which enters the body from outside is totally wrong. Now, when according to the Islamic teachings it is apparent that the soul is really a developed part of the body, it becomes clear that its connexion with the body which is like a seed or father unto it, it cannot be severed completely, and remains essentially attached to the body in one way or another. This is why the Holy Prophet of Islam is reported to have said that after a man’s death when the soul has departed, an invisible part of his body, perhaps similar to an atom or molecule, still remains. I am not a scientist but I am explaining in general terms. In this saying of the Holy Prophet that part has been referred to as i.e; the lowest part of the spinal column (Bukhari). It is on this account that it has been accepted that there is a connexion between the departed soul and the grave. Many saints and righteous people have had the experience that when REVIEW OF RELIGIONS 39 they visited the tomb of a great saint and prayed there with fervent attention, then sometimes through spiritual visions they met with the soul of that entombed saint. It must be remembered that visions are totally different from dreams. Dreams are seen during sleep while visions are observed in a state of wakefulness when the material curtain is withdrawn before the observer’s eyes and unseen things are revealed to him. These scenes are somewhat like a cinema film running before the physical eyes. It is necessary for me to explain that according to Islamic terminology the grave does not always mean the commonly understood grave in the earth. It also means the place where the soul is kept from the time of death until the day of resurrection. God says in the Holy Quran: Then in due course He causes him to die and assigns a grave to him. (80:22). It is evident that in this world every man is not assigned to an earthly grave. Millions are cremated while others drown and are even eaten by beasts, How, then, can it be said that God assigns a grave to every person who dies? Surely it can be taken only in the wider sense as explained in a tradition that the grave signifies a place where after death and before resurrection the soul of man is consigned. It is, therefore, in this sense that the Holy Prophet of Islam has used the words punishment of the fire as distinct from punishment of the grave. Some ignorant and materialistic people take the meaning of the grave in the literal sense and make them more spacious so that the deceased may have ample space to sit up in the presence of two angels who will visit them in the grave. What is actually meant by the grave is the place where the souls of the deceased ones are temporarily kept after death to which the Holy Quran has applied the name * ̂ ** meaning a place or depository for the intervening period between death and resurrection. Only as long as the souls remain in this place do they have a connexion in some way or another with this world. After that this connexion will terminate and the life after death will start in full measure. Perhaps I am going too deep into subtle religious terms. The fact is, however, that these questions are so much bound together and their linking threads are so much interwoven that it is well-nigh impossible to seperate or extricate one from the other. I will now turn to the question as to whether it is possible for a living person to meet with a departed soul in this world. It is possible but not in 40 REVIEW OF RELIGIONS the manner that whenever and by whomsoever at any time a departed soul can be called upon and words exchanged. This view is contrary to the teachings of the Holy Quran which says: And behind them (the deceased ones) is a barrier until the day when they shall be raised again. (23:10) How then can one have contact with departed souls? The Holy Quran is not silent on this point It says: And they ask thee, 0 Prophet, concerning the soul Say, the soul has been created by the command of my Lord; and of the knowledge thereof you have been given but a little. (17:86) As I have said meeting with a departed soul is certainly possible but not that it can be called forth and conversed with instantly by anyone at any time. Between this world and the next there exists a barrier and meetings between the living and the dead are only possible by the command of God and not otherwise. This history of the prophets and saints is replete with incidents showing how prayer and concentration they had, with God’s leave, met certain departed souls. It is related in a tradition that Abdullah, a companion of the Holy Prophet, was killed in the battle of Uhud. On the basis of a vision the Holy Prophet said in a consoling manner to the son of Abdullah: When your deceased father appeared before God Who was well pleased with Ins sacrifice. He asked him if he had any wish. He replied ‘My Lord: Thy bounties are limitless. I only wish that 1 may be restored to life so that I may sactiflce it again in Thy cause.’ God replied that He would have fulfilled this wish but for the fact that He had decreed in the Holy Quran that those who die shall not return to the world. (Tirmizi and Ibn Majah) It has been related that when the Holy Prophet Muhammad (peace be on him) saw the corpses of the disbelievers on the battle field of Badr. he was shown their souls in a’ vision and said to them with great emotion: We liave seen the fulfilment of the promise of our Lord. Have you (disbelievers) also witnessed the fulfilment of the promise of your god? (Bukhari Al Maghazi) The Holy Founder of the Ahmadiyya Movement has written in one of REVIEW OK RELIGIONS 41 his Arabic eulogies: By God I have seen with mine own corporal eyes the sublime beauty and excellence of the Holy Prophet while sitting in my house. In my early youth I saw his blessed face. Again, while fully awake, I was honoured again with a meeting of the Holy Prophet. (Aina Kamalat-e-Islam) Again, he writes of his meeting with Jesus: I have met the Prophet Jesus (peace be on him), many times in visions, and he had meals with me at the same table. (Nurul Haq, part 1) Experiences of this kind are found in abundance in the lives of saintly people both in the Islamic and pre-Islamic periods. Strictly speaking all such experiences are of a visionary nature in which, with the leave of God, people do meet with the souls of the dead. My own humble self has also experienced this matter. One point remains to be settled. These days certain Western spiritualists claim that they recall and communicate with deceased souls. What truth lies in these claims? Since no such incident has happened before my eyes I am, therefore, unable to say anything with precise knowledge in this respect. I do know, however, that such experiences are not possible without the leave of God. Some scholars consider these incidents to be hallucinations or illusions which effect the seeing and hearing faculties of men. This is the view held by many people in Europe and America. At the most it might be conceded that these experiences are related to hypnotism or mesmerism which are arts well known and which have been practised since times immemorial. Some people mistakenly look^ upon them as magic. This art has nothing to do with real spirituality. Hypnotism is an art by means of which its experts, who may belong to any religion, can for a time mesmerise and influence the minds of others who are mainly people of weak mental condition. Those’under its influence may sometimes observe unreal things or hear unreal voices as if they were real. Sometimes thsi hypnotic power influences more than one person or even a crowd. As I have already said this art has no relation with true spirituality. It is a power which can through proper practice be developed by a non-Muslim or even an atheist. Many times I have witnessed such performances. Sometimes even inanimate objects can be influenced through sufficient practice. A burning lamp, for instance can be dimmed or a voice can be produced from a wooden or steel table. Some people take advantage of this art in curing diseases and so on and so forth. It is so 42 REVIEW OF RELIGIONS well known that this art hardly calls for any evidence. It would not be out of place to mention that there is a basic difference between the soul of a man and the soul of an animal. After death the soul of a man retains its capacity to live whereas the soul of an animal becomes extinct. This is why most scholars do not name an animal’s soul as a soul but call it mere life. The word soul is used for a human soul only. The reason for this difference, as so often stated in”the Holy Quran, is that man is created for a continuous or eternal life, a part of which he has to pass in this world and a much longer part in the. Hereafter where he reaps the fruits or punishment of his deeds in this world. No such object is aimed at in the life of animals which have been created only for the benefit of man in this world and become extinct after death. It is for this reason that the Holy Quran says regarding man: Surely We have created man in the best make then if he does evil deeds, We degrade him as the lowest of the low, save those who do good works; so for them is an unfailing reward. (95:5-7) (from page 19) by God to introduce anything new. According to Sikh scholars there were only two religions in the country in the days of Guru Nanak – namely Islam and Hinduism. There was no third religion worth the name. The Sikhism had not been born yet. Since Hinduism was strongly despised by Guru Nanak and he could not be without a religion too, ISLAM remains to. be the only religion that he could have possibly followed. And as has been discussed and established above, he indeed was a true Muslim. His own verdict on this issue is -also recorded in Sikh literature which reads: I thank God that I am a faithful (Muslim) (Jewan cherter Guru Nanak Dev plate No. X)