21 IMMORTAL LIFE (Bashir Ahmad Orchard) ‘And thou, O soul at peace! Return to thy Lord well pleased with Him and He well pleased with thee. So enter thou among my chosen servants, and enter thou My Garden.’ (89:28-31) There is no doubt about it that man’s real and permanent entity is not his physical body but rather an ethereal entity which pervades the former; and the heart of the latter is the soul. The Quran throws more light on the nature of the soul and the hereafter than any other scripture. Nevertheless man’s understanding of this subject will always remain extremely limited. Allah says in the Holy Quran: And they ask thee concerning the soul. Say, ‘The soul is by the command of my Lord; and of the knowledge thereof you have been given but a little. (17.86) And no soul knows what joy of the eyes is kept hidden from them, as a reward for their good works. (32:18) The Holy Prophet has said: The blessings of paradise are things which the eye has not seen, the ear not heard, nor has the mind ever conceived. We shall learn in the pages to follow the knowledge given by Islam about the soul and the existence of realms of life which vibrate on frequencies higher those of this material universe and which cannot be seen or fully realised by the physical senses. In addition to information given by Islam some knowledge and realisation of this subject may be acquired through: 1. Intuition 2. Psychic Experience 3. Spiritual experience Intuition This is a power of the mind which is able to realise a truth without the aid of reasoning or analysis. A flash of intuition reveals to a person the solution of a problem or secret of an invention which years of research 22 REVIEW OF RELIGIONS and study failed to disclose. The flash may come when awake or asleep as the mind is awake twenty four hours of the day even though the body may be in restful repose. Premonitions are often the result of an intuitive warning. A man who has booked a flight to New York feels impelled for no apparent reason to change it for a later one. The plane on which he had first booked his passage crashes and all on board are killed. Inventors, artists, poets, authors, scientists have been among the numerous persons throughout the ages who have testified to the miraculous power of intuition. Edison was but one of many inventors who had secrets of his discoveries come to him through an intuitive flash. It is said of Michaelangello who was one of the world’s greatest geniuses and intellectuals that the solutions of some of his greatest works came to him while asleep; and there are numerous others who have been guided and enlightened at unexpected moments when their thoughts were at rest or even dwelling on some totally different matter. Normally knowledge is acquired through the five senses, sight; hearing, taste, smell and touch and is accumulated from information, memory and experience with the aid of which reasoning is developed. Intuitive knowledge stems from a higher and independent source and is not the result of mental exercise or reasoning any more than the young squirrel which has never known a winter nevertheless gathers and stores a supply of nuts to provide for its nourishment well in advance of the coming cold season. Its actions are guided by instinct from a higher power and not as a result of experience, instruction or deduction. Knowledge of spiritual truths pertaining to matters in the spirit world may be revealed to a person through intuitive guidance. Intuition is a form of divine inspiration which has been and continues to be experienced by people of every class, culture and faith. Psychic Experience. This is an experience which cannot be explained by any understood natural law and is, therefore, often termed supernatural. Such an experience is attributed to the power of extra sensory perception which has the capacity of revealing things which the normal physical senses are unable to detect or explain. Examples of psychic experiences are: 1. In an apparent waking state a person clearly sees an event occurring at a distant place which is proved to have happened in the exact manner IMMORTAL LIFE 23 and at the very same time. Such an experience may also happen when asleep. 2. While in full consciousness the apparition of a living or dead friend or relative appears before a person in all reality and even speaks to him. 3. A person hears his father’s voice clearly calling out to him and on investigation it is established that at that very moment the father died several hundred miles away. 4. A student sees and memorises in a dream questions on an examination paper. A few days later when sitting for his exam the identical questions are on the paper and he has no difficulty in answering them. These are only a few of the multifarious kinds of psychic phenomena which are experienced by people throughout the world irrespective of race or creed. The piles of amassed testimonies collected and investigated by the Societies for Psychic Research in Great Britain, USA and elsewhere are more than sufficient to establish the truth of psychic phenomenon. Realisation and limited enlightenment on the operation of various laws and secrets of the unseen have been unfolded to a lesser or greater extent to many persons through their personal experience of psychic phenomena. Spiritual Experience A spiritual experience is a soul moving experience. It is charged with the presence of God as distinct from a psychic experience which normally leaves no heavenly impression upon the soul although it may be very similar to a spiritual experience wherein both cases voices may be heard, distant places visited or seen, knowledge vouchsafed, visits from departed souls and future events foretold. Frequently in spiritual experiences the unmistakable Divine Voice is heard and the presence of God palpably felt. The eyes of the soul see beyond earthly horizons into realms which reveal the truth of immortality. Spiritual phenomenon is. more matured than psychic phenomenon though it in no way minimises the remarkable effects and influences of the latter which has opened the minds of thousands to the fact that there is more to life than earthbound existence. THE REAL SELF Our real self is an immortal spirit or soul-body which is attached to a 24 IMMORTAL LIFE body of flesh which sooner or later dies; but we never die. We are a soul with a body attached to it; not a body with a soul attached to it. In order to see, know, and understand ourselves we have to keep our eyes turned inwards. Although both bodies are interrelated, the existence of the soul-body — our real self-—• is not dependent on the physical body except in as much as the soul body — our real self—is created along with the physical body during the months of development in the womb. The birth of the soul is a point which has been discussed by the Promised Messiah— the Holy Founder of the Ahmadiyya Community •—• in his book The Philosophy of the Teachings of Islam. The soul body •—• our real self-—-is as much alive after the death of the physical body as it was before its expiration. We are immortal. PURPOSE OF LIFE We have not created the jinn and the men but that they shall worship Me. (51:57) Worship of God is not confined only to prayer and meditation but embraces every thought, word and action; for whatever we think, say or do for the sake of God is an act of worship. While we are connected with this world our goal in life should be self-purification. We should seek the attainment of this goal through prayer and constant effort in reflecting the attributes of God in our general behaviour. High is the goal and tremendous the task; efforts made in this direction are always most rewarding. We should never despair despite our failures and weaknesses but rather find inspiration in the following words of Hazrat Mirza Bashir-ud-Din Mahmud Ahamd: Islam rescues man from despair and tells him that he can, inspite of his errors andmistakes, attain the purity of mind and conduct which is the highest goal of man. It thus encourages him to make constant efforts towards virtue and purity and enables him ultimately to arrive at this goal. Real prosperity lies in self-purification which should be the cherished goal of our lives: Verily he truly prospers who purifies himself, remembers the name of his Lord and offers prayers. (8 7:15) Commenting on the object of man’s earthly life the Promised Messiah has said: REVIEW OF RELIGIONS 25 The real object of man’s life according to the Holy Quran is, therefore, a true knowledge and worship of God and a total resignation to His will that whatever is said or done is said or done for His sake only. The goal of existence on earth has also been beautifully epitomised by Hazrat Ali: All the occupations of a wise man are for his self reform, all his cares for the benefit of the next world and all his endeavours for the good of the life to come. Life on this planet is the beginning of an eternal journey on which we live attached to a body of flesh and bone which is left behind to decay after we quit it and pass on to higher ethereal realms. Those realms are as real as this world and all the other innumerable orbs of the universe revolving and rotating in the vast ocean of space. Life is short and a time for preparation. No wasted moment can be retrieved. The Promised Messiah has warned us: And who told them that life is long? There is no season for death. It may overtake you at any time. So we must value whatever time we have. We may not have these times again. Our real inner self is immortal so our eyes should always be focussed ahead and not rivetted upon the things of this world. May Allah sharpen our perception of spiritual truths and enable us to fulfill successfully the purpose of life in this world of material environment. ETHER1C OR SOUL BODY The mysteries of the soul cannot be unravelled by brain power; but there is no doubt that every human body houses a soul. This truth has been confirmed by God in the Holy Quran which throws more light on the subject than any other scripture. Man possesses a double or etherial counterpart of his physical body which serves as a temporary body for the soul after death. This subtle etheric soul body also has the capacity of detaching itself from the physical body even before death and the large number of persons throughout the world and in all ages who have experienced this phenomenon bear testimony of its existence. The real self is an intangible spirit body which normally dwells within and coincides with the physical body; and within that spirit body lies the nucleus of eternal life — the soul. 2fi IMMORTAL LIFE During sleep the soul body detaches itself from the physical body and possesses full consciousness while it is on its travels. Before awakening it is drawn back into the physical body and normally the person has no recollection of what occurred; but sometimes a person does remember and is able to describe the experience. An anonymous gentleman wrote from Plymouth: I suddenly discovered that I was above my body looking directly down upon it! It was lying on the bed as clear as day. I had a good searching look at the face in particular and thought how strange it was to be now looking at myself just as other people see me. The experience was very real and definite indeed… nothing imaginary about it. I know that the experience was an actual fact. (The Phenomena of Astral Projection) Mr. Bruce Belfrage writes in his autobiography: I had a very serious illness from which I almost died. One night I left my body and saw it quite clearly lying motionless on the bed. It all seemed perfectly natural and the experience proved to me, quite beyond doubt… that the body and the spirit are quite separate, that the spirit, the real me, cannot be hurt and cannot die. It is not only in natural sleep that people have out-of-the-body experiences. Patients have had them while under anaesthetics. Mr. J. A. Findlay writes in his book Looking back: A lady, whose honesty is unquestionable, told me that during the time she was under an anaesthetic, she felt herself standing overlooking her physical body on the operating table. She was interested to follow everything done by the surgeon and nurses, but, what impressed the surgeon when she told him of her experience afterwards, was the fact that she saw him do something to her inside that she could not have dreamed about. Cases of people who have had the experience of finding themselves outside their physical bodies while under an anaesthetic are numerous. Similar is the case with the sick and dying and also those who are living normally in the best of health. These experiences are not figments of the imagination but absolute genuine occurrences. Thousands of such cases are on record and are in keeping with the teachings of the Holy Quran which declares that God takes away the souls of everyone not only at the time of death but also at times during their life time: REVIEW OF RELIGIONS 27 And He it is Who takes your souls by night and knows that which you do by day. (6:61) Allah takes away the souls of human beings at the time of death; and during their sleep of those that are not yet dead. And He keeps those against which He has decreed death, and sends back the others till an appointed term. In that surely are signs for a people who reflect. (39:43) This subject is an extremely absorbing one in as much as it brightens our spiritual vision, helps us to realise our true self more clearly, encourages us to drive deeper into eternal truths and strengthens our faith in the unseen. VISIBLE DEPARTURE OF SOUL BODY There are many accounts on record given by people who have claimed to have seen the soul body leave a person’s physical body at the moment of death. No doubt instances of this kind are unusual but for that matter all other kinds of psychic and spiritual phenomena are also unusual. There are persons, by way of example, who have claimed to have seen angels but no God-fearing Muslim will reject their statement on the grounds that such claims are unusual. Now and again people do have visions of angels though we are not conversant with those laws which enable them to see angels; nor are we conversant with those laws which enable people sometimes to observe the departure of the soul body at the time of death; but lack of understanding is not sufficient cause to reject the truth of this phenomenon. Mr. F. L. Rawson writes in his book Life Understood: In her book ‘Little Women’ Louisa Alcott relates how at the moment of death, she saw as it were a thin smoke arise from her sister Bertha and vanish. The doctor told her that this was not an hallucination but the life departing visibly. Dr. Patrick O’Donnell says that he has photographed this at the Mercy Hospital, Chicago. Dr. Robert Crookhall mentions in his book Intimations of Immortality: • Dr. R. B. Hout also saw the soul-body of his aunt when it was being permanently released at death. Mrs. Snell, who was a nurse, has stated: 28 IMMORTAL LIFE One evening she (her friend) was taken by convulsions and died in my arms before the doctor had time to arrive… that was the first death at which I had ever assisted. Her heart had hardly ceased to beat when I distinctly saw something tike a vapour disengage itself from her, arise from her body, and stop at a short distance from the corpse where it condensed into a form absolutely identical with that of my friend. Later when I became a nurse, an occupation which I followed for twenty years, I assisted at numerous deaths, and immediately after death I always observed the condensation of the etheric form above the body, always identical with the living body, and after condensing it would vanish from my eyes. The Promised Messiah — the Holy Founder of the Ahmadiyya Movement — often had the experience of seeing and even conversing with departed souls. He has written in his monumental work The Philosophy of the Teachings of Islam: I have personal experience in this matter. Many a time, when fully awake, I have seen visions in which I have seen those who were dead. I have seen many an evil doer and a wicked person with a body quite dark and smoky. I have personal acquaintance with these matters and I assert it strongly that, as Almighty God has said, everybody is granted a body either transparent or dark. Our real self is not the house of flesh and bone in which we temporarily reside. Unlike the human body which is mortal, our real body is immortal. DEPARTED SOULS REMEMBER THIS LIFE The soul is a conscious entity and the Holy Quran tells us in many places that in the new life after death it will remember details of its life in this world. The unbelievers and the wicked will ask that they may be sent back to this world to be given a second chance to win the pleasure of God. Had they no memory of this world then they would not have called upon God to send them back: Until when death comes to one of them, he says entreating, ‘My Lord send me back that I may do righteous deeds in the life that I have left behind’. (23:100-101) Oh that we might be sent back! And then we would not treat the signs of our Lord as lies and we would be of the believers. (6:28) The following verses also show that departed souls will hold memories REVIEW OF RELIGIONS 29 of this life: On that day man will remember, but of what avail shall be his remembrance. (89:24) Dead think they only tarried a short time in this world. (17:53) la addition to the aforesaid verses there are also many other similar passages in the Holy Quran. TRANSITION OF THE SOUL The soul is the nucleus of our eternal being and manifests its powers always through a body in this world and in the Hereafter. As the soul always needs to operate through a body the question now arises in what kind of body does it dwell after it quits the human frame and enters the spirit world. The answer may well be the etheric body or soul body which varies in degree of radiance or dullness according to the condition of the soul at the time of death. Nevertheless it does not serve the soul as a permanent body. Islam teaches that following the death of the physical body the soul undergoes a transformation. It may be likened to a drop of sperm which grows and develops in the womb from whence it emerges as a new creation in the form of a fully developed child. Similarly, after death, the soul may be likened to a sperm drop and its temporary body to a womb in which it undergoes a trasnformation eventually to emerge on the Day of Resurrection as new spiritual creation. This body now possesses a new soul. The. general physical and mental features of a child much depend upon the multifarious inherent characterstics locked within the sperm drop cell. Similarly the condition of the new spiritual body depends much upon the state of the soul when it quitted this world. The new body now develops and matures as the child grows and matures in adult age; and when this process is completed on the Day of Judgement the gateways of heaven and hell are opened wide. God is Merciful and in His Mercy He has decreed that the punishments of hell will not be everlasting. Wrong doers will suffer their condign punishments more or less as do convicts in prison after which they will be released and allowed to enter heaven where the bestowal of spiritual favours continually flows and where grades and stages of spiritual rewards and attainments are innumerable. God says in the Holy Quran: 30 IMMORTAL LIFE And for all are grades of rank according to what they did. (46:20) Behold, how We have created some of them over others in the present life; and surely, the Hereafter shall be greater in degrees of rank and greater in excellence. (17:22) The Holy Prophet Muhammad, peace and blessings of Allah be upon him, 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 between earth and heaven. (Bukhari) / The Holy Founder of the Ahmadiyya Movement — Hazrat Mirza Ghulam Ahmad —• has also said: 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) The spirit of Islam demands that a sincere and earnest Muslim should never rest content with the thought that he has achieved or done sufficient to earn himself a place in paradise. Keeping in mind that he is immortal he should diligently attend to the development of his real self and not allow the desires of his physical body to interfere with this his noble aspiration. May Allah protect us from the incitements of the devil. continued from page 20 erect an imposing tomb for him. We find such structures built over the remains of many hard-hearted tyrants. While they lived their subjects cursed them day and night; but when they died their heirs raised grand structures to perpetuate their memory in glowing colours. God says that this defect does not exist in His arrangements. Those who die without spiritual values and belief in the existence of the Supreme Being cannot acquire any grave of distinction from Him despite all the wealth, power and following they had in this world. Even the high and prosperous state of their descendants can bear no influence on this matter.Ih the grave prepared for them by God, on the basis of their record of life, they would bum in fire.