Nature of Next Life
|[CONTENTS]||The verse quoted above tells us in plain
words that those who spiritually taste of the love of God in this world will be physically
sustained by the same food in the next life. The blessings of the next life will recall to
their minds the spiritual blessings of the love of God which they tasted in this life, and
they will remember the time when in seclusion and at the dead of night, alone and in
silence, they found their sweet enjoyment in the remembrance of the Lord.
If it be objected that the words of this verse contradict the saying of the Prophet which describes the blessings of heavenly life as unseen by worldly eyes, unheard of by human ears and inconceivable by the mind of man, the answer is that the contradiction exists only when we take the words "these are the fruits which were given us in our former life" as indicating temporal blessings, enjoyable in this life by all men whether good or bad. But if the "fruits" spoken of here be understood to mean the fruits of good works, the spiritual blessings which the good enjoy in this very life, there is no contradiction. Whatever the good men enjoy spiritually in this life are really blessings, not of this but of the next life and are granted to them as a specimen of the bliss that is in store for them in the next life in order to increase their yearning for it.
It should further be remembered that the righteous man is not of this world and hence he is hated down here. He is of heaven and is granted celestial blessings just as the worldly ones are granted the dainties of this world. The blessings which are granted him are really hidden from the eyes, the ears and the hearts of men and they are quite strangers to them. But the person whose life in this world has been transformed so that he tastes spiritually the cup which he shall actually quaff in the next world, shall truly utter the words : "these are the fruits which were given us formerly." However, he shall at the same time be perfectly aware that those blessings were quite unknown to the world, and as he too was in this world though not of this world - so he also shall bear witness that his physical eye never saw such blessings, nor his ear ever heard of them, nor his mind ever conceived of them in the world. But in his second life, after his regeneration, he did witness specimens of these things but this was only when, all his lower connections having been cut asunder, higher ones were established with the next world.
The following verses will show how the Holy Quran has repeatedly asserted that the life after death is not a new life but only an image and a manifestation of the present one:
The Arabic word tair, used in this verse, literally means a "bird" and is here used metaphorically to signify the actions of men; for every action, whether good or had, takes flight like a bird. The bliss or burden which a person feels in the performance of an act vanishes but it leaves its impression upon the heart. The Quran has disclosed the important principle that every act makes a mysterious impression upon the heart. Every action of a man is in fact followed by an action of God which imprints its good or bad effect not only upon the hearts but also upon the hands, the feet, the ears, the eyes, etc., of the doer. This book which, hidden from the human eye, is being prepared, recording every action in this life, shall show itself clearly in the next.
This verse refers to the heavenly life, while the verses which follow (102:1-8) relate to the wicked people.
God has here described three stages of certainty: 'ilm al-yaqin (certainty by inference), 'ain al-yaqin (certainty by sight), and haq al-yaqin (certainty by realization). A homely illustration would perhaps make the subject easily comprehensible. If a person sees a column of smoke from a distance, he readily concludes the existence of fire there, as nothing else can give rise to smoke. He thus obtains a certainty by inference with regard to the presence of fire, which is called the "certainty by knowledge" in the verses quoted above. But, if he walks on to the place from which the smoke rises and actually sees the flame's, he obtains a knowledge with the eye, which is "certainty by sight". To realize the truth of certainty, he must thrust his hand into it and the certainty he thus attains to is "certainty by realization". These are also the states of human knowledge with regard to hell. The knowledge of certainty can be had in this world by those who will, but in the interval between death and resurrection a man sees hell with the eye of certainty, while at the day of resurrection he shall realize the truth of the certainty by himself entering into hell.
It may be recalled here that the Holy Quran has described three worlds of three different states of man's life:
World of Earning
The first is the present one, called the "world of earning and of the first creation." It is here that man earns a reward for the good or bad deeds he does. Although there are stages of advancement of the good after Resurrection, yet that advancement is granted simply by the grace of the Beneficent and does not depend upon human efforts.
The second is termed barzakh, The word originally means any "intermediate state". It has been thus called because this world falls between the present life and Resurrection. But this word has from time immemorial been applied to an intermediate state and thus the word itself is a standing witness to the intermediate state between death and after-life.
Barzakh is a word of Arabic origin and is a compound of bar and zakh, and literally means that "the period of earning merit or demerit by deed, is over". I might add here that I have shown in my book Minan aI-Rahman that the words of Arabic language are the words of God, and that it is the only language which can claim to be Divine, the fountain from which all sorts of knowledge flow, the mother of all languages and the first as well as the last medium of Divine revelation. It is the first because Arabic was the Word of God, which had at last been revealed to the world, from which men learned to make their own languages, and the last because the last Divine Book (the Quran) is also in Arabic.
The state of barzakh is that in which the soul leaves the mortal body, and the perishable remains are decomposed. The body is thrown into a pit and the soul also is, as it were, thrown down into a pit as is indicated by the word, because it loses the power to do good or bad deeds along with its loss of control over the body. It is evident that a good state of the soul is dependent upon the soundness of the body. A shock communicated to a particular part of the brain causes a loss of memory, while an injury to another part is certain to injure the reasoning faculty and may even destroy consciousness. Similarly, a convulsion of the brain muscles or a hemorrhage or morbidity of the brain may, by causing obstruction, lead to insensibility, epilepsy or cerebral apoplexy.
Experience, therefore, establishes the fact beyond all reasonable doubt that with all its connections severed from the body, the soul can serve no purpose. It is idle to assert that the human soul can, at any time, enjoy a bliss without having any connection with the body. It may please us as an interesting tale, but reason and experience lend no support to it. We can hardly imagine the soul to be in a perfect condition when all its connections with the body are cut off in the face of our daily experience that the slightest derangement of the physical system interrupts the functions of the soul as well. Do we not witness that when a person becomes decrepit with old age, the soul also is enfeebled and age often steals away the whole store of its knowledge? With reference to the decrepitude of old age, the Quran says:
These observations should be sufficient to demonstrate that the soul is nothing unless it has its connection with a body. Had it any value apart from the body, the action of an All-Wise Being in uniting the soul with a short-lived body would have been quite meaningless. Moreover, man is essentially a progressive animal, and the advancement which he aims at is by no means a limited one. Now, if the soul is unable to make any advancement in the brief life without the assistance of the body, how could it attain to the higher stages of advancement in the next life ?
Various arguments, therefore, prove conclusively that, according to the Islamic principles, the perfection of soul depends upon its permanent connection with a body. There is no doubt that, after death, this body of clay is separated from the soul but, then, in the barzakh every soul receives temporarily a new body to be in a position to taste of the reward or punishment of its deeds. This new body is not a body of clay but a bright or a dark body prepared from the actions of this life. It may appear as a mystery to some, but this much at least must be admitted that it is not unreasonable. The perfect being realizes the preparation of such a bright body even in this life. Ordinary human understanding may regard it as a mystery which is beyond human comprehension, but those who have a keen and bright spiritual sight will have no difficulty in realizing the truth of a bright or a dark body after death, prepared from actions in this life. In other words, the new body granted in the barzakh becomes the means of the reward of good or evil.
I may State here that I have personal experience in this matter. Many a time, when fully awake, I have had vision, in which I saw those who were dead. I have seen many an evildoer 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 God has said, everyone is granted a body either transparent or dark. It is not necessary that unaided reason should be able to look into these mysteries. The eye sees things, but it is in vain to expect it to serve as an organ of taste. Similarly, the muscles of the tongue may be used for tasting things, but as organs of sight they are useless. In like manner, the deep secrets of the other world, upon which light is thrown only by visions, cannot be discovered by the help of reason. The Almighty has established certain laws in this world and particular means for the knowledge of particular things.
It must also be remembered in connection with this point that the Word of God has described those who walk in error and wickedness as dead and lifeless, while the good it calls living. The secret of it is that the means of life of those who are ignorant of the Lord, being simply eating, drinking or indulging in their bestial passions, are cut off along with their death. Of spiritual food they have no share and, therefore, their resurrection will only be for their punishment. We are told:
It may be added that the chosen ones of God do not die with their physical death, for they have their means of sustenance with them.
The third is the world of Resurrection. In this world, every soul, good or bad, virtuous or wicked, shall be given a visible body. The Day of Resurrection is the day of the complete manifestation of the Lord's glory when everyone will become perfectly aware of the existence of God. On that day, every person will have an open and complete reward of his actions. How this can be brought about is not a matter to wonder at, for the Creator is All-Powerful and nothing is impossible with Him. Thus He says:
It is to be noted that in these verses the Almighty tells us that with Him nothing is impossible, for when He could create man out of an insignificant thing at first, He cannot be regarded as destitute of the power to bring him to life a second time.
Reward and Punishment
Before proceeding further, it seems necessary to deal with an objection here. It might be argued that when a long period of time must elapse before the world of Resurrection is brought in existence, the barzakh, where the souls of both good and bad men must remain in the meanwhile, is no better than a useless lock-up for souls. The objection is based upon ignorance, for the barzakh is as well a place of reward for good and evil as the Resurrection itself. The Quran describes it as a place where punishment and reward shall be given though not so openly as after the Resurrection. It abounds with verses stating that a man meets with his due immediately after his death. Thus speaking of a certain person, it says
"It was said (to the man who believed in the Truth) Enter the Garden" - (36:26.)
With reference to another person, the Holy Book says the following:
(A good man had an unbelieving friend in this life and when they both died, the good man, anxious to know the State of his friend, was shown that be was in the midst of hell.)
Punishment and reward are thus bestowed immediately after death, and those whose proper place is hell are brought to hell, while those who deserve paradise are brought to paradise. But the Day of Resurrection is the day of the manifestation of the highest glory of God which His transcendent wisdom has ordained should at last be brought about. The Lord created man that He might be accepted as the Creator, He will destroy all that He may be recognized as a Vanquisher of all, and, finally, He will give a perfect life to all and assemble them that' He may be recognized as the All-Powerful Being.