The questions of resurrection in Islamic conception of the world (1) Nature of death
A. “Resurrection”, as fundamental of Islamic conception of the word
The principle of belief in the eternal life of the next world is one of the important points of Islamic conception of cosmos and a fundamental tenet of Islam. A belief in the next world is an essential condition of being a Muslim and anyone who denies that is not a Muslim.
Next to the confession of monotheism, this is the most important doctrine preached by all the Prophets without any exception. The scholastic theologians of Islam call it the doctrine of the Resurrection.
B. Different period of human life
In the Holy Qur’an we come across hundreds of verses, which in some way or other deal with the Day the of Jugement, the life death, the resurrection of the dead, the great account, the deed-sheets, the heaven, the hell, the eternality of the next world other questions relating to the world after death. In 12 verses a belief in the Last Day has been formally mentioned next to the belief in Allah.
The Holy Qur’an has used different expressions to denote the Day of Resurrection. Each one of these expressions is full of gnostic significance. The Last Day is one of them. By using this expression the Holy Qur’an wants to draw our attention to two points:
(i) That human life, and for that matter the entire length of time of the existence of the world, is divided into two periods, each of which may be called a day. The First Day (the period of the duration of the world) will come to an end, but the Last Day(the period of the duration of the next world) is endless. The Qur’an has called this world life the first and the next world life the last. Vide Surah al-Layl, 92:13 and az.Zuha,93:4) ( (قا ل الله عزوجل: وان لنا للاخرة و الا ولی. وللا خرة خیر لک من الاولی).
(ii) That even now when we are passing though the first period and have not reached the second period and the second day, our success during this day as well as that day depends on our faith, which draws our attention to good deeds and their reaction. We must understand that like us our thoughts, words deeds and habits also, from the slightest to the biggest, have the first day and the last day. It is not that our words and deeds vanish and are obliterated during the first day. They continue to exist and will have to be accounted for on the Day of Judgement. Therefore we must do our best to put right ourselves, our actions and our intentions, and abstain from bad thoughts and evil deeds. Thus we should always step forward on the way of righteousness and good behaviour, far on our faith depends our bliss on that day. It is man’s conduct in this world that makes his life happy or miserable in the next. That is why the Qur’an regards the belief in the next world or the Last Day absolutely necessary for man’s prosperity.
C. Source of Belief in the Life of the Next World
The chief source of belief in the eternal life of the next world is the Divine revelation conveyed to mankind through the Prophets.
Following his recognition of Allah, belief in the veracity of the Prophets and knowing for certain that what the Prophets convey as revelation has really come from Allah and is therefore true, man comes to believe in the Day of Resurrection and the eternal life of the next world. This doctrine has been described by the Prophets as the most important doctrine next to Monotheism.
As such, the degree of faith a person has in the life of the next world depends, on the one hand, on the degree of his faith in Prophet hood and the veracity of the Prophets, and on the other, on the degree of the correctness and rationality of his conception of the Hereafter, and its being free from vulgar and absurd ideas.
In addition to the Divine revelation conveyed by the Prophets, there are some other methods of acquiring belief in the Hereafter. Man through his intellectual and scientific efforts can get to, at least, some strong indication s which support what the Prophets say about the next world. These methods are as under:
i. Through knowing Allah,
ii. Through knowing the World,
iii. Through knowing the spirit and mentality of man.
For the present we do not propose to enter into discussion of these methods which requires lengthy philosophical and scientific arguments. We intend to confine our attention to considering the method of Prophet hood and revelation only. But as the Qur’an itself has in some verses expressly mentioned these methods and in some other verses hinted at them, we will refer to them in subsequent section under the heading, the Arguments of the Qur’an in Respect of the Next world. So that the question of eternal life in the next world may become clear from the viewpoint of Islam, it is necessary to consider the following questions:
i. Nature of death,
ii. Life after death,
viii. Arguments of the Qur’an in respect of the next world.
1)Nature of Death
What is death? Is it destruction, annihilation, and non-existence or is it a change, a development and a shifting from one world to another?
This is question which has always engaged man’s attention. Everyone is keen either to find out an answer to it direct or to accept an answer already given.
By virtue of being Muslims we would like to draw the answer to this question from the Holy Qur’an and have faith in what the Qur’an has said in this respect.
A. Application of the world “Tawaffi” as “Death” in the Qura’n
The Qur’an has its own explanation regarding the nature of death. It has used the word, “tawaffi’ in this connection. This word means to receive in full. In 14 verses the Qur’an has used this expression. All these verses, show that from the Qur’anic point of view death means gathering and receiving into custody. In other words man at the time of his death gets into the custody of the Divine authorities, who receive him in full. From this expression the following points may be inferred:
(i) Death does not mean annihilation and obliteration. It is just a shifting from one world to another world and from one stage of life to another stage. Human life continues after death, though in a different from.
(ii) What actually constitutes man and his self is not his body and his physical and ancillary systems, which gradually decay and decompose in this very world. What really constitutes his personality and ego is that which has been described by the Qur’an as “self” and occasionally as soul.
(iii) Man’s soul or his “self” is the real constituent of his personality. Man is immortal because his soul is immortal. II is soul rests and exists at a horizon above the horizon of matter and material things. Although it is an outcome of the evolution of the essence of natural phenomena which is transformed into the soul as the result of its evolution, its horizon is changed and it becomes a thing of another world which is extra natural. With the death the soul shifts to different category and class, that is the class of soul. In other words this extra-material reality is taken back and received into angelic custody.
The verses which deal with the genesis and are not concerned with the other worldly life, the Qur’an has advanced the point that man is a reality belonging to an extra- material class.
The Qur’an in respect of Adam, the first man says: I have breathed into him of My spirit. (Surah al- Hijr 15:29) (ونفخت فیه من روحی ).
C.Survival of soul –as the foundation of most of the Islamic teachings
The question of soul and its survival after death is one of the basis teachings of Islam. One half of the undeniable teaching of Islam is based on the doctrine that soul is independent of the body and that it continues to exist after death. All real human values are based on this truth, without which they will be nothing more than a figment of imagination.
All the verse that speak of life immediately after death, a few examples of which we propose to quote, prove that soul is a reality independent of the body and that it continues to exist even when the body has been annihilated.
Some people think that from the viewpoint of the Qur’an there exists no soul or spirit. The existence of man comes to an end with death, after which he neither possesses consciousness nor has he any feeling of joy or pain. At the time of Resurrection man will get a new life and is at that time alone that he will rediscover himself and the world. But this theory is totally belied by the verses which mention life immediately following death.
The exponents of this theory think that those who believe in the existence of soul or spirit base their claim on the verse: Say: The spirit is by command of my Lord (Surah Bani Isra’il, 17: 55) (قل الروح من امر ربی). They say that although the word, ruh has been repeatedly mentioned in the Qur’an, yet it mean something different from what is called soul. In this verse also it signifies the same things as meant in the other verses.
These people do not know that those who believe in the existence of soul do not base their argument on this verse. There are about 20 other verse, in which soul has been mentioned either absolutely or in the form of a possessive case an adjectival phase etc. such as Our spirit, My spirit, holy spirit, a spirit, by Our Command. Concerning man it has been said: And I breathed into him of My spirit. This expression shows that from the viewpoint of the Qur’an there exists a reality superior to the angle and the men and it is this reality which is called the spirit. As a blessing of Allah the angels and the men have this reality described as “by My Command”. The verse, I breathed into of My spirit alone with other verse shows that the spirit of man has an extraordinary reality.
Not only many verses of the Qur’an confirm the independent existence of human soul, but this view is also corroborated by numerous reports of uninterrupted chain of transmission in the books of Ahadith as well as by many passages in Nahiul Balaghah (See: Peak of Eloquence, I.S.P. 1984) and the supplications of the holy Imams.
The fact is that the denial of the existence of soul is a filthy Western idea inspired by the materialism of the West. Unfortunately some well-intentioned followed of the Qur’an have also adopted it.
B. “Tawaffi” (to gather or receiver in full) and speaking of dead people with the angels
Now we quote by the way of example three out of the four verse in which the word tawaffi (to gather or receive in full) has been used in connection with death. In some of these verse such have been attributed to the people immediately after death as are performed by living persons (such as speaking, wishing and demanding).
(i) As for those whom the angels took (in death) while they wronged themselves, the angels said to them: In what were you engaged? They said: We were oppressed in the land. The angels said: Was not Allah’s earth spacious so that you would have migrated therein? The dwelling of such people will be Hell fire, a terrible destination. (Surah An Nisa, 4:97) ( (ا ن الذین توفهم الملائکة ظالمی انفسهم قالوا فیم کنتم قالواکنا مستضعفین فی الارض. قالوا الم تکن ارض الله و اسعة فتها جروافیها ماولئک ما ولهم جهنم. و ساءت مصیرا.).
This verses in respect of those people who succumb to the pressure of their circumstances because they live in an unfavourable environment controlled by their opponents. Their excuse is that their environment being an unfavourable environment controlled by their opponents. Their excuse is that their environment being unfavourable to them, they cannot do anything. Instead of trying to bring about a change in their atmosphere and if that was not possible, shift to a better environment, they continue to live in the same corrupt environment and submerge themselves in its quagmire. After extracting their souls the angels of Allah talk to them and say that their plea was unsatisfactory, for they failed to at least emigrate to another environment. The angels remind them that they themselves are responsible for their acts of omission and commission.
The Holy Qur’an tells us in this verse that helplessness in a certain place cannot be a valid excuse unless the way of emigration from it to another place is also closed.
As we see, in this verse death, which is apparently annihilation and termination, has been expressed by the word, tawaffi which signifies receiving into custody. Further, this verse reports of a dialogue between the angels and a man after his death. Should the reality of man not continue after his death and should his reality become merely his insensitive and unconscious body, evidently this dialogue would be meaningless. This verse makes it clear that man after leaving this world and this life, can talk with the invisible creatures known as the angels, although with a different set of eyes, ears and tongue.
D.Tawaffi and protecting the whole personality of dead person after death
And they say: When we are lost in the earth, how can we then be recreated? In fact, they have no faith in the Day of Judgement. Muhammad, say: “The angel of death who has charge concerning you, will cause you to die and afterward to your Lord you will be returned. (Surah as Sajdah,32:10) ((و قالوا اذ ا ضللنا فی الا رض ء انا لفی خلق جدید. بل هم بلقای ربهم کفرون. قل یتوفکم ملک الموت الذی و کل بکم ثم الی ربکم ترجعون).
In this verse the Holy Qur’an removes the doubt of those who denied the Hereafter. They asked how they could be raised again when following their death every particle of them would have been totally decomposed and destroyed.
The Qur’an clearly says that the doubt expressed by them is a mere pretext to conceal their obstinacy. Anyhow, replying to their question the Qur’an says that contrary to what they assert, their real personality and their real “self” are not the things which, as they allege, are lost. Actually they with their entire personality are gathered by angel of death.
Those who raised this doubt meant by being lost in the earth that when all the parts of their body would have been scattered and every particle of their body would have been decomposed, how would it be possible to recreate and revive it?
The same doubt has been mentioned in some other verses also and there a different answer has been given to this question. There it has been pointed out that the dead body is lost from the viewpoint of man only. No doubt it is impossible for a human being to recollect all its particles, but for Allah Who is Omnipotent and Omniscient, it is not difficult to do so.
In the previous verse the argument of those who deny Resurrection was based on the impossibility of the recollection of the particles of the dead bodies. But here their argument is difficult and that is why it has been answered difficulty. Here it has been argued that with the loss of the particles of his body, the personality of man is also lost and no question of “I” or “We” is left. The Qur’an says that contrary to what they think, the real personality of man is never lost, and hence there is no need of finding it again. On the contrary men as well as his personality are gathered by angels at the time of his death.
The following verse also expressly mentions the continuation of the real personality of man (his soul) after death, although his body ceases to exist then:
E. Tawaffi and permanent shift of soul to the next universes
Allah receives man’s souls at the time of their death. Their souls do die when they when are sleeping. During people’s sleep He withholds those souls which He has decreed to die and releases the others for an appointed time. In this, in fact, there is an evidence (of truth) for the thoughtful people, (Surah az Zumar,39:42) 413=((الله یتوفی الا نفس حین موتها و التی لم تمت فی منا مها. فیمسک التی قضی علیها الموت و یرسل الا خری الی اجل مسمی .ان فی ذلک لا یت لقوم یتفکرون).
This verse describes the similarity of sleep and death, and inter alia the similarity of waking and resurrection. Steep is a slight and weak from of death and death is an intense and strong from of sleep. In both these cases the human soul shifts from one state of life to another. The difference is that in the case of sleep man usually does not notice the change and when he wakes he does not realize that that he has actually returned from some journey. In contrast in the case of death everything becomes clear to him.
It may be gathered from all these three verses put together that from the Qur’anic point of view, the nature of death is not annihilation, termination and non-existence. It is only shifting from one state one state of life to another.
Incidentally the last verse throws light on the viewpoint of the Qur’an about the nature of sleep also. Although physically sleep is the suspension of certain natural faculties, from spiritual point of view it is an escape to the kingdom of heaven. Like the question of death, the question of sleep is also one of those things the true nature of which is not fully known. All that is known in this connection is merely a part of one the physical developments that take in the physical domain.
* In the first past, we pointed out to: the question of resurrection in Islamic conception of the world, Nature of death. etc. Now, The stages of life after death, will be mentioned.
Man and Universe- part Eternal life - pages 593to601: