Life After Death (Dr. Manzoor-ul-Haque)


Death is a natural phenomenon. It is a physical change, which overtakes the human body. The body had its origin in the union of parental life-cells. For a number of years it continues to develop through the processes of maturation and exercise. After reaching its peak, it begins to decline and decay. The process of disintegration culminates in death. The crucial question is whether there is anything in human, which survives the dissolution of the body. The answer is that the self, the personality, the I-am-ness, the ego in the terminology of Allama Iqbal, which grew and developed in the matrix of the body, may survive it and may, on the break-up of the body, launch out on a fresh career. This is true of all selves, all personalities.

It is here that the Qura’an emphatically asserts that death is not the final end but a gateway to a different kind of life:

We mete out death among you . . . that We may transfigure you and make you what you know not. And verily you know the first creation. Why then do you not reflect? ( The Quraan, 56: 61: 63)

Self, The Human Personality

The real self, the human personality, not being a part of the body, is not subject to physical laws. It is dependent on the body for functioning in the physical world, but it may continue to exist after the destruction of the body, which operates as its instrument:

And they say, what! When we have become bones and dust shall we indeed be raised up a new creation. Say thou: Be ye stones or iron or a substance still more improbable in your hearts (to be restored to life). But they will say: Who shall bring us back? Say thou: He who brought you into being for the first time ( The Quraan, 17: 49-51)

We interpret this verse as meaning that the self, the human personality, is not the product of physical forces, the physical laws, and is not subject to natural laws. It owes its existence to and is directed by the Divine Amr, the Divine Laws formulated in the Unseen World, and are beyond the scope of human reason. In the Hereafter, as in this life, this self, this human personality is sustained and guided by Amr, as it guides the evolutionary process. It may, therefore, be fit or unfit to exist and function on the plane to which it has been carried by evolution.

Will and Action: The Two Things in Evolution

In its evolution two things play the real role: Will and Action. These two, Will and Action, are of paramount importance for the development of the self, the human personality and therefore, for its survival too. Will and Action are really the two aspects of the same process. Action is “will actualized” and Will is “latent action” as says Allama G.A. Parwez. It has been truly said “no will, no action,” but the reverse is also true “no action, no will.” Only a free self, a free human personality possesses “will” in this sense and only such a self, human personality can perform actions, which have relevance to survival.

In the context of self, human personality, an action is that entity which has been deliberately chosen by a free self, a free human personality and has been voluntarily performed by it. The free self/personality expresses itself in action and holds itself responsible for it. Without freedom and responsibility, action, in this restricted sense, is not possible. These facts about “Will and Action” have a direct bearing on the question of survival. The human is the product of a long evolutionary process. This process does not stop at any point, but continues indefinitely. At a certain stage, the human becomes an active participant in it and through his/her free will and purposeful activity determines, within certain limits, both the speed and the direction of evolutionary process. This process which has been at work in the world for untold aeons is now transformed into some thing far rational and meaningful. It also becomes more dependent on its material, i. e., human body, through which it is working. The primitive organisms were moulded and shaped by natural forces, so as to be fit for the next stage in evolution. It was a long and painful process in which the unfit were ruthlessly weeded out and the fit were permitted to flourish. The human cannot now depend on natural forces to mould him/her and make him/her fit for the next stage. He/she must do the moulding himself/herself. He/she alone can make himself/herself fit for the higher stage on which he/she is to enter. His/her self, personality is not changed by natural forces, nor even by random activity.

Modus Operandi for Entitlement

Now the question is: How does its transformation take place? How does this change occur? It is changed only by his/her moral activity, his/her freely chosen and voluntarily performed actions. If, through right actions, he/she has rendered himself/herself fit for the next stage in “the gradual ascent,” he/she enters Jannah or paradise, as each plane of existence must appear to someone coming from a lower one. On the other hand, a man who is unfit, feels anguish and misery at the sight of good things he/she cannot enjoy, at the sight of opportunities he/she cannot avail of, at the sight of a glorious life just beyond his/her reach. He is in Hell.

End Product: Heaven or Hell

Heaven and Hell are not localities but states of mind. Allama Iqbal, in his Reconstruction of Religious Thought in Islam says:

“Heaven and Hell are states, not localities. Their descriptions in the Qur’an are visual representations of an inner fact, i.e. character. Hell, in the words of Qur’an, is ‘God’s kindled fire which mounts above the hearts -the painful realization of one’s failure as a man. Heaven is the joy of triumph over the forces of disintegration.”

Heaven (Jannah) stands for fruition coupled with glowing hope for the future. Hell (Jahannam) is the experience of frustration tinged with remorse and regret. The person, who permits his/her self, personality, to weaken, stagnates and becomes perverted. He/she languishes in a state between life and death. He/she does not live because life consists of upward movement of which he/she is incapable: he/she cannot die because remorse and frustrated desire prevent him/her from relinquishing his/her hold on life. Both the pleasure of existence and the insensibility of non-existence are denied him/her. The Qur’an says about him/her,

“wherein he/she neither dies nor lives” (87: 13).

All that he/she can do is to give expression to the remorse that gnaws at his/her vitals, “Oh! That I had sent something before hand for my life” (The Quraan, 89: 24).

The inmates of Jannah, on the other hand, will give expression to their happiness in these words:

“we shall not die any other than our first death” (The Quraan, 37: 57-58).

They have successfully stood the test of death and they know that they will not be subjected to the same test again. Their eyes dwell on new vistas of self-development and the path, which leads to them is illumined by the Divine light:

“running before them and on their right hand” (The Quraan, 57: 12).

It is here that the materialists maintain:

“There is no other than life in this world. We live and die and nothing destroys us but time” (The Quraan, 45: 24).

But the Quraan tells us in clear words that we can rise much higher above the plane of earth-rootedness and “pass out of the confines of the heavens and earth” (55: 33), provided we develop the powers that are latent in us. These two views are in direct opposition to each other:

Do those who commit ill deeds think that We will make them as those who believe and do the right, equal in their life and death! How ill they judge (45: 21).

That is why it is said for Mu’min that death for him/her is not the end of life but the threshold of a far more glorious life. This is the recognition of Mu’min. The poet Iqbal says:

Let me tell you by what sign you may recognize the true Mu’min.

When the grim spectre of Death approaches, he/she greets it with a smile.

Now the question is what about the nature of its immortality! The Quraanic view is that immortality cannot be taken for granted. It is the prize, which the self, the human personality can win by right conduct and by its efforts to realize its potentialities. The self, the personality may win the prize or it may lose it. The issue depends on the quality and intensity of its effort and on no other factor. For the self, the human personality, which has lived the right kind of life, death has no terror. The Qur’an makes this point clear when it says:

“The great horror shall not grieve them” (21: 103).

The self, the human personality, wins immortality by the proper orientation of will and the performance of right action. In this way, the self, the human personality which, through the acquisition of absolute values, the permanent values enshrined in the Quraan, has vitally related to the meaning and purpose of the universe, will find Death a transition to a higher place.

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