Maulana Wahiduddin Khan
13 February, 2015
The Eternal World According to Islam, the
present world is not an eternal abode. The Quran tells us that man is placed
here only temporarily, so that his moral fibre may be tested in terms of his
obedience to God’s will. He must always remember that there will be the life
hereafter, or Akhirat as it is known in Islamic terminology. This is also
referred to as Ma‘ad, which means a place to which one returns. There is a time
limit to mortal existence. Death marks the end of the testing period for all human
beings. But death only means a change of abode, for the soul never dies. Man
returns to the realm whence he came, so that he may wait for Judgement Day.
That realm, the life hereafter, is the eternal world. Thus man’s life is
divided into two parts: a brief stay in this world and an eternal life in the
next world. To the ungodly, it is only then that it becomes obvious that a life
which is eternal is far more important than this present existence.
God created human beings and made them
responsible for their actions by granting them freedom. If there were no
Afterlife in which the good were rewarded and the bad punished, there would be
no justice; in which case, it would appear meaningless to create people with a
conscience and a sense of responsibility. But God is just and always acts
justly. Hence it is the absolute demand of justice that there should be a Day
of Judgement on which everyone is brought to book. After death, human beings
will, therefore, leave this present, ephemeral abode and, on the Day of
Judgement, will enter another world, which will be eternal. When the time comes
for the Last Reckoning, God will destroy this world and replace it with a
permanent, everlasting world. All human beings will then be resurrected and
brought before the Almighty to be judged. On that day, everyone will stand
alone before God. Those who have done good deeds in the world they have left
behind will be rewarded. Their reward will be paradise, a state of joy,
happiness and peace.
The Quran states: “God has created death
and life to test which one of you is best in conduct.” (THE QURAN 67: 1)
Death is not the end of our lives; it is
the beginning of our real life. Because our future is being decided on the
basis of our present performance, we can either make use of our opportunities
on earth to ensure a well-deserved place for ourselves in Paradise, or we can
throw them away and condemn ourselves to punishment in Hell. The belief in the
Hereafter naturally has a great influence on the life of a believer. When he knows
that God is watching all his actions, his behaviour will be responsible. He
will always endeavour to lead his life in consonance with the will of God and
will inevitably avoid any course which will incur God’s displeasure.
Furthermore, the concept of the Hereafter gives a fuller meaning and purpose to
the life of the believer. One who firmly believes in this concept will not give
in to greed and other such worldly failings. He will not be a materialist, for
he knows that this material life will surely come to an end with death, whereas
there will be a whole eternity before him in the Afterlife, during which he
will certainly rejoice in having paid due attention to the spiritual side of
life on this earth.
Moreover, is there any
concept of the "soul" in Islam? The translators, translate
"nafs" as soul although "nafs" is more correctly translated
as "self". We talk about the desires and lusts of the
"nafs" which make it clear that "nafs" is not soul.
Verse 39:42 talks about
taking the nafs of people at death and during sleep.
(39:42) It is Allah that
takes the souls (of men) at death; and those that die not (He takes) during
their sleep: those on whom He has passed the decree of death, He keeps back
(from returning to life), but the rest He sends (to their bodies) for a term
appointed verily in this are Signs for those who reflect.
Here nafs implies
"consciousness of self". The consciousness of self is certainly taken
away at death and when asleep and also when in coma. Once again, nafs is not
soul as soul is understood.
Then there is the word
(15:29) "When I
have fashioned him (in due proportion) and breathed (Ruhi) into him of My
spirit, fall ye down in obeisance unto him."
and in 3:49 where
Jesus "makest out of clay, as it were, the figure of a bird, by My
leave, and thou breathest into it and it becometh a bird by My
The "Ruh" or
the breath of life may be like the spark that starts combustion in an engine or
lights up a gas stove and brings it into life and nothing more. Indeed, this
breath of life is no different from breathing into a person to resuscitate him
and is not "soul".
Also, the verses that
talk about bringing the dead back to life make no mention of the
"soul". They talk about reconstructing man down to his very
(75:3) Does man think
that We cannot assemble his bones?
(4) Nay, We are able to
put together in perfect order the very tips of his fingers.
Also the burning in hell
Once again take the
example of 7:172
It talks about "AND
WHENEVER thy Sustainer brought forth their offspring from the loins of the children of Adam, He
[thus] called upon them to bear witness about themselves:…..”
Is the soul brought forth from the loins of the parents? How
then this verse is interpreted in terms of the “souls” in the fairy tale of
The concept of soul in
Islamic literature is a borrowed concept and does not derive from the Quran.
All ahadith that use the concept of "soul" are therefore
of doubtful origins.
Led by two academics at Oxford University, the £1.9 million study found that faith and religion come to human beings naturally — possibly instinctively. The project entitled the “Cognition, Religion and Theology Project,” took three years to complete and involved 57 academics and more than 40 different studies in 20 countries around the globe, and spanned disciplines including anthropology, psychology, and philosophy.
It set out to establish whether belief in divine beings and an afterlife were ideas simply learned from society or integral to human nature.
Roger Trigg, the project’s co-director said:
“If you’ve got something so deep-rooted in human nature, thwarting it is in some sense not enabling humans to fulfill their basic interests. There is quite a drive to think that religion is private. It isn’t just a quirky interest of a few, it’s basic human nature. This shows that it’s much more universal, prevalent, and deep-rooted. It’s got to be reckoned with. You can’t just pretend it isn’t there.”
Trigg explains that the faithful can look at the data and say, ‘If there is a God, then … he would have given us inclinations to look for him.” On the flip side, atheists would potentially accept the notion that faith appeals to the human heart and mind, but that humanity must evolve and move beyond simple myths.
Arguably, the former argument seems more compelling, especially considering the fact that religious beliefs remained consistent, despite major cultural differences. Clearly, a common thread connects the human search for a higher being.
In the end, the study contends that, regardless of culture, belief in the afterlife and in purposeful happenings (or happenings with divine purpose) are completely natural and ingrained in human nature. Rather than existing as a remote or infrequent societal occurrence, faith and religion are normal (and frequent) human experiences.