Summary of 4.8 "After Death"
First of all we referred to the Quran in (39:42) and the illusion that the souls of the dead and living could possibly meet during the time of sleep and then when a person awakens God sends back those people’s souls to live further and keeps back the souls of those who have died.
We also said that the whole issue of séance is shrouded with lots of mystery and superstition. From a Muslim perspective it should be approached with a great deal of caution because the souls of people are not toys in their hands. There are incidents of fake exercises which depend on darkness, sounds and the use of things to impress people but souls are not subject to play and can’t be called upon at any time.
We also mentioned references to the sayings of Prophet Muhammad (PBUH) that the souls of those who are dead meet among each other in the same way that they do in this life.
We discussed where souls go after death. There is clear indications from the sayings of the Prophet that souls will be in paradise; but we also find references that give the impression that these souls will also be connected with earth. We said that there is no contradiction between both. There is a similitude used by Ibn Alkim that says that the souls are just like the sun and its rays. The sun is up there in the heavens and its rays are connected and felt on earth. So the soul can also have impact on different areas as it is not limited. The main thing that we indicated is that the soul of the good and righteous will be in a state of felicity and enjoyment and the souls of the wicked and the unbelievers would be in a state of suffering.
There was a question of reincarnation and we said that the Muslim doesn’t believe in it in any shape or form. The soul is created in the womb and survives until The Day of Judgment an thereafter. It is eternal existence after being created.
According to the Quran there are three states of the soul the soul that pushes us towards evil the soul that is self reproaching and the soul that is in perfect peace and tranquility which is the ultimate state which people should strive for.
As for resurrection the Quran indicates that it will be both in body and soul. I quoted a verse from the Quran in (56:60) that God is able to raise us in our physical body that is different from the physical body we know now. It is not necessarily the same physical existence but it is both physical and spiritual.
Host: How is the body resurrected when it decomposes after death?
In fact this is not a new argument as it has been raised in the past by many people. In fact the Quran makes reference to that (45:34-36) it quotes the unbelievers as saying that it is only our earthly life here that we live and die and nothing destroys us but time. The Quran makes rebuttal of this kind of argument and says that those people are saying this out of conjecture but they have no way of proving that there is nothing beyond this life.
As far as a specific response to the question of their return being a hard thing to imagine we find beautiful examples in the Quran. One example in (36:77-79) describes people who made the previous argument and says “Doth not man see that it is We Who created him from sperm? yet behold! he (stands forth) as an open adversary! And he makes comparisons for Us, and forgets his own (origin and) Creation: He says, "Who can give life to (dry) bones and decomposed ones (at that)?" Say, "He will give them life Who created them for the first time! for He is Well-versed in every kind of creation!”
In other words what people tend to ignore when they think about resurrection and The Day of Judgment is their original creation and how we were created from a microscopic sperm and ovum. This in itself is a miracle. The fact of our initial creation in itself evidence that He who created is able to return us to life again. The Quran also appeals to our limited understanding by showing us that to bring something back is easier than crating it to start with. An example can be found in (50: 15) where God says “Were We then weary with the first Creation, that they should be in confused doubt about a new Creation?” God did not get tired from the original creation and as we indicated in a previous program God doesn’t need rest so a new creation would be easy. It is put in an even more clear term in (30:27) “It is He Who begins (the process of) creation; then repeats it; and for Him it is most easy.”
In addition to that another aspect is the analogy between giving life to the barren earth and giving life to decomposed bones. This analogy is very significant because when one looks at the earth when it is barren in the grip of winter or drought one never expects that beautiful plantation or vegetation is ever going to grow out of that land. When water falls on that land and the circumstances are ripe then one finds all kinds of lovely creations. We find an example of this in (41:39) “And among His Signs in this: thou seest the earth barren and desolate; but when We send down rain to it, it is stirred to life and yields increase. Truly, He Who gives life to the (dead) earth can surely give life to (men) who are dead. For He has power over all things.” The same thing is repeated in (5:22) using the analogy of plantation and resurrection.
Host: What is Islam’s view on the notion that only the righteous will be resurrected and the wicked will not?
From the Muslim point of perspective this is contrary to the Quran and to justice also. It is contrary to the Quran because we have indicated before that everybody will resurrected whether believer or unbeliever because everybody has to be recompensed for his life on earth. It is also contrary to justice because if one says that the punishment for the wicked is simply that he or she will not be resurrected then we will find many who say ‘let me enjoy myself in this life as I don’t care to be resurrected again.’ There would then be no motive for anyone one to be good. It is also contrary to justice because if somebody conducts a life of wickedness, crime and evil deeds it is not enough compensation to simply let them die and not rise again. It is the wisdom of God that everybody will be brought before him for their accountability where both positive and negative deeds are covered.
An example from the Quran in (36:12) “Verily We shall give life to the dead, and We record that which they send before and that which they leave behind, and of all things have We taken account in a clear Book (of evidence).” Also in (39:70) “And to every soul will be paid in full (the fruit) of its Deeds; and ((Allah)) knoweth best all that they do.” The rudimentary principle of justice requires that everyone be resurrected just like everyone has to find out the results of their tests. The life here is the test and everybody will be brought forth to get the results and consequences of this life.
Host: When will The Day of Judgment come?
The Quran is very clear that the knowledge of The Hour is only in the hands of God. One such verse is in (31:34) “Verily the knowledge of the Hour is with Allah (alone).” In another such verse in (41:47) “To Him is referred the Knowledge of the Hour (of Judgment: He knows all).” There is indication however the hour would come suddenly and no body will expect it and this is documented in more than one place in the Quran. For example we find reference to this in (7:187) “They ask thee about the (final) Hour - when will be its appointed time? Say: “The knowledge thereof is with my Lord (alone): None but He can reveal as to when it will occur. Heavy were its burden through the heavens and the earth. Only, all of a sudden will it come to you.” They ask thee as if thou Wert eager in search thereof: Say: “The knowledge thereof is with Allah (alone), but most men know not.”
In one of the sayings of Prophet Muhammad (PBUH) he described the coming of the hour and that people would be selling material and the hour would come before they fulfill the transaction or a person would be milking his goat and he would not be able to carry it through to the end, a person would be holding a morsel of bread and it would not reach his mouth. The main issue then about the exact coming of The Hour is that one should not busy himself talking about the exact time it will come but rather take the lesson as to how one can prepare for The Hour. A quote from the Quran that implants the attitude of a Muslim is in (79:42-46) “They ask thee about the Hour,-'When will be its appointed time? Wherein art thou (concerned) with the declaration thereof? With thy Lord in the Limit fixed therefor. Thou art but a Warner for such as fear it. The Day they see it, (It will be) as if they had tarried but a single evening, or (at most till) the following morn!” It will come sooner or later and when it does most of us will feel that our entire life of fifty or a hundred years would appear to us as if it were all one evening. In one verse in the Quran it says that our whole life would appear as one hour in our eyes.
Host: If there is no indication of the specific hour surely there are signs of its approach.
Yes there are signs that vary. There are signs that some jurists call The Minor Signs which could extend over hundreds of years and then there are The Major signs which will come when The Day of Judgment is eminent within a few years. There are also the descriptions of what actually happens when The Day of Judgment starts.
When we talk about signs of the approaching of The Day of Judgment we have to keep in mind that it is relevant. For example Prophet Muhammad was once quoted as saying “I was sent as a prophet and the difference between my coming and The Hour is like this” as he pointed with his fingers to show that it is close. Now we know that he died almost 1,400 years ago. Again we are talking about relative closeness because if we talk about hundreds or even thousands of years compared to the age of the earth or the age of human life it becomes miniscule. When we talk about the approaching we can look at rough signs of the coming of The Hour.
There are many Minor Signs some relating to technology, to the state of economy, to the spread of certain disease, to a change in the moral standards on an individual and social level.
Host: What is the relationship between technology and The Day of Judgment?
We have to keep in mind that when we talk about technology and the approaching of The Day of Judgment we should not imply from this that technology in itself is bad. The attitude of the Muslim towards science and technology is quite open and the Quran urges the Muslim to learn and to use technology and science in a fruitful way for the benefit of humanity at large. There are however, very interesting prophecies made by Prophet Muhammad fourteen hundred years ago. The Quran indicates in (10:24) that when the earth becomes very adorned or advanced and the people become arrogant and they think they can do anything they want could be a sign that The Hour could come at any time. The Quran describes this not as a negative thing but as something that could cause people to deviate more from the path of God to being overly materialistic.
In addition to that some of the sayings of Prophet Muhammad also touch on this. For example in a Hadith narrated in Al Tabarani he said that there would be many strange and amazing things that would take place before The Day of Judgment in terms of inventions. More specifically there were specific prophecies narrated for example in the collections of Hadith by Muslim, Ahamad, Al Hakim and Al Tabarani all point out that there would be great development in the means of communication and particularly transportation. For example the Prophet said that the camels would no longer be used as means of transportation. More specifically in one saying he said that people would ride on things that look like saddles but they are not saddles. This means that it would be something that resembles a saddle but that it is not put on an animal. Is that an indication of the seat of a car? It looks like a saddle but is fixed on metal instead of a horse or camel. He also mentioned that when the false messiah comes he will travel at a speed that is similar to the speed of the clouds, think now of missiles and jet airplanes. More specifically even he says that the earth would become smaller and the distances will become very short.
From all of these things that were said 1400 years ago it appears that what was foretold is in line with what is taking place now. One of the things that we can’t understand now is that animals will talk to humans. Whether he meant that they literally would talk which is quite possible as Prophet Solomon could communicate with the ants and other animals, or whether it was a reference to the fact that animals would be able to communicate with human beings we do not know. An example would be the police dogs or the animals at the circus where they learn to communicate and listen and receive commands from humans we don’t really know.
Another very interesting thing is that it was narrated that the Prophet said that inanimate objects would speak. More specifically in one Hadith he says that a person’s whip or shoes would talk. We think today about radios, T.V. and spying equipment where one can listen to what is going on in different places. I want to emphasize what I said before that it doesn’t mean that this technology is bad but it is simply shown as a sign of the approach of The Day of Judgment.
Host: What about signs of the economy?
In Al Tabarani it was narrated that the Prophet said that lots of metals (wealth) would be discovered and the people who would control it would be among the most unscrupulous. Again if that has been realized or will be realized I don’t know. Also in another Hadith in Nasai and Ahmad it mentions the expansion of trade and the participation of women in this progress. In another Hadith in Abu Da’ud he talked about the spread of usury or interest as we call it to the point that everybody would be effected by it. Of course we look today in terms of all the credit through banks, the use of interest and the use of charge cards. He also talked about the fact that some of the spots on earth which were desolate will have lots of construction and areas that had lots of construction would be deserted. Sometimes I wonder about the building of suburbs and people leaving down town areas building new cities while other cities are dying. He also mentioned something very fascinating about people who used to be ship herders building sky scrapers and again I wonder about what is going on in the Gulf. For example people who were really ship herders are now building sky scrapers. In general there is also mention of the spread of luxury in houses and the use of fine materials symbolized by the use of silk. As one saying of the Prophet put it there would be lots of progress in material parts of the world but lots of destruction in terms of the heart.
Host: Can we touch on the topic of health conditions?
One of the things that is very clear from the sayings of the Prophet is the spread of drinking. But in another Hadith he made a prophecy about the spread of other things that affect the body in the same way as drinking like drugs. For example he said some people will be intoxicated or in the exact words “drink wine” but of course wine or khamr in Islam means something that beclouds the mind would be called by different names. He also mentioned in a number of sayings about the spread of serious diseases, either diseases that were not known before or that were not wide spread. Now the question arises with respect to VD and the spread of cancer much more than any other time. Finally something that is very interesting that he described that would be very common is that people would die suddenly which could be a reference to heart attacks.