Friday, October 26, 2007

Life after Death


There are those who believe in life after death and there are those who do not. Then there are those who are not sure. Amongst the ones who are not sure are those:
· who are not sure because they have not thought about it enough or
· who feel that they measure themselves by a higher standard and therefore this is not for them or
· who are waiting for more tangible proof.
This verse will be particularly helpful to those who have not given much thought to it. I never understood it myself until recently and my understanding is quite incomplete.
The Quran is emphatic that we should not be in any doubt about the final meeting with our creator. For Muslims, it is one of the cardinal principles. The concept of self accountability flows from it and is very powerful.

Sura Ali Imran Verse 4/ 185 ( translation Abdullah Yusuf Ali )

“Every soul shall have a taste of death: *

And only on the Day of Judgment shall you be paid your full recompense.
Only he who is saved Far from the fire and admitted to the Garden will have attained
the object (of Life).

For the life of this world is but goods and chattels of deception. **”

“ taste of death” is a vivid description suggesting that death is simply an event in our journey and certainly not a permanent event.

“ goods and chattels of deception “, suggests that you could become so enamored with the life of this world that you begin to deny that there could be anything better.

My explanation

For the human soul, the life of this world will present many temptations. Material belongings, desires that satisfy the ego, accumulation of wealth and influence, all have the power to make a human being lose focus on the object of life.

No one will be spared death. Knowing this surely it would be better to lead a life that will accumulate for you spiritual wealth, the prayer and blessing of others, inner satisfaction of the soul rather than the ego.

The reward and punishment that you perceive to receive in this life or that you perceive others to receive in this life are but a portion of the total reckoning that will take place on the day of judgment. It is then and only then that a full account will be taken of each one of us and only then will we learn as to who succeeded in leading a good life and who did not.


This verse is not intended to discourage humans from worldliness but to warn them from losing perspective. It is possible to become drunk with worldly success. It is possible to gauge success and failure in material terms.. When we see some one materially successful or unsuccessful we tend to assume that the path they took is worth following or avoiding.
We acknowledge with a lot of difficulty and many misgivings that one day we will die. Acceptance of the fact that we will die is less than half the story. Our understanding of death is not complete unless we also acknowledge that there is life after death. If we have so much difficulty with death, which is a proven fact, consider how we can deal life after death, which is unproven.

Accepting life after death as a fact dramatically changes the way we conduct ourselves in this world. The concept of life after death is not simply about rising from the dead but about being held accountable for the way we conducted ourselves in the life of this world.
If accountability is missing and death is our final destination then surely we would descend into chaos. We would have every reason to seek pleasure and the fulfillment of all our desires while we have the chance. The only thing that would prevent us from chaos is man made laws. We would then try to break many man made rules if we felt no one was watching and we could get away with it without being caught.

As an example if we thought that the police was not watching, we do and we would exceed the speed limit on the highway. If we thought our spouses would not find out we do and we would be unfaithful to them. There would be no need to have a higher purpose in life. The highest purpose would be to somehow prolong life, to avoid pain and to constantly seek pleasure. It would be a world of might makes right and survival of the fittest.

On the other hand if we believed that all our actions are being recorded and we will be confronted with them by an all seeing, all powerful Being, who will measure them against a higher code of conduct, then we would spend our lives getting to know that code and aspiring to follow it. That would become our highest priority and the seeking of the pleasures of this world would become a non- priority. We would inculcate, love, sacrifice, giving and shun lust, power, greed.

This is what defines a Muslim. This is what the Quran is asking of us in this verse.


Thursday, October 18, 2007

Belief in God

Why is there an emphasis on belief in God? ( when to many it should be a given)
This emphasis is there because in order to receive guidance you must be in a state of Purity. This belief (that is Belief in God) is a precondition of this purity.

If you do not think that you are in need of guidance then you have resisted asking the fundamental question, why am I here? It is possible to say I am here because I am here and go with the flow. It is possible to say that I am here to survive as best as possible and pursue a life of survival and self interest. It is possible to define self interest broadly and include in it living in an organized society. It is possible to define self interest as being a good citizen of your nation, tribe, race, religion and pursue a more collaborative life. These are all variations of getting on with life and not asking the most important question you will ever ask yourself. The asking of this question gives meaning to your life.

Living life to its fullest is part of the quest for giving meaning to life but there has to be a conscious effort to find the answer. The answer will not come if you do not seek it. We cannot be satisfied by living a meaningless life. The comforts of this world, wealth, possessions, fame , amusements are all very enjoyable but is that all that life is about ?

Fair in the eyes of men is the love of things they covet:
Women and sons: Heaped –up hoards of gold and silver;
Horses branded (for blood and excellence);
And (wealth of cattle) and well tilted land.
Such are the possessions of this world’s life;
But in nearness to Allah is the best of goals (to return to).

Quran 3.14 surah Ale Imran.

Most of us have an intellectual and rational belief in God. To begin to comprehend God however you must feel Him also. There is an emotional connection which escapes us if we are too caught up in other relations. To experience God is to be in a state of “shock and awe”.

For, Believers are those
Who, when Allah is mentioned,
Feel a tremor in their hearts,

Quran 8.2 Surah Anfal

This is the state of purity that I was talking about. This is a state of Humility. This is the state in which learning will take place and in which you are free to understand guidance. Very few people are born humble for most it is a question of practicing humility. To understand the answer to the question why am I here, you must first create a communion with your creator.

Behold! In the creation of the heavens and the earth,
And the alternation of night and day
There are indeed signs
For men of understanding—
Men who celebrate the praises of Allah
Standing, sitting, and lying down on their sides.
And contemplate the (wonders of) creation
In the heavens and the earth, (with the thought)
“Our Lord! Not for naught hast thou created (all) this!

Quran 3.190 & 3.191 Surah Ale Imran

I am not addressing this to the non believer, I am addressing the believers. I am addressing the Jews, the Christians, The Muslims, The Buddhists, The Hindus, The Humanists, The Secularists even the Atheists. I am not saying, “if God was not there, we would need to create him”. I am saying God is there. He is our creator. We must repeatedly ask the question, “what do You want from me?”


All our lives we deal with issues. Issues of survival, food, shelter, clothing. Issues of emotions, like love, revenge, friendship. Intellectual issues like women’s rights, freedom, discrimination. These issues are all consuming and we get caught up in them and forget, forget where we came from and where we are going.

The Quran repeatedly reminds us that we were once a mere clot of blood and that we will one day be dust. Not only that but that we will be held accountable for what we did in the “appointed time” that was allotted to us. If we do not forget this, we will be in a better frame of mind to deal with the issues which have to be dealt with in any case. We will then deal with them in a spirit of humility and generosity. This is the second lesson of the Quran.

The first lesson is that before me and before every one there was GOD and after everything there will be God. He is the creator and to Him we will all return. So before reading the Quran, before dealing with any issue we must develop the right attitude, get into the right spirit, feel the humbleness of who we are and who we must look to for the right result.