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  • Maulana Wahiduddin Khan

Life After Death

‘When I am dead, will I then be raised up again?’ This question is in the back of the minds of even those who do not have any deep convictions of the reality of life after death. The fact however remains that very few people give any direct attention to the question of the afterlife while they are in this world. This is surely an indication of the conscious or subconscious doubt as to its existence. If, however, we give serious thought to the reality of life after death, it becomes easily comprehensible: God, wishing to put us to the test, has not divulged the secrets of life after death to us directly. He has however spread His signs throughout the universe for us to see and ponder over. This can lead us to a true realization of God and the essence of all things around us. This universe is actually a mirror in which we can gaze upon the image of the next world. Let us understand how.

It is common knowledge that human beings have not always existed in their present state. Man is derived from a formless substance, which gradually takes on the form of a human being as it grows in the mother’s womb. This process continues until, in the outside world, it develops into a full-fledged human being. The metamorphosis of an insensate, valueless substance, imperceptible to the naked eye, into a six-foot tall human being, is an everyday event. So why should we have any difficulty in understanding how the minute particles of our bodies, after being scattered in the ground, will once again take on a human form? In fact, every individual one sees walking around is, an accumulation of countless atoms, previously dispersed in unknown dimensions throughout the earth and atmosphere. Presently the forces of nature brought these atoms together in one meaningful, sensate pattern, so that we are now able to observe these same scattered atoms in the form of a human being—capable of thought, feeling and movement. The very same process will be repeated when, subsequent to our death, our particles are diffused in the air, water and earth. Afterwards, at God’s command, they will be reassembled and once again assume the form of a human being. What is so extraordinary about the re-occurrence of an event that has already happened once before?

Even in the world of matter there are indications of the practicability of a repetition of life. Every year, in the rainy season, vegetation flourishes and its greenery spreads in all directions. Then the summer pronounces its death sentence and the earth dries up. Where flowers bloomed, only a barren plain can be seen. Thus a full-fledged life expires. But when the rains come again, and water pours down from the sky, that very same vegetation is revived and the dry land once again becomes a meadow. In this very same manner, man will be raised to life after his death. Let us look at this from another angle. Doubts occur concerning life after death because our imagination is formulated in terms of our present physical existence. We consider the mobile figure outwardly apparent to us to be the essential human being. We then wonder how this form can be refashioned and raised up again once it has rotted away and mingled with the earth. We observe that when death strikes, an animate human being becomes silent; his motion is halted and all his faculties cease to function. Afterwards he is buried in the ground or cremated depending on the customs of the people concerned. A few days later, the body has been reduced to tiny particles and mingled with the earth in such a way as to be undetectable to normal vision. We witness daily the extinction of living human beings in this manner and find it difficult to comprehend how a form so totally obliterated can possibly be revived.

The fact is that the word ‘man’ refers, not to any such bodily form, but rather to the ‘soul,’ which inhabits the body. As far as the physical frame is concerned, we know that it is composed of tiny particles called living cells. The position of cells in our body is like that of bricks in a building. The bricks of our physical structure or cells are continuously destroyed in the course of our daily lives and we compensate for this loss by taking in food. Food, once digested, produces various forms of cells, which counter-balance this physical deficiency. In this way, the human body is constantly being eroded and altered. Old cells are destroyed and new ones take their place. This process continues daily until eventually total renovation of the body occurs, usually within a period of ten years. To put it another way, nothing whatsoever remains now of the body you possessed ten years ago. Your present physique is an entirely new one. If all the parts of your body severed from you over the last ten years were to be gathered together, then another human being—identical to yourself could be constructed. If you are a hundred years old, then ten ‘yous’ could be formed which, despite their exact similarity to you in appearance, would be no more than inanimate lumps of flesh, for ‘you’ do not dwell within them. ‘You’ have abandoned these old bodies and moulded yourself into a new frame. So the saga of construction and destruction is constantly being enacted within ‘you’ without any evident change occurring. That entity which you call yourself remains as it was. If you had entered into a contract with someone ten years ago, you would continue to admit that ‘you’ committed yourself in this manner, although your previous frame is now non-existent. Neither the hands, which signed the contract papers, nor the tongue which testified to it, are any longer attached to your body. Nevertheless ‘you’ still exist, and ‘you’ acknowledge the fact that this ten-year old contract was your own and continue to abide by it. This is that inward human being at work, which, far from altering with bodily transformation, survives countless physical changes absolutely intact. We can therefore say that the word ‘homo sapiens’, rather than being a label attached to a certain physical form, which is erased with its death, is a separate entity, which remains intact even after the diffusion of the body’s composite parts. The fact that the body alters whereas the soul does not is conclusive proof of the transitional nature of the body and the eternal nature of the soul.

Some misguided people even consider ‘life’ and ‘death’ to be the ‘accumulation’ and the subsequent ‘diffusion’ of multitudinous particles of matter as expounded by an Urdu poet, Chakbast, in the following words:

Zindagi kya hai, anasir mein zahoor-e-tarteeb Mauwt kya hai, inhi ajza ka pareshan hona

What is life? Elements arranging themselves in order, and death? Their diffusion. This, statement is however not borne out by fact. If life were simply ‘elements arranging themselves in order,’ then it follows that it should survive only so long as this orderliness endured, and it should conversely be possible for an expert scientist to create life by an accumulation of these elements; obviously, both these propositions are preposterous. We observe that it is not only those who have been torn limb from limb in some accident, who die. In every condition and at every age people are passing away.

Sometimes perfectly healthy human beings suffer sudden heart failure and die and no doctor can provide an explanation for this. We may regard a corpse as an ‘orderly, elemental manifestation,’ but the soul, which inhabited it, has departed. All elements are arranged in the same order as they were a few minutes beforehand, but they are utterly lifeless. This shows that the organization of elemental matter does not create life; rather life is an entirely separate entity.

A living human being cannot be produced in a laboratory, though such a physical form can readily be formulated. We have ascertained that the particles that compose a living body consist of normal atoms. The carbon in it is the same as that found in charcoal, its hydrogen and oxygen are the same as that which constitute water, its nitrogen is exactly the same gas as that which accounts for most of the atmosphere, and so on. But is it true to say that a living human being is a specific collection of ordinary atoms that have been arranged in an extraordinary way? Or is it something else besides this? Scientists admit that although we know that the body is fabricated of certain material particles, we are still not in a position to create life just by combining these same particles. This proves that the body of a living human being is not just a conglomerate of inanimate atoms. It is rather a combination of ‘life’ and ‘atoms’. After death, the conglomerate of ‘atoms’ remains visible to us, while ‘life’ departs for another world.

Clearly, ‘life’ is not something, which can be eliminated. When we grasp that life is something with eternal properties, we can appreciate just how rational and natural the ‘life-after-death’ theory is. The facts cry out that life does not consist merely of what can be seen prior to death. Therefore, there must be a life after death also. Our intellect accepts the transient nature of this world, and the fact that man is a being, which survives it. When we die, we do not pass into oblivion, rather we retire to reside in another world.

Understanding this, most people now-a-days do believe in God and in the afterworld. It is not as if they deny these things; however their actions bear no relation to their belief. In practice, all that people are concerned about is ‘worldly success’. Let us understand this with the help of an example: if we were told that the earth’s gravitational pull had ceased to exist and that the planet was being pulled towards the sun at a speed of 6,000 m.p.h., can you think what would happen? There would definitely be a total and complete panic in the entire world, as this would imply that within a few weeks all life would be obliterated from the face of the earth.

However, no one realizes that this world is perpetually facing a peril much greater than this. What is this peril? It is the peril of the Last Day in which man will be called to account for his deeds in this world. The Day, which has been destined for the world since the creation of the universe, which we are all careering towards at a reckless speed. As an article of faith, most of us accept this reality, but there are indeed very few who actually feel compelled to give it serious thought and even less who feel the need to prepare for the afterworld.

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