Although scientific findings like the second law of thermodynamics show that existence is gradually disappearing, even a collision of two planets could destroy the universe. If existence began with a big bang, why should it not end with another big bang or collision? Existence is an extremely delicately calculated “organism,” a system with parts subtly dependent upon each other. A human body is made up of about a hundred million million cells. Just as a single deformed, cancerous cell can kill the entire body, any serious deformation anywhere in the universe also could “kill” it. Our death sometimes comes unexpectedly and without any visible, diagnosed reason. Do we know whether or not the universe might “die” all of a sudden, unexpectedly, from a “disease” or a “heart attack”? Maybe our old world has terminal cancer because we abuse it.
What follows comprises some other arguments for the Resurrection and the afterlife:
• God’s Mercy and Munificence are, of course, eternal. An Eternal One Who manifests Himself eternally requires the existence of eternal beings. His eternal Mercy and Munificence demand eternal manifestation and thus eternal beings on whom to confer eternal bounties. But our world is only temporary, and millions of its living creatures die each day. What can such a fact indicate, other than this world’s final and complete death?
This world cannot receive the comprehensive manifestation of the Divine Names and Attributes. Nor can living beings, who experience great hardship and difficulty in maintaining themselves. For example, we cannot satisfy all our desires and appetites. Our youth, beauty, and strength, upon which we set our hearts, leave without a word and cause us great sorrow. Also, we have to exert ourselves even to obtain a cluster of grapes. If we were denied eternal nourishment after having tasted it, would this not be an insult and a mockery, a source of great pain? For a blessing to be real, it must be constant. Without an eternal life in which we can satisfy our desires eternally, all of God Almighty’s bounties bestowed upon us would change into pain and sorrow. Therefore, after destroying this world, God will transform it into an eternal one that can receive the comprehensive manifestations of His Mercy and Munificence without obstruction, one in which we can satisfy all our desires eternally.
• Divine Pity and Caring heal wounds and wounded hearts and feelings, cause a patient to recover, end the pain of separation, and change pain and sorrow into joy and pleasure. They help human beings and animals throughout their lives, especially before and right after birth. Their mothers’ wombs are well-protected homes in which human beings and animals are nourished directly without any effort on their part. After birth, Divine Pity and Caring provide them with breast-milk, the best possible food, and their parents’ feelings of pity and caring. All of these are a single manifestation of Divine Pity and Caring.
Although Divine Pity and Caring encompass the universe, here we encounter wounds, hurt feelings, incurable illness, hunger, thirst, and poverty. Why? As above, the answer is that this world cannot receive the comprehensive manifestation of Divine Attributes and Names such as Pity and Caring. Our inability to do so, as well as our injustice to others and abuse of our innate abilities, intervenes between beings and the manifestations of Divine Pity and Caring. Above all, every living thing dies. This arouses great sorrow in the heart, a sorrow that can only be compensated for by belief in another, eternal world. So, Divine Pity and Caring will be manifested fully in the other world, for that world allows no intervention, sorrow, and pain.
• God’s Names and Attributes are absolute and eternal. Therefore, He is absolutely and eternally Merciful, Relenting, and Forgiving, as well as absolutely and eternally Mighty, Just, and Dignified. Although His Mercy embraces all things (7:156) and, as stated in a hadith, “exceeds His Wrath,”6 some people’s sins are so serious (e.g., unbelief and associating partners with God) that they deserve eternal punishment. Besides, the verse: whoever kills a human being unjustly, it is as if he (or she) has killed humanity (5:32) cannot be ignored. This is especially true today, where “might is right,” thousands of innocent people are killed daily, and many others are wronged and deprived of their basic human rights. Even worse, many of the most serious sins and injustices go unpunished.
Death does not discriminate between the oppressed and oppressors, the innocent and the guilty, and the sinless and the sinful. This only can mean that just as in the world major crimes are deferred to supreme tribunals, so too, major sins (e.g., unbelief, associating partners with God, murder, and oppression) are referred to the Hereafter’s Supreme Tribunal, where God will dispense absolute Justice. Even if God Almighty sometimes punishes them also here in the world, many injustices remain unpunished due to some instances of wisdom. Therefore, God’s Justice will be fully implemented in the other world.
One day, those who thanked God will be welcomed with: Eat and drink to your hearts content because of what you did in days gone by (69:24) and Peace be upon you! You have done well. Enter here to dwell forever (39:73). In this place, God has prepared for us things we cannot even begin to imagine. Meanwhile, those who engaged in bloodshed, sin, and other prohibited activities will be thrown into Hell with the shout: Enter (through) the gates of Hell to dwell therein forever: what an evil abode for the arrogant! (39:72).
• A close examination of what goes on in the universe will show that it contains two opposed elements that have spread everywhere, become rooted, and clash with each other. This has resulted in the opposed elements of good and evil, benefit and harm, perfection and defect, light and darkness, guidance and misguidance, belief and unbelief, obedience and rebellion, and love and enmity. God kneaded these opposites together like dough, and made the universe subject to the law of alteration and the principle of perfection. The universe manifests, through such a continuous conflict of opposites, unceasing alterations and transformations in order to produce the elements of a new world.
One day, the Pen of Divine Destiny will have written what it has to write. The Divine Power will have completed its work, all creatures will have fulfilled their duties and services, and the seeds will have been sown in the field of the afterlife. The earth will have displayed the miracles of Divine Power, and this transitory world will have hung all the eternal scenes upon the picturerail of time. The Majestic Maker’s eternal Wisdom and Favor will require that the truths of the Divine Beautiful Names’ manifestations and the Pen of Divine Destiny’s missives be unveiled.
It will be time for all creatures’ actions to be repaid, for the truths of the meanings expressed by the Book of the Universe’s words to be seen, and for the fruits of potentialities to be yielded. A Supreme Court will be established, and the veil of natural causes will be removed so that everything is submitted directly to the Divine Will and Power. On that day, the Majestic Creator will destroy the universe in order to eternalize it. He will separate the opposites, causing Paradise to appear with all its beauty and splendor, and Hell to appear with all its awfulness.
Paradise and Hell are the two opposite fruits growing on the tree of creation’s two branches, the two results of the chain of creation, the two cisterns being filled by the two streams of things and events, and the two poles to which beings flow in waves. They are the places where Divine Grace and Divine Wrath manifest themselves, and will be full of inhabitants when Divine Power shakes up the universe.
• We are provided here with whatever we need for almost nothing. The more necessary for life an item is, the more abundant and cheaper it is in nature. Our most pressing need is air, which we receive free of charge. Then comes water, which is almost free. God sends both of these from His infinite Mercy, and we make absolutely no contribution. Then come heat and light, which we receive from the sun for nothing. When we look at the rest of His bounties, we see that they are extremely cheap. Yet we still demand that He perform a miracle so that we might believe in Him! Our effort to procure these blessings is minuscule when compared to how they were produced. However, if these bounties or blessings were only temporary and imperfect, our fear of death, which cuts their supply, would change them into poison.
Thanks to God’s being eternal, He will provide for us eternal and ever better forms of bounties. As these will be eternal, they will not become a source of pain engendered by our fear of death, because there will no longer be death in the eternal world.
• The universal wisdom in existence requires the Resurrection. God is absolutely free to do what He wills, and no one can call Him to account. However, being All-Wise, He acts with absolute purposiveness and wisdom, and never does something that is in vain, futile, or pointless.
Nothing in existence is in vain; there is nothing superfluous, and no act in creation is futile. The entire process observed in a living being’s coming to the world and growth manifests an absolute will and determination based on an all-encompassing knowledge. The observed order and arrangement are so perfect that it is as if directions were written on each particle’s “forehead.” This purposeful wisdom, will, and determination open our eyes to the fact that everything in existence has been created for certain purposes.
Consider what deliberate results are produced by unconscious trees’ actions. Is it really conceivable that something completely ignorant and unconscious of its own existence, which has no power of choice, can do such comprehensive things that require an all-comprehensive knowledge, power, and choice? The Power that attaches such significant purposes to a tree and makes it the means of many deliberate results will certainly not abandon humanity (the fruit of the tree of creation) to its own devices or condemn it to eternal annihilation.
For when we analyze ourselves, as well as our nature, physical and spiritual identity, structure and body, we realize that we were created for certain important purposes. We are unique beings, for we contain some aspect of all that exists in the universe. Our mental and spiritual faculties represent angelic and other spiritual worlds, such as the world of symbols or immaterial forms. But due to our inborn capacity to learn and to our free will, we can excel even the angels. Our physical or biological being represents plants and animals. Although contained in time and space, our spiritual faculties and such other powers as imagination allow us to transcend them. So the Creator Who creates the simplest things for many purposes and never allows anything to go waste, and Who perpetuates its life through its numerous seeds, will certainly not condemn us to eternal nonexistence under the soil. He will resurrect all of us in an eternal world.
• This world cannot judge our actual worth. Although we have a small physical body, our mental and spiritual faculties allow us to embrace the universe. Our acts are not restricted only to this world, and therefore cannot be bound by time and space. Our nature is so universal that even the first human being’s acts affect the last one’s life and character and all of existence. Restricting us to a physical entity, a very short lifespan, and a limited part of space, as materialists do, shows a complete misunderstanding and lack of appreciation of what each of us really is.
This world’s scales cannot weigh the intellectual and spiritual value of Prophets and their achievements, or the destruction caused by such monsters as Pharaoh, Nero, Hitler, and Stalin. Nor can they weigh the true value of sincere belief and moral qualities. What is the proper reward for a martyr who has sacrificed everything for the sake of God, or for such universal human values as justice and truthfulness; or for a believing scientist whose dedicated research results in an invention that benefits all people until the Last Day?
Only the other world’s delicate scales, which account for an atom’s weight of good and evil, can weigh such deeds accurately: We set up a just balance for the Day of Resurrection. Thus, no soul will be treated unjustly. Even though it be the weight of one mustard seed, We shall bring it forth to be weighed; and Our reckoning will suffice (21:47). Even if nothing required the Resurrection, the necessity of weighing our deeds would require an infinitely just and sensitive balance to be established.
• Look at a flower, a word of God’s Power. For a short time it smiles upon us, then hides behind the veil of annihilation. It departs in the way a word that leaves our mouth disappears. The word disappears but leaves its meaning in the minds of those who heard it. Likewise, a flower goes but leaves its visible form in the memory of those who saw it and its inner essence in its seeds. It is as if each memory and seed records the flower’s adornment, or somehow perpetuates it.
If this is true for an existent thing near the simplest level of life, it will readily be appreciated how closely the human being, the highest form of life and owner of an imperishable soul, is attached to eternity. Actually, we have a strong desire for eternity and eternal life. Some of our senses or feelings, in particular, cannot be satisfied with anything less. None of us are content with this brief life of the world. If we could choose between eternal life with severe hardship during this life and eternal nonexistence after a short luxurious life, we would certainly choose the former, never desiring eternal nonexistence. So, the All-Merciful and All-Wise, Who has implanted in us this fervent desire for eternity, will certainly not condemn us to eternal nonexistence.
• A plant dies in an animal’s or a human being’s stomach and rises to the degree of animal or human life; an animal is consumed by a person and rises to the degree of human life. So, the Lord of the Worlds, Who promotes plants and animals to higher degrees of life through death will certainly not leave His most precious creature—humanity—to rot under earth eternally. Rather, a human being drops into earth (after death) to attain a much higher degree of life in an eternal world.
• Listen to a bird’s singing on a spring morning, the murmur of a brook flowing through green fields or deep valleys. Look at the beauty of spectacular green plains and trees in blossom. Watch the sun rise or set, or the full moon on a cloudless, clear night. All of these events, and many more that God presents to our senses, are but a single gleam of His absolute and eternal Beauty manifested through many veils. By observing such manifestations, through which He makes Himself known, we are enraptured.
Temporary blessings leave unbearable pain in our heart when they disappear. If spring came only once, we would sigh over it until we die. So, a true blessing must necessarily be eternal. In this world, the Eternally Beautiful One shows us only shadows of His Beauty in order to arouse our desire to see Its eternal and perfect manifestation. Moreover, He will allow us to see Him in Paradise in a manner free of any qualitative and quantitative measure or dimension: On that day there will be shining faces, gazing upon their Master (75:22–23).
• There is a basic relation between humanity and this world. We are born into an amiable environment and equipped with the required senses. We have feelings like compassion and pity, as well as caring and love, for there are many things here to which we can apply them. We feel hunger and thirst, cold and heat. Fortunately, these feelings can be satisfied with that which was prepared before or with only a slight exertion on our part.
Consider an apple. Its color and beauty appeal to our eyes and our sense of beauty. Its taste addresses our sense of taste, and its vitamins nourish our bodies. Despite our need of its nutriments, we might refuse to eat it if it were ugly and tasteless, and thereby deprive ourselves of its nourishment. This, as well as many other natural facts, shows that One with infinite Knowledge and Power created us and prepared a suitable environment for us. He knows all of our needs, capacities, and qualities, just as He knows nature down to its smallest building blocks.
Another example is reproduction, which depends on mutual love and attraction between a man and a woman. If our Creator had not placed such things in us, if He had not allowed us to enjoy the process of reproduction, and if He had not implanted a great love and caring for our resulting children, we would never have reproduced. The first and final members of our species would have been Adam and Eve.
Death ends all pleasure and makes everything as if it had never been. Given this, if there were no Resurrection, our life would be a meaningless existence of suffering and pain. However, this world is a shadowy miniature of the other, eternal one. The bounties God bestows here are only examples of their eternal and much better forms in the eternal world, and are displayed here to encourage us to act in order to deserve them:
Give glad tidings to those who believe and do good deeds. For them there will be Gardens beneath which rivers flow. Every time they are served with the fruits therein, they will say: “This is what was given to us aforetime.” They shall be given in perfect semblance. And there will be pure spouses for them, and they will abide there forever. (2:25)
All joy and beauty, reward and happiness in this world point to their perfect and eternal forms in Paradise; all pain and punishment, ugliness and unhappiness point to their likes in Hell. God will use the debris from this world, after He destroys it, to build the other world. Thus, the interrelations among things here and between this world and the other point to the Resurrection.
• The universe works according to a moving timeline. Just as seconds point to minutes, minutes to hours, and hours to today’s end and tomorrow’s coming, and days point to weeks, weeks to months, months to years, and years to the end of a whole lifespan, existence has its own days in every sphere and dimension. Its appointed lifespan will one day come to an end.
Also, time is cyclical and the life of existence has certain terms or cycles: our worldly life, the life of the grave, and the afterlife, which is the last cycle and has many cycles or terms of its own. The Qur’an calls each of these a day, for a day corresponds to our entire life: dawn, morning, noon, afternoon, and evening correspond to one’s birth and infancy, childhood, youth, old age and death, respectively. Night resembles the intermediate life of the grave, and the next morning resembles the Resurrection.
• Everything is subject to the law of development up to a final end. Given this, everything must evolve to a final end. This means that everything has a limited lifespan and that it will die upon reaching its final end. Since a human being (a microcosm, a conscious miniature of the universe) eventually will die, the universe (a macro-human being) also must perish and be resurrected on the Last Day. Just as a living tree, an unconscious miniature of the universe, cannot save itself from annihilation, so “the branches of creatures” that have grown from “the tree of creation” will die.
If the universe is not destroyed by an external event coming from the Eternal Will, then a day, also predicted by science, will come when it will begin to die. It will give a sharp cry, and the following events will occur: When the sun is folded up (and darkened); and when the stars fall (losing their luster); and when the mountains are set moving (81:1–3); and When the heaven is cleft open; and when the stars fall in disorder and are scattered (82:1–3).
• Nothing disappears completely from this world. While we can record and preserve our every word and act on tapes, why should we not be able to understand that God, Who is the All-Recording and All-Preserving, records all of humanity’s words and deeds The Resurrection and the Afterlife 113 in a way unknown to us? For we see that He enfolds everything in small things like seeds. For example, each human being is enfolded in a sperm or in his or her forty-six chromosomes. If we had forty-four or forty-eight chromosomes, we would be something completely different. He also records and preserves the whole life of a tree in its seeds, each of which will grow into a new, almost identical, elaborate tree. A plant that dies in autumn or winter continues to live not only in its seeds but also in innumerable memories. Likewise, He preserves sounds and voices, as well as appearances and sights to display them in another world. When we die and disappear into the soil, our most essential part, which is like a nucleus or a seed and is called “the root of the tail” (in a Prophetic saying),7 does not disappear, for God will use it rebuild us on the Day of Resurrection.
• Consider an atom. The way it is formed and the way it maintains its relationships with other atoms are astounding miracles. Creating a solar system or an atom, both of which have orbiting bodies, and then regulating their movements and establishing their relationships are equally easy for God. Similarly, a cell is like an autonomous government. It has its own departments, each of which is interrelated with others and ruled by a center, as well as a “ministry of finance” that manages its income and expenditure. It is as if each cell were as smart as the smartest person on the planet. In addition, there are very close and substantial relations between these cells, all of which are ruled by a center—the brain.
God created the world and humanity when nothing of either thing existed. He brought our body’s building blocks together from soil, air, and water, and made them into a conscious, intelligent being. Is there any doubt that the person who made a machine can tear it apart and reassemble it, or that an army commander can gather his dispersed soldiers through a trumpet call?
Similarly, while reconstructing the world, God Almighty will gather our atoms and grant them a higher, eternal form of life: Say: “Travel in the land and see how He originated creation, then God brings forth the later growth. Assuredly, God is able to do all things” (29:20); and Look at the imprints of God’s mercy (in creation): how He gives life to the earth after its death. He surely is the reviver of the dead (in the same way), and He is able to do all things (30:50). These are only a few examples of the Creator’s Power. Everything is equally easy for Him. Creating and administering the universe is as easy as creating and administering an atom. If all people worked together, we could not create even one atom. So, if the absolutely Powerful One says He will destroy the universe and rebuild it in a different form, He will do so. As God does not lie and is without defect, His promises can be believed. As stated in the Qur’an: The Day of Final Decision and Judgment is a fixed time, a day when the Trumpet is blown, and you come in multitudes, and the heaven is opened and becomes as gates (78:17–19).
Furthermore, not all component parts of us need to be present for our re-creation. Rather, only the fundamental part or the essential particles, as mentioned earlier, may be sufficient for the second creation. The All-Wise Creator will rebuild the human body upon this foundation.
• An overall death and revival is repeated every year. In winter, a white “shroud” covers the soil, whose yearly life cycle ends in autumn. Nature has already turned pale and shows fewer traces of life. The shell has fallen in and, ultimately, trees become like lifeless, hard bones; grass has rotted away and flowers have withered; migrating birds have left; and insects and reptiles have disappeared.
Just as every night is followed by day, winter, which is only temporary, is followed by a general revival. Warm weather causes trees to bud and, wearing their finery, present themselves to the Eternal Witness. The soil swells, and grass and flowers start to bloom everywhere. Seeds that fell into ground during the previous autumn have germinated and, having annihilated themselves, are transformed into new forms of life. Migrating birds return, and the planet hosts countless insects and reptiles. In short, nature appears before us in all its splendor and finery.
• Consider the following analogy: Traveling upon a road, we come upon a caravanserai built by a great person. It is decorated at the greatest expense in order to delight and instruct the guests during their night’s stay. We can see just a little, for we are staying for a very short time. Briefly tasting the joys of what is offered, we continue our journey unsatisfied. However, the great one’s servants busily record each guest’s conduct and preserve the record. We see, too, that most of the wonderful decorations are replaced daily with fresh ones for newly arriving guests.
Having seen all this, can any doubt remain that the caravanserai’s builder must have permanent exalted dwellings, inexhaustible precious treasures, an uninterrupted flow of unlimited generosity? With his generosity shown here, he intends only to arouse his guests’ appetite for what remains in his immediate presence, to awaken their desire for the gifts he has prepared for them.
If we reflect upon this world, we will understand that this world, just like the caravanserai, does not exist for itself. Neither could it have assumed this shape by itself. Rather, it is a well-constructed temporary place, wisely designed to receive those beings who constantly arrive, stay awhile, and then depart. Those inhabiting it for a transient, short time are guests, invited by their Generous Sustainer to the Abode of Peace.
This world’s adornments and amusements are not here for our perpetual enjoyment, for such temporary pleasures result in long-lasting pain when they disappear. They give us a taste to rouse our appetite. But they do not satiate us, for they are too short-lived, or our life is too short. Such valuable and temporary adornments must be there to instruct us in wisdom, arouse gratitude, and encourage us to seek their permanent originals.
In short, the adornments we see are for exalted goals beyond themselves. They are like samples and forms of blessings stored in Paradise, by the Mercy of the All-Merciful, for people of faith and good conduct.
• Almost all previous people believed in the Resurrection.8 Even the self-proclaimed divine Pharaohs of ancient Egypt believed in it, and so wanted to be buried with their most precious things and slaves. If we search through the tombs, epitaphs, documents, and art of bygone peoples, we hear humanity’s sighs for eternity echoing throughout time. Despite the alterations and distortions that have crept in over time, we find clear evidence of a belief in eternity in ancient India, China, and Greece, as well as in most Western philosophies.
In the Muslim world, almost all philosophers believed in eternal life. Even the irreligious Abu al-A‘la al-Ma‘arri tried to describe, in his Risalat al-Ghufran, the Day of the Resurrection according to Qur’anic verses. Dante appears to have adapted this scholar’s writings for his descriptions of Paradise, Hell, and Purgatory.
To sum up: Except for a few materialists, the long history of Eastern and Western philosophy witnesses to belief in the Resurrection and an afterlife.9
Gulen, Muhammed Fethullah. The Essentials of the Islamic Faith. The Light, Inc. 2005.
- August 29, 2013
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