The All-Compassionate Creator has made this world in the form of a festival, a place of celebration and exhibition. He has decorated it with the most wonderful inscriptions of His Names, and clothed each spirit with a body possessing suitable and appropriate senses that allow the individual to benefit from the good things and bounties in the festival. He sends each spirit to this festival once only. As it is very extensive in time and space, He divided it into centuries and years, seasons and days, and various parts. His animal and plant creations promenade therein, especially during the spring and summer, when the earth’s surface is transformed into a vast arena of successive festivals for all small creatures. This arena is so glittering and attractive that it draws the gaze of angels, other inhabitants of the heavens, and spirit beings in the higher abodes. For people who think and reflect, it is an arena for reflection, and one so wonderful that the mind cannot describe it.
The manifestations of Divine Grace, Mercy, and Munificence in this Divine festival are counterbalanced by the Names of All-Overwhelming, All-Crushing, and the One Who Causes to Die through death and separation. This does not appear to be in line with the all-embracing Mercy expressed in My Mercy encompasses all things (7:156). However, consider the following points:
• After each group of creatures has served its purpose and produced the desired results, the All-Compassionate Creator causes most of them, by His Compassion, to feel weariness and distaste for the world. He then grants them a desire to rest and a longing to emigrate to another world. And so when they approach the time of discharge from their duties (through death), He arouses in them an enthusiastic inclination to return to their original home.
• The Most Merciful One bestows the rank of martyrdom on a soldier who dies in the line of duty (defending sacred values), and rewards a sheep sacrificed in His way with an eternal existence in the Hereafter. Given this, His infinite Mercy assigns a specific reward and wage, according to their nature and capacity, to other animate beings who perform their duties despite hardship and death. Thus, these beings are not sad when death comes; rather, they are pleased and look forward to it.
The world is continually enlivened through creation and predetermination, and ceaselessly stripped of life through other cycles of creation, determination, and wisdom. Death is not an extinction, but a door opening on a better, more developed, and more refined life.
The Qur’an presents death as something created and therefore having existence (67:2). When death enters a living body, life seems to depart. In reality, however, that organism is being elevated to a higher degree. The death of a plant, the simplest level of life, is a work of Divine artistry, just like its life, but one even more perfect and better designed. When a tree seed “dies,” it appears to decompose into the soil. However, it actually undergoes a perfect chemical process, passes through predetermined states of re-formation, and grows into an elaborate, new tree. A “dead” seed represents the beginning of a new tree, and shows that death is something created (like life) and, accordingly, is as perfect as life.
Since fruit and animals, when consumed by people, cause them to rise to the degree of human life, their deaths can be regarded as more perfect than their lives. If this is true of plants, it must be true of people. As people are the pinnacle of creation, their deaths must be more perfect and serve a still greater purpose. Once individuals have died and been buried, they surely will be brought into eternal life.
Death is a blessing for human beings for several reasons, among them:4
• It discharges us from the hardships of life, which gradually become harder through old age. It also opens the gates to reunion with many of our friends who died before us.
• It releases us from a worldly life that is a turbulent, suffocating, narrow dungeon, and admits us into the wide circle of the Eternal Beloved One’s Mercy. As a result, we enjoy a pleasant and everlasting life free from suffering.
• Old age and other unbearable conditions come to an end through death. Both the elderly and their families benefit from this. For example, if your elderly parents and grandparents were living in poverty and hardship, would you not consider their deaths to be blessings? The autumnal deaths of insects is a mercy for them, for otherwise they would have to endure winter’s harshness and severity and be deprived of their lovers— lovely flowers.
• Sleep brings repose and relief, as well as mercy, especially for the sick and afflicted. Death, sleep’s brother, is a blessing and mercy particularly for those afflicted with misfortunes that might make them suicidal. However, for the misguided, death and life are a torment within torment, and pain after pain.
• Just as death is a blessing for a believer, the grave is the door to illuminated worlds. This world, despite its glitter, is like a dungeon in comparison with the Hereafter. To be transferred from the dungeon of this world to the gardens of Paradise, to pass from the troublesome turmoil of bodily life to the world of rest and the realm where spirits soar, to be free of the distressing noise of creatures and go to the Presence of the Most Merciful— all of this is a journey, indeed a happiness, to be desired most earnestly.
• The All-Merciful One explains in His Scriptures, especially the Qur’an, the true nature of the world and the life therein, and warns us that love or attachment to either one are pointless.
Unal, Ali. The Resurrection and the Afterlife. The Light, Inc. 2006.
- August 29, 2013
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