Sunday, October 01, 2006

Islam and afterlife: answering a Hindu's question

Understanding life and my own faith is a project that I am devoting a large time to, lately. I do this because I feel that our minds are so badly indoctrinated with false, incompatible, and often non-sense beliefs, that we do not see what is right in front of us. Besides, it is part of the human quest to always understand the reason and mystery of being. As Neo of The Matrix felt, there was something more to life than we all can see.

Anyhow. This Ramadan, I am going to share some of my understanding. Below is a Yahoo! answer that I gave to a Hindu questioner who wanted to understand Islam's concept of Heaven and afterlife.

The answer is to the best of my knowledge. I draw heavily upon modern metaphor and knowledge of science to "decode" the scripture. Call it the Da Vinci approach. :-)


At last, one question on Islam that seems to invite genuine opinion.

First, very briefly, the concept of life and death:

God created Humankind, and indeed other species, for Himself. Much as we see artists everyday creating works of arts as expression of their talent. God said, "I was a Hidden Treasure, and I wished to be known."

So He created the Universe, and perhaps the multiverse (Western scientists have acknowledged this concept*), and many species therein. Even Space, Time, and apparantly lifeless things are His creation, and are treated as entities unto themselves by gnostics and upon close understanding, even scientists. By the way, "He" is genderless, it's just a pronoun commonly used for God.

God created cognizant beings of higher intelligence so that they may know Him - and worship Him - and that is the purpose of all life. These beings include Angels, Humans, and Jinns - and humans are the supreme creation as they are both sublime and earthly.

Angels are bound by God's command, and humans and Jinn are by His principles. However, they have a degree of choice to opt between the principles of life and creation and society, or not.

All souls were created and given consciousness before they came to Earth. All souls that will ever come have been created. And it is not a concept beyond understanding for those who observe how an entire oak tree hides in its seed before birth; and indeed, in some ways, its children are also in that seed. Actually, all life around us hides signs and codes of Divine principles.

Anyway. "Life" as we know it is a part of the entire journey of creation. The purpose of life is to know God, and to live life according to His Design.

Personally, the best example of this is in theater where a director creates both good and bad characters, and gives them a script to act on. The act on stage is similar to life - and "death" means real life, when the actor gets off the stage. Shakespeare understood this well when he said, "All the world's a stage/ and all the men and women merely players**."

Islam treats men and women equally in matters of faith, and respects their gender differences in a few social matters.

Now to your questions:
(1) what the purpose of one's going to heaven
A reward for the good they did in "life" - i.e. time on Earth
(2) what exactly the souls that go to heaven do
Enjoy Divine nearness, and understand the truth behind life. They enjoy a world without cause & effect, and extra dimensions - often portrayed as a grand fantastic place in the scriptures. They will enjoy pureness, and in the words of Quran, will not hear anything crass or tasteless.

It is said that there will be a time, however, when they will go in a state of foreverness. I understand that best with the analogy of a writer: we are a novel being written by a Just Writer: near the end, good guys get good things, bad guys get a bad end, but eventually the novel ends. The story ends then, but it stays in that  state forever.

(3) whether women who believe in the religion also go to heaven and if so do they also get the reward there that men get there?
Women will go to Heaven, of course. Women are part of the one being that God created.... Chapter 4, line 1***. Islam address men and women equally in matters of faith. As for the "hoors," the beautiful celestial beings, I am not sure. I have only heard a couple of writers claim that hoors are not only the companions of Men. Yet this has weak support, and it may be that there are ifferent rewards for men and women. Yet the biggest reward is the sight of the Lord and the revelation of the secret of being. It is common to all - human and jinn males and females.

(4) How it is more important than the life on earth?
(5) Why god can not give that reward in this life on earth itself?
He can, but it's like writing the end of the story without writing a story; I hope my answer above answers this question. Life after earthly death is more imp as it is the actual destiny of Humankind etc. to meet their Lord; they will also be answerable about their choices. Also, God *does* give rewards to good deeds in life - one doesn't need any religion to believe that what goes round, comes round. And the basic good deeds, as understood by humanity regardless of religious beliefs, lead to good results - even if the results show themselves over time/ generations.

Yet this life is merely a pretext of the other. Once again, an actor was made an actor by virtue of acting. One could ask what's the purpose of finishing a play? Why doesn't the hero get the good end in the middle of the play? Why the play at all? Why not an Oscar just without it?

I read the interviews of J K Rowling, author of Harry Potter sometimes, and it astounds me how she sounds like God in some ways: she has written the end of the series, and is deciding who to kill or not in the story in the 7th book. She is not cruel; she is just a creator.****

The issue is how we perceive life; all the messgaes sent by God, inclusing Bhagwat Geeta and other ancient texts before Quran were to remind Humans of this reality.

Thank you for creating an opportunity to have Islam's view understood.

****** General Islamic teachings + my own understanding. I have been working with creative arts...


  1. Dear Anon,

    No one on my blog is anonymous.

  2. Bravo. I liked ur way of putting things. Its always good to read positive stuff, understandably interpreted, well written.