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latest, 6th July 2017: The Triad of Death, Heaven and Hell – All in a Day’s Work


See: Project Rebuttal: What the West needs to know about Islam

Refuting the gross distortion and misrepresentation of the Quran, the Prophet Muhammad and Islam, made by the critics of Islam

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List of all Issues | Summary 1 | Summary 2 | Summary 3‎ — completed, 28th June 2013


Archive for July, 2017

Inaugural Commemoration Service at the Muslim Burial Ground, Horsell Common, Woking, 16 July 2017

Sunday, July 23rd, 2017

I have compiled some information about the above inaugural service, with brief descriptions of the proceedings, photographs and video recordings of three of the speakers. The background is as follows.

During 1914-1915 several hundred thousand Muslim soldiers from areas now in Pakistan were among the more than one million Indian soldiers deployed by Britain in France and Belgium in the First World War against Germany (known also as the Great War). Indians who were wounded were in some cases brought to England for treatment in military hospitals. For Muslim soldiers who died here, their funeral and burial arrangements were discussed by the government with the Imam of the Mosque at Woking, Maulana Sadr-ud-Din. As a result, the site at Horsell Common, near the Mosque, was selected as the burial ground.

In 1969, due to vandalism, all the bodies were moved to Brookwood Military Cemetery in Surrey, where some Muslim soldiers had been buried both before and after the Horsell site was established. The Horsell site, with its domed entrance, fell into disrepair for decades. Recently it has been restored by local municipal organzations and bodies as the “Muslim Burial Ground Peace Garden”, opened by Prince Edward in November 2015.

On 16 July 2017 the Inaugural Commemoration Service was held to mark the anniversary of the first burial, at Horsell Muslim burial ground, of a Muslim soldier of the British Indian army on 16 July 1915. It was organized by Woking Borough Council (the local government authority) and the British armed forces.

My report is at this link.

(Just one point. The Ahl-i Sunnah Imam, at the end of his prayers, as you can see in the recording, said a prayer for the prosperity of Britain and the British people. I and our group said Ameen. The anti-Ahmadiyya will presumably treat our saying Ameen to this prayer as confirmation of their allegation that we are "British agents and stooges". Of course, the allegation does not apply to the person who said this prayer or the other Muslims present who also said Ameen!)

Truth about the life of Jesus

Friday, July 21st, 2017

Someone has submitted a couple of comments under an old thread about the death of Jesus which last received a comment in 2009. So instead of posting them there I am posting them here combined as one comment.

The REAL contribution of early Islam to science, by Prof. Jim Al-Khalili

Friday, July 7th, 2017

A TV documentary by Prof. Jim Al-Khalili, entitled Science and Islam, first shown in 2009, is being repeated on the BBC Four channel. At the end of the first of three episodes, he concludes as follows:

"… but I think the real story of what happened to science in the Islamic world in the 8th and 9th centuries tells us more than any single discovery. What it really tells us is about the universal truth of science itself.

I believe that the first great achievement of the medieval Islamic scientists was to prove that science isn't Islamic, or Hindu, or Helenistic or Jewish, Buddhist or Christian. It cannot be claimed by any one culture.

Before Islam science was spread across the world but the scholars of medieval Islam pieced together this giant scientific jigsaw by absorbing knowledge that had originated from far beyond their own empire's borders. 

This great synthesis produced not just new science but showed for the first time that science, as an enterprise, transcends political borders and religious affiliations. It's a body of knowledge that benefits all humans. Now that's an idea that is as relevant and inspiring as ever."

Please watch at this link, from 56:15 to 57:24.

(At the above link the video is available till the beginning of August. The three episodes are available as one video at this link, apparently without time restriction.)

What Jim Al-Khalili has noted is very perceptive and profound. It is a far cry from those many populist articles by Muslims saying that certain discoveries of modern science were already mentioned in the Quran. I don't doubt the underlying truth of those articles, but they achieve nothing except make Muslims feel good and sneer condescendingly at others that their religion is supreme. Those writers don't realize that it is no credit to Muslims that the Quran contained knowledge which man discovered later. Muslims of recent centuries made no effort or sacrifices to discover it.

It is quite obvious that the Muslim scientists of the early period did not take the attitude that all discoveries are written down in the Quran, and we don't need to do anything ourselves. Wherever they found knowledge developed by previous civilizations, they adopted it and translated it into Arabic.

— Zahid Aziz

The Triad of Death, Heaven and Hell – All in a Day’s Work

Thursday, July 6th, 2017

The Triad of Death, Heaven and Hell – All in a Day’s Work – a Living Experience and Self-Diagnosis

29:64. The life of this world is nothing but futile and frivolous and the abode of the Hereafter is the real life (being eternal). If they but knew (they would have paid heed).1

The verse 29:64, by stating – If they but knew, puts all the conjectures to rest and shifts the burden to explain the next life squarely on Qur’ân itself. In common understanding the Heaven and Hell come into existence only in the Hereafter. Not so in Qur’ân. Qur’ân gives us an understanding of the principles and experiences of Death, Heaven and Hell in this very life. According to Qur’ân each of the three, the death, the heaven and hell are daily human experiences. The understanding these esoteric concepts comes fundamentally from personal experiences that are referred to by the Quran. Once one begins to understand these simple analogies, one can develop ‘blind faith’ in the manner of a child who has blind faith in the ever present love of his mother. Qur’ân is replete with metaphors and similitudes for its prophecies because prophecies are about the future and future can only be visualized through the lens of the present. For example, humans wished to fly and in The Arabian Nights one finds flying carpets. Same applies to the similes for death, heaven and in hell in Qur’ân. Qur’ân also gives us self-diagnostic tests to identify if one is already in a state of heaven or hell, and in doing so it steers one away from a fool’s paradise.

The common thread between the here and hereafter is our deeds in the here. It is important to understand the role of deeds in the here before one understands the concept of heaven and hell. According to Qur’ân, our physicality is merely an instrument to do deeds:

28:88. … Everything is liable to perish but those (righteous deeds) by means of which you seek His attention…2

These deeds are not only preserved in history, but also into the hereafter.

36:12. Surely, it is We alone Who raise the dead to life. And We shall preserve (their noble deeds) which they send forward and their prints (of virtue and knowledge which they leave behind for others to emulate). Everything We have comprehensively preserved in a clear record.3

83:6-9. The Day when people shall stand before the Lord of the worlds? Nay, (not at all as they believe) the record of (the deeds) of the wicked is in Sijjîn (- the register of a prison) What should make you know what that Sijjîn is? (It is) a book written (distinctly and comprehensively). 4

83:18-20. Behold! verily the record (of the righteous deeds) of the virtuous will be in `Illîyyîn (- the register of those enjoying the most exalted ranks). And what should make you know what `Illîyyûn is? It is a book (distinctly and comprehensively) written 5

Life for life is replaced with another member of species in the here, whereas, the identity of here is preserved into the hereafter in which physicality will evolve into spirituality:

56:59-62. Is it you that create it yourselves, or are We the Creator (of it)? It is We that have ordained death for all of you. And We cannot be stopped from (it), From replacing you with beings similar to you, (or from) evolving you into a form which is unknown to you (at present). And you certainly know of the first evolution. Then, why do you not reflect?6

75:3-4. Does a human-being think that We will not assemble his bones? (We will indeed.) No doubt, We have the power to reproduce him to a complete form even to the very tips of his fingers.7

Just like carbon atoms that form the infrastructure of life in the here, it is the deeds from the here that form the basis of our spiritual identities in the hereafter, consisting of ‘light’ or ‘fire’ representing the elevated and debased respectively:

57:12. (Think of) the day when you will see the believing men and the believing women that their (faith having become a torch of) light is advancing rapidly in front of them and on their right sides. (It will be said to them,) `Glad tidings to you this day. (There await you) Gardens (of Paradise) served with running streams.' (The recipients of glad tidings) will abide therein (forever). This indeed is a mighty achievement!8

14:50. Pitch will form their raiments and the fire shall envelop their faces;9

It is also a no brainer that sooner or later, the physicality of present life fails us:

29:57. Every living being shall encounter death, then you shall be made to return to Us.10

Verse 29:57 is a human experience in which every living being faces its physical death followed by recycling into next cycle of life, physical life for an atheist and spiritual life for a theist. Just as unwanted foliage recycles into dirt or into ashes by prairie fires by lightning strikes, so does human body by its burial into dirt or burning in an incinerator. With every physical death the soil becomes fertile for next generation to sprout forth. Previous generations have to give way to newer generations for fresher ideas to emerge:

29:19. Out of the dead He brings forth the living and out of the living He brings forth the dead. And He gives life to the earth (making it look green and flourishing) after its death. That is how you shall be raised (to life from the state of death).11

Handling of death in any household is quite similar to recycling truck picking up unwanted items from our door steps. Physical death is quite a poignant moment and a moment to self-reflect. Ounce for ounce, the deceased has not been lost, but for sure something has been lost for the survivors, who ironically while mourning, do not take long to get rid of the useless body, a useless instrument that cannot do any more deeds, and dispose it either into dirt or incinerate it away like any waste. It is only the deeds of the deceased that survive and are recounted in the memorials and that too only if they are righteous, else no one bothers to lay wreaths and hold memorial services for Korahs, Pharaohs, Mussolinis, Hitlers, Stalins, Saddams and Qaddafis – Everything is liable to perish but those (righteous deeds) by means of which you seek His attention (28:88).

According to Qur’ân, the full spectrum of life is not bracketed between birth and death as commonly understood, but, extends beyond present life into afterlife, where one literally, as most obituaries state, “meets one’s Maker”:12

32:7. Who made perfectly well all that He created. And He originated the creation of a human being from clay.

32:8. Then He created his seed from an extract of an insignificant fluid (derived by his consuming food produced from clay or soil).

32:9. Then He endowed him with perfect faculties (of head and heart in accordance with what he is meant to be) and breathed into him of His spirit (thus made him the recipient of the Divine word). And He has given you hearing, eyes and hearts. Yet little are the thanks you give.

32:10. And they say, `Shall we really be (raised to life as) a new creation when we are lost in the earth (after being buried in it)?' The truth is that they are disbelievers in the meeting with their Lord (that is why they are talking like this).

32:11. Say, `The angel of death who has been put in charge of you will carry your soul off, then to your Lord you will be made to return.'13

In a spiritual sense, just like physical life, the heavenly water, inspiration, is needed to push the latency of life from its death into the threshold of life, both in the here and hereafter:

29:63. And if you question them, `Who rains water from the clouds and thereby breathes life into the earth after its death (making it fertile and green)?' They will certainly say, `Allâh.' Say, `All sorts of perfect and true praise belongs to Allâh.' Yet most of them do not make use of their understanding.14

To a casual reader the transition of human body from life into death is easily understood. But, it is the afterlife that baffles most. Death is the threshold where the factuality of life transitions into theories of afterlife about which countless conjectures abound in history, theology and mythology. For example, the pharaoh’s made sure that they used state machinery for the travel of the king into next life by underground river voyage. Historically, the theologies theorized and then the artist depicted the imaginative hell and heaven, all of which can be seen by any tourist to Vatican by gazing skywards on to the domes above. Some of imbecilic minds take the depictions of heaven and its bounties outlined in writings, preaching from the pulpits or murals in a literal sense and then race to ‘martyrdom’ by self-annihilation while annihilating the victims into a perceived hell.

Death – Qur’ân tells us that the death and resurrection are actual living experiences. It states:

39:42. Allâh takes away the souls (of human being) at the time of their death and (also) of those who are not (yet) dead during their sleep. He detains (the souls of) those against whom He passes the verdict of death and sends (back those of) others till a fixed period of time. There are signs in this for a people who would reflect.15

Interestingly, if for any reason one does not face the daily ‘death’ of sleep to one’s satisfaction, soon that person might be opening up one’s wallet and is willing to pay only to get the ‘death’ in exchange. In search of the metaphorical death, that person might be found scouring the displays of a mattress company for a comfortable bed, browsing the internet for a soothing music, signing up for a yoga class for self-relaxation, scanning the shelves of the pharmacy for a remedy or waiting in line for a doctor to get a prescription only to experience the ‘daily’ death in its full galore. By nature, and metaphorically speaking, one runs to death rather than away from it. Running away from the ‘death’ is a sign of mental pathology, mania. For the first time reader of Qur’ân, the juxtaposition of sleep and death might seem poles apart. But, once one develops the understanding about this relationship, over time one internalizes this fact and this relationship sinks into one’s psyche and the death becomes part of one’s life, nightly on a temporary basis to refresh, at the end of life on a permanent basis – the final rest and refresh.

In another place Qur’ân explains the similitude of sleep and death further:

25:47. It is He Who has made the night as a covering mantle for you and (Who has made) sleep for (a short) rest (as well as a sign of eternal rest – the death), and (has made) the day for rising up and going about (to seek livelihood and also a sign of Resurrection).16

After a physical death takes hold, the hereafter starts for the deceased. Qur’ân refers to this transition as follows:

30;50. Look, therefore, at the evidences of Allâh's mercy! how He breathes life into the earth (making it green and flourishing) after its (state of) death. Surely, He (it is), the same (God), Who will raise the dead to life (in the Hereafter), for He is the Possessor of power over every desired thing.17

Whether one is an atheist or a believer, death is inevitability. For an atheist, the death is the end all of everything, whereas for a believer, it is the beginning of the eternity and the present life a mere stepping stone. Clearly the believer is at an advantage over an atheist, not only in the apparent hypothesis of afterlife, but, fact of the matter is that concept of hereafter is a must for a balanced present life. Those of us, who learnt to ride bicycle as kids, know very well that they learnt to balance faster when they fixed their gaze into distance rather than looking down into their pedals. Metaphorically speaking, if one’s goals are into the distance of future, the mundane daily stressors are no more than ignorable potholes and pebbles in one’s path. Looking beyond horizon of current life is the ultimate stabilizer for the emotional and physical turmoil of the present life. Concept and belief of the eternal hereafter is pivotal to distract away from and ultimately tame one’s inner beast that essentially lurks in the here and now only.

Heaven – Astronomical truth, as currently accepted, leaves no room for a geographical Heaven.18 According to Qur’ân and then as explained by Prophet Muhammad (PBUH), Heaven and Hell have no physical dimensions:

3:133. Wing your way to the protection of your Lord and to the Paradise whose expanse is as (vast as) the heavens and the earth. It is prepared for those who become secure against evil;19

57:21. (Mankind!) advance quickly, outstripping one another, towards the protection from your Lord and (towards) a Garden the extensiveness of which is (beyond measure) as the extensiveness of the heaven and the earth. It has been prepared for those who believe in Allâh and His Messengers; that (protection) is Allâh's grace and bounty. He grants it to such of those who wish to attain it (and strive for it). Allâh is the Lord of immense grace and bounty.20

…we have a reliable tradition on record that a messenger of Heracleus [Byzantine Emperor, born c. 575 – died February 11, 64121] asked the Prophet, “If the paradise were as extensive as the heavens and the earth, where would be hell?” “He replied, “Glory be to Allah, where is the night when the day comes?” The verse and the incident recorded clearly show that heaven and hell are not the names of two places, but actually two conditions, because if paradise were the name of a particular place, hell could not exist, as paradise would then extend over the whole of the space. This conclusively gives us a rational view of “heaven,” and is confirmed fully by the trend of modern thought which rejects the conception of the “geographical heaven” as primitive and irrational. Is not Modernism then indebted to the Qur’ân?22

Heaven and Hell in Qur’ân are metaphorical constructs understood by allegorical references to the present life experiences. While understanding these concepts the limitations are in our imagination which is time and space bound. The Heaven and Hell as described in Qur’ân are more of a state than a space or a place:

32:17. And no soul knows what (comforts) lie hidden for them (–the believers in the form) of a joy to the eyes as a reward for their righteous deeds.23

The nature of the Qur’ânic Paradise has been widely misunderstood. It has often been depicted as sensual; but in fact, there can be no paradise imagined which is not sensual, because man can entertain no idea except through the medium of his senses. Human mind is, therefore, forced to interpret the spiritual phenomena in the ultimate terms of concrete, material objects. Hence the necessity of “free use of symbols taken from space and time,” for a description in human language of life on a non-material plane is quite obvious. This is at least the verdict of Psychology. The Qur’ân anticipates all these limitations of the human mind and describes all the spiritual phenomena with a picturesque imagery peculiar to itself… Thus the description of paradise in such terms as a delightful garden full of running streams of transparent water is as much appealing to a desert Arab as to a cultured westerner and is merely symbolic.24

It would be a tall order if Qur’ân promised the idea of Heaven for which one has to die first to experience it. On the contrary, according to Qur’ân, the sampler of heaven is experienced in this very life and is exemplified as:

2:25. And give good tidings to those who believe and do deeds of righteousness, that there await them gardens from beneath which the streams flow. Every time they are given any kind of fruit from them (– the gardens) to eat, they will say, `This is the same we were given before.' They will be given it (– the fruit) in perfect semblance (to their deeds). They shall have therein companions purified (spiritually and physically), and will abide therein for ever.[emphasis added]25

Thus, in light of verse 2:25, the experience of heaven starts in this very life. The key phrase – This is the same we were given before, points as clear as daylight that Heaven starts in this very world.

The bliss of heavenly state in the Here and Hereafter is further mentioned as:

55:46. There are two Gardens (of bliss here and the Hereafter) for such as fear (the time) when they will stand before (the judgment seat of) your Lord (to account for their deeds).

55:47. Which of the benefactions of your Lord will you twain, then, deny?

55:48. Both (the Gardens of Paradise) are abounding in varieties (of trees and rich greenery accompanied with delightful comforts).26

The metaphorical design of the heavenly abode is described as:

88:10. (They will live) in a sublime Garden,

88:11. Wherein you will hear no vain talk.

88:12. It shall have a running spring,

88:13. It shall have thrones raised high,

88:14. And goblets properly set,

88:15. And cushions (beautifully) ranged in rows,

88:16. And velvety carpets (tastefully) spread.27

Heavenly state as contrasted to hell is described as:

47:15. (Here is) a description of the Garden promised to those who guard against evil. Therein are streams of water (which is) unstaling, and streams of milk the taste and flavour of which does not change, and streams of juice extracted from grapes, a delight to the drinkers, and streams (too) of clarified honey, and they will have in it all kinds of fruit, and (a provision of) protection from their Lord. Can (those who enjoy such blessings of this Garden) be like those who shall abide in the Fire for long and who will be given boiling water to drink so that it tears their bowels into pieces.28

All in a day’s work in a heavenly state:

76:11. So Allâh will guard them from the evil of that day and will bestow on them cheerfulness (of face) and happiness (of mind).

76:12. And will reward them for their having persevered, with (a blissful) Garden (to live in) and silk (to wear).

76:13. (They shall be) reclining on raised couches. They shall experience therein neither excessive heat of the sun nor intense cold.

76:14. There shall be spreading close over them the shades of it (– the Garden full of trees), and their clustered fruit brought low within their easy reach.

76:15. They shall be served round in vessels of silver and goblets of crystal,

76:16. (Looking) crystal clear (but made) of silver, made in special mold determined (by the agents of the Lord of judgment and measure).

76:17. And therein they shall be given to drink a cup which is tempered with ginger (a symbol of strength),

76:18. (Which flows from) a spring therein called Salsabîl (– inquire about the way).

19. Sons of perpetual bloom shall go round (waiting upon) them. When you see them you will take them to be pearls scattered about.

76:20. When you look (considering the Garden as a whole) you will find therein blessings abounding everywhere and (all the equipment of) a splendid kingdom.

76:21. Over them shall be robes of fine green silk and of thick brocade, and they shall be given bracelets of silver as ornaments. And their Lord shall give them to drink a purifying beverage.

76:22. (It will be said,) `This is indeed a reward for you, and your striving has been fully appreciated.'29

Subjective experience of such a heavenly state is summarized as follows:

15:45. `Surely, those who guard against evil and are dutiful (to Me and mankind) shall live amidst gardens and fountains.

15:46. `(It will be said to them,) "Enter therein (to live) in peace (and be) secure"‘.

15:47. And We shall remove every vestige of rancour that may be in their hearts. They will be like brothers (seated cheerfully) on raised couches (of happiness), face to face.

15:48. They shall suffer no fatigue, nor shall they ever be ejected from there.30

Apparently, there will be no boredom therein:

18:108. Wherein they shall abide forever, having no desire to be removed from there.31

As to how long this heavenly state will last?

43:71. (Then it will so happen that) there they will be served in a round with bowls of gold and drinking cups and there, (in Paradise) will be (present) all that (their) souls desire and (their) eyes find delight in. And you will be abiding therein forever.32

For a contemporary mind the allegory of heaven is that of a perpetual, all expenses paid vacation, except that it is a reward earned though righteousness and not by chance or quick wit on a sponsored game show. To win a seat in heaven is an equal opportunity moment for all based on individual performance in this life alone, regardless of any civil liberty issues:

By obvious analogy, the principle of a "comparison through allegory" applied in the Qur'ãn to all references to paradise – i.e., a state of unimaginable happiness in afterlife – must be extended to all descriptions of otherworldly suffering – i.e., hell – in respect of its utter dissimilarity from all earthly experiences as well as its immeasurable intensity. In both cases the descriptive method of the Qur'ãn is the same. We are told, as it were: "Imagine the most joyous sensations, bodily as well as emotional, accessible to man: indescribable beauty, love physical and spiritual, consciousness of fulfillment, perfect peace and harmony; and imagine these sensations intensified beyond anything imaginable in this world – and at the same time entirely different from anything imaginable: and you have an inkling, however vague, of what is meant by 'paradise'." And, on the other hand: "Imagine the greatest suffering, bodily as well as spiritual, which man may experience: burning by fire, utter loneliness and bitter desolation, the torment of unceasing frustration, a condition of neither living nor dying; and imagine this pain, this darkness and this despair intensified beyond anything imaginable in this world – and at the same time entirely different from anything imaginable: and you will know, however vaguely, what is meant by 'hell'."33

Heavenly state – a self-diagnosis: The pivotal signs of heavenly state are elucidated in the following verses:

15:45. `Surely, those who guard against evil and are dutiful (to Me and mankind) shall live amidst gardens and fountains.

15:46. `(It will be said to them,) "Enter therein (to live) in peace (and be) secure".'

15:47. And We shall remove every vestige of rancour that may be in their hearts. They will be like brothers (seated cheerfully) on raised couches (of happiness), face to face.

15:48. They shall suffer no fatigue, nor shall they ever be ejected from there.34

 

10:62. Behold! the friends of Allâh, neither fear shall overwhelm them, nor shall they (ever) remain in grief.

10:63. (It is) those who believed and ever kept on guarding against evil.

10:64. They shall have glad tidings (for they commune with their Lord) in the present life and (also) in the Hereafter. There is no changing the words of Allâh; that indeed is the supreme achievement.35

In light of the above sets of verses, at any time, one can self-access one’s degree of heavenly state. Just as the vital signs of pulse, temperature, blood pressure and weight point to degree of one’s health or lack thereof, the level of one’s lack of peace and security and presence of rancor, fatigue, fear or anxiety and grief or depression point to degree of lack of heavenly state for a person in this very life and on any given day.

In all this discussion of Heaven, Qur’ân assures the Heaven dweller the ultimate prize, their commune with Allah – They shall have glad tidings (for they commune with their Lord) in the present life and (also) in the Hereafter. Since God in Qur’ân is limitless, beyond metaphor, thus this commune with Allah is a pointer to limitless spiritual progress for a heaven dweller, both in the Here and the Hereafter.

Hell – Just as bliss of heaven, the torment of hell too is experienced in this very life. According to Qur’ân, before being exposed to the actual Hell there are warning shots across the bow in the present life for those who are hell bound:

32:21. And of course We will let them suffer the minor and nearer punishment before the greater punishment befalls them so that they may turn to Us (in repentance).36

Since the hell is generally perceived to follow the final hour, the prevailing state of the (final) Hour is outlined in Qur’ân:

22:1. O people! take your Lord as a shield (for) as a matter of fact the shock of the Hour is a tremendously dreadful thing;

22:2. On the day you behold it, you will find every woman giving suck abandoning (even) her suckling (in the confusion), and every pregnant one miscarrying, and people will appear to you to be drunk while they are not actually drunk; the punishment of Allâh will be (so) severe (that it will leave people in a terrible state of horror and dread).37

As to what the torment of Hell is, Qur’ân gives a metaphorical explanation:

104:5. And what should make you know what the crushing torment is?

104:6. (It is) the Fire set ablaze by Allâh,

104:7. And which rises over (the feelings of) the hearts (– the origin of a man's hell).

104:8. It (– Fire) will be closed in on them (so as not to let them escape from it and also increase for them the torture of heat).

104:9. (The flames of the Fire will rise) in (the form of) huge outstretched columns.38

47:15. … Can (those who enjoy such blessings of this Garden) be like those who shall abide in the Fire for long and who will be given boiling water to drink so that it tears their bowels into pieces.39

20:74. Verily, he who comes to his Lord in a state of sin, he will surely be consigned to Gehenna, where he shall neither die nor live.40

Both Fire and boiling water have the property of intense heat. Thus the extent of the heat can be a metaphor for that common intense feeling of “living in burning hell” or “gut wrenching” mental anguish without physically experiencing the heat. Linguistically, the Heart is the seat of emotions. It can, therefore, be reasonably implied that the Fire of crushing torment or crushing torment like Fire is a metaphor for a state of persisting misery, loneliness, hopelessness, despair and restlessness; common, yet excruciating human emotions.

If Hell’s Fire and boiling water are similar to their earthly counterparts in their physical properties, then their ferocity (104:5-9, 47:15) should result in a sudden death under the laws of Allah because:

35:42. …And you will find no change in that law of Allâh, nor will you ever find the law of Allâh shifting from its course41

Verse 47:15 prophesizes a long punishment of continuous burning (which is an impossibility if taken literally) and if Allah does not change His Laws as affirmed in verse 35:42, then it would appear to be a contradiction. Thus, we do not have a choice, but to take the fire in verses 104:5-9 and 47:15 metaphorically and only then 20:74 the state of neither death nor life can exist. Of course, this begs the question whether the Laws of Physics as we know them would still apply in Hell or if a new set of laws would take effect. The derived interpretation of a metaphor can change with time as human experience. Perhaps the reader can expound this concept further or differently.

51:12. They ask, `When will the Day of Requital be?'

51:13. (Say), `It shall be a day when they will be tormented at the Fire.'

51:14. (It will be said to them), `Taste your torment. This is what you used to ask to be hastened.'42

Thus the Fire is concurrent with or subsequent to the Day of Requital. The next natural goose chase for the mind is – “when is that Day of Requital?”

101:1. The Disastrous Rattling (of this life as seen in warfare is sure to visit the world).

101:2. How very terrible is the Disastrous Rattling!

101:3. What should make you know how very severe and destructive the Disastrous Rattling is!

101:4. On that day people shall be (in great confusion and distress) like moths scattered,

101:5. And the mountains shall look like carded wool.43

One of the signs of the Day of Requital is Disastrous Rattling which will be terrible, severe and destructive to the extent that mountains will be like limp and fluffed up carded wool and that there will be great confusion in the land. Would the Rattling be physical like global earth quakes, nuclear infernos or celestial collisions or metaphorical as in the mountain like empires of the British, Nazis, Soviets or Lehman Brothers that ended up like carded wool, leaving behind great confusion? Or would it be in the hereafter, the example of which is metaphorically given so that we may understand it with our earthly analogies? Still, “what is the purpose of Hell and if so, then how long is the stay therein?”

2:81. The truth is that, those who do evil and who are encompassed by their sins, are the inmates of the Fire and therein they shall abide for long.

2:82. But those who believe and do deeds of righteousness, it is they who are the owners of Paradise, therein they shall abide forever.[emphasis added]44

From the above verses, Qur’ân is at least clear about the impermanence of hell (i.e. long) and permanence of heaven (i.e. forever). As for the utility of hell and conditions for exit from it, Qur’ân has this to say:

101:8. But as for the person whose scales (of good deeds) are light (and of no account),

101:9. The abyss (– Gehenna) shall then be a (nursing) mother to him (until the souls are completely cleansed of the taint of sin and they are reborn).

101:10. Ah! what should make you know what that (abyss) is!

101:11. It is a blazing Fire (for burning out all the dross that people collect by leading a sinful life in this world).45

Thus the nature of Hell is like a bottomless abyss of blazing Fire. In one’s life earthly fire can be quite useful. Heat furnace is at the very basis of human progress – whether it is steel manufacturing or baking of bread or the autoclave that sterilizes the surgical instruments. Implicitly, Hell will act like the lap of a nursing mother for a child who is sick and will not let go of the child until he attains to full health. Then it maybe, after all, that the Hell is not too bad nor is it eternal. Obviously that function of Hell is to cleanse the moral and spiritual dross, and once the souls are purified the function of the Hell ends. Thereafter, the reborn souls have nowhere to go but to Heaven via the allegorical gateway in the wall that initially separated the dwellers of the Hell from the residents of Heaven, a separation indicated below:

57:13. That day the hypocritical men and hypocritical women will say to those who believe, `Wait for us so that we might obtain some illumination from your (this) light’. It will be said to them, `Go back (if you can) and seek for light’. Then a wall with a gateway will be set up separating them (and the believers). The inside of it will be all mercy (where the righteous have to go) and the outside of it shall be facing torment (where the hypocrites have to stay)46

A wall with a gateway clearly alludes to the possibility of entry into heaven from hell via a gateway; otherwise there is no point in mentioning gateway. Instead, it would have been more appropriate to setup a wall end-to-end.

The Last Day is still an enigma for a believing mind because it becomes a faith in the unknown. Due to its intense allegorical connotation, the ultimate personal understanding and imagery of the Last Day is more subjective than objective in nature. Logically it is a leap of faith since its nuance can be more easily internalized than externalized. Still the question remains, is Hell physical or emotional or both; in this world or the next? Whatever it maybe, it sure is Hell!

Hellish state – a self-diagnosis: The construct of hell is premised on a mind that is hell-bent. Such a mind is identified in Qur’ân as:

17:72. But whoever remained (spiritually) blind in this world shall also be blind in the Hereafter. Rather he will be even farther removed from the right path.

This verse identifies the core attribute of Hell which is blindness from truth and logic and we know blindness is an attribute of this very life. Hence, Hell also starts in this very world. The moral blindness that Qur’ân refers to is essentially a self-earned ignorance:

2:6. As for those who are bent upon denying (the truth), they would not believe, because it is all the same to them whether you warn them or do not warn them.

2:7. (With the result that) Allâh has set a seal upon their hearts and upon their hearing, and on their eyes is a covering. And a mighty punishment awaits them.47

The next logical question is how to identify whether one is spiritually blind. Qur’ân gives us an easy self-diagnostic method, which is as simple as looking into one’s own nature:

30:30. So pay your whole-hearted attention to (the cause of) faith as one devoted (to pure faith), turning away from all that is false. (And follow) the Faith of Allâh (-Islam) to suit the requirements of which He has made the nature of humankind. There can be no change in the nature (of creation) which Allâh has made. That is the right and most perfect Faith, yet most people do not know (it).

Just like any corrective lens which is used to restore 20/20 vision, so does the above verse 30/30 restores the moral vision of a person. Anything or an idea which is contrary to human nature is neither in the teachings of Qur’ân, nor is part of Islam or Sunnah. For example, someone might justify one’s anger because it is part of his/her nature, but when similar anger is unloaded by someone else on that person, then it is rejected by its earlier advocate, who then finds anger unnatural. Someone might justify beating of one’s wife by referring to misinterpreted Qur’ân, but chances are that such a person will not accept it as normal for his daughter to be beaten by his son-in-law. It might feel fruitful to take gains of usury, but same usury will be a source of deep anguish for a person or a family when given away in payouts. Thus, in light of verse 30:30 it can be safely stated that anger, hate, prejudice, usury, exploitation etc. are not part of human nature but are part of spectrum of blindness that one dons on oneself that verses 2:6-7 above refer to. One can always use verse 30:30 as a litmus test to determine one’s moral blindness and by implication the hellish state in this very life:

32:21. And of course We will let them suffer the minor and nearer punishment before the greater punishment befalls them so that they may turn to Us (in repentance).48

Conclusion – Even though the metaphorical connotations in Qur’ân for death, heaven and hell are self-explanatory, but those interpreting these constructs literally, will never be able to reconcile. For those Muhammad Iqbal, an Urdu poet, considered Dante of the East, has this to say about here and hereafter:

Khudaaya meri qudrat meh nah yeh dunya nah woh dunya

God! none fits my nature; neither here, neither hereafter

Yahaan marney key pabandee, wahan jeenay key pabandee

(the mere idea that) Death is binding here; whilst eternity there

To recap:

30:40. It is Allâh Who has created you, then He provides for you, then He will call you to death, (and) then He will bring you to life. 49

30:50. Look, therefore, at the evidences of Allâh's mercy! how He breathes life into the earth (making it green and flourishing) after its (state of) death. Surely, He (it is), the same (God), Who will raise the dead to life (in the Hereafter), for He is the Possessor of power over every desired thing.50

 


1 Al-`Ankabût – The Spider: Nooruddin
2 Al-Qasas – The Narrative: Nooruddin
3 Ya Sin – O Perfect Man! – Nooruddin
4 Al-Mutaffifîn – The Defaulters in Duty: Nooruddin
5 Al-Mutaffifîn – The Defaulters in Duty: Nooruddin
6 Al-Waqiah – The Great Event: Nooruddin
7 Al-Qiyamah – The Resurrection: Nooruddin
8 Al-Hadid – The Iron: Nooruddin
9 Ibrahim – Abraham: Nooruddin
10 Al-`Ankabût – The Spider: Nooruddin
11 Al-Rum – The Byzantines: Nooruddin
13 Al-Sajdah – The Prostration: Nooruddin
14 Al-`Ankabût – The Spider: Nooruddin
15 Al-Zumar – The Multitudes: Noorddin
16 Al-Furqan – The Standard of True and False: Nooruddin
17 Al-Rum – The Byzantines: Nooruddin
18 Hints to Study of the Quran, by Khwaja Kamal-ud-din, Islamic Review and Muslim India, Vol. XVIII, No. 3 & 4, March – April 1930, p. 93, The Woking Muslim Mission and Literary Trust, The Shah Jehan Mosque, Woking, England
19 Al-Imran – The Family of Amran: Nooruddin
20 Al-Hadid – The Iron: Nooruddin
22 Dean Inge’s Homage to Muhammad, by S. Hamid Raza B.A. (Alig), p. 322, Sept & Dec, 1934, The Muslim Revival, Ahmadiyya Buildings Lahore (India)
23 Al-Sajdah – The Prostration: Nooruddin
24 Dean Inge’s Homage to Muhammad, by S. Hamid Raza B.A. (Alig), p. 322, Vol. III, Nos 3 & 4, Sept & Dec. 1934, The Muslim Revival, Ahmadiyya Buildings Lahore (India)
25Al-Baqarah – The Cow: Nooruddin
26 Al-Rahman – The Most Gracious: Nooruddin
27 Al-Ghâshiyah – The Overwhelming Event: Nooruddin
28 Muhammad – Muhammad: Nooruddin
29 Al-Insan – The Human Being: Nooruddin
30 Al-Hijr – The Rock: Nooruddin
31 Al-Kahf – The Place of Refuge: Nooruddin
32 Al-Zukhruf – The Ornaments: Nooruddin
33 “Appendix 1: Symbolism and Allegory In The Qur'an” – The Message of the Quran by Muhammad Asad, Copyright 1980, Dar al-Andalus, Gibraltar
34 Al-Hijr – The Rock: Nooruddin
35 Yunus – Jonah: Nooruddin
36 Al-Sajdah – The Prostration: Nooruddin
37 Al-Hajj – The Pilgrimage: Nooruddin
38 Al-Humazah – The Slanderer: Nooruddin
39 Muhammad – Muhammad: Nooruddin
40 Ta Ha – Perfect Man! be at Rest: Nooruddin
41 Fatir – Originator: Nooruddin
42 Al-Dhâriyât – The Scatterers: Nooruddin
43 Al-Qariah – The Disastrous Rattling: Nooruddin
44 Al-Baqarah – The Cow: Nooruddin
45 Al-Qariah – The Disastrous Rattling: Nooruddin
46 Al-Hadid – The Iron: Nooruddin
47 Al-Baqarah – The Cow: Nooruddin
48 Al-Sajdah – The Prostration: Nooruddin
49 Al-Rum – The Byzantines: Nooruddin
50 Al-Rum – The Byzantines: Nooruddin

Is this the modern interpretation of “those who believe and do good”?

Monday, July 3rd, 2017

The above expression occurs commonly in the Quran to describe a true Muslim.

With the spread of social media, this can be seen in a new light. "Those who believe" means those who believe in the contents of any e-mail they receive from a contact, who has forwarded it from one of his contacts, and so on, from a long chain. The doing of good is to forward the same e-mail to all your contacts. These are the present-day fundamental qualities of a true Muslim. This is not a joke or exaggeration because they actually do think that they are performing an important service to Islam by believing in and forwarding such e-mails.

Just as the text of the Quran remains unchanged after passing through so many hands, also by a miracle the text of these e-mails remains unchanged after several years.

This is the Islam of today as followed by hundreds of millions!

— Zahid Aziz