The Future of Life on Earth
OES MAN represent the final stage of development or will there be another creation after man? Is there any possibility of a new species evolving from Homo sapiens with improved or added senses, that is able to perceive new dimensions with the capacity to develop a higher intelligence? Again, could it be possible for that new species to appear in a completely different form and shape with an entirely new life pattern? To the best of our knowledge, these questions have not been examined as such by any religion other than Islam.
For the philosophers or scholars of previous ages, this was entirely beyond the scope of their intellect. Even modern science can only discuss this issue in a vague way. No serious methodology within a scholastic framework has been developed to examine these possibilities.
It is an amazing distinction of the Holy Quran that it raises and resolves such questions and predicts such possibilities. The issue of life after death is different, discussed traditionally by almost all major religions. None, however, has even hypothetically examined the possibility of other forms of life here on earth evolving before or after Doomsday.
Having said that, we beg to remind the reader that although other scriptures also share the description of Doomsday, the Quranic terminology is much wider and varied in its application. There are many prophecies in the Quran regarding some epoch-making future events like great revolutions and upheavals. All these are referred to by the same term Al-Qiyamah (), or its synonym Al-sa'ah (). All the same, these terms also cover that which is commonly understood by the expression 'Doomsday' which indicates the coming to an end of the entire mankind. It is this meaning which is shared by the other scriptures when they speak of Doomsday.
But although the term 'Doomsday' is generally interpreted by the adherents of these religions to be the be-all and end-all of the universe, the Holy Quran does not employ the term entirely in the same sense. The earth according to it, is a small part of the vast universe. A great upheaval of gigantic global dimension can create vast destruction, wiping out all life from the face of the earth. Yet, it does not imply that the entire earth itself will be completely annihilated nor can it result in the total annihilation of the entire universe.
EFORE PROCEEDING FURTHER, let us give an outline of what is to come in this chapter in relation to the future of man here on earth, or elsewhere in the otherworldly existence, according to the Quranic teachings. There are some verses which speak of events to take place in this world, beyond the occurrence of Doomsday. These mention the changing of man's form into something different after death as he is raised into a new life. Then there are verses distinctly apart from them which speak of a future beyond Doomsday, but not in the Hereafter. They clearly present the scenario of continuous evolution here on earth, resulting in the creation of a species belonging to an order higher than man. This latter concept is not to be confused with, or linked to the former, i.e. resurrection after death.
Let us begin with the study of the verses relating to the Hereafter, other than those which discuss the possibility of a completely new form of intellectual life here on earth. Addressing those who are sceptical to the idea of life after death, the Quran reminds them that they should be more sceptical of their own existence here on earth than their life after death. One thing which they most certainly know is that they came from nowhere. It was non-existence which preceded them. Having been created from nothing, why should they doubt that they may be created again from something which they now are. The proposition of their being re-born out of what they are today, is evidently far more logical than the proposition of their materializing out of nothing. This is the import of many verses of the Quran on the subject of man's scepticism regarding life after death, but it is merely like the opening of a door for further investigation. In itself, it is never meant to be an argument to prove the existence of life in the hereafter: it is only meant to disprove the justification of scepticism. The Quran further reminds man that the high level of consciousness which he has gained should have been a source of light for him rather than that of darkness. His awareness of his surroundings and what lies beyond should have convinced him of the existence of his Creator to whom he raises his head in defiance instead. Yet if he believes in Him his denial of the hereafter could have sprung merely from his amazement—it is far too wonderful to be true. In reality however, his first creation is far more amazing and unbelievable than his second creation.
URNING TO A DEDUCTIVE ARGUMENT, the Quran first lays its foundation by declaring that no direct witnessing of the hereafter is possible for humans on earth. Beyond the end of his life, from man's vantage point, nothing can be seen but utter void and emptiness. Look at the wisdom of man: he believes himself to be born out of this total void and does not raise an eyebrow in incredulity. Yet, when he is told that he will rise again after death, he refuses to accept this suggestion as absolutely absurd and senseless. The comparison is so powerful that it does not require a great philosopher to comprehend the strength of this argument.
No better witness therefore, than man himself, can be brought to testify against his own denial. The Holy Quran in dealing with this subject first builds precisely and accurately, the viewpoints of the disbelievers in the clearest terms, then it turns to their rebuttal. The following are some of the relevant verses:
And they say, 'There is nothing but this our present life; we die and we live here; and nothing but Time destroys us.' But they have no knowledge of that; they do but conjecture. 1
Does he promise you that when you are dead and have become dust and bones, you will be brought forth again?
Far, far from truth is that which you are promised.
There is no life other than our present life; we were lifeless and now we live, but we shall not be raised up again. 2
And says man, 'What! When I am dead, shall I be brought forth alive?' 3
And they swear by Allah their strongest oaths that Allah will not raise up those who die. Nay, He will certainly raise them up—a promise He has made binding on Himself, but most people know not.
He will raise them up that He may make clear to them that wherein they differed, and that those who disbelieved may know that they were liars. 4
And he coins similitudes for Us and forgets his own creation. He says, 'Who can quicken the bones when they are decayed?' 5
Have We then become weary with the first creation? Nay, but they are in confusion about the new creation. 6
And they were wont to say, 'What! when we are dead and have become dust and bones, shall we indeed be raised again,
'And our fathers of yore too?' 7
We ordained death for you and We shall not be prevented.
From changing your forms altogether and raise you unto something of which you have no knowledge.
And you have certainly learnt as to how you were raised during your first creation, why then do you not contemplate? 8
Thus the Quran facilitates for man his belief in the hereafter, but that is not all the argument there is to it:
Your creation and your resurrection are only like the creation and resurrection of a single self. Verily Allah is All-Hearing, All-Seeing. 9
This is the verse which builds the subject further and opens up a new vista for man's understanding of the life after death.
The phenomenon of resurrection is related to the phenomenon of the birth of each individual. If one visualizes the initial embryonic stage of the fusion of the sperm with the ovum and tries to conceive from that vantage point the end product—the birth of a fully developed child, it would seem impossible to believe that it would happen. Imagine the gigantic transformation from that insignificant fertilized egg into the live and kicking wonder of a baby, delivered at the end of nine months. A viewer who has not witnessed this transformation repeatedly could not at all imagine it to have happened just by looking at the first few stages of fused embryonic cells. Life after death is likened to this amazing process—a transformation from almost nothing to a highly developed and organized form of life.
The difference between the origin of man as a mere bio-unit to what he has become, is a fantastic transformation. It is impossible for the rudimentary life forms to envision the future of evolution culminating in man, even if granted the sense to do so. Their awareness of what they are is so insignificant, that it is extremely difficult for humans to refer to it as awareness. This is a profound statement, so short yet so far-reaching, covering the entire span of evolution from end to end. The message given here is that between you as you exist now, and you at the time of resurrection, the difference will be as vast as the difference between the origin of life on earth and you in your present form. The transformation will be colossal. It is impossible for you to comprehend the nature of what you may be raised into after death. Yet, you can in no way escape the inevitable conclusion that your first creation is far more unbelievable than the second one that you reject. Perhaps it will take a billion years or so for the resurrected soul to reach its final perfected form of spiritual evolution. We draw this inference because the resurrection is likened unto the first phase of human creation from nothingness. We know now that it took at least one billion years, if not more, for man to evolve from his first ancestral elementary form of life. Hence, if this phase of his creation is similar to the second phase of his resurrection, it is not unlikely that the similarity may also cover the span of time between the first and the second creation.
To prove the point further the Holy Quran enters a unique style of deductive logic. We do not plan to fully illustrate this point here with reference to the relevant verses because many of them have already been discussed in other chapters. Here we only want to explain the style of this argument. Speaking of some future events of this world at a time when no human could envisage them, the Quran simultaneously begins to speak of the life after death, sometimes in a language which has two concurrent meanings. The prophecies contained in these verses can be read as applicable to here as well as to the Hereafter. When the events of this world, mentioned therein, clearly and irrefutably become realized, the fulfilment of the events of the Hereafter becomes only a matter of time. The same superhuman agency which is proved right with the unfolding of the events of this world must also be trusted concerning that which remains to be fulfilled in matters pertaining to the Hereafter. This is as far as any argument can go regarding the life to come, otherwise it is impossible to prove by any other means before death.
Having discussed the possibility of an evolved form of existence after death, some verses of the Quran clearly depict the appearance of a new form of life here on earth, replacing humans and distinctly different from them.
Seest thou not that Allah created the heavens and the earth in accordance with the requirements of truth (Haq)? If () He so pleases, He can remove you and put in your place a new creation ().
And that is not at all hard for Allah. 10
These verses simply cannot be applied to the case of life after death. The use of the conditional preposition in () which means if, clearly implies that life after death is not intended otherwise this condition would put to doubt the definite existence of the hereafter—while the entire Quran speaks of it as an absolute unconditional reality. The verse under discussion does not speak of replacing man with others like him. It clearly mentions the bringing into being of a new creation, khalq () and speaks of the whole of mankind to be changed into a different entity.
The whole universe is built with The Truth, so also is the creation of man—the very summit of creation. Quite distinct from the subject of life after death, the Holy Quran also speaks of a different form here on earth which will supersede humans:
We created them and strengthened their make; and when We will so decide, We will change their form to something completely different. 11
But nay! I swear by the Lord of the easts and of the wests, that We have the power
To substitute in their place others better than they, and We cannot be frustrated in Our plans. 12
The substitute creation is not mentioned as another nation qaum () nor as another generation of humans. The conditional use of if implies that if man reforms himself and begins to behave properly, he may not necessarily be wiped out as a species to make room for another better one.
Thus, the Quran raises the possibility of more advanced forms of creation developing, with superior sensory faculties or even new senses in addition to our five. Although the Quran does not state that this will definitely happen, yet it affirms God's power to produce such changes as are within His plan. It does not present an idea of blind evolution based on accidental events. This possibility of continuous evolution, as mentioned here, is one of the greatest tributes to the Wisdom and Knowledge of the Quran's Author. It further proves that all that has been attributed to the Quran in the previous chapters concerning the evolution of life must have been true. Otherwise, it could not have mentioned the possibility of man evolving into another species—a subject not discussed in any other secular or religious literature. Such statements could only be made from a platform of absolute knowledge and certainty.
We may not yet completely grasp the possibilities of our continuing evolution or that of a completely new chain of evolution beginning with a fresh start. Our understanding can only reach the periphery of present knowledge and for us it remains a part of the unseen. However, the unknown is constantly being transformed into that which is known or understood. This is the natural process of education. God is the Lord of all that is seen and all that is unseen. Gradually He broadens our horizons so that our vision is constantly enlarged with the coming into view of that which previously lay beyond the curtain of darkness.
- Translation of 45:25 by Maulawi Sher Ali.
- Translation of 23:36–38 by Maulawi Sher Ali.
- Translation of 19:67 by Maulawi Sher Ali.
- Translation of 16:39–40 by Maulawi Sher Ali.
- Translation of 36:79 by Maulawi Sher Ali.
- Translation of 50:16 by Maulawi Sher Ali.
- Translation of 56:48–49 by Maulawi Sher Ali.
- Translation of 56:61–63 by the author.
- Translation of 31:29 by the author.
- Translation of 14:20–21 by the author.
- Translation of 76:29 by the author.
- Translation of 70:41–42 by Maulawi Sher Ali. (Note: the words 'to bring' have been replaced by the words 'to substitute' by the author)