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Philosophy of the Teachings of Islam

Study Guide Part III

The Ahmadiyya Gazette, July 1996

[Part I] [Part II] [Part III] [Part IV]

Following is a continuation of questions and answers about the Philosophy of the Teachings of Islam from the last issue of the Gazette. This may help the members in the study of this important book during the centennial year. The answers are in the words of the Promised Messiah as translated. Our thanks to Maulvi Mohammad Siddique Nangli who prepared the guide in Urdu and to Fouzan M. Pal and Ghazanfar Ahmad who helped in preparing the English version. (National Taleem Department)

  1. What will be the state of man after death?

    The state of man after death is not a new state, only his condition in this life is made manifest more clearly in the next life. Whatever is the true condition of a person with respect to his beliefs and actions, righteous or otherwise, in this life, it remains hidden inside him and its poison or its antidote affects his being covertly. In the life after death if will not be so; everything will manifest itself openly. One experiences a specimen of it in a dream. The prevailing condition of the body of the sleeper makes itself manifest in his dream. As a dream transmutes our spiritual condition into a physical form, the same will happen in the next life.

  2. What are the teachings of the Quran on heaven and hell?

    If we were not to call the conditions of the next life manifestations and were to say that they would be a new creation by Divine power, that would be perfectly correct. God has said: No virtuous one knows what bliss is kept hidden from him, as a reward for that which he used to do [32:18]. In interpreting the verse that we have just cited our lord and master, the Holy Prophet, peace and blessings of Allah be upon him, has said that heaven and its bounties are such as no eye has seen, nor has any ear heard, nor have they been conceived by the mind of man. They are described in physical terms but we are told that their source is the soul and its righteousness. The trees of which are their faith and the streams of which are that righteous actions. In the hereafter also they will eat of the fruits of this paradise, only those fruits will be sweeter and more manifest. As they will have eaten those fruits spiritually in this world they will recognize them in the other world and will exclaim: These appear to be the same fruits that we have already eaten; and they will think that those fruits resemble the fruits that they had eaten before in this world.

  3. What does the Holy Quran say about life after death?

    It should be kept in mind that the Holy Quran has set forth three insights with regard to the conditions of the life after death which we now proceed to expound. The Holy Quran has repeatedly affirmed that the life after death is not a new phenomenon and all its manifestations are reflections of this life. For instance, it is said: Every person's doings have We fastened firmly to his neck; and on the Day of Judgment We shall make them manifest and shall place them before him in the form of a book which he will find wide open [17:14]. Concerning the dwellers of heaven it is said: On that day thou wilt see the light of the believing men and the believing women, which is hidden in this world, running before them and on their right hands manifestly [57:13].

  4. What is meant by rivers of water, milk, and wine in heaven?

    The Garden promised to the righteous is as if it has rivers of water that corrupts not; and rivers of milk of which the taste changes not; and rivers of wine, which do not inebriate, a delight for those who drink; and rivers of pure honey, which has no impurity [47:16]. It is clearly stated here that heaven should be understood as metaphorically comprising inexhaustible streams of these bounties. This means that the water of life which a person of spiritual understanding drinks in this life will be manifested visibly in the hereafter. The spiritual milk by which he is sustained like a suckling in this life will become physically visible in heaven. The wine of God's love which inebriated him all the time spiritually in this life, will be manifested in the shape of rivers in heaven. The honey of the sweetness of faith which a person possessing spiritual understanding swallowed spiritually in this world will be manifested and felt physically in heaven. Every dweller of heaven will proclaim his spiritual condition openly through his gardens and rivers. God will unveil Himself on that day for the dwellers of heaven. In short, spiritual conditions will not remain hidden in the hereafter but will be physically visible and perceptible.

    The third insight concerning the hereafter is that there will be unlimited progress therein. As God Almighty has said: The light of the believers will run before them and on their hands. They will supplicate: Lord, perfect our light for us and cover us with Thy grace, surely Thou hast power over all things [66:9]. Their supplication that their light may be perfected is an indication of limitless progress. It means that when they have arrived at one stage of illumination, they will perceive a higher stage ahead of them and viewing it they will consider the stage in which they are as being inferior and will supplicate for the attainment of the higher stage, and when they arrive at that stage they will perceive a still higher third stage ahead of them and they will supplicate for its achievement. Thus their yearning for constant progress is indicated by the expression: Do Thou perfect our light. In short this state of progress will continue indefinitely. There will be no falling away, nor will they be expelled from heaven. But will daily advance further forward.

    It may be asked that as they will have entered heaven and all their sins would have been forgiven then what further need would there be for supplicating for forgiveness: The answer is that the true meaning of maghfirat (seeking forgiveness), is to suppress and cover up an imperfect or defective condition. Thus the dwellers of heaven will seek the attainment of perfection and their complete absorption in light. Observing a higher condition they will consider their condition defective and would desire its suppression, and then observing a still higher condition they would desire that their lower condition should be covered up and thus they will continuously seek unlimited maghfirat.

  5. What is meaning of seeking forgiveness in heaven?

    This seeking of maghfirat or istighfar is sometimes made the basis of adverse criticism of the Holy Prophet, peace and blessings of Allah be upon him. I trust that now it will have become clear that the desire for maghfirat is a matter of pride for man. He who is born of woman and does not make istighfar his habit, is a worm and not man, he is blind and not seeing, he is unclean and not pure.

  6. What are the three states of existence according to the Holy Quran?

    It might be explained at this stage that according to the Holy Quran there are three states of existence. The first is the world, which is called the first creation and is the state of effort. In this world man works good or evil. After resurrection the virtuous will continue their advance in goodness but that would be by the sheer grace of God and would not be the result of any effort of man.

    The second is the intermediate state which is called barzukh. In Arabic idiom barzukh is something which is situated between two other things. As that state will be between the first creation and the resurrection it is called barzukh. This expression has always been employed for the intermediate state. Thus it comprehends a great hidden testimony in support of the existence of the intermediate state. Barzukh is an Arabic word which is compounded of Barra and Zakha, which means that the manner of earning through action has ended and has fallen into a hidden state. Barzukh is a state in which the mortal condition of man is dissolved and the soul and the body are separated. The body is buried in a pit and the soul also falls into a sort of pit which is indicated by the expression Zakha, because it is no longer able to earn good or evil which it could only do through its relationship with the body. It is obvious that the health of the soul is dependent upon the health of the body. An injury inflicted upon one part of a person's brain causes loss of memory, and an injury occasioned to another part destroys the faculty of reflection and brings about unconsciousness. Similarly a convulsion of the brain muscle or a swelling or a hemorrhage or morbidity may be causing obstructions lead to insensibility, epilepsy, or cerebral apoplexy. Thus our experience teaches us definitely that the soul, divorced from the body, is utterly useless. It is entirely vain to imagine that our soul without its body can enjoy any kind of bliss. We might entertain such a fancy but reason lends it no support. We cannot conceive that our soul which is rendered helpless by minor upsets of the body could continue in a perfect condition when its relationship with the body comes to an end altogether. Does not our daily experience teach us that the health of the body is essential for the health of the soul? When one of us reaches extreme old age his soul also falls into dotage. Its store of knowledge is stolen by old age as is said by God, the Glorious. Another matter that must be kept in mind is that in His word God has described as dead those people who are involved in vice and error and has declared the virtuous as alive. The reason for this is that the function of the lives of those who die in a state of neglect of God, for instance, eating and drinking and indulgence of their passions are cut off, and they have no share of spiritual sustenance. They are truly dead and will be revived only for punishment. After Barzukh there is the state of resurrection. In that state every soul good or bad, righteous or disobedient, will be bestowed a visible body. That day has been appointed for the perfect manifestations of God, when very person will get to know the Being of his Lord fully, and everyone will arrive at the climax of his recompense.

  7. What is the true purpose of a human being's life in this world?

    Different people being short-sighted and lacking high resolve, appoint different purposes for their lives and limit themselves to worldly goals and ambitions. But the purpose that God Almighty has appointed for man in His Holy Word is as follows:

    I have created men and jinn so that they may know Me and worship Me [51:57]. Thus the true purpose of man's life is the worship of God, His understanding and complete devotion to Him. It is obvious that man is not in a position to appoint the purpose of his own life, for he does not come into the world of his own accord, nor will he depart therefrom of his own will. He is a creature and the One Who created him and invested him with better and higher faculties than those of all other animals. Whether anyone penetrates to it or not, the purpose of man's creation without a doubt is the worship and the understanding of God and complete devotion to Him.

  8. What are the means of achieving the true purpose of a human being's life?

    It may be asked how can this purpose be achieved and through what means can a person find God? The very first means of achieving this goal is to recognize God Almighty correctly and to believe in the True God. Unto Him alone is the true prayer, as He has the power to do all things. Those on whom they call beside Him, do not respond to them at all. Their case is like that of one who stretches forth his hand towards water that it may reach his mouth, but it reaches it not. The prayers of those who are unaware of the True God are but a delusion [13:15].

    The second means is to be informed of the perfect beauty of God Almighty; for the heart is naturally drawn to beauty, the observations of which generates love in the heart. God is One in His being and His attributes and His glory. He has no partner. All are dependent upon Him. He bestows life on every particle. He is the source of grace for everything and is not in need of grace from any. He is neither a son nor a father for He has no equal and no one is like unto Him [112:2-6].

    The third means of approach to God is knowledge of His beneficence, for beauty and beneficence are the two incentives of love. The beneficent attributes of God are summed up in Surah Fatiha as follows: God creates His servants from nothing, out of perfect Beneficence and His Providence is available to them all the time. He is the support of everything and every type of His beneficence has been manifested for His creatures [1:2-4].

    The fourth means of achieving the true purpose of life appointed by God Almighty is supplication, as He has said: Call on Me, I shall respond to you [40:61].

    The fifth means of achieving the purpose of life appointed by God Almighty, is striving in His cause; and that is to say, we should seek God by spending our wealth in His cause and by employing all our faculties in furthering His cause, and by laying down our lives in His cause and by employing our reason in His cause; as He has said: Strive in His way with your wealth and your lives and will all your faculties [9:41]; and: Whatever We have bestowed upon you of intelligence and knowledge and understanding and art, employ it in Our cause [2:4]. We surely guide along Our ways those who strive after us [29:70].

    The sixth means of achieving this purpose has been described as steadfastness, meaning that a seeker should not get tired or disheartened and should not be afraid of being tried, as God has said: Upon those who affirm: God is our Lord, and turn away from false gods and are steadfast, that is to say, remain firm under trials and calamities, descend angels, reassuring them: Fear not nor grieve, and be filled with happiness; and rejoice that you have inherited the joy that you had been promised. We are your friends in this life and in the hereafter [41:31-32].

    The seventh means of achieving the purpose of life is to keep company with the righteous, and to observe their perfect example. One of the needs for the advent of prophets is that man naturally desires a perfect example, and such an example fosters zeal and promotes high resolve. He who does not follow an example becomes slothful and is led astray. This is indicated by Allah, the Glorious, in the verse: Keep company with the righteous [9:119]; and in the verse: Guide us along the path of those upon whom Thou hast bestowed Thy favors [1:7].

    The eighth means of achieving the purpose of life are visions and true dreams and revelation. As the path that leads to God Almighty is a difficult one and is studded with misfortunes and hardships and it is possible that a person might go astray while treading along this unfamiliar path and might begin to despair and stop going forward, the mercy of God desires to keep comforting him and encouraging him and augmenting his zeal and eagerness. So it is His way that from time to time He comforts such people with His word and His revelation and makes it manifest to them that He is with them. Thus they are strengthened and go forward eagerly on this journey. He has said: For them there are glad tidings in this life and in the hereafter [10:65].

[Part I] [Part II] [Part III] [Part IV]