The Islamic Perspective on Life and Death
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Since the beginning of time the human race has witnessed the magnificent sun rise every morning from the East, and set into the every evening in the West. Since the beginning of time the human race has witnessed diverse species of creatures swimming in the waters, or walking upon the lands, or flying within the skies.
For centuries, man has deliberated his very own existence. After witnessing the delicate, fragile child released from its mother’s womb, some grow up to lead simple lives of farmers with barely enough to feed themselves and their families, and some gather the treasures of the lands and become kings. Humanity has seen those who strive for good and sacrifice their own lives for the benefit of others, whilst others become tyrants to destroy and slaughter their own kind. It has witnessed nations who have lived in peace and serenity whilst others have been afflicted by catastrophes, war, death and hardships. Thereafter, upon observing all of this, man asked one question – WHY?
Why is it that we are such that we begin in this state of fragility and weakness after exiting from our mothers’ wombs not knowing a thing, and then we grow up and become strong and powerful in our adult age, and subsequently return back to a state of weakness and fragility in old age? Just as we began we return.
Why do we eat, drink, work, struggle and toil in these lives so short?
Why do we suffer, worry and feel at times lonely and cry?
What is the objective? What is the reason? What is the purpose of life? Essentially the question is…why are we here?
Islam states that our lives in this world are not futile, but rather there is a purpose, a goal. And surely there must be a purpose; for indeed the intellect refuses to accept that we are here “just by chance”. This purpose is understood by understanding and accepting a pre-requisite first, and that is that we have been created by a greater Entity, the Creator, the Lord. For once again, the sound intellect refuses to accept that we have found ourselves upon this land “just by chance”. Just as a wise man once said, “footsteps in the desert sand indicate the existence of someone who has walked past; and similarly the great sun and moon, and the magnificent mountains and rivers that we see indicate the existence of Someone Who has created them”. If an individual were to explore his/her heart, search in the deepest within it, he/she would find the tranquillity of knowing his Creator.
Upon accepting this pre-requisite, the purpose of life then becomes clear. Just as an individual would thank a person if he loaned him money in times of hardship, or offered a shoulder to cry on in times of emotional need then similarly a person is obliged to thank the one who created him. The One Who gave him much more than these things, the One Who gave him the oxygen he breathes every day to live, the One Who gave him eyes so as to see the beauties of this world, the One Who gave him ears so as to hear the sweet sound of his child call out his name, the one who gave him his intellect so as to comprehend, understand, and think for himself…and much, much more.
It is this very act of thanking the Lord that forms the basis of the life of a Muslim. Just as if someone had pushed you out of the way to save you from an oncoming vehicle in the road you would then be indebted to him, then similarly we are indebted to the Creator for all of our lives, for that which He has bestowed upon us. Consequently Islam states that a Muslim lives his life in the worship of his Creator. And it is exactly this that forms the purpose or objective for the Muslim; for indeed the Lord has promised those who thank Him a great reward in this life and the life after death.
Therefore, every individual strives to worship his Lord in the best manner possible, because he will be rewarded; the reward that is the entrance into the gardens of Paradise, a life of bliss and happiness, only joy and laughter and no more sadness or fear. A life that no death is feared upon, only comfort and peace and hearts filled with serenity. It is a place with gardens under which rivers flow and fruits of no comparison, and much more from that which a man cannot imagine.
Life on earth is a challenge to determine who has earned the right to a place in paradise and who has not. This life therefore is the life where gathering good deeds, and the hereafter is a life of recompense for those who gathered good deeds is a plentiful reward and for those who gathered evil deeds is an evil recompense.
However, worship of the Lord does not mean a life of solidarity, or a life of seclusion. For indeed this is not the correct understanding of worship. A group of Muslims once decided they wished to become as obedient as possible, so one of them said, “I will never marry any woman in order to have more time to worship my Lord better”, another said, “I will never sleep at night and instead I will stay up praying”, and the third said, “I will never eat during the days instead I will fast every day as worship to my Lord”. However it was said to them by the prophet Muhammad (PBUH) that this is not allowed. Rather they were told that they should marry and not remain single, and that they should sleep for at least some portion of the night and not remain awake until sunrise, and that they should eat on some days and fast on others if they wished but not fast every day. Then it was explained to them that the reason for this is that a good Muslim, a balanced Muslim, is able to worship his Lord but at the same time enjoy the pleasures of life, be it in marriage and children, or in simple luxuries like sleeping at night or eating during the day.
Islam encourages the building of relations between the individuals of the community in order that no one is left lonely and no one feels left out. Islam encourages a life of equality among people every Muslim who wishes to make the annual pilgrim to Mekkah must wear two white sheets of clothing indicating equality between every individual. For indeed, when everyone is wearing the two white sheets of clothing then it is not possible to differentiate between who is a millionaire and who is a pauper there is complete and utter equality between everyone.
Family relations (In Arabic Selat Ar-Rahem) means to have good relations with relatives and do good for them as possible. Islam stresses the importance of having good relations with relatives. God says in the holy Qur`an: Serve Allah, and join not any partners with Him; and do good to parents, kinsfolk, orphans, those in need, neighbours who are near or far, the companion by your side, the travellers in need and what your right hands possess: for Allah loveth not the arrogant, the vainglorious. (An-Nisa`, 4:36). Another verse in the holy Qur`an indicates the importance of family relations, God says: Thy Lord hath decreed that ye worship none but Him, and that ye be kind to parents. Whether one or both of them attain old age in thy life, say not to them a word of contempt, nor repel them, but address them in terms of honour. And, out of kindness, lower to them the wing of humility, and say: My Lord! bestow on them thy Mercy even as they cherished me in childhood. (Al-Isra`, 17:23.24).
Family relations can be maintained through by visiting relatives, hosting them, asking about their affairs, granting them gifts and money if they are poor, participating in their parties and other events, visiting their patients and many other forms that strengthens the good relations among family members. The Islamic perspective on life dictates that a Muslim keeps good relations with his mother and father, his brothers and sisters, his uncles and aunties and others from his relatives. That is why Islam is a religion that is distinguished from other religions because of the importance it attaches to maintaining good family relations in life.
Islam is also a religion that permits living a comfortable life with the luxuries of life contrary to what some may perceive. God says in the Holy Qur`an: O Children of Adam! Wear your beautiful apparel at every time and place of prayer: eat and drink: but waste not by excess, for Allah loveth not the wasters. Say: Who hath forbidden the beautiful (gifts) of Allah, which He hath produced for His servants, and the things, clean and pure, (which He hath provided) for sustenance? Say: They are, in the life of this world, for those who believe, (and) purely for them on the Day of Judgment.
Thus do We explain the Signs in detail for those who understand. (Al-Araf, 7:31-32). He also says: But seek, with the (wealth) which Allah has bestowed on thee, the Home of the Hereafter, nor forget thy portion in this World: but do thou good, as Allah has been good to thee, and seek not (occasions for) mischief in the land: for Allah loves not those who do mischief. (Qasas, 28: 77). The previous verses indicate that human should be moderate in spending, eating, drinking and every aspect of life.
For it may be thought that luxuries negate true worship, however this is not the case. Islam permits the possession of expensive properties, cars, clothes. So if a person has wealth, then it permissible within Islam for him to spend that money upon purchasing luxuries within limits, and those limits, as mentioned, are that money is not to be wasted, and that he/she pays the Zakat (Alms giving).
Islam permits travelling around the world and seeing different locations, as long as it does not pre-occupy a person from those things that may be more important in life. Essentially a Muslim is permitted to lead a totally normal life; he is not restricted in any way.
Similarly the life of a Muslim is sensibly organised, structured and ordered. This is so due to the Muslim praying the five daily prayers, and as mentioned previously, Islam is not religion of isolated worship and a life of seclusion, that is why each prayer take 10-20 minutes only. In addition the Muslim in praying the five prayers attends the mosque and so interacts with other Muslim brothers, associates and friends, and thus the ties of friendship and closeness are always kept strong within the community. Consequently, one of the resulting factors from the five prayers is that a Muslim’s life becomes organised, his daily routine is ordered and that is due to the prayers having order and timings to them.
Therefore Islam – in terms of worship – strikes a balance between scarcity and a lack of worship leading to uncertainty in life, and excessive and rigorous worship, leading to delusions in one’s perceptions of his Lord and the purpose of his creation.
The Islamic perspective on life also incorporates a feeling of satisfaction and contentment with life. That is because the individual recognises that this life is only a few years in length, perhaps some will live to sixty or seventy years, others may live until eighty o inety or more, and some may not even reach twenty or less. However, the belief that there is a greater existence to come in the hereafter, where there will be no death, encourages the Muslim and forms the ultimate desired objective. For indeed an individual who believes nothing will come after this life has no real pleasure in this life, because every morning as he awakens he knows he has taken a step closer, or a day closer to his death, so no matter what his abundance of wealth maybe, he realises eventually he will not be able to take it with him to his grave.
That was the belief of the pharaohs of Egypt that lived centuries ago, that their wealth would go with them to their graves. Consequently they would be buried with their gold and treasures, only for it to be looted and stolen by grave robbers later on; therefore clearly indicating that their wealth did not benefit them after death. Undoubtedly, the pleasures of this world are limited and finite, henceforth a Muslim is encouraged not to become overly attached with these finite pleasures.
Once again, the sound intellect will not accept that after we are buried nothing will come to transpire thereafter.
If that were the case, that nothing would occur after death and that we would simply lie in our graves until our bones became dust like the earth they are buried within, then when would all the oppression of the ones who oppressed the weak in this world be brought to justice? When would the tyrants be held accountable for what they did to the feeble? Similarly when the righteous would be rewarded? Surely there must be an abode where justice is brought forth, so the oppressors receive what they deserve punishment and the righteous receive what they deserve blessings and reward.
Of course, if that were not the reality then an individual who lived a life of purity and goodness in helping others in all forms of charity and sacrificing himself would be no better than a murderer or criminal after death – both would simply decompose in their graves to no ultimate end – and that is something the intellect cannot accept.
That is why the Islamic perspective on life after death dictates the belief in a day of recompense for all, when all of humankind will be judged before their Lord. The belief in that day is an essential part of living a life of serenity. Knowing that there is something after death, knowing that all humans will be raised from their graves, knowing that the good will prevail over evil on that day.
Islam therefore states that death is not the end of the journey, but rather the beginning of a new section of the journey, the opening of a new chapter. Death opens the door to whole new life, a life without death, either eternally in Paradise or in Hell.
It is this hope, this aspiration, this faith that drives the individual to have hope and optimism from the lives that we lead in this world. As for the one who has no belief in an afterlife, then he leads a life of no hope, no aspiration no anticipation or expectation…except the expectation of burial and subsequent decomposition.
This life is therefore is a temporary life, a life that is in essence considered a stepping stone to the eternal life, the life after death. Thus, the rising of the magnificent sun from the East and its setting in the West is surely a sign from the Creator, the one true Lord for his creation to consider and so comprehend the existence of the hereafter. The vast mountain ranges and valleys and rivers are surely a sign from the great Creator for his creation to ponder over and comprehend the existence of the Creator, the one true Lord.
Every fish great and small from the whale to the salmon, every animal large and diminutive from the elephant to the ant, every bird with its two wings that glides elegantly across the blue skies…every creature in such precise existence, all indicates the existence of the one true Lord. In addition, all of these creatures have been created by God to serve human survive and flourish, since they form an integrated balanced system providing humans with all necessary life needs.
For it cannot be that footsteps appear in the desert without someone walking prior to that, and similarly it cannot be that this miraculous and astounding world we see around us was created by itself without a greater entity to create it in such precision and beauty.
The one true Lord will surely judge between His creation on that great day of judgement after death. At that time every individual will attain his due right, the farmer who lived a life of poverty, or the king who lived a life of luxury, or the tyrant who oppressed the people or the generous one who sacrificed himself for others.
Consequently, every intellectual individual finds in himself purpose, finds tranquillity in life, understands what we see around us…that all of this is the Lord’s creation for us, and that our objective is to spend our lives in thanks of Him by worshipping Him solely.
Ultimately, every individual shall taste death, the question remains…upon what state? Upon the state of a haphazard, chaotic life with no direction, and so the individual continues to head into a tunnel with no light in sight, or upon the state of an Islamic life filled with objectives and goals, and so the individual walks upon a clear country path under the clear blue skies, heading toward a defined aspiration?

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