Life after Death: A Rational Vindication

Understanding Islam – Abul Al\’a Maududi


So far, we have discussed the need and importance of belief in the Day of Judgment. Now let us consider how far the constituents of the belief are rationally understandable. The fact is that whatever Muhammad (peace be upon him) has told us about life after death is clearly borne out by reason. Although our belief in the that Day is based upon our implicit in the Messenger of God, rational reflection not only confirms this belief but also reveals that Muhammad\’s (peace be upon him) teachings in this respect are much more reasonable and understandable than all other the following viewpoints are found in the world. 

  1. A section of the people says that there is nothing left of man after death, and that after this life-ending event, there is no other life. According to these people, this belief has no reality. They say that there is no possibility of it and such a belief is quite unscientific. This is the approach and bring in western science in their support. 

  2. Another section of the people maintains that man, in order to bear the consequences of his deeds, is repeatedly regenerated in this very world. If he lives a bad life, in the next generation he will assume the shape of an animal, like a dog or a cat, etc., or some tree or some lower kind of man. If his acts have been good, he will be reborn as a man into a higher class. This viewpoint is found in some Eastern religions. 

  3. There is a third viewpoint which calls for belief in the Day of Judgment, the Resurrection, man\’s presence in the Divine Court, and the administration of reward and punishment. This is the common belief of all the Prophets. 

Now let us consider these viewpoints one by one. The first section, which arrogates to itself the authority and support of science, alleges that there is no reality in life after death. They say that they have never seen anybody coming back after his death. There is not a single case of revival. We see that after death a man is reduced to dust. Therefore, death is the end of life and there is no life after death: But just think over this reasoning: is this really a scientific argument? Is the claim really founded on reason? If they have not seen any case of revival after death, they can only say that they do not know what will happen after death. But, instead of remaining within this limit, they declare that nothing will happen after death at the same time alleging that they speak out of knowledge! In fact, they merely generalize on ignorance. Science tells us noting negative or positive in this respect and their assertion that life after death has no existence is totally unfounded. Their claim is not dissimilar to the claim of an ignoramus who has not seen an airplane and on that \”knowledge\” proclaims that airplanes have no existence at all! If anybody has not seen a thing, it does not mean that that thing has no existence. No man, not even the entire humanity, if it has not seen a thing, can claim that such a thing does not, or cannot, exist. This claim is illusionary and is out and out unscientific. No reasonable man can give it any weight. 

Now look to belief of the second group. According to them, a human being is a human being because in his previous animal form he had done good deeds; and an animal is an animal because previously as a human being he had behaved badly. In other worlds to be a man or animal is the consequence of one\’s deeds in one\’s former form. One may well ask: \”Which of them existed first, man or animal?\” If they say man preceded animal, then they will have to accept that he must have been an animal before that and given a human form for its good deeds. If they say it was animal, they will have to concede that must have been a man before that who transformed into an animal for his bad deeds. This puts us into a vicious circle and the advocates of this belief cannot settle any from for the first creature, for every generation implies a preceding generation so that the succeeding generation may be considered as the consequence of the former. This is simply absurd.

Now consider the third viewpoint. Its first proposition is: \”This world will one day come to an end. 

God will destroy and annihilate the universe, and in its place will evolve another higher and far superior cosmos.\” 

This statement is undeniably true. No doubt can be cast upon its veracity. The more we reflect on the nature of the cosmos, the more clearly it is proved that the existing system is not permanent and everlasting, for all the forces working in it are limited in their nature, and it becomes a certainty that one day they will be completely exhausted. That is why the scientists agree that one day the sun will become cold and will give up all its energy, the stars will collide with one another, and the whole system of the universe will be upset and destroyed. Moreover, if evolution is true in the case of the constituents of this universe, why it may not be true for the whole of it? To think of the universe becoming totally non-existent is more improbable than that it will pass into another evolutionary stage and another order of things will emerge in a much more improved and ideal order. 

The second proposition of this belief is that \”man will again be given life\”. Is it impossible? If so, how did the present life of man become possible? It is evident that God Who created man in this world can do so in the next. Not only is it a possibility, but it is also a possibility, it is also a positive necessity, as will be show later.  

The third proposition is that \”the record of all the actions of man in this world is preserved and be presented on the Day of Resurrection\”. The proof of the truth of this proposition is provided here in these days by science itself. It was first understood that the sounds which we make produce slight waves in the air and die out. Now, it has been discovered that the sound leaves its impression on its surrounding objects and can be reproduced. Gramophone records are made on the same principle. From this it can be understood that the record of every movement of man is being impressed on all things which come into contact with the waves produced by the movements. This shows that the record of our entire deed is completely preserved and can be reproduced. 

The fourth proposition is that \”on the Day of Resurrection, God will hold His Court and with just judgment, reward or punish man for his good and bad deeds.\” What is unreasonable about it? Reason itself demands that God should hold His court and pronounce just judgment. We see here that a man does a good deed and thereby gains nothing in this world. We see another man who does a bad deed and does and does not suffer for it here. Not only this, we see thousands of cases of a good act bringing trouble on the doer, and of a bad deed and not suffer for it here. Not only this we see thousands of cases of a good act bringing trouble on the doer and of the guilty person. When we notice these events happening every day our reason and sense of justice demand that a time must come when the man who dose good must be rewarded and the one who does evil must be punished. The present order of things as you can see yourself is subject to physical law according to which it is quite natural that a man who has got the means to do evil can do so if he chooses and it is not necessary that its evil consequences should react upon him wholly or partly. If you have a tin of petrol and a match-bow you can set fire to the house of your opponent and you can escape every consequence of this deed if the worldly forces are in your favor. Does it mean that such an offence has got no consequence at all? Certainly not! It means only that its physical result has appeared, and the moral result is reserved. Do you really think it reasonable that it should never appear? If you say it should the question is where? Certainly not in this world because in the physical world only physical world only physical consequences of this higher category can appear only if there comes into existence another other of things wherein rational and moral laws reign supreme and occupy the governing poison and where the physical laws are made subject to them. That is the next world which as we have said before is the next evolutionary stage of the universe. It is evolutionary in this sense that it will be governed by moral laws rather than by physical laws. The rational consequences of man\’s action, which are reserved wholly or partly in this world, will appear therein. Man\’s status will be determined by his rational and moral worth adjudged in accordance with his conduct in this life of test and trial. There you will not find a worthy man serving under a fool or a morally superior man in a position inferior to a wretch, as is the case in this world.

The last proposition of this is the existence of Paradise and Hell, which is also not impossible. If God can make the sun, the moon the stars and the earth, why should He not be able to make Paradise and Hell? When He holds His Court and pronounces His judgment rewarding the meritorious and punishing the guilty there must be a place where the meritorious might enjoy their reward honor, happiness and gratification of all kinds and another place where the condemned might feel debasement pain and misery.

After considering all these questions no reasonable person can escape the conclusion that the belief in life after death is the most acceptable to reason and common senses, and that there is nothing in it which can be said to be unreasonable or impossible. Moreover, when a true Prophet like Muhammad (peace be upon him) has stated this to be a fact and it involves nothing but what is good for us wisdom lies in believing it implicitly and not in rejecting it without any sound reasons. 

The above are the five articles of Faith which from the foundation for the superstructure of Islam. Their gist is contained in the short sentence known as Kalima-e-tayyibah. When you declare La ilaha illallah (there is no deity but Allah) you give up all false deities and profess that you are a creature of the One God and when you add to these words Muhammad-ur-Rasulullah, (Muhammad is Allah\’s Messenger) you confirm and admit the Prophethood of Muhammad (God\’s blessings be upon him). With the admission of his Prophethood it becomes obligatory that should believe in the divine nature and attributes of God, in His angels in His Revealed Books, and in life after death and earnestly follow that method of obeying God and worshipping Him which Prophet Muhammad (peace be upon him) has asked us to follow. Herein lies the road to success and salvation.


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