I’m going to be posting something interesting about the Qur’ān every day during Ramaḍān, the month the Qur’ān was revealed.
Today’s topic is about physical and spiritual life and death.
“How can you disbelieve in Allāh? When you were dead, and He gave you life, and then He will cause you to die, then restore you to life, and then to Him shall you return.” (2:29)
Hayāt (حياة) meaning ‘life’ is the opposite of mawt (موت) meaning ‘death’. Mawt is therefore the opposite of any characteristic of hayāt (life) in Arabic. Hayāt in Arabic has the following characteristics (and mawt has the opposite):
1.) Growth, i.e. in an animal or plant
2.) Nervous sensation
3.) Intellect (ignorance is death)
4.) Happiness (sadness is a form of emotional death)
5.) Everlasting life in the life to come
6.) Advantage or profit
7.) State of activity and creativity
This verse of the Qur’ān explains that if human life had no purpose, God would not have created it. Having created it, He would not subject it to death, unless there was an afterlife. It is in this sequence that the symmetry is seen in every individual human being:
1.) Dead (before birth)
2.) Alive (after birth)
3.) 2nd death
4.) 2nd life (the afterlife)
5.) Returning to God
God has created humans according to the Qur’ān not so that we return to dust after a life of 60 or 70 years but to prepare us for a fuller and everlasting life, which one lives after death.
The word “then” in the clause “then to Him shall you be made to return” hints that after death, the human soul does not go immediately to Heaven or Hell. There is an interim period in which the soul is made to taste some of the good or bad results of its deeds (known as Barzakh meaning ‘barrier’ in the Qur’ān).
This order of deaths and lives also refers to Sufism (Islāmic mysticism).
1.) The first state is that of ignorance of Islām and therefore spiritual death.
2.) Once a person (regardless of being born Muslim or not) studies and learns about the Prophet Muhammad (sa) and Islām and sincerely accepts it in his/her heart, this becomes the first life (known in Christian vernacular as being ‘born again’).
3.) Then after obtaining knowledge, one must put this into practice by subduing his/her carnal passions of lust and anger in their respective times and places according to the Sharī’ah (Divine Law). This is known as the second death (‘to die before you [physically] die’). It is known in Sufism as the state of fanā’ (annihalation) and can be either in God or in the Prophet (fanā’ fi’llah or fanā’ fi’rasul).
4.) Then the second life is when Allāh accepts your toil in His way and grants you spiritual life out of this. This is known as baqā’.
5.) Finally you return to God, meaning He starts granting you with true dreams, revelations, and visions, or other forms of communicating with you. When you talk to Him, He answers. This is the final stage of the spiritual journey known as liqā’ (meeting). This stage is known also as ‘heaven on earth’ as elsewhere in the Qur’ān it says one may obtain ‘two paradises’.
In addition to these meanings, the mentioning of life twice may also refer to the rise of Islām in this world. Islām had its first vibrant life during the time of the Prophet (sa) and his Salaf (first 3 generations including his). The second life of Islām was to come in the latter days. This is referred to in 62:4 in the Qur’ān, where it says the Prophet (sa) will make, as it were, a second appearance in the world. This promise was to be fulfilled in the person of the Imām Mahdi (reformer of Islām) who was to come, and which Ahmadi Muslims have accepted as having already appeared, heralding the second rise of Islām as a dominant force in the world albeit through a longer process of education, peace, and love, rather than the quick violent routes sought by Jihādists to bring about the second life of Islām.