Recap: Human life is adjusted to the conditions of this world from both the bodily aspect (we can easily accommodate ourselves here) and the spiritual aspect (reasoning/intellect, consciousness, and feelings). Our spiritual side can communicate with the universe easily where we can ask questions and get answers or may not get answers. This is all perfectly arranged to make our life easy in this world as far as the living conditions of this world are concerned which gives us the opportunity to accommodate our being. At the same time, we have many expectations, hopes, wishes, and fears but the universe may not comply with them or address those needs. This is also perfectly arranged to teach us what our reality is and to help us understand what the reality of this universe/existence is.
Everything is arranged for a purpose but afterwards whoever creates us causes us to die and then puts us in our grave. What is happening here? Death is subject to our body because our body has been composed of the elements of this world which by definition are temporary, continuously undergoing change, limited and cannot remain as they are (even for a second); they are under the control of something else, and so we CANNOT TRUST these elements which constitute our body.
This body is brought into existence and made subject to growth and decline. However, one side of us never changes i.e. our soul, our human side, emotions and consciousness. What a purposeful creation, otherwise I would not be convinced about my reality here. The human side has an element that sets us free i.e. we have free will that makes us acknowledge or not acknowledge the reality. Everyone has to think of his/her own reality and usage of free will.
When the body is created in the stage where life is taken away from it, the body becomes just an element with no living quality in it and the soul cannot reside in it anymore. The elements of the soul are not the same as the body i.e. the nature of the human soul has no material element to it. The human soul is not a composition of matter, rather it consists of impalpable things (i.e. we cannot feel it, touch it but we can make sure that such things exist within my humanity because my consciousness recognizes it/acknowledges it that I have some qualities apart from my body which are not subject to change and which are not composed of the material elements of this universe). That is, the elements of the human soul are not of the nature of this universe. Bottom line, I am combined with these different kinds of creation:
- Body (subject to change with life conditions) and
- Human qualities (spirit).
My Creator makes the body age and transforms it into its original matter i.e. the body is taken away and put in its original element which is made up of clay and turned into the earth again. My soul which doesn’t age/change is also returned back to its origin. This is great news because if my body is made up of earthly materials and in the end, it is going to be returned back to its original elements (composition), it means that my soul is also going to be returned to its original source which is not in this universe. The human soul is not made up of elements of this universe (as mentioned above). I will lose my body, but I will continue my existence by going back to the source which is not subject to change and temporariness, rather an infinite or constant being. Hence, death does not bother me because my body will be taken away and I AM NOT THE BODY. As a human being, I AM MY SOUL!
- I am residing in my body, but my body is not me.
- My body is the home of my spirit within the conditions of this universe.
- When the soul is taken away, my body remains alone.
80:22 “and then, when He wills, He shall raise him again to life,”
I cannot “will” by myself to exist but only the One who gives me existence can “will” to raise me again or choose to give me another home. He can raise me from my material side and put me in it again (or something similar) as He did here i.e. only the One who gave me the body here can do it again once more. Let’s think- Who can give the body here (which is so perfectly arranged in order to be used by my spirit) to communicate with the rest of the creation in which I am created? That is, I use my body here in order to make my course of life easy for me. Whoever adjusted all the tools for my spirit to communicate with the living conditions of this world, can also adjust my new creation according to the capacity of my soul: “please give me another home to operate through a vehicle like the body”. That is why, it is very important for me to educate my spirit so my spirit‘s capacity increases and the body will be a tool to operate not only here, but also in the new creation as appropriate to the capacity of the development of my soul here.
80:23 “By no means has he fulfilled what He has enjoined upon him!”
My Creator has given me the capacity to get to know Him which is unlimited that I will never get to the end of it. Human capacity opens up to eternity and goes out of the universe with its endowed, experienced and recognized qualities. In order to communicate with the universe, I am given a limited body as a tool, but the human capacity goes beyond the limits of this universe. What does this mean? It means that if I can develop myself to the ultimate point of my capacity, with the earthly body I will feel suffocated because I cannot accept limitedness and yet my capacity wants to go further. My spirit is already beyond the capacity of this universe because I can imagine the existence of eternity, beyond this universe and beyond the living conditions of this life (including my wishes, hopes and expectations). I know that my body will die (put in the grave), and I am sure of it, but my human side expects more such as:
- What is beyond this life?
- There must be more to this:
- I do not want to die and disappear from existence (annihilation).
- I want to satisfy myself more from what I have accomplished here.
- My spirit is excited to go beyond the limits of this universe (connecting to its Source of Existence) but the capacity of the universe does not allow for it (and I feel suffocated as mentioned earlier). Now, I am sure that the One who created me as a human being by giving me limitless capacity is promising me that you are not created for this universe, you have the capacity which goes beyond the limits of this kind of creation but you have to fulfill a job FIRSTLY which is within your capacity i.e. by using the universe you can come to conclusions which go beyond the limits of this universe.
- Example: when I need something, I want to be satisfied with it and I see that the means of satisfaction have been provided for me in front of my eyes and hands i.e. I can have access to it. That is great but while I am communicating with the things which are provided to satisfy my needs, as I use them, they disappear and do not persist (i.e. decay). As a result, I am left in despair with the feelings that the things I used disappeared and so they cannot be the origin of satisfaction for me rather a vehicle/tool to carry a message to me: “I cannot satisfy you and you have to look for a One who sends these to you and who prepared me for you. Think about it– Who can prepare all these things for you? Look at me and you will understand that I am created by a One who created the whole universe because I can only exist within the conditions of this universe as a created thing. You can see that everything is directly put in contact and intertwined with each other and the order of the universe in its entirety is working perfectly. Hence, I did not come to your service by myself, rather I was sent for you or prepared for you by the One who established or set up this order of the universe.” Now, this is great news and I say: “I have to get to know Him”.
Example: I am hungry, and food is created in the body of an animal or fruit (or fish) which I can benefit from. I see it, I eat it and it disappears. The body of the animal has no consciousness, but it is prepared for me. I must investigate how the fish comes into existence, how does it grow and how is it possible that I get it and benefit from it after eating it? How does the fish become a source of nourishment for my body in order to continue the physical existence of my body? What a perfect arrangement, it is so unimaginable, seriously, who can do this!? Now, I have to come to the conclusion that the universe is arranged by a Conscious Being who is whispering into my ears: “Hey I am here and I know what you need, I am preparing everything for you, please get to know me.”
Question: What does it mean that human beings can never fulfill what they are given the capacity for (or fully use it) as per the verse above?
- Within the conditions of this universe, it is not possible for me to get to know the Source of my Existence (i.e. Absolute) fully or in its entirety because Absolute by definition is unlimited. In other words, my human expectations for Eternal Pleasure go beyond the limited conditions of this universe, but intellectually we can all be certain of an Absolute Source of Existence preparing Eternal Satisfaction for us beyond this universe.
Again, no one can fully fulfill what he has been given in terms of one’s capacity because the capacity goes to infinite. How can I reach infinity? There are degrees of fulfillment, but we can never reach the end within the conditions of this world. (None of the mathematicians can find the last number, it is impossible because human capacity is open to infinity, but the universe does not allow it to get into the infinity). The verse is a general statement letting us know that we can never reach our full capacity, but we must try.
- Our duty is not to reach the end but to turn towards the right end and speed up there.
Although you cannot reach the end (infinity) but you will aim at it. Everyone will be rewarded according to their aim, not according to the distance they covered. But you must be consistent with yourself i.e. sincerity is key. Example: if you know your target but you choose not to go towards it, then you make no effort. We must take the opportunity to go to our aim as fast as possible. That is, we must use our human capacity to acknowledge the infinite source of existence. Example: I know that the universe has been created by a One who has infinite power otherwise the existence of this universe cannot be explained. Only by attributing the existence of this universe to a Being who must have Absolute Power, Knowledge… can we answer the existential question and get to know the Absolute. Is it possible to get to know infinite or Absolute in a material sense? No, but I must get to know Him closer and closer (intellectually and then emotionally). In the Quranic language, “mukarraboun” refers to people who are made closer to their Lord as a result of their efforts. It means that I must acknowledge and search how His infinite power is manifested momentarily and at every moment, I must be cognizant of the presence of His power, acknowledge It and submit to Him.
Comment: The Prophet Muhammad (pbuh) never reached infinity in his ascension should never discourage anyone for striving for the truth.
Human beings can never touch infinite, but we know that we are given the tools to get closer and closer, albeit we can never realize in its fullness here (as it defeats the definition of infinite or Absolute). In the conditions of this world, we cannot reach infinite, but we are thirsty to reach It, that is our aim and we know that we must reach that aim. So, I must yearn and seek to reach my source of existence. If it is not possible within the conditions of this universe (which is true because the universe is limited as far as my human expectations are concerned), then it must be possible beyond this universe (intellectually and emotionally) because the desire is given to me.
- “There must be another type of creation that must be possible, we do not know it, but we know that such a different creation must exist”.
When the verse says: “He shall raise him again to life”, means that He will give me a body/vehicle/tool according to my capacity that I have developed, improved, or increased in this universe. Example: when we go to school, no one learns at the same pace because everyone is unique as far as putting in effort is concerned, although endowed capacity is the same. How much do you try to learn is what we need to ask ourselves!? After graduation, we practice what we learn. Can you practice more than what you learn? No. You can practice as much as you want. Is there any end to learning? Does any discipline of learning have an end? No. The universe has an end, but human capacity does not have an end because it investigates and has a need to discover more. Human beings are discovering the principles of this universe, how wonderful it is, can we ever get to the end of discoveries? No. The more we discover, the deeper our understanding/conviction becomes. That is the miraculous aspect of this creation. How Amazing?!
We are trying to get to know the Source of Existence of the qualities that we are experiencing here. Example: Look at this universe, it is so huge. This means that the One who gave existence to this universe must have huge power. How do I practice this in my life? Do I see the unlimited capacity of power in one plant or piece of stone? That needs exercise, practice, and experience i.e. we must try out as much as possible. Even an expert or professor gets very excited to learn more. The more you discover, the more you get excited, and the more you want to improve your capacity to become aware of Him before you leave this world. This represents ascension and we must try our ascension.
- Belief in God and getting to know God is not only the duty of the prophets who are examples for us so we emulate them as much as we can, it is more so a human responsibility incumbent upon each created being.
Experts are an encouragement, rather than discouragement for us. You have the choice to go out of the class when you say that the professor knows much and what does it have to do with me, or you say that I can also become a knowledgeable person or an expert as the professor. I must go on and on. It’s not a discouragement to learn that there is no end to learning. My capacity is open to infinity. That is, if I study engineering, for example and continued eagerly and sincerely, I could learn much more than I know now, this is my capacity. But if I do not use that capacity, do I learn anything? No.
- If I learn one year of a subject, I learn only what is possible to be learned in one year.
- If I learn for 10 years, then I obtain knowledge that can be obtained in that time span.
- If I do not learn, I know nothing about the subject.
- If I keep learning and improving myself, then I will know BUT I will never know the subject fully. Thus, I must try my best!
Question: How do I understand the meaning of life in the grave?
Belief is not blind acceptance, rather it is establishing certainty in one subject matter. How can I make certain about a subject matter? I must have evidence, I must experience it and I must develop certainty (being sure about it) within my own feelings (yes, it must be so, that is called “belief”).
- If I want to establish my belief system, I must have evidence and when I am convinced, I must confirm the conclusion.
The Quranic verses and Prophetic sayings/examples are conclusions that invite us to investigate, find out the evidence, and “I (the Creator of the universe) will show you the path (Prophetic practice) of how to have access to this evidence so that you can confirm Me”. There are many verses encouraging human beings to look for evidence provided by the Quran, thus work on them by using your intellect to grasp; that it is proving the truthfulness of the news: “Yes, I can confirm it”.
- We CANNOT read the meaning of the verse and accept it without any evidence and experience.
Prophetic narrations mention a lot about life in the grave. It is a passage, a period, or isthmus (Arabic barzakh). When life is taken away from my body, my body does not function. Example: As a human being, would you like to stay in a house that does not function properly? No. That is why after taking life from my body, the Creator takes my soul away.
First, when my body was given existence in the womb of my mother, the soul wasn’t there. At some stage, the soul is put in me and becomes the resident of my body in this world. That is how the order of the creation demonstrates to us. At death, life is taken away from the body, the body is not an appropriate dwelling place for the spirit. The spirit is out (i.e. not in the body anymore) and it is not subject to change because its composition is not of earthly matter which is subject to change.
- Example A: The principles of the order of the universe i.e. the qualities we experience here, do they change? No. We see the quality of Absolute power/knowledge/compassion, Absolute free will/justice manifested in the universe as a constant. We know that these qualities are a manifestation of the source of existence of the universe, manifesting in the universe and they never change. Although where they are manifested is constantly changing i.e. the plants are growing, animals/humans/galaxies are aging, everything in the universe is CONSTANTLY continuously changing BUT the Absolute qualities are NOT changing. It means that the material side of the universe is changing and is limited but the source of this material side of the universe is a CONSTANT (does not change). Everything that comes into existence is manifesting the Absolute qualities of its Creator.
- Example B: When you read a book, you can tear the pages, but can you destroy the information/knowledge manifested in it? No, information/knowledge does not change. In other words, you can burn a book but not its knowledge.
- Similarly, the universe is continuously changing but we cannot change that which is manifested in it (i.e. we cannot change the meaning that refers to its Creator). That is, when life is taken away from my body, my spirit is alone, and it does not belong to the nature of this universe. As my body goes to its origin, my spirit goes to its origin, where it came from.
The capacity of the spirit is unlimited, and so it must be created by an Absolute Being and goes back to its origin i.e. its Absolute Being. (wa ilayhe turja’oon i.e. you are returning back to your origin of existence). Now we can understand the news that the Quran brings. If I am going back to my Caretaker, why should I bother about death, which is subject to the body, not my spirit?
- The taking off period of the spirit from the body is called the passage of isthmus.
Everyone will be given a body according to the capacity that they learned about their Creator here. The next world is all about how much I have developed and improved my potentialities to get to know my Creator here.
- The in-between phase for the spirit to be in this world and the next is the period of the grave.
My body is subject to time because it is subject to the terms of the creation of this universe, but my soul is not subject to time and conditions of this universe. The human soul is of a completely different nature as mentioned earlier. When my soul is taken away from my body because it is non-functional for my soul to operate here, then my soul must be returned to its Origin. We cannot talk about the time of this transition from this creation to its Origin because time is the term that is valid only within this universe.
The continuation of the creation of this universe is the concept of “time”. When my soul is out of the conditions of this universe, is it subject to time and conditions of this universe? No. I do not know what I will feel when I go out of the conditions of this universe. However, if you are worried about something here, if you feel happy or you feel some pain here, what aspect of you is happy? Your skin, the body, or the spirit? The spirit is happy. Furthermore, let’s say if someone cuts your arm and puts it on the table, does the arm feel any emotions? No. It is the spirit that feels pain.
- When you feel happy or sorry about something, the spirit experiences that.
- Similarly, when we think about the life in the grave, we think that something is happening to the body. Rather, something is happening to your spirit according to your perception of your existence and understanding of the location of your existence i.e. where do you belong to?
- If you belong to the world while you are here, then you fear death at every moment. This is with you and when you die, this fear will remain in you (soul), not your body.
This period of passage from this world to the next will be based on how much I have trained the soul in this world. From the creation in this world to the transfer into another world can only be understood in the conditions of this life, by making sure of the difference between the life of the body as a residing place for the spirit and the reality of my spirit. I experience all sorts of feelings in my spirit, not in my body. While my spirit is residing in my body it communicates with the body. Example: When I am ashamed of something, you can see the traces of the spirit’s fear directly on the face because when I am living in this world, my spirit operates through the body and communicates with the universe. The body is a tool, spirit is the actor. Thus, the situation or state of being of my spirit operates through my body. That’s why the Quran says: “seemahum fee wujoohihim min atharis sujood” (…on their faces they bear the marks of their prostrations…) (48: 29.)
My spirit is communicating in the universe through my body, that is why my happiness can be seen in my eyes and my face. When you are happy, you can see the feelings expressed in your eyes (not the physical eye or the skin is feeling it). That is how we are put in contact with the conditions of this universe.
The spirit is created in such a way that it always needs a tool to operate. That is why we must die in order to operate through a body/tool which allows me to practice what I am expecting (which is not found in this universe). Example: I want to see the beauty perfectly rather than being manifested on a temporary base here. We do not want to experience beauty manifested on a limited or temporary base and this universe does not allow me to experience beauty in an unlimited base.
- As much as I am aware of the quality of beauty and practice it in my life, that much I will want to experience beauty in an unlimited form.
Another example, in Physics, let’s say they investigate into the particles of an atom. Unless I study it for myself, I would not know about it besides the fact that there is such knowledge out there about the motion of particles. I must experience that knowledge for my evidence and see the manifestation of Absolute power/knowledge in everything, I shouldn’t be negligent of it!
Let’s take another example. I may say that the universe is created by God and this tree gives good fruit. Here, I did not see the Creatorship in the existence of the fruit. That is, my knowledge of an All-powerful One is somewhat limited and trivial. The universe is created by Almighty God, did you learn it through the evidence in this world and become aware of it, did you assimilate it in your soul? It needs work!!!
- “Do good deeds and work” means to practice your belief.
- Education and training are necessary here because it pertains to life after death.
Life in the grave can be experienced here while you are living in this world before you die. In fact, according to the capacity of your life, your body is like a grave for your spirit. The spirit feels what you are experiencing, not the body. So, it is the human side (spirit) that really goes through all the experiences and can be in a state of happiness or sadness. Whereas, the body is the means for all those experiences. If I understand that whatever l learned in school and when I graduate from school (i.e. I am out of the school), what remains with me are not the walls, books or chair of the school, rather what remains with me is the knowledge I acquired.
- Similarly, what will happen to me when I die, I must understand it while I am here in this world and I should not speculate anything without understanding life here first. I must understand how the next creation should be before I die, and I must experience it here before I die and digest it while I am here.
No one can speculate after death because it is a new creation and TOO LATE for me to do anything. However, what we understand NOW is that using my unlimited capacity of the spirit and evidence out there, I can understand what will happen to me after I die. I can understand within the limited capacity of the universe that the Creator of the universe must be necessarily infinite. I know that I cannot grasp the infinite, but I know the necessary existence of the infinite.
Did I get to the end of the Engineering/Physics discipline in the example above or any other discipline? No, but I know that the subject has no end. Similarly, I know that such a thing must exist because the capacity of my spirit lets me comprehend the existence of the infinite although I do not experience it. Bottom line, we cannot experience the living conditions of life after death within the conditions of the universe, but my capacity allows me to understand the necessary existence of the capacity of life after death while I am living.
- Again, we should not speculate about life after death because we do not know but I am given the capacity to understand the necessary existence of it.
That is why the Quran gives the description of paradise and hell, in terms of this universe and says that the next creation will be completely different. That is, “We (the Creator) will change the world into a completely different world” (14: 48). Human beings learn with analogies. Example: What do you like most? What are you expecting more from the Creator? Then you will be given it, but it will be multiplied by infinite because the next creation must have a nature of permanence. Although I cannot imagine infinite, I can be sure that such a thing must exist!
Therefore, we must experience the conditions of the grave here, so I know that after I die such a thing must exist, but I don’t know the essence or nature of that creations i.e. I do not know the nature of the Creator, but I understand that a Creator must exist with His absolute qualities. Example: I can see that Mercy is everywhere in the universe. Mercy must have a source. Do I know Mercy in its essence? No, but I know that the One who has created the universe is merciful and letting me know that He is Merciful through His act of creation. Sometimes He does not create what I expect and as a result I become aware of the Necessity of Mercy, the need for Mercy more and more. This is a way of teaching that the Creator is Merciful.
- Do I know the essence of Mercy? No.
- Do I know that Mercy exists? Yes.
We have to know that life in the grave must exist and I must see the traces/signs of such creation within the conditions of this world. I must also apply this same principle to the hereafter, life in paradise/hell, I can only understand through thinking and reflecting (human side) about the conditions of my existence within this universe. That is why the Quran uses the description of hell/heavens by giving the example of this world such as fire, gardens… you cannot stand fire, which is in this world.
- If I don’t acknowledge the reality and deny it deliberately, then I will have a burning life for eternity. Is it possible? Yes, if I know that in this life I will die and get rotten in the earth and worms will eat the body. That understanding of life in the grave is valid only if I don’t believe in a Creator and think that my existence ends at death with annihilation. Such a person would not prefer talking about death because his spirit cannot stand it. If you cannot stand a fly sitting on your hand, then will you be able to stand insects all over your body in a grave? The fire of hell is not possible for you to stand NOW, this is the description of the next life in terms of this life on earth for a person who becomes a candidate for hell.
The Quran says that you will be treated or considered according to your treatment or submission of the truth, how much effort did you put into understanding the truth? If you see that you belong to an Absolute being who manifests His qualities here, then you are from Him. He brought you here and gave you the opportunity for training as we are all learning who is taking care of our life and sustaining our existence here. That understanding of life in the grave will be enlightened because you have found your Source of Existence and the isthmus phase (transition of spirit from earth to its Origin, not of the nature of this universe) will be pleasurable and light-filled.
Finally, you will be treated according to your submission of the truth, how much did you develop your abilities and how much effort did you put in understanding the reality and confirming the news from the Creator of the universe?
Tags: Abasa Series, Al-Abasa, Blind Man, Despair, Frowning, Help, Mistakes, Purification, Speech of God