Death and the Afterlife
Professor: Angela Sumegi
Monday, February 13, 2017: Week 6: Lecture 6
∙ Most recent of monotheistic faiths
∙ “Muslim” means one that submits or surrenders to the will of God ∙ Doesn’t mean that believers of this faith don’t want to submit ∙ It really means [one who finds peace in the submission of God] ∙ “SLM” (letters in the word “Islam”) means peace, wholeness, safety ∙ “Islam” also means prime ordeal faith, truth, the functioning of all things per god
∙ “Shala” means “God wills it”
∙ Implies that every act in the universe is encompassed by God’s will ∙ Every stone and leaf submits to the will of God, this is considered natural ∙ Everything must witness to the oneness of God
∙ Everything, every baby, is born in purity and innocence
∙ Human beings have choice, they are required to consciously choose to follow god’s laws or not
∙ There will be a time when all people must accept the consequences for their choices…
3 Fundamentals of Islam
∙ Unity of god- shahada- “There is no god by the one god, Mohammed is the prophet of God.” To become a Muslim one must repeat this before witnesses. We also discuss several other topics like What does william james strongly believe about the mind?
∙ Prophecy- Mohammed is considered by Muslims to be the last of the Prophets
∙ Eschatology- the knowledge or study of the end times
∙ ***this is only outwards…Only god knows who truly submits to him. It is a matter of the heart.
Rabi’ah of Basra
∙ Told to take a husband
∙ She says she will do so if he can answer 4 questions
∙ “What will the judge of the world say when I die?”
∙ Answer: He said only god could know.
∙ “When I am put in the grave, will I be able to answer the angels’ questions?”
∙ Answer: This is known only to god.
∙ “When I am given a book. Will it be given in my right hand?” ∙ Answer: Only god knows
∙ “When man is summoned to judgement, where will I go? If you want to learn more check out How does one compute for stockholders' equity?
∙ Answer: Only god knows
∙ Her logic was that if God knew everything, she should just love God ∙ So, she remained unmarried and devoted herself to the love of God. We also discuss several other topics like What that state’s constitution means?
∙ Birth place of the prophet Mohammed is Mecca around 570 CE ∙ In 610 CE he received the first revelatory vision
∙ Gabriel commanded him to recite the words of God (Qur’an) ∙ Qur’an is a fulfillment of biblical prophecy
∙ Mecca has water running through it with a miraculous origin ∙ Mecca was an oasis in the desert
∙ National stopping place, this was the meeting place for all the trading caravans in the Arabian Peninsula, hub of trading activity
∙ It had a Bubbling spring in the center of it
∙ Kaaba is in the middle- held images of the local gods and goddesses ∙ It was eventually turned into one place of worship
∙ God promised Abraham many descendants Don't forget about the age old question of What is the foundation of the universe?
∙ Abraham’s wife Sarah did not have children
∙ He took up with house made and had Ishmael
∙ God blessed Sarah and she had a child in her old age, Isaac ∙ Caused a lot of jealousy in the family If you want to learn more check out What do you mean by correlation?
∙ Abraham took Hagar and Ishmael to the desert
∙ She searched frantically for water but there wasn’t any to be found ∙ When she was ready to give up, an angel appeared, and a spring of water came from the sand under the foot of Ishmael We also discuss several other topics like When did bayeux tapestry emerge as a form of art?
∙ This spot became a sacred well in Islam
∙ Hagar settled there
∙ Abraham retuned later to visit and built the shrine called the Kaaba ∙ Most sacred place in Arabia
∙ Mecca was also a religious center that had annual festival that attracted many people
Pre-Islamic Arab society
∙ Worship was focused more on local deities because the supreme god is thought to be too far away to care about anyone’s problems
∙ Allah was too remote to be contacted directly
∙ They called these local gods and goddesses the sons and daughters of Allah
∙ Therefore, the Muslim tradition finds it not right to speak about “the son of god” or “Jesus”
∙ In their religion, this was a polytheistic view
∙ Desert life was hard
∙ Very fierce independence based on their nomadic lifestyle ∙ Didn’t have many possessions- but the breath is regarded as the most important possession
∙ From the breath comes song, speech, payer…all very important ∙ Language becomes one of the most beautiful possessions that a person can have
∙ Power of the word was a divine power
∙ The language of the Qur’an is the most beautiful in all the religious languages religious language
∙ It is thought that no human being could have composed such beauty without it coming from a divine source
∙ Group of people known as Hanifs
∙ They were attracted to the monotheism of Judaism and Christianity ∙ scholars think Mohammed might have been one of these people ∙ At age 40, he is without an heir
∙ Values that he believes in are not very apparent in a marketplace (greed) ∙ Values of honor and generosity were eroding
∙ The Kaaba was surrounded by peddlers
∙ Every year during the month of Ramadan he would spend days of seclusion in a cave
∙ It was during one of those retreats that he was visited by the angel Gabriel
∙ Meant to recite the words spoken to him
∙ The message that the Mohammed preached was: listen and preach the will of the one god
The Idea of Soul
∙ Nafs- the soul, the inner self or person
∙ Ruh- the divine spirit, the life-breath of god that animates a person Cosmology of Islam
∙ Light- place of the angels. (compared with the pure light of the realm of the angels, the human word is darkness compared)
∙ The worlds in between are the realm of beings that are said to be neither pure light nor pure darkness. Jinn are said to be made from fire. Somehow substance but also light, they are like images in a dream, the world of the senses.
∙ Not quite the external world but somehow, they appear “Imaginal”. They are not purely imaginary or fantasy…kind of like how a dream has some reality to it.
∙ Something that can appear in any kind of shape or form- like Jinn ∙ Something which appears in a from that shows its meaning- like a dream tiger might show the meaning of power or a dream monster might show the meaning of anger of fear
The human being as microcosm
∙ We are material on the inside
∙ At the middle is the divine spirit or pure light
∙ Soul is the meeting place of body and spirit
∙ The soul represents what qualities the person had developed ∙ The 99 beautiful names of god- merciful, avenging, the loving, the slayer… ∙ Qualities of forgiveness, justice or, anger
∙ People are no different in their bodies, all bodies are the same, everyone is made of flesh blood and bones
∙ We don’t differ in the core of our being because every human being is brought to life with the breath of God
∙ So, the only place that we differ is in our souls
∙ So, the soul can be said to be the meeting place of spirit and body
From the Katibal ruh (the book of the spirit) by Ibn Qauyyim ∙ Islamic theologians struggled with the idea of purely immaterial soul. ∙ But, if the soul is utterly immaterial, how is it related to what is material? ∙ Body and soul are related to each other in such a way that the soul is individualized
∙ Souls can be differentiated between one another
∙ The soul that leaves the body carries certain characteristics that are recognizable
What Happens After Death
∙ Islam is very specific
∙ Stages of the afterlife are laid out very clearly
∙ Remembering that death is coming inevitably is crucial to living a good life ∙ After death and before resurrection, soul exists in a state called Barzakh literally boundary or barrier between death and resurrection-sometimes translated as the interworld
∙ After death, the soul will show its true shape
∙ We can mask our true feelings, but the soul after death is in an imaginal state, the shape you take reflects your meaning
∙ The animal imagery intending to make the point that the true meaning of the person will be revealed by the soul. You could be a pig or a wolf or a dog.
∙ In the first night of the grave the person is questioned by 2 angels (Munkar and Nakir)- these angels are very scary beings. Very big men with for and smoke bellowing from their mouths.
∙ The questions that are asked relate to the foundation of Islam “who is your God, what is your religion, who is your prophet?”
∙ Munkar and Nakir also ask “what do you have to say about the prophet?” ∙ If you answer from the heart, you will sleep in a peaceful state until the day of resurrection
∙ You will be visited by a man with a beautiful face, he represents your own good deeds.
∙ If you cannot answer the angels properly, your time in the grave will be a time of torment.
∙ The day or resurrection and judgement is an apocalypse.
∙ Next comes the questioning of God. Everybody is questioned by god as to their actions. “how did you spend your youth? What did you do with your life? What did you do with our money?”
∙ Also, refers to the weighing of good and evil deeds. After the questioning of all people, they will be divided into 3 groups.
∙ People who go to heaven
∙ Those who go straight to hell
∙ And then those who have sinned and done good things, and then their actions are weighed to see if they are more good or evil
The places you will think of only yourself
∙ When the scales are erected and actions weighed
∙ At the scrolls, see if you are to receive the book in the right hand or the left
∙ At the traverse: the bridge over hell
∙ Wine that does not get you drunk
∙ Food served to you on a silver platter
∙ Most beautiful pace you could ever think of
∙ Heaven and Hell can refer to the states of the soul, but also to real bodily suffering and real bodily pleasure
∙ It is not for us to say who god’s mercy will save and who it will not…that is completely up to god
The Sufi Mystics
∙ Their goal is union with god through pure love
∙ They are a movement in which this way of thinking is prominent ∙ They very much promote contemplation of death as a stage in the union with god.
∙ This can be attained in life when the individual selfhood of the person completely passes away
∙ Reading points to 3 types of symbolic death
∙ Biological death- denying the ordinary needs of the body
∙ Psychological death- renunciation of all desires except for union with god ∙ Social death- abandoning caring for social convention, focused only on the love of god
∙ Fana- the Sufi goal- extinction of individual self in the light of God- living in unity with god
The Mystical Idea of the Union with God
∙ Worst sin- Associating anything or anyone with god
∙ Because god is utterly unique
∙ If you are too proud of anything, or too much afraid of anyone, that is also a huge sin, because you should not fear anyone but god
∙ It is so invisible that it is like a black ant crawling on a black rock at night ∙ The feeling that you could have done something different to affect the outcome of your life- the idea that you are not accepting your fate as coming from God
∙ When Sufi mystics speak about union with god or becoming one with god we must think about the union of sunlight and air.
∙ When the self- the I- is annihilated, the person become like air, and then like sunlight, god can completely permeate the person. Air is still air, and sunlight still sunlight, but they become inseparable.
∙ This is one way to think about union with god in monotheistic traditions. 6
Weekly Reading: Muslim Perspectives
∙ Shahada: primary Muslim constitution of faith
o There is no God but The God, Muhammed is the messenger of God ∙ Existence (on its own) is proof that God exists
∙ Everything that comes into the world has a natural tendency of submission towards God
∙ The well that appeared under Ishmael’s heal became known as the well of Zamzam
∙ Tawhid- The oneness of God
∙ The proper relationships of humans to God is that of a servant to a supreme ruler
∙ Belief in a Day of Judgement is also important in Islamic faith ∙ Every human choice in circumscribed by the conditions under which it is made- it is because of God’s will that we have the choices we do laid out before us…but it is up to us what we choose
∙ The difference between Ruh and Nafs is sometimes compared the difference between sleep and death
∙ At death, then the rational soul (nafs) that dies with the body and the divine spirit or breath of life (nah) that continues
∙ After death and before resurrection, the soul stays in an intermediate state called Barzakh
∙ Person is visited by Izra’il, the angel of death, who comes to take the soul away from the body
∙ Images of heaven and hell are very clearly indicated, either life in a garden of green or a garden of fire
∙ The final sign of the end of time will be the sounding of a trumpet blown by the angel Seraphiel
∙ On the day of Judgement God will shine light on each person per their works; some may have light shined only on their toes
∙ It is believed by some that the sinners will be punished in Hell but that they will eventually be released into the garden (in this case Hell would function more like a purgatory)
∙ Cremation is prohibited in Islam, and so is embalming and autopsy ∙ Burial should take place within 24 hours
∙ The body is to be washed and shrouded in white plain cloths ∙ Prolonged periods of mourning are discouraged because God’s will included the death of all humans
∙ Only men are accompanied to carried the body to the grave site, where it is buried without coffin
∙ Among the Safaliba Muslims, funerary rituals carry on until 40 days after the death