Two Mighty


Two mighty ‘streams’ flow in creation opposite to each other

A close examination of what goes on in the universe will make it clear that within it are two opposed elements that have spread everywhere and become rooted: with their results like good and evil, benefit and harm, perfection and defect, light and darkness, guidance and misguidance, belief and unbelief, obedience and rebellion, and fear and love, the opposed elements clash with one another in the universe. The universe manifests, through such continuous conflict of opposites, incessant alterations and transformations so as to produce the elements of a new world. These opposed elements will eventually lead to eternity in two different directions and materialize as Paradise and Hell. The eternal world will be made up of the essential elements of this transitory world, and these elements will then be given permanence. Paradise and Hell are in fact the two opposite fruits, which grow on the two branches of the tree of creation; or they are the two results of the chain of creation. They are the two cisterns, which are being filled by the two streams of things and events, and the two poles to which beings are flowing in waves. They are the places where Divine Grace and Divine Wrath manifest themselves, and they will be filled up with their particular inhabitants when the Divine Power shakes up the universe with a violent motion.

In this world, while oppressors depart still possessed of their oppressive power, and the oppressed still subjected to their humiliation. Such wrongs are necessarily deferred for the attention of a supreme tribunal; essentially they are not ignored. Indeed, punishment is sometimes enacted even in this world. The torments endured by the disobedient and rebellious peoples in past ages teach us that man is not left unanswerable but, rather, is ever subject to such correction as God Almighty’s Splendor and Majesty may choose to apply to him. So, as declared in the verse, “Keep apart on this day, O you criminals (36:59),” God will separate the good from the wicked in the Hereafter and treat each group according to how they lived in this world. This is simply what His absolute Justice requires.

The resurrection in revealed scriptures

THE RESURRECTION IN REVEALED SCRIPTURES

The Qur’an, the last heavenly Scriptures, has four main themes: God’s Existence and Unity, the Resurrection and afterlife, Prophethood, and worship and justice. It emphasizes the Resurrection far more than all previous Scriptures.

Despite the distortion it has suffered, the Torah still has vers­es concerning the Resurrection. The Gospel came to restore this corruption and to affirm what had remained intact. However, it also was distorted. Not long after Jesus’ departure from this world, about 300 Gospels appeared and were circulated. Their internal contradictions and those with other Gospels led to many distortions that only grew over time. However, there are still some Gospel passages about the Resurrection and the Hereafter, such as the following:

Blessed are the poor in spirit, for theirs is the kingdom of heav­en… Blessed are the merciful, for they will be shown mercy. Blessed are the pure in heart, for they will see God…Blessed are those who are persecuted because of righteousness, for theirs is the kingdom of heaven… Rejoice and be glad, because great is your reward in heaven. (Matthew 5:3, 7-8, 10, 12)

Woe to the world because of the things that cause people to sin! Such things must come, but woe to the man through whom they come! If your hand or your foot causes you to sin, cut it off and throw it away. It is better for you to enter life maimed or crippled than to have two hands and two feet and be thrown into eternal fire. And if your eye causes you to sin, gouge it out and throw it away. It is better for you to enter life with one eye than to have two eyes and be thrown into the fire of Hell. (Matthew 18:7-9)

The dead will be raised physically and spiritually. According to the context, the Qur’an mentions either spiritual or bodily resurrection. For example: O soul at peace! Return unto your Lord well-pleasing and well-pleased! Enter among My (righteous) ser­vants. Enter My Paradise! (89:27-30).

These verses mention the soul’s return to its Lord. Many other verses describe the Resurrection and the other world in such material or physical terms that we must accept that it also will be physical. The Qur’an discusses the truth of Paradise and Hell, either in detail or in brief, in 120 places. While describing these realms and explaining who deserves which one, it stresses the combination of our soul and our body.

For example, the faces of the people of Paradise will shine with happiness, and they will find prepared for them whatever they desire. They will be together with their spouses and family members who deserve Paradise. God will rebuild the women of Paradise without defect and as virgins, and they will excel Paradise girls in beauty. The people of Paradise will live in magnificent palaces set in gardens full of splendid trees, beneath which will flow rivers of honey, pure water, milk, and other beverages. On the other hand, the people of Hell will suffer great remorse and burn in fire. When their skins are scorched or burned completely, they will be exchanged for new ones. In addition, those bodily parts with which they sinned will witness against them.

Hell, because of its terror, warns people to reject unbelief and sin, and Paradise urges those with sublime feelings to strive for perfection. And so the Qur’an mentions both Paradise and Hell as a favor or grace:

This is Hell which the guilty deny. They go circling round between it and fierce, boiling water. Which is it, of the favors of your Lord, that you deny? But for him who fears the stand­ing before his Lord there are two gardens. Which is it, of the favors of your Lord, that you deny? (55:43-47)

Further explanation on Buddhism

Buddhism is regarded as a religion without a God or an escha­tology. This must be largely due to its concentration on the indi­vidual’s spiritual perfection and purification and a harmonious social life. The Buddha stressed the supremacy of ethics, and his outlook was definitely practical and empirical. In fact, he did not tolerate any doctrines that appeared to divert the mind from the central problem of suffering, the cause of suffering and its removal, and the urgency of the moral task. Therefore it cannot be said that Buddhism directly and absolutely rejects belief in a Supreme Being.

The conclusion of Wendy Erickson, a Canadian writer who became an agnostic while an atheist after her studies on God and Revelation, drew on the “objective” nature of God is signif­icant on this point:

In his book, Medusa’s Hair, Gananath Obeyesekeri has shown us that even today Buddhist ascetics in India mystically experience the divine as a painful (and simultaneously ecstatic) possession by another being that completely takes over their bodies.

Experience has led people in all religious traditions to make very different faith statements about the “objective” nature of God or Ultimate Reality. Buddhists experience the Ultimate as Oneness, Creativity, or Consciousness. Jews, Christians and Muslims have sensed the Ultimate as transcendent Love, Power, and, yes, Creativity too. Monistic Hindus perceive the Ultimate as a hidden Self, or Atman, which is one with the Godhead, Brahman. When Love is the predominant sense, transcendence is often sought after through worship and compassion toward others. Believers seek to get beyond themselves by recognizing that the world does not revolve around them; there is an Ultimate Reality that exists beyond their selves, is much bigger than them and, in some sense, more real. Prayer can be seen as one way for a believer to cultivate a sense of being in God’s pres­ence. This Reality (God) also exists within each individual. [http://atheism.about.com]

What Buddha said about his faith and mission demonstrates that, rather than rejecting a faith or a transcendent reality, his real aim was to found a society on moral values and the cessation of pain in individuals:

Bear always in mind what it is that I have not elucidated, and what it is that I have elucidated. And what have I not elucidat­ed? I have not elucidated that the world is eternal; I have not elucidated that the world is not eternal; … I have not elucidat­ed that the soul and the body are identical; I have not elucidat­ed that the monk who has attained (the arahat) exists after death; I have not elucidated that the arahat does not exist after death; … I have not elucidated that the arahat neither exists nor does not exist after death. And why have I not elucidated this? Because this profits not, nor has to do with the funda­mentals of religion; therefore I have not elucidated this. And what have I elucidated? Misery have I elucidated; the origin of misery have I elucidated; the cessation of misery have I eluci­dated; and the path leading to the cessation of misery have I elucidated. And why have I elucidated this? Because this does profit, has to do with the fundamentals of religion, and tends to absence of passion, to knowledge, supreme wisdom, and Nirvana. [Henry Clarke Warren, Buddhism in Translation (Harvard University Press: 1922), 122; Majjhima Nikaya 63, in John B. Noss, Man’s Religions (New York: Macmillan, 1956), 166. (Tr.)]

M. Fethullah Gulen

The benefits of belief in the resurrection (2)

THE BENEFITS OF BELIEF IN THE RESURRECTION

After belief in God, belief in the Resurrection has the pri­mary place in securing a peaceful social order. Why should those who do not believe that they will be called to account strive to live an honest, upright life? But those of us who are convinced of this final reckoning in the other world certainly try to live a disciplined and upright life. The Qur’an declares:

In whatever affair you may be, and whichever part of the Qur’an you recite, and whatever deed you do, We are witness over you when you are deeply engrossed therein. Not an atom’s weight in the Earth and in the heaven escapes your Lord, nor is there anything smaller or greater, but it is in a Manifest Book. (10:61)

Certain angels are entrusted with recording everything that we do. God also has full knowledge and awareness of all our deeds, intentions, thoughts, and imaginings. Those who under­stand this (and act accordingly) will find true peace and happi­ness in both worlds. A family and community composed of such individuals would feel that they were living in Paradise.

Belief in the Resurrection prevents young people from wast­ing their lives in transitory and trivial things, and gives hope to the elderly as they move closer to the grave. It also helps children endure the death of loved ones. Children who believe that they will be reunited with their deceased loved ones in a far better world find true consolation in the Resurrection. Everyone, regard­less of age, gender, and any other artificial human-devised differ­ence, needs belief in the Resurrection as much as they need air, water, and bread.

As this belief leads people to a life of peace, intellectuals who seek public peace and security should emphasize it. Those who are convinced of what the Qur’an declares—Whoever does an atom’s weight of good shall see it, and whoever does an atom’s weight of evil shall see it (99:7-8)—live a responsible life, and a community composed of such people finds true peace and hap­piness. When this belief is inculcated in the hearts of young peo­ple, they will no longer be a harmful social element, but rather will seek to serve their nation and humanity.

Children are very sensitive and delicate. Extremely suscepti­ble to misfortune, they also are easily affected by what happens to them and their families. When they lose a family member or become orphans, their world is darkened and they fall into deep distress and despair. When one of my sisters died during my childhood, I was devastated. I frequently went to her grave and prayed from the bottom of my heart: “O God! Please bring her back to life again and let me see her beautiful face once more, or let me die so as to be reunited with her.” So, what else other than belief in the Resurrection and reunion with deceased loved ones can compensate for the loss of parents, brothers and sisters, and friends? Children will find true consolation only when they are convinced that their beloved ones have flown to Paradise, and that they will be reunited with them.

How can you compensate the elderly for their past years, their childhood and youth that have been left behind? How can you console them for the loss of their loved ones who preceded them in death? How can you remove the fear of death and the grave from their hearts? How can you make them forget death, which they feel so deeply? Will more and newer worldly pleasures console them? Only convincing them that the grave, which seems to them like an openmouthed dragon just waiting to devour them, is really a door to another and much better world, or sim­ply a lovely waiting room opening onto that world, can compen­sate and console them for such losses.

In its inimitable style, the Qur’an voices such feelings through Prophet Zechariah:

This is a mention of your Lord’s mercy unto His servant Zechariah; when he invoked Him with a secret, sincere call, saying: “My Lord, my very bones have become rotten and my head is shining with gray hair. My Lord! I have never been dis­appointed in my prayer to You.” (19:2-5)

Fearing that his kinsmen would not be sufficiently loyal to his mission after his death, Prophet Zechariah appealed to his Master for a male heir to his mission. This is the cry of all old people. Belief in God and the Resurrection gives them the good news: “Do not be afraid of death, for death is not eternal extinc­tion. It is only a change of worlds, a discharge from your life’s distressing duties, a passport to an eternal world where all kinds of beauty and blessings wait for you. The Merciful One Who sent you to the world, and has kept you alive therein for so long, will not leave you in the grave’s darkness and dark corridors opening onto the other world. He will take you to His Presence, give you an eternal and ever-happy life, and bless you with all the bounties of Paradise.” Only such good news as this can con­sole the elderly and enable them to welcome death with a smile.

Our free will, which we use to direct our life, makes us unique among all creatures. Free will is the manifestation of Divine Mercy and, if used properly, will cause us to be rewarded with the fruits of Mercy. Belief in the Resurrection is a most important and com­pelling factor urging us to use our free will properly and not to wrong or harm others.

Sahl ibn Sa‘d narrates that God’s Messenger was told of a young man who stayed at home for days. The Messenger went to visit him. When the young man saw him appear unexpected­ly, he threw himself into the Messenger’s arms and died instant­ly. The Messenger told those around him: “Lay out your friend’s corpse. Fear of Hell frightened him deeply. I swear by Him in Whose hand my life is that God will surely protect him from Hell.”1 The Qur’an declares: Those who fear to stand before their Lord and curb the desires of the carnal self, Paradise will be their dwelling place (79:40-41).

In a hadith qudsi, God says: “I will not unite two securities, nor two fears.”2 In other words, those who fear His punishment here will be protected from His punishment there, while those who do not fear His punishment here will not be saved from it there.

‘Omar said, upon seeing a young man bravely protesting and resisting an injustice: “Any people deprived of the young are doomed to extinction.” Young people have a transforming ener­gy. If you let them waste it in triviality and indulgence, you undermine your own nation’s future. Belief in the Resurrection stops young people from committing atrocities and wasting their energies on passing pleasures, and directs them to lead a disciplined, useful, and virtuous life.

Belief in the Resurrection also consoles the sick. A believer with an incurable illness thinks: “I am dying; no one can pro­long my life. Everyone must die. Fortunately, I am going to a place (Paradise) where I will recover my health and youth, and enjoy them forever.” Secure in this knowledge, all beloved ser­vants of God, Prophets, and saints welcome death with a smile. The Last Prophet said during the final minutes of his life: “O God, I desire the eternal company in the eternal world.” He had informed his Companions the day before: “God let one of His servants choose between enjoying the beauty of this world as long as he wishes and what is with Him. The servant chose what is with Him.”3 That servant was the Messenger himself. The Companions understood whom he meant and burst into tears.

Similarly, when ‘Omar ruled over a vast area stretching from the western frontiers of Egypt to the highlands of Central Asia, he prostrated himself before God and sighed: “I can no longer fulfill my responsibility. Let me die and be taken to Your Presence.” Such a strong desire for the other world, the world of eternal beauty, and being blessed with the vision of the Eternally Beautiful One caused the Prophet, ‘Omar, and many others to prefer death to this world.

The world is a mixture of good and evil, right and wrong, beauty and ugliness, and oppressors and oppressed. Many instances of wrong (appear to) go unnoticed, and numerous wronged peo­ple cannot recover their rights. Only belief in being resurrected in another world of absolute justice consoles the wronged and oppressed, and dissuades them from seeking vengeance. Similarly, those stricken with affliction and misfortune find consolation in the Resurrection, because they believe that whatever befalls them purifies them, and that anything lost in a catastrophe will be restored in the Hereafter as a blessing, just as if they had given these items as alms.

Belief in the Resurrection changes a house into a garden of Paradise. In a house where the young pursue their pleasures, chil­dren have nothing to do with religious sentiment and practices, parents are engrossed in procuring all fantasies of life, and grand­parents live in an old-folks or nursing home and console them­selves with pets, for there are no grandchildren around whom they can love and who can show them the respect they desire—in such a house, life is a burden difficult to bear. Belief in the Resurrection reminds people of their familial responsibilities, and as they imple­ment these duties, an atmosphere of mutual love, affection, and respect begins to pervade the house.

This belief leads spouses to deepen their love and respect for each other. Love based on physical beauty is temporary and of little value, for it usually disappears shortly after marriage. But if the spouses believe that their marriage will continue eternally in the other world, where they will be forever young and beau­tiful, their love for each other remains even though they gradu­ally age and lose their physical beauty.

Such a belief-based family life makes its members feel that they are already living in Paradise. Similarly, if a country orders itself according to this same belief, its inhabitants would enjoy a life far better than what Plato imagined in his Republic or al-Farabi (Alpharabios) in his Al-Madinat al-Fadila (The Virtuous City). It would be like Medina in the time of the Prophet or the Muslim lands under ‘Omar’s rule.

To have a better understanding of how the Prophet built that society, we provide several examples of his sayings concerning the Resurrection and the afterlife:

O people! You will be resurrected barefoot, naked, and uncir­cumcised. Listen to me with full attention: “The one who will be first clothed is Abraham, upon him be peace.” Heed what I will say: “That day some from my Ummah will be seized on the left side and brought to me. ‘I will say: O Lord! These are my Companions.’ I will be told: ‘You do not know what disagree­able things they did after you.’ Then I will say as the righteous servant [meaning Jesus] said: ‘I was a witness over them while I continued to stay among them. When You took me You became the watcher over them. You are Witness over all things. If You punish them, they are Your slaves; if You forgive them, surely You are the All-Mighty, the All-Wise.’”

Since God created them, the children of Adam have not expe­rienced an event more terrible than death. However, death is easier than what will follow it. They will suffer such terror that sweat will cover their bodies until it becomes like a bridle around their chins, until it grows into something like a sea on which, if desired, vessels could be sailed.

People will be resurrected in three groups: those who com­bined fear of God with expectation [fearing His punishment but never despairing of His mercy and forgiveness], those who [because they frequently “faltered”] will try to go to Paradise “mounted on a mule” in twos, threes, fours … or tens. The rest will be resurrected into Fire; [since they constantly pursued sins worthy of Hellfire], if they want to sleep in the forenoon, Hell will go to sleep with them; when they reach night, Hell will reach night with them; when they reach morning, Hell will reach morning with them, and when they reach evening, Hell will reach evening with them.

God’s Messenger made sure that his Companions under­stood exactly what Hell was, and roused in them a great desire for Paradise by conveying its good tidings to them. As a result, they lived in great consciousness of Divine reward and punish­ment. They were so sensitive to religious obligations and the rights of people that, for example, two of them once appealed to the Messenger to solve a disagreement. After hearing them, the Messenger said:

I am a human being like you, so I will judge according to what you say. It is possible that one of you speaks more convincing­ly and I may judge in his favor. However, God will judge right­ly in the Hereafter according to the truth of the matter. The wrongdoer will meet his due punishment, while the innocent will meet his reward.

This was enough for each Companion to concede his claimed right. The Messenger advised them: “Divide the disputed goods in half, and then draw lots. Each one should consent to his share wholeheartedly and without regret.”

Sa‘d ibn Rabi‘ was severely wounded at the Battle of Uhud. In his last breath, he whispered to Muhammad ibn Maslama, who brought him greetings from the Messenger: “Take my greetings to God’s Messenger. By God, I sense the fragrance of Paradise behind Mount Uhud.”

M. Fethullah Gulen

Quranic arguments about the resurrection

QUR’ANIC ARGUMENTS ABOUT THE RESURRECTION

Although scientific findings like the second law of thermody­namics show that existence is gradually disappearing, and even a collision of two planets could destroy the universe. If existence began with a big bang, why should it not end with another big bang or collision? Existence is an extremely delicately calculated organism, a system with parts subtly dependent upon each oth­er. A human body is made up of about trillions of cells. Just as a single deformed, cancerous cell can kill the entire body, any serious deformation anywhere in the universe also could “kill” it. Our death sometimes comes unexpectedly and without any visible, diagnosed reason. Do we know whether or not the uni­verse might “die” all of a sudden, unexpectedly, from a “disease” or a “heart attack”? Maybe our old world has terminal cancer because we abuse it.

God’s Universal Acts Point to the Resurrection

The Qur’an argues for the Resurrection. To impress upon our hearts the wonder of what the Almighty will accomplish in the Hereafter, and to prepare our minds to accept and understand it, the Qur’an presents the wonder of what He accomplishes here. It gives examples of God’s comprehensive acts in the macro-cos­mos and, at times, presents His overall disposal of the macro-, normo-, and micro-cosmoses (the universe, humanity, and atoms, respectively).

For example, the following Qur’anic verse stresses God’s Power and, by mentioning specific instances of It, calls us to have con­viction in our meeting with Him in the Hereafter:

God is He Who raised the heavens without any pillars that you can see, then He established Himself upon the Throne (of authority; having shaped the universe and made it dependent upon certain laws, He exercises His absolute authority over it), and subjected the sun and the moon (to His command); each runs (its course) for an appointed term. He regulates all affair, expounding the signs, that you may believe with certainty in the meeting with your Lord. (13:2)

The First Origination of the Universe and Humanity Indicate Their Second Origination

The Qur’an presents the phenomenon of the universe’s creation, which it defines as the first origination (56:62), while describ­ing the raising of the dead as the second origination (53:47), to prove the Resurrection. It also directs our attention to our own origin, arguing:

You see how you progressed—from a drop of sperm to a drop of blood, to a blood clot suspended on the wall of the womb, from a suspended blood clot to a formless lump of flesh, and from a formless lump of flesh to human form—how, then, can you deny your second creation? It is just the same as the first, or even easier [for God to accomplish]. (22:5; 23:13-16)

The Qur’an makes analogies between the Resurrection and His deeds in this world, and sometimes alludes to His deeds in the future and in the Hereafter, in such a way that we can become convinced of that which we cannot fully understand. It also shows similar events here and compares them to the Resurrection. One example is as follows:

Has not man seen that We have created him from a sperm-drop? Then lo, he is a manifest adversary. And he has coined for Us a similitude, and has forgotten the fact of his creation, saying: “Who will revive these bones when they have rotted away?” Say: “He will revive them Who produced them at the first, for He is Knower of all creation.” Who has made for you fire from the green tree, and behold! You kindle from it. Is not He Who created the heavens and the Earth able to create the like of them. Aye, that He is! For He is the All-Wise Creator. (36:77-81)

The Qur’an likens the universe to a book unfolded. At the end of time, its destruction will be as easy for God as rolling up a scroll. As He unfolded it at the beginning, He will roll it up and, manifesting His absolute Power without any material cause, will re-create it in a much better and different form:

On that day We shall roll up the heavens like a scroll rolled up for books. As We originated the first creation, so We shall bring it forth again. It is a promise (binding) upon Us. Truly We shall fulfill it (as We promised it). (21:104)

Have they not seen that God, Who created the heavens and the earth and was not wearied by their creation, is able to give life to the dead? Surely He has power over everything. (46:33)

The Qur’an likens the Resurrection to reviving soil in spring following its death in winter, and mentions how God disposes of atoms and molecules while creating us in stages. Dried-out pieces of wood blossom and yield leaves and fruits similar, but not identical, to those that existed in previous years. Innumerable seeds that had fallen into soil now begin to germinate and grow into different plants without confusion. God’s raising the dead on the Day of Judgment will be like this:

Among His signs is that you see the soil dry and barren; and when We send down rain on it, it stirs to life and swells. Surely God Who gives the dead soil life will raise the dead also to life. Indeed, He has power over all things. (41:39)

O humankind! If you are in doubt concerning the Resurrection, (consider that) We created you of dust, then of semen, then of a fertilized ovum suspended on the wall of the womb, then of a lump of flesh shaped and unshaped, so that We demonstrate to you Our power. And We keep in the wombs what We please to an appointed term, and afterwards We bring you forth as infants, then We cause you to grow up, that you reach your prime. Among you some die (young) and some are sent back to the feeblest phase of age so that they know nothing after they had knowledge. You sometimes see the soil dry and bar­ren. But when We pour down rain on it, it trembles, and swells, and grows of every pleasant pair. That is so because God is the Truth, and He it is Who gives life to the dead, and He is pow­erful over all things. (22:5-6)

Look at the prints of God’s Mercy: how He gives life to the soil after its death. Lo! He verily is the Reviver of the dead (in the same way), and He is able to do all things. (30:50)

God has brought you forth from the soil like a plant. And to the soil He will restore you. Then He will bring you back fresh. (71:17-18)

Especially in suras 81, 82, and 84, the All-Mighty alludes to the Resurrection and its attendant vast revolutions and Lordly deeds. Due to what we have seen here, such as seasonal changes, we can formulate an analogy that will help us understand and then, with awe in our hearts, accept what the intellect might otherwise refuse.

As giving even the general meaning of these three suras would take a great deal of time, let’s take one verse: When the pages are spread out (81:10). This implies that during the Resurrection, everyone’s deeds will be revealed on a written page.

At first, this strikes us as strange and incomprehensible. But as the sura indicates, just as the renewal of spring parallels anoth­er resurrection, “spreading out the pages” has a very clear paral­lel. Every fruit-bearing tree and flowering plant has its own properties, functions, and deeds. Its worship consists of glorify­ing God and thereby manifesting His Names. Its deeds and life record are inscribed in each seed that will emerge next spring. With the tongue of shape and form, these new trees or flowers offer an eloquent exposition of the original tree’s or flower’s life and deeds, and through their branches, twigs, leaves, blossoms, and fruits spread out the page of its deeds. He Who says: When the pages are spread out is the same Being Who achieves these feats in a very wise, prudent, efficient, and subtle way, as dictated by His Names All-Wise, All-Preserving, All-Sustaining and Training, and All-Subtle.

In many verses, the Qur’an warns us that we were created to achieve specific goals, not to do whatever we want. As we are responsible beings, whatever we do is recorded. Our creation from a drop of fluid through several stages, the utmost care shown to our creation and the importance attached to us, demonstrate that we have great responsibilities. After death, we will be called to account for our lives. In addition, our creation through stages is a manifest evidence for God’s Power, Who raises the dead to life.

Does man think he will be left to himself uncontrolled (with­out purpose)? Was he not a drop of fluid which gushed forth? Then he became a clinging clot; then He shaped and fashioned, and made of him a pair, the male and female. Is He then not able to raise the dead to life? (75:36-40)

A close analysis of the universe’s functioning shows that two opposed elements are prevalent and firmly rooted everywhere. These elements result in good and evil, benefit and harm, perfec­tion and defect, light and darkness, guidance and misguidance, belief and unbelief, obedience and rebellion, and fear and love. The resulting continual conflict causes enough alteration and transformation to produce the elements of a new world. These opposite elements eventually will lead to eternity and materialize as Paradise and Hell. The eternal world will be made up of this transitory world’s essential elements, which then will be given permanence.

Paradise and Hell are the two opposite fruits growing on the tree of creation’s two branches, the two results of the chain of cre­ation, the two cisterns being filled by the two streams of things and events, and the two poles to which beings flow in waves. They are the places where Divine Grace and Divine Wrath manifest them­selves, and will be full of inhabitants when Divine Power shakes up the universe.

In this world, oppressors depart without paying, and the oppressed are still humiliated. Such wrongs will be brought before the Supreme Tribunal, for God would be unjust and imperfect if He allowed them to be ignored. Indeed, God sometimes pun­ishes the guilty in this world. The suffering endured by previous disobedient and rebellious peoples teaches us that everyone is sub­ject to whatever correction God Almighty’s Splendor and Majesty chooses to apply. So, as declared in the verse: Keep apart on this day, O you criminals (36:59), God’s absolute Justice requires that He separate the good from the wicked in the Hereafter and treat each group accordingly.

M. Fethullah Gulen

Necessity Of Mans Deeds Weighed

The necessity of man’s deeds being weighed alone would require an infinitely just and precise balance to be set up

 

We set up a just balance for the Day of Resurrection. Thus, no soul will be treated unjustly. Even though it be the weight of one mustard seed, We shall bring it forth to be weighed; and Our reckoning will suffice (21.47).

Supposing there were nothing to require the Resurrection, the necessity of man’s deeds being weighed alone would require an infinitely just and sensitive balance to be set up.

Messenger Said God Is Much More Compassionate

The Messenger said: “God is much more compassionate than a mother. He does not throw His servants into Hell [unless the servants absolutely deserve it].”

 

God’s Messenger was once sitting in the prayer hall, when some prisoners of war were brought to him. A woman who was looking for something in a great anxiety drew the Messenger’s attention to herself. Which boy the woman saw, she took him to her breast and then left him. She must have been looking for her son. At last she found him and embraced him, pressing him to her breast and caressing him with a great affection. This caused the Messenger to burst into tears and pointing to the woman, he asked his Companions around him:

— Do you see that woman? Does she throw that child in her arms into Hell?

‘No!’ the Companions answered, and the Messenger added:

— God is much more compassionate than that woman. He does not throw His servants into Hell [unless the servants absolutely deserve it].

The other world is the world where the Divine Pity and Caring will be manifested fully without any intervention and without allowing any sorrows and pains.

Most Of The Misguided And Unjust Depart This World Unpunished

Most of the misguided and unjust depart this world unpunished, and most of the guided and oppressed depart unrewarded. Such affairs are, certainly, deferred to a supreme tribunal, an ultimate contentment

 

God is not obliged to do anything. He does whatever He wishes and acts however he wills. Nevertheless, starting from the undeniable fact that whatever He does, He does it for certain purposes, we can conclude that His universal Wisdom requires the Resurrection. Is it conceivable that the Majestic Being, Who manifests the Sovereignty of His being Lord in the order, purposiveness, justice and balance prevalent throughout the universe, from atoms to galaxies, would not show His favor to those believers who seek the protection of His being their Lord and Sovereign, who believe in His Wisdom and Justice and act in conformity with them through worship? Again, is it conceivable that He would not chastise those impudent ones who, denying His Wisdom and Justice, turn against Him in rebellious insolence? Since, in this impermanent world, scarcely a thousandth part of His Wisdom and Justice are established with respect to man, it is certain that they are deferred. For most of the misguided depart this world unpunished, and most of the guided depart unrewarded. Such affairs are, certainly, deferred to a supreme tribunal, an ultimate contentment.

Material World Is Also Unable To Receive All The Manifestatio

This material world is also unable to receive all the manifestations of the Divine Pity and Caring

 

The Divine Pity and Caring encompass the whole universe, but we encounter in the world numerous wounds and wounded feelings unhealed and numerous cases of incurable illness. Innumerable living beings suffer hunger and thirst and poverty. As in the case with the Divine Mercy and Munificence, the material world is also unable to receive all the manifestations of the Divine Pity and Caring. Especially the incapacity of men to receive those manifestations, in addition to the injustices of many and their misuses of their inborn abilities, intervenes between beings and the manifestations of the Divine Pity and Caring. Above all, death is the fate of all living beings; nothing else other than belief in another, eternal world can stop the sorrows it arouses in hearts.

Many Other Phenomena In The Universe Point To The Resurrectio

Many other phenomena in the universe point to the Resurrection

 

A great care is shown in, and many purposes are attached to, even the most insignificant-seeming things in the world

A great care is shown in, and many purposes are attached to, even the most insignificant-seeming things in the world. For example, cellulose is the structural tissue that forms the chief part of all plants and trees. Through its elasticity, it enables plants to bend and protects them from breaking. It has an important place in the paper industry.

The digestion of cellulose is very difficult. Only the enzymes secreted by ruminant animals can dissolve cellulose. However, cellulose is advisable for an easy excretion, it accelerates the working of bowels and prevents constipation. Animals are like factories that change substances with cellulose into useful matter. The excrement of animals is used as manure. Innumerable bacteria in the soil consume the excrement, thus both increasing the soil in productivity and cleaning the earth of bad-smelling things.

But for the bacteria in earth, it would be impossible to survive in the world

But for the bacteria in earth, it would be impossible to survive in the world. To cite a single example, if the flies born in a single springtime did not disappear in earth, they would form a thick cover over the whole of the earth. Through the manifestation of His Name the All-Purifying, God Almighty employs bacteria to clean the earth. Have you ever considered why forests are so clean although many animals die in them every day? They are so because carnivorous animals and bacteria eat up dead animals and clean the earth of them. To conclude, do you think that God, Who employs the most insignificant-seeming creatures to serve many great purposes, allows man to rot away in earth, thus reducing his existence to utter futility?

Again, a wound healed shows the vigor of the body. A fruit reminds of the tree on which it has grown. Footprints point to the one who has passed by. A leakage of water indicates a source of water. Similarly, the feeling of eternity in man and his desire for it are signs of One Who is eternal and of the eternal world.

This world with whatever is in it can never satisfy man. He overflows with subtle, refined feelings and aspires to lofty ideals, which cannot possible have originated in matter and the material world. These are the reflections in man of the infinite, immaterial dimensions of existence.

Philosophers, especially the Muslim ones, call the universe macro-human, while describing man as normo or micro-cosmos. Like man, the universe is a whole entity all the parts of which are interrelated with one another. Who knows that there is not an angel deputed to represent the universe, one serving as its spirit. Like man, the universe also suffers injuries and, as Einstein puts it, new bodies are formed in its remote corners. Just as man has an appointed time of death, so does the universe.

There is nothing purposeless in the ‘palace’ of the universe and precise ecological balance

There is nothing purposeless in the ‘palace’ of the universe. Its ecological system is so complex and the parts comprising it are so interrelated to one another that the lack or removal of one of them can result in the destruction of the universe. If the bacteria within trees were killed, we would not be able to obtain fruits from trees. Every species, even every thing, has an important place of its own in the structure of the universe. Such a magnificent universe cannot be purposeless. It works to a moving time-line. As seconds point to minutes, minutes to hours, and hours to the end of the present day and the coming of the next one, and days point to weeks, weeks to months, months to years and years to the end of a whole life-span, existence has its own days in its every sphere and dimension, and the life-span appointed for it will one day come to an end. Also, time proceeds in cycles. For example, a scientist has established that corn is abundantly produced in every seven years, and fish come in abundance in every fourteen years. The Holy Book points to this fact in Chapter Joseph. The life of existence as a whole has certain terms or cycles. The worldly life is a cycle or term, the life of the grave is another cycle, and the afterlife is the last cycle which has many cycles or terms of its own. The Holy Book calls each of them a day. This is so because a day is the shortest unit of time-cycles. It corresponds to the whole life of existence in that daytime reminds of the worldly life with its divisions of dawn, morning, noon, afternoon, and evening corresponding to one’s birth and babyhood, childhood, youth, old age and death respectively, and that night resembles the intermediate life of the grave and the next morning, the Resurrection.

Is there reincarnation

Is there Reincarnation?

Reincarnation refers to the doctrine that after death the soul moves on to inhabit another body, then dies again and moves on to another body, until there is no longer any reason for it to do so. It is incompatible with Islam.

Belief in some form of reincarnation can be found in almost all societies, whether primitive or sophisticated. Variations exist according to local and regional differences in faith and popular culture. In the most materialistic societies, whose formal culture denies spiritual life, it is almost fashionable in some circles to hold such pseudo-religious beliefs and claim-whether seriously or not-that the spirits of the dead wander about, sometimes assume physical form, and can influence the living until they settle into their new bodies.

One argument for this doctrine’s antiquity is the “evidence” found in ancient literature, such as Ovid’s (d. 18 CE) colorful extravagances in which “gods” take on human and animal forms, humans assume different shapes, and so on. But these tales do not constitute a doctrine. The doctrine proper has nothing to do with colorful changes of form, but with a belief that an individual soul must pass through every level of creation and every species of life-form, whether animate or inanimate, sentient or non-sentient.

If we reflect upon this, we soon realize that the doctrine is really a strange elaboration on the soul’s immortality. In other words, its kernel is that the soul is immortal. That kernel is true; the rest is not. The doctrine also may have arisen from observing similarities in physical and other traits between parents and offspring. Is it reasonable to obscure the logical biological phenomena of heredity and genetics with the illogical doctrine of reincarnation?

This doctrine is said to have emerged in the Nile basin and then spread to other people, such as to India and then back to Greece. There, the eloquence of the classical Greek philosophers rationalized it into a source of consolation and hope for people who, as we all do, longed for eternity. It entered Judaism by way of the Kabbalists, Christianity through Jewish thinkers, and Islam via the ideas of some Sufis-despite the efforts of Muslim theologians to refute it.

Apologists put forward some “evidence.” For instance, the Kabbalists mention the transformation of Niobe (mentioned in the Old Testament) into a marble sculpture, and of Prophet Lot’s wife into a statue of dust. Others have referred to a literal transformation of Jews into monkeys and pigs.

Another argument explains instinct and intelligence in animals, as well as the splendors of the plant kingdom, as the product of once-human intelligence and vitality. This idea debases humanity and shames its proponents. We all know that there is a program and predetermined destiny for plants and inanimate creation, but it is rather far-fetched to trace the harmony and order we see in those kingdoms to formerly human souls. For example, and in reality, plants have a certain plant-life: a direction of growth toward light and moisture. How can this be construed to mean that its life is the result of a formerly human soul that somehow has worked its way down to a lower level of creation?

Despite efforts to corroborate this assertion, no one has ever received a message from a plant confirming that it contains a once-human soul. Nor have we heard any account from someone that he or she was once the soul of a plant or an animal. The media have publicized some accounts of people recollecting so-called past lives and even recounting specific incidents. However, in cases when such claims are not totally absurd, they can be explained as recollections of what has been seen or read and then, knowingly or otherwise, elaborated and transformed. In short, such accounts are no more than ordinary human fictions.

The fact that Niobe and Lot’s wife were transformed into sculptures of marble or dust respectively, even if accepted literally, does not prove reincarnation. What we have here is only a physical transformation, not a soul’s transmigration.

As for petrified bodies, that is not an arcane phenomenon. Many such corpses have been found, preserved by the absolute dryness of volcanic ashes. Pompeii was destroyed in 79 CE by Vesuvius’ sudden volcanic eruption and remained buried for centuries. Recent excavations have revealed numerous Niobe-like petrified bodies. In these ruins, and in the petrified faces and bodies, so busy in their self-indulgent vices and so secure in their arrogance, we can, if we wish, read the signs of Divine wrath and punishment. Perhaps their way of life was solidified in ash and so preserved to warn future generations. To interpret this as evidence of reincarnation is untenable.

Belief in reincarnation in Egypt, India, and Greece developed out of a distorted version of a once-sound belief in the Hereafter and from a longing for the soul’s immortality. Neither in Akhenaton’s Egypt nor in Pythagoras’ Greece did anyone know of such a distorted idea.

To Akhenaton (d. 1362 BC), when one’s life ends in this world, a different one starts in heaven. As soon as one dies, the soul sets off on its journey to reach the “Greatest Court” in Heaven. It goes so high that it reaches the presence of Osiris, and hopes to give an account of itself in words like these: “I have come to Your presence as I was free of sins. Throughout my life, I did everything I could that would make devout people pleased. I did not shed blood or steal. Neither did I make mischief or mean any. I did not commit adultery or fornication.” Those who can speak so join Osiris’ congregation, while those who cannot, whose evil deeds outweigh their good, are hurled into hell and tortured by demons.

Such sound belief also is witnessed in epitaphs relating to Akhenaton’s religion:

What You have done is too much, and our eyes cannot perceive most of them. O One, Only God! No one possesses such might as You have. It is You who have created this universe as You wish, and You alone. It is You who decree the world suitable for human beings, for all animals, whether big or small, whether they walk on the ground or fly in the sky. And it is You alone who sustain and nourish them. Thanks to You, all beauties come into existence. All eyes see You by means of those. Verily, my heart belongs to You (You are in my heart).

The ideas quoted verbatim above were the things that were believed in as truth in Egypt some 4,000 years ago.

In ancient Greece, the belief in resurrection and the soul’s immortality were quite sound. The great philosopher Pythagoras (d. c.500 BC) believed that the soul, on leaving the body, has a life peculiar to itself. In fact, any soul has this same kind of life even before it quits the Earth. It is commissioned with some responsibilities on Earth. If it commits any evil, it will be punished, thrown into Hell, and tormented by demons. In return for the good it does, it will be given high rank and blessed with a happy life. Allowing for changes that might have been made in his views over time, we still can see that there are fundamental similarities with Islam’s creed of resurrection.

Plato’s account is not so different either. In his famous treatise The Republic, he says that the soul forgets the material (corporeal) life totally when it leaves the body. Ascending into an appropriate spiritual realm, one saturated with wisdom and immortality, it is freed from all the scarcity, deficiency, error, fear, and from the passion and love that afflicted it while it lived on Earth. Now that it is free of all evil consequences of human nature, it is blessed with eternal bliss.

In essence, reincarnation is a distorted version of a sound belief. Every creed, with the exception of Islam, has suffered such distortions. For example, the Divinely revealed religion of Christianity and the exact identity and role of Prophet Jesus has been distorted. Had it not been for the luminous and clarifying verses of the Qur’an and the influence of Islam, Christianity’s formal position on this matter may not have been different.

If Christianity teaches the unity of the soul and body, it owes this to the Muslim savants of Andalusia (Muslim Spain). St. Thomas Aquinas (d. 1274) is one of Christianity’s most famous philosophers. The greater part of his new ideas and synthesis were adapted from Islamic teachings. He says in his distinguished book that the key concept of humanity is that the soul and body are united in an apt composite. He adds that animal souls develop with animal bodies, but that human souls are created at some time during early development, and therefore rejects the abstract speculations of the Neo-Platonist school.

Through a process of similar mistranslations of the original languages, as well as various distortions, the ancient Egyptian, Indian, and Greek religions became unrecognizable. The doctrine of reincarnation may well be a distortion of an originally sound doctrine of the soul’s immortality and return to the Divine Judgment. After reincarnation was inserted into the beliefs of the ancient Egyptians, it became a central theme of songs and legends throughout the Nile region. Elaborated further with the eloquent expressions of Greek philosophers, it became a widespread phenomenon due to the expansion of Greek influence.

Hindus consider matter as the lowest manifestation of Brahma, and consider the convergence of body and soul as demeaning to the soul, a decline into evil. However, death is believed to be salvation, a separation from human defect, a possible chance to achieve an ecstatic union with the truth. Hindus are polytheistic in practice. Their greatest god is Krishna, who is believed to have assumed a human figure in order to eradicate evil.

Their second greatest god is Vishnu, who has descended into this world nine times in different shapes (human, animal, or flower). He is expected to descend for the tenth time. Since they believe that he will come again in the shape of an animal, killing any animal is absolutely prohibited. This is allowed only during war. In addition, most pious and observant Hindus are vegetarians.

According to their most important holy book, the Vedanta, the soul is a fragment of Brahma that cannot get rid of suffering and distress until it returns to its origin. The soul achieves gnosis by isolating itself from the ego and all wickedness pertaining to the ego, and by running toward Brahma just as a river flows toward the sea. When the soul reaches and unites with Brahma, it acquires absolute peace, tranquillity, and stillness, another version of which is found in Buddhism. There is a cessation of active seeking and a passivity of soul in the latter, whereas the soul is dynamic in Hinduism.

Some Jewish sects adopted reincarnation. After refusing belief in Resurrection and Judgment, the Jews, who can be inordinately covetous of life yet remain fascinated by the soul’s immortality, could do little else but accept reincarnation. Later on, the Kabbalists transferred it to the Church of Alexandria through certain regional monastic orders. The doctrine had a negligible effect on the manifestation of Islam. Nevertheless, and most unfortunately, it was introduced to Muslims by the Ghulat-i Shi’a (an extremist Shi’a faction).

All those who believe in reincarnation have one characteristic in common: the belief in incarnation. There is a shared failure of intellect to grasp and accept God’s Absolute Transcendence. As a result, people believe that the Divine mixes with the human and that the human can (and does) mix with the Divine. This mistaken idea is all but universal, with the exception of Islam. The central figure in each distorted religion is an incarnation or reincarnation-Aten in Atenism, Brahma in Hinduism, Ezra (Uzair) in Judaism, Jesus in Christianity, and ‘Ali in the Ghulat-i Shi’a faction (considered by many as outside the fold of Islam). Allegations that some Sufi writings and sayings support reincarnation are either plainly malicious or the result of an absurdly literal understanding of their highly symbolic and esoteric discourse.

Throughout history Muslim scholars in every religious field, certainly among the 90 percent of Sunnis, have rejected reincarnation as totally contrary to the spirit of Islam. The reason for this stand is simple: The absolute centrality of the Islamic beliefs that each person lives and dies according to his or her own destiny, carries his or her own load, will be resurrected individually and called to answer for his or her intentions and actions and their consequences, and that each person will be judged by God according to the same criteria.

We list below the cardinal reasons why Islam rejects reincarnation.

• Belief in Islam requires belief in the Resurrection and Judgment, where justice is meted out to each individual soul according to what it did while alive. If the individual soul passes into different lives, in which form or personality will it be resurrected, commanded to give account, and be rewarded or punished?

• This world is created for test and trial so that the soul can derive benefit thereby. One focus of the test is belief in the Unseen. According to reincarnation, those who live a bad life pass into a lower form of life after death. If that is true, they will know the consequences of their former life, and life as a test loses its meaning. To get around this, its adherents say that the soul “forgets” its past existence. If that is true, what is the point of a former life?

• If each individual passes through the cycle of birth, death, and rebirth until eternal bliss (enlightenment) is achieved, God’s promises of reward and punishment are meaningless. Why would God engage in such a meaningless activity?

• The Qur’an and other Divine Books state that sins will be forgiven as a result of sincere repentance. The point of reincarnation is to “work off” one’s sins in order to obtain a better rebirth. Is it not more logical to believe in the ability of God to forgive, when and as He wills, rather than to go through this seemingly unending and cumbersome process to achieve, in essence, the same result?

• Long and tiresome cycles of rebirth are contrary to God’s mercy, favor, grace, and forgiveness. If He wills, He takes ordinary, worthless, inferior things and turns them into what is purest, best, and beyond price. Infinite indeed are His blessings and munificence.

• Many followers of the Prophets led wicked lives before embracing Islam. Once they converted, however, they reformed themselves within an incredibly short time and became revered models of virtue for later generations. Some of them surpassed previous followers and came to be even more revered. This indicates that, by the favor of God, people can rise easily and quickly to the summit even if they apparently were bound for Hell. It also shows how unnecessary is the doctrine of souls “graduating” to higher levels of being. Indeed, such a doctrine might actually weaken any incentive to moral effort.

• To believe that God, the All-Mighty, has created an individual soul for each person is part of belief in His Omnipotence. To believe that only a limited number of souls migrate from body to body argues the illogical proposition that the Omnipotent is not Omnipotent. The sheer abundance of life, its infinite variety, its refusal merely to repeat form is everywhere evident. Out of billions of people, we now know how to prove that each one is absolutely unique-no two fingerprints or genetic codes are exactly alike. This fact of individual uniqueness is found in many Qur’anic verses. Given this, why should we assume that the Omnipotent cannot create an infinite number of individual souls and supply them with an infinite number of bodies?

• Why has no one ever come forward and been able to prove, by means of some marks, signs, or evidence that could confirm their “past-life” memories, adventures, and experiences in different forms and bodies? Where is the accumulated knowledge, experience, and culture of those who have lived more than once or have completed their cycle? If this happened in only one out of a million cases, should we not expect a great number of people now living to have extraordinary virtue and competence? Should we not have met a few of them by now? Where are they?

• When somebody reaches a certain measure of physical maturity or age, should we not expect the soul to emerge with all that it has acquired and achieved during its past lives? Should we not expect prodigies? There have been quite a few prodigies in recorded history. All of their special gifts can be explained as a special combination of genetic characteristics occurring in a particular time and place, which is attributable to Divine Grace and Favor, together with the prodigy’s efforts to understand this gift in the tradition and context in which it is given.

• No specifically human faculty has ever been found in a non-human entity. But if reincarnation is true, we should expect such discoveries. If a lower form of life is the punishment for particular evil deeds in the previous life, then, presumably, the good in that life also must be carried forward. In other words, some part of the individual’s previous life should be retained in the next life. In this case, we would expect the boundaries of particular forms to burst open frequently-with, for example, plants suddenly showing properties associated with animals. Why have we never seen such events?

• If being a human or an animal is the consequence of one’s deeds in a former life, which first existed: the human or the animal, the higher or the lower? Believers in reincarnation cannot agree on any form for the first creature, as every generation implies a preceding generation, for how else can the succeeding generation be considered the consequence of the former? If, as some assert, physical life is an evil, why did the whole thing even start? Why did life begin at all? Reasonable answers have not been forthcoming.

M. Fethullah Gulen