The Eternity Of The Spirit
Is the Spirit Eternal? If it is, does it Serve to Establish the Hereafter?
The spirit is undoubtedly eternal, and the proofs of the existence of angels and other spirit beings mentioned in the First Aim are proofs of the eternity of the spirit. This matter is so obvious that it is unnecessary to make any further explanation. We are too close to the souls of the dead, who are waiting in the barzakh, the intermediate world between this and the next, to go to the Hereafter, to require any proof of their existence. It is commonly known that saints, who have insight into the reality of things, may see them, and some even communicate with them, whilst almost everyone encounters them in veridical dreams. In spite of this, modern materialism causes doubts to occur over the matters which are so evident. For this reason, we shall indicate four sources from which the intellect can obtain persuasive knowledge, and let us begin with an introduction.
Nothing is created for absolute, eternal annihilation.
An eternal, matchless beauty requires the eternity of its lover through whom it will be permanently reflected. A faultless, eternal, and perfect art demands, likewise, the permanence of its contemplative herald. Also, infinite mercy and benevolence require the continued ease and happiness of needy ones to thank it. The foremost of those lovers, those heralding contemplative ones, those needy thankful ones is the human soul, and therefore it will accompany that beauty, perfection, and mercy on the way to eternity.
Not the human soul alone, but perhaps all creatures have been created for an eternity of some kind
Not the human soul alone, but perhaps all creatures down to the most primitive, have been created not for absolute annihilation, but for an eternity of some kind. Even the flower with no spirit achieves a sort of immortality in various ways after its death. Its form is preserved in memories, and the laws of its formation acquire permanence through its seeds. Since the law of that flower’s formation, the model of its form, which has the same significance for it as the spirit of a man, is preserved through its seeds by the All-Preserving, All-Wise One, it is quite evident that the human soul which has a sublime comprehensive nature and consciousness, and which has been clothed with external existence, will much more deservedly be eternal. How can it be argued that an All-Wise One of Majesty, an All-Preserving One of Eternity, Who maintains the life cycle of a huge tree and the law of its formation through a minute seed, could not preserve the souls of dead people?
The body is ephemeral but the spirit that inhabits it is permanent
If anyone looks carefully into his own life and his inner aspect, he will discern the existence of an eternal spirit. Every person changes his body each year, in other words, the body is completely renewed every year, but his spirit remains unchanged.
The body is ephemeral but the spirit that inhabits it is permanent, and the formation or deformation of the molecules of the body, or the composition and decomposition of the body itself does not have any effect upon the spirit. The spirit changes or renews the garment of its body each year during its earthly life, and when it strips off this garment at the time of death, this will not affect the permanence of the spirit, nor will it spoil its essential nature because, as established through intuition and observation, the body subsists through the spirit, not the spirit through the body. We can even say that the body, rather than being the cover of the spirit, is its dwelling place. The spirit possesses a subtle cover, which can be called its energetic envelope. At the time of death, the spirit is not completely naked; rather, it leaves its dwelling place and is dressed in its cover.
Observation and experience indicate the eternity of the spirit, and once the permanence of the individual spirit has been established in the afterlife, it confirms the perpetuation of the souls of the dead. It has been logically established that any essential aspect observed in an individual is unquestionably common to the whole species. Qualities originating in the essence are shared by all individuals. The permanent existence of the souls of the dead, as based on observation and countless experiences in dreams and other kinds of communication, should be as certain to us as the existence of any continent, the actual existence of which we are sure of although we have not been to it. That they have some kind of relationship with us is certain, our prayers reach them, and in return, we receive their blessing. Moreover, it can be perceived that an essential aspect of man continues to exist after his death, and this aspect is his spirit.
The spirit is a simple unitary entity not subject to disintegration or decomposition
The spirit is a simple unitary entity not subject to disintegration or decomposition like composite material things. As we explained above, life ensures a form of unity within multiplicity; it causes a sort of permanence. That is to say, unity and permanence are essential to the spirit, from which they spread to multiplicity.
The mortality of man’s spirit would be either through decomposition and disintegration, which is impossible because of its simple and unitary essence or through annihilation, which is contrary to the infinite mercy of the Absolutely All-Generous One. The boundless munificence of the All-Generous One would not allow that He should take back from the human spirit the blessing of existence which He has bestowed on it, which it ardently desires, and of which it is worthy.
The spirit is a living entity.
The spirit is a living entity, conscious, and light-giving, and a comprehensive law or command of God furnished with external existence, and it has the potential to achieve universality. Even the natural laws, considerably weak compared to the spirit, have stability and permanence, let alone the law embodied by the spirit. For one can recognize that all kinds of existence, although subject to change, possess a permanent dimension which remains unaltered through all stages of life.
Thus, while each human being is an individual, he is also, on account of his comprehensive nature, his universal consciousness, and all-embracing imagination, like a species. A law which operates upon the whole of humanity also applies to the human individual.
The Majestic Creator has endowed man with a sublime nature and caused him to be a comprehensive mirror through which all His Attributes and Names are reflected, and has charged him with a universal duty of worship. So, the spiritual reality of each individual will remain alive forever by the Divine Leave even though its form undergoes a hundred thousand changes. We can conclude from all these facts that man’s spirit, which constitutes his conscious, living element, is eternal, and has been made so by God’s command and permission.
The Divine laws of nature have a resemblance to the spirit in some respect
The Divine laws of nature resemble the spirit in that they too, like the spirit, belong to the world of the Divine Will and Command, but they operate upon the categories which do not have a perceptible existence. When we look at these laws carefully, we see that, had they been given external existence, they would have been the spirits of the categories themselves. These laws are permanent, and since they undergo no changes, no alterations and transformations have any effect upon their unity. When a fig tree, for instance, has died, the law relating to its formation, which is like its spirit, remains permanent within its tiny seeds. Since weak and ordinary commanding laws are thus connected to permanence and continuance, the human spirit must be connected not only with permanence and immortality but with all eternity. For, according to the Qur’an’s decree, The spirit is of the Command of My Lord, (17:85) spirit is a conscious and living law which has come from the world of Divine Command, and which the Eternal Power endowed with external existence. That is to say, just as the unconscious laws issuing from the Divine Attribute of Will and the world of the Divine Command are permanent, so will the spirit be the more evidently worthy of having permanence since it comes from the same source and, what is more, is living and has an external reality. Furthermore, it is more sublime and powerful than the other laws since it has consciousness, and it is more permanent and valuable than them since it is living.
By Bediuzzaman Said Nursi