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    Life afterdeathcomplete Life afterdeathcomplete Document Transcript

    • TOPIC: DIFFERENT RELIGIONS VIEWS ON LIFE AFTER DEATH SUBMITTED TO: Dr. AZIZ- UR- REHMAN SAIFEE SUBMITTED BY: ABDUL QAYUM------------S381.06 SAEED AHMED-------------S393.06 GULAM JEELANI-----------S382.06 ATIF KAMRAN--------------S350.06 WASEEM SADIQ-----------S404.06 DATE: 29, APRIL, 2008 23 RABI-UL-SANI 1429
    • Table of contents pg no Chapter------ (1) 1 Islamic Views on life after Death and Rebirth • How Do Muslims View Death? 1 • Prepare for Death! 4 • Prepare for Death and Die a Muslim! 5 • No Escape from Death! 5 • THE LIFE IN THE GRAVE: BARZAKH 6 • QIYAMAH: DOOMSDAY 7 • A UNIQUE DIFFERENCE 7 • Events of the Day of Judgment 8 • Description of Paradise in the Qur'an: 9 • Who is eligible for entry into Paradise? 11 • . Hell – Jahannam 12 Chapter------ (2) 13 Hinduism Views on life after Death and Rebirth • What is Hinduism? When was Hinduism founded? 13
    • • How has Hinduism survived for so long? 13 • Basic principles of Hinduism 13 • The founder of Hinduism 14 • Books of Hinduism 15 • Hinduism concept of life after death and concept of Heaven and Hell: 15 • Hindu concept of creation: 16 • Reincarnation 16
    • • Concept of Heaven and Hell in Hinduism 17 Chapter------ (3) 20 SIMILARITIES BETWEEN ISLAM AND HINDUISM • Concept of rebirth in Hinduism – Reincarnation or Transmigration of the Souls 20 • Karma – The law of Cause a Dharma 21 • Moksha – Liberation from the Cycle of Rebirth: 21
    • • Punarjanam does not mean cycle of rebirth but means Life after Death 21 • Life after Death in the Vedas 22 • The concept of fate and destiny in Islam and in Hinduism 28 • Chapter------ (4) 34
    • Christianity Views on life after Death and Rebirth • Biblical passages on life after death 35 • Christian views 38 • Early Christian Thought 39 • Medieval Christian Thought 40 • The Protestant Reformation 40 • Current Popular Christian Views 40 • African-American Ancestors: 41 • A Unique Christian Concept of Life after Death 41 Chapter------ (5) 45 • Buddhism Views on life after Death and Rebirth Death and the impermanence of life 45
    • • Grieving 45 • Karma 46 • Preparing for death and Buddhist rituals associated with dying 47 • Rebirth 48 • Nirvana 48 • 7- Heaven 48 • 8- Human life. 48 • 9- Asura 49 • 10- Hungry Ghost 49 • 11- Animals. 49 • 12- Hell. 49
    • Chapter------ (6) 50 • Jewish View on Death and Rebirth • Life 50 • Death 50 • Care for the Dead 51 • Mourning 52 • Kaddish 53
    • • Conclusion 61 • Bibliography 62 Preface First of all we are thankful to our beloved teacher and scholar Dr Aziz Ur Rehman Saifi who has taught us with a great devotion and so we have been able today to give an informative and interesting research report on the concept of life after death according to different religions. The reason behind selecting this topic is to clarify the concept that how different religions deal with this concept. As most of us do not know even about our own religion, so after studying this report you can be able to know that what is life, rebirth and life after death.? We are also thankful to our Director Dr Zubair Sheikh who by his personal interest has arranged such a nice teacher for our religious subject. We can not forget to be thankful to our institute FAST-NU which is doing its best not only in the professional fields like computer sciences and telecommunication but also in the fields of Islam and Humanities which is a great thing for an institute to be of a higher standard WE are also thankful to our Library Staff, who helped us much in our work by providing us useful and important books As for as topic is concerned that what will this report describe? Basically it is a comparative report among main religions like Islam, Hinduism, Jewish, Christianity and Buddhism. As it is a wide topic so it is impossible to describe its all aspects in such a short booklet. But still we made our best to make it an interesting and informative report. And we have succeeded in our aim to some extent.
    • The importance of this report is as cleared by its name so there is no need to explain it more but if you closely have a look at this , you will see and judge different religions and your concepts. What you think and what these different religions teach? In the end you would be able to choose the path which your mind can accept. Chapter------ (1) *********************************************************** ** Islamic Views on life after Death and Rebirth *********************************************************** ** How Do Muslims View Death? Muslims believe that the present life is a trial in preparation for the next realm of existence. When a Muslim dies, he or she is washed and wrapped in a clean, white cloth (usually by a family member) and buried after a special prayer, preferably the same day. Muslims consider this a final service that they can do for their relatives and an opportunity to remember that their own existence here on earth is brief. The question of whether there is life after death does not fall under the jurisdiction of science, as science is concerned only with classification and analysis of sense data. Moreover, man has been busy with scientific inquiries and research, in the modern sense of the term, only for the last few centuries, while he has been familiar with the concept of life after death since time immemorial. All the Prophets of God called their people to worship God and to believe in life after death. They laid so much emphasis on the belief in life after death that even a slight doubt in it meant denying God and made all other beliefs meaningless. The very fact that all the Prophets of God have dealt with this metaphysical question of life after death so confidently and so uniformly - the gap between their ages in some cases, being thousands of years - goes to prove that the source of their
    • knowledge of life after death as proclaimed by them all, was the same, i.e. Divine revelation. We also know that these Prophets of God were greatly opposed by their people, mainly on the issue of life after death, as their people thought it impossible. But in spite of opposition, the Prophets won many sincere followers. The question arises: what made those followers forsake the established beliefs, traditions and customs of their forefathers, notwithstanding the risk of being totally alienated from their own community? The simple answer is: they made use of their faculties of mind and heart and realized the truth. Did they realize the truth through perceptual consciousness? They couldn’t, as perceptual experience of life after death is impossible. God has given man besides perceptual consciousness, rational, aesthetic and moral consciousness too. It is this consciousness that guides man regarding realities that cannot be verified through sensory data. That is why all the Prophets of God while calling people to believe in God and life after death, appeal to the aesthetic, moral and rational consciousness of man. For example, when the idolaters of Makkah denied even the possibility of life after death, the Quran exposed the weakness of their stand by advancing very logical and rational arguments in support of it: And he (i.e. man) presents for us an example (i.e. attempting to establish the finality of death) and forgets his [own] creation. He says, “Who will give life to bones while they are disintegrated?” Say, “He will give them life who produced them the first time; and He is, of all creation, Knowing.” [It is] He who made for you from the green tree, fire, and then from it you ignite. Is not He who created the heavens and the earth Able to create the likes of them? Yes, [it is so]; and He is the Knowing Creator. 1 On another occasion, the Quran very clearly says that the disbelievers have no sound basis for their denial of life after death. It is based on pure conjecture: And they say, “There is not but our worldly life; we die and live (i.e. some people die and others live, replacing them) and nothing destroys us except time.” And they have of that no knowledge; they are only assuming. And when Our verses are recited to them as clear evidences, their argument is only that they say, “Bring [back] our 1 Quran, 36:78-81
    • forefathers, if you should be truthful.” Say, “God causes you to live, then causes you to die; then He will assemble you for the Day of Resurrection, about which there is no doubt,” but most of the people do not know. 2 Surely God will raise all the dead. But God has His own plan of things. A day will come when the whole universe will be destroyed and then the dead will be resurrected to stand before God. That day will be the beginning of a life that will never end, and on that day every person will be rewarded by God according to his or her good or evil deeds. The explanation that the Quran gives about the necessity of life after death is what the moral consciousness of man demands. Actually, if there is no life after death, the very belief in God becomes meaningless or even if one believes in God, it would be n unjust and indifferent God, having once created man and now not being concerned with his fate. Surely, God is just. He will punish the tyrants, whose crimes are beyond count - having tortured and killed hundreds or thousands of innocent people, created great corruption in society, enslaved numerous persons to serve their whims, etc., because man has a very short life span in this world and because numerous individuals are affected by one’s actions, adequate punishments and rewards are not possible in this life. The Quran very emphatically states that the Day of Judgment must come and that God will decide the fate of each soul according to his or her record of deeds: But those who disbelieve say, “The Hour (i.e. the Day of Judgment) will not come to us.” Say, “Yes, by my Lord, it will surely come to you. [God is] the Knower of the unseen.” Not absent from Him is an atom’s weight within the heavens or within the earth or [what is] smaller than that or greater, except that it is in a clear register - That He may reward those who believe and do righteous deeds. Those will have forgiveness and noble provision. But those who strive against Our verses [seeking] to cause failure (i.e. to undermine their credibility) - for them will be a painful punishment of foul nature. 3 The Day of Resurrection will be the Day when God’s attributes of Justice and Mercy will be in full manifestation. God will shower His mercy on those who suffered for His sake in the worldly life, believing that an eternal bliss was awaiting them. But those who abused the bounties of God, caring nothing for the life to come, will be in the most miserable state. Drawing a comparison between them, the Quran says: 2 Quran, 45:24;26 3 Quran, 34:3-5
    • Then is he whom we have promised a good promise which he will meet [i.e. obtain] like he for whom We provided enjoyment of worldly life [but] then he is, on the Day of Resurrection, among those presented [for punishment in Hell]? 4 The Quran also states that this worldly life is a preparation for the eternal life after death. But those who deny it become slaves of their passions and desires, making fun of virtuous and God-conscious persons. Such persons realize their folly only at the time of their death and wish to be given a further chance in the world but in vain. Their miserable state at the time of death and the horror of the Day of Judgment, and the eternal bliss guaranteed to the sincere believers are very clearly and beautifully mentioned in the following verses of the Quran: [For such is the state of the disbelievers], until, when death comes to one of them, he says, “My Lord, send me back that I might do righteousness in that which I left behind (i.e. in that which I neglected).” No! It is only a word he is saying; and behind them is a barrier until the Day they are resurrected. So when the Horn is blown, no relationship wills there be among them that Day, nor will they ask about one another. And those whose scales are heavy [with good deeds] - it is they who are the successful. But those whose scales are light - those are the ones who have lost their souls, [being] in Hell, abiding eternally. The Fire will sear their faces, and they therein will have taut smiles (i.e. their lips having been contracted by scorching until the teeth are exposed). 5 The belief in life after death not only guarantees success in the Hereafter but also makes this world full of peace and happiness by making individuals most responsible and dutiful in their activities. Think of the people of Arabia before the arrival of the Prophet Muhammad . Gambling, wine, tribal feuds, plundering and murdering were their main traits when they had no belief in life after death. But as soon as they accepted the belief in the One God and life after death they became the most disciplined nation of the world. They gave up their vices, helped each other in hours of need, and settled all their disputes on the basis of justice and equality. Similarly the denial of life after death has its consequences not only in the Hereafter but also in this world. When a nation as a 4 Quran, 28:61 5 Quran, 23:99-104
    • whole denies it, all kinds of evils and corruption become rampant in that society and ultimately it is destroyed. The Quran mentions the terrible end of Aad, Thamud and the Pharaoh in some detail: [The tribes of] Thamud and Aad denied the Striking Calamity [i.e. the Resurrection]. So as for Thamud, they were destroyed by the overpowering [blast]. And as for Aad, they were destroyed by a screaming, violent wind which He [i.e. God] imposed upon them for seven nights and eight days in succession, so you would see the people therein fallen as if they were hollow trunks of palm trees. Then do you see of them any remains? And there came Pharaoh and those before him and the overturned cities (i.e. those to which Lot was sent) with sin. And they disobeyed the messenger of their Lord, so He seized them with a seizure exceeding [in severity]. Indeed, when the water overflowed, We carried you [i.e. your ancestors] in the sailing ship (i.e. which was constructed by Noah). That We might make it for you a reminder and [that] a conscious ear would be conscious of it. 6 Prepare for Death! Intelligent students always prepare for exams. It is also a matter of intelligence to prepare for the account to be given after death. The Holy Prophet Sallallahu alaihe wasallam has mentioned in a Hadith, "Clever is the one who prepares for life after death." The Holy Prophet Sallallahu alaihe wasallam has also said, "Take importance of life before death." (Riyaadh-us-Salhiheen) Once, the Holy Prophet Sallallahu alaihe wasallam came to the Masjid for salaah, when he noticed some people laughing and giggling. He remarked, "If you remembered death, I would not see you like this. Think of your death often. Not a single day passes when the grave does not call out: ‘I am a wilderness, I am a place of dust, I am a place of worms.’ When a believer is placed in the grave, it says; ‘Welcome, it is good of you to have come to me. Of all the people walking on the Earth, I liked you the best. Now you have come in to me, you will see how I entertain you.’ It then expands as far as the occupant can see. A door from is paradise opened for him in the grave and through this door he gets fresh and fragrant air of Paradise. However, when a evil man is laid in the grave it says; ‘You are not welcome here. Your coming into me is very bad for you. Of all the people walking on the Earth, I 6 Quran, 69:4-12
    • disliked you the most. Now that you have been put into me, you will see how I treat you!’ It then closes upon him so much that his ribs of one side penetrate into the ribs of the other. As many as seventy serpents are then set upon him, to keep biting him until the day of resurrection. These serpents are so venomous that if one of them happened to spurt its venom upon the earth, not a single blade of grass would ever grow." Prepare for Death and Die a Muslim! It is stated in a Hadith that a person will be raised in the state he dies. Hazrat Yusuf alaihis salaam who had been given the Leadership of Egypt, prayed to Allah that He gives him death in the state of a Muslim and be raised amongst the righteous. Although being a Prophet of Allah, yet Hazrat Rufus alaihis salaam feared that Allah would raise him amongst the leaders, as he was the Leader of Egypt. What extreme humblenessYusuf alaihis salaam expressed! How lucky are those souls who after finding out about the signs of their death, turn towards Allah, ask His repentance for any previous sins and prepare for it by doing good deeds. Such people are the ones who are truly gifted with the kalimah or a good outcome before departing from this world. This tends to be the sign of their being fortunate and people witness a sign of their salvation from the punishment of the Hereafter. No Escape from Death! There is no doubt that there is a cure for every disease. If anyone is infected with a disease then it may be cured through medicine. His life may prolong to some extent but one day the same person will experience something with no cure at all. That is death. Allah states, "Wherever you may be, death will overtake you even if you are in fortresses built up strong and high." The Holy Prophet Sallallahu alaihe wasallam said, "When Allah decides for a person to pass away at a certain place, he makes a need for that person at that place." (Tirmidhi) It is in another tradition narrated on the authority of Kuthaima radiyallahu anhu that once the angel of death (Hazrat Izraeel alaihis salaam) appeared in the form of a human being in the court of Hazrat Suleman alaihis salaam and gazed continuously at a person present there for some time. That person asked Hazrat Sulaiman alaihis salaam, "Who was that person?" He told him that, that was the angel of death. He remarked: The angel of death had gazed at me in such a
    • manner as if he had determined to take my life." Hazrat Sulaiman alaihis salaam asked him, "What do you want?" He requested him to take him to India. He commanded the cloud to pick him up and drop him in India. Consequently the cloud carried him to India. The angel of death came to Hazrat Sulaiman alaihis salaam. He asked him, "Why did you fix your gaze at that person?" He said, "I wondered that the Almighty Allah had commanded me to take the life of this person in India whereas he was sitting hear in your presence." THE LIFE IN THE GRAVE: BARZAKH The Holy Prophet is reported to have said that when the corpse is put in the bier and the people carry the dead body to the graveyard, if the deceased is a pious person, he/she requests them to carry him/her as fast as they can and if the deceased is a wrong-doer, he/she curses the wretchedness in store for him/her and asks where he/she is being led to. The Holy Prophet is also reported to have said that except human beings everything else hears the cries of the dead body. If a person were to hear the cries of the dead body, they would faint. The interval between death and the Day of Resurrection is called Barzakh. WHERE NEXT? Although such descriptions as ultimate destruction of the material worlds are mentioned in the Holy Quran, yet there is also a separate chapter on the Day of Resurrection, which is named by the same. These are short verses, full of eloquence, admirably unfolding the true picture of the Day of Judgment. QIYAMAH: DOOMSDAY On the Day of Qiyamah, the feet of the human being will not be able to move till he/she is questioned about five matters (and gives a reasonable account): 1. on what they spent their life, 2. In what pursuits they passed their youth, 3. From where did they earn wealth, 4 on what they spent it, 5. How much they acted upon the knowledge they required. Almighty Allah states in the Holy Qur’aan: I swear by the Day of Resurrection; and I swear by the self reproaching person (a believer. does man (a disbeliever) think that We shall not assemble his bones? Yes, we are able to put together in perfect order the tips of his fingers. Nay! Man denies resurrection and Reckoning. So he desires to continue committing sins. He asks: "When will be this Day of Resurrection? So, when the sight is dazed, and the moon will be eclipsed, and sun and moon are united(by going one into the other or folded
    • up or deprived of their light etc). On that day man will cry: Where (is the refuge) to flee!" No! There is no refuge! Unto your Lord alone will be the place of rest that Day. On that day man will be informed of what he sent forward (of his evil or good deeds), and what he left behind (of his good or evil traditions). Nay! Man will be a witness against himself [as his body parts (skin, hands, legs etc.) will speak about his deeds] though he may put forth his excuses (to cover his evil deeds)7 IN FAVOUR OF THE DAY OF QIYAMAH The Holy Qur'aan has put forward excellent topics in favour of the Day of Resurrection. It states that the creation of the universe and the world we live in becomes meaningless if there is no conception of the final responsibility and if there is no difference between the rewards of those who lead a chaste life and those who do otherwise in this world. Almighty Allah states in the holy Qur'aan: "So do you think that We created you but, for naught, and that ye would not be returned unto Us (for account)?"8 A UNIQUE DIFFERENCE The Holy Quraan states clearly relating belief that Allah is just and His justice demands that there must be difference between the rewards of those who do good deeds and that punishment must be emended to those who live an evil life. Since it is not always necessary that good deeds are attended by good results in this life, it is necessary that somehow and somewhere man should get full reward for his good deeds and should be punished for his evil deeds. Almighty Allah says: "Shall We treat those who believe and do good deeds of righteousness, the same as those who spread corruption (do mischief) on earth? Shall We treat those who guard against evil (pious), the same as those who turn aside from the right (wicked)?9 Another simile stated in the Holy Quraan is that of the dried land which comes to life after a few showers. It stands to reason that Lord Almighty who has created the entire universe can certainly recreate it if He so desires. 7 Surah Al-Qiyamah:1-15 8 Surah Al-Mominoon: 115 9 Surah Saad: 28
    • Events of the Day of Judgment God states in the Quran about the events of the Day of Judgment: Then when the Horn is blown with one blast, and the earth and the mountains are lifted and leveled with one blow [i.e. stroke] - Then on that Day, the Occurrence [i.e. Resurrection] will occur, And the heaven will split [open], for that Day it is infirm (i.e. weak, enfeebled and unstable). And the angels are at its edges. And there will bear the Throne of your Lord above them, that Day, eight [of them]. That Day, you will be exhibited [for judgment]; not hidden among you is anything concealed (i.e. any person or any secret you might attempt to conceal). So as for he who is given his record in his right hand, he will say, “Here, read my record! Indeed, I was certain that I would be meeting my account.” So he will be in a pleasant life - In an elevated Garden, Its [fruit] to be picked hanging near. [They will be told], “Eat and drink in satisfaction for what you put forth (i.e. literally, advanced in anticipation of reward in the Hereafter) in the days past.” But as for he who is given his record in his left hand, he will say, “Oh, I wish I had not been given my record, and had not known what is my account. I wish it [i.e. my death] had been the decisive one (i.e. ending life rather than being the gateway to eternal life). My wealth has not availed me. Gone from me is my authority.” [God will say], “Seize him and shackle him. Then into Hellfire drive him. Then into a chain whose length is seventy cubits insert him.” Indeed, he did not used to believe in God, the Most Great. 10 The Prophet Muhammad taught that three things continue to benefit a [believing] person even after death - charity which he had given (which continues to benefit others), beneficial knowledge which he had left behind (i.e. authored or taught), and supplication on his behalf by a righteous child (Narrated by Saheeh Muslim). Thus, there are very convincing reasons to believe in life after death: 1) All the Prophets of God have called their people to believe in it. 2) Whenever a human society is built on the basis of this belief, it has been the most ideal and peaceful society, free of social and moral evils. 10 Quran, 69:13-33
    • 3) History bears witness that whenever this belief is rejected collectively by a group of people in spite of the repeated warning of the Prophet, the group as a whole has been punished by God even in this world. 4) Moral, aesthetic and rational faculties of man endorse the possibility of the life after death. 5) God’s attributes of Justice and Mercy have no meaning if there is no life after death. Description of Paradise in the Qur'an: Janna (Paradise, Heaven) is called by eight names in the Qur'an: Jannatu al- Khuld, Darul as-Salam, Darul al-Qarar, Jannatu al-`Adn, Jannatu al-Ma`wa, Jannatu an-Na`im, `Illiyin, and Jannatu al-Firdaus. Janna is the Arabic word for "garden." They have been translated into English as: paradise, a garden on high, a home that will last, garden of eternity, garden of everlasting bliss, gardens of delight, home of peace, home of the righteous, etc. The Prophet Muhammad is quoted as saying that everyone will see God on the Day of Resurrection, as easily as one can see the sun when there are no clouds. There will be no sickness, pain, sadness or death there. The Prophet Muhammad said that there are things in Paradise "which no eye has seen no ear has heard and no human mind has thought of." Descriptions of Paradise in the Qur'an: Sura (chapter) 2:82: "But those who have faith and work righteousness, they are companions of the Garden: Therein shall they abide (For ever)." 3:133: "Be quick in the race for forgiveness from your Lord, and for a Garden whose width is that (of the whole) of the heavens and of the earth, prepared for the righteous." 3:185: "Every soul shall have a taste of death: And only on the Day of Judgment shall you be paid your full recompense. Only he who is saved far from the Fire and admitted to the Garden will have attained the object (of Life): For the life of this world is but goods and chattels of deception." 3:185: "Every soul shall have a taste of death: And only on the Day of Judgment shall you be paid your full recompense. Only he who is saved far from the Fire and admitted
    • to the Garden will have attained the object (of Life): For the life of this world is but goods and chattels of deception." 39:73: "And those who feared their Lord will be led to the Garden in crowds: until behold, they arrive there; its gates will be opened; and its keepers will say: 'Peace be upon you! Well have ye done! Enter ye here, to dwell therein'." "They will say: 'Praise be to God, Who has truly fulfilled His Promise to us, and has given us (this) land in heritage: We can dwell in the Garden as we will: how excellent a reward for those who work (righteousness)!' " “(Here is) a Parable of the Garden which the righteous are promised: in it are rivers of water incorruptible; rivers of milk of which the taste never changes; rivers of wine, a joy to those who drink; and rivers of honey pure and clear. In it there are for them all kinds of fruits; and Grace from their Lord...." Sura 56:1-40 of the Qur'an deals in depth with the Day of Judgment and the rewards that await persons who have led a good life. "[They will sit] on gold-encrusted thrones of happiness, reclining upon them, facing one another in [love]. Immortal youths will wait upon them with goblets, and ewers, and cups filled with water from unsullied springs by which their minds will not be clouded and which will not make them drunk; and with fruit of any kind that they choose, and with flesh of any fowl that they may desire." "And [accompanying them will be their] companions pure, most beautiful of eye, like unto pearls hidden in their shells. [This will be] a reward for what they did [during life]. No empty talk will they hear there, nor any call to sin, but only the tiding of inner soundness and peace." "Now as for those who have attained to righteousness- what of those who have attained to righteousness? [They too will find themselves] admist fruit-laden lote-trees, and acacias flower-clad, and shade extended, and waters gushing, and fruit abounding, never-failing and never out of reach." "And [with them will be their] spouses, raised high; for behold, We shall have brought them into being in a life renewed, having resurrected them as virgins, full of love, well matched to those who have attained to righteousness" Surah 55 discusses the presence of "húr." They have most commonly been considered to be Houris -- beautiful virgins: "In them will be fair [Maidens], good, beautiful." "Maidens restrained [as to their glances], in [goodly] pavilions."
    • "Whom no man or Jinn before them has touched." Others have interpreted the "húr" to be "the fruits of the good deeds" that a person has performed while alive. They are unique to Paradise and not like anything experienced on Earth. 6 In his commentary , Ibn Kathir stated: "The Prophet Muhammad was heard saying: 'The smallest reward for the people of paradise is an abode where there are 80,000 servants and 72 wives, over which stands a dome decorated with pearls, aquamarine, and ruby, as wide as the distance from Al-Jabiyyah [a Damascus suburb] to Sana'a [Yemen]'."11 Who is eligible for entry into Paradise? Entry to Paradise is limited to those who believe in God and his messengers, and who have led a good life on earth. In the Qur'an: : "And give good news [O Muhammad] to those who believe and do good deeds, that they will have gardens [Paradise] in which rivers flow...."12 : "But those who believe and do good deeds, We will admit them to gardens (Paradise) in which rivers flow, lasting in them forever...."13 : "Race one with another for forgiveness from your Lord and for Paradise, whose width is as the width of the heavens and the earth, which has been prepared for those who believe in God and His messengers...."14 4. Paradise – Al Jannat Paradise is described in several verses of the Qur’an including: Paradise is described in several verses of the Qur’an including: 1.Surah Ale Imran Chapter 3 verse 15 2.Surah Ale Imran Chapter 3 verse 198 11 Surah 55:72 12 Surah 2:25 13 Surah 4:57 14 Surah 57:21
    • 3.Surah Al-Nisa Chapter 4 verse 57 4.Surah Al Maidah Chapter 5 verse 119 5.Surah At-Taubah Chapter 9 verse 72 6.Surah Al-Hajr Chapter 15 verses 45-48 7.Surah Al-Kahf Chapter 18 verse 31 8.Surah Al-Hajj Chapter 22 verse 23 9.Surah Al-Fatir Chapter 35 verses 33-35 10.Surah Yasin Chapter 36 verses 55-58 11.Surah Al-Saffat Chapter 37 verses 41-49 12.Surah Al-Zukhruf Chapter 43 verses 68-73 13.Surah Al-Dukhan Chapter 44 verses 51-57 14.Surah Muhammad Chapter 47 verse 15 15.Surah Al-Tur Chapter 52 verses 17-24 16.Surah Al-Rahman Chapter 55 verses 46-77 17.Surah Al-Waqiah Chapter 56 verses 11-38 5. Hell – Jahannam Hell is a place of torment where evil-doers undergo the most terrible pain and suffering caused by being burnt by hellfire, a fire whose fuel is men and stones. Further, the Qur’an states that as many times as their skins are burnt, the residents of hell shall be given fresh skin so that they feel the pain. Hell is described in several verses of the Qur’an including: Surah Al-Baqarah Chapter 2 Verse 24 Surah Al-Nisa Chapter 4 Verse 56 Surah Ibrahim Chapter 14 Verses 16,17 Surah Al-Hajj Chapter 22 Verses 19-22 Surah Al-Fatir Chapter 35 Verses 36,37 Chapter------ (2) *********************************************************** **
    • Hinduism Views on life after Death and Rebirth *********************************************************** ** What is Hinduism? When was Hinduism founded? The name 'Hinduism' is of a much recent origin, coined by the Greeks and Arabians to refer to the religion of the people living around and to the East of the river Indus. The earliest records of this religion are in the Rig Veda, the oldest known human literature. Some portions of the Rig Veda have been dated to before 6000 BC. This implies that the religion was in vogue at least a few centuries earlier than that. Hinduism has been gaining increasing popularity due to its high philosophy, broad outlook and non- dogmatic approach. Hinduism is different from many other religions in that it does not have a founder and does not claim exclusivity. It explicitly accepts all religions as valid. How has Hinduism survived for so long? Hinduism has stood the test of time much more effectively than any other religion of the world. This is mainly because of its clear separation of the essentials from the non-essentials. Every religion has a few principles, which are independent of the cultural context of the followers, and a few practices which need to vary with time, place and cultural background. Hinduism has clearly separated these two rights since its known history. The principles are presented in texts classified as 'Sruthis', which primarily comprise the part of the Vedas called Upanishads. The changeable texts are classified as 'Smritis', which include various texts on etiquette, moral and ethical codes of conduct, law and justice. The former form the universal principles and the latter form their culture- dependant implementation. The essential principles of Hinduism are the same as they were conceived of by the sages who lived during the Vedic period. Even the Vedas have come down to the present day unaltered. The Vedas are being chanted even today with the same melody and rhythm as they were chanted during the Vedic age. The social customs and values have change.
    • Basic principles of Hinduism: The basic principles of Hinduism are in the Upanishads. They have been collected, organized and explained in various other texts, but the root source is the Upanishads. Hinduism has three basic principles. It is God who has become this Universe and everything in it. Whatever is seen, dreamed or imagined is nothing but manifestations of God. God is beyond space, time, causation and all distinctions like gender, race, species, living/non-living and form/formless. Since He is beyond space, He is omnipresent. Since He is beyond time, He is eternal. Since He is beyond the concept of form, He is with form, without form, both and neither. Every form is His and yet He is formless and beyond the concept of form. Similarly with all attributes concievable by the mind. The aim of life is to 'know' God. God cannot be 'known' in the usual sense of the word. God is the Knower of everything. We call it 'realizing' God. This is beyond the mind. It is a direct experience of God. This is the ultimate goal of life. Till we reach this goal, we will have to live again and again. Till we reach this goal, we have to undergo birth, death and again birth and so on. Every time we are born, we continue our journey towards the goal from where we left. So nothing is lost by death on this journey. When the goal is reached, there is no need for anymore death or birth. The person is said to have attained Immortality. Actually the person goes beyond all limitations. Even the basic limitations imposed by the concept of individuality and personality vanish. There are intermediate milestones and targets set by Hinduism. They are Dharma - righteousness, Artha - wealth acquired by righteous means and Kama - quenching of desires within the limits of Dharma and Artha. As there is a scope for lot of misconception about these intermediate targets, there are several texts explaining them. These are intermediate targets and not end. The ultimate aim is Moksha - freedom from limitations by God realization. Dharma, Artha and Kama should be stepping stones and thus means to the end, which is Moksha. But this does not mean that Artha and Kama are forbidden by Hinduism. According to Hinduism, if people pursue and enjoy Artha and Kama within the boundaries of Dharma, they will naturally develop the maturity to enquire and aspire after Moksha in due course of time.
    • As many people, so many ways to God. Every religion is a way to God. No way to God is superior to the other. However, depending on the mental temperament and cultural background of a person, one way might be better suited to him than another. This is difference arises due to the difference in the temperament of the person and cannot be used to judge the general efficacy of a path. "All paths are true. Your path for you. My path for me." This is the principle of Hinduism. The founder of Hinduism: Hinduism does not have a founder. It has been there from prehistoric times. It is based on the spiritual concepts discovered by numerous people. These concepts are impersonal like other concepts in science. These concepts have been validated by innumerable people. Hinduism invites everyone, irrespective of the cultural background, to validate the truth of the spiritual concepts for themselves. Books of Hinduism: There is no single book for Hinduism. If you are looking for a source where all the principles are given, then there are three texts. They are called "Prasthana Traya" - the principal three. They all present the same truth. The first is the Upanisads. These are parts of the Vedas. There are innumerable Upanisads. Ten of them were chosen by Sri Sankara, a great saint and philosopher, as to contain the ideas in all the Upanisads put together. This forms the first principal text. These are unadultered, raw, first-hand observations of spiritual phenomenon. They do not try to propose a model to fit the observations. The observers have not imposed their ideas or even tried to classify the observations. The second is the Brahma Sutras. This was authored by Veda Vyasa, who masterminded the current organization of the Vedas and the same person who authored other great works like Mahabharata and Bhagavata. Brahma Sutras present the concept in the Upanishads in a logical and highly technical manner. It is a scholarly work which establishes the concepts in the Upanishads on a strong logical foundation. The third is the Bhagavad Gita. This is a record of the conversation between Sri Krishna and Arjuna. This text talks about the practical application of the concepts in the Upanisads to everyday life.
    • Thus these three texts present the Hindu philosophy and religion in a scientific and practical manner as - observation, modelling and application. Hinduism concept of life after death and concept of Heaven and Hell: Hinduism believes in the law of cause and effect applied to all spheres of phenomenal existence. Since different people are born to different people in different environments (which is an observed effect), a previous cause has to be assumed. The only logical explanation possible is a previous life very similar to this. And by the same argument, since different people are involved in different thoughts and activities till death, the effects of these must occur in an after-life very similar to this. Hinduism says that everyone is responsible for his life. There are no extraneous causes for one's condition in life. If a person is facing hardship in life it has to be due to his earlier thoughts and actions. . Hindu concept of creation: Hinduism considers that the world is a manifestation of God. There is no concept of Creation and a Creator. The world came from God, exists in God and will return back to God, just like waves arise from the ocean, exist in the ocean and subside back into the ocean. And this happens in cycles, again and again. As there is no concept of creation in the literal sense, there can be no concept of destruction also. There is a concept of unmanifestation. God withdraws Himself and creation vanishes. Manifestion is instantaneous, if the word can be used, because even time is a part of manifestation only. Similarly unmanifestation is also instantaneous. It is like a dream. How was the world in your dream created? The dream world, including its own timeline was created instantly. When you wake up, the world just vanishes. Same is the case with this world too. There are graphic and poetic descriptions about God creating the world, maintaining it and then destroying it. These are only figurative to explain the above concept. They should not be taken literally. Reincarnation Heaven and Hell: Reincarnation:
    • Reincarnation is the rebirth in new bodies or forms of life after death... a belief that the souls of the dead successively return to earth in new bodies or forms... it is called "sansara", the transmigration of souls... as many as 3000 some claim, 3000 lives!. There is an increasing interest in this topic today, sustained especially by books and magazines, TV broadcasts, movies and conferences. Most of them are related to the world of esoterically wisdom and occult phenomena. Most Oriental religions accept reincarnation guided by their Holy Scriptures, like Hinduism, Buddhism, Jainism... On the other hand, reincarnation is a way of rejecting the Christian teaching of the soul’s final judgment by a holy God, with the possible result of being condemned to suffer in eternal hell,, as accepted by some gnostics, atheists and materialists... Reincarnation is not a thrill for a Hindu, nor even a good happening to expect, it is the worse imaginable "curse"!... the greatest fear for a Hindu is not to die, but to reincarnate... all the ascetic sacrifices, all the hard yoga and puja practices, is to avoid reincarnation... to live nude or without food of a Jainist is to avoid the next reincarnation... the great sacrifices of a Buddhist in a monastery for life, is to obtain enlightenment, thus avoiding reincarnation... The present life for a Hindu is a horror, it is the wheel of existence that rolls relentlessly on, in indefinite reincarnations, and with each turning of the wheel you become more deeply involved in this senseless merry-go-around from which there is no escape; even "suicide" is not a solution, because now you will reincarnate as a dog or or an insect, or even a rock... and the only thing left for the devote Hindu is to become a "yogi", to die to all your desires while you are alive, in the hope that you will not be reincarnated... And the final aim of life, the ultimate dream of a Hindu, is "moska", the final union of his soul with Brahman, with no more reincarnations, the liberation of the curse of reincarnation....and that is the only hope of a Hindu... "Without self"... the total non- existence as a person... because there is no Heaven for a Hindu, just the final hope of "inhalation"... like a drop of water in the ocean. Fundamental to Hinduism, to all branches and sects, is that all creatures go through a cycle of rebirth or reincarnations, which can only be broken by spiritual self- realization, the enlightenment, after which liberation, or moksha, is attained. This enlightenment can be achieved by the hard and long exercises of Yoga, to stop going through cycles of birth, life and death. One's progress towards enlightenment is measured by his karma. This is the accumulation of all one's good and bad deeds and this determines the person's next reincarnation. Selfless acts and thoughts as well as
    • devotion to God help one to be reborn at a higher level. Bad acts and thoughts will cause one to be born at a lower level, as a person or even an animal or a rock. And the main problem of Hinduism, what makes me cry, is that after so many sacrifices and yoga, this final union with Brahman is like a drop of water falling into the ocean, there is no more identity of any individual, there is no more "person", it is the nihilism, to become nothingness, unrecognizable by anybody, not even by himself, because there is no more "self", no more consciousness of being... not heaven, not paradise... "Nothingness", "to disappear as a person", likes a speck in the universe... What a surprise if, after death, there is eternal heaven or eternal hell. On top of it, Reincarnation is one of the main reasons for the infamous "caste system" in India. Hindus, Buddhist, Jainists, Taoists, and most Oriental religions, do not believe in Heaven nor Hell… what a surprise after death, when they find each one of them either in eternal Heaven or in eternal Hell… no reincarnation!… with God and the angels and the company of the good persons forever, or with Satan and the demons and all criminals for ever!… believe it or not, like it or not!… it is a fact revealed by God Himself both in the Bible and the Koran., no matter if you admit it or not… and God revealed us it is a fact for each human being… God Himself!, not just a theory, or a novel, or a myth, or a legend… And in Heaven or in Hell as a person!… just like you are now, with the same soul and body you have now, well recognized by any of your relatives or friends. But there is Heaven for a Hindu... The reincarnation is a non-proven "theory"... it is called a "fact" in India, but it has never been proven. There is Heaven for a Hindu, and without reincarnations!... Jesus Christ died for every Hindu, every Jew, every Buddhist, every Muslim and every Christian, born before or after Christ... "all the prophets born before Christ are in Heaven", says Jesus in Mat.8.... and all the good Hindus who died yesterday or 3,000 years ago may be now in Heaven, saved by the Blood of Jesus... even if they do not know it!... Abraham, Isaac and Jacob never met Jesus, and they are in Heaven!. 15 And they are in a Heaven, for all eternity, in union with the Absolute, as "persons", with the same body and soul they had on Earth; a transformed body, but the same one they had on Earth recognizable by anyone. See And "Hell" also exists, even if you do not believe in it!.. Everybody after death goes to Hell if he or she died with bad deeds, with bad karma not cleansed with the blood of Christ... "There is no partiality for God, who will repay everyone according to his works". God, after death, will not 15 Mat.8, Luc. 13
    • ask if you were a Hindu or a Christian or a Chinese... he will say to each one of us: "You did good on Earth, come to Heaven; you did bad on Earth, go to Hell" (Mat.25, Rom.2:6-11)...and to Hell as a "person", with the same body and soul you had on Earth, recognizable by anyone... and for all eternity... To cleanse your bad karma, all your sins, is easy: Just have faith in Jesus, he is God, that can and want to clean, or pardon, all your bad deeds; repent, and just trust in Jesus, the Christ, the only one real God, who made heavens and earth, and your hands and heart, and loves you as much as any artist loves is good work of art... but he made you "free", you have to decide... if you don't want it, not even God can force you, because when he created you "free", he committed himself to respect your freedom. There is also a small "heaven" and a "hell" after death in the Puranas sacred writings: Heaven points skyward to Mount Meru, where the gods dwell; while hell descends into the bowels of the earth; but it is like the Catholic Purgatory, the soul remains in hell only until the evils of karma are burned away... however, in both cases, all elements of the human personality are lost after death, whereas in Christianity the human personality remains intact. For a Christian the solution is very clear and easy: God Himself became man to redeem us, to save us, so we can live and die in harmony with the Absolute, with God: "For God so loved the world that he gave his one and only Son, that whoever believes in him shall not perish but have eternal life. For God did not send his Son into the world to condemn the world, but to save the world through him. Whoever believes in him is not condemned, but whoever does not believe stands condemned already because he has not believed in the name of God's one and only Son".16 And you can do it now, just believe in Jesus Christ, and you will be saved!… right now!…. and it is not just a matter of choice, it is essential for your life on earth and after death, because he who does not believe in Jesus Christ stands condemned and remains in the wrath of God, for "Whoever believes in the Son has eternal life, but whoever rejects the Son will not see life, for God's wrath remains on him.".17 16 John3:16-18 17 John 3:36
    • Chapter------ (3) *********************************************************** ** SIMILARITIES BETWEEN ISLAM AND HINDUISM *********************************************************** ** THE CONCEPT OF LIFE AFTER DEATH IN HINDUISM AND IN ISLAM LIFE AFTER DEATH IN HINDUISM: 1. Concept of rebirth in Hinduism – Reincarnation or Transmigration of the Souls
    • Most of the Hindus believe in the cycle of birth, death and rebirth, which is called ‘Samara’. ‘Samara’ or the doctrine of rebirth is also known as the theory of reincarnation or of transmigration of the soul. This doctrine is considered to be a basic tenet of Hinduism. According to doctrine of rebirth, differences between individuals, even at the time of their birth are due to their past karma i.e. actions done in the past birth. For example if one child is born healthy while another is handicapped or blind, the differences are attributed to their deeds in their previous lives. Those who believe in this theory reason that since all actions may not bear fruit in this life, there has to be another life for facing or reaping the consequences of one’s actions. a) It is mentioned in the Bhagvad Gita “As a person puts on new garments, giving up old ones, the soul similarly accepts new material bodies, giving up the old and useless.”18 b) The Doctrine of Re-birth is also described in Brihadaranyaka Upanishad: “As a Caterpillar which has wriggled to the top of a blade of grass draws itself over to a new blade, so does the soul, after it has put aside its body draws itself over to a new existence.19 2. Karma – The law of Cause and Effect: Karma means act, deed, action or activity and refers not only to action undertaken by the body but also to those undertaken by the mind. Karma is actually action and reaction or the law of cause and effect. It is explained by the saying, “As we sow, so shall we reap”. A farmer cannot sow wheat and expect rice to grow. Similarly, every good thought, word or deed begets a similar reaction which affects our next life and every unkind thought, harsh word and evil deed comes back to harm us in this life or in the next life. 3. Dharma – Righteous Duties: Dharma means what are right or righteous duties. This includes what is right for the individual, family, the class or caste and also for the universe itself. In order to achieve good karma, life should be lived according to Dharma; otherwise it will result in bad karma. Dharma affects both, the present life and the future as well. 18 Bhagvad Gita 2:22 19 Brihadaranyaka Upanishad 4:4:3
    • 4. Moksha – Liberation from the Cycle of Rebirth: Moksha means liberation from the cycle of rebirth or of ‘Samara’. The ultimate aim of every Hindu is that one day the cycle of rebirth will be over and he will not have to be reborn again. This can only happen if there is no karma to cause an individual to be reborn i.e. it looses its good and bad karma. The important point worth noting is that the doctrine of rebirth is not postulated, propounded nor even mentioned anywhere in what are considered to be the most authentic Hindu scriptures i.e. the Vedas. The Vedas make no mention of the entire concept of transmigration of souls. 6. Punarjanam does not mean cycle of rebirth but means Life after Death: The Common word used for the doctrine of rebirth is ‘Punarjanam’. In Sanskrit ‘Punar’ or ‘Puna’, means, ’next time' or ‘again’ and ‘Janam’ means ‘life’. Therefore ‘Punarjanam’ means ‘next life’ or ‘the life hereafter’. It does not mean coming to life on earth again and again as a living creature. If one reads many of the references to Punarjanam in Hindu Scriptures besides the Vedas, keeping the life in the hereafter in mind, one gets the concept of the next life but not of rebirths or of life again and again. This is true for several quotations of the Bhagvad Gita and Upanishad which speak of Punarjanam. This concept of repeated births or of cycle of rebirth was developed after the Vedic period. This doctrine was included by humans in subsequent Hindu scriptures including the Upanishad, Bhagvad Gita and the Puranas in a conscious attempt to rationalize and explain the differences between different individuals at birth and the different circumstances in which people find themselves in, with the concept that Almighty God is not unjust. So to say that since God is not unjust the inequalities and differences between people are due to their deeds in their past lives. Islam has a rational answer to this which we shall discuss later InshaAllah. 7. Life after Death in the Vedas:
    • There is reference to life after death in the Vedas. It is mentioned in: A. Rigved Book no. 10, Hymn no. 16 verse no. 4 “The unborn portion, burn that, AGNI, with thy heat; let thy flame, thy splendors, consume it; with those glorious members which thou hast given him, JATAVEDAS, bear him to the world (of the virtuous)” 20 The Sanskrit word ‘Sukritam u Lokam’ means ‘the word of the virtuous or region of the pious, referring to the hereafter. The next verse i.e. b. Rigveda Book 10 hymn 16 verse 5 says: “… Putting on (Celestial) life let the remains (of bodily like) depart: let him, JATAVEDAS be associated with a body.”21 This verse too refers to a second life i.e. life after death. 8. Paradise – Swarga in the Vedas: 'Swarg’ i.e. Paradise, is described in several places in the Vedas including: a. Atharva Veda Book 4 hymn 34 verse 6 (Devichand) “May all these streams of butter, with their banks of honey, flowing with distilled water, and milk and curds and water reach thee in domestic life enhancing thy pleasure. May thou acquire completely these things strengthening the soul in diverse ways.”22 20 Rigved 10:16:4 21 Rigveda 10:16:5 22 Atharva Veda 4:34:6
    • Atharva Veda Book 4 hymn 34 verse 6 (Ved Pra.) “Having pools of clarified butter, stocks of sweet honey, and having exhilarating drinks for water, full of milk and curds, may all these streams flow to us in the world of happiness swelling sweetly. May our lakes full of lotuses be situated near us?”23 b.It is mentioned in Atharvaveda “Bereft of physical bodies, pure, cleansed with the wind, brilliant, they go to a brilliant world. The fire does not cause burning in their male organ. In the world of happiness they get plenty of women.”24 c) It is mentioned in Atharvaveda: May the realized ones, first of all, take the vital breath under their control from the limbs in which it has been circulating? Go to heaven stay firm with all the parts of your body. Attain the world of light and emancipation, following the path of the enlightened ones (your predecessors)”.25 d) It is mentioned in Atharavaveda “O both of you, start to accomplish it, make determined effort to accomplish it. Those having unflinching faith attain this abode of happiness. Whatever ripe offerings you have made in fire of sacrifice, may both, the husband and wife, stand united to guard them with care.”26 23 Atharva Veda 4:34:6 24 Atharva Veda 4:34:2 25 Atharva Veda 2:34:5 26 Atharva Veda 6:122:5
    • e) It is mentioned in the Rigveda: “O Aila, the loud-sounding clouds, these divines say to you, since you are indeed subject to death, let your progeny propitiate your revered cosmic forces with oblations, then alone you shall rejoice (with me) in heaven”27 9. Hell – ‘Nark’ in the Vedas ‘Nark’ or ‘Hell’ is also described in the Vedas and the Sanskrit word used is ‘Narakasthanam’. It is also mentioned in Rigveda: “May the bounteous fire divine, consume them with his fiercely glowing sharp jaws like flames, who disregard the commandments and steadfast laws of most venerable and sagacious Lord.”28 LIFE AFTER DEATH IN ISLAM 1. Live once in this world and then be resurrected in the Hereafter It is mentioned in the Qur’an How can ye reject the faith in Allah? 27 Rigveda 10:95:18 28 Rigveda 4:5:4
    • Seeing that ye were without life, And He gave you life; Then will He cause you to die, And will He again bring you to life; and again to Him will ye return.”29 Islam states that a human being comes into this world only once, and after he dies, he is again resurrected on the day of judgement. Depending on his deeds he will either dwell in heaven i.e. Paradise or he will dwell in hell. 2. This Life is a test for the hereafter It is mentioned in the Qur’an He who created Death and Life, That He may try which of you is best in deed; And He is the exalted in Might, oft-forgiving30 This life that we lead in this world is a test for the hereafter. If we follow the commandments of the Almighty Creator and we pass the test, we shall enter Paradise i.e., which is Eternal Bliss. If we do not follow the commandments of our creator and fail the test then we shall be put into hell. 3. Full Recompense on the Day of Judgment: 29 Al Qur’an 2:28 30 Al Qur’an 67:2
    • It is mentioned in the Qur’an Every soul shall have a test of death. And only on the Day of Judgment shall You be paid your full recompense. Only he who is saved far from the fire and admitted to the Garden Will have attained the object (of life). For the life of this world is but goods and chattels of deception. 4. Paradise – Al Jannah a. Al-Jannah i.e. paradise is a place of perpetual bliss. In Arabic, ‘jannat’ literally means ‘the Garden’. The Qur’an describes paradise in great detail, such as gardens underneath which rivers run. It contains rivers of milk unchanging in flavour and rivers of purified honey. In paradise is fruit of every kind. No fatigue shall be felt in paradise neither shall there be any idle talk. There shall be no cause of sin, difficulty, anxiety, trouble or hardship. Paradise shall thus have peace and bliss. b. Paradise is described in several verses of the Qur’an including: Surah Ale Imran Chapter 3 verse 15 Surah Ale Imran Chapter 3 verse 198 Surah Al-Nisa Chapter 4 verse 57 Surah Al Maidah Chapter 5 verse 119 Surah At-Taubah Chapter 9 verse 72 Surah Al-Hajr Chapter 15 verses 45-48 Surah Al-Kahf Chapter 18 verse 31
    • Surah Al-Hajj Chapter 22 verse 23 Surah Al-Fatir Chapter 35 verses 33-35 Surah Yasin Chapter 36 verses 55-58 Surah Al-Saffat Chapter 37 verses 41-49 Surah Al-Zukhruf Chapter 43 verses 68-73 Surah Al-Dukhan Chapter 44 verses 51-57 Surah Muhammad Chapter 47 verse 15 Surah Al-Tur Chapter 52 verses 17-24 Surah Al-Rahman Chapter 55 verses 46-77 Surah Al-Waqiah Chapter 56 verses 11-38 5. Hell – Jahannam Hell is a place of torment where evil-doers undergo the most terrible pain and suffering caused by being burnt by hellfire, a fire whose fuel is men and stones. Further, the Qur’an states that as many times as their skins are burnt, the residents of hell shall be given fresh skin so that they feel the pain. Hell is described in several verses of the Qur’an including:
    • Surah Al-Baqarah Chapter 2 Verse 24 Surah Al-Nisa Chapter 4 Verse 56 Surah Ibrahim Chapter 14 Verses 16,17 Surah Al-Hajj Chapter 22 Verses 19-22 Surah Al-Fatir Chapter 35 Verses 36,37 6. Logical Concepts for differences in different Individuals A. In Hinduism, the differences in two individuals at birth is explained by stating past karma i.e. actions of the previous life, as the cause of the differences. There is no scientific or logical proof or evidence of the cycle of rebirths. How does Islam explain these differences? The Islamic explanation for these differences in different individual is given in Surah Mulk: ‘He who created death and life, He who created death and life, That He may try which of you is best in Deed; And He is the Exalted in Might; oft-forgiving.31 This life that we live are the test for the hereafter. THE CONCEPT OF FATE & DESTINY IN HINDUISM & IN ISLAM 31 Al Qur’an 67:2
    • DESTINY 1. Concept of Destiny – Qadr in Islam ‘Qadr’ is the concept of Destiny. Certain aspects of human life are predestined by our Creator Almighty Allah. For example, where and when will a person are born, the surroundings and conditions in which he will be born, how long will he live and where and when he will die. These are predetermined by the Creator. 2. Concept of Destiny in Hinduism Concept of Destiny in Hinduism is somewhat similar to that of Islam 3. Present Conditions are a test There are several verses in the Qur’an which clearly specify that our Creator Almighty Allah tests us in several different ways It is mentioned in the Qur’an: “Do men think that they will be Left alone on saying, “we believe”, And that they will not be tested?”32 “Or do ye think that ye shall enter the Garden (of Bliss) Without such (trials) as came to those who passed away before you? 32 Al Qur’an 29:2
    • They encountered suffering and adversity, and were shaken in spirit that Even the Messenger and those of faith who were with him cried: “When (will come) the help of Allah?” Ah! Verily, the help Of Allah is (always) near!33 “Every soul shall have a taste of death And we test you by evil and by good by way of trial - To us must ye return?”34 “Be sure we shall test you with something of fear and Hunger, Some loss in goods or lives, or the fruits (of your toil), But give glad tidings to those who patiently persevere.”35 And know ye that your possessions And your progeny, are but a trial And that it is Allah with whom lies Your highest reward. (Al Qur’an 8:28) 4. Judgement will be based on the facility provided Each human being undergoes a test in this world. The test an individual undergoes differs from person to person, depending upon the comforts and the conditions in which Allah puts an individual. He passes His judgement accordingly. For example if a teacher sets a difficult examination paper, the correction is usually lenient. On the other hand if the teacher sets an easy examination paper, the correction is strict. 33 Al Qur’an 2:214 34 Al Qur’an 21:35 35 Al Qur’an 2:155
    • Similarly some human beings are born in rich families while some others are born in poor families. Islam instructs every rich Muslim, who has a saving of more than the Nissan level, i.e. 85 gms of Gold, to give 2.5% of his excess wealth in obligatory charity every lunar year. This called the system of ‘Zakaah’ in Islam. Some rich persons may be giving the minimum required charity; some may be giving less than what is required while others may not be giving at all. Thus for a rich man, he may get full marks in Zakat i.e. charity, some may get less, some may get nil. On the other hand, a poor person who has a saving of less than 85 gms of gold gets full marks in Zakat, because he does not have to give this compulsory charity. Any normal human being would like to be rich and not poor. Some may appreciate the rich people and sympathizes with the poor, not knowing that the same wealth may take that person to hell if he does not give charity and due to this wealth falls prey to temptations of character, while poverty for the poor man may be an easy path to paradise if he follows the other commandments of Almighty God. The converse may be true. A wealthy man may earn paradise by his philanthropy and humility, while a poor person who covets luxuries and hence resorts to unfair means to get them may be in trouble on the Day of Judgement. 5. Children born with congenital defects are a test for their parents Some children are born healthy while others are born handicapped or with a congenital defect. Irrespective of whether a child is born healthy or handicap, in Islam he is Masoom i.e. sinless. There is no question of the child being handicapped due to a carried forward baggage of past sins from ‘a previous life’. Such a belief will not inculcate a charitable attitude in others. Others might say that the child deserves his birth defects or the handicap since it is a result of his ‘bad karma’. Islam states that such handicaps are a type of test for the parent whether they are yet thankful towards their Creator or not. Do they retain their patience? Do they continue to persevere? There is a famous saying that a person was sad because he had no shoes to wear until he saw a person who had no feet. It is mentioned in the Qur’an: And know ye that your possessions
    • And your progeny, are but a trial And that it is Allah with whom lies Your highest reward.36 Allah (swat) may be testing the parents whether they yet are thankful to their Creator or not. May be the parents are righteous and pious and deserve Jannah. If Allah wants to give them a higher place in Jannah, He will test them further, e.g. by giving a handicap child. Yet if they are thankful to their Creator, they will deserve a higher reward i.e. the Jannatul Firdous. There is a general rule that the more difficult the test, higher the reward. To pass graduation in Arts and Commerce is relatively easy and if you pass you are called as a graduate without any special title but if you graduate in the field of medicine which is comparatively a much more difficult examination, besides becoming a graduate you are also called as a doctor and the title Dr. is put in front of your name. In the same way Allah (swat) tests, different people in different ways, some with health, some with disease, some with wealth, some with poverty, some with more intelligence, some with less, and depending upon the facility He gives the individual, He tests accordingly. Thus the main reason for the differences in the human being is that this life is a test for the hereafter. Life after death is mentioned in the Qur’an as well as the Vedas. Individual differences are not due to transmigration of souls or ‘Samaras’, These beliefs were added on in subsequent scriptures like the Upanishad, Bhagvad Gita and the Puranas. The repetitive cycle of birth and death, birth and death, was unknown and unheard of in the Vedic period. English translation of verses of the Glorious Qur’an is taken from Abdullah Yusuf Ali 36 Al Qur’an 8:28
    • In the subsequent articles in the present series, we shall InshaAllah study the similarities between the concept of worship and between other teachings in Islam and in Hinduism. And all praises are for the One and Only God and Creator Allah, who alone is worthy of devotion, complete submission and worsh There is a general rule that the more difficult the test, higher the reward. To pass graduation in Arts and Commerce is relatively easy and if you pass you are called as a graduate without any special title but if you graduate in the field of medicine which is comparatively a much more difficult examination, besides becoming a graduate you are also called as a doctor and the title Dr. is put in front of your name. In the same way Allah (swat) tests, different people in different ways, some with health, some with disease, some with wealth, some with poverty, some with more intelligence, some with less, and depending upon the facility He gives the individual, He tests accordingly. Thus the main reason for the differences in the human being is that this life is a test for the hereafter. Life after death is mentioned in the Qur’an as well as the Vedas. Individual differences are not due to transmigration of souls or ‘Samsara’, These beliefs were added on in subsequent scriptures like the Upanishad, Bhagvad Gita and the Puranas. The repetitive cycle of birth and death, birth and death, was unknown and unheard of in the Vedic period. English translation of verses of the Glorious Qur’an is taken from Abdullah Yusuf Ali In the subsequent articles in the present series, we shall InshaAllah study the similarities between the concept of worship and between other teachings in Islam and in Hinduism.And all praises are for the One and Only God and Creator Allah, who alone is worthy of devotion, complete submission and worship. Chapter------ (4) *********************************************************** ** Christianity Views on life after Death and Rebirth *********************************************************** **
    • Christian view of life after death is that our souls are immortal (continuing forth into eternity). Because our souls live on, what we do here on earth impacts what our souls will experience in eternity. For the believing Christian, a follower of Jesus Christ, our souls experience eternal life. John 3:16 "For God so loved the world that he gave his one and only Son, that whoever believes in him shall not perish but have eternal life. John 3:36 whoever believes in the Son has eternal life, but whoever rejects the Son will not see life, for God's wrath remains on him." Now the longer answer: While our souls are immortal, their "destination" if you will is determined by what we did with Jesus during our time on earth. If we had faith in Him, His blood sacrifice of atonement on the Cross (i.e. His death) satisfied the wrath of God and we enter eternal life--not because of how good we are--- but because of how good Jesus was and the sufficiency of His payment for our sins. Our response during this life to the sacrifice of Jesus ought to be obedience to Him and His commands to love one another, pursue unity in the Church, and to be a light to those in need of God's presence in eternity. For those who rejected God during this life, their souls will continue forth in rejection but will begin to experience the total separation from God (commonly referred to as Hell). His wrath-- poured out on Jesus-- is not available as covering for those who rejected Jesus during their earthly lives because He alone had a worthy sacrifice. Hell will, for them, be very real and painful. The separation from God (something we have never experienced on earth) will become their dark reality for eternity. It's a terrible price to pay for not believing...which is what spurs evangelical Christians to communicate the Gospel...the good news that we are saved by God's gift of grace through faith in Christ. Ephesians 2:6 And God raised us up with Christ and seated us with him in the heavenly realms in Christ Jesus, 7 in order that in the coming ages he might show the incomparable riches of his grace, expressed in his kindness to us in Christ Jesus. 8 For it is by grace you have been saved, through faith-- and this not from yourselves, it is the gift of God-- 9 not by works, so that no one can boast. While we are not saved by works, godly behavior is expected from those who profess to follow Jesus Christ. Whether we have this behavior is the outward fruit of our inner attitude toward faith. If we believe, we will follow Him. If we have not believed, we will persist in ungodly behavior and demonstrate that we were not among the redeemed.
    • Hebrews 10: 26 If we deliberately keep on sinning after we have received the knowledge of the truth, no sacrifice for sins is left, 27 but only a fearful expectation of judgment and of raging fire that will consume the enemies of God. 28 Anyone who rejected the law of Moses died without mercy on the testimony of two or three witnesses. 29 How much more severely do you think a man deserves to be punished who has trampled the Son of God under foot, who has treated as an unholy thing the blood of the covenant that sanctified him, and who has insulted the Spirit of grace? Therefore, the Christian's view of eternal life motivates us to respond with obedient service to a loving God who made our deliverance His mission. Luke 9:23 Then he said to them all: "If anyone would come after me, he must deny himself and take up his cross daily and follow me. Biblical passages on life after death The Last Judgment - Fresco in the Sistine Chapel by Michelangelo. Most Christian traditions teach belief in life after death as a central and indispensable tenet of their faith. "All these people were still living by faith when they died. They did not receive the things promised; they only saw them and welcomed them from a distance. And they admitted that they were aliens and strangers on earth" (Heb 11:13). It is charged by some that this belief in an afterlife is an innovation of Christianity, perhaps by admixture with Greek philosophy; however, it is apparent that such a belief was already prevalent in Jewish thinking amongst the Pharisees and Essenes, and that
    • this particular aspect was brought to the fore as a result of the teachings of Jesus, his resurrection, and the proclamation of the gospel message. Christian churches such as the Catholic Church that accept the deuterocanonical books as part of the Old Testament point to the second book of Maccabees as Old Testament justification for the belief in an afterlife. Second Maccabees 7 relates the martyrdom of a mother and her seven sons: Second Maccabees 7:7–11 "After the first brother had died in this way, they brought forward the second for their sport. [...] And when he was at his last breath, he said, 'You accursed wretch, you dismiss us from this present life, but the King of the universe will raise us up to an everlasting renewal of life, because we have died for his laws.' After him, the third was the victim of their sport. When it was demanded, he quickly put out his tongue and courageously stretched forth his hands, and said nobly, 'I got these from Heaven, and because of his laws I disdain them, and from him I hope to get them back again.'" (NRSV) Within the accepted Protestant canon, it is only in the book of Daniel that a "modern" understanding of an afterlife appears. From a prophetic Christian view, this aforementioned proposed denial of the possibility of afterlife may be interpreted in a different manner: One might see it as a distinction between the "dead" and the "resurrected dead" rather than a denial of the afterlife. The "dead" would represent those who have died outside of God's grace, who by choice do or did not follow God, and thus are dead (spiritually and bodily). The ones who go to be with God, by their choice of faith or actions depending on the religion, would be the "resurrected dead," "living dead" or, simply, "living." When the Sadducees were testing him, Jesus explained this difference by pointing out that God is the God of the living, not of the dead, yet saying that God is the God of Abraham and Isaac and Jacob, three apparently dead people. In Matthew 22:31–32, Jesus says, "But about the resurrection of the dead—have you not read what God said to you, 'I am the God of Abraham, the God of Isaac, and the God of Jacob'? He is not the God of the dead but of the living." (NIV) Looking at the above "contradictory to the afterlife" scriptures in this light, one might suggest the quotes from Isaiah, Psalms, and Ecclesiastes to mean that those who have chosen not to praise God are "dead," but those who have chosen to praise God have been given eternal life and thus are "living" or "resurrected dead." This interpretation however conflicts with ancient Israelite religion. According to Professor James Tabor, Chairman of the Department of Religious Studies at the University of North Carolina at Charlotte:
    • The ancient Hebrews had no idea of an immortal soul living a full and vital life beyond death, nor of any resurrection or return from death. Human beings, like the beasts of the field, are made of "dust of the earth," and at death they return to that dust (Gen. 2:7; 3:19). The Hebrew word nephesh, traditionally translated "living soul" but more properly understood as "living creature," is the same word used for all breathing creatures and refers to nothing immortal. Christian tradition however still interprets the Hebrew Bible's passages by explaining that rather than saying there is not an afterlife, the author is simply saying in each case that those who do not have "eternal life" will not or cannot praise God (perhaps because their choice to not praise God in life is permanent in the afterlife). Furthermore, the words in Job are a metaphor. The construction suggests that the idea is being used as a metaphor and is not so much a fact as a generality. "Consider that my life is but wind; I shall never see happiness again . . . As a cloud fades away, so whoever goes down into Sheol does not come up." In other words, in general, whoever goes down into Sheol does not come up. But also, the whole selection of text is, Remember, O God, that my life is but a breath; my eyes will never see happiness again. 8 The eye that now sees me will see me no longer; you will look for me, but I will be no more. 9 As a cloud vanishes and is gone, so he who goes down to the grave [Sheol] does not return. 10 He will never come to his house again; his place will know him no more. Job does not say whoever goes to Sheol lives no more; he says a person who goes to Sheol does not return. Reading further in the passage, one finds he is speaking about returning "to his house again." In other words, a person does not come back to regular, physical life. This does not bar resurrection in the spirit (or even in the body) to an afterlife. Christians believe that Job was wrong about never seeing happiness again (again, he was exaggerating using standard literary technique, but he certainly saw happiness later. See Job 42). What does that say about his comments on Sheol? In actual fact Job certainly believed in a life after death. "And after my skin has been destroyed, yet in my flesh I will see God; I myself will see him with my own eyes—I, and not another" (Job 19:26–27). Christian tradition believes Job implies that a continuity of existence is necessary for any reward or punishment to be just; in his opinion, then, though he should die, he never would at any point cease to exist nor would he at any point be unreachable ("dead") to God. This Christian interpretation conflicts with the objective approach taken by most scholars, Job's interpretation of the afterlife is more clearly evident in Job 14:10-12. But man dies, and is laid low; man breathes his last, and where is he? As waters fail from a lake, and a river wastes away and dries up, so man lies down and rises not again; till the heavens are no more he will not awake, or be aroused out of his sleep. (Job 14:10-12)
    • Professor Tabor reveals that the passage is often "misunderstood as offering some hope of life after death or resurrection from the dead. The context makes clear that the answer to Job's question, "If a man die, shall he live again?" is no. That is precisely Job's point." All the dead go down to Sheol, and there they lie in sleep together–whether good or evil, rich or poor, slave or free (Job 3:11-19). It is described as a region "dark and deep," "the Pit," and "the land of forgetfulness," cut off from both God and human life above (Pss. 6:5; 88:3-12). Though in some texts Yahweh's power can reach down to Sheol (Ps. 139:8), the dominant idea is that the dead are abandoned forever. This idea of Sheol is negative in contrast to the world of life and light above, but there is no idea of judgment or of reward and punishment. If one faces extreme circumstances of suffering in the realm of the living above, as did Job, it can even be seen as a welcome relief from pain–see the third chapter of Job. But basically it is a kind of "nothingness," an existence that is barely existence at all, in which a "shadow" or "shade" of the former self survives (Ps. 88:10)...This rather bleak (or comforting, depending on your point of view) understanding of the future (or non-future) of the individual at death is one that prevails throughout most of the Hebrew Bible. It is found throughout the Pentateuch (the Books of Genesis, Exodus, Leviticus, Numbers, and Deuteronomy), and it runs through the books of history, poetry, and prophecy. Christian views Most traditions believe that the grave does not interrupt consciousness; rather, the immaterial soul experiences a particular judgment after death while separate from the body. The particular judgment is followed by placement either in the presence of God in Heaven or away from God's presence in Hell, where the soul is consciously subject either to happiness or torment. Additionally, the Roman Catholic tradition further compartmentalizes existence after death, and includes belief in Purgatory. Some Catholic theologians have also argued for the existence of Limbo, but there has never been a definitive Church teaching about the matter binding on the faithful. Eastern Orthodoxy and Protestantism do not require belief in Purgatory. However, these differ from one another in their respective degrees of opposition to the teaching. Orthodoxy does allow that the disembodied soul may have a course to pass through on the way to an ultimate destination; theosis may continue after death (or it might not). John Calvin included this belief among those things not worth arguing about. Later Protestants tend to be less vague in their opinion, and definitely reject any idea of intervening experience for the soul after death, prior to being in the presence of God. However, an issue on which Catholic and Orthodox faiths are united against Protestantism is that the souls of at least some of the saints in heaven are aware of those who call upon them in request of their intercession. In stark contrast it is
    • antithetical to most traditions of Protestantism to believe that the souls of those who have died either should or even can be called upon for help or intercession with God. Prayers directed toward those who have died, or rituals or masses dedicated to assisting the dead in their salvation, are often dogmatically taught by Protestants to be contrary to Scripture. Protestants typically deny that the souls of men adopt omniscience omnipresence, or ubiquity after death, or that they are troubled any longer with the trials of life, or that their exceeding virtue in life remains as a deposit of grace in the Church that can benefit the living. Catholic and Orthodox Christians do not claim that departed saints gain omniscience or omnipresence, however. An essential consequence of Jesus' own death and resurrection is the defeat of death itself. Because of this death neither puts a person beyond God's help nor prevents the Christian from praying. The livings are not deprived of the prayers of a Christian simply because the Christian dies; otherwise death would still claim victory. Neither does a person's death make it impossible for God to save or sanctify them; otherwise death would limit what God could do. The Orthodox Church carefully avoids defining exactly how departed saints are aware of requests for their intercession, or exactly how the departed may be helped by prayers made on their behalf. It just continues to pray as it always has, with faith in God for the results. Not all Christian sects believe in existence apart from the body, which they regard to be a purely extra-biblical notion borrowed from the non-Christian philosophies and religions (see Annihilationism). The Mille rites, or Adventist tradition, for example, typically deny that consciousness is possible apart from the body. Most do not deny the resurrection, however. A similar belief can be found represented by a minority in other Protestant groups, among whom it is not necessarily considered a heretical belief. Early Christian Thought Jesus and the New Testament writers of the Bible books mention notions of an afterlife and resurrection that involve ideas like heaven and hell. The author of Luke recounts the story of Lazarus and the rich man, which shows people in Hades awaiting the resurrection either in comfort or torment. The author of the Book of Revelation writes about God and the angels versus Satan and demons in an epic battle at the end of times when all souls are judged. There is mention of ghostly bodies of past prophets, and the transfiguration. The non-canonical Acts of Paul and Thecla speak of the efficacy of prayer for the dead, so that they might be "translated to a state of happiness." Hippolytus of Rome pictures Hades as a place where the righteous dead, awaiting in the bosom of Abraham their resurrection, rejoice at their future prospect, while the unrighteous are tormented at the sight of the "lake of unquenchable fire" into
    • which they are destined to be cast. Saint Augustine counters Pelagius, arguing that original sin means that the unbaptized go to hell, including infants, albeit with less suffering than is experienced by those guilty of actual sins. Medieval Christian Thought Pope Gregory I repeat the concept, articulated over a century earlier by Gregory of Nyssa that the saved suffer purification after death, in connection with which he wrote of "purgatorial flames". The noun "purgatorium" from the Latin: place of cleansing, is used for the first time to describe a state of painful purification of the saved after death. The same word in adjectival form (purgatorius -a -um, cleansing), which appears also in non-religious writing, was already used by Christians such as Augustine of Hippo and Pope Gregory I to refer to an after-death cleansing. The Protestant Reformation Martin Luther denounced the doctrine of particular judgment as contrary to the Bible, professing instead the belief that the soul sleeps until Judgment Day. John Calvin denounced Luther's doctrine, writing instead that the souls of the elect rest in blessedness while awaiting the resurrection of the dead. Current Popular Christian Views Most Christians deny that entry into Heaven can be properly earned; rather it is a gift that is solely God's to give through his unmerited grace. This belief follows the theology of St. Paul: "For it is by grace you have been saved, through faith--and this not from yourselves, it is the gift of God, not by works, so that no one can boast." The Augustinian, Thomist, Lutheran, and Calvinist theological traditions all emphasize the necessity of God's undeserved grace for salvation, and reject so-called Pelagianism, which would make man earn salvation through good works. Not all Christian sects accept this doctrine, leading to many controversies and discussions over grace and free will, and the idea of predestination. In particular, the belief that heaven is a reward for good behavior is a common folk belief in Christian societies, even among members of churches which reject that belief.
    • Christian theologians Thomas Aquinas and Jonathan Edwards wrote that the saved in heaven will delight in the suffering of the damned. Hell, however, doesn't fit modern, humanitarian concepts of punishment because it can't deter the unbeliever nor rehabilitate the damned. Many Christian believers have come to downplay the punishment of hell. Universalists teach that salvation is for all. Jehovah's Witnesses and Seventh-day Adventists, though they have among the strictest rules on how to conduct their lives, teach that sinners are destroyed rather than tortured forever. In the informal folk beliefs of many Christians, the souls of virtuous people ascend to Heaven and are converted into angels. More formal Christian theology makes a sharp distinction between angels, who were created by God before the creation of humanity, and saints, who are people who have received immortality from the grace of God through faith in the Son of God Jesus.37 African-American Ancestors: A Unique Christian Concept of Life after Death Many people in the "United" States of America make the assumption that the Christian beliefs that are often seen as the foundations of this country are the same for all of those who have adopted Christianity in this nation. From this perspective there is little need to explore the diversity that has been brought to this relatively new religion as a result of its convergence with so many other cultures. As a American interested in the spiritual beliefs and mythological stories and of the cultures all around me, I am particularly intrigued by the mix that can be found in the Black Christian church, where the old African customs can still be seen behind the mask of this Eurocentric religion. While this spiritual mélange has manifested itself in a number of different ways, some of the most unique are the beliefs surrounding death and the afterlife in African-American Christianity. 37 John 3:16
    • Raised with the belief systems of a German Lutheran mother and Polish Catholic father, I was always taught that when I died, "if I was good," I would go to heaven. As I was growing up, heaven was always described to me as an ethereal realm filled with angelic beings who supposedly spend endless peaceful days far away from the earth's inhabitants. Since this always seemed like a complete bore to me, I have never had a single desire to aspire towards it. Feeling disconnected from this and many of the other religious teachings of my forefathers, I have always been interested in studying the religious beliefs of other cultures, especially those surrounding death and the afterlife. Therefore, I became particularly intrigued when I first started hearing various African-Americans refer to the dying process as "crossing over" or "passing over" instead of just the "end of life." According to John Bolling, an African-American psychiatrist and spiritual counselor, in Africa death is seen as "a rite of passage wherein the soul passes into but another phase of continuous existence. The soul leaves the material world and crosses over into the spiritual world" (146). Seen as a rite of passage, rather than something to be avoided as all costs, death can be prepared for, experienced, and acknowledged after the fact, rather than just ignored as it is all too often by modern-day American Christians of European decent. The belief in the reincarnation of the soul is a carry over from some of the old African beliefs that "still influence the unconscious and conscious behavior of African Americans today" (147). One of the most important of these ancient influences is the African approach to death. "In many instances, the role of religion and the church serves as the outer format in which death is handled, but African spirituality is central to the inner format of the death/dying experience" (148). Another differentiating factor of African-American spirituality is the belief in a unified world view. The body, mind, and soul are seen as one and this concept of unity is seen throughout the community as well, where every person is viewed as part of a larger whole. According to Flora Wilson Bridges, author of Resurrection Song: African-American Spirituality, Black Christians recognize "the human family as 'one branch of the cosmological Tree of Life.' In such a view, spirituality informs all understandings of self, reality, and divinity" (6). This cultural world view has a direct affect on the
    • relationships between the human and the non-human, the visible and invisible, and the living and the dead. This unique world view allows for a unity to exist between the dualistic realities that are often polarized in other cultures. "Day and night, dead and living are viewed as having reciprocal and unifying functions rather than dichotomous ones, which dynamically unite them such that they create a whole, maintaining equilibrium by adjusting each other." Because of this, death is not merely seen as "the soul leaving the body." It "is not simply the opposite of life but is inherently related to life; it is another dimension or phase of the same phenomenon" This unifying aspect can also be seen in the Afrocentric cyclical concept of time, where the past and present are eternally linked together. As John Mbiti writes, "Human life has another rhythm of nature which nothing can destroy. On the level of the individual, this rhythm includes birth, puberty, initiation, marriage, procreation, old age, death, entry into the community of the departed and finally entry into the community of spirits" (31). Therefore, the dead ancestors are considered to be very much a part of the living African-American community. As a continuous part of the community, the ancestors are available to the living for advice, they may enforce discipline on those who are unruly, and they may even come to the aid of the dying. As Martha Adams Sullivan, a specialist in the mental health of elderly minorities’ points out, the ancestors in the African-American communities "are often thought of as playing a role in easing this passing over. For instance, a family member may be visited by an ancestor, often in a dream, notifying the family of that the actual death is at hand and thus preparing the living family." The ancestors also come to the assistance of those who are dying. "It is commonly recognized that dying family members sometimes begin to talk to people who have died. This is experienced as both upsetting and comforting to the family, for while it signals that the transition is at hand, it also reassures them that their family is there awaiting them" (163). Unlike many other contemporary cultures in America, where a fear of dying alone is often expressed, death in Black Christian
    • culture is experienced as a "group event." "Family and community experience a transition as a member 'passes over' to the other world. Members often avoid using the term 'dying,' perhaps because it is unidimensional and unidirectional. To 'pass on,' to 'make a transition,' connotes movement, a change in form more than a termination with no future" (Sullivan 162). In an effort to aid this transition, members of the dying person's community often step in to look after the person in ways that may seem relatively unimportant to others outside the culture. Since African-American sees the body and spirit as one, the physical body is looked after as much as the spirit. "Family members will oil their loved one's skin, groom his or her hair, and pay close attention to body temperature" (Sullivan 164). How the person appears at the time of death is not an issue of vanity, but an effort to comfort both the dying person and those who attend him or her. "Since the physical self is not merely physical but manifests the spirit, attending to the body is a means of attending to the spirit. Having successfully assisted the spirit in its transition, the family can more easily reincorporate the deceased into the community as an ancestral member".38 This ability to become an ancestral spirit is based on more than just the events surrounding the person's death. The quality of the person's existence after the transition is directly tied to their thoughts and actions here on earth. "There is a strong belief that the deceased may become an ancestral spirit provided that he or she has lived a good earthly existence and that the proper funeral rites have been observed by the children and next of kin" (Bridges 33). By looking after a person as they are dying and performing the proper rituals once they have gone, the community does everything they can to assist a person in becoming an ancestor. A conscious effort is made to reestablish the equilibrium that can be found with the "reintegration of the deceased member into the community so that the sense of wholeness of the community is regained; the circle is mended". A proper funeral is an important part of mending this circle. "Traditional African religion incorporates the belief that at death the person's spirit immediately leaves the body and hovers around nearby (the house), waiting for the funeral rites that will enable the 38 Sullivan 164
    • spirit to go to the spirit-world" (Bridges 33). Here in the United States, African-Americans are increasingly "referring to funeral rites using such terms as 'home-going' services. The term reflects not only the strong belief in an afterlife but also the reinclusion in the community, since the community's 'home' extends beyond the physical world". . Each of us on this earth will eventually "cross over" into another existence. As Howard Thurman writes, "The Human spirit is so involved in the endless cycle of birth, of living and dying, that in some sense each man is an authority, a key interpreter of the meaning of the totality of the experience" (11). We must each decide what we believe and every one of us must prepare for the day when we will die. Having a clear picture of where we are going and who we might find there when we arrive on the other side is an essential part of the process. I often hear people in this modern world talk about the lack of "community" that they feel as they go about their busy lives, yet maybe its not the community of the living that so many really crave. Maybe its time for some of us to take a lesson from the African Americans in this country who still remember the old ways of their culture, maybe its time for more of us to get in touch with our own greater community of ancestors.
    • Chapter------ (5) *********************************************************** ** Buddhism Views on life after Death and Rebirth *********************************************************** ** Death and the impermanence of life In the teaching of the Buddha, all of us will pass away eventually as a part in the natural process of birth, old-age and death and that we should always keep in mind the impermanence of life. The life that we all cherish and wish to hold on. To Buddhism, however, death is not the end of life, it is merely the end of the body we inhabit in this life, but our spirit will still remain and seek out through the need of attachment, attachment to a new body and new life. Where they will be born is a result of the past and the accumulation of positive and negative action, and the resultant karma (cause and effect) is a result of ones past actions. This would lead to the person to be reborn in one of 6 realms which are; heaven, human beings, Asura, hungry ghost, animal and hell. Realms, according to the severity of ones karmic actions, Buddhists believe however, none of these places are
    • permanent and one does not remain in any place indefinitely. So we can say that in Buddhism, life does not end, merely goes on in other forms that are the result of accumulated karma. Buddhism is a belief that emphasizes the impermanence of lives, including all those beyond the present life. With this in mind we should not fear death as it will lead to rebirth. The fear of death stemmed from the fear of cease to be existent and losing ones identity and foothold in the world. We see our death coming long before its arrival, we notice impermanence in the changes we see around us and to us in the arrival of aging and the suffering due to losing our youth. Once we were strong and beautiful and as we age, as we approach our final moments of life we realize how fleeting such a comfortable place actually was. Grieving It is natural to grieve the loss of family members and others we knew, as we adjust to living without their presence and missing them as part of our lives. The death of a loved one, or even someone we were not close to, is terribly painful event, as time goes on and the people we know pass away along the journey of life, we are reminded of our own inevitable ends in waiting and everything is a blip of transience and impermanent. At a certain moment, the world seems suddenly so empty and the sense of desperation appears to be eternity. The greater the element of grief and personal loss one tends to feel sorry for oneself.Some of us may have heard the story of the women who came to the Buddha in great anguish, carrying her dead child pleading him to bring the child back to life. The Buddha said Bring to me a mustard seed from any household where no-one had ever died and I will fulfill your wish. The woman's attempt to search for such seed from houses were in vain and of course she could not find any household in which no-one had ever died and suddenly she realized the universality of death. Karma: According to Buddhism, our lives and all that occurs in our lives is a result of Karma. Every action creates a new karma, this karma or action is created with our body, our speech or our mind and this action leaves a subtle imprint on our mind which has the potential to ripen as future happiness or future suffering, depending on whether the action was positive or negative. If we bring happiness to people, we will be happy. If we create suffering, we will experience suffering either in this life or in a future one.
    • This is called the Law of Karma, or the Law of Cause and Effect. Karmic law will lead the spirit of the dead to be reborn, in realms which are suitable appropriate to their karmic accumulations. According to His Holiness, the 14 th Dali Lama of Tibet, that to cultivate the good karma, our good actions are an excellent way prepare for our death. Not performing evil deeds, keeping our heart and mind pure, doing no harm, no killing, sexual misconduct or lying, not using drugs or alcohol has very positive merit which enable us to die as we have lived. The way we pass reflects the way we lived our lives, a good death putting a good stamp on a good life. As Leonardo Da Vinci once wrote in his notebook; Just as a well spent day brings happy sleep, so a life well spent brings a happy death. If we have lived a life of emotional turmoil, of conflict selfish desire unconcerned for others, our dying will be full of regrets, troubles and pain. It is far better to care for the lives for all around us rather than spending a fortune in prolonging life or seeking ways to extend it for those who can afford it, at the expense of relieving suffering in more practical ways. Improving the moral and spiritual quality of life improves its quality for us all rather than the selfish individualism that benefits the elite few who draw most resources. Preparing for death and Buddhist rituals associated with dying: Buddhist clergy often remind their followers about closeness of death, emphasize the importance in getting to know death and take time to prepare for their own demise. How do we prepare for death?. It is really simple, just behave in a manner which you believe is responsible, good and positive for yourself and towards others. This leads to calmness, happiness and an outlook which contributes to a calm and controlled mind at the time of death. Through this positive and compassionate outlook of life, always being aware of the impermanence of life and having a loving attitude towards all living things in this transient existence we will be free of fear in opposite to grasping selfishly to life due to not having experienced happiness in life. Having lead a responsible and compassionate life and have no regrets when death approaches enables us to surrender without a struggle to the inevitable and in a state of grace which need not be as uncomfortable as we are led to believe. A dying Buddhist person is likely to request the service of a monk or nun in their particular tradition to
    • assist in this process further, making the transitional experience of death as peaceful and free of fear as can be possibly achieved. Before and at the moment of death and for a period after death, the monk, nun or spiritual friends will read prayers and chants from the Buddhist Scriptures. In Buddhist traditions, this death bed chanting is regarded as very important and is ideally the last thing the Buddhist hears. Buddhists believe that we can actively assist and bring relief to the dying members through assisting the dying through the process of dying. Through Buddhist doctrine we are told by Buddhist masters that the final moment of our consciousness is paramount, the most important moment of all. If the ill person is in hospital and the diagnosis is grim that the person cannot possibly survived, the family should call in the Buddhist priest to pray for the loved one so that at the final moment, the right state of mind has been generated within the person and they can find their way into a higher state of rebirth as they leave the present lives. The nurses and family members are not supposed to touch the corpse, having to wait 3- 8 hours after breathing ceases before touching the body for any preparation after the death. We Buddhists believe that the spirit of a person will linger on for sometime and can be affected by what happened to the corpse. It is important that the body is treated gently and with respect and that the priest can help the spirit continues its journey calmly to higher states, not causing the spirit to becoming angry and confused and may be more likely to be reborn into the lower realms. In the Mahayana Buddhism, especially, Vietnamese tradition we pray for the dead for 49 days after passing away, 49 being the estimated time it takes for the spirit to be reborn again into a new life. Some spirits are reborn 3 days, 21 days, 49 days or 100 days after death, and in some cases even 7 years. Rebirth The concept of rebirth or reincarnation has become more popular in the west in recent years due to the influence of Tibetan Buddhism, especially, the Tibetan Book of Living and Dying (by Sogyal Rinpoche, 1992) became a best seller in the USA and has been widely read throughout the developed countries by new generations who are concerned with alternative thinking and eastern cultural perspectives. Naturally people concern with life beyond death was stimulated by the ideas contained in such philosophies and beliefs. Nirvana
    • The supreme aim of Buddhism is to obtain nirvana or enlightenment. This translated means a state of liberation or illumination from the limitations of existence. It is the liberation from the cycle of rebirth through countless lives up and down the 6 states of existence. It is obtained through the extinction of desire. Nirvana is a state that is obtainable in this life through the right aspiration, purity of life, and the elimination of egotism. This cessation of existence as we know it, the attainment of being, as distinct from becoming. [1] The Buddha speaks of it as unborn, un-originated, uncreated, unformed, contrasting it with the born, originated, created, and formed phenomenal world. Those who have obtained the state of Nirvana are called Buddhas. Gautama Siddhartha had obtained this state and had become a Buddha at 35. However it is now believed that it was only after he had passed away that he reached such a place of perfect tranquility, because some residue of human defilement would continue to exist as long as his physical body existed. According to Buddhism if a human does not obtain nirvana or enlightenment, as it is known, the person cannot escape the cycle of death and rebirth and are inevitably be reborn into the 6 possible states beyond this our present life, these being in order from the highest to lowest; Heaven.: In Buddhism there are 37 different levels of heaven where beings experience peace and long lasting happiness without suffering in the heavenly environment. Human life. In Buddhism we can be reborn into human life over and over, either wealthy or poor, beautiful or not so, and every state between and both as it it is served up to us. Anything can happen, as is found in human life and society all around us as we are familiar with in the day to day human world in is myriad of possibilities. What we get is a result of our Karma of what we have dragged with us from previous existences and how it manifests in our temporary present lives. Asura. A spiritual state of Demi-Gods but not the happy state experienced by the gods in the heavens above this state. The Demi-Gods are consumed with jealousy, because unlike humans, they can clearly see the superior situation of
    • the gods in the heavens above them. They constantly compete and struggle with the gods due to their dissatisfaction with their desires from the others. Hungry Ghost. This spiritual realm of those who committed excessive amounts of evil deeds and who are obsessed with finding food and drink which they cannot experience and thus remain unsatisfied and tortured by the experience. They exhaust themselves in the constant fruitless searching. Animals. This realm is visible to humans and it is where spirits of humans are reborn if they have killed animals or have committed a lot of other evil acts. Animals do not have the freedom that humans would experience due to being a subject constantly hunted by humans, farmed and used in farming, also as beasts for entertainment. Hell. This realm is not visible to humans. It is a place where beings born there experience a constant state of searing pain and the various types of hell realms reads like a variety of horrific torture chambers. Those with a great deal of negative Karma can remain in such places. To conclude, as already mentioned, none of us can avoid death and if we are not free from the vicious cycle of death and rebirth, we are doomed to the endless cycles of life and death and its paradoxical nature of suffering, of happiness and sadness, youth and ageing, healthiness and sickness, pain and death, all because we are so attached to the existence in the first place. The Buddha urged us to prepare for death, to prepare for that journey by cleansing the mind and not being so attached to things, to be able to let go and release ourselves for needing to be, from needing to have. Through this we will not suffer so much as we pass through the final stage of the present life, we can let go, be grateful for what we had but not clutch to it, not try to ensure permanency and cause ourselves to suffer more than we need to. This way we can end the cycle and leave forever, obtaining nirvana and release from the cycle of death and rebirth.
    • Chapter------ (6) *********************************************************** ** Jewish Views on life after Death and Rebirth *********************************************************** **
    • Life In Judaism, life is valued above almost all else. The Talmud notes that all people are descended from a single person, thus taking a single life is like destroying an entire world, and saving a single life is like saving an entire world. Of the 613 commandments, only the prohibitions against murder, idolatry, incest and adultery are so important that they cannot be violated to save a life. Judaism not only permits, but often requires a person to violate the commandments if necessary to save a life. A person who is extremely ill, for example, or a woman in labor, is not permitted to fast on Yom Kippur, because fasting at such a time would endanger the person's life. Doctors are permitted to answer emergency calls on Shabbat, even though this may violate many Shabbat prohibitions. Abortions where necessary to save the life of a mother are mandatory 39 . Because life is so valuable, we are not permitted to do anything that may hasten death, not even to prevent suffering. Euthanasia, suicide and assisted suicide are strictly forbidden by Jewish law. The Talmud states that you may not even move a dying person's arms if that would shorten his life. However, where death is imminent and certain, and the patient is suffering, Jewish law does permit one to cease artificially prolonging life. Thus, in certain circumstances, Jewish law permits "pulling the plug" or refusing extraordinary means of prolonging life. Death In Judaism, death is not a tragedy, even when it occurs early in life or through unfortunate circumstances. Death is a natural process. Our deaths, like our lives, have meaning and are all part of G-d's plan. In addition, we have a firm belief in an afterlife, a world to come, where those who have lived a worthy life will be rewarded. Mourning practices in Judaism are extensive, but they are not an expression of fear or distaste for death. Jewish practices relating to death and mourning have two purposes: to show respect for the dead (kavod ha-met), and to comfort the living (nihum avelim), who will miss the deceased. 39 the unborn are not considered human life in Jewish law, thus the mother's human life overrides
    • Care for the Dead After a person dies, the eyes are closed, the body is laid on the floor and covered, and candles are lit next to the body. The body is never left alone until after burial, as a sign of respect. The people who sit with the dead body are called shomerim, from the root Shin-Mem-Reish, meaning "guards" or "keepers". Respect for the dead body is a matter of paramount importance. For example, the shomerim may not eat, drink, or perform a commandment in the presence of the dead. To do so would be considered mocking the dead, because the dead can no longer do these things. Most communities have an organization to care for the dead, known as the chevra kaddisha40 . These people are volunteers. Their work is considered extremely meritorious, because they are performing a service for someone who can never repay them. Autopsies in general are discouraged as desecration of the body. They are permitted, however, where it may save a life or where local law requires it. When autopsies must be performed, they should be minimally intrusive. The presence of a dead body is considered a source of ritual impurity. For this reason, a kohein may not be in the presence of a corpse. People who have been in the presence of a body wash their hands before entering a home. This is done to symbolically remove spiritual impurity, not physical uncleanness: it applies regardless of whether you have physically touched the body. In preparation for the burial, the body is thoroughly cleaned and wrapped in a simple, plain linen shroud. The Sages decreed that both the dress of the body and the coffin should be simple, so that a poor person would not receive fewer honors in death than a rich person. The body is wrapped in a tallit with its tzitzit rendered invalid. The body is not embalmed, and no organs or fluids may be removed. According to some sources, organ donation is permitted, because the subsequent burial of the donee will satisfy the requirement of burying the entire body. The body must not be cremated. It must be buried in the earth. Coffins are not required, but if they are used, they must have holes drilled in them so the body comes in contact with the earth. 40 the holy society
    • The body is never displayed at funerals; open casket ceremonies are forbidden by Jewish law. According to Jewish law, exposing a body is considered disrespectful, because it allows not only friends, but also enemies to view the dead, mocking their helpless state. Mourning Jewish mourning practices can be broken into several periods of decreasing intensity. These mourning periods allow the full expression of grief, while discouraging excesses of grief and allowing the mourner to gradually return to a normal life. When a close relative41 first hears of the death of a relative, it is traditional to express the initial grief by tearing one's clothing. The tear is made over the heart if the deceased is a parent or over the right side of the chest for other relatives. This tearing of the clothing is referred to as keriyah42 . The mourner recites the blessing describing G-d as "the true Judge," an acceptance of G-d's taking of the life of a relative. From the time of death to the burial, the mourner's sole responsibility is caring for the deceased and preparing for the burial. This period is known as aninut. During this time, the mourners are exempt from all positive commandments , because the preparations take first priority. This period usually lasts a day or two; Judaism requires prompt burial. During this aninut period, the family should be left alone and allowed the full expression of grief. Condolence calls or visits should not be made during this time. After the burial, a close relative, near neighbor or friend prepares the first meal for the mourners, the se'udat havra'ah (meal of condolence). This meal traditionally consists of eggs43 and bread. The meal is for the family only, not for visitors. After this time, condolence calls are permitted. The next period of mourning is known as Shiva44 . Shiva is observed by parents, children, spouses and siblings of the deceased, preferably all together in the deceased's home. Shiva begins on the day of burial and continues until the morning of the seventh day after burial. Mourners sit on low stools or the floor instead of chairs, do not wear leather shoes, do not shave or cut their hair, do not wear cosmetics, do not work, and do not do things for comfort or pleasure, such as bathe, have sex, put on fresh clothing, 41 Parents, sister ,brother 42 lit. "Tearing" 43 a symbol of life 44 seven, because it lasts seven days
    • or study Torah . Mourners wear the clothes that they tore at the time of learning of the death or at the funeral. Mirrors in the house are covered. Prayer services are held where the Shiva is held, with friends, neighbors and relatives making up the minyan45 . If a festival occurs during the mourning period, the mourning is terminated, but if the burial occurs during a festival, the mourning is delayed until after the festival. The Shabbat that occurs during the Shiva period counts toward the seven days of Shiva, and does not end the mourning period. Public mourning practices (such as wearing the torn clothes, not wearing shoes) are suspended during this period, but private mourning continues. The next period of mourning is known as shloshim46 . During that period, the mourners do not attend parties or celebrations, do not shave or cut their hair, and do not listen to music. The final period of formal mourning is avelut, which is observed only for a parent. This period lasts for twelve months after the burial. During that time, mourners avoid parties, celebrations, theater and concerts. For eleven months of that period, starting at the time of burial, the son of the deceased recites the mourner's Kaddish every day. After the avelut period is complete, the family of the deceased is not permitted to continue formal mourning; however, there are a few continuing acknowledgments of the decedent. Every year, on the anniversary of the death, family members observe the deceased's Yahrzeit47 . On the Yahrzeit, sons recite Kaddish and take an aliyah (bless the Torah reading) in synagogue if possible, and all mourners light a candle in honor of the decedent that burns for 24 hours. In addition, during services on Yom Kippur, Shemini Atzeret, the last day of Passover, and Shavu'ot, after the haftarah reading in synagogue, close relatives recite the mourner's prayer, Yizkor48 ) in synagogue. Yahrzeit candles are also lit on those days. When visiting a mourner, a guest should not try to express grief with standard, shallow platitudes. The guest should allow the mourner to initiate conversations. One should not divert the conversation from talking about the deceased; to do so would limit the mourner's ability to fully express grief, which is the purpose of the mourning period. On the contrary, the caller should encourage conversation about the deceased. When leaving a house of mourning, it is traditional for the guest to say, "May the Lord comfort you with all the mourners of Zion and Jerusalem." 45 10 people required for certain prayers 46 until the 30th day after burial thirty, because it lasts 47 Yiddish, lit. "anniversary" 48 "May He remember..."
    • Kaddish Kaddish is commonly known as a mourner's prayer, but in fact, variations on the Kaddish prayer are routinely recited at many other times, and the prayer itself has nothing to do with death or mourning. The prayer begins "May His great Name grow exalted and sanctified in the world that He created as He willed. May He give reign to His kingship in your lifetimes and in your days ..." and continues in much that vein. The real mourner's prayer is El Molai Rachamim, which is recited at grave sites and during funerals. Why, then, is Kaddish recited by mourners? After a great loss like the death of a parent, you might expect a person to lose faith in G-d, or to cry out against G-d's injustice. Instead, Judaism requires a mourner to stand up every day, publicly (i.e., in front of a minyan, a quorum of 10 adult men), and reaffirm faith in G-d despite this loss. To do so inures to the merit of the deceased in the eyes of G-d, because the deceased must have been a very good parent to raise a child who could express such faith in the face of personal loss. Figure 1 Then why is Kaddish recited for only 11 months, when the mourning period is 12 months? According to Jewish tradition, the soul must spend some time purifying itself before it can enter the World to Come. The maximum time required for purification is 12 months, for the most evil person. To recite Kaddish for 12 months would imply that the parent was the type who needed 12 months of purification! To avoid this implication, the Sages decreed that a son should recite Kaddish for only eleven months. A person is permitted to recite Kaddish for other close relatives as well as parents, but only if his parents are dead. See Mourners' Kaddish for the full text of the Mourners' Kaddish.
    • Tombstones Jewish law requires that a tombstone be prepared, so that the deceased will not be forgotten and the grave will not be desecrated. It is customary in some communities to keep the tombstone veiled, or to delay in putting it up, until the end of the 12-month mourning period. The idea underlying this custom is that the dead will not be forgotten when he is being mourned every day. In communities where this custom is observed, there is generally a formal unveiling ceremony when the tombstone is revealed. It is also customary in some communities to place small stones on a gravesite when visiting it. This custom has become well-known from the movie Schindler's List, in which the children of Survivors place stones on the grave of Oscar Schindler. The custom is not universal, even among traditional Jews, and there seems to be some doubt as to how it originated. It seems to have superstitious origins. It's a little like leaving a calling card for the dead person, to let them know you were there. Stones, unlike flowers, are permanent and do not get blown away in the wind. Some other sources suggest that it was originally done because we are required to erect a tombstone, and tombstones that actually looked like tombstones tended to get desecrated. What is written on a tombstone? In most cases, it is very straightforward Hebrew text, similar to what you might see on a tombstone in English. An illustration of a typical Jewish tombstone is shown above. At the top is the abbreviation Pei-Nun, which stands for either "poh nitman" or "poh nikbar", which means "here lies..." The marks that look like quotation marks are commonly used to indicate an abbreviation or a number written in letters. Figure 2 The next line is the name of the decedent, in the form (decedent's name), son of or daughter of [father's name]. "Son of" is either ben (Beit-Final Nun) or bar (Beit-Reish). "Daughter of" is bat (Beit-Tav). The tombstone above says "Esther bat Mordecai" (Elsie, daughter of Morrice). Sometimes, one or both of the names is preceded by the letter Reish, which simply stands for "Reb" and means "Mr." The names may also be followed by the title ha-Kohein 49 , ha-Levi50 or ha-Rav51 , indicating that the person 49 Hei-Kaf-Hei-Final Nun 50 Hei-Lamed-Vav-Yod 51 Hei-Reish-Beit
    • was a kohein, a Levite or a rabbi. See the Hebrew Alphabet page if you need help in identifying specific letters on a tombstone. The third line indicates the date of death. This line begins with the abbreviation Nun- Pei followed by the date, the month, and the year. The date and year are written in Hebrew numerals, which are letters. The month name is sometimes preceded by a Beit (meaning "of"). The tombstone above indicates that the date of death was 18 Shevat 5761. Yod-Cheit = 10+8 = 18. Shin-Beit-Tav is the month name Shevat. Tav-Shin- Samekh-Alef = 400+300+60+1 = 761 (the 5000 is assumed). See Hebrew Alphabet -Numerical Values if you need help in identifying a number. See Jewish Calendar - Months of the Jewish Year if you need help identifying months. See Jewish Calendar - Links to Jewish Calendars if you need help converting a Hebrew date to a Gregorian date. The last line is an abbreviation that stands for "tehe nishmatah tzerurah bitzror hachayim," which means "may her soul be bound in the bond of eternal life." You may also find Jewish symbols on a tombstone, such as a menorah, a magen David, a torah scroll, a lion, or the two tablets of the ten commandments. Most of these symbols don't tell you anything about the decedent52 . However, if you see a picture of hands in a position like the one at right, this normally indicates that the decedent was a kohein, because this hand position is used when the kohanim bless the congregation at certain times of the year To most people in the Western world, death is merely the demarcation between the material world of the living and the mysterious world of the dead. Once they have crossed over, there is no return to the realm of the living. Few people have a clear picture of the other side and there are many conflicting ideas about what goes on there. The lack of understanding about what occurs before, during, and after death has lead to a great deal of denial, avoidance, and unnecessary fear. In opposition to this, there are some who even glorify death, and many individuals find themselves somewhere in the middle believing it is just a natural process that does not require any preparation. According to one Buddhist master: "People often make the mistake of being frivolous about death and think, 'Oh well, death happens to everybody. It's not a big deal, it's natural. It'll be fine. 'That's a nice theory until one is dying"53 . The importance of developing a true awareness of death is one of the fundamental concepts behind Buddhism. Buddhists also believe that this awareness offers benefits to the living. It can help release us from unnecessary attachments that cause suffering, create compassion for other beings, put us in touch with important unseen energies, and force 52 other than the fact that he or she was Jewish 53 Rinpoche 8
    • us to be more responsible for our actions on this planet. In actuality, an awareness of death can bring about a much greater appreciation for life. While Buddhism is open to teaching this "awareness" to others, it is not the right religion for everyone. In fact, the Dalai Lama suggests that people should thoroughly explore the religions of their own culture before abandoning them for Buddhist beliefs. This is partly due to the fact that most Buddhists realize that a person's choice of religion is not as important as the strength of their faith. Another core concept of Buddhism is that anyone can find happiness by following the teachings of the Four Noble Truths, since they "can be practiced by every understanding person, irrespective of his or her religious beliefs"54 . However, the ever-growing hunger in Western society for Eastern spiritual experiences may point to the fact that there is still something missing from many modern Western traditions. I believe that "something" may be a more fulfilling answer to the question of what really happens to us when we die. Buddhism is based on the teachings and personal experiences of Siddhartha Gautama, who lived in India around twenty-five hundred years ago. The son of a wealthy king, he left his wife and family to became a wandering monk in search of enlightenment. After pursuing various Hindu spiritual practices, Siddhartha finally found his own path to enlightenment, which has come to be known as "the Middle Way" between "a life of unbridled sensuous enjoyment (hedonism) and a life of extreme self-denial (asceticism)"55 . By practicing moderation, morality, and meditation, he finally "achieved an insight by which he became know as the Buddha or 'the Awakened One.' After this awakening, he continued to wander as a monk-teacher, encouraging others to follow the path he discovered to nirvana, the cessation of suffering"56 . Since the time of Siddhartha, Buddhism has grown into a variety of different traditions that are unified by such principles as the Four Noble Truths. The Buddha taught that the failure to understand this basic teaching is what keeps people tied to the continuous cycle of death and rebirth. The Four Noble Truths are: 1) there is suffering, 2) suffering is caused by desire, 3) the cessation of desire leads to the cessation of suffering, and 4) there is a path that can lead to the cessation of all desire. This path is known as the Noble Eight-Fold Path, which encourages wisdom (right views and right intents), morality (right speech, conduct, and livelihood), and mental discipline (right effort, 54 Parry and Ryan 76 55 Lester 855 56 Lester860
    • right mindfulness, and right concentration). If the practitioner follows this path, they can eventually achieve nirvana. "Nirvana is the freedom from future rebirth, old age, and death. It is said to be blissful, but not in any sense of worldly pleasure or, for that matter, any pleasure defined by other than the absence of suffering"57 . This "suffering," or dukha, that can be overcome by following the Eight-Fold Path is directly linked to our deep desire for permanence. Until we can detach ourselves from this desire, we will continue to experience many of the different types of suffering in this world. From the Buddhist viewpoint: Being born is suffering; growth is suffering, experiencing disease is suffering; growing old is suffering and dying is suffering. Subtler than physical pain is the suffering of dissatisfaction, the unhappiness occasioned by not having what we want and having what we do not want. There is anxiety (mental suffering) even in the experience of pleasure and satisfaction–the knowing or at least apprehension that it will not last. There is fear of failure, loss of status, loss of self-worth, loss of loved ones, loss of property. Deep down, there is a vague and gnawing anxiety about death–not only the prospect of life ending but of ultimate meaninglessness58 . The world we live in is in constant flux, everything is impermanent, and at each moment were are moving closer to our own death. Since Buddhists see everything as being impermanent, they do not believe in the existence of what others might call a "soul." Instead they refer to this aspect of human beings as the "no-self." "Ultimately, there exists only an ever-changing combination of five aggregates–matter, sensations, perceptions, mental formations, consciousness– rhythmically forming a psychophysical configuration"59 . The union of these five aggregates, elements, or categories is what makes up the personality, the "I" that many people think actually exists, but is in fact just a projection of the mind. At the time of death there is a "dissolution," the bonds are broken, yet the life stream continues. According to professor of Buddhist Religion Eva K. Neumaier-Dargyay, "One has to think of these five categories as being like streams whose composition is constantly changing. The momentum in each stream drives the process forward and guarantees its continuation beyond the individual's death"60 . The direction of this momentum is directly driven by the individual's karma and their level of "awareness" at the time of their death. Karma, or action, is the energy that is generated by human thoughts, word and deeds. It can be positive, negative or meditative, and can have a profound affect on the next incarnation of any sentient being. "Negative karma results in rebirth in one of the three lower realms (the hells, the ghost realms, or the animal world); positive karma 57 Lester 908 58 Lester904 59 Kramer 51-52 60 Kramer 90
    • produces rebirth in the human, demigod or sensual god worlds; and meditative karma brings rebirth in the higher heavens of form and formlessness"61 . While the concept of rebirth is common among all Buddhist traditions, there is some discrepancy as to the actual route that is taken to the next life. In early Buddhism, "the Pali tradition denies that any time elapses between the moment of death and the new embodiment. Death and rebirth, in the form of conception, follow each other without interruption." There is no intermediate stage between the separation of the five aggregates, and their reformation in the next existence. "It is like the flame of a candle igniting another candle. In both cases the earlier process comes to an end, yet provokes another process that has structural similarity to the first one"62 . The Hinayana or Theraveda tradition expands on this theory with the addition of an intermediate state between death and rebirth called antarabhava63 , bardo64 or the gap. According to the Adhidharmakosha, a fifth century C.E. Theraveda encyclopedia of Buddhist knowledge and practice, the intermediary being that exists between destinations is said to possess the following characteristics: it is visible only to creatures of similar spiritual accomplishment; it has complete sensory faculties (whereby the tactile bodily feelings are of an illusionary nature); it is unencumbered by material obstacles and distances. However, unlike The Tibetan Book of the Dead, which assumes that the intermediary being has the ability to affect rebirth or avoid it all together, the Adhidharmakosha >views the path of the intermediary being as being predestined by its karma.65 Therefore, the Theraveda tradition believes that once an individual has entered the intermediate state of the bardo, the outcome of their next incarnation has already been determined. The Mahayana school of Buddhism holds a similar view. It also confirms the concept of an intermediary state where the five aggregates are transformed into an intermediary being that "is like a clone of the deceased one, so that it can relive some of the experiences of the former." These experiences have even been documented by advanced disciples of Mahayana Buddhism "who actualized nirvana after death while dwelling in a state that resembled the intermediary state"66 . The Buddhist tradition that has received the most attention in the West recently is the Vajrayana tradition, which is practiced in Tibet. One of the reasons for the increased interest in this particular tradition has been the publication of various 61 Mullin 17 62 Neumaier-Dargyay 90 63 Sanskrit 64 Tibetan 65 Neumaier-Dargyay 92 66 Neumaier-Dargyay 93
    • translations and explanations of The Tibetan Book of the Dead, which specifies the details of the dying process and what can be expected in the afterlife. The teachings are also appealing to people, because they promise additional benefits for the transitory being. If the being is truly "aware" in the bardo, and does not act out of fear, they will be presented with numerous opportunities to avoid rebirth. If these are all passed up, then they will still be given the chance to choose the best possible circumstances for their next incarnation. Since there are so many pitfalls along the way, Tibetan Buddhist's believe it is important to become very familiar with the bardo, before entering it at the time of death. In addition to experiencing it through meditation, it can also be read about in the Bardo Thötröl. The Bardo Thötröl, which is more commonly known in the West as The Tibetan Book of the Dead, or Liberation through Hearing in the Bardo, is used as a guide through the dying process. It is read aloud to the dying person to alert them to what is occurring and to keep them focused in the right direction. It is read continuously for forty-nine days, since this is the length of time one stays in the bardo if one has not found one's way towards enlightenment, or has mistakenly taken a wrong turn into a lower realm. The reading of the Bardo Thötröl is considered especially important for those who may have become confused by a serious illness or sudden death, and for those who have not been rigorous about their meditation practice. In addition to helping the deceased recognize auspicious signposts and opportunities, it also helps to reassure them during the inevitable moments of uncertainty. The teachings of the bardo are also applicable in our daily lives. According to Sogyal Rinpoche: "The word 'bardo' is commonly used to denote the intermediate state between death and rebirth, but in reality bardo are occurring continuously throughout both life and death, and are junctures when the possibility of liberation, or enlightenment, is heightened"67 . Yet, if we are unprepared for these heightened moments in time, we may be afraid to go forward, afraid to jump off the precipice, and will miss out on some great opportunities. Contemplating death can dispel these fears and can bring about many other forms of awareness. The three major Buddhist traditions each have a slightly different idea about the benefits behind building death awareness. The Theraveda tradition, which is primarily practiced by professional monks, uses an awareness of death to help "develop a sense of moderation, renunciation and nonattachment." They believe that an untrained mind tends to elevate the importance of pleasurable events and denigrate unpleasant occurrences. This leads to either excess attachment or unnecessary aversion, which can have a direct effect on one's karma. "Training in death awareness causes us to see things in a more calm, undisturbed and unaffected light, providing us with a deeper sense or moderation in interaction"68 . 67 Neumaier-Dargyay 11 68 Mullin 20
    • The Mahayana tradition, which is accessible to professionals and lay practitioners alike, uses death awareness to further their fundamental interest in compassion. Practitioners see this awareness as an aid to helping people to comprehend the impermanence of all other beings. "When the trainee has a deeply rooted awareness of death it is easy for him/her to feel patience toward the harms caused by others, and to feel love and compassion towards them. Seeing their impermanent nature, he/she responds with great compassion toward any act based on ignorance"69 . The Vajrayana school believes that practitioners can meditate on death and actually experience its various stages before they die. While the idea of intentionally experiencing death may seem unthinkable to many in the West, practitioners of Tantra see it as being extremely beneficial. Not only does it prepare the person for the actual death experience, but it also helps to teach them about "subtle energy channels, energies and points of the subtle body, the manipulation of the sexual substances and the invoking of the most refined bodily energies and levels of consciousness," which greatly accelerates the ability to achieve "full Buddha hood in one lifetime"70 . While contemplating death may not bring enlightenment to everyone, there is no doubt that enhancing our awareness has many benefits for Westerners. Instead of attempting to hide from death, we may be able to look to it as a teacher. The moment of death does not always have to be perceived as a great defeat or tragedy. It does not have to bring us pain and sorrow. If we can learn to view death from the Buddhist perspective, we may also find it easier to support those who are dying, to offer them comfort and the knowledge that there are many positive possibilities ahead. Maybe then we will be able put the Buddhist lesson of non-attachment into practice and learn to let go of our loved ones when the time has come. They are going on to a new life, and we should send them off with all the support and love that we can offer. The time of death is a time of great transformation and holds many opportunities for any sentient being who is aware 69 Mullin 21 70 Mullin 21
    • CONCLUSION: After studying this report we got a clear concept of life after death in all religions which we discussed in this report. Main religions discussed in this report are five out of them three (Islam Jewish, Cristianity) are ibrahimic and two (Hinduism, Buddhism) are non ibrahimic. As all ibrahimic religions teach to believe in one God and believe in life after death.So they have many similar aspects. But concepts of non-ibrahimic religions are totally different .Because these religions don’t give a clear concept of life after death. Most of the religions of the world teach to believe in life after death because all most all the religions of the world accept that The Creator who create all the people first time He can create each and every thing when He wants.We should respect all the religions of the world but should follow where you are satisfied We can conclude that Islam is a universal religion. It gives a clear concept about life after death. Because by comparing all the main religions we found that the views of Islam are more clear of all others.
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