Death, Dying and the Afterlife in the Quran

We believe the two fundamental beliefs in Islam, which it shares with Judaism and Christianity are belief in the Transcendent God and accountability in the life after death. The former is discussed at some length in the commentary of Surah Fatihah and the latter in the commentary of Surah Waqi’ah.

Hamza Yusuf has a wonderful article: Death, Dying and the Afterlife in the Quran. We are quoting from the first page of his fairly detailed forty page article:

From the earliest days of Islam, following the example of the Prophet, Muslims have made the remembrance of death a foundational spiritual practice. The impermanence of the world is a recurring theme in the Quran. Hardly a page can be found that does not contain references to the ‘fleeting life of this world’ or ‘this world and the Hereafter’ or a reminder of the day that would make children gray-haired (73:17). Without death, it is questionable whether we would have any need for religion at all. At a fundamental level, religion’s greatest claim is making sense of the reality of death, which relentlessly impinges on our living consciousness.

One of the most singular aspects of the pre-Islamic Arabia in which the Quran was revealed is the fact that the Arabs of the day, notwithstanding a small number of Christian Arabs and an even smaller number of primordial monotheists known as hanifs, did not believe in an Afterlife, although they followed their own form of religion. Death was the end of the road for them, and ‘immortality’ lay in the praises of poets, not in the reality of the Afterlife promised by the prophets. The Quran describes the pre-Islamic Arabs’ nihilistic attitude toward life and death: They say, ‘There is naught but our life in this world. We die and we live, and none destroys us save time.’ But they have no knowledge thereof. They do naught but conjecture (45:24).

This essay is included in a recent commentary of the holy Quran by Seyyed Hossein Nasr and associates.

We want to supplement this excellent reading with two other sources. One is our commentary of Surah Waqi’ah. The other is a short section in the Introduction to the commentary by Muhammad Ali, highlighting that hell will be short lived and everyone will eventually graduate from there to paradise: Hell is Meant for Purification and is not Permanent.

For the students of the Quran, some of who eventually get the label of scholars, tend to reinvent the wheel and create their own materials on every important subject pertaining to the Quran and Islam.

Let us suggest coexistence and non-sectarianism to them and to start from here on the subject of Afterlife and reinvent only if they have some thing additional or better to say, otherwise just promote this collection for the benefit of others. Allah says in the holy Quran that whoever makes a righteous promotion or endorsement will have part of the reward of the goodness that follows. (4:85)

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