Aztec beliefs in the Afterlife: Stephen Hawking and me

The temples at Teotihuacán served as an inspiration for the Aztec’s temples. By the time the Aztecs came to power, Teotihuacán was a ruin

Source: Muslim Sunrise: 2012_spring

Written and collected by Zia H Shah MD, Chief Editor of the Muslim Times

Stephen Hawking in a recent interview claimed that there is no heaven. A belief that heaven or an afterlife awaits us is a “fairy story” for people afraid of death, Stephen Hawking has said.  In a dismissal that underlines his firm rejection of religion, Britain’s most eminent scientist said there was nothing beyond the moment when the brain flickers for the final time.[i]

I beg to differ!  I believe that there is a life after death. Neither Hawking nor I have returned from the hereafter and have no eye-witness testimony to present.  Additionally, afterlife, heaven and hell are beyond time, space and matter and so, outside the scope of a scientific study.  However, I have some philosophical arguments to present to Hawking or any other agnostic.  Firstly, there are the revelations of the prophets and saintly people, both in the Islamic and Christian tradition and it is foolhardy to deny them summarily, as there is so much in human culture that we accept on the basis of human testimony.  This is, however, not the argument that I want to focus on in this article.  Secondly, there is a large body of literature about near death experiences, but that is also for another day.

So, I move to present two arguments that are mentioned in the Qur’an, but can be presented on the basis of reason and rationality, rather than on the authority of revelation.  If our universe is an accident and that is your world view and you do not stand in awe of the beauty, elegance and organization of this universe then Hawking is right for you.  But, if you are agnostic, at least to some degree and are amazed at the beauty and organization of our universe as Albert Einstein was, then Hawking is plain wrong for you.  Here I present to you the verses of the Qur’an arguing the case for hereafter, on the authority of the elegance of the first creation:

“Allah is He Who raised up the heavens without any pillars that you can see. Then He settled Himself on the Throne. And He pressed the sun and the moon into service: each pursues its course until an appointed term. He regulates it all. He clearly explains the Signs, that you may have a firm belief in the meeting with your Lord” (13:3).

The Qur’an points to astronomy and physics in these verses as an argument. Elsewhere in the Qur’an, Allah extends this discussion to the domain of biology, including human life and plant kingdom that has provided us with food and fuel over the centuries..  In other words the Qur’anic argument extends over the elegance of all natural phenomena as testimony to the possibility and for the believers certainty of the next creation.  Allah says:

“Does not man see that We have created him from a mere sperm-drop? Yet lo! he is an open quarreler!  And he coins similitudes for Us and forgets his own creation. He says, ‘Who can quicken the bones when they are decayed?’  Say, ‘He, Who created them the first time, will quicken them; and He knows every kind of creation full well. He Who produces for you fire out of the green tree, and behold, you kindle from it.  Has not He Who created the heavens and the earth the power to create the like of them?’ Yea, and He is indeed the Supreme Creator, the All-Knowing.   Indeed, His command, when He intends a thing, is only that He says to it, ‘Be!,’ and it is.  So Holy is He, in Whose hand is the kingdom of all things. And to Him will you all be brought back”  (36:78-84).

Read further in this volume of Muslim Sunrise on page 10: Muslim Sunrise spring 2012 volume

Suggested Reading

Stephen Hawking: ‘There is no heaven; it’s a fairy story!’

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