“Touched by the Essence” – a sculpture by Naznin Virji-Babul, Vancouver. Copyright.
By Shiraz Pradhan
Mention of the word ‘death’ whips up emotions of fear and sadness in most people. This is quite natural, because biological death marks the end of physical life on earth. To people, who are preoccupied with material things and sensual delights, death represents an end to all that. Religion aims to awaken in human beings the realisation that while life on this earth is short and transient, it has immense potentialities to achieve higher spiritual stations that lead to life eternal. The Holy Qur’an says:
“This life of the world is but a pastime and a game. Lo! the home of the Hereafter – that is Life, if they but knew.” — 29:64
Unfortunately, man is not impressed by the promise of eternal life which religion offers and hence, he continues to live in a manner so as to make the best of his short sojourn on this earth, believing that death is nothing but a passage into darkness and complete extinction. Shakespeare puts this very well, saying:
We are such stuff,
As dreams are made of;
And this life is
Rounded off with a sleep.
Islam, like all other revealed religions, teaches that death opens up a door into a different realm that enables the soul to experience the secrets of life hereafter. Prophet Muhammad (s.a.s.) is related to have said:
“This life on earth is a slumber, death marks the awakening of the soul”.
In Ismali tariqa (persuasion) of Islam, which is also a tariqa of jannat-bil-quwwat (potential paradise), anyone who truly offers his bay’at (allegiance) to Imami waqt (Imam-e-Zaman, Imam of the Time) is ushered into this jannah (paradise). In this tariqa, a mu’min (believer), in his search for haqq (Reality) and wasl (union) with haqq, has to come to understand consciously the meaning of death and accept it as an event of the exit of the soul from this world into the next, which is spiritual. His spiritual progress depends on this understanding.
The Imam-e-Zaman leads the believer from the zahir (exoteric) to the batin (esoteric), from the apparent to the hidden, from darkness to light and from the relative to the Absolute. He removes the veil of ignorance which blurs the mind of the believer and gives him the understanding that there is a world beyond this world of life and death which is everlasting and hence, as he fulfils his temporal duties, which he must not ignore, he must also attend to his spiritual responsibilities and prepare himself for the Hereafter, the country of haqq (Reality) and the abode of the Pure. He who attains this abode is blessed with life eternal, and if he so desires he can gain wasl (union) with haqq (Reality). This is the esoteric teaching of Ismailism and because the believer is steeped in the knowledge of the beyond, he is clearly aware of the fact that death is not a complete extinction of life, but it is a passage into eternity.
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