A study of islamic and hindu belief about life after death Essay
A study of islamic and hindu belief about life after death
The concept of life after death can be traced back to prehistoric periods. Man has always believed there is something beyond death and in our modern scientific world there is no exception. My aim is to explore the concept of life after death in two of the biggest world spread religions today.
I will be exploring Islam and Hinduism, two religions with very different concepts on the theory of life after death, but one thing in conman, the soul. Both religions have a common belief in the soul and my investigation will be strongly focusing on this along with the to the representation of the heaven and hell in each religion, including it postive and negative points. I also want to explore the concept of the soul within different sects such as Sunnis and shiahs in Islam and Saivism,Vaishnavism ,Shaktismin in Hinduism.
Islam is a religion with more than 1,400 million believers. It is dominant in East- and north africa, middle eastCentral Asia and in Indonesia. Islam is divided into many sects but the two main sects are sunnis which are the majority of muslims today and shiahs.
This religion is based upon the holy quran, and the examples of conduct from the messenger Muhammad’s(pbuh) life, the Sunna, or hadï¿½th. According to Islam, the religion is dated back to Adam, the first man created. Ibrahim (pbuh)(also known in Judaism and Christianity as Abraham) has a central place in the history of Islam, and is the founder and builder of the Ka’ba in Mecca, which is by Islam defined as the centre of the world..
Western scientists and many Muslims, too, have a different point of view, and consider Islam as historically beginning with the first revelations to Muhammad in 610 in Mecca (Saudi Arabia).
This After Life is called the Real and the True Life accourding to islam. The Quran explicitly refers to the After Life as the True Life while the life in this world is a superficial one.
“What is the life of this world but amusement and play? But verily the Home of the Hereafter – that is Life indeed, if they but knew.”(29:64)
In islam, one of the most major beliefs is that we live on this earth as part of a test . a test which will determine wiether we will enter heaven or hell after our deaths.
Death is inevitable. It is the one thing that we can be certain about in life. It is the islamic notion that we are born to die. Every soul shall have a taste of death no matter who they are. This is something which is confirmed many times in the holy Quran:
“Every soul shall have a taste of death: and only on the Day of
Judgement shall you be paid your full recompense.” (Quran 3:185)In Islam man cannot feel sure that he or she will enter Paradise, unless he or she lives as a Muslim. Islam has a Day of Judgement, This day will be the day when all souls are reawakened to be judged. They will either be condemned to hell or let into Paradise
The concept of the soul in islam is that it has three stages of physical development , dust or clay, embryo and birth. There are also three stages of spiritual development, Death,the Grave and Resurrection, all indicated in the holy Quran. The journey of the soul begins in our mother’s wombs. Forty days after conception the soul is blown into the fetus. The next part of the souls journey begins after we are born. This is the life of this world, in which we now reside and are familiar with. Here we grow up and acquire the means to happiness or misery.
We are given the ability to make choices after the age of puberty and
we will later be punished or rewarded based upon them.
In this life, the soul and the body are together except during sleep
when the soul may leave the body and come back in the morning or Allah may take the soul at that time. (can insert quote from quran here)
The next stage for the soul is when it body begins to die. Acourding to islamic belief the Angel of Death or Izraeel is said to come to take the soul out of the body and put it in a place called the Barzakh.
For those who led a life of evil, the removal of the soul is tough
and difficult. Sometimes, more than one angel has to work together to
beat the face and back of the deceased. But for those who lived a
good life, the soul yearns to meet its Lord and leaves the body with
After the soul is taken, if it is a pure soul and has relatives in the Next World who are people of the Garden, they come to meet the soul with great joy. The angels then take the soul from one heaven to the next(acourding to islam there are 7 levels of heaven) until it comes into the presence of Allah. Then the angels bring the soul back to see washing of the body, its shrouding, and the funeral procession. The soul stays floating above the body and when the corpse is placed in the grave, the soul inserts itself between the body and the shroud so that the questioning can take place.
This life in the grave or barzack is the next part of the souls journey. this interspace separates two things: heaven and earth and this world and the Next World or the period between death and resurrection. The bliss or punishment of the Interpsace is not the same as what is follow, but rather something that
happens between the two worlds.
In death, the body remains in the ground while the soul is in the Barzakh between the two worlds. However, the two are still connected and so the bliss or punishment happens to both of
During this life in the grave the souls are divided into two groups: one group is punished and the other group is in bliss.
As various hadiths narrate, if the soul was a believing one, the soul is shown it’s place in the Fire(hell) had they disobeyed god. Then they are shown the Garden(heaven) and their place there. The soul will be shown this untill the Day of Rising. Some of the sweetness and fragrance of the Garden reaches them and the grave is said to be made spacious. The believer sleeps in peace just as if they were in one of the meadows of the Garden. Their narrow grave expands and stretches for the soul as far as the eye can see.
If however the soul was a disbelieving one, the Garden is
opened for the unbeliever and they are told to look at what their
place would have been in the Garden had they obeyed Allah. Then it
they are told to look at heir place in the fire. It stays open and the blast of hot air from it continues to reach them until the Day of Rising. It is said that the earth presses in on them and they are crushed to the point that their ribs
This part of the souls journey in the graves is still mostly unknown territory. Outwardly the grave is stillness and quiet while inwardly
it contains secrets and terrors which an ordinary person cannot
The next part of the souls journey is the resurection. Acording to islamic belief,
Allah will instruct the Angel Israfeel to blow the horn twice. The souls will come back from the barzakh to group on the mountain of arfat
Judgement Day will be the souls next stop. This is the day when Allah
personally will judge everyone directly . Each person will then receive a book that contains each and everything they have done from the time of birth till death. This book includes activites, appearance and intention. This is where the journey for the souls will near its end near the end. The soul will enter an
everlasting life, which will either be spent in heaven or hell.
The concept of hell in islam is one which is extreamly horrific,terrifying and graphic in comparison to hell of other world religions –
The prophet (saw) said:
“The mildest punishment to be inflicted upon
a person in Hell is that he will be made to wear a pair of sandals
made of fire which will be so hot that they will make his brain boil
like things boil on a stove. He will imagine that no one is
undergoing a punishment more severe although his punishment, in
reality, will be the mildest in Hell.” [Bukhari, Muslim].
The belief about hell is that every individual will pass over Hellfire, some will remain there while others continue on.
Every persons Hell will take its shape according to his evil deeds ensuing from atheistic belief or polytheism, hypocrisy, base passion and evil practices, oppression of the innocent, sensuality and iniquity or vicious activities.
The islamic concept of heaven is on the opposite spectrum of hell, it is described as something incomprehendable to the human mind.
It is the last destination and hope of every muslim to arrive there. Paradise is said to have all the beauties of life to enjoy without ever being tired. It is a life of excitement, peace and happiness.
The prophet (saw) said:
“Allah, the Almighty, says, ‘I
have prepared for My righteous servants that which no eyes have ever seen, no ears have ever heard and no heart has ever conceieved.'”
The concepts and ideals of hinduism in comparison to islam are very different. There is however one coman denomenator, which is the soul. Although the theoryies surounding the soul in each religion are very, there is a general belief in It. The origins of Hinduism can be traced to the Indus Valley civilization sometime between 4000 and 2500 BCE. Though believed by many to be a polytheistic religion, the basis of Hinduism is the belief in the unity of everything. This totality is called Brahman. The purpose of life is to realize that the soul (or atman) is part of God and by doing so it can leave this plane of existance and rejoin with him.
This enlightenment can only be achieved by going through cycles of birth, life and death known as samsara. 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. Hindus follow a strict caste system which determines the standing of each person. The caste one is born into is the result of the karma from their previous life. Only members of the highest caste, the Brahmins, may perform the Hindu religious rituals and hold positions of authority within the temples.
According to Hinduism a soul reincarnates again and again on earth till it becomes perfect and reunites with it Source. During this process the soul enters into many bodies, assumes many forms and passes through many births and deaths. This concept is summarily described in the following verse of the Bhagavad gita(the holy scriptures for followers of hinduism):
“Just as a man discards worn out clothes and puts on new clothes, the soul discards worn out bodies and wears new ones.” (2.22)
According to Hinduism a being has to live many lives and under go many experiences before it attains perfection and becomes one with the Divine. The Hindu theory of creation suggests that creation begins when the individual souls becomes separated from the undifferentiated One. the individual soul hides behind the false personality called jiva (Every being with Atman (a soul) is known as a Jiva,) The body and outer personality or the ego.
The jiva is made up of the subtle body, the subtle mind and a little bit of discretionary intelligence called buddhi. The ego is made up of the gross physical body, the surface consciousness consisting of innumerable desires and impulses. Since the Jiva and the ego have no idea of Truth or reality, they suffers from ignorance and illusion. They succumbs to illusion and suffer from the delusion of the outer mind. They behave selfishly as if they are different from the rest of creation and end up with suffering, indulging in acts of self perpetuation.
At the end of each life, the physical body and the gross mind return to the elements of the earth. But the Jiva and the soul survive death. Depending upon the nature of their past deeds and number of bodies it has passed on to, the Jiva either ascends to the heaven or descends into the hell. The Jiva stays in these worlds till it exhausts the fruits of its good or bad actions. Having learned some new lessons, it then returns to the earth again to take another birth. Thus the Jiva undergoes innumerable births and deaths..
Hinduism does speak of the existence of heavens above and hells below. The concept of heaven that it is sun filled and inhabited by gods and innumerable divine souls. The latter are dark worlds (asurya lokas) and populated by all the dark and demonic forces. The individual souls go into these worlds according to their deeds. But they do not stay there permanently till the end of destruction. They go there basically as a consequence of their actions, either to enjoy or to suffer. In either case they learn the lesson and come back to earth to start a new earthly life all over again. according to Hinduism, life in heaven may be longer, but still it is a mortal life only. There, a Jiva may enjoy extreme pleasures, but it would not last for ever. Once its karma is exhausted, the Jiva is thrown back from the heights of heavenly glory into the turmoil of unstable earthly life .
Hinduism does not accept that under normal circumstances an individual soul can free itself completely from the entanglement with Samsara and unite with its Creator in just one life time. The Jiva has to progressively evolve through the cycle of innumerable births and deaths before the soul can liberate itself. Freedom from the process of samsara can only come once a person realises they are actualydivine and belong to god. And this can take hundred of years to achieve.
Overall when looking at these two relgions view on the soul it is important to look at the differnts sect belief in the soul. in islam , the two major sects are sunis and shiah and these two sects seperated at back at the time of the prophets mohammed(pbuh) death. Though these two sect have many beliefs and practices which are are very different from one another, the actual belief in the soul and the concepts of barahkz ,ressurection,judgement,heaven and hell are in fact very simlar. There are not many differences. In hinduism however, there are four main sects Shaivism,Vaishnavism ,Shaktismin and smarta/liberal hinduism which I have just discussed.
All these sect have a belief that the human soul is imortal and passes from body to body untill they can reunite with god. The difference in each sect is that are each represented by a different god who they hope to become one with. Smarta hinduism which I have discused believe that they are all apart of the one god known as brahmin. in Shaivism, these followers bielieve it is the god known as shiva who is one god they hope to reunite with. In Vaishnavism it’s the god Vishnu, and in Shaktism it is the god Shakti. These are the major differences between the sects, the ideals and concepts of hinduism such as karma, reincartion, the soul, heaven are the same.
University/College: University of Chicago
Type of paper: Thesis/Dissertation Chapter
Date: 16 September 2017
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