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Bulletin : Published
Wednesday, August 07, 2002
Subject: Journey of the Unseen World
Journey of the Unseen World
Ayatullah Najafi Quchani
Man instinctively desires to have an understanding of the life Hereafter, i.e. the life after death and the state of the Barzakh (the interval between death and resurrection), which we all have to face.
Knowledge of "Barzakh" is required because Barzakh is completely different from this world. So man wishes to know how his present lifestyle and his activities here will affect his life in Barzakh. Certain questions rise in his mind, like: what sort of people will he encounter there? What kind of beings live there? Do eating, drinking, sleeping, waking, friendship, enmity etc. exist there, and if so in what form? What is the span of time between death and resurrection (Barzakh) and what will his acitivities be in this period? What do happiness and wretchedness in Barzakh entail?
Principally, does a spirit need a body after death or does it become permanently free and independent of the body and becomes engaged in an infinite journey towards an unkown destination? Whether the spirits will be granted bodies and if so, will these bear any resemblance to our present bodies? And whether the spirits are able to communicate with people living on earth or do communication and contact stop forever?
This book attempts to answer these and other similar questions. The late author has attempted to take his reader on a tour of the Barzakh and the land of the spirits. For some time he takes man away from the base and material, away from the noise and hustle of the world, and into the very lap of the spiritual and angelic state, that is, the life in the Barzakh.
Principally speaking, Man with his limited senses and knowledge is unable to understand or even correctly percieve the state of life in Barzakh, as he does not have any knowledge about the state of affairs there. Man's senses are so weak, that even in this world, which is so small compared to the universe, one is a prisoner of time and space and he is incapable of looking into the future.
Life after death, is of course, a specially difficult topic to analyze, understand and then explain in simple language is next to impossilbe. This is because man has only experienced a life which is very limited; in comparison, Barzakh is infinite and unlimited. Apart from this, the events which will take place after death are those which are yet to occur; and man's knowledge and information are always based on past events which have already occured. Hence how can man have knowledge of a thing which is not yet to experience?
If this is the case, then is the path to awareness and knowledge completely closed, and should man, therefore, abandon all his attempts to seek out the truth?
But it is not so. God has given man a way out. The sole means which can help man are the relevations and scriptures or the Holy Books, and side by side those pious and holy personalities whom are commonly called Prophets and their true successors. These men are the only sources of illumination and guidance which man has to take him out of the narrow straits of darkness, ignorance and bewilderment. The lives of the Prophets and their successors were free from all tainments.
They were the Truthfuls, the Witnesses. They were certainly neither frauds and liars, nor simpletons and fantasizing men who, either out of greed or ignorance, created fantasies and presented them to men. On the contrary, on the basis of their wisdom, knowledge of facts and their indepth understanding,, and also as being a source of peace and belssing for entire mankind, they should be considered as the best amongst the human race. Many of their sayings appear strange and even wrong but are in fact right.
This because their knowledge stems from the fountain of relevation and the Holy Books, and these are free of error and doubt. God has revealed these books of guidance and light to wipe out ignorance and for awakening of mankind. The best, most complete and perfect of these books is the Holy Qur'an. Similarly, amongst the righteous guides, the Holy Prophet stands out as the best and most perfect.
The gist of the Qur'an and the teachings of the Ahle Bayt is that our life in this world is very short and untrustworthy and that life after death exists, it is a reality and it is eternal. The fortunate in this world is the one who leads a life of faith, awareness and awakening and in accordance with the commandments of God. In the Hereafter, he will lead a life of eternal happiness and will be rewarded with boundless blessings. And the one who leads a life of neglectfulness, waywardness adn evil doings, for him there will be eternal punishment and chastisement.
Doubtless, and the Hereafter encompasses an infinite lifespan and our life in this world, even if we attain an age of 70 or 80 or even 100 years, in comparison with the Hereafter, is merely like a drop of water compared to the sea. How ignorant and unjust is then indeed man, to give so much time and importance to his worldly pleasures and become so forgetful of his next life!
This book attempts to draw a picture of the Barzakh in the light of the Qur'an and the traditions of the Prophet and his successors. It shows the bliss of the virtuous and the wretchedness of the evil-doers, with the help of examples and hints taken from the verses and the traditions.
It is hoped that readers and esteemed scholars will overlook and forego any mistakes which may be present.
The Station of the Grave and the Beginning of Barzakh
"IN THE NAME OF ALLAH THE MOST BENEFICENT THE MOST MERCIFUL"
All Praise belongs to Allah, the Lord of the Universe, the Master of this world and of the Day of Judgement.
Peace and blessings be on the Prophet of Islam(S.A.W.) and on his Progeny who warned us that love of this world is a dangerous affliction and that it is the root cause of all diseases afflicting the human race. All other diseases are really branches stemming from this main root. And the cure of this affliction is to keep reminding oneself constantly of Death.
I begin now, by saying that in 1307 (A.H) I had written my memories about my schooling and had called it Travel Eastwards and now in 1312(A.H.) when I am writing about the Barzakh, I intend to call it Westward Travel and I hope that it will serve as a souvenir from me and will prove a source of guidance and advice fro the general public.
The fact is that our present material and elemental body, by virtue of its very nature, is in a dark and impenetrable veil, not allowing man to see into any other world. Death, in fact, is the name of emerging from this curtain and once this curtain is removed, man is able to see that which was hidden to his eyes before, and he becomes aware of facts which he was unaware of, until then.
'Certainly, you were heedless of this (Day), now we have removed your veil from you, so now your right is sharp'(Chapter Qaf Verse 22)
That is to say, in this world you were ignorant of facts. Now after death we have removed from your eyes the material curtain so that you may clearly see the Hereafter.
Hence, I died. Then I saw myself standing, relieved of my illness, feeling fit and healthy, but around my corpse my relatives were busy mourning. I was saddened by their crying and told them that I was cured and not Dead but nobody heard me.
It was as if they neither saw nor heard me. I realized that these people had now become distant from me and so I tured my complete attention towards my corpse. I became especially attentive towards the face and the side which was uncovered. Afterwards, my body was bathed and shrouded. Then, when the people had taken care of their other pending work, they took my body towards the graveyard. I was also present in the funeral procession.
In this procession I saw many wild beasts and animals, which frightened me, but the other people present were neither afraid or even troubled, as if those beasts were their tame and beloved pets. In this way, we reached the graveyard. I stood in the grave, and saw how my body was lowered into it, head first. The moment the body was laid inside, the grave became full of animals emerging from everywhere.
My fear knew no bounds especially when the animals stared attacking my body. But the man who was lowering my body was not in the least fearful, it was as if he did not even see them.
The man laid the body in the grave and then came out. But my primary interest was in my body so I stayed inside the grave. I tried to shy away from the animals but they were too many for me to handle and they overcame me. One reason was, that I was so overcome with fear that my very existence was trembling. I called out to the people standing above my grave for help but nobody came forward to help. On the contrary they remainded busy in their work, as if they just could not see the commotion that was going on inside the grave.
Suddenly certain people entered the grave from somewhere and came to my help, as the animals ran away when they saw they saw these people. So I thanked them and asked them who they were that they helped me in such a difficult time. They smiled and replied that they were my good deeds that I had done and that the beasts had been my evil deeds. They asked me if I had not heard the verse "Verify the good deeds clear away the bad deeds". Then these people disappeared.
As soon as the commotion was over, I regained my senses. I saw that the men outside had closed the grave and had left me alone in the dark and narrow place. I could see the people going back to their houses, even my close friends relatives and family membershad deserted me and left me alone. These were the very people for whose comfort and well being I had provided and worked for day and night. Their desertion and unfaithfulness on the one hand and my dark and narrow prison on the other, extremely saddened my and I was close to bursting with sorrow.
I had never before fell such fear and bewilderment and I sat down dejected at the head of the corpse, losing all hopes of receiving any help from anybody except God. I was wondering what would happen next when suddenly the grave started trembling and dust came falling down off its walls and root. It was expecially violent near the foot of the grave as if some huge beast was trying to split open the grave to enter. Finally the grave did split and two huge men with fearful faces entered.
The two men were strong and hefty like giants. Smoke and fire bellowed from their mouths and nostrils. In their hands were iron rods.(The punishment in the grave, the questioning of Munkir & Nakeer and the presence of snakes and scorpions in the grave is mentioned in numerous traditions). The details can be had from the books on Beliefs e.g. Sheikh Sudooq and Allama Majlisi my be reffered to.) so read not that it seemed as if flames were leaping up from them. Suddenly they thundered in voices so sharp that the heavens and earth trembled, "Who is your Lord?"
I was so afraid that I could not control my senses, I lost the power to speak and my courage gave way. I thought that my dead body would not be able to answer their questions and I became certain that they would give the body a good beating with their iron rods and the grave would be engulfed with fire. I saw that as it were their fear had made me lose control over my senses, if fire engulfed the grave it would become much worse. So I decided to asnwer their questions myself.
I beseeched God for help: "O helper of the Helpless and Rescuer of the Troubled and Afflicted, come to my help." In my heart I also seeked the intercession of Imam Ali(A.S.) because I knew him well and I was aware of his strength, and of his positions in the eyes of God and that he could come to one's help at any place and at all times. I believed him to be the dispenser of difficulties. My heart had been full of love for him throughout my life and even in death. I knew that this intercessor was God's blessing and that in the most difficult of times when man is near to losing his senses, this gift of God comes to his rescue.
The Qur'an says,
"And you see men in stupor, and they are not in stupor, but God's chastisement is severe"(Surah Hajj Verse 2).
But even in such times, the Imam comes to help. Hence as soons as I seeked his intercession, inspite of the gravity of the situation, strength returned to me and I felt capable of answering.
But my lengthy silence had angered them all the more. Their flaming eyes and faces became harsher. They raised their arms as if about to strike me with their iron rods and in voices sharper than before they repeated, "Who is you Lord?"
But I was no longer afraid and so I replied softly that Allah, the One, Only and Unique was my Lord.
"He is Allah; there is no God but he, the knower of the unseen and the seen, He is the Beneficent and Ever Merciful. He is Allah, there is no God but He, the King, the Holy, the Peaceloving, the Bestower of Conviction, the Guardian, the Ever-prevalent, the supreme, the great absolute. For too exalted is Allah from what they associate (with him). (Surah Hashr Verse 22, 23)
I remebered this particular verse because I had been in the habit of reciting it daily after my morining prayers.
I felt it necessary to recite it in front of them in order to convince them of my position and qualities, so that they may not think that the human race was bereft of lofty qualities. They had objected to the creation of Adam the very first day, saying that he would prove to be nothing but a source of mischeif and bloodshed on earth. However, I saw that as soon as I recited these verses, their anger seemed to melt away. Their faces softened somewhat and one of them told the other that it seemed as if I belonged to the group of scholars of Islam and therefore they should continue with their questioning in a gentler manner.
But the other one replied that God had appointed them to question me and so they should continue in the some manner regardless of who I was, because their attitude towards me should depend only upon my being able to answer correctly all the questions and it was not yet known whether I would be able to do so.
After conversing thus, they resumed their questioning, "Who is your Prophet?"
But now I felt sufficiently courageous and even my voice was strong. Without hesitation I replied, "The Messager and the Prophet of Allah towards all men, Muhammad(S.A.W.), the son of Abullah, May Peace be Upon Him and his Progeny. He is the seal of the Messagers and the Chief of the Prophets." The moment I replied, their anger vanished completely and their faces brightened and became happy.
Then they questioned me about my Book, Place of Worship, and the Imams and the Successors of the Holy Prophet. I replied, "My book is the Holy Qur'an, which was revealed by the Benevolent Lord unto the sagacious Prophet (S.A.W.). And my temple is the Kaaba and the Masjid-ul-Haraam 'wherever you maybe, turn your faces towards it' and 'I have turned my face towards the Creator of the heavens and the earth completely and submissively and I am not from the polytheists'.
And My Imams and the successors of the Holy Prophet are the Twelve Imams, the first of them Ali, and the last Imam Mehdi, who is the Imam and the ruler of our time. Obedience unto them is obligatory and they are infallible. They are witness on the earth and in the Hereafter they are the intercessors." Then I named each Imam with his parentage and other details.
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(Saturday, January 18, 2003)
This is a great book that describes some of the activities we can expect after death.