بسم الله الرحمن الرحيم
THE DIFFERENT LEVELS OF LIFE
“This is Uhud; a mountain that loves us and which we love” said Rasulullah when he approached Mount Uhud on his return journey from Banil Mustaliq to Madinah Munawwarah.
If love is a subsidiary of life, did Rasulullah imply that mountains have life? Knowledge of a few Aayaat of the Qur’aan and Ahaadith of Rasulullah compel us to answer in the affirmative.
o “Everything announces His purity and praises Him but you do not understand their announcement of His purity.”
o “There is no doubt that due to fear for Allah water gushes from some stones, some stones crack and water trickles from them and some stones (just) fall.” (Isn’t fear another subsidiary of life – do lifeless things experience fear?)
o On one occasion Rasulullah told his Sahaabah : “I know a stone in Makkah that used to greet me even before my appointment as a Nabi”
There is nevertheless a vast difference between human life and the life of inanimate objects like stones, mountains and trees. In fact there are a number of different levels of life.
The First Level
The first level of life is life of the earth after its death (drought). “Allah sends water from the sky and by means of it He restores life to the earth after its death.”
The Second Level
The second level of life is that of objects which people commonly regard as inanimate.
The Third Level
The third level is that of the animals. Due to their ability to move, make sounds, see, hear, smell, eat, feel hungry and angry etc. their life is of a higher level than that of the objects referred to in the first level. However, their inability to speak, their lack of a sophisticated intellect and the fact that they are not bound to any shari’ah render them lower than human beings.
The Fourth Level
Human life constitutes the fourth level and is characterised by speech, intellect and answerability to the shari’ah of Allah. It therefore excels animal life. However, it is largely dependent on food and drink and is therefore inferior to angelic life which is not dependent on food and drink. While man gets tired due to lack of food and drink and eventually dies of thirst and hunger, angels do not eat and drink and never get tired. “They (the angels) make tasbeeh night and day (all the time) and they never get tired.”
The Fifth Level
It is clear from the above that the fifth level of life belongs to the angels. Another important aspect of angelic life is the absence of sin – being created from noor (divine light) it is impossible for them to sin. “They do not disobey the command of Allah and do as commanded.”
The Sixth Level
Anybody who possessors a basic knowledge of Qur’aan and Hadith may question the inclusion of human life in the fourth category – higher than the animals and lower than the angels – because, at the time of creating human kind, Allah endowed them with the ability of imitating the angels or the animals. By imitating the angels they can ascend the level of the angels and by imitating the animals they can stoop lower than them. Thus human life is sometimes higher than angelic life (as in the case of the Ambiyaa) and sometimes lower than animal life.
• “They are like the animals – in fact they are worse.”
• “Their example is like that of one (a shepherd) who shouts at animals who hear nothing but calls and shouts.”
On the other hand some would say that people who disobey Allah are spiritually dead. Ever heard of the living dead? Ironical as it may sound, it is true. Rasulullah said, “The example of those who remember their Rabb and those who don’t is like that of the living and the dead.” Bear in mind the meaning of dhikr – it’s not mere utterance of a few formulae. Instead it is total Allah-consciousness in every aspect of daily life. Thus the fifth level of life is spiritual life – life of the heart.
• “Is that person who was dead and then we restored him to life and gave him noor (light) by means of which he walks among the people comparable to one who is in darkness and will never leave it?”
• “It (the Qur’aan) is nothing but a reminder and a clear scripture so that He may warn one who is (spiritually) alive and so that the decision regarding the disbelievers could be confirmed.”
• “Undoubtedly you can make neither the dead nor the deaf hear the call.” In view of certain Ahaadith which prove that the inmates of the graves are able to hear, the word موتى (which we translated as dead) actually refers to the disbelievers. The same applies to the words من فى القبور (those who are in the graves) in the next Aayah.
• “…And you cannot make those who are in the graves listen.” Mentioned below are two Ahaadith which prove that the inmates of the graves are able to hear:
1. Three days after the battle of Badr fourteen of the disbelievers who were slain in the battle field were thrown in a well. Rasulullah then stood at the edge of the well and, calling each one of them by their names, said: “Would it have pleased you if you obeyed Allah and His Rasul? Surely we found that the promise our Rabb gave us is true. Have you found that the promise your Rabb had given you is also true? Hearing this ‘Umar (Ra) asked: “O Rasul of Allah, are you speaking to lifeless bodies?” Rasulullah swore by Allah and said: “You cannot hear what I am saying any more than them, but that they cannot answer.”
2. “When a man visits the grave of his Muslim brother whom he knew in the dunya and greets him, Allah returns his rooh to him so that he may answer the greeting.”
• There are a number of instances in the Qur’aan where Allah refers to wahi as rooh. The wisdom behind this, as explained by the Mufassireen, is that just as the rooh is the source of physical life in the dunya, wahi is the source of spiritual life.
• Luqmaan the Wise is reported to have advised his son to sit with the ‘ulamaa because “Allah gives the hearts life by means of the noor of hikmah (wisdom) just as He gives the earth life by means of rain.”
• An Arabic poet said:
ليس من مات فاستراح بميت – انما الميت ميت الأحياء
“The one who dies and gains rest is not dead –
the dead man is the dead among the living”
• Another poet said:
و فى الجهل قبل الموت موت لأهله – و أجسامهم قبل القبور قبور
“In ignorance is death before death –
and the bodies of such people are graves before their graves.”
• And another poet said:
و ما للمرء خير فى حياة – اذا ما عد من سقط المتاع
In life there is no good for a man when he is counted
among ‘fallen’ (worthless) goods”
• ‘Abdullah bin Mubaarak (Ra) said:
ترك الذنوب حياة للقلوب – و خير لنفسك عصيانها
“Abandoning sin is life for the hearts –
and the best for your nafs is to disobey it.”
• Ibnul-Qayyim (Ra) writes in Madaarij-us-Saalikeen that “the true man is the one who fears the death of his heart not the death of his body because most people fear death of their bodies and pay no attention to the death of their hearts – of life they know nothing but the physical life. This is the result of death of the heart because physical life may be compared to a shadow that eventually disappears, a plant that quickly dries up and a dream that appears to be true…”
• This type of is attained by means of correct Imaan, abundant dhikr of Allah and tilaawah of the Qur’aan, sound knowledge of Qur’aan, Hadith etc.
The Seventh Level
The life of the grave is the seventh level of life. ‘Allaamah Qurtubi (Ra) writes in his At-Tadhkirah that it is compulsory to believe in the punishment of the grave and that Allah will restore man to life and intellect so that he will understand the questions that will be posed to him, the answers which he will give and the honour or disgrace that Allah will give him in the grave. This is what is mentioned in the narrations from Nabi , this is the opinion of the Ahlus-Sunnah Wal-Jamaa’ah and this is what the Sahaabah (Ra), Taabi’een and everybody else until today understood.
From the numerous Ahaadith regarding life of the grave we will suffice with only one:
“When a servant is placed in his grave and his companions leave him, he hears their footsteps. And then two angels come to him and say: ‘what did you say regarding this man i.e. Muhammed ?’ The believer will reply: ‘I bear testimony that he is the servant and Rasul of Allah’. Thus it will be said to him: ‘look at your place in the fire! Surely Allah has substituted you with another place in Jannah’. Thus he will see both of them. The hypocrite and disbeliever will (also) be asked: ‘what did you say regarding this man?’ He will reply: ‘I don’t know, I said what the people said’. Thus it will be said to him: ‘You neither knew nor did you read’ and he will be beaten with iron hammers due to which he will scream so loud that besides man and jin, every- thing close to him will hear him.”
Note: All the Ahaadith in this regard actually refer to life of the barzakh. The dictionary translation of barzakh is barrier. In the shar’i context it refers to the period between death and qiyaamah. Rasulullah , however, only mentioned reward and punishment of the grave because in most instances the dead are buried. It is therefore foolish to think that the questioning of the angels in the grave and the subsequent punishment could be evaded by cremation or drowning.
The Eighth Level
It is understood from the above that the life of the barzakh is not restricted to certain people only. However, if this is correct, would it not mean that the Aayah “And do not say regarding those slain in the path of Allah: ‘(They are) dead!’ Instead they are alive but you do not understand” is redundant – All the dead are alive, not only the shaheed. The answer to this is that there are different levels of life in the barzakh and the life of the shaheed is higher than the life of ordinary people. Thus the Aayah “Instead they are alive” is regarding this higher level of barzakhi life which means that, contrary to ordinary people, the body of the shaheed does not decompose. Instead it remains intact as if he is still alive.
The Ninth Level
Like the shuhadaa, the Ambiyaa (AS) are also alive in their graves. A Sahaabi by the name of Aws bin Aws narrates that Rasulullah said, “The best of your days is Jumu’ah. Therefore send abundant salawaat (salutation) to me on the day of Jumu’ah because most certainly your salawaat will be presented to me.” The Sahaabah (Ra) asked: “O Rasul of Allah, how will our salawaat be presented to you whereas you will have decomposed? Rasulullah replied: “Allah has prohibited the bodies of the Ambiyaa for the earth.” However, this life of the Ambiyaa in their graves is even higher than that of the shuhadaa in the sense that their estate is not distributed among their heirs and their wives are not allowed to remarry.
The Tenth Level
The tenth and most important level of life is the eternal life of the Aakhirah (Hereafter). Allah Ta’aalah says in the Qur’aan:
و ان الدار الآخرة لهى الحيوان
“Surely the life of the Hereafter is (true) life”
‘Umar said: “If the entire worldly life from beginning to end is given to a person and then he dies, it (everything he enjoyed in his worldly life) will be like a person who was enjoying a sweet dream and when he awoke, he realised that his hands are empty (it was just a dream).”
There are just so many Aayaat of the Qur’aan and Ahaadith of Rasulullah regarding the Aakhirah; the eternal bliss of the people of Jannah and the never ending misery and suffering of the people of Jahannam that a whole book could be written on the topic. We will therefore suffice with just one Hadith – the Hadith which states that after all the people of Jannah will enter Jannah and all the people of Jahannam will enter Jahannam maut (death) will be brought between Jannah and Jahannam and slaughtered. An announcer will then announce: “O people of Jannah, henceforth there will be no death! O people of the fire, henceforth there will be no death.” Thus the people of Jannah will become happier and the people of Jahannam will become sadder.
In conclusion we beseech Allah Ta’aalah to:
• guide us to realise the difference between life of the duyaa and life of the aakhirah
• to sacrifice our dunya for the aakhirah rather than the aakhirah for the dunya
• to bless us with spiritual life – life of the heart – which will eventually culminate in eternal bliss in the aakhirah. آمين
و صلى الله على النبى سيد المرسلين برحمتك يا أرحم الراحمين
7 September 2007