Friday, 3 June 2016
Are you Afraid of Death? by Saeed Qureshi
June 1, 2016
By Saeed Qureshi
Are you afraid of death? Whether you are or not, death will come any way. One usually starts thinking about death towards the fag end of one’s life. The concept of death is scary and dreadful because it’s the irreversible transformation from existence to extinction. Death is described to be “the termination of the biological functions that define a living organism. It refers both to a particular event and to the condition those results thereby”.
The fear or paranoid of dying is common to all human beings. The animals too have the fear of death but perhaps it is explained more in their defense against the danger to their survival. In a fight between the beasts when one is killed, the other leaves the fighting ostensibly perceiving that the enemy has passed to another stage where it cannot fight back.
We have seen lions, killing their prey and waiting for their death and by pressing the jugular vein of the victims. It means that besides humans that conceive death by virtue of their intelligence and consciousness, the animal too instinctively know the difference between the state of life and death.
I have seen certain individuals in life who had no fear or phobia of death. Rather they were happy and exuded satisfaction that they were passing away with no remorse or regrets that could have weighed heavily on their minds. The deeply religious people were content at the time or before death because they unflinchingly believed that in the hereafter or so called next world, they would ever live in the paradise: an everlasting abode of complete happiness, pleasure and leisure.
The short and limited life span in this world has always posed an intriguing question and perplexing enigma to the human beings. It is an existence that ends with decline and death. Every religion has wrestled with this paramount question and has tried to answer it with its own kind of explanation.
The three Abrahamic religions namely Judaism, Christianity and Islam, talk of a paradise that can be only achieved if certain conditions are fulfilled. These conditions differ between these three main religions. The Jews, of late, are moving away from the dogma of paradise after death and maintain that such a paradise would be created by the man himself on the planet earth. The Christians identify the path to paradise in the belief of Jesus Christ as the son of God.
The pre-requisite for Muslims’ to earn the blissful paradise is to follow the path of God revealed and illustrated in the holy Quran through Prophet Muhammad and marginally in the previous scriptures. But for all these religions the picture of paradise is similar: a place of perfect joy, limitless entertainment and endless both spiritually and in worldly pleasures.
As German author Gerhard Herm stated in his book “The Celts-The People Who Came from Out of the Darkness: “Religion is among other things a way of reconciling people to the fact that some day they must die, whether by the promise of a better life beyond the grave, rebirth, or both”. All the religions invariably believe that the human soul is immortal and that after death “it journeys to an afterlife or that it transmigrates to another creature”.
In comparison to heaven or the paradise, the hell is a dreadful place with all kinds of torments and pains that one can think of in this world. That abhorrent place is for those who are sinners in religious terms. A sinner is that who defies, violates or breaks the canon teachings sent to the humans through the God’s emissaries called prophets. For non Abrahamic religions, it is only the soul that survives and gets into the cycles of rebirths and finally joins the soul of God. For Buddhists it dissipates after purification of sins.
Islam presents a graphic and well laid out sketch from man’s final wisp of breath to the first step into the paradise. It’s a long journey. For Christians the concept of limbo, purgatory or a temporary sojourn for the souls of dead is mentioned but they also believe that the dead lay in the grave both with flesh and soul. Muslims believe that while man’s body is in the grave, his soul waits in the limbo (Barzakh) to return, on the Resurrection Day, to rejoin the body for judgment.
For Muslim believers the Day of Judgment is very rigorous followed by crossing over a hair thin bridge to reach paradise or fall into the hell down below. So the elements of fear and enticements are central to the explanations of respective religions about the life after death.
The fear of death stems from the inevitable yet harrowing compulsion that despite one’s will and wish, no one can escape this unavoidable end. It is perturbing to leave one’s joys, wealth, kith, families and the phenomenon of life full of sound and fury for an unknown destination from where no one has ever returned. The myth of separation of soul from body leaves no possibility, how infinitesimal it might be, for a man to relive again. The body and his physical shell decays and cannot be revived.
As for returning from the next world back to the previous one, there is no evidence that such a world, as man perceives, exists. To return from the unknown world, it is first necessary that the soul and body must unite together. A dead man or his remains have no consciousness to recall the soul and be resurrected again. Therefore, this realization of permanent departure from a world of so much fun is at the root of man’s horrific view about death.
The second reason that causes man to be terror-stricken about death is the horrifying stages through which one has to pass through after his demise from this world. If there were no such graphic depiction of gruesome events and horrendous phases a person has to go through after dying, he would not worry a bit, what he presently shudders to think of? If one knows that no torment is going to follow after his death and he would dissipate like other things, he would not be afraid to die as he is with these horrific eventualities.
For instance in Islamic belief, after he is laid in the grave, a faithful Muslim will face two fearsome angels who would question him about certain elements of his faith. They would bludgeon him repeatedly if answers are not right. It is not known how long they would thrash him and finally leave him in that mauled situation. A pragmatic and scientific mind would not believe how in a small dark grave that kind of interrogation can take place. If there is going to be a “Dooms Day” for final award of hell and heaven, then why this preliminary questioning was necessary.
Then it is the torment of sinners’ soul in the purgatory, to continue till the Day of Judgment. Finally comes the mayhem of the “Judgment Day” with description of unbearably hot environment and God himself dispensing justice to the resurrected people according to the nature of their good or bad deeds. But this scary episode doesn’t end here. He has to cross over a bridge thinner and sharper than a razor’s edge. This is an ordeal that is most daunting as still there is a chance of misstep and one can plunge into the deep stinking ditches of hell with leaping fires.
In hell he will be roasted and would be fed on boiling water and cyst and constantly flogged. There is a long list of spine chilling punishments. For Muslims and Jews and to some extent for the Christians, life after death is not a smooth sailing. It is replete with sufferings, distress, agonies, torture and trial of most brutal nature. As for non Abrahamic religions, it is not the body but the soul that undergoes unrelenting torment till salvation.
In nature everything is bound by an abiding and fixed cycle of birth and death. Everything that exists whether living (humans, animal’s birds etc) or non living (stones, trees, soil etc) is subject to an inescapable and inexorable principle of creation and extinction. Human race too is captive of that immutable law. But because human have intelligence, they also possess investigative and curious impulse to find out what happens after the man dies. Hence all explanations!
Nevertheless, the one that is conclusive or bears logical evidence is yet to come. But in a nutshell, like a fallen tree that remains on the bank of river for hundreds of years without any movement or a rock silhouetting for millenniums till it wears down, man too is born and withers away. The dead body is immune from any feelings or vagaries of nature.
The concept of grave primarily devolves on those humans who are buried. It doesn’t apply to those who are blown into pieces in war, buried in desert, drowned in the sea, draped by rocks or swallowed by volcanoes.
In the universe, things undergo a constant process of transformation from one form to another. The soil turns into rocks after billions of years and vice-versa. All existence from an atom to space is in a state of flux. There is the simultaneous process of births, extinction and rebirths taking place.
The death of one thing is the birth of another like a flower blossoms when the bud wilts. Humans think self- delusively that they would be treated differently after death. But the nature cannot apply its principles selectively. Once a man is gone, he is gone forever. The human progeny, however, continues in different human formations. Rebirth after death with punitive or gratifying connotations is therefore all speculation, irrelevant and figment of mind.
The writer is a senior journalist, former editor of Diplomatic Times and a former diplomat.This and other articles written by him can be read at his blog www.uprightopinion.com.