Preparing the Soul for Akhirat (Life Hereafter)

By Ghulam Abbas Hunzai

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 — Holy Qur’an, 29:64

The belief in akhirat (life hereafter) is one of the fundamental principles of Islam and as such its importance can hardly be over emphasized.

A discussion on akhirat seems to pre-suppose a certain amount of inquiry on the concept of soul which in turn involves an inquiry into the possibility of level of existence, other than material. The concept of soul is related to the concept of akhirat for the reason  that it is the soul which is going to exist after the bodily death. The survival of the soul can only be possible if there are other forms of existence beyond this life and which are not physical.

The association of body and soul constitutes human physical life. The body is visible, since by its nature it cannot be invisible. On the other hand, the soul manifests itself through the body, because by itself, it cannot be visible due to its non-physical nature. The soul, therefore, can be known without experiencing it through sense-perception. The soul cannot be apparent to our senses because it belongs to a different level of existence which is not material. On the other hand, the physical body cannot exist without being visible because it belongs to the physical realm. However both body and soul “exist”.

The term “physical death” is used to refer to the permanent separation of the soul from the body. The body was living because of the soul, therefore the latter’s separation renders the former dead. The dead body will continue to exist in a disintegrated form after its separation from the soul. The soul on the other hand will continue to live on its own level.

The appropriate examples to understand the nature of life hereafter are found in the phenomena of dream and imagination. In dreams we experience a life which does not involve our external senses. Similarly, in our imagination we can cover any distance and do anything without involving time and space. The soul, in the life hereafter, will have a life that does not involve sensory perceptions. The sensory perceptions function only in the realm of time and space whereas the soul exists even without these limitations.

Article continues after farman quote

….Life on earth is but a very short  passage in eternity and you must not believe that you are here for what is only one existence and that thereafter you have to account for nothing. It is most important that you should be regular in prayers and I insist on this because I know my Jamats will understand this and that they will get from prayers and from observance of their religious duties that happiness which cannot be found nor replaced by anything else — Mawlana Shah Karim al-Hussaini Hazar Imam, His Highness the Aga Khan, the 49th Ismaili Imam. [1]

The state and quality of life hereafter depends on what we intend and what we actually do in this world. Each intention and action has an effect on our soul. Good intentions and actions have a positive and healthy effect whereas bad ones have negative and unhealthy effects on the soul. Prayers, humility, simplicity, honesty and love have an enlightening effect whereas neglect of prayers, arrogant behaviour, vanity, dishonesty and hatred damage and weaken the soul. Since intentions are the source of actions, they should be pure and protected and this is possible through zikr, that is carrying Allah’s name in the heart.

An enlightened, pure and healthy soul acquires satisfaction and contentment because it is through these conditions that it finds nearness to its Origin, that is Allah, as the Holy Qur’an says:

“O soul that is satisfied, return to thy Lord well pleased with Him, well pleasing Him, so enter among my servants and enter into My paradise.” — Holy Qur’an, 89:27-30

On the other hand, a soul which has attached itself a great deal to material life will be restless and discontented because all its material attachments are fickle and transient. Such a soul remains far from its origin, that is Allah. As Allah’s nearness for a soul is a state of being in paradise, its staying away from Him is hell.

During the physical life, if one succeeds in submitting his will totally to the Divine Will, the material understanding of the world is transformed into spiritual knowledge. This is the self-discovery whereby he experiences his soul. This is the state in which the believer comes into contact with the spiritual level of existence which he finds more real than the material level. In fact, the latter is relative to the former. This is the level of haq al-yaqin (certainty of truth) where the believer experiences akhirat even before the physical death.  Prophet Muhammad (s.a.s) therefore, is reported to have said: “Die before you die”.

Date posted: Saturday, February 23, 2013.
Date updated: Sunday, February 24, 2013 (Farman reference added, see notes)

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Notes:

[1] Farman excerpt quoted is taken from the backcover of  Ilm, July 1978, Volume 4, Number 1. The Farman was made by Mawlana Hazar Imam in Lahore, Pakistan on November 25, 1964, and published in Farman Mubarak, Pakistan visit 1964, Ismailia Association for Pakistan.

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This piece has been adapted from The Concept of Akhirat, which first appeared in the July 1986 issue of Ilm, the flagship magazine of the Ismaili Tariqah and Religious Education Board for the United Kingdom. The magazine’s final issue appeared in 1991-1992 after 17 years of uninterrupted publication.

Other articles by Ghulam Abbas Hunzai on this website:

1. “O The Light of Imamat” by Abbas Hunzai (includes author’s profile)
2. Reflections on the Scope of Knowledge in Islam: The Interdependence of the Spiritual and Material Dimensions

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12 thoughts on “Preparing the Soul for Akhirat (Life Hereafter)

  1. Ya Ali Madad! Please can any one say where it is possible to find the digital or online versions of Ismaili Journals like UK’s ILM and Tanzania’s READ AND KNOW?

  2. Please publish more articles on this subject. Many of us never think of the soul as we are very much tied up with the material aspects of life.

  3. I agree with both Zul and Begumbai…there is so much information and knowledge to be shared in simple terms and not all in high powerd scholastic terms; from languages not all of us understand, to corresponding ones which we do. One global jamat means to share and be united. Does not necessarily mean we have to give up our individual heritages but share them. As they say of marriage, you don’t have to walk in ech others footsteps , but walk in the same direction.
    And yes, magazines like Ilm and Read and Know had a trememdous amount to share, and be a trampoline from which to learn more. Even the old Africa Ismaili had lovely articles about key concepts explained in meaningful terms. Blogs such as yours are doing a lot to enhance our knowledge.

  4. Dear Malik. It is so helpful that you are publishing such a good material. Could you please ask Ustad Ghulom Abbass to write an article on Bay’at. The short history of Bay’at and the concept of Bay’at in Shia Imami Ismaili Tariq’a.

    Thanks a lot Ustad Ghulom Abbass

  5. Thanks for sharing/reviving this great article. I am wondering why the IIS (and the scholars there) is not producing articles such as this one that touch the heart, soul and the intellect – and that are comprehensible to the layman!

    Also, would you have date and place where Mawlana Hazar Imam made the quoted farman in the article (Life on earth is but a very short passage in eternity….)?

    • Thank you for your feedback. I should say in response to your first question that articles such as this one frequently appeared in ITREB publications like Ilm (UK), Hikmat (Canada), Roshni (USA) and so on. All these religious magazines ceased publication sometime in 1991/92 with the result that the Jamat has been deprived – for over twenty years – of printed material that met the needs of scholars and layman alike. In pursuit of simply academic and scholarly material we have lost sight of the large mass of readership who were inspired by these magazines. Besides the Taalim material produced by the IIS which is aim ed for teaching purposes, there hasn’t been one single story book or simple book explaining key concepts and history in easy to understand terms. This is something that Ismaili institutions must address with urgency.

      The quote of Mawlana Hazar Imam is from a Farman that he made in Lahore, Pakistan, on November 25, 1964. Sorry the date was overlooked and has been added into the article. The Farman officially appeared in the Ismailia Association for Pakistan’s Farman booklet produced in the following year.

  6. Wonderful. Can someone please one day translate all Hindi, Gujarati and other languages waez of e.g. Abu Ali or other great waez’s from missionaries in English.

    This would help our future young jamati members a lot. There are many young jamati members who cannot speak or understand our mother tongue – especially the ones who were born and raised in the Western world.

    We, the parents do assume some responsibilities for not teaching our children the mother tongue properly and we feel it is now a bit late to do so, specially that our children are now adults.

    However, my advise to all young parents who can speak Gujarati, Hindi, etc,. to make sure that they do talk to their children in our language at home. They will automatically learn other languages in school.

    This way our children will be able to better understand on ginans, tasbis, dua, waez’s and so on much better.

    Thank you,

    • I share the sentiments and also pray that the new generations embrace our special heritage. This includes second and third languages from Asia and Africa, not only to add to the power and longevity of the human mind as science is discovering, but to access the vast riches of our ancestors and their spiritual treasures which are preserved in script.

  7. Thank you for this inklination …zulfiqar was a double edged sword and reading this brings up questions dealing with questions about life ..zaher and batin. because how can one explain the existence of something that is not perceived through any senses, as he writes…how does one know it is not imagination couched in a moral framework of “good”

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