Matters of the Grave & Hereafter, Objections & Answers, By Maulana Ashraf Ali Thanvi
Translated By: Professor Muhammad Hasan Askari & Karrar Husain
Compiled By: Mufti Umar Anwar Badakhshani
Answer to Modernism
Intimation 9: Regarding the events in the Grave, the Realities of the other World, Heaven, Hell, the Bridge of Sirat, the Balance, etc.
The reason and answer for denying the affairs of the Hereafter
The modernists reject the explicit significations of all these things on the very same ground on which their denial of the actuality of the angels and the Jinns is based. Since we have already demonstrated, under Intimation (8), how weak these grounds are, it also goes to show the nullity of such rejection.
Some people have raised other objections too. But quite a few of these are to be found even in the writings of the old Mu’tazilah school and have already been conclusively refuted in the books of I’lm-ul-Kalam, while others are nowadays being presented in a somewhat new form.
Answers to ancient and modern doubts about the affairs of the Hereafter
But all of them can be summarized like this:–when the soul of a dead man lying in the grave is no longer present in his body, how can he be conscious of pain or pleasure? How can he hear the questions of the interrogating angels without possessing the sense of hearing, and make a reply without possessing the faculty of speech? Where are Heaven and Hell located? If they are really as vast as they are reported to be, which space can accommodate them? If the Bridge of Sirat is so narrow, how can one possibly walk on it? Human deeds not being physical bodies, how would they be placed in the Balance? The single reply to all these questions is this. The essence of all these objections is improbability, but what is improbable is not necessarily impossible (vide Principle No.3). Impossibility having been discounted, all these things become rationally possible. Now,
trustworthy report –namely, the Holy Qur’an and the Hadith—affirms that they are real and actual. Hence, it is necessary to accept them as real and actual (vide Principle No.2).
We shall now provide specific replies to the different questions individually:
When there is no soul in the grave, then how to feel comfort and pain? How Punishment & Reward Will be Given in the Grave?
It is quite possible that the human body in the grave should possess so much of soul as to be conscious of pain and pleasure, but not affected by the stimuli of this world nor be moved by those of the intermediary world. For instance, a man once reported his experience to me. He was being treated for the retention of urine and had been anesthetized. As the catheter was inserted, he did not feel any pain whatsoever, but he did experience uneasiness on account of a sort of suffocation and was unable to move. Alternatively, it is also possible that the pain or the pleasure is not experienced by the body in the grave but by the soul in the abode where it happens to reside. As to where the soul does reside, it is possible that this abode lies in some part of the vaster space, and that this may be the sphere known as “the world of spirits”. This possibility disposes of the objection as to how a body can be tortured if it has been burnt or eaten up by a beast.
How will it be possible to hear and speak in the grave?
As to how one can hear without ears or speak without a tongue, we would first say that these organs are not rationally necessary for the act of perception, but only the habitual conditions. The two categories have distinct characteristics (vide Principle No. 3). It is just possible that what is habitual for that world is different from what is habitual for this one. Secondly, it is equally possible that in the world beyond the grave the soul receives a different kind of body that is appropriate to that world, and which has similar organs of perception. In fact, certain “men of mystic vision” (Ahl-al-Kashf) do believe in such a state and call it “the subtle body” (al-Jism al-Mithali).
Where are Heaven and Hell located?
As for me location of Heaven and Hell, it is possible that they lie somewhere in the vaster space, which is supposed to be unlimited by modern thinkers.
How will it be possible to walk on the bridge of Sirat?
Crossing the bridge of Sirat might well appear to be improbable with regard to our present situation, but it does not make it necessarily impossible (vide Principle No.3).
Deeds do not have a body, so how will they be weighed?
The weighing of human deeds in the balance too is possible in the following manner. Every human deed is recorded in books, and these are bodies, according to the Holy Qur’an and the Hadith. So, it is possible that every meritorious deed is written down in a particular part of the book, and as the number of such parts increases, the weight too would undoubtedly increase. Moreover, it is possible that some of these parts may in spite of the equivalence in mass, differ in lightness or heaviness on account of accidental qualities like sincerity, etc. For example, we find heat and cold make a difference in the weight of bodies which are equivalent in mass and nature. This might be the case with evil deeds too. Thus, these books would be weighed in the balance, and the differences in the weights would, no doubt, reveal the differences amongst the deeds.
Even the traditions of the Holy Prophet صلى الله عليه وسلمsuggest that this probability is closer to the truth, for the terms like Bitaqah (a piece of paper) and Sijillat (scrolls) are explicit enough. Thus, we see that the weighing of the scroll is something real and actual, but it has metaphorically been attributed to deeds. So where is the harm if things happen on the same pattern even in the other world?
How will human organs speak on the Day of Judgment?
The objection with regard to the ability of the bodily organs to speak is of the same nature. It is merely a habitual improbability and not a rational impossibility. In fact, since the appearance of the gramophone, there is little justification left for describing the ability of the bodily organs to speak even as improbable.