By Sayyid Abul A`la Al-Mawdudi
Is there any life after death? If so, what kind of life is it? This question lies far beyondthe awareness of our perception. We do not have the eyes with which we could see beyondthe frontiers of worldly life and find out what lies on beyond it.
We do not have the ears with which we could hear anything from beyond these frontiers. Nor do we haveany instrument by which we could determine with certainty whether there is any lifebeyond death. Therefore, the question whether there is any life after death liescompletely outside the area of scientific knowledge which is concerned with the classification and interpretation of sense data.
Anyone who asserts in the name of science that there is no life after death, therefore, he makes a very unscientific statement. Merely on the basis of scientific knowledge, we can neither affirm that there is a life after death nor deny it. Until we discover a dependable means of acquiring knowledge about this matter, the correct scientific attitude would be neither to affirm nor to deny the possibility of life after death.
Is the Hereafter perceptible by the Five Senses?
The question is beyond its field. But can we possibly maintain this attitude in life? Can we afford to adhere to this neutrality? Theoretically speaking, this may hold good, but looking to the hard realities of life which we have to face on every turn and pass, our answer would be: certainly not. If we do not have the means to know a thing directly, it is of course possible for us, from a purely rational point of view, to refrain from either affirming or denying it. But if the thing is directly concerned with our everyday life, we cannot maintain that attitude and must either affirm or deny its existence.
In order to live a full life on the earth we must have a definite attitude towards such problems. These questions simply cannot be avoided. For instance, if you do not know a person with whom you do not have any dealings, you may refrain from forming an opinion about his integrity and trustworthiness; but if you have to deal with him, you must do so either on the assumption that he is an honest man or on the supposition that he is not.
You may also proceed with the idea that, until his honesty is either proved or disproved in practice, you will deal with him on the assumption that his integrity is doubtful. But this manner of dealing with him would, in effect, be no different from the way you would deal with him if you were convinced of his dishonesty. Therefore, a state of doubt between affirmation and denial is possible only as an abstract idea; it cannot form the basis of practical dealings, which require a positive attitude of either affirmation or denial.
Why Lifer after Death?
A little reflection should help us to see that the question of life after death is not
merely a philosophical question; it is deeply and intimately related to our everyday life. In fact, our moral attitude depends entirely upon this question. If a person is of the view that the life of this world is the only life and that there is no life of any kind after that, he must develop a particular type of moral attitude.
A radically different kind of attitude and approach is bound to result if he believes that this life is to be followed by another life where one will have to render account of all one’s acts in this world and that one’s ultimate fate in the Hereafter will depend upon one’s conduct in worldly life. Let us try to understand this through a simple example.
Faith in Hereafter and its Impact on Moral Behavior
A person undertakes journey from Lahore to Karachi on the assumption that he is traveling to his final destination, where he will be beyond the reach of the police that could haul him up for an offense, and the jurisdiction of the courts of justice that could bring him to book.
Another person undertakes the same journey knowing that it is only the first stage of a longer journey which will carry him, beyond Karachi, to a land overseas which is ruled by the same sovereign as that of Pakistan. He also know that the court of that sovereign has complete secret database of his activities in Pakistan and that this record will be fully examined there in order to decide what position and treatment he deserves by virtue of his past performance. Now, it should be easy to realize how different the conduct of these two travelers of the same train will be. The former will prepare himself only for the journey up to Karachi, whereas the latter will keep in view also the requirements of the further stages of the long journey. The former will assume that all the gains that he can possibly make, or all the losses or harms that he might suffer, will be confined to the journey up to Karachi, and that will be the end of it. The latter, on the other hand, will know that the real gains or losses of the journey will be realized in its last stages and not in the first. The former will keep in view only those results of his actions as are likely to manifest themselves up to the time that he reaches Karachi; the latter’s visit will extend to the long term results likely to unfold themselves in the distant overseas lands where his journey will eventually take him. Now it is obvious that this difference between the approaches and attitudes of the two travelers results directly from their view of the nature of their journey and its end.
Similarly, a person’s views in regard to life after death have a decisive influence upon his moral conduct in this world. The direction of every step that he takes in his practical life will depend upon whether he treats this worldly life as the first and last stage of life, or whether he also has in view the Hereafter and consequences of his conduct in this world or the next one. He will move in one direction in the first instance, and in exactly the opposite direction in the other instance.
From this I should be clear that the question of life after death is not merely a fruitless intellectual or philosophical exercise but a question that intimately concerns and vitally affects our everyday life. There is, therefore no justification for any skepticism in this matter. Any attitude that is determined by skepticism in regard to the Hereafter could not in effect be any different from the one based on a definite rejection of the idea of a life after death. We are, therefore, obliged to make up our minds whether there is a life after death or not. If science can not help us here, we must seek the aid of rational thinking and logical reasoning.
Source: Taken from www.teachislam.com with modifications.