The literal meanings of Everlasting are:
- That which does not age, remains new, does not become obsolete.
- Continuity, permanence
Paradise: the word everlasting has been used in Quran as an everlasting life for both a good or bad life.
Desire: Wanting, yearning, longing, craving (in this case – for a long life)
The topic under consideration apparently appears ambiguous but after pondering, the curtains on the secrets of the reasoning of human creation begin to unveil and the ones of virtuous birth and pure audience visualize the theatres on the firmaments of the nobility of their being. The fearful heart thence turns to the Divine Word: He who sent down tranquility into the hearts of the believers
The element in nature for the perpetuity of life in this world is present in humanity from the time of the world’s creation. The principle that he has to live has gripped the thought of mankind from the beginning of his first breath. Being reluctant to die and driven in his passion for life, he searches everywhere. He remains busy in his utmost capacity to collect the means of prolonging his life so that there should not come in his life a turn, where his life would be in danger.
The life of this world and its progress: Remember the ancient time called the Stone Age. This is the initial phase in the history of human civilization. Since man is a social animal, groups were created. Historians have recorded early man hunting animals for food and preparing stone weapons for hunting them. When this ancient human civilization was mentioned, it was seen that the mother was made patron of the tribe so that rivalry would not be created in one another. Intellect gave mother preference and made her a guarantee for survival. These very stones showed the inception of fire and this is how ancient civilization found a way for survival and longevity of human life. When mother was made a leader, justice was part of her nature and the possibilities of benevolence and sacrifice took root. Thus, due to the aspiration for continuation of life, a human society was formed on the basis of protection of life and has left its mark from ancient times.
Historians and researchers base their research on the beginning of human life and its progress; this is dependent on their intellectual advancement and the categorizing and researching the ancient structures. This differs from Islamic history and its view of human progress. However the topic here is human nature and his natural life, hence the writer has begun with how the requirements are applicable in this context. I must pause here to make this comment that as Allah has never performed an act in vain, how then would He leave the work of human nature unfinished? That is why He has established an earthly guardian in this world. We began to explore the analysis of the stipulation of nature as soon as we entered the world. This will be explained in time.
It can be concluded from the above facts that: The desire for an everlasting life is a prerequisite of nature. (i.e. human mind is always searching for an abode to stay and stay evermore or at the least for a very long period of time).
Mother from the beginning of time: This prerequisite calls out becoming imperceptible, and traverses the grades with intensity. Mother is the name of a noble being, which has given birth to humans. The Almighty has honored her with every blessing and excellence. Man after inception, moved from darkness to the light of the world, the distinctive nature of his environment instinctively made him cry. He wailed out loud while his own ears were unprepared for this. But just as the mother embraced him, the young life gravitated to the breasts of the mother as if the motherly love had transformed into waves of a heavenly rivulet and the new born suckles it eagerly. When bereft of milk for a few minutes, the love for life awakens in him and he starts crying. Mother, the protector of the life of the new born, busy in her chores, immediately leaves everything and rushes towards the baby sweeping him into her bosom. The mothers’ milk trickles down his throat and he dissolves into a smile after a while. This was a hidden prerequisite for the desire of an everlasting life. This ability was created in his nature by the Creator.
Reaching to its destination: It is the effect of mother’s milk that a child in his childhood, the young in his youth and the aged in his old age safeguards himself to prolong his life, makes his utmost effort like a lamp to save the flame of his mortality. When the glow of this worldly life ebbs to its last flicker, he remembers his Creator and collects himself in hope for the transition from the transient to the everlasting.
The readers recollect that man discovered the making of fire in the early stages of civilization. Gradually, intellect and wisdom, in the words of Allama Iqbal: ‘God made earth, I made the bowls’: made inroads. Meals were prepared, gusts of wind made the fire brighter. Water and plants were used. Tastes developed. Different preparations of food were cooked for the continuation of life. What food is good for health? What meal makes you refreshed, wards off disease? Which foods bring physical and mental wellbeing, strengthen the heart, brighten the eyes, and give power to your walk, removes weakness? An elder advised: Walk to walk more. I asked: What does that mean? He replied: Walking increases the lifespan. Hearing it from an aged personality felt like hearing it from all the constituents of a human; water, wind, earth and fire. The elements spoke as one that every man, every intelligent person tries to keep all the constituents in symmetry and concentrates his efforts all his life. Today, universities have courses for dieticians who are then occupied in hospitals and other institutions. In the same vein, I recall an incident of about 50 years back. A child weighing only 3 pounds was born. The doctors forbade him mother’s milk and put him in the incubator and fed him with milk laced with medicine. The child survived only 20 days. In contrast, another child weighing just 2 pounds was born and the mother did not separate him from herself but fed him her own milk. The child survived and grew up to be a strong man. It was then the theory emerged that mother’s milk contained all the elements necessary for survival. Today, there appears research, development, discovery and innovation everywhere. They have used all their intellectual efforts for prolonging life. Big hospitals, nursing homes, physiotherapy, etc. are all a product of the natural desire for an everlasting life.
The aforesaid discussions of untiring research fall under the stipulations of the natural desire for prolonging life. But the statistics of worldly advancement and innovations have shown that the life of man remains stagnant at the mean of old figures. For the prolongation of life and for lessoning difficulties, pain and anxiety, every intellect and scholar of psychology has taken refuge in religion. Is there a psychiatrist in the world who is himself not stuck in the whirlpool of confusion, anxiety, suspicion and fear? Every man searches for the alleviation of problems and anxiety and hopes for peace and tranquility. Here open two paths for the confused man to change his problems to peace. One is of religion and the other of corruption. Thus, humanity has been divided into two groups. The evil who seek the worldly life and the virtuous who are visionaries sigh in satisfaction saying: Verily, by the remembrance of Allah hearts are assured. In the meanwhile, the foolish remain perplexed: The blind and the seeing are not equal. The one, who ponders over the verses of Quran, takes lesson from the signs of Allah. However, the thinking of these disparate groups revolves around the aim of a long life.
It is for this long life that people wade through blood and toil to put crowns upon their heads or brothers fight each other for riches and property. This is reflected in the incident of Prophet Yusuf (a.s.). The divine messengers (a.s.) came and explained the secret of life, desire for its prolongation and taught us the way to a righteous life. They imbibed us with the orders of the Almighty. The Prophets, Successors and the righteous were sent to this world for guidance of man whom God had created with nature that would make him the best of creation. Hence He notes in His Book, i.e. the Holy Quran:
(To) those who love this world’s life more than the hereafter, and turn away from Allah’s path and desire to make it crooked; these are in a great error. And We did not send any messenger but with the language of his people, so that he might explain to them clearly; then Allah makes whom He pleases err and He guides whom He pleases and He is the Mighty, the Wise.
(Surah Ibrahim: Verses 3-4)
I draw the reader’s attention towards the words ‘error’ and ‘guidance’ and submit that the secret of the prerequisite of desire for everlasting life is hidden therein. He wants a long life, to remain in luxury but what remains and where it remains, he sees the result with his own eyes.
Why does man not reflect on his creation in the light of the orders of Allah’s Messengers (a.s.) so that he has a long life in consonance with his nature? The hope for a long life itself speaks of time and an end. He feels the end but fears it. The prerequisite of a desire for everlasting life is woven in the intricacies of his fear and anxiety of an end to life. Look at the system of nature. Prophet Khizr (a.s.) is present in this world. Prophet Yunus (a.s.) was granted salvation after a stay in the stomach of a fish and then he lived for a long period before ascending to the heavens. Prophet Noah (a.s.) earned the sobriquet of the ‘second Adam’ due to his longevity. The Messengers (a.s.) made it apparent after preaching the divine orders that termination was always present at the end of a long life. But if you want to understand the reason for the conditions of this end, you should focus your attention on the divine orders. Life will bring the message of continuity. The eastern scholar Dr. Allama Iqbal says:
You have understood death O ignorant, as the end of life
This evening of life is the morning of an everlasting life.
Esteemed readers! Thinking of the desire of everlasting life being longevity in this worldly life is the result of shortsightedness. Man keeps this condition foremost in his thoughts and tries ways and means to escape death, but perceives the end like distant smoke at the destination. Islam has weighed up this idea in relation to other religions in an open and transparent manner with logical and natural arguments and built its case in history upon solid proof:
And nothing devolves on us but a clear deliverance (of the message).
(Surah Yaasin(36): Verse 17)
The Holy Prophet (s.a.w.a.) executed the statutes of his station till his last breath. After his death, he had established a pillar of light of his objective in the Noble Quran and his pure Ahle Bait (a.s.), which would keep on calling the people of the east and west towards their creation, their greatness and the everlasting life. Hence, man according to Islamic view, undergoes five stages in his life after his creation.
The First Stage:
Man in the womb of his mother. ‘Man was created from a life germ’. The child gives proof of living by his movements in the womb.
The Second Stage:
The world of nature. When the child completes its term in the womb, it comes out of the darkness into the light of this world. Gradually, the child passes from youth to old aged and inches towards death passing his natural life by.
And We did not ordain abiding for any mortal before you. What! Then if you die, will they abide?
(Surah Anbiya (21): Verse 34)
The Third stage:
Barzakh, wherein the soul of man is transferred after death; either in the valley of Salaam or that of Barahoot, depending upon his deeds.
The Fourth Stage:
It is Judgment Day. And they are sure of the hereafter.
The Fifth Stage:
The Conclusion: The desire of the everlasting, people of the fire or the people of paradise.
Has the Creator kept the element of desire for an everlasting life in the nature of man without reason or aim? Or by this determinant, made man a source and a beacon of hope for an everlasting life?
We tremble in fear on reading that the Lord, that Creator of humanity, Who created humanity from nothing and shaped it into being, asks someone: Do you wish complete oblivion? The soul will cry out in denial. Hence, even if they are the chastised ones – they are the inmates of the fire, in it they shall abide. They will prefer it to complete oblivion.
In the five aforementioned stages after creation, the most important, decisive and path breaking for the four other stages is the stage of ‘life in this world’. The Omnipotent Creator has left man free and powerful in this world. He alerted man with a call: I am a hidden treasure; one who reaches its greatness and follows it will be from the non-chastised. One who has acted with laziness and oppression, for him is a painful chastisement.
The Creator has gifted man with a great bounty called intellect, which distinguishes between right and wrong. Reward and punishment depend upon the intellect. He then established great examples after giving man reason, so that he can test himself, stay away from mistakes and sins. He completed His Proof by saying: Do they not then reflect on the Quran?
Then established a long chain of messengers (a.s.) who taught man salvation from deviation and perdition. He completed and perfected His religion through the last Prophet, Hazrat Muhammad (s.a.w.a.). Thus, He completed His Proof by appointing the Imams (a.s.) for safeguarding it. The Holy Quran and witnesses testify that the Master of the Affair (a.t.f.s.) safeguards the religion in his occultation. The foretelling of the Last Prophet (s.a.w.a.), the testimony of the Noble Quran was all made available for the guidance of man. A lengthy list still refreshed through the 14 centuries.
Why all this? Why were the great examples established?
Satan challenged the divine justice after the creation of Prophet Adam (a.s.). He gained respite until a fixed time to deviate the children of Adam in lieu of his worship. Satan started his mission of deviation in earnest against humanity and the near ones of Allah in particular. The Beneficent gave the accursed respite saying that he could never lead the pure ones astray.
The Almighty Allah made all the necessary arrangements and provisions that Satan would not be able to mislead humanity.
It was human delusion and the figment of his imagination that established idol worship. The Almighty prepared a succession of idol breakers from Prophet Ibrahim (a.s.) to Ameerul Momineen Ali Murtuza (a.s.). The intellect poses question after another. For examples,
- Q) Has the Satan-induced fire of Nimrod, which blazed many a mile, burn the Prophet Ibrahim (a.s.)?
- A) The divine order was issued. ‘We said: O fire! Be a comfort and peace to Ibrahim’.
- Q) But why did the fire not change its effect in Karbala?
- A) The fire did not change its effect in Karbala. The tents caught fire, the faces of the children, thirsty for the last three days, were swollen in the heat of the burning fires rather than the sweltering heat. How did the virtuous family face that evening. Were they not the special ones of Allah who saved Islam? Islam was saved from drowning and eternal destruction. What do you know of Karbala?
- Q) Why Allah did not issue an order here?
- A) The higher the stature, the higher the difficulty. Allah has made this earth a place of examination and the result is with Him in the hereafter. When Hurr succeeded in all his examinations, Imam Husain (a.s.) said: Hurr look between my two fingers. Hurr obeyed and said: I have seen my house and the shade of Tuba’.
Hazrat Abbas (a.s.) said to Imam Husain (a.s.):
The soul moves towards the hereafter.
Master a sleep overcomes your servant.
- Q) Is this not the imagination of a poet?
- A) Reflect, O intellect, upon the words of 13 year old Qasim. If we are on truth, then death is sweeter than honey. This is not the idea of a poet but the voice of truth which resonates from every corner of the sky. It is not just poetry but a heart rendering version of the truth.
Thence, it is this life which foretells the everlasting. There exists a test at every step, every word and every side. Every moment portends a difficulty. For, Islam is last of the divine religions. The one who has discarded the doubts, torn the devils’ snares from all facets has traveled this life successfully. (Remember the words of Amirul Momeneen (a.s.) in his martyrdom: By the Lord of Ka’ba, I have succeeded) In the tradition of the cloak, there is a persuasive version of this truth.
Till when Satan would remain silent. He too started spreading his influence. The governments opposed Islam with their agenda of deception and oppression. The Almighty made the successors as the safeguards of religion. After 329 years, the last successor (a.t.f.s.) was seated in this position in occultation. He said: Surely Satan is an open enemy. And: the remainder of Allah is good for you if you are believers. Be vigilant towards him. And worship Me, this is the straight path. You have all come from Allah and to Him will you return. He does not say destroy. He says return.
As the centuries passed and the eras flew by, Satan started using all his tricks. The temples of idols blazed in light and free thought broke the restrictions of religion. Economic renaissance produced corruption. The virtuous were called conservative not only by outsiders but our own people. Blood shedding became common. The Jews captured the Aqsa mosque. And the rest was done by terrorists. Blood thirsty terrorists and terror organizations were supported by the so-called upholders. Innumerable houses are razed in Iraq daily. Children are orphaned. Even the graves of brothers are unknown to the sisters. The mothers are wailing. Why is the caliph of Allah, the one with authority and power over the divine creation silent on this? No this is not so. If that was the case then the nation which follows him would have been decimated. The earth still has green cover. The farms are flourishing. The springs still flow. The rivers are contained within their banks. The sea has not swallowed up the land. The mountains have not crumbled to pieces. This bounty is due to Allah’s representative will come out of occultation in due course. The sun of Imamate will give even the dead earth new life. The earth will grab hold of the feet of all the oppressors. He will decimate all the attacks. The signs appear. The Holy Quran endorses: They deem it far while we deem it near. Has the word of God refused us support? No, it has clearly stated that the heirs to the earth will be those servants who have been weakened in the land. (It implies the reappearance of Hazrat Hujjat (a.t.f.s.)).
The discussion began with the mention of the fleeting life of this world and the desire of the everlasting life which is imbibed in every particle our being. Hence, it is a divine stipulation that He grants us everlasting life and saves us from oblivion. But it is also the requisite of divine justice that one who passes the test, keeps his freedom within the borders of the divine orders will be entitled to the divine bounty. While one lives for his desires and passion and lives an ignorant life refusing the grace of his Lord will get an eternal curse. They are the embodiment of the reviled: the people of the fire, in it they will abide. For the worshippers the eternal abode stands in welcome.
My master, my helper in occultation! There are traps everywhere. The bait is beautiful. My carnal-self gravitates towards them. Help me Master, to keep it in check. When we leave this world, it should be looking at your beautiful visage. And the ways to the eternal abode be tranquil for us.
My intense love calls you. This insanity, and a thousand reasons be sacrificed for it, searches you. Like a mother who searches haywire for her lost child in a big crowd. When will I hear the sweet call to service from you? Call to us Master, your servants hit their heads on walls in grief.
Maybe the voice says: Establish namaz. It is the soul of worship. Pray for my early reappearance.
The breath of morning air will carry the smell of musk
The world aged will once again become young