This is kind of a Muslim version of 1 Corinthians 15. Interesting extra-Quranic stories.
From Washington: ‘How will God judge over six billion people?’
By Afis A. Oladosu
In the name of Allah, the Beneficent the Merciful.
“WHEN is this your “judgment day” by the way? How many people will be judged on this memorable day? Everyone, who ever lived since Adam? Or only those, who came after Jesus the Christ, since there were no Christians before his coming to create them on earth? As of last count, the Chinese alone now number some 1.5 billion souls – alive, be it noted!
How many judges will this your God need for the Chinese alone (since they were never Christians anyway, so they are already doomed even before their trial – what a fair God!) on that faithful day, this famous “judgment day” sold to my Nigerian brothers and sisters of the Christian faith (like the 70 promised virgins of the Moslems heaven!) Or will your God do all the judging by himself – with no assistant judges? And why wait till “judgment day” before delivering “judgment” since we already know pretty much who is going to heaven anyway?
“O mankind, if you doubt the day of resurrection and the ability of God to restore life to the dead, know that We have created you from dust, then from a drop of sperm, then from coagulated blood, and then from a lump of flesh, partly formed and partly unformed, demonstrating Our power through all of these stages.
“We appoint a certain time for what lies in the womb, and then we bring you forth from the womb in the shape of an infant, so that you may live and grow to maturity. Some of you die during this process and others of you reach old age and the time of weakness and impotence even to the extent of losing your understanding” (22:4).
“Does man imagine that we are not capable of reassembling his decayed bones? We are able even to restore his fingers to their previous state” (75:4).
He is no doubt a “learned” man, not in the legal parlance, but in that specifics that differentiate men of intellection from the dregs, the ignorant. He wrote from the United States. Where he is located does not matter with reference to the pursuit of truth and the solemn underbellies of the cosmos.
The questions he posed on resurrection could very well have been posed by anyone anywhere in the world- a world, which appears like an overripe banana, yellow outside, squishy inside, a world in which piety and Godliness has become an anathema, where atheism and profanity has become the fad. But where he wrote from, going by my experience and knowledge of the United States, does indeed matter.
The U.S is referred to as “God’s own county.” It is a place where God is worshipped and loathed with the same fervor and intensity. To be a Moslem or Christian in the U.S is constitutional; to be a disbeliever and call people to disbelief is legal.
Thus he wrote not with the intention to know the truth about resurrection but to impugn the possibility that Allah will raise humanity up for accounting. His style is that of a man emerging from the saloon of arrogance (to believe in Allah is to be humble and pious in deeds and in words (Quran 25: verse 63); his argument betrays the dialect of the chutzpah.
The chutzpah knows of one opinion- only his own; he is scornful of the possibility that he could be wrong. I asked myself again and again: “Is there a precedence in Islamic history for this type of willful negation of a cardinal belief in Islam and in fact Christianity?”
Luckily I found one: When Prophet Muhammad (may the peace and blessings of Allah be on his soul) expounded the topic of resurrection to the pagan Arabs, a Bedouin living in the backwater of the Arabian peninsula named Ubayy B. Khalaf picked up a decayed bone and set out for Madina to visit the Prophet.
Having sought the attention of the Prophet he proceeded to dramatise what he thought was the nodus of irrationality that the whole idea of resurrection smacks of. He wanted to demonstrate the illogicality in the argument that human beings will be raised up for judgment after death. He raised up the bone, as if it were a valuable and convincing piece of evidence, and crumbled it to dust, scattering the pieces in the air.
Then summoning the vocabulary of Sodom and the speech of the dung-cart, he irreverently addressed the Prophet as follows: “Who will restore to life the scattered particles of this rotten bone?” When humans live in an estate of the moment, it becomes easy for them to forget and to gloss over the impermanence of the present and the moment. They become spiritual cynics who know the price of everything and the value of nothing.
Prophet Muhammad could not answer the question of the Arab differently from the answer provided, in the usual Quranic style, by the Qur’an. Allah answers the Bedouin as follows: “(O Messenger,) say: ‘God, who first brought them to life will restore them to life. He has knowledge of all His creation.’ … Is the creator, who brought into being the heavens and the earth incapable of creating the like thereof? Certainly He is the creator and All-Knowing” (Quran 36: verse 79 and 81).
The above verse also answers the question raised by my compatriot in the United States. But I found his question curious and highly instructive for one other reason. In other words when the spiritual cynic says: “How many people will be judged on this memorable day?… the Chinese alone now number some 1.5 Billion souls – alive, be it noted! How many judges will this your God need?” he seems to be troubled by some sincere loss of spiritual awareness. He gives a sense of the human, who knows only the apparent, the physical and is willing and ever ready to use the human to measure the super-human. Or rather, he desires to use the known as instrument with which the unknown could be disproved and consequently negated.
The argument, which is hinged on numeracy or the sheer huge number of humanity as evidence for the impossibility of resurrection appears puerile if it is situated against the opposite argument, how has it been possible for Allah to provide sustenance for the whole of humanity despite their huge number? How has it been possible for Allah to bring such huge number of humankind to the world, every minute and every moment? How has it been possible for him to determine the death of and admit to the other-worldly every human being on planet earth? If Allah does all of these without recourse to deputies, assistants and “vices,” would my compatriot not be accused of idiocy to imagine that Allah would need aids or legal assistants (fal ‘iyadh biLLAH) in order to judge humanity on resurrection day.
“He is God whose might and power are supreme over His servants. He sends angels as guards to watch over you, so that when the time for the death of one among you arrives our messengers drive him forth. They show no lassitude in taking your soul. Then you will return to the lord of the universe, who is in reality the master of His servants. Be aware that judgment over mankind belongs to God, and He is swifter than anyone in calling to account” (Qur’an 6:61-62).
This verse, among others, seeks to prevent the conflation of judgment day in Allah’s reckoning with the legal processes among humanity today. In our world today, legal processes are fraught with human frailties and weaknesses. In a typical court of law, a judge sits in judgment based on evidence at his or her disposal and the wizardry of legal luminaries at turning black into white and vice versa.
When judges give judgment here on earth, they are plagued by the fact that their actions and decisions may not be based on the truth. The pious ones among them know that their judgment would still be reviewed by that power, who sees the manifest and the hidden.
Thus to entertain the possibility that there would be no resurrection and judgment after death is to give rein to injustice- a nihilistic and atheistic view of the world, which works on the assumption that nothing comes or happens to humans after death except that their bones rust and ends there. It is that notion that Frederic Nietzsche, the German philosopher of nihilism had in mind when he proclaimed, in his own word, the death of god.
With reference to resurrection, Lari says that, “the Qur’an wishes man to realise that although the restoration of life to the dead appears impossible when measured against the capacities of man, it is something straightforward when measured against the infinite power of God. If the skin on our hands is removed, for some accidental reason, a new skin grows in its place with exactly the same features.
Those, who specialise in criminology know that fingerprints are usually the best means of establishing the identity of a criminal or suspect. This unique quality of fingerprints, first indicated in the Qur’an 1,430 years ago, remained otherwise unknown until it was discovered in 1884 by some British scientists.
Allah says, “nay, we are able to put together in perfect order the very tips of fingers” (Qur’an 75; verse 4). He says again, “look at the dry, barren earth and see how life emerges in it when we send rain upon it. Plants spring forth of every type. This is all indication that God speaks the truth and will revive the dead; certainly He is capable of all things” (Qur’an 22:5).
However, a closer reading and re-reading of the perspective of Prophet Muhammad on this issue appear to necessitate we excuse the negative posture of my compatriot vis-a-vis resurrection. This is based on his commentary on that incident which occurred between Prophet Ibrahim and Almighty Allah on the possibility of resurrection of dead bodies for judgment. The Qur’an tells the story that one day Prophet Ibrahim (upon him be peace and mercy of Allah) requests that Allah show him how He will resurrect humanity. Allah narrates the incident as follows:
“And (remember) when Ibrahim said, “My Lord! Show me how you give life to the dead.” He (Allah) said, “do you not believe?” He (Ibrahim) said, “yes I believe, but to be stronger in faith.” He said, “take four birds, then cause them to incline towards you (then slaughter them, cut them into pieces), and then put a portion of them on every hill, and call them, they will come to you in haste. And know that Allah is All-Mighty, All-Wise.” (Qur’an 2: 260).
Prophet Ibrahim, therefore, caught four birds, slaughtered them, removed their feathers, tore the birds to pieces and mixed the pieces together. He then placed parts of these mixed pieces on four or seven hills.
Ibn `Abbas said, “Prophet Ibrahim kept the heads of these birds in his hand. Next, Allah commanded Prophet Ibrahim to call the birds to him, and he did as Allah commanded him.
Ibrahim witnessed the feathers, blood and flesh of these birds fly to each other, and the parts flew each to their bodies, until every bird came back to life and came walking at a fast pace towards Ibrahim, so that the example that Prophet Ibrahim was witnessing would become more impressive.
Each bird came to collect its head from Ibrahim’s hand, and if he gave the bird another head the bird refused to accept it. When Prophet Ibrahim gave each bird its own head, the head was placed on its body by Allah’s leave and power.”
Commenting on this incident, al-Bukhari recorded that Abu Hurayrah said that the messenger of Allah said, we are more liable to be in doubt than Ibrahim when he said, “my Lord! Show me how You give life to the dead.” Allah said, “Don’t you believe” Ibrahim said, “Yes (I believe), but (I ask) in order to be stronger in faith.”)
In other words, if questions and doubts are raised against the possibility of resurrection today by the atheist, such should be seen as being in tandem with the nature of human kind, such should be seen as being relevant to the stream of consciousness of humanity today and to this world as it was during the primordial period.
In fact we live in an age when children talk in the cradle, when polo is played inside the ocean, when men carry pregnancy on behalf of their wives.
Prophet Muhammad is told of another story, which bears close relevance to the truth and imminence of resurrection. Allah says, “did you (O Muhammad ) not think of those who went forth from their homes in their thousands, fearing death Allah said to them, “die.” And then He restored them to life. Truly, Allah is full of bounty to mankind, but most men thank not.” (Qur’an 2: 243).
While Ali bin `Asim said that the people in question were from Dawardan, a village several miles away from Wasit in Iraq, it is related that Ibn `Abbas said that these people mentioned herein, were the residents of a village called Dawardan, that the people, “who went forth from their homes in thousands, fearing death were four thousand persons who escaped the plague (that broke out in their land), they said, “we should go to a land that is free of death!”
When they reached a certain area, Allah said to them, (“die.”) and they all died. Afterwards, one of the prophets passed by them and supplicated to Allah to resurrect them and Allah brought them back to life. So, Allah states, “did you (O Muhammad) not think of those, who went forth from their homes in the thousands, fearing death.”
However, some scholars are of the opinion that these people were the residents of a city during the time of the children of Israel. The weather in their land did not suit them and an epidemic broke out. They fled their land fearing death and took refuge in the wilderness. They later arrived at a fertile valley and they filled what is between its two sides. Then Allah sent two angels to them, one from the lower side and the other from the upper side of the valley.
The angels screamed once and all the people died instantly, just as the death of one man. They were later moved to a different place, where walls and graves were built around them. They all perished, and their bodies rotted and disintegrated. Long afterwards, one of the prophets of the children of Israel, whose name was Hizqil (Ezekiel), passed by them and asked Allah to bring them back to life by his hand.
Allah accepted his supplication and commanded him to say, “O rotted bones, Allah commands you to come together.” The bones of every body were brought together. Allah then commanded him to say, “O bones, Allah commands you to be covered with flesh, nerves and skin.” That also happened while Hizqil was watching. Allah then commanded him to say, “O souls, Allah commands you to return, each to the body that it used to inhabit.”
They all came back to life, looked around and proclaimed, “All praise is due to you (O Allah!) and there is no deity worthy of worship except you.” Allah brought them back to life after they had perished years before then.
No matter the dialectics in exegetical approaches to the incident, what is evident from the apparent reading of the Qur’an is that physical resurrection of humankind shall occur on the Day of Resurrection.
Victor Hugo (1802-1885), the French poet, philosopher, who began his life as believer but later turned an atheist has the following to say on this issue.
“If man thinks that he is faced with annihilation, that absolute non-being awaits him after this life, life itself will have absolutely no meaning for him. That, which makes the life of man pleasant and enjoyable, makes his labor joyful, gives warmth to his heart, and broadens the horizons of his vision, is none other than what revelation and religion give man, belief in an eternal world, faith in the immortality of man, the conviction that `you, O man, are not destined to non-being; you are greater than this world, which is nothing more than a small and impermanent nesting place for you, a cradle for your infancy, the era of your splendor and greatness still lies ahead.”
Perhaps one other solemn pointer to the inherent imminence of resurrection in humans is our desire to live beyond our life. All humans desire immortality at least of this world as evidenced in the desire to have children, to write books, to have good pedigree.
This is nothing but a manifestation of that credo in me and you which desires the afterlife, something more permanent than the body in which our souls are imprisoned. Each time I look at my children I remember their beginning, the pain and enjoyment of sexual relationship, the pain of pregnancy, the birth of a subject with features all of which I had no role in bringing into reality. I always ask myself: without that act between me and my wife, was it the case that the child could not have come to the world through another means, if Allah so willed? The answer is yes. If Allah had so willed, my child could have been born by me or by my wife all alone the same way Prophet Isa was conceived and born by his mother all alone.
Thus if our existence is so insignificant in relation to the inimitable power and ways of Allah, how could I, for a moment, then doubt His promise to give me life again after death in a manner I do not and cannot understand now as a result of the veil between me and the other-wordly.
Does this not mean that if indeed I am really in need of knowing the specifics of resurrection, I would have to ask the fetus in the womb the specifics of conception and delivery!
* Oladosu wrote this piece from the University of Ibadan. For comments: guardianfridayworship @ gmail. com)