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A Commentary on the Contemporary World
Jul 1, 1994

In the Name of God, the Merciful, the Compassionate and we pray Him for succour.

In His name, glory be to Him.

There is nothing that does not glorify Him with praise.

Degrees of life

First question:

Is Khadr (peace be upon him) still alive? If so, why do some serious scholars reject his being alive?

Answer: He is still alive. But there are five degrees of life, of which Khadr has the second. It is because of this that those scholars have doubted his being alive.

The first degree of life is as we live here and now, which is bound by certain conditions.

The second degree of life is manifested in the lives of Khadr and Elijah. This second degree is to some certain extent free in that those who have it can be present in different places at the same time, and their life is not bound by the necessities that bind ordinary human life. Like us, they may eat and drink at times but, unlike us, they do not have to. The experiences that some godly persons who are able to discern the hidden truths have had with Khadr are enough to illuminate and prove this degree of life. Further, one of the spiritual degrees or stations which saints reach in their spiritual journeys is called ‘the station of Khadr’. A saint who has attained this degree may meet Khadr and be directly instructed by him. Indeed, it sometimes even happens that one who holds this station is mistaken for Khadr himself.

The third degree of life is manifested in the lives of the Prophets Jesus and Enoch, peace be upon them. These two prophets live in heaven free of the necessities of human life, in their worldly (corporal) bodies which, however, have acquired a star-like refinement and luminosity. The Prophet Muhammad, upon him be peace and blessings, is reported to have said: Jesus will come back to the world before the end of time and follow the Shari’a of Muhammad. This hadith implies that the religion of the followers of Jesus, that is, Christianity, will be purified of the polytheistic elements and superstitions that have found a way into it over time, and will ultimately join Islam. Consequently, this chosen way of God, or the true Religion will eradicate with ‘the sword of revelation’ the trends to disbelief and absolute materialism established by natural philosophy.

The fourth degree of life is the life of martyrs. Some Qur’anic verses state explicitly that martyrs enjoy a higher degree of life than the dead who are not martyrs. Since martyrs have sacrificed their life in His way, God Almighty has granted them an intermediate life that resembles the worldly life but without its pains and troubles. Martyrs do not feel the pangs of death. They do not know themselves to be dead; instead, they consider themselves to be transferred into a better world and enjoy perfect happiness. By contrast, the dead are aware that they are dead, although their souls are eternal: also, the pleasures they experience in the intermediate life are less than what is enjoyed by the martyrs. The difference can be explained by this analogy:

In a dream, two men enter a palace as beautiful as Paradise. One of them gets little pleasure because he is aware that this is only a dream and will, accordingly, disappear when he wakes up. As for the other, he is not aware that he is dreaming and therefore feels wholly contented and happy.

This explains the difference between the degree of enjoyment felt by the dead and by martyrs in the intermediate world. Besides the relevant Qur’anic verses, some Prophetic traditions and countless experiences undeniably prove that martyrs do lead a life with some degree of consciousness, knowing themselves to be alive. That life Of martyrs is particularly well indicated in the experienced reality that Hamza, again and again comes to the aid of those who take refuge in him and carries forward some of their worldly affairs.

I had a student, called ‘Ubaid, who was a nephew of mine. He was martyred in my company and on my behalf when we fought together. I had a true dream of him. In my dream, I went underground into his tomb, where I found him enjoying the degree of life of martyrs. He told me that he knew me to have died, and himself to be living. He had cried much over me, he said, and built a fine house underground in order to avoid the Russian invasion. This dream, together with certain other signs, convinced me that martyrs do have, in some conditions, a higher degree of life than the dead.

The fifth degree of life is the spiritual life of the dead. Indeed, death is a changing of residence, a receiving of one’s discharge from worldly duties with the soul set free. It is not complete annihilation into non-existence. This degree of life is clearly established by such repeatedly observed facts as the souls of some godly persons appearing in their human (material) forms, and being seen by men who have insight into hidden truths. That the dead can communicate with us in dreams or even in wakefulness is another proof of their life.

Blessing in death

Second question:

It is implied in some verses of the holy Qur’an such as, He has created death and life, that He may try you which of you is best in conduct*, that death is something created like life, and accordingly it is a blessing for living beings. Whereas, death in appearance is a decomposition and seems to extinguish the light of life and to cause a living body to rot away. It also destroys pleasures. That being so, how can it be that death is a blessing for living beings?

Answer: As I said at the end of the answer to the first question, death is a discharge from the duties of the worldly life. It is also a changing of residence and transferring of the body, as well as an invitation to, and the beginning of, the everlasting life. As the world is continually enlivened through acts of creation and predetermination on the one hand, so, on the other, it is continually being stripped of life through other cycles of creation, determination and wisdom. The dying of plants, the simplest level of life, proves itself a work of Divine artistry, like their living, but more perfect and better designed. .When the stone of a fruit, its seed, ‘dies’, it seems to decompose and rot away into the soil. But in fact, it undergoes a perfect chemical process, passes through predetermined states of reformation and ultimately grows again into an elaborate, new tree. This means that the ‘death’ of a seed is the beginning of a new tree, and that death is something created like life and, accordingly, is as perfect as life.

Since the ‘death’ of fruits and animal flesh in the stomach of man causes them to rise to the degree of human life, their ‘death’ in this sense can also be regarded as more perfect than their lives. Since the dying of plants, which are the simplest level of life, is so perfect and serves so great a purpose, the dying of human beings, who are the highest level of life, must be much more perfect and serve a still greater purpose, for man, having gone underground, will certainly be brought into an eternal life.

The reasons why death is a blessing for human beings have many aspects. Let me briefly set down four of them:

First: Since it discharges man from the hardships of life, which gradually become harder through old age, and since it opens the gates to reunion with the ninety percent of one’s friends who have already passed away, death is a very great blessing.

Second: Death is a blessing because it releases man from worldly life which is a turbulent, suffocating, narrow dungeon of space, and admits him into the wide circle of the mercy of the Eternal Beloved One where he may enjoy the relief of a pleasant and everlasting life free from suffering.

Third: Such conditions of life as old age which makes living unbearable prove death to be a blessing far greater than life. If, for example, your old parents and grandparents were living in poverty in front of your eyes, you would certainly admit how great a blessing death is while life is an unendurable pain. Besides, it goes without saying that the death in autumn of insects-which are lovers of lovely flowers-is a mercy for them, as they must otherwise live through the harshness and severity of winter

Fourth: As sleep is the occasion of repose and relief, and, accordingly, a mercy, especially for the sick and afflicted, so is death, which is the ‘brother’ of sleep, a blessing and mercy particularly for those afflicted with such misfortunes as might draw them to suicide. As for the misguided people, for them, death is, as life is, a torment within torment, and pain after pain.

The Risale-i Nur Collection (From First Letter)