How can the Divine Universal Mercy be reconciled with instances of death
In the Name of God, the Merciful, the Compassionate.
We have made all that is on earth an ornament thereof that we
may test them: which of them is best in conduct. Verily, We shall make all that
is thereon a barren mound. (18:7-8)
Naught is the light of the world save a pastime, a sport. (6:32)
God has made this world in the form of a festival
The All-Compassionate Creator, the All-Munificent Provider, the All-Wise
Maker, has made this world in the form of a festival, a place of celebration
for the world of spirits and spirit beings, and decorated it with most wonderful
inscriptions of His Names. Clothing each spirit, great or small, exalted or
lowly, in a corporeal form, a body equipped with senses suitable to it and appropriate
for it to benefit from the innumerable, various good things and bounties in
the festival. He sends each to this spectacle once. He divides the festival,
which is very extensive in regard to both time and space, into centuries, years,
seasons and days, and into certain parts, and makes each an exalted festival
during which all groups of His animal creatures and plants promenade. Especially
in spring and summer, the surface of the earth constitutes a vast arena of festivals
one after another for the multitudes of small creatures, an arena so glittering
and attractive that it draws the gaze of angels and other inhabitants of the
heavens, and spirit beings in the higher abodes. Also, for the people who think
and reflect, it is an arena for reflection so wonderful that the mind is unable
to describe it.
However, the manifestations of the Divine Names, the Most Merciful and Giver
of Life, in this Divine feast and festival, are counterbalanced by the Names,
the All-Overwhelming, the All-Crushing and the One Who Causes to Die through
death and separation. This is, in appearance, not in conformity with the all-embracing
Mercy expressed in
My Mercy encompasses all things. (7:156)
Nevertheless, in reality it is conformable with it in several ways, one of
which is as follows:
After each group of creatures has completed its turn in the promenade and
the desired results have been obtained from it, the All-Munificent Maker, the
All-Compassionate Creator, causes most of them, by His Compassion, to feel weariness
and distaste with the world, and grants to them a desire for rest and a longing
to emigrate to another world. Thus, when they are to be discharged from their
duties of life, He arouses in them an enthusiastic inclination to return to
their original home.
The Most Merciful One bestows the rank of martyrdom on a soldier who perishes
for the sake of performing his duty (in defense of his sacred values), and rewards
a sheep slaughtered as a sacrifice in His way by giving it an eternal corporeal
existence in the Hereafter and the rank of being a mount for its owner on the
Bridge—like Buraq. It is, therefore, not far from His infinite Mercy
that, for other animate beings who perish and suffer severe distress while performing
their duties, the Lord has assigned in accordance with the nature of each and
with their obedience to the Divine commands—it is not unlikely that there should
be for them in the inexhaustible treasuries of His Mercy a sort of spiritual
reward and a kind of wage according to their capacities, so that they should
not be much troubled at departing from the world, rather that they should be
pleased. None but God knows the Unseen.
God gives man a longing to go to the eternal world
As for man, who is the noblest of living beings and the one who benefits
most from the festivals both in quantity and quality, although he is most captivated
by the world and immersed in it, God gives him out of His Mercy a kind of mood
whereby he feels distaste with the world and a longing to go to the eternal
world. Whoever is not lost in misguidance profits from that mood and goes with
a tranquil heart. Out of many reasons that lead to this mood in man, I will
explain five by way of examples:
- By showing, according to the season of old age, the stamp of transience
and decline on the beautiful and tempting things of the world, and their bitter
meaning, the Most Merciful One makes man feel distaste with the world and
causes him to seek a permanent beloved in place of a transient one.
- Ninety-nine per cent of the friends to whom a man is attached have departed
from the world and settled in another; by enabling in him, through that heart-felt
attachment, a longing for the place his friends have gone to, He makes him
meet death with joy.
- By means of certain things, He makes man feel the infinite weakness and
impotence intrinsic to his nature, and understand how heavy are the burden
and responsibilities of life, and grants to him a great wish for rest and
a sincere longing to go to another world.
- Through the light of belief, He shows a believer that death is not total
annihilation, rather, a change of abode; the grave is not the mouth of a dark
pit, it is the door to illuminated worlds; and the world, despite all its
glitter, is like a dungeon in comparison with the Hereafter. So, certainly,
to be transferred from the dungeon of this world to the gardens of Paradise,
and pass from the troublesome turmoil of bodily life to the world of rest
and the realm where spirits soar, and to slip free from the distressing noise
of creatures and go to the Presence of the Most Merciful is a journey, indeed,
a happiness, to be desired most earnestly.
- By making known the knowledge of truth in the Qur’an and the true nature
of the world through the light of truth, He explains to the one who listens
to the Qur’an that love for the world and attachment to it are quite meaningless.
That is, He says the following to man, and proves it:
The nature of the world
- The world is a book of the Eternally-Besought-of-All. Its letters and
words point not to themselves but to the Essence, Names and Attributes of
Another. This being so, learn its meaning and adopt it, and abandon its decorations,
- The world is also a tillage; sow it and harvest your crop, and preserve
it. Throw away the chaff, and attach to it no importance!
- The world is also a collection of mirrors which continuously pass on one
after the other. Therefore, know the One Who is manifest in them, see His
lights, understand the manifestations of the Names which appear in them, and
love the One they signify. Cease your attachment for those fragments of glass
which are doomed to be broken and perish!
- The world is also a moving place of trade. So do your business and come;
do not weary yourself in useless pursuit of the caravans that leave you behind,
paying you no attention!
- The world is also a temporary place of recreation. So study it to take
lessons and warnings, and pay attention not to its apparent, ugly face, but
to its hidden, beautiful face which looks to the Eternal All-Gracious One.
Go for a pleasant and beneficial recreation, then come back, and at the disappearance
of the scenes displaying those fine views and showing the beautiful things,
do not weep like a silly child, and do not be anxious!
- The world is also a guest-house. Therefore, eat and drink within the limits
established by the Munificent Host Who has built it, and offer thanks. Act
and behave in accordance with His Law. Then leave it and go away without looking
back. Do not interfere in it in a foolish and officious manner. Do not busy
yourself in vain with things which part from you and do not concern you!’
Through such plain truths, He shows the real character of the world and makes
death less painful. Rather, to those who have awakened to truth He makes death
desirable, and shows that there is a trace of His Mercy in every thing and act
So, as well as these five reasons, the verses of the Qur’an also point to
some other particular reasons. Woe to him who has no share in the truths contained
in these five reasons!