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Afterlife Bodies

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From Death to Resurection
کلمة الاسترجاع.jpg

Afterlife bodies (Arabic: الأبدان الأُخرویة) are sorts of bodies that were introduced by Mulla Sadra Shirazi in order to explain bodily resurrection. On the basis of some verses of the Qur'an, Muslims believe that our resurrection will be bodily, that is, humans will have bodies after the resurrection, but there are controversies with respect to the details of the bodily resurrection. Appealing to the apparent meanings of the verses, some Islamic theologians maintain that human beings will be resurrected from their graves with exactly the same body that they had in this world, and they will undergo the events of the resurrection with this body. In contrast, some philosophers have denied the bodily resurrection; they have instead believed in spiritual resurrection. On the basis of his philosophical foundations in the Transcendental Wisdom, Mulla Sadra accepts that our resurrection will be bodily, but he gives a new account of it.

Views of the Theologians

Many verses of the Qur'an are concerned with the resurrection, the Dooms Day, and people's return to God; for example,

  • "Say, He will revive them who produced them the first time, and He has knowledge of all creation." (Qur'an 36:79)
  • "Does man suppose that We will not put together his bones [at resurrection]? (3) Yes indeed, We are able to [re]shape [even] his fingertips!" (Qur'an 75:3, 4)
  • "Does he not know, when what is [buried] in the graves is turned over" (Qur'an 100:9)
  • "And when the Trumpet is blown, behold, there they will be, scrambling towards their Lord from their graves!" (Qur'an 36: 51)

The apparent meanings of many verses regarding the resurrection is that human beings will be resurrected from their graves with exactly the same bodies that they had during their this-worldly lives. Most theologians believe that we cannot interpret these verses otherwise; so the bodies with which people will be resurrected are identical with the ones with which they lived in this world. This view is called bodily resurrection. In Shiite theology, the belief in the bodily resurrection is an obligation for any Muslim. But the belief in its specific details is not an obligation.

Al-'Allama al-Majlisi says,

"It is an obligation to believe that God will revive all people in the resurrection and He will return people's souls to their original bodies. If anyone denies this or interprets it in such a way that leads to its apparent denial —as we hear some of our contemporary unbelievers— then, by the consensus of all Muslims, they will no longer be believers in Islam. For there are many verses of the Qur'an demonstrating that there will be a new life in the resurrection, and implying that its rejection leads to paganism. And one shall not pay attention to the doubts of philosophers [about bodily resurrection] who say that recreating the nonexistent (I'adat al-Ma'dum) is impossible. One shall not take seriously the interpretations of people who read bodily resurrection as spiritual resurrection.

Views of Philosophers

Muslim philosophers have tried to provide a rational account of the resurrection and its qualities. Though rational arguments are, in their view, evidence of the necessity of the resurrection and the existence of a world other than this world, the details of how the resurrection will occur—whether it is only spiritual, or both bodily and spiritual, and if it is bodily, whether the body involved is a material, elemental body or it is an imaginal, astral body—cannot be demonstrated by rational, philosophical arguments. This is why Ibn Sina (Avicenna) says:

It must be known that part of the resurrection is approved by shari'a, and there is no way to demonstrate it except by shari'a and the testimony of the Prophet (s) —this is the part of it concerning the revival of the dead bodies. We must accept the quality of bodily resurrection and its details in accordance with religious evidence and the revelatory reports, since this is the most certain and the most complete criterion for being assured of the truths.

On the basis of their philosophical foundations, Peripatetic (masha') philosophers believed that after death, human bodies go out of existence, and since it is philosophically impossible for a nonexistent or annihilated object to come back into existence, human bodies cannot be revived, that is, they cannot re-exist. But the soul, because of its immateriality and spirituality, can never go out of existence, and so it survives the death of its associated body. Since these philosophers could not solve the philosophical problems of bodily resurrection —problems such as the re-existence of nonexistent objects— they have perforce tended to the spiritual resurrection or took it to be philosophically unprovable.

Mulla Sadra's View

After the Peripatetic philosophers, Mulla Sadra with his foundations of the Transcendental Wisdom, provided a different account of the bodily resurrection. He maintained that though the resurrection is in fact bodily and what is resurrected is the combination of one's body and the soul, the body resurrected in the Dooms Day is a delicate body which is exactly similar to (though not identical with) one's this-worldly body, but it has the disposition or potentiality for the afterlife.

These changes in the position, magnitude and the shape of one's body do not threaten one's personal identity or persistence through time, since persons are individuated by their souls and not their bodies. This is why the person in the afterlife is judged to be the same person in this world, though his or her apparent features might have changed. So if the soul survives, the changes or transformations in the matter will not matter.

Differences between Afterlife Bodies and This-Worldly Bodies

Mulla Sadra enumerates the differences between afterlife bodies and this-worldly bodies as follows:

  1. Afterlife bodies cannot be corrupted, unlike this-worldly bodies.
  2. Afterlife bodies have a spirit and life—in fact, they are identical with life, that is, their lives are essential, rather than accidental, to them, but some this-worldly bodies have life and some lack it.
  3. Afterlife bodies are infinite as to the number of the conceptions and perceptions of their souls, since the arguments for the finitude of the dimensions do not apply to them.
  4. Afterlife bodies are intermediate between the two worlds—they combine spirituality and corporeality, and they lack most features and properties of this-worldly bodies.
  5. Afterlife bodies do not spatially prevent one another.
  6. This-worldly bodies emerge gradually, but afterlife bodies emerge abruptly.

See Also

References