Glimpses from the Book “The Lives of Man”

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Glimpses from the Book “The Lives of Man”

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The Five Lives
Generally, we speak of two lives, the life on this earth and the aqirath which is the life after our death. But it is a lesser-known fact that we had a life before this life in the world. Imam Abdallah ibn Alawi Al–Haddad in his famous book “The Lives of Man” gives details about our first life followed by the present life on earth and the three lives to follow. The book helps us to know the different situations man has to pass through in each of his five lives. The author provides a full exposition of the events which man must expect in all the phases in a lucid and straightforward manner basing his words on the relevant verses of the holy Qur’an and the authentic ahadith. The book also explains how a Muslim should lead a life of piety (taqwa) in this world which will benefit him/her in the three subsequent lives to follow. Should it not interest us to know ‘from where we came’ and ‘where we are going’? Don’t we spare a huge amount of time going into the intricacies of so many worldly matters which are transient? This book deserves to be read and re-read with all seriousness for its unique content.

Imam Abdallah Ibn Alawi Al–Haddad
Imam Abdallah ibn Alawi Al–Haddad is a reputed Yemeni Islamic scholar (1634-1720) who devoted his life to teaching and writing. Apart from this book, some of his other famous books are “The Book of Assistance”, “Gifts for the Seeker”, “The Prophetic Invocations” and “Counsels of Religion”. His books are appreciated for the concise presentation of Islamic belief, practice and spirituality. Imam al-Haddad while still a young man, would recite Surah Yaseen and would start crying. It is widely believed that his spiritual opening was through Surah Yaseen and that he was also influenced by the writings of Imam al-Ghazali. The Imam also wrote poetry and used it as a means of calling people to Allah.

The First Life
The author states that the first life of mankind begins with Allah’s creation of Hazrath Adam (peace be upon him). Allah brought the progeny out from Adam’s loins all at once so as to take the covenant (mithaq) from them that they recognized Allah’s Unity and Lordship. This event happened at Nu’man, a valley near Arafath and the same is referred in the following verses of the Qur’an:

“And when your Lord brought forth from the children of Adam, that is, from their backs, their progeny, and made them testify about themselves, ‘Am I not your Lord’? They said, ‘Of course You are, we affirm’ – lest you should say on the Day of Doom, we were ignorant of this.” (7:172)

The author says that there can be no doubt that Adam’s progeny was possessed of existence, hearing and speech; this, however, was at a degree or dimension of existence other than that of this world. The author adds that “there are many levels of existence, as is well known by those people who know existence”.

The Second Life (Dunya)
The second life begins when one is delivered from one’s mother’s womb and ends when one departs from the world in death. This, which is the middle of the lives, is also their purpose. It is the period when man is held accountable for (responding to) the divine injunctions and prohibitions, the consequences of which will be reward or punishment to follow in the next life. The chapters of this second life includes the life in the womb, childhood, youth, maturity, seniority, decrepitude (being in very bad condition because of being old), sickness and death. The author explains all these stages in detail quoting verses from the Qur’an and the ahadees, which regrettably cannot be reproduced here due to space constraints.

The Third Life (Barzakh)
The third life extends from the time a man leaves the world at death until the moment he rises from his grave at the blowing of the Horn. This is the Intermediate Realm (Barzakh). After a person is buried, the two angels Munkar and Nakir will ask: ‘Who is your Lord? What is your religion? Who is your Prophet? The Intermediate Realm is the abode which lies between the world and the life-to-come. It has more affinity with the latter, and is in fact a part of it. It is a place where spirits and spiritual things are predominant, while physical aspects are secondary but share with the spirits in their experiences, whether felicity or joy, or torment and grief. Spirits endure, while bodies decay and gradually dissolve so that nothing remains. The author explains in detail the accepted funeral and burial practices, the torment of the grave, how the living may help the dead and about visiting the graves.

The Fourth Life (Judgement Day)
The fourth life extends from the time when a person leaves his grave for the Resurrection and Gathering, until the moment when mankind enters either the paradise or hell. Allah who is so High and Majestic shall command Israfil, upon whom be peace, to blow the Horn a second time. The Qur’an says: “And the Horn is blown, and lo, from their graves they hasten to their Lord!” (36:51). The author further quotes from the Qur’an: “Then it is blown another time, and there they stand, awaiting (39:68). All people will be made to stand before God to be questioned about their deeds. Prophet Muhammad (peace be upon him) said: “the feet of a man will not move (from the Standing-Place) until he is questioned about four things: his youth and how he spent it, his life and how he used it, his wealth, how he earned it and how he spent it, and (in one version of the hadith): his actions, what they were”.

After the reckoning is recorded, the Mizan (balance or tarazu) shall be erected for the weighing of deeds. Good and evil deeds both will be weighed. Next, a narrow Bridge (Siraat) shall be thrown across hell and mankind will be ordered to cross it. Those with good deeds will cross it and others will tumble into it. Then the believers will reach the Hawd (lake) of the Messenger of Allah, whose water flows from the river Kauser. They will drink from it and their thirst will vanish. This will be followed by intercession (shafaa). The author has briefly described the main events of this life which makes for engrossing and very illuminating reading.

The Fifth Life – The Fire And The Garden
The fifth life extends from the time the people of the Hell enter the Hell and the people of the Heaven enter the Heaven, and continues into unending, limitless eternity. This is the longest of all lives, the best, most pleasant and most joyous for the people of the Garden, and the worst, hardest, most hateful and wretched for the people of the Fire. For the inhabitants of the Heaven, the best reward and joy is the vision of Allah, the High and Majestic. The author quotes from the Qur’an: “That day faces will be resplendent, looking towards their Lord” (75:22-23).

To conclude, let me add the following. When we have to travel to a foreign country, we prepare ourselves thoroughly, finding out everything about the place we are visiting. Likewise, should we not try to know what awaits us in the journey from this world to the other world, which each of us have to undertake, sooner or later and without exception? This book “The Lives of Man” helps us admirably in fulfilling this need.