Proof of Heaven
One’s journey of faith is based primarily on one’s belief in life beyond death. Even though the basic foundation of formal religion, in particular Islam, is based on belief in God, the latter can be reduced to a mere philosophical appreciation of a higher being if life beyond death isn’t accepted as a genuinely possible reality. Likewise, belief in prophets is indeed important to learn about and to practice formal religious expectations. However, it is a proper appreciation of the fact that we don’t perish with death that makes practising religion a truly spirited exercise.
The difficulty many educated people face today in accepting religion is that they think the realities discovered in the modern times don’t leave much room for any such belief to be acceptable. And the evidence of this lack of appreciation of another life is claimed to be based primarily on science, which is considered to be the only reliable source of knowledge that speaks the ultimate truth.
It is assumed a scientific truth, for instance, that brain is a machine that produces consciousness in man. When the machine breaks down, consciousness stops. Even though the brain processes are extremely complicated and mysterious, scientists would make us believe that reality in essence is as simple as that: Pull the plug and the television goes dead. The show is over, no matter how much you might have been enjoying it. The grim truth is that there is no reality beyond what we experience in this life.
It seems however that tables are turning in the world of science, too. Some scientists are now proclaiming faith in another life. What was hitherto the most significant source of faithlessness is now providing fresh evidences of faith in convincing ways.
Dr Eben Alexander, an eminent neurosurgeon, for example, always considered himself a man of science. His unwavering belief in evidence-based medicine resulted in a career in some of the top institutions in the world. However, a highly unlikely experience transformed him into a staunch believer in another life.
One morning, in 2008, he fell into a coma after suffering a rare form of bacterial meningitis. Scans of his brain revealed massive damage. He was not expected to survive. As his family prepared themselves for the worst, something miraculous happened. Dr Alexander’s brain went from near total inactivity to awakening. He woke up a changed man, certain of the infinite reach of the soul and a life beyond death.
In his astonishing book ‘Proof of Heaven’, Dr Alexander shares his experience, put together from the notes he made as soon as he was able to write again. Indeed there are many accounts available now of what is described as near death experiences (NDEs), thanks to the modern developments in medical science that have enabled many patients to be rescued from almost certain clutches of death. However, unlike most other such accounts, Dr Alexander is able to explain scientifically why his story is not fabricated by his brain.
He writes in his book: “I know there will be people who will seek to invalidate my experience anyhow, and many who will discount it out of court, because of a refusal to believe that what I underwent could possibly be ‘scientific’ – could possibly be anything more than a crazy, feverish dream.
But I know better. And both for the sake of those here on earth and those I met beyond this realm, I see it as my duty – both as a scientist and hence a seeker of truth, and as a doctor devoted to helping people – to make it known to as many people as I can that what I underwent is true, and real, and of stunning importance. Not just to me, but to all of us.”
He goes on to write: “So here I am. I’m still a scientist. I’m still a doctor, and as such I have two essential duties: to honor truth and to help heal. That means telling my story. A story that as time passes I feel certain happened for a reason. Not because I am anyone special. It’s just that with me, two events occurred in unison and concurrence, and together they break the back of the last efforts of reductive science to tell the world that material realm is all that exists, and that consciousness, or spirit – yours and mine – is not the great and central mystery of the universe. I’m living proof.”
It is only after one begins to take the life beyond the existing one seriously that one starts taking religion as an important reality. But is it not that religion and in particular a strong belief in the afterlife tends to take away the real sense of involvement in the existing life? The truth is that it is an incorrect religious understanding that causes such an attitude to happen. If one were to follow the Qur’an properly, one would lead a full life of achievements, one that would be led with an attitude of moral responsibility, humbleness, and gratitude towards God and fellow humans. In no way a religious life can be lesser in quality than the one that is led without any consideration for it.
Indeed the Quran expects the believer to prefer the next life over the existing one. However, what this expectation requires in turn is not an attitude of abandoning the pleasures of worldly life altogether. The expectation requires the believer to always consider moral considerations which are in reality considerations of the hereafter above such worldly objectives that tempt him to ignore his moral judgement.
The Quran announces clearly that God hasn’t prohibited the beauties of this life. In fact, He has created them for His servants to enjoy them within limits of morality. The book of God goes on to clarify that God has only prohibited obscenity, whether manifest or hidden, evil, oppression, ascribing partners with God, and attributing views to Him that He never mentioned (7:32-33).
“The article was published at dailycapital.pk on 03-APR-15. We are reproducing here by permission”