Contemporary Islamic Readings of Afterlife

  March 15, 2022   Read time 1 min
Contemporary Islamic Readings of Afterlife
The little that is written about the afterlife in the modern day tends to be a regurgitation of ideas and narratives taken from the classical period.

In this respect, many contemporary scholars adopt the traditionalist understanding of a physical resurrection together with a literalist conception of the joys and pains of the afterlife. There are exceptions, however, and these can generally be found in the interpretations of so-called liberal or progressive Muslim thinkers. In developing a methodology that seeks to connect the revealed text and the realities of the modern world, progressive Muslim thinkers recognize the difficulty of embracing a literal conception of the Quranic descriptions of the afterlife, let alone a physical resurrection of the body.

One example is the Syrian thinker Mohamad Shahrour (b. 1938). In his al-Kitab wal-Quran (The book and the Quran), he argues that a different physical world will come into being in the wake of the destruction of this one. This transition will also constitute a transformation of the laws governing matter. Thus, there will be a physical reconstitution of bodies in the next world. But these other laws will mean that matter will not be subject to the opposing forces inherent in the nature of matter, forces responsible for the decay and breakdown of all things: thus, in the next world, nothing will die nor will anything be born.

Another example can be seen in Quran and Woman, the African American intellectual Amina Wadud’s (b. 1952) book that stresses, “Although the detailed and graphic depictions of the Hereafter [. . .] are sometimes quite explicit, it is obvious that these descriptions are not to be taken entirely literally, [they] are the Quran’s way of making the ineffable effable, of making the Unseen phenomena conceivable”(p. 58).

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