The Dunya/Akhira Conundrum

Dunya is not the entire reality of this world. Akhira is not some “otherworld” disconnected from the dunya. To see and approach the world in a certain way, enamored of its beauties as conveying no message or news about other than itself, makes it lowly (dunya) for me. So claims the Quran and, as I have noted before, this claim needs to be confirmed by me. Dunya is how it looks, and would look, to me, the Quran claims, without listening to revelation. I cannot imagine I believe in this claim without understanding and witnessing its truth in my life and in the world. To approach and see the world another way, as a precursor, training ground and truthful news-bearer (full of signs) of everlasting existence and life of perfect bliss is to do well for oneself (ahsan amal – whoever does good does so for his own sake/nafs the Quran claims), is to find safety in Akhira. It is to see the embellishments of the world (which are real) and our life in this world not as mere sport and play (which it would look like without a guided perspective but SHOULD NOT from a guided perspective). I am told by the Quran to ask for the “hasana” in dunya (fil dunya) and in Akhira because the two are linked and inseparable. Without an everlasting dimension to my interactions with them, the “hasana” of dunya become a tragic lie, accursed and deceptive, that betray me and leave me constantly. They become my enemies who wound and harm me. Equally, without interacting with and valuing and appreciating and enjoying the beauties and “hasana” in this world (think verses like “Saddaqa bil-husna” and think verses like “In Akhira they find what their hands send forth”) no honest realization of and connection with the everlasting source of those beauties can be made by me. I can only find later what I send forth now. And if I see what is before me as worthless and a deception, I can’t feel safe about the existence of something worthwhile at some future time and place. It does not help me to repeat Quran’s claims about dunya and akhira. I really do need to witness the truths of revelation here and now if I am to not run into contradictions or be reduced to repeating revelation’s claims without getting any guidance from them. My alleged desire or intention or claim to be guided by revelation means little when I choose to just repeat the text’s claims without any confirmation of their truth as revelation.

To some, it may seem I am making simple things complicated. To me, I am embracing the apparent difficulty of giving up tall but empty claims to piety and to being a strong believer etc. and finding guidance that satisfies my heart/mind and makes it easier to understand and appreciate the meaning of my life and all things. Again, I find it reasonable that I should understand concepts in the Quran (dunya, akhira, hasana, Noah’s ark, Shaytan, Adam, Moses’s staff etc etc) in a way that I can understand to be true within the conditions of own experience, not on account of groundless and blind faith in (his)stories. Dunya and Akhira are perspectives, alternative perspectives on reality that the Quran presents and claims that the latter one is good for me and the former very harmful. The good and harm of it are to be confirmed by me here and now.

I think what I want to do now is to start sharing my understandings of specific verses from the Quran. Implicit in what I understand and what I take these verses to mean to me, are the principles I personally hold reasonable. One that I have tried to make explicit here is that I do not believe in revelation by repeating what it says or taking what it says to be some historically accurate truth. I believe in it only if I can confirm, as a human being, the truth of its guidance (and its description of my misguidance) here and now.

Published by Faraz Sheikh

Faraz Sheikh

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