By Humayun Gauhar
Ironic, isn’t it, that the day my last article ‘Life After Death’ appeared my brother-in-law Iqbal Haider passed away? Which is why I didn’t write last week, because I was in Karachi without the time or inclination to put pen to paper.
In Iqbal’s death Pakistan’s progressive forces lost perhaps the greatest and most vocal and active champion and the movement for the enforcement of human rights a gladiator. Iqbal was a good man. He touched the hearts and lives of many, patently obvious by the way people responded to his passing and the numbers that turned up to mourn him. May God smile down upon him and rest his soul in peace.
Iqbal Haider stuck to his beliefs and principles, walked out of Benazir’s cabinet when she protested that as law minister he had given parole to Sheikh Rashid to attend parliament, which was his constitutional right. He had the courage of his convictions and was often dangerously outspoken in his own inimitable, emotional style. Another like him will not be easily found. Having the courage of one’s convictions and struggling for human beings and their rights is the stuff a ‘momin’ or true believer is made of, for that is Haqooq ul Ibad. I’m sure Iqbal is in prefect peace surrounded by heaven’s luminosity reported by those with Near Death Experiences – “And God said, ‘Let there be Light’ and there was Light.”
My friend Aitizaz Ahsan, who was one of Iqbal Haider’s best friends, also found the coincidence of my article appearing on the same day as Iqbal’s death most intriguing and kept mentioning it repeatedly. He was very affected by Iqbal’s passing and asked me: “This life after death is all very well, but what if there is nothing?”
“If there is nothing,” I replied, “then what is the problem? We will have no consciousness to know that there is nothing. So relax.”
On the third day of Iqbal’s death was his ‘soyem’. The first man whose NDE I talked about in my article came to attend, you know the one who kept saying to his doctors, “Don’t revive me; don’t revive me.” His name is S. M. Saleem, who first introduced bottled mineral water to Pakistan called ‘Aab-e-Hayat’. I took his permission to mention his name and requested him to talk openly with Aitizaz about his experience. I left them alone so I don’t know what transpired. Saleem smiled and said to me again, “I am not scared of dying.”
I am still receiving many letters in response to that article. One of them struck me for many reasons, not least for how it was misunderstood, and needs comment and clarification. I cannot give the person’s name without permission. He wrote: “I’ve just been reading your piece on NDE and noted with some interest that the only person mentioned as having ‘gone to hell’ was a Sri Lankan Christian.
“Says a lot for us Christian ‘kufaar’, doesn’t it!
“I had an NDE in a New Delhi hospital in 1998 on account of a ruptured appendix, and am glad to report I didn’t get to experience hell – nor heaven, for that matter.”
Good Lord! I wonder how he jumped to such a conclusion, because that is not what I meant at all, that Christians and other non-Muslims go to hell. I didn’t say that the Sri Lankan gentleman had gone to hell; he said it himself. That the Sri Lankan happened to be Christian is just a coincidence – many of the NDEs I talked about that happened in America were also Christians and didn’t experience hell. The experience of hell that the Sri Lankan talked about could be shared by anyone of any faith. In any case, my religion doesn’t say that Christians, or Jews for that matter, are ‘Kufar’ or infidels, but “People of the Book” whose Messengers, Moses, David and Jesus are the prophets of the Muslims as well, and many more, 124,000 of them in all. People of any faith can be good or bad, so why make a big deal of it? It’s akin to having a chip on one’s shoulder.
Actually, the vast majority of people adhere to the faith they happen to be born in. And the vast majority is also serious about their religions-by-birth to some degree. As to the Indian gentleman having no NDE, again there are many, and I know some, who also experienced nothing. The question is: were they clinically dead or not? I stress that what I wrote is not conclusive one way or the other. I simply reported the recorded experiences of thousands. Most of them were about people ‘dying’ in hospitals because it’s easy to record them there. That is all. I also know about similar experiences of many in accidents who were revived. I still wonder how they reported in exact detail not only what they heard but also what they saw and how accurate they were.
I agree: this needs further investigation and study and perhaps we may never come to the answer in this life, for that would defeat the purpose of life on earth. Just like we don’t remember where we were before we were born or even the process of our birth and our very early life, we don’t know where we will go after death on earth. That too would defeat life’s purpose. So much more has happened recently that one cannot simply ignore it. A friend said to me (an American Christian lady journalist who lives in London in case you are interested), “God has stopped sending us his messengers; perhaps through the experiences to NDEs He gives us gentle reminders about our mortality on earth.” Look at death simply as birth into a new dimension.
As far as I am concerned there is no religion in the afterlife – no churches, mosques, mandirs, synagogues, or temples; no popes, no mullahs, no padres, no pundits, no monks – only God with whom every spirit has direct, if one way, contact without intermediaries, as it is on earth but isn’t followed. There may be higher spirits to guide us, as many think there are on earth too who influence our subconscious that in turn influences our conscious mind, which we think are our own bright ideas. In the Hereafter there are no religions, only God, only one Faith in God the One and Only, the Supreme Creator. For all I know heaven and hell might have many levels, with those who have performed well and continue to perform well in the Hereafter going to higher levels. I don’t know. That is where I have got to so far. I don’t know to what sort of further understanding life’s experiences will take me in future.
We are told that we are judged by our deeds alone. I believe that it is the intentions behind our deeds that are more important than the deeds themselves. If someone does a lot of good works with the intention of getting famous and appreciated, or to reserve a seat in heaven, then the benefit he gets for his good deeds is diminished somewhat. You cannot fool God. And, very importantly, one is judged by the knowledge one has gathered, digested, analyzed and understood, the wisdom one has acquired and the conclusions one has arrived at.
I have run out of space again so I cannot talk about the experience of a once sceptical Christian neurosurgeon in America when he had an NDE and his cortex also shut down, removing any possibility of hallucination. His extraordinary experience appeared as a cover story in ‘Newsweek’ recently. He is now writing a book about it. Many of you may also have read it on the Internet because it is doing the rounds on many E-mails and blogs. I will talk about it next in ‘Luminosity’.