By Humayun Gauhar

Well, actually Zainab didn’t go to heaven but to the realm in between, just as Dr. Eben Alexander and countless others did. But all of them got a glimpse of the afterlife.

I still haven’t managed to get my hands on Dr. Eben Alexander’s book, ‘Heaven is Real’ but when I do I will read it and share his thoughts with you, especially his scientific explanations about his clinical- or near-death experience. Mike Adams has also written about Alexander’s experience that I shall tell you about later. Here let me tell you the story of my very good family friend and colleague-on-sabbatical, Zainab Omar.

A few years ago this young lady had a clinical death experience. She had gone to Mecca for the small Muslim pilgrimage or ‘umrah’ where she contracted viral encephalitis that causes the brain to swell, unlike meningitis that swells only the membrane around the brain but can be equally lethal, especially with babies and children. However, it didn’t hit her there. It hit her in New York.

A single parent, Zainab proceed from Mecca to New York with her son Adil (who is fast becoming a world famous rapper) and daughter Aman, who is studying in Atlantic College in Wales. One morning, she didn’t wake up. Rushed to a New York hospital, Zainab had flat-lined totally and her brain had shut down. She went into coma for two days. Then she had her incredible experience.

The two-day coma felt like 21 days and nights to Zainab. Time, of course, is relative and is different in different places and dimensions – our “tomorrows and tomorrows” have a different pace in higher dimensions than their “petty pace” on the earth plane. Even on earth, the higher you go the slower time gets: for example, an atomic clock on the peak of Mount Everest would be slower than a similar one at sea level. Within our cosmos, time gets slower as you get nearer a black hole and stops completely when you cross the ‘event horizon’ after which there is no escaping from its gravity. In fact, it’s an actual physical slowing down of time, not a notional one: for example, a person going towards a black hole would age slower than he would have on earth during the same earth time – when he is 80 here he could be only eight there. Beyond the event horizon and in the black hole he would live forever. Problem is that he would vapourize long before he got there. So don’t try it. Who wants to live forever, anyway? You have got to be nuts.

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The odd thing is that during the ‘nights’ in that other dimension Zainab also ‘slept’, but she remembers everything. However, like others with similar experiences she too finds human language inadequate to properly describe what she saw, heard, felt, experienced and understood.

“I went through a spiraling, whirling tunnel of light going upwards, like a vortex,” Zainab tells me. “All along I was accompanied by a spiritual guide whom I couldn’t see but who spoke to me in a male voice. Dr. Alexander was accompanied by a beautiful woman and guide whom he could see whereas Zainab was accompanied by a male guide whom she couldn’t see: woman guide for a man and a male guide for a woman, what? Whatever makes you feel more comfortable, I suppose. “It was like his words entered my brain,” says Zainab. The guide spoke to her throughout her 21 days and nights, which were only two days on earth.

“My spiritual guide told me that I was in limbo, between dimensions, between realms.” Zainab was between the earth dimension and the dimension we go to when we die never to return. Muslims would interpret it as ‘Barzakh’, the in-between existence after death on earth and the Day of Judgment. Remember, the Day of Judgment could be longer or shorter or even instantaneous in that higher dimension than our 24 hours in an earth day, or even perpetually ongoing till the end of time and our universe.

“The place is unlike any on earth,” continued Zainab. “Here we have three dimensions – height, length and width. That place is multi-dimensional. It is more vivid. There is more sensory awareness. The colours are much richer. It is very peaceful and there is the aura and essence of love everywhere. I wasn’t unhappy to be there, to have died. I had little memory of earth. There was total, beautiful peace, love and joy.  Over there, I experienced greater understanding of that the whole thing is about. It was a cleansing and a renewal. I got rid of the mental conflicts and confusion I had on earth. Now I am only concerned with human relations, not of what others may or may not think of me, good or bad.” Just like S. M. Saleem, Zainab said, “I am not afraid of death any more.”

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Zainab’s spiritual guide told her: “It is not your time. You cannot transcend to the next place. You have to go back.”

“I didn’t want to,” says Zainab. “But he insisted that I have to. “Keep walking,” he told her. Zainab started walking. “It was like white sand. There were no markings or signs to break the expanse of white sand, only the blue sky above. After walking for what felt like hours, I saw a black dot on the horizon. I went towards it. When I got nearer I recognized it as the Ka’aba.” The Ka’aba, which means ‘cube’ in Arabic, is a room in Mecca that is the focal point for Muslims towards which they pray. It is believed that it was first built by Adam and re-built by Abraham, whose footprint is there too. Later, it was re-built again by Prophet Muhammad (pbuh).  Zainab being a Muslim, it was inevitable that she saw the symbol most potent for Muslims. People of other faiths see their own most potent symbols. The idea is to make people comfortable by showing them something that they can immediately relate to, so don’t read too much into the religious symbols that people with near-death experiences see.

When Zainab got near the Ka’aba she didn’t circumambulate it, as Muslims normally do, for she was struck by two suras or verses from the holy Quran that she saw against the sky, prayers given to mankind by God Almighty. They were not written on any background, like on drapes, but just positioned against the sky. I suppose the best way to describe it is skywriting. One verse was ‘An Naas’ and the other ‘Al Falaq’. ‘Naas’ in Arabic means mankind or humanity and ‘Falaq’ means sky or the heavens, but here it means ‘dawn’. An Naas says:

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“In the name of Allah the Beneficent, the Merciful.

“Say: ‘I seek refuge with the Lord of mankind; the King of mankind; the God of mankind. From the evil of the slinking whisperer; who whispers into the hearts of people, (be he) from among jinn (or) human beings’.”

Al Falaq:

“In the name of Allah, the Beneficent, the Merciful.

“Say: ‘I seek refuge with the Lord of the dawn; from the evil of what He has created; from the evil of darkness when it overspreads; from the evil of malignant witchcraft; and from the evil of the envier when he envies’.”

As is evident, both Quranic verses are prayers against slander, envy, jealously, black magic and the evil eye. Zainab’s ‘problem’ is that she is very beautiful, so I’m not surprised that she attracted envy, jealously and the evil eye, if not black magic. O’ what a heavy burden beauty is to carry.