By Maulana Wahiduddin Khan
February 27, 2018
American evangelist Billy Graham, died this month at the age of 99. Some called him “America’s pastor”, while others referred to him as the “Protestant Pope”. Serving as a counsellor or minister to a dozen US presidents, Graham reached out to many more individuals than any contemporary evangelist. He preached to an estimated 215 million people in 185 countries around the world right up to the end of his life. Graham also wrote more than two dozen books, including his 1997 memoir, ‘Just as I Am’, which was a New York Times best-seller.
Graham’s life was an eventful one. His book, ‘The Enduring Classics of Billy Graham’, is full of recollections of significant events, one of which concerned an urgent message he received from an aged American billionaire. Graham cancelled all his engagements and immediately left to meet him. When he reached his house, he was ushered into the room where he had to meet him. Without any preamble the billionaire said to Graham, “You see, I am an old man. Life has lost all meaning. I am ready to take a fateful leap into the unknown. Young man, can you give me a ray of hope?” He obviously felt that there was something intimidating about what would happen after death, and who better to advise him than a man of religion?
Presumably Graham offered him some consoling words of wisdom, and what could have been a tragedy was averted, but here i would like to speak about the Quranic view of death. According to the Quran, human life has been divided into two phases – the pre-death and post-death. The pre-death period covers life in the present world. According to a survey, a person’s average life in this world spans 70 years. The post-death period is another phase of life, which will be eternal.
Why did the Creator settle man on earth? The answer to this appears in the following verse in the Quran: “He created death and life so that He might test you, and find out which of you is best in conduct.” (67:2) Other verses of the Quran also inform us that the present world has been created as a selection ground where people are being judged on their deeds. In the world hereafter, all the individuals selected for their virtues will be ushered into another world which will be a refined version of our planet earth.
This creation plan of God is mentioned both in the Bible and the Quran. The Bible says: “The righteous shall inherit the land, and dwell in it forever.” (Psalms 37:29) Similarly, the Quran says: “My righteous servants shall inherit the earth. Herein, surely, is a message for true worshippers.” (21:105-06)
The study of human life shows that a human being is a pleasure-seeking animal. According to the Quran and Bible, a world of pleasure does exist, but cannot be attained in our present life. Why is there this distance between us and this world of pleasure? After creating Adam, the Creator settled him in Paradise. But because he erred in eating the fruit of the Forbidden Tree, He cast him out. Initially, the Creator had settled man in Paradise unconditionally, but He later decided to settle human beings therein on a selective basis. This story recurs throughout the whole of human history.