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In Happiness in Life and After Death -- An Islamic Sufi View, Shaykh Fadhlalla Haeri provides a lucid and inspiring account of life, death and the hereafter, according to an Islamic Sufi perspective.
The book opens with a wide-ranging sweep of death and dying as viewed in other cultures and religions -- from ancient Mesopotamian, Egyptian and Zoroastrian sources through to Judaism and Christianity.
Based on the Qur'an and Prophetic message, this book offers a splendid collection of revelations and spiritual teachings that map a basic path towards a wholesome way of living without forgetting death. There is both physical and spiritual death, and death in both instances is seen as a natural bridge from the suffering and delusions of this life to a unifying and clear abode. As the reader is led from birth of the ephemeral self on earth through an unfolding progression towards higher consciousness and awakening to the eternal soul within, constant awareness of one's intimate dual nature takes away much of the fear of death and makes it seem like a familiar companion.
The title of this book is arresting, to say the least. It immediately leads us to reflect on the meaning of happiness in this life and to wonder how it is connected to the afterlife.
Most people, even believers, think of happiness only in terms of satisfaction with this life. If we have no belief in the afterlife, we concentrate on trying to enjoy this life and avoid thinking much about death. If we are believers we usually have a vague idea that we'll either be forgiven and live in heaven or (if we've been very wicked) will be consigned to Hell. But we hope for and expect mercy and take comfort in the belief that the wicked will get their just deserts!
This book gives us a detailed exposition of the nature of the human being in this life, how what we do here is intimately connected to the next life (the real life), and how we can prepare for what will occur after leaving the body, based on the Islamic Sufi interpretation of the teaching of the Holy Qur'an and hadith of the Prophet (saw) and Imams.(as)
Prospective readers may say, "will this book tell me how I can be happy here and hopefully not fear death?" the answer is 'Certainly', but not in the way they might imagine -- that is, like a 'self-help' book giving advice on 'attributes of effective people' or such like. Such manuals are indeed useful, but this book makes us realise that 'happiness', which it defines as 'consistent inner contentment and peace' and 'witnessing perfection in every situation', is not achieved without considerable effort; but it is unquestionably worth it!
Ultimately happiness in this life is "to be a friend of God and reliant on the sacred light, which 'brings about joy and is beyond fear or sorrow'. How? In his description of human nature and levels of consciousness, the author stresses how aligning the self, or ego, with the soul, or higher consciousness, through self-awareness and obedience to God-given laws of behaviour, will lead to stability and inner light. This must be worked on in this life so that we prepare for the next. We cannot be 'happy' in the afterlife if we have been selfish and heedless in this one.
The last section of the book describes the Qur'anic teachings about the afterlife, the period immediately after death, the resurrection and the ultimate return to Allah. We are told we need have no fear if our self has been aligned to our soul through "faith, trust in god, good deeds, transformative worship, purity of heart and other religious acts..." finally we need simply to surrender to the Absolute. On p 125 (of the printed copy of this book) we are told that the Prophet described four qualities which will help us remain in peace on the day of judgment. Read the book to find out!!