People’s denial of resurrection after death a major theme of the Quran By S N Smith, Ottawa

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People’s denial of resurrection after death a major theme of the Quran By S N Smith, Ottawa

One major theme of the Quran is people’s denial of resurrection after death. Consider the following from Surah Maryum (19) verses 66,67:

وَيَقُولُ ٱلۡإِنسَـٰنُ أَءِذَا مَا مِتُّ لَسَوۡفَ أُخۡرَجُ حَيًّا (٦٦) أَوَلَا يَذۡڪُرُ ٱلۡإِنسَـٰنُ أَنَّا خَلَقۡنَـٰهُ مِن قَبۡلُ وَلَمۡ يَكُ شَيۡـًٔ۬ا (٦٧)

Man says, “When I am dead, shall I be brought forth alive?” Does man not remember that We created him before, when he was naught?

The question asked here is a rhetorical one and thus does not constitute a serious or sincere search for an answer. The question was posed by the idolaters in order to dismiss the idea of resurrection after death. It’s like a snarky or sarcastic comment in the form of a question but, upon reflection, it’s actually an oppositional position taken.

And we must also keep in mind that not all questions that we receive are serious ones and learn to know the difference between a serious inquiry and someone who is simply being dismissive or sarcastic.

In the case of the above passage, Allah responds to them by stating that His ability to create human beings the first time should be sufficient proof that He can do it again. Consider the following three Quranic passages in which rhetorical questions are also posed by the idolaters in order to dismiss the idea of resurrection after death. Pay close attention to how Allah responds to them and this is key:

Surah Al-Isra verses 49-51:

وَقَالُوٓاْ أَءِذَا كُنَّا عِظَـٰمً۬ا وَرُفَـٰتًا أَءِنَّا لَمَبۡعُوثُونَ خَلۡقً۬ا جَدِيدً۬ا (٤٩)  قُلۡ كُونُواْ حِجَارَةً أَوۡ حَدِيدًا (٥٠) أَوۡ خَلۡقً۬ا مِّمَّا يَڪۡبُرُ فِى صُدُورِكُمۡ‌ۚ فَسَيَقُولُونَ مَن يُعِيدُنَا‌ۖ قُلِ ٱلَّذِى فَطَرَكُمۡ أَوَّلَ مَرَّةٍ۬‌ۚ فَسَيُنۡغِضُونَ إِلَيۡكَ رُءُوسَہُمۡ وَيَقُولُونَ مَتَىٰ هُوَ‌ۖ قُلۡ عَسَىٰٓ أَن يَكُونَ قَرِيبً۬ا (٥١)

They say: “What! when we are reduced to bones and dust, should we really be raised up (to be) a new creation?” (49) 

Say: “(Nay!) be ye stones or iron, (50) 

“Or created matter which, in your minds, is hardest (to be raised up)–(yet shall ye be raised up)!” Then will they say: “Who will cause us to return?” Say: “He Who created you first!” Then will they wag their heads towards thee, and say “When will that be?” Say “May be it will be quite soon! (51)

I want to quite The Study Quran here as the commentary is quite helpful:
These three verses include a set of skeptical questions about the Resurrection and Judgment that the disbelievers put forth in other verses as well. The first question demonstrates the disbelievers incredulity at the idea that the dead matter of bones and dust can be given life anew (cf. 17:98; 23:35, 82; 36:78; 37:16–17; 56:47; 79:10–11). The response, indicating that God could give life even to stone or iron, is meant to suggest that it should not be so difficult for the disbelievers to conceive of such a powerful God giving bones new life since, unlike stone and iron, bones were once endowed with life by Him and can simply be returned to that state (Z).
Their second question asks who has the power to do such a thing (cf. 36:78), and the answer is the God Who created them the first time, implying that since they acknowledge that God had created them once, they have no reason to doubt His ability to do so again (cf. 36:79). That the resurrection of human beings will be similar to God’s creation of them the first time is also mentioned in 6:94 and 18:48. God’s power to resurrect implies His total power over death; in connection with this verse some commentators mention a ḥadīth that says that on the Day of Resurrection death will be brought forth in the form of a beautiful ram and will then be slaughtered between Paradise and Hell (IK, Q).
The third question in this passage asks when the Resurrection will come about (cf. 10:48; 21:38; 27:21; 32:28; 34:29; 36:48; 67:25). The Prophet elsewhere is told to reply to similar questions by saying that he has no knowledge of the coming of the Hour (21:109; 67:26; 72:25), but here he is told to say, by way of further warning, that it may well be nigh (cf. 27:72). This is understood by some to mean that it is indeed near at hand, for, according to commentators, when the phrase it may well be is spoken by God, it indicates something that is necessarily the case, not something that is merely possible (Q, Ṭ). According to a ḥadīth, the Prophet said, “I and the Hour have been sent [as close together] as these two,” and he raised his index and middle finger to demonstrate (Ṭ).

 

And then Surah Al-Isra verses 98-99 says:

ذَٲلِكَ جَزَآؤُهُم بِأَنَّهُمۡ كَفَرُواْ بِـَٔايَـٰتِنَا وَقَالُوٓاْ أَءِذَا كُنَّا عِظَـٰمً۬ا وَرُفَـٰتًا أَءِنَّا لَمَبۡعُوثُونَ خَلۡقً۬ا جَدِيدًا (٩٨)  أَوَلَمۡ يَرَوۡاْ أَنَّ ٱللَّهَ ٱلَّذِى خَلَقَ ٱلسَّمَـٰوَٲتِ وَٱلۡأَرۡضَ قَادِرٌ عَلَىٰٓ أَن يَخۡلُقَ مِثۡلَهُمۡ وَجَعَلَ لَهُمۡ أَجَلاً۬ لَّا رَيۡبَ فِيهِ فَأَبَى ٱلظَّـٰلِمُونَ إِلَّا كُفُورً۬ا (٩٩)

That is their recompense because they rejected Our Signs and said “When we are reduced to bones and broken dust, should we really be raised up (to be) a new Creation?” (98) See they not that Allah, Who created the heavens and the earth, has power to create the like of them (anew)? Only He has decreed a term appointed, of which there is no doubt. But the unjust refuse (to receive it) except with ingratitude. (99)

And in Surah Yaseen verses 78-79:

وَضَرَبَ لَنَا مَثَلاً۬ وَنَسِىَ خَلۡقَهُ ۥ‌ۖ قَالَ مَن يُحۡىِ ٱلۡعِظَـٰمَ وَهِىَ رَمِيمٌ۬ (٧٨) قُلۡ يُحۡيِيہَا ٱلَّذِىٓ أَنشَأَهَآ أَوَّلَ مَرَّةٍ۬‌ۖ وَهُوَ بِكُلِّ خَلۡقٍ عَلِيمٌ (٧٩)

And he makes comparisons for us, and forgets his own (Origin and) Creation: He says “Who can give life to (dry) bones and decomposed ones (at that)?” (78) Say “He will give them life Who created them for the first time! For He is well-versed in every kind of creation!― (79)

And recall the words of Allah when He says in verses 115-118 of Surah Al-Muminoon:

أَفَحَسِبۡتُمۡ أَنَّمَا خَلَقۡنَـٰكُمۡ عَبَثً۬ا وَأَنَّكُمۡ إِلَيۡنَا لَا تُرۡجَعُونَ (١١٥) فَتَعَـٰلَى ٱللَّهُ ٱلۡمَلِكُ ٱلۡحَقُّ‌ۖ لَآ إِلَـٰهَ إِلَّا هُوَ رَبُّ ٱلۡعَرۡشِ ٱلۡڪَرِيمِ (١١٦) وَمَن يَدۡعُ مَعَ ٱللَّهِ إِلَـٰهًا ءَاخَرَ لَا بُرۡهَـٰنَ لَهُ ۥ بِهِۦ فَإِنَّمَا حِسَابُهُ ۥ عِندَ رَبِّهِۦۤ‌ۚ إِنَّهُ ۥ لَا يُفۡلِحُ ٱلۡكَـٰفِرُونَ (١١٧) وَقُل رَّبِّ ٱغۡفِرۡ وَٱرۡحَمۡ وَأَنتَ خَيۡرُ ٱلرَّٲحِمِينَ (١١٨)

Did you then think that We had created you in jest and that you would not be brought back to Us (for an account)?” (115) Therefore exalted be Allah, the King the Reality; there is no god but He, the Lord of the Throne of Honour! (116) If anyone invokes, besides Allah any other god, he has no authority therefor; and his reckoning will be only with his Lord! And verily the Unbelievers will fail to win through! (117) So say: “O my Lord! grant Thou forgiveness and mercy! for Thou art the Best of those who show mercy!” (118)

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