Al-Ma’ad - Resurrection or the hereafter is the belief that after death humans will be resurrected, or brought back to life, to be judged for their actions and rewarded or punished, depending on each individual’s worldly conduct.

It is one of the Five Pillars of Faith in Shi’a Islam.

The Qur’an and hadiths of the Prophet and Imams make it clear that belief in al-Ma’ad is part of the faith and those who reject it are not considered Muslims. The events of al-Ma’ad prepare us for events of the hereafter. One of the major events of the hereafter is the day of judgement where God decides who goes to heaven and hell.

Al-Ma’ad is the term we use to describe the events beginning with the moment of death right up to the entry to heaven or hell. Muslims believe that after our spiritual and physical resurrection we will face devine judgement.

The Qur’an is very clear on the events of al-Ma’ad and is mentioned in many verses such as:

And because the hour is coming, there is no doubt about it and Allah ressurect those who are in the graves (22:7).

“On the day when We will roll up heaven like the rolling up of the scroll for writings, as We originated the first creation, (so) We shall reproduce it; a promise (binding on Us); surely We will bring it about.” [21:104] 

Al-Ma’ad is one of the Five Pillars of Faith in Twelver Shi’a Islam. It is part of the necessary doctrines of Islam and rejection of it amounts to disbelief Kufr.

The word Ma’ad comes from the verb aʿada and signifies a “return to a place”. In its verbal form, a'ada denotes “to recommence, reiterate”. In the Qur’an, God is qualified by the titles Al-Mubdi' (The Originator) and Al-Mu'id (The One who brings back).

Muslim theologians speak of i'ada in the sense of a second creation. The idea of return is only implied, to the extent that there must be a return to the point of departure before there can be a recommencement.

Followers of Islam believe that God will resurrect people after death on the Day of Judgment; He will reward His obedient servants and He will punish disobedient ones. The general aspect of this Pillar of Faith has been broadly agreed upon in scriptures of divine origin and philosophers alike. It is necessary for a Muslim to believe in this pillar of faith which has been enshrined in the Qur’an and the prophetic traditions.

Surely he who believes in God and Prophet Muhammad (s.a.w) as his messenger must also believe in the Qur’an account of resurrection, reward, punishment and heaven and hell.

The Qur’an states that doubt and scepticism over al-Ma’ad is the same as expressing doubt in the Prophethood. In fact, a doubt of such magnitude is also the equivalent of a total rejection of all religions of Divine origin.

Our Belief in Bodily Resurrection

Moreover, belief in bodily resurrection, in particular, is an essential belief in the Islamic faith. The Qur’an refers to this necessity in a number of verses such as:

Does man think that We cannot assemble his bones? [75:3]

When we are dust, shall we then certainly be in a new creation? These are they who disbelieve in their Lord, and these have chains on their necks, and they are the inmates of the fire; in it they shall abide. [13:5]

Bodily resurrection is the act of bringing back the human being to his physical state on the day of resurrection after the period of bodily decay and restoring the scattered bones of the individual to his/her original state.

It is unnecessary to believe in the finer details of bodily resurrection beyond what has already been specified. In the simple and clear manner of the Qur’an; the essential Qur’anic requirement is belief in the day of reckoning, the straight path, the scale of deeds, heaven and hell, and reward and punishment.

Al-Ma'ad is one the five Usul al-Din (Principles of the Religion) according to Twelver Shia’sm.

The term Ma'ad brings together the two senses of return and recommencement: return to the source of being which is God, and a second creation which is the Resurrection. The study and investigation of events concerning the final events in human history fall under the broad term of "Eschatology"

The Monotheistic religions, also known as the ‘Revealed Religions’ in Islamic teachings, have three fundamental principles in common.

  1. Belief in one God al-Tawhid, or a supreme transcendental being.
  2. Belief in the hereafter and the reward or punishment for one’s actions al-Ma'ad.
  3. The belief in Prophets (al-Nubuwah) and messengers sent to guide mankind and instill moral and ethical ideas.

In over two thousand verses approximately one third of the Qur’an draws attention to the necessity of belief in the events after death and the hereafter – a broad term which describes a series of sequential events at the end of time beginning with barzakh ( intermediate period after death and before resurrection) and ending with the Day of Judgement (yawm al-qiyamah).

Words and Their Meaning:

The word Ma'ad comes from the verb 'ada and signifies a “return to a place”. In its verbal form, a'ada denotes “to recommence, reiterate”. In the Qur’an, God is qualified by the titles al-Mubdi (The Originator) and Al-Mu'id (The One who brings back).

It is the notion of this form, which is dominant in the Qur’an: resurrection is a recommencement. Muslim theologians mainly speak of i'ada in the sense of a second creation. The idea of return is only implied, to the extent that there must be a return to the point of departure before there can be a recommencement. Therefore, Ma'ad, is historically linked to i'ada and came to refer primarily to the place of return of resurrected persons in the presence of God. It is in this sense that Muslim theologians associate it with ḥashr and ba'th, the Assembly for the Last Judgment and the Resurrection, citing the Qur’an verse.

On the day when We will roll up heaven like the rolling up of the scroll for writings, as We originated the first creation, (so) We shall reproduce it; a promise (binding on Us); surely We will bring it about. [21:104] 

History

The numerous and earliest references to al-Ma'ad in the Qur’an are, arguably, the first instances of proto-theological dialogues on eschatology (end of the world) and its themes such as resurrection and judgment.

The  earliest and perhaps most formidable challenges for the Qur’an was convincing non-believers about life-after-death and the day of reckoning in which everyone will be judged according to his or her deeds.

That is the day of truth, so whoever desires may take refuge with his Lord (78:39)

And because the hour is coming, there is no doubt about it; and because Allah shall resurrect those who are in the graves (22:7).

Main Debates and Arguments

According the main scholars of Twelver Shi’a Islam the main debates on al-Ma'ad can be divided into four theories:

The first position is attributed to the majority of muslim philosophers – the Peripatetic School– who maintain resurrection is a spiritual experience only;

The second position is attributed to the majority of Muslim Sunni theologians who associated al-nafs al-natiqah (The Rational Soul) with the corporeal body, states al-Ma'ad is of the body only.

The third position reconciles the opinion of the Muslim peripatetic philosophers and the explicit account of bodily resurrection in the Qur’an. This opinion is adopted by a large group of Muslim theologians and philosophers, especially Twelver Shi’a Islam scholars;

The fourth position is attributed to pre-Socratic philosophers who reject all forms of resurrection.

Denial of the Qur’an’s account of bodily resurrection by early Greek philosophers drew heavy criticism and condemnation by mainstream theologians especially in Twelver Shi’a circles. In his anwar al-malakut fi sharh al-yaqut, the eighth/fourteenth century Twelver Shi’a theologian al-'Allamah al-Hilli (d. 726/1325) rejected the view of Greek philosophers who deny bodily resurrection and stated assertively that belief in bodily resurrection accords with a general Muslim consensus. Al-'AllAmah al-Hilli summarised his position in two statements:

  1. Dispersed human parts (i.e. bones, joints, etc.) will be re-assembled to make way for bodily resurrection.
  1. The parts, once assembled to their previous condition, will be brought back to existence after a ‘state’ of non-existence.
Belief in al-Ma'ad

Muslim theologians devoted much time and effort, unnecessarily according to al-Mudhaffar, probing into minute issues such as, the nature of resurrected bodies and whether we will  be resurrected with our previous bodies? Or will we acquire new bodies, but with similar features to our old ones? Moreover, will our soul, which has proven to be immaterial, sustain its existence after death? Or will it cease to exist after bodily death? And is al-Maʿad confined to humans only or does it apply to other creatures? 

Shaykh Mohammed Rida Mudhaffar (d. 1965 AD) posed a powerful argument that there was no need to conduct meticulous studies on the minute details of bodily resurrection.

He argued that Qur’anic accounts of al-Ma'ad do not venture into unnecessary details which are beyond the grasp of human minds. Those who venture beyond the Qur’an's account, argues al-Mudhaffar, create more confusion for themselves by grappling with issues in a speculative manner. Evidently had the speculations of the theologians and philosophers been productive in explaining exact details of bodily resurrection and other features of al-Ma'ad, then the debate should have been settled centuries ago; yet deliberations between philosophers and theologians seem incessant and, if one looks further, even contemporary arguments posed by philosophers and theologians appear to repeat meaningless questions that have no basis in the Qur’an whatsoever. 

In his 'aqaʼid al-imamiyyah, a contemporary authoritative creed of Twelver Shi’a Islam,  al-Mudhaffar elaborates:

"…and there is no religious basis for conducting detailed studies on al-maʿād similar to those studies conducted by philosophers and theologians … in fact there is no social, political, nor religious justification for indulging in futile studies on such issues … it suffices that God the Almighty has informed us about the future happenings of al-maʿād … human advancement in knowledge and learning have taught us that to speculate over issues we have no knowledge of nor direct experience in is unscholarly; how can we therefore claim to understand the finer details of al-maʿād prior to experiencing it?"

The Qur’an provides a number of responses to deniers of al-Ma'ad:

He will revive them [i.e. scattered bones] Who produced them at the first, for He is Knower of every creation. [36:79]

Contemporary Relevance

Since the beginning of time, human beings have grappled with questions about their origins, their current state, and their final destiny.

Al-ma'ad is one of teh most important themes that runs throughout the Qur’an, it offers hope and salvation.  

Sources
  • Al-Mudhaffar, Mohammed Rida, 'aqaʼid al-imamiyyah
  • Al-Mufid, Mohammed b. al-Nu'man, Tashih al-i'tiqad (Tabriz, 1951)
  • Al-Ḥilli, Hassan b. al-Mutahhar, al-bab al-hadi'ashar (Tehran, 2006)
  • Al-Ḥilli, Hassan b. al-Mutahhar, kashf al-murad fi sharhtajrid al-i'tiqad (Qum, 2004)
  • Al-Sa'idi, Shakir 'Atiyyah, al-ma'ad al-jismani (Qom, 2005)
  • Al-Shubbar, 'Abd Allah, Haqq al-yaqInfIma'rifatu usul al-Din (Beirut, 1983)
  • Al-Sadr, Hassan, ta'sIs al-shi'a 'al’l-ulum al-islamiyyah (Tehran)
  • Kashif al-Ghita, Mohammed Husayn, asl al-shi'awa usuliha(Qom, 1994)
Bibliography and Further Reading
  • Al-Sa'idi, Shakir'Aṭiyyah, al-ma'ad al-jismani (Qom, 2005)
  • Al-Shubbar, 'Abd Allah, Haqq al-yaqInfIma'rifat usul al-Din (Beirut, 1983)

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