The Koran

The place of return

 Il luogo del ritorno  DCM-004
03 April 2021

The Paradise in Islam, prayers and funeral rites 

There is a life after death. The promise of Paradise exists and can be reached if we have lived our lives with respect and love. There is also the resurrection of bodies.

For Muslims, the crossing point is the one that distinguishes a “short life” from an “eternal life”.  The short one, the one we live now, is here, now, and immersed in the fatigue of the pandemic, in the daily routine of work commitments, of study, in moments of prayer.

The Eternal life, the one that opens up after death and that after the earthly “first” life will still be physical, and carnal. The Paradise described in the Koran is another, yet concrete place. It is so beautiful that “we are unable to imagine it” - explains Izzeddin Elzir, the Imam of Florence, founder of the Islamic Community of Tuscany and former president of the Union of Islamic Communities of Italy. According to the Islamic story, “we will experience the passage of death, but we will have life again. We do not know how”. He concludes: “No one among those who live eternal life has returned to describe it to us”.

In the holy book of Islam, Paradise - the Jannah - is described with lush plants, flowers of every shape and colour, and delicious rivers of honey and wine. “Indeed, wine; though, for Muslims drinking alcohol is forbidden. What kind of wine will it be? The description of Paradise really arouses curiosity”.

There are “many verses in the Koran that speak of Paradise”, he continues, “but I prefer to recall a saying of the Prophet Muhammad, peace be upon him, when he says that after our short lives, things and places await us that have never been seen or heard or even thought of. However, above all, for Muslims, the passage between the short life and the eternal life has only one goal, and that is “To see the face of Allah. This will be possible for those who, in this short, earthly life, have been pious people”.

To deserve to live in the Jannah, one must have lived a life of convinced adoration. This means that “prayer is not enough as a ritual that takes five minutes out of the day, it is not enough “only” not to speak ill of others. It is necessary to dialogue with others, to work, to love one's neighbour, to respect the environment, to adore the Lord with actions and not only with five daily prayers”. The Imam of Florence comments, “Whether we call him God or Allah, he is always the Merciful and the Clement and we must strive towards him.” Normally, as Izzeddin Elzir underlines, “one should not be afraid of death. Nevertheless, we are human beings; the life we live is short for God, for us humans it is a long life. Just as we feel sadness at the simple fact of changing city, just as we cry when we say goodbye to a mother or child who is leaving us, even if we are aware that we will meet again, death is a tragic moment. In the Koran it is written that whoever is struck by a “misfortune”, and this means death, must say, “We are Allah's and we return to Him.” (The Koran - Sura II, verse 156)

To be true, these words must be pronounced and lived with a deep and convinced faith and remembering, and at the moment of the passage between life and resurrection in the other, the “testimony” of the Prophet Mohammed, through the reading of some passages from the Koran. It is important that those who are about to leave life can, if they are able, repeat the testimony. However, we are certain that even in the most complicated, most difficult moments of illness, when it seems that those who suffer and are about to leave us are not conscious and in themselves, they still manage to understand the words of those around them”.

Afterwards, continues Elzir, “the rite involves a thorough washing and the dressing of the body - naked as we arrived on earth - in a white cloth. This is how we greet our brothers in Islam”.

However,  the Covid pandemic has changed the perspective while maintaining the principle of the sanctity of life contained in the Koran and lived profoundly; “During this period, our doctors, doctors in general, said that washing the body of an infected person implied the possibility of transmitting the Covid. This is why a fatwa - a provision of Islamic law - ruled that one should dispense with washing, limiting oneself to a much simpler rite. One does what one can do. Safeguarding health, and the defense of life is very important”.

By Elena Di Dio