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Every man shall have a taste of death. The beliefs regarding the notion of death and what happens thereafter have existed universally across all cultures and religions. Being an inescapable reality and an inevitable fate of our corporeal existence, death has been a subject of debate for as long as humans have been capable of cognizant thought. As such, the ideas about the afterlife have been refined and codified as various belief systems have sprung up across human history mainly in the form of organised religions. Afterlife being a common theme across these religions can generally be defined as the idea that the human consciousness or the 'soul' continues to persist even after the death of the body through supernatural means with a 'God' or gods determining the fate of all individuals. Moreover, beliefs about reincarnation of the human body in one form or the other after its initial demise are an important part of many religions across the world. Among the plethora of religions out there, Islam and Hinduism discuss this issue in great detail. While there is great divergence in their respective views regarding the afterlife in specific regards to judgement, reward or punishment and reincarnation of the soul, conformity of ideas between the two also exists.
The journey of the soul after death is discussed at length in the canons of both religions. Both view death not as an end but rather merely representing one stage in the existence of the soul of the individual. In Islam, the soul proceeds in the afterlife in a linear fashion whereas the journey process in Hindu faith is based on cycles. The Islamic view states that after death, the soul is transferred across the boundaries of the mortal realm into a cold sleep known as 'Barzakh' where it rests until the day of judgement after which it is either rewarded by an eternal life in heaven or punished by being thrown into hell. In Hinduism however, the concept of rebirths or reincarnation takes the central role. The soul, called "Atman" leaves the body and reincarnates itself according to the deeds performed by the person in last birth. This process continues until a person performs only good deeds in his last birth after which the 'Atma' is merged with 'Partmatma' or the greatest soul hence attaining 'Moksha' commonly known as Nirvana. As such while both religions view death as being an intermediate stage, they differ markedly in the details of what happens to the soul afterwards (World religions).
The decision about the eventual fate of the person on the basis of actions performed by the individual during its life time forms a key element in both religions. Both view the soul as an indestructible entity that continues to exist even after the bodily death of the person and it is the soul that eventually reaps the benefits or suffers the consequences of the person's actions in the hereafter. In Islam, judgement will carried out on the final day known as “Qiyamah” where the account of all people will be read out from their individual book of deeds and their fate decided by Allah himself. Those whose good and righteous deeds outweigh their sins shall be rewarded while those who have transgressed against the commands of Allah shall be punished severely. On the other hand, in Hinduism there is no formalized process of judgement of the soul but rather its fate is based upon the accumulated sum of good or bad deeds which is known as 'karma'. As such, the basic concept of karma is 'As you sow, you shall reap' and hence a good life will be rewarded in the next birth while the sum of bad deeds will be negatively mirrored in one's next life (Life).
Death being the only certainty in an extremely uncertain and tumultuous life raises a lot of concerns in the human mind. What happens after we die? Where do we go after death? Is there any proof of life after death? All these questions make man turn to the realm of religion, which is considered to be the only credible source of knowledge about matters that confound human logic. Islam and Hinduism are two such religions that believe in the same tenets of afterlife, albeit in very different ways. The notions underlying the beliefs might have global resonance; however the beliefs and their associated practices differ in these two great religions. Both religions believe in continuity of life after death, with Islam looking at an eternal life either in Heaven or Hell and Hinduism propagating a cyclical reincarnation of the human spirit. Reward or punishment for our actions in the afterlife is also mirrored in both faiths, with Islam prophesising an end of the world accompanied by a final judgement while Hinduism rests its balance of good and evil in the form of “Karma”. Man always fears the unknown and thus tries very hard to replace the unknown with certain knowledge. Hence the continued need to find answers and control the uncontrollable. The importance of the concept of life after death and man’s religious endeavours becomes clear with the realization that death is the final frontier left for man to master.

Written By: Hamza Orakzai ( Bsc Student LUMS )

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