Chapter Two: The Cow (Al Baqara)
And say not of those who are killed in God’s cause: "They are dead." Rather they are alive, but you are not aware. (Chapter 2: Verse 154)
In the previous verse, Allah highlighted the tools that help us face life’s troubles. Through prayer and patience, the believer can be in God’s company: strong and steadfast. In this verse, Allah informs the believers that the opponents of faith will use all the resources at their disposal to put the believers through severe afflictions. These hardships will not only threaten wealth, but they may go as far as putting lives at risk. Being killed is the most severe calamity that can befall a person. You may be afflicted in your wealth, your children, or your health, but the worst is loss of life. God says in the 106th verse of chapter 5:
let there be present among you, at the time of making the will, two just persons from among you or two others from among the outsiders, in case you are journeying in the country and the calamity of death overtakes you.
While Allah gave the believers the shield of prayer and patience to protect them from life’s troubles, He Almighty wants to comfort those who face death while defending their homes and their faith. Allah wants the believers to understand that a person who is killed defending his or her home or faith does not die. In fact he or she is immediately granted a better life in which there are countless blessings. God says: “And say not of those who are killed in God’s cause: "They are dead." Rather they are alive, but you are not aware.”
What sort of life is God referring to? Life as we know it in this world means the ability to move about; Movement stops with death. As for the one who is killed in God’s path, movement will never be taken away; rather he or she will be transferred to a happier life at a better place. It is a clear distinction from anyone who dies a normal death where the barrier of the grave exists between the dead person and the hereafter. The grave is the temporary place until resurrection on the Day of Judgment. This verse is also a message to those who fight Islam and kill people to destroy their faith. God is informing them that they are not robbing the believers of anything, not even life. All they achieve is to help move the believers to a greater blessing at a far better place.
All those who are killed while defending their homes and faith form a strong chain protecting the faith and ensuring that it is preserved for the next generation. Often, the true achievement of your life is not what you do for yourself, but what you leave for your children. Similarly, those who lose their life to preserve the most precious gift: the gift of faith for future generations will earn great rewards from their Lord. Each life lost is a testimony of the value and the significance of defending and preserving God’s gift of Islam. This also motivates future generations to value their faith and do their best to adhere to God’s teachings.
While you may see the deceased before your eyes -still and lifeless just like any other dead person- God wants you to know that whoever dies in His path is alive with God and is transferred from the worldly life to the hereafter immediately. This is concealed from us as God describes: ‘Rather they are alive, but you are not aware.’ God says in another verse:
And do not think of those who have been killed in God’s way as dead. They are alive with their Lord, well provided for (3:169)
How can this be, you may ask? This should be easy to understand. Not all life is matter and material. Life is consciousness. When you sleep, you go into the world of dreams, and may experience events that feel real to you at that time although all those around you see you as deep asleep. Moreover, while your brain experiences the state of dreaming for a few second, you perceive the dream experience as reality lasting for hours. In another example, a patient who is undergoing heart surgery is given anaesthesia. Then his or her heart might be stopped to perform the procedure. In this case life is preserved, while the matter and flesh stop to function and do not feel any pain.
In fact, Allah wants you to understand the issue of death and resurrection based on your understanding of sleep. He says:
God takes the souls of the dead and the souls of the living while they sleep- He keeps hold of those whose death He has ordained and sends the others back until their appointed time- there truly are signs in this for those who re?ect. (39:42)