Chapter Two: The Cow (Al Baqara)
Chapter 2, Verse 28
How can you disbelieve in Allah when you were lifeless and He brought you to life; then He will cause you to die, then He will bring you back to life, and then to Him you will be returned. (Chapter 2: Verse 28)
Generally, the word ‘How’ is used to inquire about a method or about the condition of something. But in this verse God, the most knowledgeable, is not inquiring. He is asking a rhetorical question about a matter that should not occur. How can anyone disbelieve in God after all the evidence mentioned in the previous verses regarding the creation of the heavens, earth and humans? Thus, the question in the verse is for the purpose of expressing astonishment and for scolding the disbelievers. For example, you can scold your son, and show your surprise at his behavior by asking him: ‘How can you be so rude to your mother?’ In reality, you are telling your son that his actions are not acceptable and should not have happened.
God follows this rhetorical question with the all apparent truth. He says: ‘when you were lifeless and He brought you to life; then He will cause you to die’. The disbelievers may argue against the fact that they are causing corruption, severing family ties, and not following what God has commanded, however, there is no argument regarding life and death. Allah created us from non-existence, and no one has ever claimed to have created himself or anyone else. Even Prophet Muhammad's most vehement enemies did not dispute this point. The domain of life and death belongs to God alone. The creation from non-existence is a reality proven by science and evidence, while death is a reality witnessed by all of us throughout our lives.
The issue of death is powerful evidence that confronts the disbelievers and atheists alike. A person may argue that human intelligence is sufficient to promote and maintain life, and that there is nothing beyond the physical world such as souls. To those we reply: He who controls life, must also be able to control death. In other words, he who can create, and maintain life, should also easily master and prevent death. The arguments for life mostly center around recent scientific advances. Take in vitro fertilization for example. It is one of the most popular processes for treating infertility. It involves retrieving an egg from a woman’s womb, then inseminating it with the man's sperm. Afterwards, the fertilized egg is transferred back into the woman’s womb. Some disbelievers point to such procedures as a form of creation, and proof that science can overcome nature and create life. Let's look at the facts behind such claims. This process, and all others, start from God’s creation, namely: the egg from the female and the sperm from the male. All the doctor does is facilitate the process of insemination. Facilitation is far from creation. They name the child born through this process a test tube baby. As if a tube can create a child!
Here is a challenge: if you possess life and the power to create, then use your power to prevent one single person from dying. Do not spend thousands trying to treat infertility, the success of which cannot be guaranteed, show your skill by keeping one person alive.
Our life in this world is like an interlude between two parentheses. The first parenthesis is God creating us and bringing us into existence, and the second parenthesis is the end of our humanity through death. The journey of life is what we have between these two boundaries. The beginning and end belong to Allah.
When man finds himself alive, he has no way of knowing how this came to be. It is out of God's mercy and love that He informed and approximated to us the events of creation so our minds do not feel helpless. Allah says:
O people! If you are in doubt about the resurrection, consider that We indeed created you from dust, then from a drop of seminal fluid, then from a clinging mass, then from a fleshy tissue, partly formed and partly unformed, so that We may manifest Our power to you. We establish in the wombs whatever We wish for a specified term, then We bring you forth as infants, then so that you may come of age. There are some of you who are taken away, and there are some of you who are relegated to the nethermost age, so that he knows nothing after having possessed some knowledge. And you see the earth torpid, yet when We send down water upon it, it stirs and swells, and grows every delightful kind(22:5)
and in another verse:
We created man from the finest extract of clay (23:12)
Then just ask the disbelievers what they think: Are they the more difficult to create, or the other creations whom We have created surely, We have created them out of a sticky clay! (37:11)
then We made that drop into a clinging form, and We made that form into a lump of ?esh, and We made that lump into bones, and We clothed those bones with ?esh, and later We made him into other forms––glory be to God, the best of creators!(23:14)
So when I have proportioned him and breathed into him of My spirit, then fall down in prostration before him.’ (38:72)
In the previous verses God informed us of the stages of creation that none of us had witnessed. Death, on the other hand, is here for all of us to witness. In fact, God presents death as evidence to support his message about the stages of creation that we did not see.
Let's clarify this point. Death is the opposite of life, it is the end that negates life. And when an event negates another, it usually happens in the exact opposite order. For example, the construction of a building starts from the foundation at the bottom progressing to the top floor; whiledemolition starts from the top floor down. Similarly, the last mile you drive to get into Paris is the first mile you travel when begin your journey back home.
Let's apply this concept to life and death. God described creation as beginning from dust. First water was mixed with dust which then turned into mud. The mud was left until its color changed and it became clay. The clay was left to dry which then turned into sounding clay. After that it was shaped into the form of a human. Then God Almighty breathed His spirit into him and made him a complete human.
In death, the spirit is extracted from the physical body first as it was last to enter the body. Afterwards, the body will solidify and decays to become clay-like. Then the water that was mixed into it will evaporate and turn the remnants into dust. Thus, death which is the opposite of life occurs in accordance with the stages that God Almighty informed us of.