23 Apr 2009

What is about dying?

Resurrection is the natural non-sequitur to death we all hear about but rarely dwell on. Recently in Tunisia I was faced with the Muslim take on resurrection, which I normally associate with mass-marked graves of the well-off, waiting for the day they will rise up and live again, as so generously promised in the bible.

In Islam it's not enough to be buried on hallowed ground and not be a suicide (or any of the other unforgivable things). You must also be buried with your head facing Mecca (see the other pics of the mass graves).

It's also written in the Koran "On the day of resurrection your hands will speak". Given the absolute love of religions to interpret their texts in anything but the most literal ways, I'm bemused to imagine what they make of that.

The best explanation I've heard about death and resurrection was given by a friend to my mother around the time of my graduation. We were in a cafe and he was explaining what it meant to be a Baha'i to my mother, who was related to some Baha'is once in Iran (I'm not a Baha'i by the way). He told her they believed Bahu'alla was the promised Imam, the 12th Imam they are waiting for in Islam called the 'Maha'di'. "But for the Maha'di to have come" my mother pointed out, "We would all have to be dead and it to be the time of the resurrection according to the Koran". "Most people are dead," said my friend "spiritually. We understand death and resurrection to be one of the spirit, not of the body. Most people live their entire lives without being spiritually alive for even a moment".

I can relate to that explanation. It still doesn't explain the hands, or graves, but I think where I was in Tunisia (Mahdia, named after the 12th Imam, no less), brought me a step closer to thinking about it in the right light. I wonder if Tom Hanks will have anything to say about the misconceptions we have 'inherited' today about life and death in his new film, the strapline for which is "Tell the world the truth".