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The Event of Resurrection

By: Sayeda R. Habib


Resurrection is defined as the act of bringing back something to life after it has died. Resurrection is a belief of more than one major world religion. The concept of Resurrection is one that is shared by Islam and Christianity. This concept is not used to only explain the immortality of the soul, or to allude to the concept of reincarnation. Instead the concept of resurrection implies that human beings will die, and then will be revived, by God. This revival will be one that will capture a human being in his true essence in body and soul.
Resurrection can be defined in two major views, the first being that both the body and the soul are arisen from the dead. Another view that can be taken is that the body has died but the soul is immortal and has risen away from the body. The Encyclopedia of Religion explains this difference:
Belief in resurrection presupposes either a monistic view of man, which implies that man as a whole disappears in death and is then revived to a new existence; or a dualistic view, according to which the body dies whereas the soul or spirit lives on and is later united with the body into a renewed being.[1]
There can be two distinct views on resurrection. The first being that mans whole being including body and soul, dies. The second view is that man dies in body, but his soul lives on and upon resurrection, his soul goes into his recreated body again and he is resurrected by God. Having seen some of the basic views on resurrection, the purpose of this essay is to observe the similarities and differences between Islam and Christianity on their respective beliefs on Resurrection.

Resurrection in Christianity:
Resurrection in Christianity seems to be closely tied with the resurrection of Jesus Christ. For Christians, it is imperative to believe in the resurrection of Jesus if they are to hope for salvation for themselves. From early Christianity, it is believed that Jesus was crucified and then raised for the salvation of human beings. In addition to this, the resurrection was for the benefit of human beings so that Jesus could be raised to the level of Gods son. It was through this process of resurrection that Jesus became the Son of God. The status of Jesus is explained in Rom 1:4
He was designated the son of God in power by his resurrection from the dead he was put to death for our trespasses and raised for our justification (4:25). The choice of words and the context indicate that (1) that he was dead; (2) that it was God who raised him; and (3) that his resurrection was not merely a return to normal life on earth but a transfer into an existence of a higher kind. The question of body and soul is not discussed.[2]
Here we can see that the concept of resurrection in Christianity begins with the resurrection of Christ himself. Christ, according to the early scriptures died at the cross, and then was resurrected by God. Once resurrected, he was given a higher status as Gods son and through him; others continue to get their salvation.
Christians, however, also believe in an event of resurrection as the Muslim do, though their interpretation is different to that of Islams. Christians believe that once they believe in Jesus Christ and his resurrection, that their link with him is created till their own final resurrection. As we know, Muslims rely on the Quran for their interpretation of the events of resurrection, whereas the Christians take the words of Jesus disciples and the books of the bible.
Paul, an apostle and a disciple of Jesus, was a teacher to the Christians. Paul spoke of the blowing of a trumpet to announce the event of resurrection, and here we can consider this to be similarity between the two faiths. It is explained that Paul said in Thessalonians 4: 13-18:
Asserting that just as Christ died and rose again, the fellowship with him cannot be broken by death: first those who have died in Christ will rise with the archangel calls and the trumpet sounds, then those who are still alive will be taken away to heaven to Christ.[3]
It can be clearly noted that there is a similarity between Islam and Christianity in that Christianity also believes that a trumpet will be blown before the final resurrection. In addition, Christianity believes that those who believe, their allegiance with Jesus Christ will remain upon their death, and as they have remained believers in him as the son of God, they will be taken to heaven upon resurrection, whether they were alive upon this earth or not. It is interesting to note, that the concept of resurrection is not coupled with any concept of judgment. If a Christian believes in Jesus Christ, then he shall be going to heaven. There is a mention of salvation from sins, but it is presumed to automatic for those who believe in Jesus, as he was crucified and resurrected for this very purpose. There does not seem to be a concept of judgment or reckoning here.
Further, the concept of resurrection in Christianity does not make any mention of an immortal soul as being separate from the body. Resurrection refers to the wholeness of body. Man dies and he is recreated in a whole body.
The question of how the resurrection is going to take place is dealt with by Paul in 1 Corinthians 15. The body that rises is not the old body but a new one, just as a new plant comes out of a seed. Nothing is said here of an immortal soul. Man as a whole is perishable; man as a whole is re-created as a spiritual body. [4]
So, how does Christianity deal with the concept of the immortal soul? Christianity has adopted the idea of an immortal soul from another school of thought. The values of resurrection and life after death in Christianity have been affected by two differing schools of thought. One being the school of Greek myth and philosophy, the other being the New Testament and the teachings of the apostles. From the Greek school of thought, Christianity has incorporated the idea of there being life after death and the soul being immortal. On the other hand, Christianity has embraced the concept of the resurrection of the body from the New Testament. Carl E. Baaten in his essay The Kingdom of God and Life Everlasting explains:
Two strands have been woven together in the Christian tradition concerning life after death; one stems from the Greek myth of the immortality of the soul and the other from the New Testament message of the resurrection of the body. Immortality and resurrection both express hope for life beyond the eternal clutch of death. If the soul is understood as the innermost core of personal identity, the true self, then the doctrine of the immortality of the soul expresses the hope that what is essentially human will survive death. If, however, the body is an integral part of the human personality, so that without my body I would be no-body at all, then it too must be integrated into the hope of eternal life. So the ancient Christian creeds affirm the resurrection of the body. Still, they do not literally mean the physical body. The apostle Paul made it clear that through resurrection the physical body is transformed into a spiritual body. This means that salvation, as distinct from the Hellenistic soterial, is not a matter of salvaging the soul from its dungeon in the body.[5]
Clearly then, Christianity accepts the integration of body and soul at all times, even upon resurrection. The body and soul are one, but the resurrection will be of a more spiritual nature as the body will have a spiritual aspect to it. Further, as the body and soul are considered to be integrated, the happiness of each is interdependent. The concept that body and soul are interconnected is a concept that Islam and Christianity share. The idea that bodies and souls are interconnected is very important in Islam because complete thought and actions occur only when the two are combined together. The body does the acting, whereas the soul does the thinking and feeling. Islam teaches humans that every human being will be judged for his or her actions upon resurrection; therefore the combination of body and soul is essential if any actions are to exist in the first place.
Another concept that is tied into the idea of resurrection in Christianity comes from the teachings of the apostle Paul. Paul taught Christians that the body is the temple of the Holy Spirit and that Christians glorify God in their bodies. This allows Christians the freedom in believing that they are accessing some aspect of the eternal life right here on earth and that their eternity will be spent in Heaven. There is no concept of punishment or fear upon resurrection. Baaten explains:
but if the body is the temple of the Holy Spirit, as Paul said, if each individual is a member of the body of Christ, and if we share a foretaste of eternal life by partaking of this eucharistic body, then we will hear an ethical imperative in Pauls saying: You glorify God in your bodies! This means that the power of eternal life is not something stored up elsewhere, to become real at some other time and place. Rather, impulses of life eternal are being released into the personal, social and political body of this very life. This grants us the possibility of attempting new things, of engaging in a resurrection politics and a liberation practice ahead of the times. We do not have to wait until we are dead before we live at least in a partial way the new life which occurred in the history of Jesus Christ.[6]
Evidently, the Catholic practice of taking communion and having a piece of the blood and body of Christ enables Christians to have a part of his immortality. Also, they become part of his spirit. In so doing, they not only have a bit of immortality in their everyday lives but also the promise of heaven upon resurrection. Furthermore, it can be understood here that the ritual of communion and their belief in immortality, enables Christians to live a quality of life that they would otherwise not live.

Resurrection in Islam:
The belief in the day of Resurrection is an essential aspect of the Muslim faith. All believing Muslims must adhere to the belief that Allah (swt) created all life as per His will, and He will cause all life to die. Furthermore, He will then bring all the dead back to life when He wishes. This rebirth will be the final day of Resurrection for humanity where all will stand before Allah (swt) and account for their deeds in this world. Allah says in the Holy Quran:

Does not man see We created him from (a drop of) semen? Yet lo! He is an open contender, and questions Us (about resurrection), and has forgotten his own origin; he says: Who will put life in bones when they are decayed? Say (O Muhammad): He will give them life who crated them for the first time. He has the absolute knowledge of all creations.[7] Surat Al-Yasin: 77-79
Allah is informing human beings through the prophet Muhammad, that He is the creator and resurrector of all human life. These verses are also meant to be a warning to those who do not believe in the event of Resurrection. The warning from Allah is clear; people must believe in Allahs promise that he will bring people back to life so that they may rectify their actions in this world and be prepared for their ultimate judgment.
Even though Muslims are sure of the certainty of the event of Resurrection, Allah (swt) has kept certain aspects of it hidden from them. We are not given any knowledge as to when this event will happen. Further, Muslims believe that their Resurrection will have both spiritual and physical aspects, however the specifics of how the body will actually be are not known precisely. One important element here is that the Islamic view of Resurrection is dualistic. Islam suggests that the soul of the human being is immortal and lives beyond the body. When the body dies, the soul moves into another realm known as Barzakh. Upon the event of the Resurrection, human souls will go back into the bodies that Allah (swt) will recreate for them. The concept that the Resurrection involves both body and soul will be further discussed in the comparison between Islam and Christianity.

Similarities Between Islam and Christianity:
One similarity between Islam and Christianity is that both faiths make a mention of the blowing of a trumpet to alert to the Resurrection. The Holy Quran alerts Muslims of the blowing of two trumpets. The first being a trumpet of sleep, the second being a trumpet for the final resurrection. Allah in the Holy Quran states:

When the trumpet shall be blown, then whosoever is in the heavens and whosoever is in the earth shall swoon away save those whom Allah wills (to keep alive); then (the trumpet) shall be blown again, and lo! They shall stand up waiting. AZ Zumar: 68.[8]
This Ayat explains a part of the resurrection process. The Holy Quran clearly tells humanity that there will be two blowings of a trumpet. Upon the first blowing, everyone, except those whom Allah wills to live, shall all swoon and die. Then, when the next blowing occurs, all humanity shall be resurrected. As we noticed before, Christianity also had the mention of a blowing of a trumpet. Both Islam and Christianity acknowledge the existence of the trumpet; the only difference is that Islam mentions two blowings whereas Christianity mentions one.
Another similarity we see between Islam and Christianity is that Islam too believes resurrection to be both spiritual as well as of the physical body. Nasir Makarim Shirazi explains:
but in the view of the great ulama of Islam, and many of the philosophers, is that Resurrection in both aspects, that is, spiritual and physical, takes place is correct that this body becomes dust and this dust spreads itself over the earth and will be lost but God is powerful enough to gather up all of these particles and at the Resurrection gather them together and put the clothes of a new life upon them. They interpret this as being a physical Resurrection because the return of the spirit is assured and as they are only referring to the return of the body, they have called it this. [9]
Clearly then, Muslims hold the belief that Resurrection includes both the physical and spiritual aspects of a human being. In Islam, the soul is considered to be immortal, but the body is placed in the grave. Allah (swt) tells us in the Quran:

When the trumpet is blown, then lo! From their graves unto their Lord they shall be hastening. Al-Yasin: 51
From this ayah of the Quran, it can be understood that Resurrection is indeed both physical and spiritual. Allah is telling humanity that they will be hastening from their graves, which implies that a physical form will be resurrected, and the soul of the individual will be inside the body. Shirazi also explains this concept:
At any rate, the body and the spirit are born together and are transformed together. The Resurrection cannot alone have a physical or a spiritual quality.
In other words, the finding of the spirit and the body and the relation between the two of them with each other is another clear reason why the Resurrection must take place in both forms.[10]
We can see that the Resurrection involves both body and soul. Furthermore, Islam focuses on the human soul a great deal. In Islams concept of resurrection, there is also a very important aspect that suggests that each human being is accountable for his deeds on the day of his Resurrection. In Islam, it is the soul that is accountable for deeds, not the body. The soul is the source of deeds, even though they may be carried out by the body. Allah (swt) tells us in the Quran that his dealings will be with Souls:

This day no soul shall be dealt with unjustly in the least, nor shall you be requited but for what you had been doing. Al-Yasin: 54
Allah informs us here that He will be dealing with souls on the day of judgment. In addition, the usage of the word you can also be understood as referring to a synthesis of human body and soul as both elements form a complete human being.
As in Christianity, Jesus Christ came back a better spirit and being upon his resurrection, Islam acknowledges that the human spirit and body will come back in a new form that will express its true spiritual essence. Those human beings who have been believers and true followers of Allah (swt) will come back in a purer fashion, free from all the troubles of bodily diseases whereas those who have been evil in this life will have physical as well as spiritual anguish to contend with.

Differences in Islam and Christianity:
One of the fundamental differences between Christianity and Islam relating to the concept of resurrection is that Christianity began its basis of resurrection on what they see as an actual physical event; the death and resurrection of Jesus Christ whereas Islam bases its belief on the Quran. Furthermore, in Christianity it seems, the afterlife is not something to work towards in terms of keeping one deeds good so that one can earn a good afterlife. In Christianity the concept is somewhat different in that Jesus Christ was resurrected and made the son of God so that all the believers could have a good life and upon their death, they will be taken to heaven as he will be the source of their salvation.
Islam, however, bases its concept of Resurrection directly from the word of Allah (swt), the Quran and then the teachings of the Prophet. In addition, the concept of accountability for deeds is an essential part of the afterlife. Muslims understand and accept resurrection as a reality because Allah has deemed it to be true. Allah has also promised that every person will have to account for his or her deeds after being resurrected. Thus, Islams mention of the afterlife is directly connected to how they have lived in this life. This life and the afterlife are linked.
Both Islam and Christianity believe in the afterlife, however, another difference is that in Islam, the average person does not know whether he or she will go to heaven in the afterlife. However, in Christianity, the concept of salvation holds the belief that Jesus Christ suffered so that his followers could have heaven. Believing Christians have some form of a guarantee for heaven, whereas Muslims do not. Muslims are meant to follow the code of conduct that Islam has set out, but they cannot be sure that they will have heaven until Allah (swt) has judged them on Resurrection or Judgment Day.
Another important difference is to do with the intention of how Muslims and Christians live life with their view of Resurrection in Mind. In Islam, ones knowledge of the event of the Resurrection allows a human being to rectify his evil actions, seek forgiveness, believe and do good. However, on the other hand, the concept of having communion with Jesus Christs body and blood allows people to experience a bit of immortality in this life. Instead of Resurrection being an event where judgment of actions is feared, it is viewed as a life in heaven. Some aspects of immortality are already being felt, so the final Resurrection will enhance the experience of that immortality.

In conclusion:
Islam and Christianity are very different monotheistic faiths, however they both uphold the belief that the event of Resurrection will come upon humanity when God/Allah (swt) wills it. As we have seen, Islam and Christianity agree that resurrection includes a humans body and soul, and that it is indeed an event in the future, the timing of which is unknown to mankind. Even though the two faiths agree on the belief that the Resurrection will come, their sources for that information differ. Christianity has the physical resurrection of Jesus Christ whereas Islam has the direct word of Allah (swt) in the Quran. Furthermore, the two faiths do not agree on the belief that humans will be judged for their actions. Even though Islam and Christianity have the belief of Resurrection in common, their interpretations of it differ in many respects. Islam keeps the supremacy of Allah (swt) above all whereas Christianity makes Jesus the son of God and claim salvation through him. The different interpretations of each faith regarding this belief also shed light on each one's respective beliefs on the power and Oneness of God.

Batten. Carl E. The Kingdom of God and Life Everlasting. Printed in Christian Theology. An Introduction to Its Traditions and Tasks. Published by Fortress Press. Minneapolis. USA. 1994. ISBN 0800628675
Haleem. Muhammad Abdel. Understanding the Quran Themes and Style. I.B.Tauris Publishers.London. UK. 1999. ISBN 1860640095
Shirazi, Nasir Makarim. Lessons About Allah Prophet Justice Leadership Resurrection. Islamic guidance Committee. Kuwait.
The Encyclopedia of Religion. Published by Macmillan Publishing Company. New York, NY. USA. 1987. Volume 12. ISBN 0029098300
[1] Encyclopedia of Religion. Page 344
[2] Encyclopedia of Religion. Page 347
[3] The Encyclopedia of Religion. Page 348
[4] The Encyclopedia of Religion. Page 348
[5] Christian Theology. Page 349
[6] Christian Theology. Pages 349-350
[7] S.V. Mir Ahmad Ali.
[8] S.V. Mir Ahmad Ali.
[9] Nasir Makarim shirazi. Page 202.
[10] Nasir Makarim shirazi. Page 204-205

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