Flashcards in Issues of Life and Death Deck (40):
Religious creation stories
Many religions have beliefs about how the world came into being.
Christians and Muslims believe there is one all powerful creator God who is the source of all life.
Creation stories are found in their holy books and tell of a unique event at the beginning of time, when life sprang into existence from nothing at the command of God.
The way stories are understood today varies enormously. Creationists take a literal view, liberal Christians say they are myths which carry deep, symbolic meaning.
Science: evolution and big bang
Since 16th century there has been a shift in how people understand the natural world.
As more and more evidence built up in geology and biology it became clear that the earth is far older than had previously been understood.
Charles Darwin was the first person to show convincingly that life had arisen through the slow, natural process of evolution and the earth must be many millions of years old.
In the twentieth century scientists began to look beyond the earth to space for an explanation of how the earth was created. In 1965 the Big Bang theory was accepted as a explanation for the origin of the universe.
Evolution and religious reactions
In 1859 Charles Darwin published “On the Origin of the Species”
Here he sets out the theory of evolution by natural selection, explaining how living creatures have evolved through a process of gradual change over millions of years.
He did 30 years of research on the Galapagos Islands observing finches (birds)
Evolution by natural selection- the idea that the species that flourish are those which are best suited to their environment
Evolution and religious reactions
The Genesis creation story is at least 2,500 years old and was written when people lived completely different lives in an undeveloped environment. Answers to very difficult questions, such as how human life began, usually involved God because God was seen as the source and explanation for everything. The study of science was then largely unknown.
The Genesis stories should not be compared too closely to scientific theories. These scientific theories are much more recent.
There are some, more conservative Christians who believe that the seven days of creation outlined in the Bible refers to seven long periods of time. They argue that the order in which living things were created according to the Bible may have similarities to the order scientists accept evolution took place (plants, sea creatures, flying creatures, land animals and finally humans) and that this makes the Bible's account more credible.
Why might it be compatible?
The Genesis creation story does not seek to offer a scientific answer to questions about the origins of the universe.
It is more concerned with making it clear that God is in complete control and that the universe exists because God wants it to.
Theistic evolution - God designed the universe and the Earth to be this way for a purpose.
If Darwin's theory of natural selection is to be accepted, it is because God oversees this natural process. God created nature along with everything else.
Christians have put forward the theory of intelligent design, that everything is planned and designed by God, and that each and every change that takes place is the direct working of God in creation.
The study of the origins of the universe is called cosmology.
1965- cosmologists published conclusive evidence to show that the universe did have a beginning.
The theory that time and space began around 15 billion years ago, became known as the Big Bang theory.
The universe began from a single point (singularity)
This singularity was infinitely hot and dense, it expanded, sub=-atomic particles and atoms began to appear.
This led to the formation of stars and planets that make up the universe as we know it today.
Religious reactions to Big Bang
Liberal Christians and Muslims have no problem accepting the Big Bang theory.
They do not question it and accept that this was the way God may have chosen to allow the universe to create intelligent life.
Religious creationists are very critical of these ideas. For them it contradicts the truth that God has formed all life through his own power.
Even if scientists are correct in saying the universe began with a “Big Bang”, have they really solved the question “Where does the universe come from?” we are still left with the question of what caused the Big Bang. Some Christians have argued it was God.
Literal and Liberal views
“All scripture is God-breathed” (2 Timothy 3:16)
Belief that the holy text should be understood word for word. Creationists are literalists.
People should be free to understand the holy books in any way they choose. They say the stories contain meaning.
Christian attitudes to the creation of the world
In Christianity, the creation accounts are found in the first two chapters of the book of Genesis in the Bible. There are two accounts - and it's important not to confuse them.
This account tells how God created the world in six days and rested on the seventh.
In the beginning God created the heavens and the earth.
After creating the earth, the sky, the seas and plants, God made birds and fish on the fifth day and animals and humans on the sixth day.
So God created man in his own image, in the image of God he created him; male and female he created them.
This is a much earlier account. It describes how the Lord God first of all created a man by taking some soil from the ground and breathing life into him.
God placed the man in a garden in Eden, and made beautiful trees grow there. God said to the man:
You may eat the fruit of any tree in the garden, except the tree that gives knowledge of what is good and what is bad. You must not eat the fruit of that tree; if you do you will die that same day.
Genesis 2: 16-17
The Lord God took soil and formed the animals and birds; the man named them, but none was a suitable companion for him. The Lord God put the man into a deep sleep, and while he slept he took one of the man's ribs and formed a woman out of it.
There is a variety of interpretations of the biblical accounts of creation among Christians today.
Most believe that God brought the universe into being from nothing (ex nihilo); some believe that it was created from matter that already existed (ex materia).
Some Christians take the biblical accounts of creation literally, believing that they describe exactly how the universe and human beings were created.
Other Christians regard these accounts as more like parables or symbolic accounts that tell (in story form) the profound truth that God brought the universe and all that is in it into being, and sustains his creation. These Christians might look to science to help them understand how God did this.
Muslim attitudes to the creation of the world
In the Qur’an (the Divine Book revealed to the Prophet Muhammad) there are details of the Creation:
Surely, your Lord is Allah. Who created the heavens and the earth in six periods; then He settled Himself on the Throne. He makes the night cover the day, pursuing it swiftly. He has created the sun and the moon and the stars, all made subservient by His command…
He it is Who sends the winds… Good land brings forth vegetation plentifully by the command of the Lord.
I have created men, high and low, that they may worship Me. I desire no support from them, nor do I desire that they should feed Me. Surely, it is Allah who is the Great Sustainer, the Lord of Power, the Strong.
There is no particular order given for the Creation and there is no suggestion as to how long the ayyam (periods of time) were.
Muslims would argue that science does not affect their belief in Allah’s (God's) creation of the world, instead it explains what the Qur’an does not say. An important part of being a Muslim is to strive for clear understanding, therefore scientific explanations are welcomed as they help Muslims to have a greater understanding of Allah.
Muslims would say that the Qur’an has an account of the beginning of Creation which appears very close to modern scientific theories:
Do not the disbelievers realise that the heavens and earth were a solid mass, then We split them asunder, and We made from water every living thing? … He it is Who created the night and the day, and the sun and the moon each gliding freely in its orbit.
Because of the Muslim interest in and respect for science which helps them come to know and understand more about Allah, ideas from cosmology and evolutionary biology do not cause any problems.
The Design argument
1802 William Paley put forward the watch analogy.
If you were to find a watch, by accident, you would think that it must have been designed by a watchmaker.
In the same way, when looking at the world with its complex patterns and structures, you would come to the conclusion that there must be a cosmic world-maker, a designer God.
Intelligent design- the idea that certain features of life are best explained by an intelligent cause, rather than an undirected process, such as natural selection.
Science and religion
Evangelical Christians believe that science seems to contradict the Bible, science must be at fault. God has revealed his truth through scripture, for all time.
Many Muslims reject evolution. They refer to passages from the Qur’an which imply the instant creation of humans as we are today.
Atheist scientists believe science gives an accurate picture of the world and religion tells us nothing.
The Qur’an refers to God as Al Khaliq (The Creator) and Al Bari (The Evolver). Many Muslims see no contradictions between creation and evolution.
Stewardship means caring for the planet and managing its resources.
A steward is like a caretaker, they look after property.
Many religious people think God has given humans the special duty to care for the world in his place, as a precious possession.
Environmental sustainability- ensuring the demands placed on natural resources can be met without reducing capacity to allow all people and other species of aniamls, as well as plant life, to live weel, now and in the future.
Christian attitudes to stewardship
Although human beings are seen as the most intelligent life form on earth, they are responsible for almost all the damage done to the planet. If we imagined the earth is aged 46, all the damage done has taken place in the last 60 seconds of the earth's life.
Christians say in the Apostles’ Creed:
I believe in one God, the Father, the almighty, maker of heaven and earth.
Christian teaching about caring for the environment comes from the Bible:
Then God said, 'Let us make man in our image, in our likeness, and let them rule over the fish of the sea and the birds of the air, over the livestock, over all the earth, and over all the creatures that move along the ground.'… God blessed them and said to them, 'Be fruitful and increase in number; fill the earth and subdue it. Rule over the fish of the sea and the birds of the air and over every living creature that moves on the ground.'
Genesis 1:26 and 28
Some Christians have interpreted this story as giving people the right to exploit the environment. However, most people see themselves as being responsible for the world created by God and they have to make their own decisions about how to do this.
The Bible has very little else specific to say about the environment, but it explains the principles of stewardship (responsibility) for God’s creation:
In the Old Testament the Jews were told to rest the land once every 50 years so that it would produce more in the future (Leviticus 25:8-11). They were also ordered not to destroy trees when they were attacking a city:
When you lay siege to a city for a long time, fighting against it to capture it, do not destroy its trees by putting an axe to them, because you can eat their fruit. Do not cut them down. Are the trees of the field people, that you should besiege them?
It is clear that the earth still belongs to God not to humans:
The earth is the Lord’s, and everything in it, the world, and all who live in it.
In the New Testament Jesus stresses God’s concern for life:
Consider how the lilies grow. They do not labour or spin. Yet I tell you, not even Solomon in all his splendour was dressed like one of these.
Many Christians do celebrate the environment by holding harvest festivals each year when they thank God for the harvest.
Muslim attitudes to stewardship
Although human beings are seen as the most intelligent life form on earth, they are responsible for almost all the damage done to the planet. If we imagined the earth is aged 46, all the damage done has taken place in the last 60 seconds of the earth's life.
The Qur’an says that Allah (God) is the Creator of the world. Human beings are on the world as trustees or ‘viceregents’ - they are told to look after the world for Allah and for the future:
The Earth is green and beautiful, and Allah has appointed you his stewards over it. The whole earth has been created a place of worship, pure and clean. Whoever plants a tree and diligently looks after it until it matures and bears fruit is rewarded. If a Muslim plants a tree or sows a field and humans and beasts and birds eat from it, all of it is love on his part.
In the Qur’an, Muslims are instructed to look after the environment and not to damage it:
Devote thyself single-mindedly to the Faith, and thus follow the nature designed by Allah, the nature according to which He has fashioned mankind. There is no altering the creation of Allah.
Muslims have to look after the earth because it is all Allah’s creation and it is part of a human’s duty to Allah:
Allah is He Who raised up the heavens without any pillars that you can see. Then He settled Himself on the Throne, and constrained the sun and the moon to serve you; each planet pursues its course during an appointed term. He regulates it all and expounds the Signs, that you may have firm belief in the meeting with your Lord. He it is Who spread out the earth and made therein firmly fixed mountains and rivers, and of fruits of every kind He has made pairs. He causes the night to cover the day. In all this, verily, are signs doer a people who reflect.
Because of this passage, people see themselves as being responsible for the world which Allah created and they have to make their own decisions about how to do this.
What is sanctity of life?
The belief that life is precious or sacred. For many religious beleivers, only human life holds this special status. They think life is special because it has come from God.
Life is a gift, it is priceless.
This belief leads us to go to great lengths to protect and preserve human life.
Christian attitudes to sanctity of life
Christians believe by the phrase ‘sanctity of life’ that all life is special to God and should not be treated badly or discarded thoughtlessly. Each human being is a separate, living person, with many rights. Christian’s beliefs about God being the creator include the belief that all human beings are created as individuals. Every individual is unique; there is no life like any other in the universe. Human beings have a special place in God’s eyes and in his creation and the fact that every person is made in God’s image is a gift from God.
The following passage from Genesis shows the special nature of humans:
Then God said, ‘Let us make man in our own image, in our likeness, and let them rule over the fish of the sea and the birds of the air, over the livestock, over all the earth and over all the creatures that move along the ground.’ So God created man in his own image, in the image of God he created him; make and female he created them.
This passage portrays that humans are special and God made the world for human beings before he even created them and the world was able to sustain them.
Muslim attitudes to sanctity of life
Muslims believe that all life is created by Allah, and that only he has the power to take life away. This teaching applies to all creations of Allah. Murder is explicitly denied by the Quran;
"Take not life which Allah has made sacred"
We ordained for the children of Israel that if anyone slew a person, unless it be for murder or for spreading mischief in the land, it would be as if he slew the whole of mankind. And if anyone saved a life, it would be as if he saved the life of a whole people.
‘Whoever severs the womb-relationship ties, I will sever my ties with him’
(Bukhari Hadith, an Islamic advisory source second only to the Qur’an)
This clearly shows that Islam regards life very highly indeed. Murder is acceptable only in extreme and ‘just’ circumstances, including Jihad, the now widely known and misinterpreted clause of attacking enemies of Islam.
‘Sanctity of life’ refers to the idea that life is sacred, an idea that is highly prioritised in Islam, and in turn, many, or even most Muslim scholars agree that a foetus is a soul, a human life.
However, the actual point of becoming as valued as a human is disputed. Some scholars believe it to be 120 days, whereas others believe it to be 40 days. Another opinion is when the baby voluntarily moves inside the womb.
Quality of life
The extent to which life is meaningful and pleasurable.
It includes material living conditions, health and education provision, leisure and social interactions, as well as economic factors. Doctors consider the level of pain someone is in, the extent of a disability, the ability to feed yourself and go to the toilet.
If a person’s quality of life is not sufficient, some people would argue that they should have the right to die.
When does life begin?
Conception? When sperm and egg are a living source of life?
Quickening? When first movements can be felt in the womb (from 9 weeks)
Ensoulment? 120 days, when foetus receives a soul
Viability?- 23 weeks- the foetus could survive outside the womb.
Birth? Approx 40 weeks after conception.
Christian attitudes to abortion
Christian teaching on abortion
The Christian Church teaches that life is a sacred gift from God:
Then God said, 'Let us make man in our image, in our likeness, and let them rule over the fish of the sea and the birds of the air, over the livestock, over all the earth, and over all the creatures that move along the ground.' So God created man in his own image, in the image of God he created him; male and female he created them.
Christian teaching on abortion is complex. An early Christian document, the Didache, condemns it:
You shall not kill by abortion the fruit of the womb.
The Bible appears to say that life begins when the baby is in the mother’s womb:
For you created my inmost being; you knit me together in my mother's womb.
Before I formed you in the womb I knew you, before you were born I set you apart.
The Roman Catholic Church opposes abortion in every instance. However, if life saving treatment given to a pregnant woman results in the unavoidable loss of a foetus, but saves the mother, then this is accepted and known as 'double effect'.
Roman Catholic teaching is that the foetus is a human being. This is clearly expressed in the Catechism of the Catholic Church (CCC) which states:
From the first moment of his (her) existence, a human being must be recognised as having the rights of a person - among which is the inviolable right of every innocent being to life
When Elizabeth heard Mary’s greeting, the baby leaped in her womb, and Elizabeth was filled with the Holy Spirit.
Both the Anglican Church (Church of England) and the Religious Society of Friends (Quakers) believe that although abortion should not be encouraged, the life of the unborn child cannot be seen as more important than that of the mother.
The pro-life movement generally argues that life becomes human life at the point of conception. It says that abortion should not be allowed, but some would allow an abortion if the mother's life was at risk or if pregnancy resulted from rape or incest.
The pro-choice movement generally argues that human life begins much later in pregnancy, or at birth. There are many points of view among pro-choicers, but fundamentally they think that the woman should have full control over what happens to her body.
Muslim attitudes to abortion
Abortion is not permitted within Islam unless it’s to save the mother’s life. Even if a pregnant woman is sentenced to death, this cannot be carried out until the baby has been born.
The later the abortion takes place the worse it is thought to be. Some Muslims believe that for the first four months of pregnancy the woman has greater rights than the foetus but that after this time they are equal.
One of the reasons that Islam is very opposed to abortion is because, before the time of Muhammad, unwanted female children were often buried alive in Arabia. Islam teaches:
Humanist views on abortion
The current law is permissive: it does not impose abortion on anyone who does not want one or does not want to perform one. So even within the law, individuals have to make moral choices. How do humanists pick their way between these conflicting ideas? There is not one, correct humanist view on abortion. However humanists tend to converge on liberal, “pro-choice” stance. Humanists value happiness and personal choice, and many actively campaigned for legalised abortion in the 1960s. Although humanists do not think all life is “sacred” they do respect life, and much in this debate hinges on when one thinks human life begins. Humanists tend to think that – on the basis of scientific evidence about foetal development – a foetus does not become a person, with its own feelings and rights, until well after conception.
From Greek “eu” good and “thanatos” death. Sometimes referred to as mercy killing.
Voluntary euthanasia- a person asks for help to die
Active euthanasia- taking a specific course of action to end their own life
Passive euthanasia- when life-sustaining treatment is removed, for example, a feeding tube or respirator.
Involuntary euthanasia- is where death is forced upon a person, ethnic cleansing or death penalty.
A legal document.
Outlines for medical professionals what a person wants to happen if they find themselves critically or terminally ill.
It normally instructs doctors not to resuscitate or intubate (insert a breathing tube) or use artificial means to keep a person alive.
An atheist philosopher and utilitarian.
Argues euthanasia is morally acceptable and that it should be legalised with proper safeguards put in place to protect vulnerable people. He believes that not legalising euthanasia harms more than it protects, and that legalising euthanasia would benefit more people than it would harm.
Quality of life is more important. If a person has no ability to think, experience life or relate to others, then their life has limited value.
Arguments for euthanasia
People with degenerative diseases want to control when they die.
People wish to maintain their dignity.
Free will-= it is ethically wrong to keep someone with no hope on expensive life support.
Stephen Hawking “ We don’t let animals suffer, so why humans?”
Arguments against euthanasia
If euthanasia is legalised, the stimulus or drive to research into terminal illnesses lessens.
It is murder in some people’s view.
All life is special and worthy of protection.
Legalising euthanasia could lead to those in the latter stages of life feeling like they are a burden to others.
Hospices provide alternative care for those dealing with the symptoms of a terminal illness.
A place where people with terminal illnesses can go to die with dignity.
It focuses on relieving the symptoms and pain of terminal illness.
Unlike a hospital, a hospice does not try to treat an illness or cure a patient.
They provide care and support for the patient and the family.
Palliative care- care that focuses on relieving pain and suffering.
Christian attitudes about euthanasia
Most disagree because
-all life is sacred
Goes against the 10 commandments “Do not kill”
Life is a gift from God, so it is precious.
Suffering can have a purpose and should be endured, as God will not give us more suffering than we are truly able to cope with.
Hospices can offer care and support which allows patient to die in dignity whilst pain is managed.
Some accept it is OK to switch off a life support if the person is brain dead. Withdrawing treatment may also be acceptable as it is the most loving and compassionate thing to do.
Muslim attitudes about euthanasia
“All life is made by God so taking life is wrong. Only God can decide when a person dies. Suffering has a purpose and is part of God’s plan for you”
It is importan tto show compassion to those in pain adn suffering. There is no need for euthanasia. No matter what state the body is in, the soul is still perfect and that is what matters to God.
Mulsim lawyers have agreed that if a person in a coma has no hope of recovery, the machines can be switched off. This is because their life is already ended.
Humanist attitudes to euthanasia
Support legalised assisted dying, assisted suicide and voluntary euthanasia.
Assistance should not be limited to terminally ill, it should consider the needs of people who are “permanently and incurable suffering” for example, people who are paralysed.
Life is important but life should not be prolonged with pointless suffering. Being able to die with dignity is a fundamental human right.
Christian views on death and the afterlife
Christians believe there is an afterlife. Although the body dies and is buried or cremated, they believe that their unique soul lives on and is raised to new life by God.
Their belief that Jesus rose from the dead three days after his crucifixion (a Roman method of execution) gives Christians hope that if they follow Jesus’ teaching and accept him as their Lord and Saviour, then this new resurrection life awaits them. By being born as a human being (the incarnation), and then dying on the cross, Jesus made this new ‘life after death’ possible for all.
Jesus said, ‘I am the resurrection and the life. He who believes in me will live, even though he dies.’
God so loved the world that he gave his one and only Son, that whoever believes in him shall not perish but have eternal life.
Muslim views on death and the afterlife
Islam teaches that Allah (God) has full control over all that happens. Nothing can happen unless permitted by Allah.
Nor can a soul die except by Allah’s leave. The term being fixed as by writing.
However, Allah has also given humans free will; people are able to choose between right and wrong, and are responsible for their actions. This life is a preparation for the eternal life to come (Akhirah). Humans have one life and it is up to them how they choose to live it.
The final day
Muslims (followers of Islam) believe that on a day decided by Allah, and known only to Allah, life on earth will come to an end and Allah will destroy everything. On this day all the people who have ever lived will be raised from the dead and will face judgement by Allah. Muslims believe that they will remain in their graves until this day. This day is called by several names:
the Day of Resurrection (yawm al-Qiyamah)
the Day of Judgement (yawm ad-din)
the Last Hour (as-sa’a)
Allah will balance the good deeds a person has done in their life against the bad deeds.
And to every soul will be paid in full (the fruit) of its deeds; and Allah knoweth best all that they do.
If the good deeds outweigh the bad, the person will go to paradise (Jannah), a place of joy and bliss.
Of the good that they do nothing will be rejected of them; for Allah knoweth well those that do right.
If the bad things outweigh the good, then the person will be punished in hell (Jahannam). When Allah is making a judgement, even a person’s intentions (niyyah) are taken into account.
Those who reject faith – neither t heir possessions nor their (numerous) progeny will avail them aught against Allah: they will be companions of the fire, dwelling therein for ever.
Humanist views on death and the afterlife
Humanists believe that we only live once, that this life is "not a dress rehearsal". In theory it would be possible to combine disbelief in gods with a belief in an immortal consciousness (or "soul"). But in practice, the desire for evidence or proof before commitment to a belief prevents most humanists from living as though there were any kind of afterlife. The idea of a non-material existence after we die doesn't make sense to many humanists. What could life be like without everything that makes it interesting and worthwhile; our bodies (which communicate with others and move us around), our senses (through which we experience life), our brains (which contain all our knowledge and memories)? We will no longer exist as people, though the molecules that make up our body will still exist as part of the natural world. Humanists believe that the only ways we can live on are in other people's memories of us, in the work we have done while alive, or in our children. Humanist funerals are a positive celebration of a person's life, specially created for that person and their family, with music, readings and time to reflect. Many people, including religious ones, tell the BHA that they find humanist funerals dignified and caring, absolutely right for someone who didn't believe in God or an
What happens when we die?
Atheists and humanists
Nothing survives death. They are certain humans do not have a soul; we are just physical, material beings, so when we die that is the end. Nothing exists beyond the grave.
Christians and Muslims
We only live one earthly existence, followed by eternal existence in the world to come. Many say that after death we will rise from the dead to be judges by God, with those who God deems worthy of being raised to eternal life (good people).
Christian views on judgement, heaven and hell
Christian beliefs about life after death are based on the resurrection of Jesus Christ. Christians believe that Jesus’ death and resurrection are part of God’s divine plan for humankind. Through his death on the cross, Jesus pays the penalty for mankind's sin and mankind's relationship with God is restored. This is called atonement. Christians believe that three days after the crucifixion, God raised Jesus from the dead and he once again appeared to his disciples. This is taken to mean that Jesus’ sacrifice was a victory over sin and death. Although physical death still happens, those who believe in Christ and live good lives will be given eternal life in Heaven.
Many Christians believe that after death, they will be taken into the presence of God and they will be judged for the deeds they have done or failed to do during their lifetime. Some of the guiding principles for what will happen upon death include:
Some Christians believe that this judgement will happen when they die. Others believe that there will be a Day of Judgement at the end of time, when everybody will be judged at the same time. Some believe that judgement will happen in two stages: an initial personal judgement when you die, followed by the definitive judgement at the end of time.
Since God has given human beings free will, there must be an opportunity for people to reject God. This is the basis of the idea of Hell.
Hell has traditionally been depicted as a place of eternal fire that symbolises pain and suffering. This is seen as the result of the refusal to accept the happiness that God wants people to share with him.
The Roman Catholic Church teaches that after death there is a state of Purgatory. This is a place where some people who have sinned are purified in a 'cleansing fire', after which they are accepted into Heaven.
All who die in God's grace and friendship, but still imperfectly purified, are indeed assured of their eternal salvation: but after death they undergo purification, so as to achieve the holiness necessary to enter the joy of Heaven.
Catechism of the Roman Catholic Church para 1030, 1992
Most Christian churches do not accept the idea of Purgatory, believing instead that once judgement happens, people will either be in Heaven or Hell for all eternity.
Muslim views on judgement, heaven and hell
Islam teaches that there is life after death, and this is known as Akhirah. In Islam, it is Allah who decides when a person dies and most Muslims believe that when they die, they will stay in their graves until Yawm al-din, the Day of Judgement. On that day, they will be raised from their graves and brought before Allah and judged on how they lived their earthly lives. This belief is known as the resurrection of the body.
Those who have performed more good deeds than bad will enter Jannah, or Paradise. Jannah is a place described as a 'garden of everlasting bliss' and a 'home of peace'. In Jannah there will be no sickness, pain or sadness.
Those who have performed more bad deeds than good will enter Jahannam or Hell. This is a place of physical and spiritual suffering.
Muslims believe that Allah is forgiving, merciful and compassionate, so not all bad actions will be punished. Allah will forgive those who have repented for their sins and those who have done some good in their lives, for example showing kindness to others.
There are, however, some sins that many Muslims believe to be unforgivable. These include the sin of shirk.
Christian funeral rites and their meaning
Christian funerals vary slightly according to the Christian denomination to which people belong. Sometimes, when a person is dying, a priest or minister will come to their bedside to pray with them and to help them prepare for death. In the Roman Catholic church, a priest will anoint the person with holy oil as a preparation for death. This is called Last Rites.
When a person dies their body is placed in a coffin. Sometimes this coffin is left open so that relatives can say a final goodbye.
The coffin is then usually taken to a church or chapel. Here a priest will read from the Bible.
The priest will also say a few words about the person which are designed to comfort the mourners and then say prayers, hoping that the person will now be in heaven.
In a Roman Catholic church there will be a special eucharist called a Requiem Mass where prayers are said for the dead person’s soul.
Next the coffin is taken from the church, either for burial or cremation.
Burial or cremation?
In the past many people did not approve of cremation because they felt that it would mean that the person could not be resurrected on the Day of Judgement.
In the Apostle’s Creed it says, "I believe in … the resurrection of the body". However, St Paul said that, "On earth it is a physical body but in heaven it will be a spiritual body". Therefore, today it is often just a personal decision as to whether a person is buried or cremated.
At a crematorium, more prayers are said and the coffin is then taken away to be cremated. Later the ashes are returned to relatives to be buried or scattered.
At a burial the body is lowered into a hole in a cemetery and then covered with earth. Later a gravestone may be placed there giving some details of the person’s life.
At both services the priest or minister will say, "We commit this body to the ground, earth to earth, ashes to ashes, dust to dust". In this way people are reminded that we are all human and made by God
Muslim funeral rites and their meaning
When a Muslim is dying, they try to say the last words (pbuh - Peace be upon him) of the prophet of Allah, Muhammad: "Allah, help me through the hardship and agony of death." Other people will say: "To Allah we belong and to Allah we return."
Muslims try to bury the deceased as fast as possible and certainly within three days. The deceased’s body is washed and wrapped in a white cloth. Muslims prefer not to use a coffin but in some countries, such as the United Kingdom, this is not allowed. Bodies are buried facing Makkah (the Muslim holy city in Saudi Arabia, where Muhammad is believed to have been born).
Cremation or burial?
Muslims believe that there will be a physical resurrection on the Day of Judgement (yawm ad-din), so they disapprove of cremation. Allah will put people’s bodies back together again:
Does man imagine that We shall not assemble his bones? Indeed, We have the power to restore his very finger tips.
While people are standing by the grave the first Surah (a division of the Qur'an, like a chapter) of the Qur’an is read:
In the name of Allah, Most Gracious, Ever Merciful. All types of perfect praise belong to Allah alone, the Lord of all the worlds, Most Gracious, Ever Merciful, Master of the Day of Judgement. Thee alone do we worship and Thee alone do we implore for help. Guide us along the straight path - the path of those on whom Thou hast bestowed Thy favours, those who have not incurred Thy displeasure, and those who have not gone astray.
Then, once the body is in the ground, people say:
From the earth have We created you, and into it We shall cause you to return and from it shall We bring you forth once more.
Graves are raised above ground level so that the place of burial is clearly marked, and so that people do not walk on them by accident. Large tombstones and decorations are not usually found, but they are not forbidden.