This article is dedicated to all animals who have suffered or have been killed, in the hopes of fostering human compassion and the search for truth and justice.
Animals and Theodicy
Most individuals who have pets, who are lost, killed or die of natural death, are often naturally led to ask and wonder about this important and intriguing question of animal afterlife at some point and, in this article, it will be shown that it is a question that does have a definitive answer through the Quran. Tom Cartwright, an animal rights promoter who had been active in animal welfare for many years, had expressed the sentiment to one of the authors (Masri) that he had been a nominal Christian who had never practiced his faith (Catholicism) since he could never reconcile to the teaching that only human beings have immortal souls while animals do not. He felt that this would mean that the most pernicious human being would have a hope of eternal life while the most abused creature of the so-called “lower orders” would not. This seemed to him to defy logic if one is to believe in a loving God. It had, therefore, been the cause of his latent disenchantment with the church.1 In this respect, many individuals have been seriously questioning the issue of theodicy a term which refers to the defense of God’s goodness in view of the existence of evil and suffering, and in this case, pertaining to the consideration as to whether what happens to animals is unjust, if an afterlife does not exist for them. But other than speculation, can we know for certain that an afterlife exists for our beloved pets and all other creatures? Is it just wishful thinking for the sadly dispossessed? Let us first examine the history of the reception of the soul’s ontological status in connection with animals, and then we will examine a new model that tackles the hard problem of consciousness in a totally radical way. We will then apply this model to assist us in solving this problem of animal afterlife. Following this, we will see if the Quran sheds any light on this subject, and whether it corresponds with logical analysis for the existence of the ‘soul’ in general, and ‘animal souls’ in particular.
Historical Attitudes towards Animals’ Souls
We have come a very long way from our mental attitude in respect of our Planet Earth and the rest of the creatures inhabiting it. It is not too long ago that we used to consider ourselves as the chosen species, created by God to wield the scepter over the world. Our nescience of the deep and sacred secrets of life on earth made us look down upon everything and everyone, other than ourselves, with the egotistical assumption that the human being alone was the ‘final cause’ of this elaborate process of cosmic scheme. Unfortunately, the very foundation of animal-human relationship was laid, right from the very beginning, on this paralogistic premise. This premise led to speciesism, which is nothing but a hypertrophic growth of the social tumors of parochialism, sexism, regionalism, tribalism and racialism. Any psychological approach to our relationship with other species should engender a positive viewpoint, based on the logic of facts, and not on primordial hypotheses based on man’s egotistic claim of being the centre of interest in the universe.
Animal Souls in the Ancient Period
The question of animal souls has always been open to controversy. The primordial concept of ancestral spirits being migrated into animals and trees was brushed aside by philosophers as superstitious fetishism of the savages. Even the Pharaoian theory that animals and birds were endowed with ‘Spirit’, more or less analogous with the soul of man, was taken as mere zoolatry or animal worship. The Egyptians, more than 4,000 years ago, had the discernment of making a distinction between soul and other aspects of the human consciousness, believing that the soul had a divine origin and that the decision about its life in Amenti (the celestial abode) would be made in the Hall of Osiris by the divinely appointed 42 Assessors. It does not seem to be an isochronal coincidence that various sages, mystics, philosophers and even theurgists, started disseminating similar views more or less during the same era of history, about the interrelation between the human and animal souls by way of metempsychosis2. The ancient Hindu Vedas3 promulgated the doctrine of mutual interchange of souls among humans and animals. Belief in the transmigration of soul through reincarnation is still one of the fundamental tenets of Hinduism, Buddhism and Jainism.
Animal Souls in the Modern Period
Moving into the more recent period in the West, the primordial concept of our relationship with animals was based on certain postulates which have now been proven to be, to say the least, wishfully partial in favour of the human species. The underlying reason for this attitude has been that, it was surmised that since animals do not possess souls, they have no mind with rational faculties and therefore were outside the pale of the supersensible in the transphysical sense, the term as used by Albertus Magnus4, or as explained by Andronicus of Rhodes5, the Editor of Aristotle’s6 works. Consequently, in the last few hundred years in the West, after the ‘Enlightenment Period’, this view became predominant in shaping human attitude towards animals, leading to all forms of animal cruelty which were then were perceived to be justifiable.
The Transfocation Model of Consciousness
Atheists hold that even man has no ‘soul’ let alone animals, and hence that animals are not secure by any ‘religious’ sanction against outrage. Indeed, the soul is seen as a superstitious unscientific mumbo-jumbo as is the existence of a Creator. The interesting fact is that: Consciousness is either there, or not, in an organism; it is not how much consciousness one has. It is to have it or not to have it: to be or not to be, if we usurp Hamlet! Take the following analogy: If someone was infected by the Ebola virus and a nurse said: “She is more infected by it than he [not more affected by it]” would that not be a ridiculous statement? Either you are infected or not. Furthermore, one must not confuse the degree of intelligence with consciousness. Whether a creature has more or less intelligence to navigate nature is a matter of the functions of its nervous system and its concomitant physical structure, not whether it is conscious or not. This ‘thread’ actually gives us a clue to what consciousness is, and if it had been followed properly it would have led to the whole rope. According to a combined philosophical and scientific analysis on what consciousness is, animals also possess consciousness drawn from the Consciousness of God, as explained by the Transfocation Model of Consciousness7. Basically, the transfocation model holds that the universe was created by God and is constantly sustained by God, because it is God’s imagination. Without Eternity and Imagination, the view goes, there would be nothing. Obviously then, this Imagination comes from an ‘Imaginator’ who is therefore Conscious and Intelligent. The entire Universe is within the Mind of this Originator, who is totally non-Anthropomorphic. Human beings become conscious because our bodies, that have been created/imagined in that space, based on particles, are so configured that they have access to a portion of consciousness that belongs to God. When biological bodies reach a certain level of complexity they are able to access that consciousness which is a property of space and they then become individually conscious. That is, consciousness is transfocated. In developing the Transfocation Model of Consciousness, Muslim and Haque show that it is the critical configuration of the biological entity (in terms of the specific pathways of photons and not only electrons) that allows the entity to become conscious – that is, to possess a soul. This “accessing” consciousness from the Consciousness of God, whose objectless infinite space we are in, is akin to “possessing a soul”, and is the core explanation of transfocation; however, the Transfocation Model is not dualistic, emergent, pantheistic or based on panpsychism. Non-human animals, therefore, also possess consciousness drawn from the Consciousness of God, as a natural outcome of the Transfocation Model of Consciousness.
The Quranic Concepts of Ruh and Nafs
What is surprising is that the Transfocation Model, arrived at through logic and empirical evidence, coincides with the Quranic view of consciousness. The Quranic concept of the mind or ‘soul’ is comprehensively encapsulated by the notions of ruh.8 This is what the Quran has to say about ruh:
And they will ask you about the ruh. Say: “This ruh is by my Sustainer’s [God’s] command, and you have been granted but a small portion [of the body of knowledge needed to know its exact nature]”. (17:85)
Ruh is brought into existence by a creative commandment of God and is a word that means consciousness, in modern parlance.
The other word in the Quran used for self in relation to human beings, that is, nafs, or the self, also extends to animals. For example, in the Quranic verses 6:151 and 17:33 forbid the killing of any “breathing beings” except for a justifiable reason, and declared it as one of the most abominable of misdeeds as in a complementary Hadith, the Prophet stated that one must not kill a nafs which Allah has made sacrosanct, except for a justifiable reason.9 The Arabic word used here is nafs which applies to any creature which breathes (i.e. has some form of respiration to put it generically), is conscious and therefore has a self. Prophet Muhammad used these very verses (that is 6:151 and 17:33) as references in support of his declaration that:
If any person kills a sparrow or anything smaller without justification, God will question him about it.10
But how are the words ruh and nafs related? If one were to draw analogies between ruh and nafs, one could say that ruh is like the software in a computer, whereas nafs is the self-developmental aspect that impinges due to the empowered ruh: the build-up of data. Animals, as one of us has attempted to illustrate elsewhere, have a high level of consciousness11 of individuality, community, intelligence and communication, and that spark of life that is instantiated at their beginning of life is also a ruh, since if they possess nafs they must also posses ruh. The ruh is the plenum consciousness as accessed continually from the Consciousness of God and the ruh is the self or nafs: the personality and memories that naturally accrue. The presumption that humans, jinn or alien humanlike entities and alien jinn-like entities on other planets are the only ones who will gather before God is shown to be a false on the basis of the Transfocation Model that takes into account the primary source of relation between ruh/nafs and God, as a universal law (set by the Creator), on the basis of a grander physics12, for want of a better description: Particles structured spatially in a particular way in space access consciousness automatically. It is, consequentially, not only humans who have this feature of particle configuration that allows access to consciousness like a key opening a lock, but the countless myriad other creatures that are teeming throughout the Universe according to the Quran13.
According to the transfocation model of consciousness, just as electronic apparatus accesses radio signal from space, so do our bodies ‘capture’ consciousness from absolute, objectless space. Indeed, with the evolution of human knowledge we can now talk of accessing consciousness and computer/radio analogies (a laptop accessing WiFi); however, in the distant past, no one would have been able to understand wireless technology. But remember that at the basis or source of this consciousness is the only real or absolute consciousness: God. Unfortunately, the term ‘soul’ has led to either pantheism or dualism, none of which accords with reality according to both the Quran and logical analysis.
If animals possess a consciousness (by, call it the ruh/nafs complex) that exists after their death, then this helps us solve the theodicy problem in connection with whether animals get their just deserts in an afterlife. In the context of ‘gathering together’ on Resurrection Day, in the Quran there are two passages pertaining to animal afterlife:
There is nobody in the rest of the Universe [that is, human-like or non-humanlike alien or any other creature] or on earth, but shall come to God the Beneficent as a servant; He has included all of them in His reckoning, and assigned a number to each of them individually; they shall appear before Him on the Day of Resurrection all alone. (19:93-95)
There is no ground-based animal or two-winged flying creature that does not live in communities like your [human] community, and to their Lord/Sustainer will they all be gathered. (6:38)
Having armed ourselves with some foundational concepts we can now formulate three arguments based on Quranic (and therefore Islamic) analysis that show that animals exist after death in some form.
Cogent Arguments for Animal Afterlife
Here are the three arguments for afterlife based on an analysis of the Quranic outlook:
- Animals will not be brought to God for judgement because they are all in submission to God and cannot therefore commit ‘sin’ or transgressions. But if this is the case, why would they be brought to the Day of Judgment in the first place? It does not make any sense whatsoever to presuppose that animals will be gathered on the Day of Judgment and then after being gathered will cease to exist through instant annihilation by God! That would indeed be a pointless exercise, but we know that God does not do pointless things. The gathering of animals unto God must therefore be, at least to firstly, show all creatures that God is the Sole and Supreme Power, and secondly, to admit them into some type of peaceful life we have no idea about and in forms they will continue to exist that we cannot imagine, where those in paradise could interact with them in a meaningful manner that we, likewise, cannot even imagine right now! Here, it is being taken for granted that God exists; for proofs on this subject, please refer to the publications cited14.
- The Quran emphasizes that all the injustices and imbalances caused by mankind will be redressed on the Day of Judgement or Accountability and that God is not unjust to His creatures15. This accountability would also redress the wrongs done by humans to animals and the environment. Indeed, the suffering endured on earth of not even one of the creatures of God will be neglected. According to the Islamic concept, after death, each human will be held individually accountable for all individual actions, where the treatment by human beings of animals and nature will be judged on par with the treatment of our fellow human beings. Note that equality of treatment suggested between man and beast in the following Hadith pertaining to the issue of animals: It has been concluded in the Mishkat Al-Masabih, which contains the Prophet Muhammed’s hadith from Bukhari and Muslim that: “A good deed done to an animal is as good as doing good to a human being; while an act of cruelty to a beast is as bad as an act of cruelty to a human being.”16 In consonance with the assertion made above regarding the continuance of the existence of the nafs (self, personality, consciousness that develops as we interact in our bodies) or ruh (the identity of self-consciousness bringing about the nafs), the Quran declares that animals will be gathered unto their Creator after death, because the Creator wills everything to be conserved or stored. However, animals would not merely be brought back to life on Judgement Day simply to testify against humans, because trillions of animals over time never had any contact with humans but all are being raised up (resurrected) according to the Quran in 6:38. Besides, if the reason for raising animals after death was simply only to testify against humans, then there would be no need to do so, as there is a book that records all deeds and does not leave a single thing out17 and their resurrection would be a redundant act, were it just for the purpose of testification. God does not perform redundant acts.
- God is not unjust to His creatures but having no afterlife would be unjust, as they would have suffered in this life and not have been compensated for, in the next. God Himself asks us to follow the balance and establish justice; if this be true, why would He then have double-standards and not apply this to Himself and to the trajectory of His created universe and all the diverse entities in it?
It is my view that they were created in a universe simply for the reason that this whole scheme of testing humans, other highly intelligent humanoid carbon-based lifeforms scattered throughout the countless galaxies, jinn and other similar jinn-like entities scattered throughout the universe, could be fulfilled. In this respect, non-human animals have certainly played an integral role, and for that alone, non-human animals deserve a place in the afterlife, rather than being discarded into oblivion as insipid nonentities after using them, as it were.
The very fact that all animals will be brought before God on Judgment Day, ensures their eternal continuance in some form that will offer them eternal dignity and peace, which we can hopefully witness someday, if we too, end up on the right side! After all, is not giving dignity to all deserving creatures of God, above all things?
Banaei, Mehran and Haque, Nadeem. (1995). From Facts to Values: Certainty, Order, Balance and their Universal Implications, Optagon Publications Ltd., Toronto. (Available through email@example.com).
Fox, Michael W. (2011). Animals & Nature First: Creating New Covenants with Animals & Nature. Create Space Books, Amazon.com. See also many accounts compiled in: “Is There Life After Life?” posted on www.drfoxvet.net.
<PHaque, Nadeem & Muslim, M. (2007). From Microbits to Everything: Universe of the Imaginator: Volume 2: The Philosophical Implications, Optagon Publications Ltd., Toronto. https://www.scribd.com/doc/163371933/From-Microbits-to-Everything-Universe-of-the-Imaginator-Volume-2-The-Philosophical-Implications
Haque, Nadeem and Masri, Al-Hafiz Basheer Ahmad. (2011). “The Principles of Animal Advocacy in Islam: Four Integrated Ecognitions”, Society and Animals, 19, pp. 279-290. https://www.animalsandsociety.org/wp-content/uploads/2016/05/haque.pdf
Haque, Nadeem and Shahbaz, Zeshan. (2015). “Extraterrestrials and Intraterrestrials in Islam”, Nexus, Vol. 22, No. 5, August – September Issue. https://nexusmagazine.com/product/extraterrestrials-and-intraterrestrials-in-islam/?v=3e8d115eb4b3
Muslim, M. and Haque, Nadeem. (2001). From Microbits to Everything: A New Unified View of Physics and Cosmology, Volume 1: The Cosmological Implications. https://www.scribd.com/document/47770990/Microbits-Vol1-v-2
Nadeem Haque is the author of numerous books and papers on several areas of thought, including: Cosmology, Physics and Philosophy, Ecology and Animal Rights, Evolution, History, and Consciousness. His expertise is in the area of the History and Philosophy of Science. He is also a professional civil engineer.
The late Al-Hafiz B.A. Masri (1914-1992) was the pioneering author who wrote Animals in Islam (1989), published by The Athene Trust, (the publishing arm of Compassion in World Farming). He was one of the leading intellectual figures of Islam in the 20th Century, and was the former Imam (Sunni) of the Shah Jehan Mosque, in Woking, England, in the 1960s, where he was also the Co-Editor of the Islamic Review. He was the grandfather and colleague of Nadeem Haque.
Note: This paper combines Haque’s latest research with some of Masri’s unpublished work.
1. May 24, 1992 – Tom Cartwright’s letter to Al-Hafiz B.A. Masri.
2 The doctrine of metempsychosis was laid down by the founder of this creed, Pythagorus, the Greek philosopher (582 – aft. 507 B.C.).
3 Vedas, cir. 1,500 – 1,000 B.C.
5 Andronicus of Rhodes, Greek philosopher (fl. C. 60 B.C.).
6 Aristotle, Greek philosopher (384 B.C.–322 B.C.).
7 Haque, Nadeem & Muslim, M. (2007). From Microbits to Everything: Universe of the Imaginator: Volume 2: The Philosophical Implications, Optagon Publications Ltd., Toronto. pp. 163-265.
8. See also Quran 2:87, 4:171, 15:29, 32:9, 58:22 for more instances of this word.
9. Narrated by Abu Huraira. Sahih Muslim – Kitab al-Iman.; Chapt. XXXIX, Vol. I; p. 52. Bukhari, 4:23. Also Awn al-M’bud Sharh Abu Dawud, Hadith No. 2857.
10. Narrated by Ibn ‘Umar and by Abdallah bin Al-As. “Nasai”, 7:206, 239, Beirut. Also recorded by Musnad and by Musnad al-Jami – Ad-Darimi; Delhi, 1337. Also Mishkat al-Masabih; English translation by James Robson, in four volumes; Sh. Muhammed Ashraf, Lahore, Pakistan; 1963 (hereafter referred to as ‘Robson’)
11 Haque, Nadeem and Masri, Al-Hafiz Basheer Ahmad. (2011). “The Principles of Animal Advocacy in Islam:
Four Integrated Ecognitions”, Society and Animals, 19, pp. 279-290. https://www.animalsandsociety.org/wp-content/uploads/2016/05/haque.pdf
12 Muslim, M. and Haque, Nadeem. (2001). From Microbits to Everything: A New Unified View of Physics and Cosmology, Volume 1: The Cosmological Implications. https://www.scribd.com/document/47770990/Microbits-Vol1-v-2
13 Haque, Nadeem and Shahbaz, Zeshan. (2015). “Extraterrestrials in Islam”, Nexus, Vol 22, No. 5 (August-September).
14 Haque, Nadeem & Muslim, M. (2007). From Microbits to Everything: Universe of the Imaginator: Volume 2: The Philosophical Implications.
Banaei, Mehran and Haque, Nadeem. (1995). From Facts to Values: Certainty, Order, Balance and their Universal Implications.
15 Quran 22:10.
16 Mishkat al-Masabih, Book 6, Chapter 7, 8:178.
17 Quran 99:6-8.