What Near Death Taught Me About Life

Life is a dot for a living human being who has not developed any sense about the meaning of life. … Continued

Life is a dot for a living human being who has not developed any sense about the meaning of life. For him and those who cannot think of a line connecting these isolated dots of life, this existence we live in as sentient beings is a project. This was the opinion of some existentialists after the Second World War. Although there were distinctions among them, those who were philosophically materialist, this life needs to be seen as a project. Our destiny in this physical universe was here and no where else. This has always been seen as Dunyaism from a Muslim point of view.

To the practicing Muslim life has meaning and a purpose. Its purpose and destiny were enveloped in the letter addressed to humanity in the form of scriptures. These texts were not works of fiction and imagination. They were revelations from a Creator to us in this life. Therefore, life is indeed a mystery and a challenge for a thinking human being who engages in the endless search for the meaning of life.

These two sentences capture for me why my particular faith leads me to my belief in a life beyond the grave. Although I believe in a Creator and a life beyond the grave, my own encounter with death reaffirmed this faith.

Over four years ago, I went through what people now call “near death experiences” I had gone through a series of hospitalization in between the late days of 2001 and March 7, 2002. Though those moments at the hospital were painful and humbling, when compared to what I went through in the late May through July 4, 2004, it was like a picnic to the young and naive child.

As I have said to many people since my hospital experience, May 31 2004 will never be forgotten. It has serious consequences for me and the meaning of life. That day I had cardiac arrest and almost died. I survived largely because our Emergency Service 911 came to my rescue and the Beltsville Rescue Squad drove me safely to Holly Cross Hospital in Silver Spring, Maryland. Before my heart attack I lay in bed in the emergency room for almost three hours. They gave me pain killers including morphine to ease the pain. When the heart attack took place I lost memory from that Friday afternoon to Sunday morning after 10 a.m. This was my first experience with dying and with the thoughts about life beyond the grave.

This experience reaffirmed my faith in life beyond the grave because on my return to consciousness I had a strange feeling of journeying through white clouds that eventually ended with my realization that I was not on a bed in the emergency room but in an intensive care unit in the Holly Cross Hospital. As a Muslim growing through this evening, the only analogy I could draw from was Surah Nur (the Quranic chapter called Light). Upon regaining consciousness I told my wife through a piece of paper.

I scripted Surah Nur, that I saw light upon light before rejoining the social world. Here I was saying in writing what I could not say with my tongue because I was medically wired. This experience led me to believe that there is a mystery zone in our consciousness and neither religion nor science have been able to solve the mystery or address adequately the challenge.

My other encounter with death is not as sudden as a cardiac arrest. It is the slow journey to death. This took place on June 18, almost ten days after I had gone through a six-hour heart surgery. A few days after the surgery I had a relapse. This could have been the end of me. The story is striking and revealing to me. Apparently the machines attached to me told the nurses I was dead. Code Blue was reverberating in the firmaments of my consciousness. I heard it and I also had the words of the head nurse in my room. I also heard my wife and cousin crying. I also heard the attempt of my relative cheering me in the old Wolof song of valor and inspiration to make a courageous exit in this last moment of suffering and leading this life.

Indeed the deputy director of the hospital who visited me in the intensive care unit was astonished to learn what I just stated above. Code Blue, the statement of the head nurse, “it is over, it is over.” I also told her that one of my doctors on call at the time saved my life because upon my recovery he told me that he knew I was still alive and his decision to give me a last minute life restoring shock worked. This was a miracle to me and for this and other reasons, I have since decided to say that God is the Greatest Movie Maker. Here I am living many years after that near death experience and all these old friends and totally strangers I have come to know and fully appreciate in my humble way.

What can I say about this experience? It was not a gift from the Creator because I am among the best of his creation. To the contrary: I am one of the weakest links in the chain of human endeavor to serve and uphold his teachings. Each scene in my life today is seen by me as a piece of the Divine Theater where the mystery of life remains perplexing and the challenge of understanding and appreciating it remain our eternal companion. Indeed Islam in particular, and the Abrahamic religions in general, could well be described by an alien anthropologist from another galaxy as the most fervent promoters of belief in life beyond the grave. But as I have written elsewhere, such Abrahamics are faithfuls who believe that we humans have a one-way ticket to this life and unlike the Jains, the Buddhists, the Hindus and the African traditional religionists who embrace the principles of reincarnation, they do not accept the idea of a
multiple entry visas to this life.

Written by

  • brian mcc, the arctic

    I am fascinated by your description of the light. That I can relate to as an NDE survivor. Once you see the light, never again will it be dark. You have asked the ultimate question; Do the 5 main religions of the world believe that the instant we leave the physical body, all will go to 1 of each 5 eternities?

  • Canyon Shearer

    Dear Sulayman,This was an interesting story and very well articulated. Perhaps the reason you were given a second chance was God calling you to repentance. As you know, in the Muslim faith, all sinners will be in the punishment of Hell, to dwell there forever. (Surah 43:74)In love and hope, I share with you this plea to Muslims I wrote this summer:————-The Gospel According to MohammedIslam means “Submission to God”, as God has told us, “The Lord lifts up the humble; he casts the wicked to the ground. Humble yourselves in the sight of the Lord, and he shall lift you up.”So the submissive will indeed go to Heaven, as long as they submit to God’s will.One verse that jumps instantly to mind is, “God is not willing that any should perish,” God’s will includes demonstrating His righteousness, having upright followers, and that justice be done; but the most important from our earthly standpoint is that wrongdoers are rectified to Him, “that all should come to repentance.”Islam is in majority alignment with the Biblical understanding of Heaven and Hell; I think this is illustrated nicely in Surah 43 (Adornments), verses 70-77. Heaven is nice, and Hell is hot and eternal.Where Christianity and Islam divide is how to get to Heaven; but how to get to Hell is the same in both religions.Surah 43:74 tells us that “Sinners will be in the punishment of Hell, to dwell there forever.”Surah 83 speaks of our conscience, the Sijjin, a register fully inscribed that will be open on the Day of Judgment; woe to the sinner, his conscience records his wrongdoings.God knows the secret thought life, and has appointed a Judgment Day for all mankind. The Koran accepts Moses as a prophet and the Law of the 10 Commandments which were given to him. “God gave Moses the Scripture and the Criteria between right and wrong.” – Al-Baqara 2:53If all sinners will have their punishment in Hell, it’s in our best interest to find out if we’re sinners.Answer these questions truthfully and you’ll know:Have you ever told a lie? What does that make you?Have you ever stolen anything? What does that make you?Have you always kept the Sabbath?Have you ever worshipped money, power, science, or possessions above God?Have you committed adultery?Have you ever used the name of God in Vain?If you’re like me, you’ve broken every one of these, and these are only six of the 10 Commandments. The Bible says that we have stored up wrath for ourselves on the Day of Judgment. The Koran is nearly identical, “On the day when heat will be produced out of the fire of Hell, and it will brand your forehead, your flanks, and your back, “This is the treasure which you stored for yourselves: you then taste the treasure you amassed!” – Immunity 9:35There is a minor difference in the Hell of the Bible and the Hell of the Koran. In the Bible it says that we will beg for a drop of water, but none will come. The Koran says that we will have an overabundance of water, albeit it will be superheated past boiling and we will be forced to drink it, and it will wreak havoc on our insides. Either way, Hell is not somewhere I want to go, nor do I want you to go there.There is a way to be saved from this punishment we have earned, it is the Injeel which according to the Koran was given to the prophet Jesus. Injeel means, “Good News”, and avoiding such a terrible place as Hell is definitely good news.Some think that the good news is that we can work our way out of Hell. Both the Koran and the Bible refer to God as a just judge, so lets see how an earthly judge might relate. Imagine you stand before a judge, there are six clear evidences of your guilt, and the judge puts on you a fine that you cannot possibly pay. You offer the judge your good works, you’ve given to charity, you pray unceasingly, you are nice to people, you ask for forgiveness daily, you help little old ladies across the street, and to top it all off, you washed the judges car on the way in to court. The judge tells you, you should do good things, but you’ve broken the law; he cannot let you go, because despite all of the good you’ve done, justice is due. You cry out in repentance and sorrow, and the judge tells you it’s good that you’re sorry, but there is a fine to be paid, and if you can’t pay it, you will be thrown into prison.This is the earthly judge, how much more Holy and Just is the Judge of the Universe? Payment is due for your transgression, and the Bible and the Koran clearly state that the fine is the eternal fire of Hell.But here is the good news, God gave us the gift of a holy son (Maryam 19:19), born of the virgin Maryam, this son’s name was Jesus, and because he was holy, He lived a perfect unblemished life, he was tempted but didn’t sin; in the writing of Moses about the Passover Lamb, the lamb must be without blemish, a male, taken from amongst its brethren (Exodus 12:5). Another name for Jesus is the Lamb of God (Revelation 5:12). Jesus was offered as the sinless sacrifice to take away the sins of the world (Johannes 1:29). Jesus was hung on the cross outside of Jerusalem on Calvary hill, a hill not two miles from where Ibrahim offered his son as a sacrifice 1700 years prior. Jesus died in our stead, he paid our fine in his own life’s blood. The wrath of God was poured out upon him and it pleased God to do it. Jesus went through Hell so we wouldn’t have to, in an infinite showing of love God sacrificed Jesus so that we can be forgiven, he was the propitiation for our sins.The Koran says that our sins are a stain on the heart, (Al-Mutaffifin 83:14) and Maryam 19:60 says that if you’ll repent and believe, then you will see Heaven. Mohammed was quoting the prophet Jesus when he said, “Repent and believe the Gospel”, in other words, repent and believe that Jesus is the Messiah, the Christ, the propitiation for your sins. Once you have done this, your sins will be forgiven, your stained heart will be replaced with a new heart (Ezekiel 11:19), and you will be born again into the family of God.If any man does this, he is a new creature: old things are passed away; behold, all things are become new. – 2 Corinthians 5:17

  • jeremy

    “This was an interesting story and very well articulated.”Canyon- its a very familiar story we’ve heard many times before.. He was lost in this world, his life was fading away but he made it to the HOLY CROSS and his life was restored. : )”God is the Greatest Movie Maker” –I say God loves a good story with drama, pathos, and humour laced through. He keeps writing them in our lives.

  • Rizwan Ahmed

    True Purpose of HellThe statement that the evil-doers will abide in hell only for a limited number of years shows clearly that, according to the Holy Quran, the torments of hell are not everlasting, for infinite time cannot be measured by a finite number of years. Again in ch. 101: v. 6, hell is called a “mother” of those who shall go into it. The use of this word is, I think, the clearest evidence as to the true nature of hell as described in the Holy Quran. What is meant is that, as a child is brought up by the mother, so those in hell will be brought up in that place for a new life, the life of perpetual advancement in paradise.

  • Gandalf

    Thanks for sharing your wonderful experience, Mr Nyang and Mr. Rizwan Ahmed. Basically all religions, if followed faithfully lead to God. One just has to keep one’s faith and keep traveling. No matter how long the roads seems, it will get there.

  • Canyon Shearer

    Gandalf,You are correct, all religions will bring you to God.Reposted from another thread:There has been a misunderstanding in the Evangelical world to say that Jesus Christ is the only way to God. Jesus is NOT the only way to God; any belief system will get you to God.It is appointed once for a man to die, and then comes the judgment. Consider how you will look before an infinitely holy God. He will judge you on the intents as well as your actions. He sees lust as adultery, hatred as murder, lying lips are an abomination, and all of these will be thrown into the Lake of Fire.All have sinned and fallen short of the glory of God, and He has every right to judge the world in righteousness. The righteous will go on to eternal life, the lacking will go on to eternal death in the fires of Hell.But here is love, not that we loved God, but that He loved us, He sent His Son to be the propitiation for ours. While we were yet sinners Christ died for us, He was the only perfect man ever to live, He was tempted but He didn’t sin, and He willingly gave Himself up in our stead on the cross at Calvary. In His atoning sacrifice, we can be cleansed of our sins in the sight of God. Christ’s righteousness can be attributed to your sake. While God looks at you now and sees a despicable, sin soaked, enemy, He has offered forgiveness through His Son.To receive this gift, repent of your sins and place your full trust in Christ to save you from the wrath to come. If you do this, you will be born into the family of God.Your current religion will bring you to God someday, on that day, will you face Him as your Saviour, or as your Judge?

  • LUCIFER

    To/ Brothers & Sisters…As all good people to knowing God one must be equal with God,not the grovling snivling fools that we having become. You but allow others to brainwash as abuse that you become as servants to man,as prisoners unto their deceit cunning.God having no need or wish that you come a begging as a dog,unto its master to obey on call.Get off your knees,stand before God as your equal,thus win your freedom….Your BROTHER in ARMS….LUCIFER xxx X

  • rafael

    More hocus pocus invoked where rational explanations would suffice. A quick lesson in how we perceive light might help.Light is a form of energy. We have receptors that are activated by that form of energy. Everything that takes place inside our brains beyond that point–the cascade of reactions, neuronal interactions, and post-signal processing that help to form an organized reality from a blur of signal inputs–are well documented phenomena that have nothing to do with the light itself. That is, light is perceived if the right neurons are stimulated upstream of the light capture. We have this experience pretty much every day during REM sleep–the brain “sees” all kinds of things without any light input.Although I cannot tell you the details, it is not surprising if you understand how light perception works to understand why people might “see light” when coming back from the physiological state that is near-death. We simply have no need to invoke the actions of one god or another. The fact that so many people report these experiences, regardless of their religious orientation, argues either that it’s part of how we are built rather than an experience of some supernatural maker calling to us.It’s fascinating to me that so many people choose to live in a fantasy, apparently too afraid of reality to admit that we are on this earth for a short time and then we die, just as do all living things.

  • rafael

    More hocus pocus invoked where rational explanations would suffice. A quick lesson in how we perceive light might help.Light is a form of energy. We have receptors that are activated by that form of energy. Everything that takes place inside our brains beyond that point–the cascade of reactions, neuronal interactions, and post-signal processing that help to form an organized reality from a blur of signal inputs–are well documented phenomena that have nothing to do with the light itself. That is, light is perceived if the right neurons are stimulated upstream of the light capture. We have this experience pretty much every day during REM sleep–the brain “sees” all kinds of things without any light input.Although I cannot tell you the details, it is not surprising if you understand how light perception works to understand why people might “see light” when coming back from the physiological state that is near-death. There is simply We simply have no need to invoke the actions of one god or another. The fact that so many people report these experiences, regardless of their religious orientation, argues either that it’s part of how we are built rather than an experience of some supernatural maker calling to us.It’s fascinating to me that so many people choose to live in a fantasy, apparently too afraid of reality to admit that we are on this earth for a short time and then we die, just as do all living things.

  • brian mcc, the arctic

    RAFAEL, such a beautiful name. Angelic. The light you see and describe as psychological fantasy is your clinical opinion. When you see the light, without the physical rest of you, better hope it draws you to it, rather than repells your prescence. When I saw the light, with a body convulsed in electric shock, in pure silence, a voice said to me, ‘Go back now, it is not your time yet.’ I do agree on 1 point, light is percieved by more than 1 portal, call it fantasy, I describe it as my soul.

  • rafael

    I describe it as a subconscious drama, as a dream. You have dreams every day. Sound is another form of energy, and the same knowledge applies to how sound is perceived, which is why we also hear things in our dreams.I have no idea why anyone sees a need to invoke anything fantastical beyond what we know and for which we have no evidence. From my perspective, believing these things only brings comfort to those who are afraid, for reasons that can be confronted more constructively than believing something else will come. People should live the one life they have and not squander energy, action, or the treatment of others on unknowable fantasies about the next one.

  • Mehmet Azizoglu

    Your light experience reminded me the last words of Goethe who has said ” light , more light…”. Might he have been immersed in a total dark when asking for more light? might he has seen sort of light like you did if he has gone through cardiac failure?

  • Lloyd C.Hines

    Dear Mr. Sulayman

  • brian mcc, the arctic

    Rafael, now you want to talk of sound as pure energy. I’ve told you what I have seen, now let me tell you, angel, what I have heard. At 4am, I rise to silence, and light in darkness. The practice was learned in a Trappist monestary. In terms of Hinduism, Brahma Muhurat. @ that time, there is pure silence…and a sound of pure energy vibrates. Rafael, better to start with basic prayer and meditation to focus on light. Your ears are not ready for the sound.

  • DoTheRightThing

    Thank you for sharing your near-death experience with us. The more the people of the world are exposed to such humble, first-person accounts, the more they will be able to differentiate themselves with increasing confidence from the rank materialistic belief system that secular society and the world’s mainstream media preach.

  • JD

    Never underestimate the ability of the human mind to create illusion.

  • rafael

    Gerald Baxter:The “out of body” experiences you are describing have been more recently recreated by Ehrsson by showing people stereographic video projections of their own backs in their visual field while stimulating the body (and the illusory body they see) with touch. The details are better summarized in this article:That is, near death experiences are not necessary to trigger these sensations (they have also been partially created by stimulating parts of the brain). No doubt there is some kind of disconnection between the body and sensory systems that give input about the body, but mechanistically there is no need to invoke something paranormal.

  • Anonymous

    Having been introduced to the LIGHT as a child, of course such innocence of age presumed it an natural experience…it only as adult that can give as some inter pret ation..the light being manifestation of the material world..however if running back creation,then be coming to a stage before the material be formed,Possibillity of material ( still in purest form). That one can look upon the LIGHT while in the physical form is in the form of healing,put it being another explanation your brain as the computer with an deadly viris,the only possability of destroying such viris be LIGHT of creation,the only cure. The brain an very very delicate instrument, in truth it still in its very very very very very early stages of its development.PRESENTLY it be all but scratch the surface of human discovery. As brain develops then more reveiled,at present we tend wanting to run,having but learnt walk. In truth nothing truely being witheld it but in line of brains,capability to experience as the ever developing of our understanding.Recomended an balance betwixt experience as understanding, such be the wings on a plane,enabling good take off, an smooth journey, as an perfect landing.

  • Gerald Baxter

    I appreciate the insights of “alternative realities,” but science is providing us with a further understanding of the paranormal. My experience with the “light” led me to research.

  • E

    i do beliave in a higher power and life after death and your descruption has changed my mind cause now i think i believe more.

  • E

    i do beliave in a higher power and life after death and your descruption has changed my mind cause now i think i believe more.

  • E

    i do beliave in a higher power and life after death and your descruption has changed my mind cause now i think i believe more.

  • Glad to hear you’re doing well

    Peace and Blessings Dr. Nyang,More importantly, you and Imam Johari, invited me to inter-faith events. It was important for me, at that time, to meet you and Imam Johari to take the edge off the fear left by NOI goons who still use intimidation to guard their organization’s image. I heard about your near death experience and wished you well. I’m glad to see you’re doing well now. I hope to talk with you again sometime. I have a new book out, Do Me Twice: My Life After Islam, which you may find interesting in that it shows the after affects of one particularly intense and chaotic African American Muslim experience. I look forward to meeting with you again.