When I was a devout Muslim in my teen years, I was obsessed with the afterlife. My grandmother would always speak about how many of us are wasting our time seeking pleasure in this life because it won’t count in the afterlife. This way of thinking affected me too. I would constantly think about Allah and the afterlife. If there were any hint of doubt, I would desperately try to push it away.
My great uncle was a religious mentor to me. He was highly influential in how I viewed the world. He once told me “always look at those younger than you and think they have sinned less than you; and look at those older than you and think they have worshiped Allah longer than you have.” He would even look at me and tell me that I am so young and I have not sinned as much as he has yet. He would then wallow in regret reflecting on all his sins.
I took everything he said to heart. I dreaded getting older and sinning more. I began to view my time on this world as cursed because Shaytan would be able to tempt me at any second. The idea of sinning more became stressful. What if I lose the path of Allah and begin sinning? For this reason, I once prayed and said the following during the supplication time:
“O Allah, thank you so much. You have blessed me with this righteous path. I do not know what I would have done if I were born into another religion. Allah, thank you for showing me how to better love you day and night. Please Allah, help me become more like your Rasool (PBUH). I want to do everything the way he did. The way he loved you, overcame Shaytan, and gained your love throughout his life. Please Allah, give me strength to overcome Shaytan. Allah I feel I am closest to you now. If there is any time to take my life, it would be now. Allah please take me right now. I fear that tomorrow and the days after I would just be committing sin. Oh Allah, please I beg you. Spare me the sin of this world by bringing me to you Allah. I really want to meet all the Prophets in the afterlife InshAllah.”
I went to sleep right after this prayer. It is safe to say that I did not die that night.
The next day I told my great uncle about how I wish for Allah to take my life. He told me that was unwise. He told me that this life is meant to be a test and I have to face the test instead of run away from it and that when Allah wants to take my life, he will.
Most Muslims I have met think the way my great uncle did. This is a balanced approach to a Muslim life where you think about this life and the hereafter. However, there are the populations that think the way I did. And if you combine this line of thinking with a politicized Islam with a clear enemy; you have the potential for great atrocities. Do suicide bombings and other terrorist attacks really come at a surprise at this point?
I’m just glad the Islam I grew up with was a peaceful Islam without political ties. I’m thankful my great uncle was not a jihadi sympathizer.
But imagine a young teenager thinks the way I did and their mentors are Islamists?
Ayaan Hirsi Ali mentioned in her book Heretic: Why Islam Needs a Reformation Now, Muslims need to re-examine their relationship with this life, and put less emphasis on the afterlife. With this change, Muslims will place less emphasis on martyrdom and suicide bombing/militancy would be less appealing to the believer.
Even if your Islam is not a militant Islam, this reform will help you enjoy the wonders of this life instead of unhealthily obsessing over a fictitious afterlife.
Just look at how delusional I was due to my extreme religiosity. I wasn’t even depressed/suicidal. I had an unhealthy obsession with shaming this life and glorifying the Afterlife; (that of which there is no evidence). I was 15 years old and begging Allah to take my life. Just think about the weight such extreme religiosity has over a young person’s mind.
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