There are five degrees of life.
The first degree of life is as we live here and now, which is bound by certain conditions.
The second degree of life is manifested in the lives of Khadr and Elijah. This second degree is to some certain extent free in that those who have it can be present in different places at the same time, and their life is not bound by the necessities that bind ordinary human life. Like us, they may eat and drink at times but, unlike us, they do not have to. The experiences that some godly persons who are able to discern the hidden truths have had with Khadr are enough to illuminate and prove this degree of life. Further, one of the spiritual degrees or stations which saints reach in their spiritual journeys is called ‘the station of Khadr’. A saint who has attained this degree may meet Khadr and be directly instructed by him. Indeed, it sometimes even happens that one who holds this station is mistaken for Khadr himself.
The third degree of life is manifested in the lives of the Prophets Jesus and Enoch, peace be upon them. These two prophets live in heaven free of the necessities of human life, in their worldly (corporal) bodies which, however, have acquired some sort of refinement and luminosity. The Prophet Muhammad, upon him be peace and blessings, is reported to have said: Jesus will come back to the world before the end of time and follow the Shari‘a of Muhammad. This hadith implies that the religion of the followers of Jesus, that is, Christianity, will be purified of the polytheistic elements and superstitions that have found a way into it over time, and will ultimately join Islam. Consequently, this chosen way of God, or the true Religion will eradicate with ‘the sword of revelation’ the trends to disbelief and absolute materialism established by natural philosophy.
The fourth degree of life is the life of martyrs. Some Qur’anic verses state explicitly that martyrs enjoy a higher degree of life than the dead who are not martyrs. Since martyrs have sacrificed their life in His way, God Almighty has granted them an intermediate life that resembles the worldly life but without its pains and troubles. Martyrs do not feel the pangs of death. They do not know themselves to be dead; instead, they consider themselves to be transferred into a better world and enjoy perfect happiness. By contrast, the dead are aware that they are dead, although their souls are eternal; also, the pleasures they experience in the intermediate life are less than what is enjoyed by the martyrs. The difference can be explained by this analogy:
In a dream, two men enter a palace as beautiful as Paradise. One of them gets little pleasure because he is aware that this is only a dream and will, accordingly, disappear when he wakes up. As for the other, he is not aware that he is dreaming and therefore feels wholly contented and happy.
This explains the difference between the degree of enjoyment felt by the dead and by martyrs in the intermediate world. Besides the relevant Qur’anic verses, some Prophetic traditions and countless experiences undeniably prove that martyrs do lead a life with some degree of consciousness, knowing themselves to be alive. That life of martyrs is particularly well indicated in the experienced reality that Hamza, again and again comes to the aid of those seek help from him and carries forward some of their worldly affairs.
I had a student, called ‘Ubaid, who was a cousin of mine. He was martyred in my company and on my behalf when we fought together. I had a true dream of him. In my dream, I went underground into his tomb, where I found him enjoying the degree of life of martyrs. He told me that he knew me to have died, and himself to be living. He had cried much over me, he said, and built a fine house underground in order to avoid the Russian invasion. This dream, together with certain other signs, convinced me that martyrs do have, in some conditions, a higher degree of life than the dead.
The fifth degree of life is the spiritual life of the dead. Indeed, death is a changing of residence, a receiving of one’s discharge from worldly duties with the soul set free. It is not complete annihilation into non-existence. This degree of life is clearly established by such repeatedly observed facts as the soul of some godly persons appearing in their human (material) forms, and being seen by men who have insight into hidden truths. That the dead can communicate with us in dreams or even in wakefulness is another proof of their life.
This article has been adapted from Risale- i Nur Collection.