About three years ago I was taking a class at the Hartford Seminary titled, “Answering the Big Questions: An Approach Towards Philosophical Theology.” It was taught by the former dean of the Seminary, Dr. Ian Markham. It was a thought provoking class especially since it was taught from a belief in God perspective (as opposed to the philosophy courses I took as an undergraduate). Towards the end of the semester we spoke about eschatology, or how our faith traditions view the end of time. Of course, through the Qur’an and Hadith, we find very powerful imagery about the Hereafter. We know how close the sun will be to us, how our limbs and appendages will either be a witness for us or against us, how we will either receive our Book in our right hand or our left…
“So, Marwa, do you REALLY think you will be receiving a physical book in your hand?,” my Professor asked incredously.
“uhh, ye-ees,” I responded with some hesitation.
Hmm…okay, it’s true that I don’t know what the books will look like.
But I am certain that our books will contain everything we’ve ever done. It’s our record, sealed and exact. From the Qur’an, we find clear injunctions:
(It will be said to him): “Read your book. You yourself are sufficient as a reckoner against you this Day,” (Suraht al Israa, aya 14).
“On the Day when We summon each community, along with its leader, those who are given their record in their right hand will read it [with pleasure]. But no one will be wronged in the least,” (Suraht al Israa, aya 71).
“You will see the Mujrimun (criminals, polytheists, sinners, etc.), fearful of that which is (recorded) therein. They will say: “Woe to us! What sort of Book is this that leaves neither a small thing nor a big thing, but has recorded it with numbers!” (Suraht al Kahf, aya 49)
Leaves neither a small nor a big thing…
I have been reflecting more and more on my own book and what it will contain. I am praying that there will be more good in it than bad and I know all too well that there is no screen unless Allah chooses to erase or hide my flaws. When my professor asked me if I believed that we would be receiving a book, I answered with initial hesitation since imagining billions of books falling from the sky seems extraordinary, but if I reflect just a little bit deeper, it’s clear that to some degree, we already have books that reveal our life story.
Facebook. It even has the word Book in it. Every status update, every “like” button that we press, every comment that we make, every link that we share is there for the world to witness. Our life is becoming ever more transparent and in some ways we want our lives to be on display. “That photo is facebook worthy,” we catch ourselves saying.
The intention of this post is not to delineate the pros and cons of facebook, there are plenty of posts that do a fine job of that. The intention of this post is to have us deeply reflect on the intentional book that we are creating (filled with our own filters and screens- showing only tidbits about us that we deem appropriate to share) and the book that is being filled by the angels on our right and our left without delete buttons, x’s that make words magically disappear, or pencils with erasers.
How aligned are our two books?
There was a study done stating that there may be a correlation between depression and social network usage as teens and adolescents display the positives of their lives- accomplishments, popularity, travels, gifts etc. with their friends while filtering out anything that potentially may make them unpopular.
So long as the individual is in control of the book, facebook will very rarely give a full, holistic picture of a person. I wonder if on the Day of Judgment us facebook users will be more shocked than the rest of humanity when we see our flaws on record since we did such a good job of hiding them during our time on Earth.
With Facebook, we control our destiny by choosing what to display and filtering out what we don’t want the rest of the world to see.
With The Book, we control our destiny with the actions we take, small and large, recorded without the involvement of our self esteem or egos. Pure and unadulterated.
Would I be ready to see such a book? Would you?
Marwa Aly currently serves as a Muslim chaplain and is a mother to one wonderful daughter.