Islam, Muslims and Near Death Experiences

An NDE is an experience of life after death, where the person returned to their body and did not complete the death process.

Near Death Experiences and Islam

One of the challenges of our times is how can traditional religions can take into account the phenomena of NDEs (Near Death Experiences)? An NDE is where a person nearly dies, or even technically dies, but they have an experience of the afterlife during the time when they were apparently unconcious. They may have been in a car accident, they had a heart attack, or their heart stopped during an operation, and the like, and they recover; but they have an experience of leaving their body and going to the afterlife during the time when they are apparently unconcious. How we are using the term NDE is not about a situation where somebody nearly got killed, but did not lose consciousness or experience themselves outside of their body.  An NDE story, as we are using the term, has to do with having an experience of the “other side”, the afterlife, as an effect of recovering from nearly dying, or technically dying, and what it was like there. An NDE is an experience of life after death, where the person came back and did not complete the death process.

I am not an scholar or expert on the topic, but I assume that:
A) anyone with a true grasp of their religion, who experiences an NDE, will surely have their religious beliefs confirmed, or will be able to reconcile any minor differences (with the help of religious authorities).
B) Once those best positioned to comment on the issue, have a chance to come to terms with this newly emerging topic of NDEs, they will make suitable comments, for the benefit of all sincere followers, in due course.

The increasing emergence of NDEs is raising questions in the minds of not only adherents to Islam; but also in the minds of adherents of all major religions. Some religious authorities may be discomfited by the phenomena of NDEs, perhaps because it touches on the domain of their expertise (but is possibly outside of their experience); while others seem to embrace it, with some reservations, as confirming the importance of living a religious life over a secular one. The latter see NDEs is a counterbalance to a society that is becoming too secular and perhaps see it as a way that God is making His presence known to modern humanity.

Why There are so Many NDE Stories Nowadays?

Some observers of the phenomena of NDEs seem to try and skip over the issue and not address it at all, or only superficially. However, the issue of NDEs is not going to go away; indeed, it is likely to become more pronounced. The phenomena of NDEs is able to occur, because so many people have been resuscitated from what would have previously been certain death. Modern medical procedures are now able to resuscitate many people who previously would have died. Therefore, more and more of those people return to modern day life with an NDE story to tell. As modern medical procedures continue to develop, and continue to be more widely available, there are only going to be more and more of such cases of NDEs. As more people will have stories to tell, more questions will be asked of the religious authorities, and of scientists, to explain what is going on.

One of the things which boosted and enabled such open discussion of NDEs is Raymond Moody’s book, Life after Life. This was published in 1975 and became a best seller, having sold over 13 million copies. Since then many other books have appeared on the topic and they combined to help make this discussion go global.

Refuting the ‘Chemicals in the Brain Theory’ of Near Death Experiences

Some try to dismiss the NDE as a chemical actions of the brain during exteme situations. Yet, one prominent account is by Eben Alexander, who in his book, Proof of Heaven, claims that as a neurosurgeon he was later able to study his own medical charts from during his own NDE. He came to the conclusion that during his own NDE, his brain was completely shut down, and that his soul had indeed detached from his body and gone on a trip to another world. He states that angels, God, and the afterlife are totally real.

Also, many NDE accounts include the person being able to observe, and later corroborate, things going on here on Earth which they said they saw from out of their body. They were able to corroborate seeing things happening in their surroundings, that would have otherwise been impossible for them to know, due to being unconscious, such as under anaesthesia and being treated by medical professionals. Later they would usually leave their immediate surroundings and move away elsewhere and have a deep and profound spiritual experience.

Why so Few Muslim NDE Stories?

Some ask why there are so few NDEs stories emerging from the Islamic parts of the world; compared to, say, the Christian parts. Some speculate that it is because Muslims don’t need NDEs as much as they already have a strong faith. Yet, there are some stories of Muslim NDE experiences increasingly emerging on places such as YouTube. Perhaps some Muslims are reticent to share an NDE story as the topic has such strongly religious overtones. This wariness has been somewhat reduced owing to the wide range of books about it. Yet many, may still be feel wary of openly commenting about it.

Some Christians have converted to Islam after an NDE. Yet, some ask why so many people who have an NDEs see Jesus and what that means for Muslims. There are also Christians, who say that their NDE challenged much of what they were taught in their church. Some even say, that the version of Christianity they were following “lied” to them about God, Jesus and the Afterlife. How do we resolve these and many other apparent contradictions?

The answer that I have tentatively come to in my research is that an NDE is experienced by:
1) someone who needs it and the experience is specifically matched to their own spiritual needs.
2) someone who is likely to be able to integrate it, but that this may take some years to complete.

An NDE is an intense “wake up” call, to get that person to go in a new direction in their life. Usually they are too focused on material things, or a living a loveless life, and they need another perspective. An NDE is often very dramatic, and it can be hard to comprehend initally, even for the experiencer. Most NDEers come back with a far more kindly and far broader view of human existence, to say the least. They very often have a spiritual awakening.

Yet, someone having an NDE may take many years to make sense of, and to integrate, the experience into their daily life. It may be a long time before they even tell anyone about it. Though in parts of society which are more open to such things, this is becoming easier and so more common. They fear being thought of as crazy, or if they experienced something in their NDE which calls into questions their long-held religious beliefs, they may fear the disapproval of their friends and members of their Church, or being denounced by religious authorities.

Near Death Experiences and Spiritual Values

An NDE often encourages the person to align much more clearly with spiritual values like compassion, caring for others, living a good moral life and so on. But, it may severely challenge some of their specific religious beliefs about doctrines and the like. This can be a difficult thing for the person to accept, especially if there are serious consequences to them being open about their change in beliefs. However, another person – even one of the same religion – may not have those beliefs challenged. It seems that an NDE is designed to specifically meet the spiritual needs of the person concerned. Some may need to learn to question aspects of their religion beliefs; for others the lesson may be to follow their religious beliefs more closely. Perhaps it depends on whether specific beliefs are helping that particular person spiritually or not. Different people have different needs, so their NDEs will be different. One person may be so strictly religious that they have become very judgemental of others and so they have not much love in their hearts for others (they may need to let go of some rigidity); while another person may need to learn to be more strict in their adherence to their religion to stop them making a serious mistake. However, this is just a guess and much more research is needed.

Four Steps to Forgiveness imageThe importance of love, The Law of Love, including love for other human beings, even those not related to us, is often emphasised by those who have had an NDE. They say that love trancends all other laws and that becoming hard-hearted is contary to this law. Forgiveness (download free book) is also emphasised on a lot of NDE stories as this is often what increases our capacity to love. The affect of NDE also depends on what the person is able to bring back with them and what they are able comprehend and integrate into their normal daily life.

For those of us, such as myself, who have not had an NDE, trying to explain one seems to be roughly the same as trying to remember and then trying to explain, an incredibly vivid dream. Yet, with the added complication of trying to comprehend or explain something that was experienced outside of time, or a least outside of time as we know it. They say that eternity is not a very, very long time; but is actually outside of time. Also, they see colours that we have no words for and an experience of love and forgiveness that is beyond our comprehension.

Increase in Muslim NDE Stories?

As touched on earlier, accounts of Muslim experience of NDEs are becoming more common and some research and commentary on this research is emerging (see the Resources list below). A search on Youtube for “muslim NDE” shows a variety of examples, but we need not be surprised, or confused, that there will be contradictions in what people say they experience. Not only will their experiences differ very widely (and some accounts may even disagree), partly because the person’s ability to bring back the full experience with them will also vary.

The honesty and morality of a random person appearing in a video on Youtube is open to question. Some videos may be frivolous, and some may be fake and designed to confuse rather than to help. Even if sincere, the NDEer may have have forgotten much of their experience on entry to their body, or their memory may have been distorted. Until there is a lot more information, and a wider variety of Muslim NDEs experiences to go on, it will be hard to get a clear picture and things may be sketchy at best. It behoves us to hold back from jumping to conclusions about the nature of Muslim NDE experiences till there are a lot more examples. However, the Reference section below focusses mostly on Muslim NDE experiences.

Christian and Muslim Near Death Experiences Similarities?

What does seem to be emerging is that there are some parallels between what Muslims experience in NDEs and what Christian’s experience. The experience of “flying”, “going through a tunnel” and experiencing an incredibly benign loving presence, among others, seem to be fairly common to both. It will be perhaps be an interesting area of research in the future as to what effects a persons’ religion has on their NDE.

What is often emphasised by people who have an NDE experience whether Muslims, Christian, or whatever religion, is the importance of forgiveness. Learning to forgive oneself (making amends if necessary) and forgiving others is often highlighted as a key to a good spiritual life. Forgiveness helps us to be able to let go of the past and move on. It enables us to begin to see the best in others and to like them more – and perhaps even be able to love them. If you would like to learn how to forgive, please click one of the links on this page.

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References

Here are some links which help you to explore the topic of NDEs for yourself:

https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC7737831/

https://digital.library.unt.edu/ark:/67531/metadc461694/m2/1/high_res_d/28-2%206%20Art%2008%20Kreps.pdf

https://www.researchgate.net/publication/332835301_Essential_features_of_eight_published_Muslim_near-death_experiences_An_addendum_to_Joel_Ibrahim_Kreps’s_The_search_for_Muslim_near-death_experiences

https://renovatio.zaytuna.edu/article/science-religion-and-the-challenge-of-near-death-experiences