History tells us that almost all the previous peoples have believed in the Resurrection. Even the Pharaohs of the ancient Egypt, who claimed divinity, believed in the Resurrection. Since they believed in the Resurrection, they wanted their most precious things to be buried with them and their slaves, within their tombs.
We read in the inscriptions found in their tombs:
Inscriptions on the tombs of ancient Egyptians and on the sheets buried with them
After death, the sinful will take on ugly forms and remain under the earth forever until eternity, while pure souls will join angels and live among exalted ones.
On the sheets buried together with the dead, we also read petitions like the following:
Greetings to You, O Divine Being Exalted! I have come to Your presence in order to observe Your infinitely beautiful Face. Please favor me with this observation! I wronged no one, nor betrayed anyone. I caused no one to weep, nor killed anyone. I oppressed no one, either. I am here in Your presence to present my situation to You. I only desire to observe Your Face.
If we search through the tombs, epitaphs, written materials and works of art that have remained of bygone peoples, we hear the sighs of eternity echoing through the whole past of humankind. Despite the alterations and distortions that the passing of time has brought about in the intervening centuries, we can easily discern belief in eternity in ancient India, China and Greece, as well as in most of Western philosophy.
Zoroaster believed in the Resurrection
For example, Shahristani, a Muslim historian and theologian writes that Zoroaster said: Man has a duty in the world. Those who do their duties satisfactorily will gain purity and join the dwellers of the higher abodes. However, the others, who fail to do their duties, will be condemned to stay under the earth until eternity.
Belief in the Resurrection in Indian religions
During history, there have been many religions in India, although it is highly probable that these religions are the distorted varieties of a single true religion. However greatly they have been distorted, almost all of them contain the principle of belief in the Resurrection and eternity. In many of these religions, belief in eternity takes the form of belief in reincarnation. However, Buddha did not believe in eternal cycles of reincarnation. He believed that souls would ultimately return to the Absolute Being and find eternal peace and contentment. The souls that enter other bodies are evil ones and do so in order to be purified in them. When they are purified, they also return to the Absolute Being and find peace and happiness.
Greek philosophers' belief in the Resurrection
Ancient Greek poet, Homers, writes about the shelters of souls. He believed that the souls, which manifest themselves here in bodies, have shelters in another place. Pythagoras, a Greek mathematician, believed in the Resurrection and argued that purified souls would join the exalted dwellers of higher worlds, while evil ones would remain imprisoned on the earth, which would be enveloped by flames of fire. Plato attributes to Socrates many arguments for the Resurrection and eternal life, some of which are as follows:
Man should be virtuous. To become virtuous requires resistance against carnal desires. This means a deprivation on the part of man. This deprivation will be compensated with an eternal, happy life.
Opposites follow each other in the world. Light and darkness, spring and winter, day and night follow each other. Death follows life; so another life will follow death. However, this second life will be eternal.
Everyone sometimes feels as if he experienced something before which is just happening to him now. This means that we lived this life in another world, the world of the spirits, before we come here. So, this life is the result of a previous life and a 'rehearsal' of another life, which is to come.
Although it is highly questionable whether this last argument is correct and although it suggests incarnation, it is an undeniable fact that Socrates and his student Plato believed in an afterlife.
Aristotle diluted the idealism of his teacher, Plato, with some elements of materialistic philosophy. However, he too believed in the existence of the spirit and its immortality. He said: 'Apart from man's material body, something immaterial exists in him, which is immortal.'
Xenophanes and Heraclitus are among the ancient Greek philosophers who believed in an afterlife. The former held that, apart from his body, man had a soul and that soul would continue to live after man's death. Among the principles of good morality he argued was: It is not possible for the One Who has created the universe so beautifully and adorned it because of His love for man, that He will not bring him back to life again after he has made him die. Heraclitus argued: During the Last Day, stars will fall onto the earth and envelop it as a circle of fire. Evil souls will remain in this fire as a punishment, while pure ones will escape it and rise to higher abodes.
Most of the rationalists among Western philosophers believed in the Resurrection and afterlife
Except a few materialists like Epicurus and Democritus, all of the ancient philosophers in the East and West believed in the afterlife. As for the rationalists among Western philosophers who prepared the ground for the intellectual enlightenment after the Middle Ages, most of them also believed in the Resurrection and afterlife. Among them, Descartes argued convincingly for the immortality of the human soul and analyzed the issues pertaining to the afterlife. Leibniz and Espinoza also believed in another life. The former resembled Plato in that, corresponding to Plato's 'ideas'; he spoke of 'monads' as the immaterial parts of beings. He asserted that monads must develop infinitely. However, this development is impossible in this world because time is limited. Therefore, there must be an eternal world where monads can realize their infinite development. Espinoza was a pantheist. He believed in an eternal, collective life of beings.
Besides the philosophers mentioned, Pascal and Bergson also believed in afterlife.
In the Muslim world, almost all of the philosophers had a conviction in the eternal life
In the Muslim world, almost all of the philosophers had a conviction in the eternal life. Among them, Abul-A la al-Maarri was irreligious; however, in his Risala al-Ghufran, he tried to describe the Day of the Resurrection according to The Holy Book's verses. Dante appears to have adapted from the writings of Maarri his descriptions of Paradise, Hell and Purgatory.
To sum up: Except for the few materialists, the long history of philosophy in the East and West witnesses to belief in the Resurrection and afterlife.
The Resurrection in the Revealed Scriptures
The Holy Book, the last of the heavenly Scriptures, has four main themes: the Existence and Unity of God, the Resurrection and afterlife, Messengerhood, and worship and justice. It emphasizes the Resurrection much more the Scriptures before it.