How Not Thinking About Death Shapes Cultural & Religious Conflict (Part 2)

How Not Thinking About Death Shapes Cultural & Religious Conflict (Part 2)

world-religionWith Part 1 of this series, I introduced Terror Management Theory and discussed the implications for society when the idea of death is approached with anxiety and fear.

Transforming the way we think about death and dying into a process of joy and inspired living may in turn transform the way we interact with others and lead to a more peaceful world. But where and how does this transformation begin?

In this blog I share the words of an individual on this path of transformation. Yassir Chadly, a Sufi man I interviewed for the Death Makes Life Possible book and movie, holds a worldview that embraces religious and cultural pluralism and is inspired by the universal and unifying nature of death. He offers an intriguing perspective that reflects how our relationship to death can inform the choices we make. Below, please enjoy this clip from the film as well as an excerpt from the upcoming book.


“Whether you’re Christian or Buddhist or Muslim or atheist, everyone meets at that point we call death. That’s in general. But in the spiritual world, in the Quran for example, it is mentioned that the Prophet, peace be upon him, said, ‘Blessed the one who created death and life.’ Usually you think life and death; we call this life and [think] that death is the end. But in that teaching, he calls this whole life death, and he calls the after-death life. Because this one has a limit. You are born. You have an ending. The other one doesn’t have an ending. And he calls that ‘life,’ and he calls this place ‘ruled by death.’ That’s what they call it.”

I asked him how we can respond to death. Chadly’s views offer a blend of rigorous Islamic practice with the fluid Taoist concept of yin and yang.

“If you understand [death] like that, then the response is really positive because you are now going to a place where you live forever. One of the beautiful words you have in English is eternity. What is that word, eternity? We say this life doesn’t support eternity. Therefore, there must be a life that is eternal because of the yin and yang and the balance. If one doesn’t have it, the other one has. So they balance each other. The reason we have what we call life, and Allah calls the death, is to test you. How are you going to respond? And so we’re here to be tested and choose. What choice you are going to take here is what is going to reflect in the hereafter, in the eternity place.”

As a devout Muslim speaking from an Islamic worldview, Chadly is part of a demographic that numbers approximately 1.6 billion people in the world. Having said that, each person represents a different understanding on these complex ideas. There is no one worldview that defines all Muslims. Chadly explained that his cosmology, based on Islamic teachings, includes both predestination and the choice of good or evil.