Wine, Women and Mercedes Benz.

I was recently invited to speak at an interfaith forum attended by almost 700 university students in Malaysia on the topic of Life After Death. More than half of the students were male, Muslim and from Middle Eastern or North African countries. As it was an interfaith event, the other major religions were also represented: Islam, Hinduism (Popular) and Buddhism (Mahayana).

Each of us got 20 minutes for our presentation based on the topic. As this was not my first time at such an event (I had spoken twice in this university a few years ago), I was prepared for the grueling 90 minutes of Q&A which followed the presentations. During this time questions from the floor could be directed to any of the panelists. Just as other past events, most of the questions were directed at the Christian (me) or the Muslim (in this case, a young man who’s still in braces but on the way to a promising career as a Muslim apologist).

Many things were brought up that evening but a few left an especially strong impression on me and I will summarize them here:

1) Quoting the Quran in Arabic, the Muslim panelist explained that all Muslims will be judged after death according to their deeds. This judgement will determine their entry into paradise. For those who got away with adultery during their earthly life, they will be punished severely as Allah takes the sin of “zina” (extramarital sex) seriously.

2) In explaining what is in store for the Muslim after death, presuming that he makes it to paradise, the speaker stated that he can have anything his heart desires – including wine, women and no matter how many Mercedes Benz one wants. In short, you can have ANYTHING you want. But if one dies a martyr, he will immediately gain entry into paradise (bypassing judgement) and find 72 virgins waiting for him in paradise.

These two points begged the following question from a student:

How is it that sexual relations with someone other than one’s spouse/s on earth is such a serious sin but in paradise sex with 72 virgins is permissible?

To this question, the Muslim answered (and I paraphrase – sparing you the long Arabic quotations and technical terms he cited):

In this present life, A Muslim is not permitted to drink alcohol but the Quran states that paradise would be flowing with wine. The reason for this is that the alcohol that we now have intoxicates. However, in paradise, the wine that flows abundantly would not intoxicate. Hence, it is permissible for the Muslim to drink as much as he wants.

Similarly, sexual relations in our present life would result in the conception of a children. If a man is permitted to have sex with women he is not married to and the relations result in children, chances are the women will be left to care for the children. As such, to avoid children born out of wedlock and being abandoned by their biological fathers, men are only permitted to have sexual relations with their wife/wives.

However, in paradise, the ability to reproduce will not longer exist and hence the problem of women and children abandonment would not arise. As such men are allowed to have sex with as many women as they want! (Notice that up to this point, the morality or immorality of extramarital sex was not even mentioned.)

3) A student wanted me to clarify what is in store for a Christian in heaven. And here’s what I told her essentially:

a) Communion with the lover of our soul and reunion with loved ones who have gone before us

b) Worship: we will spend our days in worship as we deepen our relationship with God

c) Rest: from suffering, evil, struggles with sin – all tears will be wiped away.

As I reflect on these and many other points that were highlighted that evening, I cannot help but be amazed at how starkly different these two worldviews are with regards to our hope beyond death and it is clear which is radically more appealing to me.

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~ by iccthomas on May 4, 2011.

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