Sunday, February 28, 2010

A Comparison of Death and Afterlife Thought between Ancient Egypt Civilization and Islamic Perspective

Common scenery at Islamic graveyards

This particular chapter will try to make a comparison between the ancient Egyptian and Islamic perspectives towards death and afterlife the discussion will include the concept of death and afterlife itself and the similarity of funerary beliefs in both religions.

As mentioned before, the ancient Egyptian firmly believed that death was simply a temporary intermission to the next world rather than a total end life. Therefore, there will be eternal life. As to achieve this immortality, mummification was essential to preserve the body. Meanwhile, the Islamic concept of death is somehow similar to that ancient Egypt. It also believes in the afterlife. However, no mummification is made as to preserve the body. Ahmad H. Sakr (1992:51) mentioned that “we have to die in order to go back to our roots, namely, Paradise. Without dying there is no hope to see and to live eternally in Paradise. In order to enjoy the bliss and happiness of Paradise, we have therefore, to go through the process of death. We have to hibernate in a dormancy period inside the earth, before we are ready to be called for the Day of Resurrection, the Day of Assembly, the Day of Judgment and finally to be led to Paradise. Hence death is a natural process for the transformation of life from a lower level to a higher level”.

Gmba ni aku accidentally tgkp time aku g Louvre Paris. Upa2nya boat ni adalah 'boat' yg dead people of Egypt naek merentasi Nile River pas dorg dah lepas judgement from Osiris. Aku silap daa. Boat ni mmg wujud n digunakan utk angkut mayat si mati melalui nile rover to tomb mereka. Hehe. Tak sgka pulak gmba ni penting. Haish rasa cm nk g balik je Louvre n tgk btul2 patung2 kat dlm galeri ni. .

It is important to note that though both believe in the afterlife, but the afterlife from Islamic point of view is slightly different from the ancient Egyptian. As stated above, the Muslims believe that is necessary to die to go back to its origin, namely the soil or the Paradise. To make it simple, the flesh and the soul was first from the Paradise, descended to the earth for a stipulated time and with the concept of death, it will move to its roots once again. On the contrary, this is not the case of ancient Egyptian. There was no clear-cut evidence on their origin. Only two phases involved- life in this world and the hereafter.

In ancient Egyptian, the ba is translated as the soul. It would depart from the dead body and it would journey to the decease especially at night as it was the rightful place to dwell. They also believe in the ka-the personality-which continues to live though the body was died. It would be dwell beside the mummy while got the nourishments from the offerings of the survival of the deceased. Otherwise, it would be perished and no unification between the ka and the ba would be made. As a result, the deceased cannot be transformed in its akh. There is also soul in Islamic concept. Better known as al-Rooh, it functioned slightly similar to the ba and the ka. It will also set off from the body at the time of death just like the ba. It will be at rest till the body is buried. To this, the similarity can be found in which the ka would be at rest while the body is mummified. As a contrast, the rooh will then take to the grave to join with the flesh to be able to be interrogated by the two angels. Soon, as the process finish, it will be stored in the barzakh (warehouse) until the Day of Judgment. Meanwhile, the ka has no place to be stored. Another distinguished feature among these three entity is that their sustenance. If the ka had food and drinks for its nourishment, this is not the case of rooh. As the rooh was from Allah Almighty, thus, its food is also related to its Creator. Its nourishments are very much spiritual in need. There are the zikr, the five pillars, the intention and the recitation of Quran (to name a few).

The Famous tomb of Tutankhamun

Just before the tomb on the West bank of the Nile River, the priest would perform the Opening of the Mouth ceremony. The purpose of this ritual was to reanimate the ka and the senses of the deceased as wrote before. Looking from Islamic perspective there are also rites and rituals before and after the burial. They are known as the recitation of the Quran, the funeral prayer and the talqeen. Nevertheless, the objectives of these rites are totally different from the Opening of the Mouth ceremony. The recitation of the Quran is to help the person in his dying state and to seek Allah’s blessed. Meanwhile, the funeral prayer which is communal prayer is an invocation to Allah for the forgiveness of the dead. As for talqeen (which is perform after the burial), translated as instructing the dead is meant to remind the deceased of the rectification of faith such as the unity of Allah and other matters pertaining to faith. It is also a pray that the deceased will be firm in answering the questions of the two angels in the grave.

Sarajevo Islamic graveyards in Bosnia

The ancient Egyptian believed in the judgment of the dead. So are the Muslims. In the first part of the Hall of the Two Truths, the person would deny all the sins presented to him. In the next session, the heart would be weigh along with the feather of ma’at. The pure would be brought before Osiris to prepare for the immortal life in the heaven while the guilty would be crouch by Ammut. In Islam, there will also question and answer session. However, it is not the tongue that will answer the questions for it will tell lies. It is all parts of the body that will speak for the truth. The mouth will remain silent automatically. There will be no heart to be weighed, but it is the acts and deeds, physical appearance and the intention of the heart that is going to be measured. They are recorded in the Book of Records. “For those who will receive their personal Book of Records with their right hands, are to be happy, thrilled and grateful to Allah”. Thus, this is an indication that the person will enter the Jannah (paradise). “However, for those who receive their personal Book of Records with their left hands, are to feel sorry, and they are to be distressed and finally they realize that they would be losers” (Ahmad H. Sakr 1992:102). Therefore, he might be entering the Narr (hellfire).

The life in heaven in ancient Egypt thought was very much similar to Islam. They believed that the life in hereafter was an enjoyable life without any difficulties. They would enjoy with their wives and families. The ushabtis were always there to perform the normal task. Besides, harvest was so enormous. No illness and drought could be found. The person was free to sail along the Nile River while singing or relaxing in the flowering garden. The life of the Underworld was pictured as very much idealistic. Islamic views on the life in Paradise were found many in the Quranic texts. Among them are the gardens of trees and fruits, the healthy and delicious foods and fresh waters of juices and milk. Besides that, there are also Ladies in Paradise with beautiful eyes (al-hoor al-een). They are the wives to those men who are to enter Paradise. They had been made virgin, pure and grace. Not only that, they will live in houses where running water of rivers are under them as translated by Abdullah Yusuf Ali (2007:488) “But those who believe and work deeds of righteousness-to them shall We give a Home in Heaven-lofty mansions beneath which flow rivers- to dwell therein forever-an excellent reward for those who do (good)!”. The eternal life in Paradise is a life of enjoy and happiness. It is a life with neither any vice nor disease. Its pleasurable are beyond human imagination. Therefore, this ideal life is the ultimate goal of every Muslim.

p/s: Article ini adalah hasil kerja sahabat baek aku, Nisa’ ! Ni salah satu part yg dier wat dlm assignment aku. Dier ni partner aku dlm wat assignment Death and Afterlife thought in Ancient Egypt ni.. Dier mmg superb giler r history dier cuma dier lagi warak dr aku r so tu yg dier nk wat comparison dgn Islam punya death and afterlife concept..Hehe. Kitorg pon mmg klas history smua sama je since dah major History kat Gombak ni. Neway, mmg best giler r keja dgn dier n dier mmg byk men peranan n tlg aku wat assignment kitorg ni. Thanz Nisa !

Sunday, February 21, 2010

Pyramids of Egypt

The Giza Necropolis

The pyramids of Egyptian civilization were originally built as tombs for kings and some of them were for queens of Egypt. Thus it is important to see pyramids as one of the important aspects of the death and afterlife thought of Egyptian civilization. Egyptian pyramid is a funerary monument built usually of stone masonry and consisting of four triangular sides meeting in a point. (Shaw, I., & Nicholson, P., 1995) It served as the central point of Egyptian royal funerary complexes from the 3rd Dynasty (26686 – 2613 B.C.) to the Second Intermediate Period (1650-1550 B.C.). The word pyramid derives from the Greek word pyramis which means wheat cakes as this type of cakes were pyramidal in shape. However, the ancient Egyptian word for pyramid was mer. According to Edwards (1947), there are approximately ninety pyramids in Egypt. Many of these pyramids have reduced to little more than sand and rubble but they are still considered as pyramids by the archaeologists. Eventually, the number of pyramids that has been found has increased to 118 pyramids as of November 2008.

The pyramid complex usually consisted of a true pyramid with its mortuary and valley temples, a causeway between the two latter and a number of smaller subsidiary pyramids. Since the weight is greatest at the bottom and least at the top, the center of gravity of pyramids is very low - which makes for very stable buildings. That's why many of the ancient pyramids have survived till today. The first tomb that was built in pyramidal form was Step Pyramid at Saqqara which was constructed about 2780 B. C. This step pyramid was built for 3rd Dynasty ruler Netjerikhet Djoser by his famous architect, Imhotep. From the reign of Djoser onwards the pyramid complex was established as the royal funerary monument and burial place. The pyramid seems to have taken the form of a huge mastaba and gradually extended until it became a pyramidal superstructure consisting of six massive steps and reaching a height of 60m. One important innovation was the use of stone which had been used carefully in previous times. Archeologists call them mastaba because they resemble in shape the brick benches outside the houses in Egyptian villages. However, the two pyramids during the reign of King Sneferu (2613-2589 B.C.) at Dashur were probably the first royal funerary monuments to be conceived as true pyramids from the outset.

The Step Pyramid of Djoser at Saqqara. It was build by the famous King Djoser architect, Imhotep.

Furthermore, it was the Great Pyramid at Giza, the largest surviving pyramid that widely known in the history of Egyptian civilization. The Giza pyramids were built during the time of King Khufu who was King Sneferu’s son. This complex of ancient monuments includes the three pyramids known as the Great Pyramids, along with the massive sculpture known as the Great Sphinx. Each pyramid was entered by a passage from the north and mortuary temple usually interpreted as mastaba on its east side. A walled or roofed causeway also built that led down from the mortuary temple to the valley temple which was associated with the royal funeral rites and statue cults. Besides that, there are a lot of subsidiary pyramids of varying size and number that located within the main pyramid enclosure. These subsidiary pyramids are described as ‘queen’s pyramids’ since they were probably built for the king’s wives. There are many attempts that have been made by writers on the Great Pyramid to illustrate its size by comparison with other famous buildings. One computation of this kind has been attributed to Napoleon during his campaign in Egypt. According to Edwards (1947), Napoleon has claimed that the three pyramids on the Giza plateau contained enough stone to build a wall, measuring 10 feet in height and 1 foot in width around the whole of France. His mathematician, Monge who accompanied during his campaign in Egypt has confirmed this calculation.

There is general agreement that the fundamental purpose of the pyramid was to serve as a highly visible superstructure for royal burials. But it is still a great deal of debate concerning the symbolism of its shape and design. It has been suggested that it represented the primeval mound of creation, on which the sun-god was thought to have been born. It has been proposed that the building was intended to symbolize the sloping rays of the sun since the top of each pyramid was often gilded and was closely connected with the sun. The Egyptians believed the dark area of the night sky around which the stars appear to revolve was the physical gateway into the heavens. One of the narrow shafts that extend from the main burial chamber through the entire body of the Great Pyramid points directly towards the center of this part of the sky. This suggests the pyramid may have been designed to serve as a means to magically launch the deceased pharaoh's soul directly into the abode of the gods. Besides that, pyramids served as the best place for the Egyptian people to preserve their bodies. They did their utmost to preserve their bodies as well as the well-being of the Ka (soul). They want their Ka to be able to recognize its body after death and to be united with it.

Some Egyptologists believe that the development of the pyramid represented simply an architectural evolution. Others have seen in it the triumph of one religious cult over another.


Edwards, I. E. S. (1947). The pyramids of Egypt. London: Penguin Group.

Ahmed Fakhry. (1961). The pyramids. United States of America: The University of Chicago Press.

Shaw, I., & Nicholson. P. (1995). British Museum dictionary of ancient Egypt. London: British Museum Press.

p/s: Sekarang saya adalah sebahagian daripada warga Kuliyyah of Economics and Management Sciences . . Hehe. Ohh wat assignment history tak rasa stress pon malahan rasa BEST ! Haha..


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