Nobody, even the terminally ill persons, can say exactly when death will strike them. This riddle has been haunting humans since long. The broader medical science has progressed radically, with new discovery of medicines and causes of death continuing unabated. In the case of many ailments they couldn’t yet make much headway. After trying desperately to cure a person, and encountering failure, people surrender to fate. Religions see deaths as the will of the Supreme Being. In fact, all deaths in one way or another occur in accordance with an unfathomable design. Mystics and spiritualists have firm belief in these ends of human entities — without an iota of doubt. In spite of these explanations, the final exit from this temporal world has perplexed man, especially those with a philosophical bent.
These ends are actually related to normal deaths. The prevailing circumstances do not always apply to accidental deaths. True, the believers interpret these exits also as part of a cosmic design. The mundanely disposed segments in society view these deaths as accidents. Linking calamities, accidents and premature deaths to the divine eludes them. By nature, they are highly prone to turning to logical explanation of death as well as birth — and even the incredible matching in a marriage. When a fabulously rich middle-aged man picks a young lady with a humble background, the former group explains the marriage as the result of a passionate bond of love. But those believing in destiny feel inclined to term such marriages the acts of fate. Despite the fact that the social standings of the bride and the groom are poles apart, they believe the two have been destined to start their conjugal life under a single roof.
Accidental deaths these days are a part of life. Beginning from being fatally stricken by lightning to becoming the hapless victim of a stray bullet or meeting an unexpected death in a plane crash or car accident, all these accidental deaths define life in these days of uncertainties. Even on small scale, there is no dearth of ‘predestined’ deaths. We can recall the incident of a tragic death that occurred in this city. The incident involved a middle-aged office employee who used to go out of home quite early in the morning. He had to travel by a long-distance, overcrowded bus every day. In his long service career, the gentleman didn’t face any major trouble reaching his workplace. To his ill luck, a dreadful day awaited him in the thick of uncertainties in life. One morning the gentleman came out on the narrow street, his wife and the unmarried young daughter at the door. No sooner had the man taken a few steps from his home than a loose electric wire fell on him from a pole close to him. The man died instantly, with a ‘khili’ of a betel leaf still intact inside his mouth. Fatalists must have termed the invisible swoop of death on the peace-loving little man a twist of destiny. The reasoning segments of people may not have been convinced about the destiny theory. They blamed duty dodging of the power department people for the sad death.
Deaths by the thousands and even also hundreds occur due to the onslaughts of sudden natural calamities. Catching people in the areas of occurrence unawares, many of these disasters strike at night, at times when the victims remain deep asleep. These calamities include mostly earthquakes; dam bursts, volcanic eruptions and tsunamis. The festering pandemics covering large areas of a continent also include these curses. History has seen a section of people holding others indulging in sins and forbidden activities responsible for these divine punishments.
In the absence of sufficient enlightened thoughts and rationality, these superstitious verdicts held sway in medieval societies. If these observations emerge true, then the pandemic that wiped out millions in Europe and parts northern America from 14th to 17th century ought to be termed retribution from nature. But the fact is the 300-year period of the pandemic of Black Death and various types of flu also witnessed the great European Renaissance. It was during this time that saw consolidation of both secular scholarship and superstition-free religious canons, the evolution of political theories and different branches of the arts and the start of the quest for scientific explanations for the movement of heavenly bodies. In short, the period covering 15th and 16th centuries marked the transition from the Middle Age to modernity in Europe. Ripples of these great human feats also spread to the far-away continent of America. In these celebrations of fresh thoughts and reflections, the dogmas propounded by different quasi-religious schools in Europe couldn’t maintain their earlier social acceptability. The interpretation of death from then on kept taking newer shapes.
By the time the era of modernism took root in the advanced societies in both Europe and western Asia, including the Arab region, the concept of death was able to come free of the many primitive and folk influences. The three Abrahamic religions — Judaism, Christianity and Islam had made the difference between sin and good deed in the earthly existence quite clear. Except a few isolated references, there are no mentions of punishment for an entire clan or people. Tormenting death and painful after-life follows reckless and hedonistic way of life on earth. This is also the universal rule irrespective of different schools of belief. Even those who love to remain stuck to the worldly existence believe in this universal truth.
The problem lies with putting wholesale the blame on a ‘sinning community or communities’ for becoming victim of unnatural deaths. They range from a death caused by a brick falling on a pedestrian’s head from the top of an under-construction building, a late-night landslide or a big fire or a mistaken bombardment on a civilian area during a war. All these have their own reasons: Human negligence, error or an existent circumstance congenial to the happening of an accident. It has now become clear that it is the intermittent geological aberrations that lead to under-sea earthquakes triggering the massive deadly waves called tsunami. Hundreds of innocent children and pious people have lost their lives in the recent Asian tsunamis. It is the unnatural shifting of tectonic plates which cause earthquakes — including the vastly killer ones. Few can now deny that it is global warming and climate change which have been responsible for scores of natural disasters killing millions of people around the globe. These disasters continue to kill innocent and ignorant people without respite.
Many scientists and climatologists blame the increasing human tendency to tamper with climate and bio-diversity for the ongoing pandemic wreaking havoc on humanity. Deaths are not without reasons. This conclusion upholds the rational school of mysticism, which is considered classical. According to the mainstream mysticism, including Persian Sufism and its Bengal version, every phenomenon on this earth is part of a great design. The vastness of its sphere is beyond human perception. As tales of mysticism proponents go, many of them spend their whole lives in search of the Ultimate Truth. Since births and deaths are part of a super-cosmic design, and the depth of which has been proved fathomless, prophets and saints have defined the whole period of man’s earthly existence as something beyond the confines of mundane reality. With the belief in the inscrutably great design orchestrated by a supreme being finding a strong root in human thoughts, understanding death has become easier. Like the medical science sticking to its empirical explanations about death, philosophy and spiritual experiences emerge as drawing people’s attention to the other aspects of death. The amazing thing is the two disciplines finally merge into one — proving death’s inevitability. Religious scholars call it death’s inescapability.
In societies from ancient times to the modern age there are few who haven’t wanted to live longer. People have frantically searched for an elixir said to ensure deathless life. The medieval European explorers’ search for the anti-death potion has ended in disasters. The harsh truth is all living beings have to die. Despite endless paeans for this wonderful life on earth till even one’s centennial, man cannot escape death. The gene doctoring by a section of audacious scientists to ‘create’ ever-living humans might result in just lab-produced zombies.