Characters fear death and attempt to prove their morality through actions and justifications, trying to make their legacies, and therefore their person, live forever. Throughout The Epic of Gilgamesh, Gilgamesh himself shows great fear in the idea of death but attempts to hide his fears through his actions. In the Qur’an instills fear on the topic of death and offers alternatives for those that follows the rules established in the book. The Qur’an relies on the fear of death from other people to get the message across. While each text contains a different approach to death they both relate to people that fear death and are trying to escape their morality.
The Epic of Gilgamesh demonstrates characters looking to justify and escape death by their actions, creating a legacy for themselves that will live forever. At the beginning of the epic, Gilgamesh does not have much concern for death and carries himself in a manner that shows this. Gilgamesh understands that death is an absolute certainty but wants to figure out how to make the consequences of death as minimal as possible. Although, Gilgamesh understands that everyone must die, he wants to be able to preserve himself and his legacy for as long as possible. He strongly believes that the person does not truly die if they are still being discussed or looked up to. For this reason, Gilgamesh was focused on the legacy he will leave. In the text Gilgamesh’s feelings are expressed when he says “I will go in front of you and your mouth can cry out ‘Go on closer, do not be afraid! Shall I fall, I will have established my fame’”. Gilgamesh believes that if he dies doing something great than he will be remembered forever, and that itself almost like living forever. This idea demonstrates his fear of death and willingness to do whatever it takes to escape the power death has over him. For Gilgamesh, his fear in death comes through the fear of life continuing without him and he wants to prevent life from being able to go on without some form of his presence.
The Qur’an especially depicts peoples fear of death and contains very specific instructions pertaining to the avoidance a miserable death or terrible afterlife. From The Feast in the Qur’an,
“Those who wage war against God and His Messenger and strive to spread corruption in the land should be punished by death, crucifixion, the amputation of an alternative hand and foot, or banishment from the land: a disgrace for them in this world, and then a terrible punishment in the Hereafter, unless they repent before you overpower them- in that case bear in mind that God is forgiving and merciful”(864).
This scripture plays on people’s fear of death and increases their concerns when describing the horrible events that will occur if sin is committed. Although the text does aggressively represent death, this scripture also provides an alternative to a painful eternity. It requires repentness and forgiveness and provides hope for a better after life. This encourages those afraid of dying to repent and seek God’s mercy, as they then believe that death will be less bad. Through God’s mercy they also believe they will have a good after life experience, and that takes part of the fear out of death. The belief that there is something better after death removes the feeling of complete nonexistence and the idea of an afterlife implies a sense of immorality.
In both pieces of literature, the characters fear of death is present, although hidden more so in The Epic of Gilgamesh, especially in the beginning. In one scenario, the author focuses on creating a legacy for one’s self, forming the illusion of immorality. On the other hand, the Qur’an gives warning as to the events that will occur in death to the life of an unrepented sinner. The Qur’an also gives hope and an alternative to those that repent to a forgiving God. Both pieces depict the idea of life after death and create the illusion that one never truly dies. Whether there be an afterlife that people live in, or having a legacy, both texts convey the illusion that a person or their memory can remain forever.
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