25. Dhul Qadah 1438  Jumu'ah
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extract from the translation of the book The Lives of Man by Dr. Mostafa Al-Badawi
Know that a long life in God’s obedience is greatly to be desired.
 ‘The best among you are those whose lives are long and whose works are good’ (hadith) and: ‘Let none of you wish for death, (for you are) either doing well and thus may increase, or doing evil and thus enjoying the chance to make amends.’ 
However, as we mentioned before, the Messenger of Allah صلى الله عليه وآله وسلمsought God’s protection against the ‘worst age’, namely, senility and mental disturbance.
Despite this, what is good in a lifetime is its baraka and being granted success to do good works, both public and personal. God may put baraka into some of his chosen servants’ short lives, which then become of more and wider benefit than the long lives of others. Such were Imam Al-Shafie, God’s mercy be upon him, for he died at the age of fifty-four. Imam Al-Ghazali, hujjatul Al Islam, died at fifty-five, the noble Qutb Imam Abdullah ibn Abi Bakr Al-Aydarus Ba Alawi died at fifty-four, Imam Al Nawawi died before reaching fifty, while the righteous Khalifa, Imam Umar ibn Abdul Aziz died before reaching forty. And there have been many other leaders from whom, despite their short lives, benefit and baraka spread widely through the world. “That is Allah’s grace and He bestows it upon whom He wills.”
The ummah of Muhammad has enormous baraka. It has a place in God’s regards, enjoyed by no other nation, albeit its people have shorter lifetimes as a whole, than the earlier nations.
This last period, namely decrepitude, ends most commonly with a fatal illness, and – uncommonly – with death without illness. Infrequent as the latter is, it still does occur, and Al Imam hujjatul Al Islam, when writing on long hopes and forgetting the imminence of one’s appointed end said;
‘If you say: “death occurs mostly after illness and is rarely sudden” then you should know that death can indeed descend suddenly and even if this does not happen, illness can also come suddenly and when you are ill you become incapable of doing the good works which are one’s travelling-provisions for the Hereafter.’
Know that cutting hopes short and remembering of death often are desirable and recommended, while long hopes and being oblivious of death are repugnant. 
God the Exalted has forewarned:

O you believe! Let not your wealth or you children distract you from the remembrance of Allah. Those who do so: they are the losers. And spend of that with which We have provided you, before death comes to one of you and he says: ‘My Lord! only You would reprieve me for a little while, then I would give sadekah and be among the righteous
But Allah reprieve no soul when its appointed time (death) has come and Allah is aware of what you do                                                        (63:9 – 11)
Has the time not come for the hearts of believers to engage in the remembrance of Allah and of the Truth which has been revealed? That they should not become like those who receive the Book a foretime, then the term was prolonged for them and their hearts were hardened: and many of them are rebellious transgressors.                                                                    (57:16)
The Messenger of Allah  صلى الله عليه وآله وسلمsaid : ‘Remember often the Ender of Pleasures.’
He was also asked:
‘Shall anyone be resurrected among the martyrs who is not one of them?’ and he replied: ‘Yes, those who remember death twenty times each day and night.’
When he was asked who the intelligent were he replied: ‘Those who remember death most often and best prepared for it. They are the intelligent ones, who have gained the honour of this world and a noble rank in the Hereafter.’ And he said : ‘Death is the most imminent of all hidden things lying in wait.’ Now, if death is the nearest of the hidden things lying in wait, then one must prepare for it through being decisive and taking the greatest precautions in every condition in which it may come. And this could be any time and under any circumstance.
Al Imam hujjatul Al Islam, may Allah show him mercy, writes in his Beginning of Guidance:
‘Know that death does not pounce at any specific time or situation, but that it is nonetheless certain to come. Preparing for it therefore takes precedence over preparing for the world.’ 
And he writes elsewhere in the same book: ‘Do not abandon reflection on the imminence of you appointed time and the descent of death, which cuts off all hopes, when there will no longer be the possibility of making choices, when regrets and remorse will come as a consequence of having remained beguiled by illusion.
Among the righteous predecessors there were people who if they had been told: ‘You are to die tomorrow’, would not have found scope to increase their good works, as they were constantly addressing themselves to the Hereafter and occupying themselves with acts of goodness. One of them told a man who had asked him for advice: ‘See which things which it would please you for death to find you doing them, and keep doing them now! And see which things which, were death to find you doing them, you should be displeased, and abandon them now!’
In a hadith you will find: ‘Be in the world as though a stranger or a wayfarer, and consider yourself one of the inhabitants of the graves,’ and also: ‘What have I to do with the world? The likeness of myself and the world is that of a rider travelling on a summer day, who found a tree, rested underneath it a while, then went on, leaving it behind.’
Remembering death often and the feeling of its imminence bring considerable benefits, some of which are: losing desire for the things of this world, being content with little of it, persevering acts of goodness (for the Hereafter), avoiding sins and transgressions and also being quick at repentance should one commit them. Whereas forgetfulness of death and the harbouring of long hopes would invariably create strong desire for the world, the greed in amassing its debris and the enjoyment of its pleasures, the deception of its decoration, the postponement in the act of repentance of one’s sins and also the inbreed of laziness to pursue goodness.
Our righteous predecessors, may God show them His mercy, used to say; ‘As hopes lengthen, behaviour worsens.’ And the Messenger of Allah صلى الله عليه وآله وسلمsaid;
‘The early members of this nation will be saved through renunciation (zuhd) and certitude and the latecomers among them will perish because of greed and long hopes.’ 
And Saidina Ali, may Allah ennoble his face, said:
‘That which I fear most for you is following your passions and harbouring long hopes, for following passions obstructs one from the Truth, while long hopes render you forgetful of the Hereafter.’ 
There can be no good in hopes which cause us to forget the Hereafter and it is this kind that the Messenger of Allah صلى الله عليه وآله وسلمsought protection from, saying:
‘I seek Your protection from every hope that distracts me.’ And one of his prayers was: ‘I seek Your protection from a worldly existence that prevents the good of the Hereafter, from a life that prevents a good death, and from a hope that prevents good acts.'
When the heart fills with the sensation that one will remain long in this world, then most of its attention will be devoted to making one’s worldly affairs prosper, thereby making it heedless for the Hereafter, and gathering of worldly provisions, until death comes by surprise and one meets God in the state of bankrupt of good works. One is then encompassed with feeling of immense grief and futile remorse and say:
Would that I had sent before me (the good deeds) for my life! (now)’: (89:24) and also say
‘Lord! Send me back, that I may do right in that which I have left!’    …(23:99– 100)