25. Dhul Qadah 1438  Jumu'ah
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ON DEATH [1]

Death is nothing more than the passage from one dimension of existence into another, that is from earthly life to the Intermediary Realm (alam barzah). Those who apprehend, prepare for it accordingly.  They will consciously watch it approaching calmly and serenely and with expectation of relief from suffering.  Missing are the loathing and terror associated with it.  The man of knowledge and understanding welcomes death with full awareness of events that follow ahead.  He comprehends the hadith that states, “The world is the prison for the believer and a Garden for the disbeliever. Non-believers may also think of death as a welcome from their current sufferings, but in their case it is like jumping down a mountain blindfolded and hoping for the best.

Those who long to meet with their Lord in the perfection of the life-to-come, experience the world’s distractions and pleasures as obstacles standing between them and their goal.  They struggle against their egos and feel their brothers’ sufferings as acutely as their own.  They are constantly resisting the downward pull of the world and are aggrieved and offended by prevailing deviant behaviors.  They comprehend the peace and delights of the Garden and the beatific vision of the Divine Countenance.  They desire is to be included among “those who love to meet Allah, (and who) Allah loves to meet them.” (hadith)

The weaker a man’s faith, the greater is his ignorance on the phenomena that take place after death.  The greater also will be his attachment to this world and his  reluctance to separate from it.  This is the reason why the Muslims are strongly encouraged to remember death frequently. The Messenger of Allah, صلى الله عليه وآله وسلم..  said “Do remember the defeature of pleasures often - (that is) death.” and when asked, “Who among believers are the most sagacious?’ he replied, Those who remember death most often and are the best in preparing for what follows: those are sagacious.” He encouraged regular visits to the cemetery for the same reason.

The remembrance of death detaches one from the world, thus reducing everything in its proper place and making the events that follow to be familiar and much less frightening.  This renders death itself much easier to handle.  Many Muslims nowadays live in ignorant bliss and thus horrified by the mere mention of death.  Their attitude is thus the exact opposite of what it ought to be and become much closer to the disbeliever’s stance, who, because he knows of no paradise apart form this life, is exceedingly reluctant to leave it and can never understand that someone in his right mind should be eager to do so. One of the discernible mercies that God bestows upon his servant is that many of those Muslims who live the lives of forgetfulness are made to suffer a long illness before their death.  Consequently they become detached from the world and gradually forced to meditate on the hereafter so that when the time comes, they are a Muslim ethos.

The West’s current predominant attitude that life must be prolonged at any cost has crept in even amongst the Muslim medical practitioners and weaken their concern to provide the Muslim with a dignified death.  To insist on saving someone’s life at all costs may mean in many instances having to keep him in intensive care with tubes coming out of every single orifice, distracted by the frantic activities of the staff and unable to speak or say the shahada.

It is much more important to allow a Muslim to die as he should, for dying should be attended by pious people who will remind him and repeating in his ear to say La ilaha illallah.  They should also recite Yasin and other portion of the Quran and continuously pray for him.  The dying should be helped to remain in a state of ritual purity and with wudu and they should be reminded of the immensity of God’s mercy and the expected intercession by the Messenger of Allah صلى الله عليه وآله وسلم.  In this way the dying person may die hoping for God’s mercy and expecting His forgiveness, for God says in the hadith qudsi, “I am as My servant thinks Me to be.”

As for the family of the deceased, they should be comforted and assisted through their mourning.  The expression of sorrow, pain and anger is allowed, providing it does not turn into histrionics.  They are allowed to weep and mourn to the full but never to slap their faces or rend their clothes.  They are reminded that “God is more Compassionate to them than a mother is to her infant” and that this is another trial in life and should they accept (redha), God will help them and put fortitude in their hearts and then forgive their sins and raise their degrees.

They are reminded that no loss could equal that of the Messenger of Allah,

صلى الله عليه وآله وسلم.. and that even he had to suffer the death of all his children and many of his loved ones.  All those who come to offer their condolences are expected to participate in this assuaging process, each in his own manner.  The neighbours and relatives are expected to take over the task of preparing food for the visitors, tend to the household need and remain alert for any kind of eventual help that may arise.

The family are encouraged to visit the tomb, give away charity on behalf of the deceased, pray for him, recite the Quran and if required perform Hajj and Umrah on his behalf.

Until recently people of both sexes were encouraged to remarry not very long after losing their spouses.  This resulted in the effective reorganisation of their lives materially and emotionally and providing the adequate support for the children’s need.

A REMINDER [2]

FROM AL HABIB IMAM ABDULLAH IBN ALAWI AL-HADDAD

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 s.a.w. sought 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 aforetime, 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 وسلم., said : ‘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 وسلم. said;

‘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 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 وسلم., sought 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)


[1] excerpt Dr. Mostafa Al Badawi’s book entitled ‘Man - The Universe’

[2] extract from the translation of the book The Lives of Man by Dr. Mostafa Al-Badawi