As I was scanning through my emails recently, I came across a mail about death. After perusing it, I feel a very strong urge to share some of the content with my Brothers and Sisters in humanity out there. Though the message is originally intended for the Believers in life after death, I think it should rather be for everyone since death is inevitable!
Death terminates the sojourn of every creature on earth and puts an end to all hopes and aspirations. It kills young and old without considerations for plans and procedures. It wreaks havoc with impunity and appears answerable to no one. Yet, no human knowledge, tactics or wisdom has been able to put a stop to its destructive vocation which it carries out with little or no cognisant to human feelings.
Death often ignores the wicked and impious and kills the good and the pious. It sometimes spares the sick and terminates the life of the hale and hearty. More often than not, it engineers the demise of just leaders and endures the unjust even when those being led rain curses on them.
It gives no concern to the survival of the widows and the orphans when it murders the bread winners; neither does it mull over the survival of the siblings when it murders a pregnant woman at birth.
‘’The people around a dying person don’t have the ability to prevent it. Death happens every moment and does not discriminate between the young and the old, the rich and the poor, as well as the strong and the weak. Everyone is equal before death, no one has any means to escape it, and neither can anyone use intercession to either avoid or delay it.’’
It is therefore not surprising that its mention alone conjures some kind of awe, palpable fear and unassuming trepidation. Hence, the Prophet’s advice: “Remember very frequently what turns joy to sorrow- death.”
Death should ordinarily not be scary to anybody since it is certain to occur. It is the only reality, the single phenomenon that will go round all men and be enough for the entire humanity; but its sudden emergence and the consequences it leaves on its trail are overwhelming enough to frighten anyone. Yet many are negligent and do not prepare for its meeting, either for good or otherwise.
Human beings fall into three categories in this regard.
Some are completely oblivious; they pre-occupy themselves with amassing wealth and gathering the goodies of this world. They think neither of death nor imagine what may happen after it. They belie the divinely ordained prophets and deny life after death. If they remember death at all, they simply lament and chide their souls for not achieving the set goals within the targeted period.
Most of our rulers, who embezzle our resources as if there will be no tomorrow, fall into this category.
The second group are those who remember death, believe in its reality and prepare for its meeting but are sometimes forgetful. Hence, they intermittently commit sins and continually go back to seeking forgiveness from God while striving to right their wrongs.
The third group are those who remember death always. They regularly look forward to it as the pathway to heaven and consider it as a means to meeting their beloved- their Creator, Allah, the Most High. At the sight of death, they hate to return to this world just as a man hates to return to his mother’s womb.
But why is it that many who claim to love Paradise still dread the coming of the death, the only means to gaining its entrance, and those who deny the reality of Hell frantically strive to avoid death?
According to Prophet Muhammad, constant remembrance of death is a hallmark of a Believer. To always be conscious of death, he advised believers to visit graves regularly and realise that one day, they shall join the dead. That is why they do not only care for the terrestrial shelter, they make room for their last repose before the last day- the grave.
But how often do we remember death? Death is a harsh and fearful reality that escapes no living organism except God. None can avoid it.
Allah the Most High says in the Qur’an:“Say: Indeed, the death from which you flee will surely meet you, then you will be sent back to Allah, the All-Knower of the unseen and the seen. And He will then tell you what you used to do.” (Qur’an, 62:8).
“Everyone is going to taste death, and We shall make a trial of you with evil and with good. And to Us will you be returned.” (Qur’an, 21:35)
Our hearts tremble with fear on the thought of this indispensable reality.
A person’s actions are sealed with death and what comes after it is more fearful. Will there be a place to where one can flee to escape the afflictions in the grave? What will our reply be when we are questioned in the grave? Will you end up in Paradise whose width is like the heavens and the earth or will it be the Fire whose fuel is of men and stones?
A scholar, Ibrahim Bin Adham was asked about the Qur’an 40:60 which states: “Call upon Me and I will respond to you.” The questioner queried: “Why then do we call upon Him, and He does not respond?”
So Bin Adham replied:
“You know Allah; yet you do not obey Him. You recite the Qur’an; yet you do not act according to it. You know Shaytan (as an avowed enemy); yet you keep agreeing with his whispers. You claim to love Allah’s Messenger; yet you abandon his Sunnah. You claim to love Paradise, yet you do not work for it. You claim to fear the Fire; yet you do not stop sinning.
‘’You say ‘indeed death is true’; yet you refused to prepare for it. You busy yourselves with the faults of others; yet you do not look at your own faults. You eat the sustenance that Allah provides for you; yet you remain ungrateful to Him. And you bury your dead; yet you do not heed its lesson.”
This reality must be firmly established in our heart – the reality that life in this world is limited and has an appointed end, and that the end will surely come.
Sheikh Ali Hasan mentioned some good reflections in his book: Al-Mawt (The Death):
“The righteous will die; and the wicked will die. The warriors who fight jihad will die; and those who sit at home will die. Those who busy themselves with correct beliefs will die; and those who treat people as their slaves will die. The brave who rejects injustice will die; and the cowards who seek to cling to this vile life will die. The people of lofty goals and ambitions will die; and the wretched who live for cheap enjoyment will die.’’
Allah, the Lord of the worlds and the Originator of heavens and earth made three factual statements, two of which remained incontrovertible till today.
‘’From the earth did We create you, into it shall We return you and from it shall We brought out once again.’’ Qur’an 20:25
It is an indisputable fact that everything that nurtures man from conception to birth and to his death; including the feeding, clothing and housing are sourced from the mother earth. It is also a reality that no man’s greatness ever surpassed his returning to the mother earth after his sojourn on earth.
Hence Allah, the Lord of incomparable Majesty stated in Suratul Qiyamah: ‘’Has not He that brought (created) man out of non-existence possesses the same capacity to raise him from death?’’
If Allah made three statements of facts; and two of them have remained incontrovertible, with no man unable to disprove there veracity from the beginning of creation to this very moment, it is only intelligible and commonsensical, that by the simple rule of logic, the final statement can only but be true.
If the only permanent thing in life is change; and if the only phenomenon that everyone shall experience in this world is death, the barking, the crowing and the croaking of the death shouldn’t therefore scare anybody; after all, it is certain that no one shall escape it.
The only escape route therefore is to prepare well for its meeting!
‘’…So keep death in mind, and the passing on to the next life, the number of sins that you have committed and the small amount of good that you have done. Think of the good that you would earnestly like to do at a particular time – then bring it forward and do it today. And think of all those things which you would desire to clear yourself of – then clear yourself from them right now!”
Consequently, the holy Prophet of Islam advised: Be in this world like Stranger or a Traveller. If you witnessed morning, never expect to survive the evening and if you survived the evening, never expect to witness morning….
Be prepared! That is the rule of the game.