Everyone shall taste death. And only on the Day of Resurrection shall you be paid your wages in full. And whoever is removed away from the Fire and admitted to Paradise, he indeed is successful. The life of this world is only the enjoyment of deception (a deceiving thing). [2:185]
This week, Britain recorded its deadliest day of the coronavirus pandemic for second day in a row with 1,820 more victims as the UK’s overall toll almost reaches 100,00 deaths. Locally, there are janazahs every day and each of us probably has a family member or close friend seriously ill with Covid. We are literally surrounded by death all around us.
While we often forget, the fact remains that this life is temporary and death is the only thing that is certain for us all. In fact, the most certain thing in our life, is … our death. Life is not guaranteed at all but death is absolutely guaranteed upon all, yet we still prepare for life more than death.
We all have to face death at some point – an event of such enormity that it can make everything else in our lives seem insignificant: our departure from this world. No doubt, we live in a culture that denies death. We’re taught that death is something we should shy away from, and try to forget about.
Interestingly, people who had been diagnosed with cancer, or had recovered from a close brush with death such as those who had a heart attack or almost drowned, described a new ability to live in the present. They had developed a much more appreciative attitude, a sense of gratitude for aspects of their life they had taken for granted before. Worries and anxieties which had oppressed them before – others perceptions, not having the latest phone, not progressing at work, or about past events which had made them feel embarrassed — no longer seemed important.
When we face up to death actively and directly, there’s a chance that we’ll transcend anxiety and insecurity, and experience its transformational potential. An attitude of acceptance is important too. If we resist death, fight against its inevitability, refuse to let go of our lives, and feel bitterness about all the things that we’re going to lose and leave behind then we’re much less likely to experience the potentially positive effects.
Abu Huraira reported: The Messenger of Allah, peace and blessings be upon him, said, “Remember often the destroyer of pleasures,” by which he meant death. [Sunan al-Tirmidhī 2307]
Even modern psychologists recommend spending a few minutes of every day thinking about our own death, contemplating the fact that we’re only on this planet for a certain amount of time, that death could strike us at any moment. Steve Jobs said “Remembering that you are going to die is the best way I know to avoid the trap of thinking you have something to lose.”
Ali bannat on being ask about his biggest regret “My biggest regret is that it took a man in the suit to tell me that I’m going to die, But Allah (SWT) told me all my life and I did not believe him.”
I’d like to share a few reflections upon death and our preparedness for it.
What can save me from an evil death?
The Messenger of Allah, peace and blessings be upon him, said, “There are seven martyrs besides one who is killed in the way of Allah: the victim of plague is a martyr, the one who drowns is a martyr, the one who dies of chest pain is a martyr, the one who dies of stomach infection is a martyr, the one who burns to death is a martyr, the one who is crushed under something is a martyr, and the pregnant woman who dies giving labor is a martyr.”[Sunan Abī Dāwūd 3111]
For all those who suffered loss in their families or friends who are unable to grieve properly, benefit from the support of the community around them, even be close to their family, take comfort in knowing that they have returned to Allah, the Most Merciful, Who will most assuredly recompense the faithful for every moment of suffering in this life and, by His divine will, elevate them to the status of martyrs to enjoy the companionship of the prophets and the righteous.
The real question for those who remain behind is, will we too benefit from such a good ending? Don’t fear death, Fear the state in which you will die.
“Indeed charity extinguishes the Lord’s anger and protects against the evil death.” – (At-Tirmidhi, 664)
But never will Allah delay a soul when its time has come. And Allah is Aware of what you do. [Al Munafiqoon 63:10-11] Although we may be familiar with this message, the previous ayah reminds us of the desperate request each of us will make:
And spend [in the way of Allah] from what We have provided you before death approaches one of you and he says, “My Lord, if only You would delay me for a brief term so I would give charity and be of the righteous.”
So truly pay it forward by spending in good causes now so we are not consumed with regret then.
Death is not the end of our life
Death is not the end of our life. It’s just the next stop in our journey and there are more stops coming.
The first stop was when Allah(SWT) created us
The second stop was inside the stomach of our mother
The third stop we came out fourth stop under the ground
Then fifth stop we come out on judgment day
The sixth stop is where it matters – where you end up, Jannah in Allah’s Pleasure or the terror of Jahannum.
Life is a journey from Allah to Allah. The Adhaan (call to prayer) you hear at your birth is for the Salaah performed at your death. That’s how short life is. When you were born, the Adhan was called in your ear but with no prayer. When you die, they will perform a prayer but with no Adhan.
It is narrated that when Abu Bakr al-Siddīq (RA) fell severely sick in Madinah and felt his death was near, he stated “Every morning, we wake up surrounded by our family; even though death is closer to us than our shoe-straps.”
Meaning: we are deluded by the vibrancy of life, and surrounded by distractions, yet connected to us just like our shoe-straps, if only we looked down and notice, is death.
No one of us knows where we will die
A saying attributed to Ali(RA) states “How strange and foolish is man. He loses his health in gaining wealth. Then, to regain his health he wastes his wealth. He ruins his present while worrying about his future, but weeps in the future by recalling his past. He lives as though death shall never come to him, but dies in a way as if he were never born”
No one knows what he will earn tomorrow, and no one knows in which land he will die. Surely, Allah is All Knowing, All Aware. [Surah Luqman 31:34]
According to a narration of A’mash, it is related that a young, pious man from the Children of Israel used to sit with Prophet Sulaiman (AS) and attend his gatherings. During one of these sessions, the Angel of Death entered the gathering, although in a disguised form. He looked very carefully at this young man.
On noticing him, the young man’s face turned yellow and he trembled with fear. Later, he approached Sulayman (AS) and said “O Prophet of Allah, I am afraid of this man, so order the wind to take me to the people of India.” Sulayman (AS) did what the man had asked.
When Sulayman(AS) next met the Angel of Death, he asked him why he had looked at that man like that. Angel of Death replied, “I was ordered to take the soul of that man in the east of India soon. I was surprised to see him here. That is why I looked at him like that.” Thus, what Allaah had predestined took place. The man wanted to escape death but ran towards it. [mentioned by Ibn Abu Shaybah in Al-Musannaf and by Abu Nu’aym in Al-Hilyah.]
Death is not the biggest disaster in life. The biggest disaster in life is when our fear of Allah dies when we are still alive. Every person goes to Allah after death but a wise person goes to Allah before his death.
A Real Man is the one who fears the death of his heart, not his body. [Ibn Al-Qayyim]
A meaningful relationship with death
The Prophet (SAW) said “Let none of you wish for death. If he is righteous then he might increase his good deeds, and if he is sinful then he might repent.” (Sahih Bukhari 6808)
Verily, Allah accepts the repentance of his servants, as long as they are not on their death bed.” [al-Tirmidhī 3537]
There was a man from among a nation before you who killed ninety-nine people and then made an inquiry about the most learned person on the earth. He was directed to a monk. He came to him and told him that he had killed ninety-nine people and asked him if therewas any chance for his repentance to be accepted. He replied in the negative and the man killed him also completing one hundred. He then asked about the most learned man in the earth. He was directed to a scholar. He told him that he had killed one hundred people and asked him if there was any chance for his repentance to be accepted. He replied in the affirmative and asked, `Who stands between you and repentance? Go to such and such land; there (you will find) people devoted to prayer and worship of Allah, join them in worship, and do not come back to your land because it is an evil place.’ So he went away and hardly had he covered half the distance when death overtook him; and there was a dispute between the angels of mercy and the angels of torment. The angels of mercy pleaded, ‘This man has come with a repenting heart to Allah,’ and the angels of punishment argued, ‘He never did a virtuous deed in his life.’ Then there appeared another angel in the form of a human being and the contending angels agreed to make him arbiter between them. He said, `Measure the distance between the two lands. He will be considered belonging to the land to which he is nearer.’ They measured and found him closer to the land (land of piety) where he intended to go, and so the angels of mercy collected his soul”. [Ṣaḥīḥ al-Bukhārī 3283]
There are many beautiful lessons to be learned from it. Clearly, among these lessons is the generosity of Allah’s forgiveness to His repenting servants, as well as the value of seeking and keeping righteous company. Also among the lessons, the scholars mention the virtue of knowledge over worship without knowledge. The great scholar Ibn `Allan in his commentary on Riyad al-Salihin says that the man departed in a state of repentance. The directive to go to the other city was in order to strengthen his tawba (repentance from sin) and his turning to Allah.
2. Make use of your time and wealth so you don’t regret on reaching your eternal abode
Ibn ‘Umar used to say, “If you survive till the evening, do not expect to be alive in the morning, and if you survive till the morning, do not expect to be alive in the evening, and take from your health for your sickness, and (take) from your life for your death.” [Al-Bukhari #6416]
Hasan al Basri (rh) would say “Do not sit idle, for indeed death is seeking you.” Rather than worrying about what you can’t do in isolation and lockdown, use your time productively. The world (dunya) is not the resting place, it is the testing place
Don’t spend your days and evenings mindlessly bingeing on Netflix or scrolling a social media feed and reading the gossip because “the worst of our faults is our interest in other people’s faults.” according to Ali Ibn abi Talib (RA)
We all die. The goal isn’t to live forever, the goal is to create something that will. “When a man dies, his good deeds come to an end, except three: Ongoing charity, beneficial knowledge, and a righteous son who will pray for him.” – (Sahih Muslim, 3084)
3. Take care of your relationships with one another
My best friends uncle and the whole household had been struggling with Covid for a while. He lived with his parents (my friends grandparents) and they had a strained relationship. Sadly, he passed away this Tuesday and the family arranged his burial in East London. At his burial, the Shaykh said it’s a great test for a parent to see their own child pass before them but perhaps this was a means of them being tested and accepted in seeing their son go. And perhaps it was a means of forgiveness so that his account did not have his argumentation being held against him.
On return from the burial, his Grandfather who was bedridden, was grief-stricken and family members said he stopped breathing on that same evening. Sadly, by the time the ambulance had arrived he too was pronounced dead. Earlier that day, as the family prepared for his sons burial, he said to the others – make 3 graves, my time is close too.
The key lesson here is not to die in a state where anyone is upset with you, especially your own parents and family.
May Allah protect all of us from this plague and calamity, and enable us to prepare a life such that death is in a state when our Lord is pleased with us.