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What is death – an Islamic perspective on death

بِسۡمِ ٱللهِ ٱلرَّحۡمَـٰنِ ٱلرَّحِيمِ

تَبَـٰرَكَ ٱلَّذِى بِيَدِهِ ٱلۡمُلۡكُ وَهُوَ عَلَىٰ كُلِّ شَىۡءٍ۬ قَدِيرٌ (١) ٱلَّذِى خَلَقَ ٱلۡمَوۡتَ وَٱلۡحَيَوٰةَ لِيَبۡلُوَكُمۡ أَيُّكُمۡ أَحۡسَنُ عَمَلاً۬‌ۚ وَهُوَ ٱلۡعَزِيزُ ٱلۡغَفُورُ (٢)

With the name of Allah, the All-Merciful, the Very-Merciful.

[67:1] Glorious is the One in whose hand is the Kingdom (of the whole universe), and He is powerful over every thing,[67:2] the One who created death and life, so that He may test you as to which of you is better in his deeds. And He is the All-Mighty, the Most-Forgiving,

The definition of Death

قال العلماء: الموت ليس بعدم محض، ولا فناء صرف،وإنما هو انقطاع تعلق الروح بالبدن، ومفارقة وحيلولة بينهما، وتبدل حال، وانتقال من دار إلى دار.

The scholars say ; death does not mean the end of existence or to disappear. It is merely the disconnection of the soul from the body and a cause of separation between them. It is change of status and transfer from one abode to another. [شرى الكئيب بلقاء الحبيب – Imam Suyuti]

Death Escapes No one

أَيۡنَمَا تَكُونُواْ يُدۡرِككُّمُ ٱلۡمَوۡتُ وَلَوۡ كُنتُمۡ فِى بُرُوجٍ۬ مُّشَيَّدَةٍ۬‌ۗ
Where ever you may be, death will find you, even if you were (hiding) in lofty towers [Qur’an 4:78]

Death is a bridge which makes one beloved reach another beloved. (Saying of a pious predecessor) [رى الكئيب بلقاء الحبيب – Imam Suyuti]

Life and death is a creation of Allah thus it is ultimately controlled by the Almighty himself. He can give and take life as he pleases. He created us and has the right to take us from this temporary abode to the everlasting abode whenever He wills. He is the most wise and the most kind so he will surely have a plan that is better for us.


اِنّا لِلّه و اِنّا اِليه رَاجِعُوْنْ

We Belong to Allah and to Him do we Return.

Muslims often say this statement at the time of grief or calamity according to the teachings of the Quran. This works as a reminder to us and helps ease the immediate pain of losing someone.

Let us ponder over this statement – it has two important messages to help us deal with any calamity.

  1. The first is that we belong to Allah. The owner of anything has the right to take back his ownership whenever he wants. He (Almighty) sent us in this world without us asking, and he will do the same when it’s time for us to leave. Although we create connections in our life and assume different roles and responsibilities, the underlining reality is that we are first and foremost, the SLAVES of Allah. All our other relationships we develop in our lives are temporary and will END one day. We belong to our Creator and he has the right to call us back to him whenever and however he wants. Losing a loved one during these times, it is essential that we remain in good faith. Remind ourselves that this person didn’t really ever belong to us in the first place.
  2. The second part “To him will we return” is a reminder to us that we will ALL one day be joining our loved ones, when we return to our Creator. This separation from our loved ones is temporary, just as life in this world is. This world was never meant to be our home. It is merely a waiting station for the eternal abode. It is like a traveller who takes shade under a tree or a stops at a service station, none of which are understood to be forever.

Live like a Traveller

عَنْ عَبْدِ اللَّهِ بْنِ عُمَرَ ـ رضى الله عنهما ـ قَالَ أَخَذَ رَسُولُ اللَّهِ صلى الله عليه وسلم بِمَنْكِبِي فَقَالَ ‏ “‏ كُنْ فِي الدُّنْيَا كَأَنَّكَ غَرِيبٌ، أَوْ عَابِرُ سَبِيلٍ ‏”‏‏.‏ وَكَانَ ابْنُ عُمَرَ يَقُولُ إِذَا أَمْسَيْتَ فَلاَ تَنْتَظِرِ الصَّبَاحَ، وَإِذَا أَصْبَحْتَ فَلاَ تَنْتَظِرِ الْمَسَاءَ، وَخُذْ مِنْ صِحَّتِكَ لِمَرَضِكَ، وَمِنْ حَيَاتِكَ لِمَوْتِكَ

Narrated Mujahid:

`Abdullah bin `Umar said, “Allah’s Messenger (ﷺ) took hold of my shoulder and said, ‘Be in this world as if you were a stranger or a traveller.” The sub-narrator added: 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.” [Bukhari]

Remember Death Often

Since death is unavoidable, it is the most guaranteed thing to happen in our life. When we die is also the most unknown thing. It is for this reason one must never be distorted or diverted from this reality. Remembering the time we will meet our Creator will help us prepare better. We should as a family and also individually remind ourselves of this reality.

عَنْ أَبِي هُرَيْرَةَ، قَالَ قَالَ رَسُولُ اللَّهِ صلى الله عليه وسلم ‏ “‏ أَكْثِرُوا ذِكْرَ هَاذِمِ اللَّذَّاتِ ‏”‏ ‏.‏ يَعْنِي الْمَوْتَ

Abu Hurairah narrated that the Messenger of Allah (s.a.w) said: “Increase in remembrance of the severer of pleasures.” Meaning death. [Jami` at-Tirmidhi]

By remembering death but not fearing it, we can save ourselves from over-indulging in the world. The resources we possess of this World will mean less to us as we will know it is temporary. This disinclination to the world will create generosity and a sharing attitude.

Death is NO PROBLEM for a believer

قال النبي صلى الله عليه وسلم: ” اثنتان يكرههما ابن آدم: يكره الموت والموت خير للمؤمن من الفتنة

ويكره قلة المال وقلة المال أقل للحساب

The Messenger of Allah once said “The children of Adam dislikes two things.
1. Death, when death is better for them from the trials of this World
2. Less wealth, when less wealth is lighter in the accounts (of the hereafter) [Musnad Ahmed]

تُحْفَةُ الْمُؤْمِنِ: الْمَوْتُ

Narrated by Abdullah bin Umar: The Messenger of Allah said ‘death is a gift for a believer’ [Hakim, sahih]

A gift is something we all like. Why has the Messenger compared Death to be a gift? A gift is something that is anticipated, cherished and is seen as a pleasant surprise.

وعنه قال‏:‏ قال رسول الله صلى الله عليه وسلم ‏ “‏الدنيا سجن المؤمن وجنة الكافر‏”‏

Abu Hurairah (May allah be pleased with him) reported: Messenger of Allah (ﷺ) said: “The world is the believer’s prison and the non believers Jannah”. [Muslim]

This narration compares this world to a prison for a Muslim. We have restrictions and rules to follow in this world. If one has faith then he is bound to the responsibilities of Faith. When the believer leaves this world they enter true freedom. The freedom of no fear or no grief. A life of complete bliss.

How the Sahabah (May Allah be pleased with them All) viewed death

The companions of the Messenger ﷺ had the best understanding of the Religion. They had learnt it directly from the Messenger ﷺ. It is extremely inspiring to see how they viewed life and specifically death. They viewed this world as a barrier to the Real life. However they remained happy to have life as long as it was decreed for them. Some of the following statements from the Sahabah (companions) of the Messengerﷺ are quite eye opening.

وعن ابن مسعود قال: ليس للمؤمن راحة دون لقاء الله

Ibn Masud (May Allah be pleased with him) said: There is no peace for a Believer without meeting Allah [بشرى الكئيب بلقاء الحبيب – Imam Suyuti]

وعن أنس أن النبي صلى الله عليه وسلم قال له: إِن حفظت وصيتي فلا يكون شيء أحب إليك من الموت

Anas (May Allah be pleased with him) narrates the Messenger of Allah ﷺ once said to him:

If you have heeded my strongest advice to you, then nothing should be more beloved to you then death. [Al Targheeb – Imam Isbahani]

A true Believer will never see death negatively. He will be happy with the Decision of their creator. He will know that those who have died have merely transferred to the eternal and real abode.

عَنْ كَثِيرِ بْنِ مُرَّةَ، أَنَّ عُبَادَةَ بْنَ الصَّامِتِ، حَدَّثَهُمْ أَنَّ رَسُولَ اللَّهِ صلى الله عليه وسلم قَالَ ‏ “‏ مَا عَلَى الأَرْضِ مِنْ نَفْسٍ تَمُوتُ وَلَهَا عِنْدَ اللَّهِ خَيْرٌ تُحِبُّ أَنْ تَرْجِعَ إِلَيْكُمْ وَلَهَا الدُّنْيَا إِلاَّ الْقَتِيلُ فَإِنَّهُ يُحِبُّ أَنْ يَرْجِعَ فَيُقْتَلَ مَرَّةً أُخْرَى ‏”‏

It was narrated from Kathir bin Murrah that the Messenger of Allah (ﷺ) said:

“There is no soul on Earth that dies, and is in a good position before Allah, that would like to come back to you, even if it had all this world, except the one who is killed (in the cause of Allah); he wishes that he could come back and be killed again.” [Sunan an-Nasa’i]

A message for the Griever

Dear Griever! Know that your loved one has gone to their Creator who will take better care of them, than we ever possibly could. Know that our beloved Rabb will find excuses to forgive them, as his Mercy precedes his Wrath. Know they have gone to a better place. This world is no place for eternity, it is a transit from one life to the next. Know they have gone from a place of test which has many deceptive trials to a place of rest and peace. They are free now.


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