Death - A Gift for a Believer
Multitudes of men have walked on the surface of this Earth. They all belonged to different nations and cultures. A few of them made history for which they were remembered, whereas others, were never to be mentioned again. Although each one was personally different from another - their habits, thinking and tastes differed - they all had two things in common, first, they were all delivered from their mothers womb and second, they all tasted death. Who claims he has lived a thousand years?
We all admit the honourable rank of the Holy Prophet sallallahu alaihe wasallam and his position in the eyes of Allah Ta’ala. It is also undisputed that he is the last Messenger of Allah whose message will survive until the Day of Judgement. We also place his companions’ radiyallahu anhum superior to others.
The day the Prophet sallallahu alaihe wasallam passed away it was hard for his companions to believe such a thing could happen to such a highly ranked Prophet who remained active until his last breath. Umar radiyallahu anhu ascended the pulpit and addressed that anyone who says that the Prophet sallallahu alaihe wasallam has passed away I will slit his throat. It was not a strange thing to address; for the Prophet sallallahu alaihe wasallam held an honourable rank before him. He was a Prophet whose miracles were numerous. Of which one is the living miracle, the Holy Qur’aan. How can the Messenger of Allah sallallahu alaihe wasallam leave his friends behind. Suddenly Abu Bakr radiyallahu anhu, the first nominated khalifah, ordered Umar radiyallahu anhu to descend the pulpit but Umar radiyallahu anhu remained on it, fully convinced that he was right in what he was saying. Abu Bakr radiyallahu anhu read the khutbah and recited the following aayat:
"Muhammad is no more than a Messenger, and indeed (many) Messengers have passed away before him. If he dies or is killed, will you then turn back on your heels (as disbelievers)? And he who turns his back on his heels, not the least harm will he do to Allah, and Allah Ta’ala will give reward to those who are grateful." (144:3)
On hearing this, Umar radiyallahu anhu and other companions were astonished that they had recited this verse many a time but on this occasion it did not come in their mind. They felt as is the aayat was being revealed to Abu Bakr radiyallahu anhu and all agreed that Muhammad sallallahu alaihe wasallam had passed away.
Such a great personality experienced death, should we be unmindful of it as if we will never experience it?
Allah states, "Every soul shall have a taste of death. And only on the Day of Judgement shall you be paid your full recompense." (3:185)
What is Death?
Sheikh Jalaluddin Suyuti rahmatullahi alaihe has recorded the verdict of the Ulama that death is not mere annihilation but a type of metamorphosis where the soul (rooh) is separated from the body like the movement from one dwelling to another. (Sharhus-sudoor). A believer’s death has been explained analogously by some Ulama as the transference from a world of hardship to that of peace and luxury. (May Allah grant us such death! Aameen).
How did Death come about?
In Kitaab-ul-Zuhd, Imaam Ahmad has included the narration’s of Hazrat Hasan Basri rahmatullahi alaihe that, when Allah created Hazrat Aadam alaihis salaam and his progeny the angels expressed much concern about the world being insufficient to accommodate all of them but Allah assured them by declaring, "I shall create death!"
(Ibn Abi Shaybah)
Hearing this, the angels became disturbed and when they remarked that it would instil fear and remove the pleasure of life, Allah explains, "I shall create hope and ambitions."
According to Hazrat Mujahid rahmatullahi alaihe, when Hazrat Adam alaihis salaam was sent to Earth, his Sustainer said, "O Adam! Construct buildings destined for destruction and ruination; and beget for death." (Abu Nu’aim)
O dweller of lofty mansions, very soon you will be buried in the sand (a lowly station).
Allah has an angel calling daily: Beget for death and create buildings for destruction.
Remembrance of Death
We are so engrossed in our worldly pursuits that the remembrance of death does not occur to us. The Holy Prophet of Allah sallallahu alaihe wasallam has said, "The most intelligent person is the one who often remembers death. Constant remembrance of it prevents one from evil and sin and motivates him towards good morals. The Holy Prophet sallallahu alaihe wasallam said, "The remembrance of death defeats joy."
The above narration clearly indicates that we are in this world for a purpose and not just for pleasure and entertainment. The Holy Prophet sallallahu alaihe wasallam says, "Live in the world as though you are a wayfarer." Concerning this Hazrat Esa alaihis salaam has said, "This world is like a bridge, cross it and do not build on it."
Life in this world is very short which everyone has to surpass, until he meets his death. Allah says, "For every ‘Ummah’ (community or nation) there is a term appointed, when their term is reached, not an hour (nor a moment) can they cause to delay, nor (an hour nor a moment) can they advance (it)." (10:49 Tafseer Al-Qurtubi)
How much do we remember Death?
Nowadays, when a person dies, the family and close relatives grieve over the deceased. After some time all is forgotten and much attention is given to the inheritance, so much so they begin to have disputes over it. The wealth of the deceased is valued more than the lessons to be taken from his death. If we remembered it frequently, we would certainly prepare for it.
Prepare for Death!
Intelligent students always prepare for exams. It is also a matter of intelligence to prepare for the account to be given after death. The Holy Prophet sallallahu alaihe wasallam has mentioned in a Hadith, "Clever is the one who prepares for life after death." The Holy Prophet sallallahu alaihe wasallam has also said, "Take importance of life before death." (Riyaadh-us-Salhiheen)
Once, the Holy Prophet sallallahu alaihe wasallam came to the Masjid for salaah, when he noticed some people laughing and giggling. He remarked, "If you remembered death, I would not see you like this. Think of your death often. Not a single day passes when the grave does not call out: ‘I am a wilderness, I am a place of dust, I am a place of worms.’ When a believer is placed in the grave, it says; ‘Welcome, it is good of you to have come to me. Of all the people walking on the Earth, I liked you the best. Now you have come in to me, you will see how I entertain you.’ It then expands as far as the occupant can see. A door from Paradise is opened for him in the grave and through this door he gets fresh and fragrant air of Paradise. However, when a evil man is laid in the grave it says; ‘You are not welcome here. Your coming into me is very bad for you. Of all the people walking on the Earth, I disliked you the most. Now that you have been put into me, you will see how I treat you!’ It then closes upon him so much that his ribs of one side penetrate into the ribs of the other. As many as seventy serpents are then set upon him, to keep biting him until the day of resurrection. These serpents are so venomous that if one of them happened to spurt its venom upon the earth, not a single blade of grass would ever grow."
Prepare for Death and Die a Muslim!
It is stated in a Hadith that a person will be raised in the state he dies.
Hazrat Yusuf alaihis salaam who had been given the Leadership of Egypt, prayed to Allah that He gives him death in the state of a Muslim and be raised amongst the righteous. Although being a Prophet of Allah, yet Hazrat Yusuf alaihis salaam feared that Allah would raise him amongst the leaders, as he was the Leader of Egypt. What extreme humbleness Yusuf alaihis salaam expressed!
How lucky are those souls who after finding out about the signs of their death, turn towards Allah, ask His repentance for any previous sins and prepare for it by doing good deeds. Such people are the ones who are truly gifted with the kalimah or a good outcome before departing from this world. This tends to be the sign of their being fortunate and people witness a sign of their salvation from the punishment of the Hereafter.
No Escape from Death!
There is no doubt that there is a cure for every disease. If anyone is infected with a disease then it may be cured through medicine. His life may prolong to some extent but one day the same person will experience something with no cure at all. That is death. Allah states, "Wherever you may be, death will overtake you even if you are in fortresses built up strong and high."
The Holy Prophet sallallahu alaihe wasallam said, "When Allah decides for a person to pass away at a certain place, he makes a need for that person at that place." (Tirmidhi)
It is in another tradition narrated on the authority of Kuthaima radiyallahu anhu that once the angel of death (Hazrat Izraeel alaihis salaam) appeared in the form of a human being in the court of Hazrat Sulaiman alaihis salaam and gazed continuously at a person present there for some time. That person asked Hazrat Sulaiman alaihis salaam, "Who was that person?" He told him that, that was the angel of death. He remarked: The angel of death had gazed at me in such a manner as if he had determined to take my life." Hazrat Sulaiman alaihis salaam asked him, "What do you want?" He requested him to take him to India. He commanded the cloud to pick him up and drop him in India. Consequently the cloud carried him to India. The angel of death came to Hazrat Sulaiman alaihis salaam. He asked him, "Why did you fix your gaze at that person?" He said, "I wondered that the Almighty Allah had commanded me to take the life of this person in India whereas he was sitting hear in your presence."
The Description of the Throes of Death
There is a bind between the body and the soul. This can be explained by portraying the attraction between two magnets. It is hard to pull them apart, likewise, the attraction of the soul to the material body is more due to the love of the materialistic world. In other words, the more the magnetic field in both the magnets, the greater the attraction will be. Similarly, the more the love towards the worldly life, the greater the pain of pulling apart of the soul from the body will be.
Imaam Ghazzi rahmatullahi alaihe explains, that the soul is removed from the body in stages (as mentioned in the Holy Qur’aan): it is first taken out from the feet followed by the shin and then the thighs after which the chest is affected and at that moment the power of speech is lost. When the soul is taken from the throat, the faculties of sight and hearing are exterminated.
There are two things here. Firstly, the pain felt at the introduction of death. Secondly, the pain felt at the extraction of the soul. Here the latter is implied. The severity of death varies from person to person. a believer feels the pain similar to the hair that is taken out from flour by a finger. Whereas, the disbeliever feels so much pain that it is impossible to describe.
The severity of death has been mentioned in numerous Ahaadith, some of which are as follows:
1. Hazrat Anas Ibn Malik radiyallahu anhu has reported that Rasoolullah sallallahu alaihe wasallam had mentioned that the grasp of Malikul Maut is more severe than one thousand hacks (cuts) with a sword. (Sharhus-sudoor)
2. There is a narration regarding Hazrat Moosa alaihis salaam that he was questioned by Allah after death about how he had undergone the experience of dying and he replied that it could be described as the case of a live bird being put in to a hot boiling pot of bubbling oil.
3. In another narration, Hazrat Moosa alaihis salaam is reported to have replied that the experience was like that of a goat being skinned alive by a butcher. (Sharhus-sudoor)
4. It is narrated from Shaddad Ibn Aus radiyallahu anhu that there is not as much pain, torture in being spilt by a saw, shredded by scissors or scalded by fiercely boiling water than in experiencing death.
5. Hazrat Abu Qatadah radiyallahu anhu reports that Rasoolullah sallallahu alaihe wasallam said that all distress, displeasure and agony at the time of death can be likened to that of an ant-bite.
6. Hazrat Ibrahim alaihis salaam asked the angel of death to show him in which form he visits an evil person. Angel of death replied, "You will not be able to tolerate the sight." Hazrat Ibrahim alaihis salaam insisted, the angel of death told him to turn around, while he transformed himself. After which he told Hazrat Ibrahim alaihis salaam to look. Upon seeing him he fell unconsciousness due to the pitiful sight. Thereafter, Hazrat Ibrahim alaihis salaam remarked that the sight was so horrifying that just looking at him was enough punishment for the evildoer.
It is a pity for us today that we are inattentive enough to remember all other worldly matters and forget the main purpose of our creation. How unfortunate will anyone of us be not to take heed after knowing one’s reality - what one is made of, where one came from and where one will return. May Allah Ta’ala give us the ability to remember death and grant us the kalimah, Laailaaha illallah on our lips at the time of death, Aameen.
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