‘O our Lord! Open our eyes so that we may see the realities scattered all around us which are a proof of your existence; and bestow on us the wisdom to discern the path that leads to you, and protect us from all perceptible and imperceptible evils’.
Man and the Death:
There are four types of people in regards to their attitude towards death.
1) The people who support the foolhardy view of, say, a poet, who claims that, “Whatever has happened in the Past is over, and as you don’t know what’s going to happen in the future you might as well live for the present!“. People who have adopted this philosophy on life consider the day that has passed as something which is over and done with and they do not think about the future. They reckon that there is no point in thinking about what has happened. But, for goodness sake, it is not over! Our deeds are accounted for in the record of our actions, good and bad, and none of them, great or small, will be left out of that record. We may hope our actions are unseen, but (it is only to our consciousness that they are unseen). Otherwise, whatever we have done is Present in our soul, and God is aware of our deeds even though we may forget about them. In fact, people who never think about death are the most misled, compared to the other three categories.
2) The attitude of the second category of people can be compared with the Persian poet, Umar Khayyam. Many people were attracted to his unconventional views as far as morals were concerned. He says, ‘‘since death is an undeniable truth and life is short and ephemeral, let’s fill it with love and passion. And when we are struck with misfortune and despair, let us seek refuge in wine and poetry, and revel in forbidden pleasures!”
3) Then there are people who think of death as a phenomenon and an event without any consequences. These people belong to the third category. The Arab poet Abul Atahiya is well-known for his verses on the phenomenon of death, but he has not spoken of what happens after death, as if he agrees with people who claim, “Death is nothing but a deep sleep in the grave.”
4) Finally, the fourth category of people are those who follow the way of truth because they realise that life is eternal, and that death is the beginning of new life and not a deep sleep but awakening form hypnotic slumber. Indeed there is another, much longer life which is infinite. It may be a life of eternal bliss and joy, or one of never-ending suffering. The Prophet (peace be upon him) said; “People are asleep; they will wake up when they die”. It refers to the same truth. They will thus, come to realize that a long interminable life is awaiting them after death. It will bring either be eternal bliss or painful retribution according to one’s deeds. This and the fourth group, consists of those who are the right-guided believers.
Life after Death:
The life hereafter is the true life. It is not visible to anyone who is short-sighted and cannot be understood by anyone who is dull-witted or does not wish to hear about such things. But anyone who really uses his eyes and mind to see and understand truth will realise that life consists of several stages. A man begins his life as an insignificant mass, shrunk within himself in his mother’s womb. At that stage, if he were given the power of reasoning, he would take the womb as his ultimate abode, and one which he would only leave under duress. If he were able to speak at that stage he would declare that leaving his mother’s womb would mean being dead and buried, in just the same way as we consider death and departure from this world. But it is also a process of birth, a shift from this world to another, which is more expansive and far removed from our mortal, material life. It is the world of eternal life.
Preparations for the Death:
Our zest for life is an inborn human instinct. The ambitions we nurse and the hopes we aspire to are never ending. In fact it is for this reason that death, in spite of being closely connected to our sense perceptions, is far removed from our thoughts. Even the sight of a funeral may not remind us of our own death. On the contrary, many of us live in the illusion that death is something that will never happen to us. Even when we attend a funeral service, our minds may wander. There are graveyards around us, but do they make us think about the fact that one day we too shall be laid to rest? Fortunately, however, the graveyard is not our ultimate abode! It is our physical bodies which will be laid to rest. The body is like a garment that we take off when it gets dirty. And the soul disentangles itself from the body in just the same way as the child disentangles itself from the placenta when it is born.
Anyone who is not following the path of God may forget about death. But a believer is always ready to meet his end and prepares for it by repenting to God and asking for His forgiveness. Such a person clears all his debts, in terms of money and obligations. He is continuously taking stock of his actions, thanking God for his successes and seeking forgiveness for his failures and shortcomings. He contemplates life after death by thinking of the day when all eyes will be forced to turn toward God, and by being aware of punishment after death. Such a person is constantly seeking God’s pleasure through his noble deeds, and through prayer and patience.
Here are some verses from the Holy Qur’an regarding the subject of death: “Why is it not then that when you see a dying person’s soul come up to his throat while you are helplessly watching – and at that time We are nearer to him than you, although you cannot see Us. Then why do you not – if you claim you are not subject to reckoning – restore to the dying person his soul? Answer this, if what you say be true!(Qur’an;56:83-87). In other words, when death approaches we tend to panic and feel helpless; we bring medical help to the dying person and comfort him as much as we can. But at this point can anyone who claims not to be dependent on God, do anything to restore health and give him a new lease of life? This is a g divine challenge to those who deny the existence of God. It is a question which they cannot answer.
A Senseless Doubt:
Some people who have abandoned religion may cynically ask, “How can the Angel of Death possibly be with two people who are dying at the same time in say, America and China?’’ The answer to that statement is: 1) From the angel’s perspective, planet earth seems like a minute particle one who leans over the colony of ants where millions of them swarm, or peers in to glass of water which has numerous microbes. For the angel this orb of the earth is like a grain of wheat in our palm. 2) Also the angel of death has many associates to seize the souls. Allah says: “when death approaches anyone of you, Our angels take his soul and they are not negligent in performing their duty”(Qur’an;6:61).
- Manifestation of Faith
Islam-A General Introduction: “Ta’rif-e-Aam bi-Din il-Islam” By: Shaikh Ali Al-Tantawi تعریف عام بدین الاسلام