In the name of Allah, the Most Merciful the Most Compassionate All praise be to Allah, and may peace and blessings be upon the most noble of the Prophets and Messengers
If there is one thing we are all certain of, it is the fact that one day we shall all face death. We do not question its veracity or its inevitability. Why then, when we are so sure of death, do we not pause to reflect on it? Part of the problem lies in our human condition. Allah (SWT) created us weak and it is in our very nature to forget. We tend to lose sight of the fact, at least momentarily, that death awaits us all. And then partly it is to do with the fact that we get so engrossed with the life of the dunya, and all that it has to offer, that we hardly spare any time for serious contemplation. But most importantly, I think most of us get deluded by the notion that death is something distant. We fall prey to the idea that we will live to old age and therefore we can start thinking about death once we have lived our life to the fullest, whatever that may mean. But this could not be any further from the truth for death does not discriminate (between the rich and the poor or the old and the young for instance) and surely it is going to come unannounced. It is only when a calamity befalls us or when someone close to us passes away that the thought of death creeps into our minds, even if for a short while.
In the past one month alone I have received the news of at least three people passing away including that of my grandmother (may Allah have mercy on her soul). It is for this reason that I felt the need to do this short tarbiya on death so that we can all take some time out to reflect on our own fragile existence. However, the topic of death is very vast and this week I wish only to focus on the importance and the virtues of remembering death. The Apostle of Allah (pbuh) said, ‘Remember often the Destroyer of Pleasures’ (Tirmidhi; Nasai). On another occasion it was narrated that, ‘The Emissary of God (may God bless him and grant him peace) passed by a gathering from which laughter was ringing out. “Disturb your assembly by recalling the Spoiler of Pleasures,” he said. “And what is the Spoiler of Pleasures?” they asked. “Death,” he replied’ (Tabarani). According to another narration, the Messenger of God once went out to the mosque and noticed a group of people laughing and talking. ‘Remember death!’ he said. ‘By Him in whose hand lies my soul, if you knew what I know you would laugh little and weep much’ (Ibn Hanbal). This does not mean that we should be depressed and serious all the time, as we know that the Prophet (pbuh) himself would always smile and he would joke with Companions (ra). But it is about being excessive and thus forgetting purpose, so the Prophet (SAW) encouraged us to remember death when we become too engrossed in merriment and folly.
The remembrance of death brings us back to the reality of this world and reminds us of its transient nature. As Allah (SWT) reminds us in the Quran: “What is the life of this world but amusement and play? But verily the Home in the Hereafter, that is life indeed, if they but knew.” (29:64) and in another verse: “O my People! This life of the present is nothing but (temporary) convenience. It is the Hereafter that is the Home that will last. ” (40:39) The Prophet (SAW) also said, ‘Death is a precious gift to the believer’ (Hakim; Tabarani). This he said because the dunya is a test for the believer for he is subject to trials and tribulations in every moment of his life. As he so succinctly put in another famous hadith, ‘The world a prison for the believer and a paradise for the disbeliever’. (Muslim; Tirmidhi) A prison because we are away from Allah (swt).
Once Aisha (RA) asked the Prophet (SAW), ‘O Emissary of God! Shall anyone be resurrected alongside the martyrs?’ ‘Yes,’ he replied. ‘He who recalls death twenty times in one day and night.’ (Tabarani) Ibn Umar (RA) narrates, ‘I once came to the Prophet, may God bless him and grant him peace, in a group of ten people. A man from the Helpers [al-Ansar] enquired, “Who is the most intelligent and generous of men, O Emissary of God?” And he replied, “The most diligent in recalling death, and the one who is best prepared for it. Such are the intelligent ones, who have gained the honour of this world and the dignity of the next”.’ (Tabarani; Tirmidhi) According to Anas (RA) the Emissary of God (SAW) said, ‘Remember death abundantly, for to recall it wipes away sins and makes one abstemious in the world’ (Ibn Abi’l-Dunya; Suyuti). And there are many more ahadith which talk about the virtues of remembering death.
Inshallah I hope these beautiful words from the Prophet (SAW) would encourage us to become more mindful of death and recall it more often. As I have already said, death can come at any moment. So the question we should all be asking ourselves is what have we prepared for it. Are we ready to meet our Lord on the Day of Resurrection, the Day on which one shall have no refuge from God, the Day on which neither wealth nor sons shall avail him?
Anything good I have said is from Allah. All errors and shortcomings are inevitably mine.