HOW often do we remember death? Yes death, a harsh and fearful reality that escapes no living person. None can avoid it. The people around a dying person don’t have the ability to prevent it. Death happens every moment and it does not discriminate between the young and the old, the rich and the poor, the strong and the weak. Everyone is equal in front of death, because no one has any means to escape it or use intercession to avoid it or even delay it.
Allah says in the Qur’an:
“Say: Indeed, the death from which you flee will surely meet you, then you will be sent back to Allah, the All-Knower of the unseen and the seen. And He will then tell you what you used to do.” (Qur’an, 62:8)
“Every one is going to taste death. And We shall make a trial of you with evil and with good, and to Us will you be returned.” (Qur’an, 21:35)
Our hearts tremble with fear on the thought of this indispensable reality. A person’s actions are sealed with death and what comes after that is more fearful, because will there be a place where one can flee to in order to escape the afflictions suffered in the grave? What will our reply be when we are questioned in the grave? None of us know where we will end up. Will it be Paradise whose width is like the heavens and the earth or will it be the Fire whose fuel is of men and stones?
Ibrahim Bin Adham (d. 160H) was asked about the verse: “Call upon Me and I will respond to you.” (Qur’an, 40:60) that: “We call upon Allah, but He does nor respond to us.” So Ibrahim replied:
“You know Allah; yet you do not obey Him. You recite the Qur’an; yet you do not act according to it. You know Shaytan; yet you continue agreeing with him. You claim to love Allah’s Messenger (peace be upon him); yet you abandon his Sunnah. You claim to love Paradise, yet you do not work for it. You claim to fear the Fire; yet you do not stop sinning.
You say ‘indeed death is true’; yet you have not prepared for it. You busy yourselves with the faults of others; yet you do not look at your own faults. You eat the sustenance that Allah provides for you; yet you are not grateful to Him. And you bury your dead; yet you have not heeded its lesson.” (Ibn Rajab’s Al-Khushu’-fis-Salah, pg. 62)
This reality must be firmly established in our heart – the reality that life in this world is limited and has an appointed end, and that this end will surely come. Sheikh Ali Hasan Al-Halabi mentions some good reflections in his book Al-Mawt:
“The righteous will die; and the wicked will die. The warriors who fight jihad will die; and those who sit at home will die. Those who busy themselves with correct beliefs will die; and those who treat people as their slaves will die. The brave who reject injustice will die; and the cowards who seek to cling to this vile life will die. The people of lofty goals and ambitions will die; and the wretched who live for cheap enjoyment will die...So keep death in mind, and the passing on to the next life, and the number of sins that one has committed and the small amount of good that one has done. Think of the good that you would earnestly like to do at that time – then bring that forward and do it today. And think of all those things which you would desire to clear yourself of – then clear yourself from them now.” – Al-Istiqamah