Reflections on the Hereafter & Death

We are all familiar with the Prophetic tradition commonly known as Hadith of Jibreel (AS), in which Jibreel (AS) came in form of a human being and asked the Prophet (SAW) about Islam, Iman and Ihsan. I won’t go into much detail here but to provide a context would like to mention that according to our scholars when Iman and Islam are mentioned separately, they are synonymous. They both refer to the affirmation of the heart and the actions of the limbs. But when Islam and Iman are mentioned in the same context, Islam refers to actions and Iman refers to the affirmation of the heart. And this is in line with the tradition of the Prophet wherein while performing the janazah he used to make the supplication:


Allahumma man ahyaytahu minna fa ahyahu ‘alal islam wa man tawaffaytahu minna fataffahu ‘alal iman

O Allah, whomever of us you make to live, let him live in Islam and whomever of us you make to die, let him die in Iman.


Because deeds are done by the limbs, which one is only able to do while he or she is alive. Then at death, nothing remains but one’s affirmation of the heart.


Implications of Our Belief

The question that we need to ask ourselves is what should be the implication of our belief on our actions and our practices? How does our belief in Allah and on the Day of Judgment and His Messengers and His Books change our behavior and attitude in our lives? We should understand that these are not superficial manifestations of the religion; these form the foundations of our faith and they have a profound impact on how we perceive and go on to spend our lives in this world.


Take the example of the five daily prayers, which is one of the five pillars of Islam. So if a person is praying five times a day his prayer should be connected to certain ethical outcomes. When it is divorced from those outcomes, it means something is wrong with the prayer. So Allah says:


Innasalata tanha a’nil fahshai wal munkar.

Indeed the prayer wards off indecency and lewdness.


If we are praying regularly and yet we are indecent and lewd people then something is wrong with our prayer. Similarly, our affirmation of the articles of faith should manifest itself in our actions and behavior.


Similarly, when Allah (SWT) describes the characteristics of a person who rejects the belief in the Day of Judgment, what does He say:


Ara’aytal ladhi yukazzibu bid-deen

Have you seen him who denies the Recompense? That is he who repulses the orphan (harshly). And urges not the feeding of AlMiskeen (the poor).


And such is the significance of our belief that we see that in the early days of Islam, the surahs that were revealed up until the hijrah of the Prophet (SAW), which are otherwise known as the Makkan surahs, what they essentially included was repeated emphasis on the belief system, to fill the hearts with Iman until all the veils and darkness were lifted from the hearts. And it was only in Medina that the Shara’I were revealed. And this had a profound implication on the lives of the sahaba.


In the US in 1920, the US Congress decided to ban the consumption of alcohol what is now known as ‘The Prohibition’. During the days this ban was enforced, about half a million people were thrown in jail. Millions of dollars were spent to enforce the law yet the consumption of alcohol did not change. Instead the number of industries setup to manufacture alcohol grew exponentially because people started manufacturing alcohol in their own houses and because the process of making khamr is so unhygienic and dirty, diseases were spreading. After 13 years of misery, the United States government repealed the law. Now let’s go 1400 years earlier. Jibreel came to the Prophet revealing the verse that


Ya ayyuhal lazeena aamanu innamal khamru walmaysiru walansaabu wal azlaamu rijsum min amalish shaitani fajtanibooh

O you who believe, intoxicants and gambling, (dedication of) stones, and (divination by) arrows, are an abomination – of Satan’s handwork. So turn wholly away from it that you may prosper.


So Rasulullah recited this ayah to the sahaba and the sahaba went out on the streets passing this on to others. Anas bin Malik said I was serving alcohol to some of the sahaba and we heard the announcement in the street that alcohol is now prohibited. He said I threw the jug from my hand and some of the sahaba had the cups in their hand and they threw it. And some of them had alcohol in their mouth they spit it out. And some of them went as far as inducing vomit to bring out whatever was there in their stomach. And it was described that the streets of Medina were flowing with alcohol; immediate obedience. Without law enforcement, without the congress, without throwing any person in jail, the law was immediately followed and enforced.


So this is the level of submission the iman of the sahaba helped them to attain. And this level of submission is what we all must strive to achieve. We do not want our faith to be a superfluous manifestation of our religion; rather we should want it to be a source of motivation for performing good deeds and actions. Now traditionally, among the many ways this was done was by the remembrance of death.


We need to prepare ourselves by remembering death frequently as rasulullah said:


Aktharu min zikri haazimil lazzaat

Frequently remember death, the destroyer of pleasures.


Now generally speaking, we as human beings are generally under the perception that we belong here to this world. Yet the fact is that as time is passing by, it is ripping away and tearing apart from our very existence. And this is mentioned in one of the tradition of the Prophet (PBUH) wherein he said:


Kun fid duniya kannaka aabirin sabeel

Be in this world as if you’re a traveler


Essentially implying that we as a people do not belong here to this world and we need to prepare ourselves for the actual life which by its very nature is eternal. Now one of the ways traditionally this was done was by remembering death.


Generally speaking, if you ask anyone to define death, you would be told that death essentially is the absence of life. However, if you look through the Quran:


Tabarak allazi biyadihil mulku wa howa ‘ala kulli shay’in qadeer. Allazee khalaqal mawta wal hayata liyabluwakum ayyukum ahsanu ‘amala.

Blessed is the one who has in his hands the dominion and he has power over all things. The One Who has created death and life to test you and try you to see which of you is best in deed.

So we see that Allah (SWT) mentions that He has created death, which is very interesting because again, the general perception of people is that death does not have an in independent existence, rather death is non-existence of life. There is a prophetic tradition, in which Rasulullah (SAW) said that on the Day of Judgment, death would be personified. It would be brought in form of a ram and slaughtered.

Allahu yatawaffa alanfusa heena mawtiha waallatee lam tamut fee manamiha fayumsiku allatee qada AAalayha almawta wayursilu alokhra ila ajalin musamman inna fee thalika laayatin liqawmin yatafakkaroona

It is Allah that takes the souls (of men) at death; and those that die not (He takes) during their sleep: those on whom He has passed the decree of death, He keeps back (from returning to life), but the rest He sends (to their bodies) for a term appointed verily in this are Signs for those who reflect.


Atta ibn Rabah (RA), who was a tabi’i and amongst the students of ibn Abbas (RA) says that there are three benefits of remembering death:


1.    Ta’jeelut Taubah

You would hasten the repentance. If we are always thinking about death, we would be thinking about the akhirah and we would prepare for it. And we would repent to Allah (SWT.)


2.    Ar-rida bi-qaleel

To be content with the minimum. So whatever Allah (SWT) would give us, we would be happy with it. We would be satisfied and pleased because we know that this is a temporary residence, this is not where we belong, therefore we wouldn’t give it that much of concern and attention. So whatever Allah (SWT) gives us, Alhamdolillah.


3.    La yushahih ahlud-duniya fi duniyahum

We would not fight and compete with the people of this world over this world.


Fa yurithuhu zaalika tumaneenatan fil-qalb

And that would cause you to have tranquility in your heart.


What makes people anxious is competing over material things. Because nothing can really satisfy these desires of human beings as rasulullah (SAW) has said that if the son of Adam has a valley of gold, he would request another one and nothing would satisfy his greed except dirt. So when we go back to the dirt, that would close or terminate all of those desires. So the person who is always thinking about death will not fight over this world realizing that it’s temporary and not worth fighting for. We are all certain about death Muslim or non-Muslim but the way we are dealing with it is as if it is something doubtful.


When a person is dying, they go through this period of time before death called ihtizaar, and this is a stage in between where a person is going through the change from duniya to akhirah.


For the disbeliever and evil doer Allah says:


Wa lauw tara iz yatawaffawna lazeena kafarul malaikatu yadriboona wojoohahum wa adbaarhum wa zooqu azabal hareeq. Zaalika bima qaddamat aydeekum wa annalaha laysa bizallamil lilabeed.

And if you could see when the angels take away the souls of those who disbelieve, they smite their faces and their backs saying face the punishment of the blazing fire, this is because of that which your hands had forwarded and verily Allah is not unjust to His slaves.


During this stage, even for the believer there could be some anxiety so Allah provides comfort to the believer glad tidings.


Innalzeena qalu rabbunallahu thummas taqaamu …

Verily those who say our Lord is Allah and then they stay firm, on them the angels would descend saying fear not nor grieve but receive the glad tidings of paradise which you have been promised.


Abdullah ibn Imam Ahmed narrated that his father while on his death bed and in the state of naza’ said Laa ba’th laa ba’th (not yet, not yet), which left him concerned. When Imam Ahmed regained consciousness and Abdullah asked him why he said that, Imam Ahmed replied that Shaitan was standing right next to me biting on his fingers saying O Ahmed you have slipped out of my hand so I was telling him no not yet not yet, not until I die.


So Shaitan was clearly upset that Imam Ahmed had slipped his hands. And Subhanallah this is the life of believers that we continue to struggle against Shaitan until we die because he would never give up.


Imam ibn Taymiyyah has said that the reason this happens is that this is the last chance that Shaitan has with you, so if he misses you in the last moment, he’ll never have a chance with you again. That is why Shaitan puts great emphasis and gives special attention to the last moment of our lives. So if we put a criteria to ourselves and think about it, if we are losing to Shaitan now when the battle is easy what would happen to us when we approach our death when things get tough. These are the fitan and that’s why we say in our Salah


Allahumma inna na’oozu bika min fitnatil mahyaya wal mamaat

We seek refuge in you from the fitnah of life and death. This is the fitnah of death.


And as our scholars mention that we don’t expect that Allah would allow anyone who spent their life on the straight path to be misled during the time of their death. But we should always pray to Allah seeking His help and guidance.


Man maata a’la shaiyin bu’itha a’laiyh

Whoever dies on something would be resurrected on it


If you die in hajj in ihram making talbiyyah Rasulullah said you would be resurrected reciting the talbiyyah. If you die as a martyr on the battlefield Rasulullah said you would come out on Qiyamah with your wounds bleeding. That is why the most important stage of our life is the khawateem.


Asbaab Soo’al Khatima – Reasons of Evil Ending


1.    Weak Iman (Da’ful Iman)

Sulaiman ibn Abdul Malik visitied Makka & Medinah and he was asking is there anyone here who has met the companions of the messenger. They said yes Abu Hazim, he said call him. So they brought Abu Hazim. Sulaiman ibn Abdul Malik asked him a question. He said how come we dislike death? Ibn Hazim said:


Li annakum ammartumud duniya wa kharrabtumul aakhirah, fa takrahoonal khurooja minal amranee ilal kheraab

Because you have built and established this world and you have destroyed your aakhirah so you hate to go from what is established to what is destroyed.


And this is a natural consequence; if we are not preparing for the aakhirah, why would we want to go there. What is the cause of da’ful iman, the love of this world.


2.    Insistence on sinning (Israar alal ma’asi)

A person might be committing a small sin but the scholars say that insisting on a small sin makes it a major sin. When you keep on doing it again and again, it becomes at par with major sin.


3.    Divergence from the Straight Path (Al-U’dool Anil Istiqaama)

The deviance might appear very small in the beginning yet gradually it distances us from the straight path. Iblees started off as pious jinn who was elevated and brought together with the angels. Yet once he arrogated by not making sujood on Allah’s command


You submit to Allah even if it is against your own will, even if it is against our very own desires. We want to follow our religion according to our convenience and to our spare time.


Alam ya’ninillazeena aamanu an takhsha’ quloobohum lizikrillah

Isn’t it time for those who believe that their hearts would soften with the remembrance of Allah


When we read Quran, we find that the majority of verses that speak about the screaming of the people of hellfire, if we look at the reason why they are screaming, it is because of At-Tasweef, i.e. procrastination. O Allah take me back to that so I would spend, O Allah take me back to that so I would do good. It’s all because of their procrastination of doing good deeds.


Let us pray to Allah that we are able to use this time that we have in a manner which is most pleasing to Allah, to seek knowledge that would bring us closer to Him, to repent to Him on our wrongdoings and to have the will and the strength to do good deeds.


Allahumma ya zaljalali wal ikraam, ij’al ahsana a’maalina khawatimaha wa khaira ayyamina yawma nalqaak.



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