By Imam Murtadha Gusau
In the Name of Allah, the Beneficent, the Merciful
All praise is due to Allah. I testify that there is no deity worthy of worship except Allah and that Muhammad (Peace be upon him) is His servant and Messenger.
Dear brothers and sisters! I enjoin you and myself to fear Allah, for it (the fear of Allah) is the provision and safety in this world and the Last Day:
“The day when neither wealth nor sons will avail, except him who brings to Allah a clean heart.”
Dear brothers and sisters! Allah Almighty says:
“Everyone shall taste death. And only on the day of Resurrection shall you be paid your wages in full. And whoever is removed away from the fire and admitted to Paradise he indeed is successful. The life of this world is only the enjoyment of deception (a deceiving thing).” [Qur’an, 3:175]
Such is the reality of death and what comes after it. Every one of us shall taste it whether poor or rich; healthy or sick, old or young; leader or led and none of us can escape it. Allah the Most High says:
“Wheresoever you may be, death will overtake you even if you are in a fortress built up strong and high.” [Qur’an, 4:78]
Respected servants of Allah! Death, as manifested in its character and effects is one of the mysteries that dazzles human intelligence because it has to do with the soul. Allah Almighty says:
“And they ask you (O Muhammad) concerning the spirit (soul). Say: ‘The spirit (soul) is one of the things, the knowledge of which is only with my Lord. And of knowledge, you (mankind) have been given only a little.” [Qur’an, 17:85]
One of it’s mysteries is that you see a youth who was full of health and energy suddenly falls dead without warning; thereby making that youthfulness and energy fade away, bringing all his senses to a complete standstill. That youth might even be an erudite scholar, an eloquent author, a skilled physician or brilliant inventor but it is absolutely out of the question that this quality should prevent death from overtaking him when his time is due. Allah Almighty says:
“When their term is reached, neither can they delay it nor can they advance it an hour (or a moment).” [Qur’an, 10:49]
Amr Bin Abdullah used to mount the pulpit (mimbar) and say:
“Many a person who has seen the beginning of a day but would not see it’s end. And many a person who has expected morning but would not live to see it. If only you had known your appointed time and how it comes to pass, you would have detested nursing hope for worldly materials and its deception.”
Dear brothers and sisters! While man enjoys his good health, playing and merrymaking, moving about in haughtiness, commanding and forbidding, death and illness suddenly attacks him, weakens his body, makes his limbs lifeless and then closes his record.
My beloved people! How near is death! Every day it becomes closer to us and no sooner has the book reached its appointed time that we belong among the dead. Then it becomes clear that life is really like flowers that bloom then afterwards wither or like a lamp that illuminates then afterwards dies down.
Let those who crave for this world and its pleasures ponder over these scattered graves all over the place and realise that the way to pleasures and lustful things, though decorated with beautiful roses inevitably leads to the present condition of those buried in these graves. Happiness is for him whom a messenger of death has opened his eyes to reality before he died, and whoever does not heed to the warning of the Qur’an and death, even if mountains were to thrust one another in front of him, he would not heed.
Dear brothers and sisters! What we witness in the cemeteries is a great lesson for us. The carrier of the bier to the cemetery today is taken back there tomorrow (as a dead person) and is left there only with his deeds either good or evil.
It is also very unfortunate that in these days we see some people among those who escort the deceased laughing and playing or attending the funeral for showing off. This phenomenon is due to the heedlessness that has hardened people’s hearts and made them forget the Last Day and the frightening conditions of the grave. May Allah awaken us from this heedlessness, ameen!
Respected brothers and sisters! It is expected of him who knows that he will die, be buried, raised up on the day of Resurrection and enter Paradise or Hell to always remember death, prepare for it and reflect on it. He is in fact expected to regard himself among the dead. This is because all that is coming is near and when the angel of death comes neither your wealth nor your people or your position can prevent him from taking your soul.
Please, where are those people who achieved their aims and none were comparable to them in that? They collected and gathered but could not eat what they collected; they built mansions but could not live there! We on our part are still swimming in the pool of life as if we are meant to live here forever. Uways Al-Qarni said:
“Remember death when you sleep and always think of it when you are awake.”
Fellow servants of Allah! It is a fact that this world and its tribulations appear insignificant in the eyes of him who always remembers death, for, he has lofty aims and strong resolutions; he is far from hypocrisy and always yearns for the everlasting bliss in the eternal Paradise.
Dear brothers and sisters! Remembering death does not in any way make one’s life loathsome to him; forcing him to sit in his home and leave all means of sustenance. It is rather meant to deter him from committing sins and soften his hard heart. We remember death in order to have good preparation for it and for all that follows it by doing righteous deeds, obeying Allah and increasing one’s efforts in all acts of worship. Imam Abdur-Rahman Ibn Mahdi said:
“If Hammad Bin Salamah is told, ‘You will die tomorrow.’ He will not be able to increase anything in his deed, because his time is full of worship and remembrance of Allah.”
Now please, how do we prepare for death? We prepare for death by shunning all abominable things and returning trusts to their rightful owners. We prepare for death by eliminating hatred and enmity from our hearts. We prepare for death by being good to the kith and kin. Ibn al-Mubarak said that Salih Al-Mariy used to say:
“If the remembrance of death leaves me for an hour my heart becomes spoilt.”
It is also said that:
“Whoever frequently remembers death is honoured with three things: quick repentance, self-contentedness and energy in doing acts of worship; and whoever forgets death is punished with three things: delaying repentance, lack of contentedness and laziness in acts of worship.”
Respected servants of Allah! When will one who always follows his lustful desires and moves wantonly in his heedlessness remember death? When will one who has no regard for Allah’s injunctions in Halal or Haram remember death? When will one who deserts the Qur’an, prays not Fajr in congregation, usurps people’s property unlawfully, takes usury, and commits fornication, remember death? How can one whose habit is slandering others and backbiting, whose heart is full of rancour and envy remember death?
Fellow servants of Allah! The Prophets, whenever death came to them were given a chance of choosing between remaining on this world and moving to that noble position. It is beyond doubt that every Prophet would select the everlasting bliss. This happened to Prophet Muhammad (Peace be upon him), as narrated by Al-Bukhari and Muslim on the authority of Aisha (RA) that she said:
“The Messenger of Allah (Peace be upon him) used to say while he was healthy, ‘No Prophet died until he saw his place in the Paradise, he was then given the choice between that place and remaining in this world.’ So when he was dying and his head was on my thigh, he fainted for a while then regained his consciousness. He stared at the ceiling, then said, ‘O Allah! I choose the Highest Companionship.’ I then said, ‘He was not preferring us.’ It was then that I understood statement he used to tell us and it was true. She said, ‘The last word he uttered was: ‘Oh Allah, I choose the Highest Companionship.”
My great people! During death and its pain; in the grave and its darkness; and the Day of Resurrection and its horror people fall into two groups. A group shall remain firm; secured from fright and given glad tidings of Paradise while the other group shall suffer disgrace and ignominy. Allah Almighty says:
“Verily, those who say, ‘Our Lord is Allah (alone) and then stood straight, on them the angel will descend (at the time of their death saying,) ‘Fear not, nor grieve! But receive the glad tidings of Paradise which you have been promised.’” [Qur’an, 41:30]
Angels shall descend upon the believers who are straight in their religion during death in their graves and when they are resurrected in order to assure them of security and to allay their fears of the horror of the day of judgement. The angels will be telling them:
“Do not fear about what you are going to meet and do not grieve over what you will be leaving behind of children, family and wealth.”
The angels will also say:
“We have been your friends in the life of this world and (are so) in the hereafter.” [Qur’an, 41:31]
i.e. we will also be your friends in the hereafter, keeping your company in your graves and when the horn is blown, we will also assure you of security on the day of resurrection.
As for the unbelievers, when death comes to them and they start suffering its agonies, they will be subjected to ignominy and disgrace. Allah the Most High says:
“And if you could but see when the wrongdoers are in the agonies of death, while the angels are stretching forth their hands saying, “Deliver your souls! This day you shall be recompensed with the torment of degradation because of what you used to utter against Allah other than the truth. And you used to reject His Ayat (proofs, evidences, verses, lessons, signs, revelations, etc.) with disrespect.” [Qur’an, 6:93]
Their sorrow shall increase so much so that they will wish to go back to this world. Allah the Most High says:
“Until when death comes to one of them, he says, ‘My Lord send me back.’” [Qur’an, 23:99]
Imam Qatadah said while commenting on the above Qur’anic verse:
“By Allah, he would not wish by this statement to go back to his family and wealth nor to collect the good things of this world and satisfy his desires. He would rather wish to go back and do acts of obedience to Allah. May Allah bless him who does in this life what the disbelievers would wish to do when he sees the torment of Hell!”
Fellow brothers and sisters! How is the need of a dying Muslim to Allah’s success that his last words may be, “La ilaha illallah.” Mu’adh Bin Jabal narrated that the Prophet (Peace be upon him) said:
“Whoever has ‘La ilaha illallah’ as his last words will enter Paradise.”
And Imam Ibn Al-Qayyim said:
“Dictating this word to a dying man is recommended because one who is dying experiences horrors that were unknown to him before, so it is feared that forgetfulness might overtake him since Satan (Shaitan) is close to human beings. Moreover, uttering this statement while dying has a great effect in erasing ones misdeeds because it is a testimony of a servant of Allah who believes in it and knows its meanings; for whose lustful desires are now dead and whose soul has become weak after its might. Then that testimony becomes his last utterance, it purifies him from all his sins because he meets with his Lord with a sincere testimony…”
The righteous predecessors also recommended that a dying person be reminded of his good deeds, so that he can have positive thoughts about his Lord. Jabir narrated that: The Messenger of Allah (Peace be upon him) said:
“None of you should die except in the state of having positive thoughts about Allah.” [Muslim]
And the Prophetic Sunnah encourages talking about good deeds of a dead person and abstaining from talking about his misdeeds. Al-Bukhari reported on the authority of Aisha (RA) that she narrated, The Prophet (Peace be upon him) said:
“Do not abuse the dead; for they have gone to meet the consequences of their deeds.”
And in Sahih Al-Bukhari, Abul-Aswad said:
“I came to Madinah while there was an epidemic there. I sat with Umar Ibn al-Khattab. Then a funeral procession passed by and people praised its owner. Umar said, “It becomes incumbent.” Then another funeral procession passed by and people also praised its owner, and Umar said, “It’s incumbent;” then a third procession passed by and people spoke ill of its owner. Umar also commented, “It becomes incumbent.” Then I said, “What is incumbent, O Leader of the Faithful? Umar (RA) answered, “I said as the Prophet (Peace be upon him) said, that, “Any dead Muslim whom four persons testify in his favour, Allah will make him enter Paradise, We said, “And three persons?” He said, “And three persons.” We also said, “And two persons?” He said, “Yes, and two persons.” We did not thereafter ask him of one person.”
It should be added that those whose testimony is regarded are the people of virtue and truthfulness. The testimony of an enemy shall not be considered.
It is also recommendable that the person who washes the dead should conceal whatever defects he may see on him. It is also a right of a Muslim on his fellow Muslims to escort his funeral, pray on him and supplicate for him. In Sahih al-Bukhari, Abu Hurairah narrated that the Prophet (Peace be upon him) said:
“Whoever attends the funeral of a Muslim faithfully and hoping for the reward of Allah and stays with him until Salah (prayer) is done on him and he is buried, he will go back home with two qirats, each is as big as the size of Mount Uhud; and whoever observes Salah (prayer) on him and then goes back before he is buried will get one qirat.”
As regards debts, the family of the deceased should hasten to pay it because a believer’s soul hangs on his debt until it is paid on his behalf. Debts of Allah should also be promptly paid for, it is more deserving to be paid. Ibn Mas’ud said:
“A Believer has no rest until he meets Allah.”
Dear brothers and sisters! Our beloved Prophet (Peace be upon him), declared that:
“Live in this world as if you are a stranger passing through.”
As Muslims it is time for us to reassess our approach to dying and death. Dying is understood to be a part of living — an important part. Sometimes we may not want to know about the processes that occur after we die because we are afraid or don’t want to think about it. However, this should not be the attitude of a Muslim. The Prophet Muhammad (Peace be upon him) said:
“live in this world as though you are a stranger or a traveller (passing through it).” [Muslim]
We as Muslims are on a journey and should know about the whole journey’s itinerary, not just one part, and should also understand some things about the destination. We should be foremost in learning and understanding about death and dying, so we can organise our lives accordingly. We are urged to accept the will of Almighty Allah with good grace and patience, but many Muslims when they find out that they are going to die are quite appalled and indignant. They protest in agony and outrage.
Dying is normally associated with suffering, pain and trauma. And it is normal to fear suffering, and react to it with anger and frustration, because we feel oppressed by it and powerless against it. The denial of our own power lies at the root of suffering. Quite often suffering blocks our faith (Iman) and some of the many Questions that are asked are “Why Me” “Where is Allah in all of this” Why am I being Punished. There is this Search for meaning. Allah Almighty said:
“(O Man whilst on the earth) be sure that we will test you with many things; fear (insecurity), hunger, loss of goods, loss of life (sickness/death), the fruits of your toil. But give glad tidings to those (when they are tested) who turn to Almighty Allah when afflicted, with patience and prayer, and they will say, ”O Allah everything comes from you and to you we will return.”
Pain and suffering is most certainly not a curse from Almighty Allah but rather a blessing and a test to see how we will react when challenged and tested.
What is called death is not pure annihilation but a movement from one state to another or transmigration from our form of biological existence to another in another zone or dimension. In the Prophetic traditions this zone or dimension is referred to as BARZAKH, translated from the Arabic means barrier or partition between two areas, zones or dimensions (The physical state and the Day of Resurrection). So the human spirit (Ruh) is released to a new life independent from the physical body. Such an event is what the word death indicates. Almighty Allah states that:
“Every soul shall taste death, then in the end you shall all return to us.” [Qur’an, 29:57]
The person continues his life within a form of spirit body the same way as within his physical body! Almighty Allah declares that:
“And say not of those who are slain in the way of Allah as dead – Nay they are alive – though you perceive it not.” [Qur’an, 2:154]
Clinical Psychologists Raymond Moody, Elizabeth Kubler Ross, Dr. Melvyn Morse and Ralph Wilkinson etc. who researched NDE’s (Near Death Experiences) discovered in the 1960’s (after comparing case histories) some remarkable phenomena during the experiences as follows:
- A strange sound and beautiful smell: A buzzing or ringing noise and a clean pure smell of fragrant perfume, while having a sense of being dead.
- Peace and painlessness: While people are dying, they may be in intense pain, but as soon as they leave the body the pain vanishes and they experience peace.
- Out-of-body experience, the tunnel experience and Rising rapidly into the heavens: Instead of a tunnel, some people report rising suddenly into the heavens and seeing the earth and the celestial sphere as they would be seen by astronauts in space.
- People of light: Once on the other side of the tunnel, or after they have risen into the heavens, the dying meet people who glow with an inner light. Often they find that friends and relatives who have already died are there to greet them.
- The Great being of light: After meeting the people of light, the dying often meet a powerful spiritual being whom some have called Allah, Jesus, or an Angel or Angels. Also, although they sometimes report feeling scared, they do not sense that they were on the way to hell or that they fell into it.
- The life review: The being of light presents the dying person with a panoramic review of everything they have done in this life, based on certain non-verbal communication. In particular they are questioned about acts of worship, how most of their lives were spent, and they relive every act they have ever done to other people and come away feeling that love is the most important thing in life.
- Reluctance to return: The being of light sometimes tells the dying that they must return back to life. Other times, they are given a choice of staying or returning. In either case, they are reluctant to return. The people who choose to return do so only because of loved ones they do not wish to leave behind.
One common question is, what possible evolutionary pressure could have resulted in Near Death Experience (NDE)? Why would dying brains suddenly have the ability to perceive other realities? The Qur’an states that:
“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 these are signs for those who reflect.” [Qur’an, 39:42]
And Almighty Allah tells us in the Noble Qur’an that:
“O you people of faith (Iman), fear Allah as He (Allah) ought to be feared and die not except in the state of full surrender and submission to the will of Almighty Allah.”
Almighty Allah tells us that:
“O Contented Soul, “O satisfied Soul” (O! Purified Self) return unto your Lord – Well pleased (yourself) and He well pleased (with you). Enter among My devotees! You enter into My Paradise.”
Dear brothers and sisters! Death is a stage, which occurs when the spirit departs from the body to make it lifeless. As Muslims, A fundamental article of Faith (Iman) is that we believe in the resurrection when the body and the spirit will be reunited in the hereafter. This life is a stage for action, “every action will have reaction in the hereafter.”
The life to come after the resurrection is a stage of reward. Human beings will either be in pure happiness or in total misery. It is part of the basic Islamic beliefs that after resurrection, we will account for our deeds and we will be judged accordingly. Those on whom Allah bestows His mercy will be in heaven, while those who are denied it will abide in hell, the place of absolute misery. It is also clearly stated by the Prophet (Peace be upon him) that the deeds of even the best person will not be enough to send him to heaven (paradise) without Allah’s grace and mercy.
“A true servant of Almighty Allah when he is afflicted with suffering or pain will turn to HIM and say in Prayer, “We belong to Allah and unto him Is our return” O Allah reward me for my affliction and give something better in exchange for it.”. O Allah! Cause me to live so long that life is better for me–and cause me to die when death is better for me.”
I pray to Almighty Allah to bless this congregation and the Ummah at large and to create affection in the hearts of the Muslims, reform them, guide them to the paths of safety and peace. Draw them out from the Darkness into the Light, assist them against the enemies of Islam. Our Lord, grant us beneficence in this world and in the hereafter. Save us from the torment of Jahannam, ameen.
All praises and thanks are due to Allah alone, Lord of the worlds. May the peace, blessings and salutations of Allah be upon our noble Messenger, Muhammad, and upon his family, his Companions and his true and sincere followers.
Murtadha Muhammad Gusau is the Chief Imam of Nagazi-Uvete Jumu’ah and the late Alhaji Abdur-Rahman Okene’s Mosques, Okene, Kogi State, Nigeria. He can be reached via: email@example.com or +2348038289761.