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Discourse 38: Fleeing From Death

قَالَ رَسُولُ اللٌّهِ : مَنْ عَدَّ غَداً مِنْ أَجَلِهِ، فَقَدْ أَسَاءَ صُحْبَةَ الْمَوْتِ.

The Messenger of Allah (S) has said, “A person who considers tomorrow as being a part of his life, shows that he is definitely not pleased with dying.” 1
 
A person must not take tomorrow for granted and must not sit down and chart out a program (for the future), since this sort of a desire means that one is not pleased with dying and this act of not being pleased with death will result in negligence in the life of this world.2

Of the very important issues which separates those who worship Allah (SwT) from those who worship the material word is their understanding in relation to the issue of death.

Those who believe in the oneness of Allah (SwT) recognize death as being a “second birth” and consider it as being the beginning of a new life and in their point of view, death is nothing but a transfer from one house to another house in which they are then freed from the impediments of this world and are brought into a wide, and spacious other world.

However the materialists consider death as being the end of everything and it is because of this fact that they are not ready to give their lives for the greater worths or to offer a sacrifice except if it is done under duress and pressure. At the same time, those who sincerely worship Allah (SwT) have no problem with killing or being killed in His path and are ready to sacrifice their lives and wealth and they only fear Allah (SwT).

It is from this point that we can understand to what extent faith in the resurrection plays in the perfection of mankind. After the belief in the resurrection, there is no other belief or conviction other than Tawhid which plays a role in the building of the character of a person and we see that all of the Prophets were sent to invite people to these two issues and this constant reminder of the next life was done for a purpose.

There is an anecdote in relation to Ayatullah al-'Uzma Burujerdi  where it was stated that someone once said about him that, “This man has firm belief in the Day of Resurrection.”   When you first hear these words, they may make you laugh - as if it is possible that a Muslim such as Ayatullah al-'Uzma Burujerdi  would not have faith in the Day of Resurrection!?  However we must look deeper into this lofty statement since the meaning of “firm belief” is one which plays a role in the life of a person - it is this firm belief whose beginnings stir a person to work and perform deeds only to attain the pleasure of Allah (SwT) and is not the sort of belief that does not have any impact or effect on the soul and life of a person.

In relation to the Day of Resurrection, there are many important issues and because of this, in lectures, writings and classes held on self-building, this issue on the Day of Resurrection must be emphasized.

A Muslim who has firm faith in religion considers the life of this world as simply being a bridge and introductory place to the Next Life. It may be possible that one of the proofs why we recite the following line (a minimum) of ten times per day is so that we do not forget this reality.

مَالِكِ يَوْمِ الدِّينِ

“Master of the Day of Judgement.”

If we keep this event in mind and do not forget it, then our entire presence will become enlivened.
Thus, that which we wish to mention is that there are many people who in relation to their theological beliefs are believers in tawhid and the Oneness of Allah (SwT), however in relation to the next life, they are materialists.

In other words, they have firm belief in the beginning and end of all creations, but when it comes to their actions, we see that they are actually afraid of death. It can be said that they feel that death is actually the end of all things and that there is nothing after it. This variance between belief and actions is definitely a great calamity.

When we, from a practical point of view, do not believe in the Day of Resurrection, then we do not practice self-sacrifice. It is through our deeds and actions that we show that we do not believe in the following verse of the Qur`an which states:

وَ لاَ تَحْسَبَنَّ الَّذِينَ قُتِلُوا فِي سَبيلِ اللٌّهِ أَمْوَاتاً بَلْ أَحْيَآءٌ عِنْدَ رَبِّهِم يُرْزَقُونَ

“And do not consider those who have been slain in the way of Allah as being dead, nay rather, they are alive in the presence of their Lord receiving sustenance.”3

We are so attached to the life of this material world and fond of the lower desires and passions that we have become negligent of the Day of Resurrection.

According to the tradition we started with, that person who has firm belief in that Day is always ready (for death). He does not consider tomorrow as definitely being a part of his life, rather it is the opposite of this. He supposes that tomorrow his death will come and thus, he makes sure that his accountability and deed of records is clean (of bad deeds) and is prepared and ready to meet death at any time.4

In many verses of the Qur`an it has been mentioned that on the Day of Resurrection or at the time of giving up one's life, a person will call out his last request:

حَتّى ِإذَا جَآءَ أَحَدَهُمُ الْمَوْتُ قَالَ رَبِّ ارْجِعُونِ لَعَلّى أَعْمَلُ صَالِحاً فِيمَا تَرَكْتُ كَلاَّ إِنَّهَا كَلِمَةٌ هُوَ قَائِلُهَا وَ مِنْ وَرَائِهِمْ بَرْزَخٌ إِلـى يَوْمِ يُبْعَثُونَ

“Until that time when death comes to one of them he says, 'O' Lord return me back to the world so that I may work righteous deeds which I left behind in the world.'  But by no means!  These are only words which they say and thus behind them is a partition (Barzakh) until the day when all will be raised up.”5

In all of these instances, the Qur`an - either clearly and explicitly, or through the use of a metaphor or allegorically answers these protests by one word: “كلاّ” - which means “But by no means”.

The rule of perfection does not permit a person to return back to this world, just as it is not possible for a fetus which comes out of its mother's womb to return back. From the point of view of this spiritual voyage of perfection which mankind is on, it is impossible to return back - whether one leaves this world and is “born” into the next world perfect or with deficiencies.

When we see that this is how the issue is, then should we not pay extra attention to the life of this world?  While traversing this path, should we not be strict with ourselves and think more about this issue? 

It is because of this that we must think a lot about the Day of Resurrection and we should not let even a single day pass by where we do not ponder on death and the Resurrection; and if we are able to correctly ponder on this issue and clothe our actions with these thoughts (of the next life), then we will see that our entire presence will be draped in the divine light and purity!

  • 1. Tuhaf al-`Uqul
  • 2. Most people are normally afraid of death and there is only a small group of individuals who laugh in the face of death and eagerly welcome it with open arms - they trade-in the coarse ornate garment of this life for the perpetual and ever-lasting life of the next world. However we should look at why death, its manifestation and even the mention of this word immediately causes trouble to some people:
    1. Lack of Belief in the Life after Death:  The principle proof is that these people do not have faith in the life after death - and if they have faith in this, then we see that their faith is not something firmly rooted within them and this belief has not taken charge of their thoughts and emotions.
    The fear that mankind feels from destruction and non-existence is natural just as we see that people are afraid of the darkness at night - but why?  This is because darkness is the non-existence of light. So why do they fear death? Since they think that they are traversing the same path of non-existence and annihilation. However if mankind was to have complete faith and conviction that this material world which we are living in is a prison for a true believer and paradise for a disbeliever just as the tradition tells us:

    أَلدُّنْيَا سِجْنُ الْمُؤْمِنُ وَ جَنَّةُ الْكَافِرُ.

    “The world is a prison for the disbeliever and a place of paradise for the disbeliever.”
    then one would not have this fear of death.
    If mankind was to truly believe that this physical body is actually a receptacle for the soul and when this receptacle is broken, it is only then that the soul will be freed and at that time one will be able to soar with one's friends. If one was to sincerely believe that “The hijab which covers over the life and realities of a person are due to the dust which makes up his body”, then without doubt, one would truly wish to be freed and released from this covering!
    Death is a garden for the higher spiritual realms and is not one for the spiritual beings and this vessel that one is currently contained in is only good for the proverbial two or three days - truly if a person was to believe these things about death, then one would never fear dying - rather, one would take this world as a path to travel towards perfection.
    Thus, in the tradition of `Ashura we read that, “As the circle of the enemies grew in force and their pressure intensified around Imam al-Husain (as) and his companions, their faces grew more and more illuminated and brighter and even those old men who made up the companions of the Imam (as) were seen smiling and laughing on the day of `Ashura. When these people were asked why they were acting like this, they replied 'We are in this mood as in a few hours we will be blessed to drink from the cup of martyrdom and we will be taking the Hurul `Ain in our arms!”
    2. Love and Attraction to this Material World: Another reason why people fear death is because they have an unreasonable love for this material world. They fear that death will bring a separation between themselves and that which they truly love and it will cause their hearts to be separated from their loved ones and all of those things which have made their material life easy and full of pleasures and luxuries - and this is something which they can not handle.
    3. No Good Deeds:  Since their container of good deeds is empty and the container of evil deeds is full, people fear death. We read in the tradition that, “A person once came to the Messenger of Allah (S) and asked him, 'O' Messenger of Allah!  Why do I not have love for death within me?'  The Prophet replied, 'Do you have any wealth?'  The man replied, 'Yes I do.'  The Prophet said to him, 'Have you sent any good for yourself?'  The man replied, 'No.'  The Prophet then said to him, 'It is because of this reason that you do not like death (since your book of good deeds is empty).'”
    Another person went to see Abu Dharr and asked him the exact same question that the Prophet (S) was asked above, that why does he feel hatred for death?  Abu Dharr replied, “You have a hatred for death since you have made this life habitable and have destroyed your next life. It is natural that a person does not like that he should be transferred from a place which is habitable to a place which he has destroyed.” (Tafsir-e-Namuna, vol. 24, pg. 121)

  • 3. Surath Ale `Imran (3), Verse 169
  • 4. The following poem describes this:

    تا در آغوشش بگيرم تنگ تنگ مرگ اگر مرد است گو نزد من آى او زمن دلقى ستاند رنگ رنگ من از او جانى ستانم جاودان

  • 5. Surat al-Mo’minun (23), Verse 99 and 100

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