Discourse 36: Paying Attention To Those Who Came Before Us

قَالَ رَسُولَ اللٌّهِِ : إِنَّمَا أَنْـتُمْ خَلَفُ مَاضِـيِينَ، وَ بَقِيَّةُ مُتَقَدِّمِينَ كَانُوا أَكْبَرَ مِنْكُمْ بَسْطَةً، وَ أَعْظَمَ سَطْوَةً، فَأُزْعِجُوا عَنْهَا أَسْكَنَ مَاكَانُوا إِلَيْها (وَ غَدَرَتْ بِهِمْ) وَ أُخْرِجُوا مِنْهَا أَوْثَقَ مَا كَانُوا بِهَا، فَلَمْ يَمْنَعْهُمْ قُوَّةُ عَشِيرَةٌ، وَ لاَ قُبِلَ مِنْهُمْ بَذْلُ فِدْيَةٌ، فَارْحَلُوا أَنْفُسَكُمْ بِزَادِ مُبَلِّغٍ قَبْلَ أَنْ تَأْخُذُوا عَلى فُجْأَةِ وَ قَدْ غَفَلْتُمْ عَنِ لإِِسْتِعْدَادِ.

The Messenger of Allah (S) said: “Surely you all are the remainders of those who have come before you and the remnants of those who have already passed. Surely those before you where much greater in power and superior in strength and greater in authority and thus even though they were at the pinnacle of luxury and comforts and even though they had complete reliance on this world, He (Allah) still took them to the next life and the most powerful people of their group and their tribe were not able to prevent them from leaving (this world) and not even offering all the money that they had in ransom prevented them from being taken from this world. So before you leave this world without any sort of preparation and while you are in a state of negligence, make sure that you prepare something in great amount (that you will be able to use in the next world).” 1

This tradition is in relation to paying attention to the history of those who have already passed away and this is also an issue that the Noble Qur’an has placed great emphasis upon and which has been alluded to in various verses of the Qur’an.

This tradition tells us that there were nations in the past who were much greater than us in relation to their wealth, children and power and although they had all of this, it still did not stop the Angel 'Izra’il (as) (the Angel of Death), from sparing them, or giving them any respite. Thus, we should fear as well and not be dragged into this same outcome which they were put into of being oblivious to death!

History is one of the six sources of knowledge, since as we know, we are not the first nation of human beings to inhabit this Earth and who have lived on this planet. Before us human beings were on this Earth and there were other nations too who lived here and their remains and effects have stayed behind for us to examine; and they are of two types:

1. The physical remnants they left behind;
2. Their historical remains.

1. The physical remnants which they left behind include their historical narratives and works. When a person studies these effects of theirs and sees their eventual outcome, then one will easily learn lessons from them.

2. Their historical remnants include things such as the cities which they lived in which were destroyed and the Qur’an alludes to such events: “On your journeys to Sham (present day Syria), you will find the remnants of the destroyed cities of the people of Lut, 'Ad, Thamud and others such nations.”

Why is it that we do not hear the message that these destroyed nations are trying to convey to us? Why do we not learn lessons from them? When we walk by a cemetery, why is it that we do not pay attention to the screams and cries of the dead? Look at the palaces and castles that the kings and leaders had which are now ruins. Look at the remnants that Fir'awn has left behind!

Look at those pyramids which were built with millions of stones and took years to build and in which thousands of workers had a hand in constructing. Even today, not a single person has been able to explain how these huge rocks were gathered and put into place to construct such buildings!

As it has been stated that in that part of the world where the pyramids were built there were no large mountains for thousands of kilometres such that it would be possible that they would have been able to procure rocks to make such monuments. And as it is known these huge buildings were built there to act as graves for the Pharaoh!

All of these things are lesson for us. With all of the power, supremacy and “magic” that they possessed, where they able to keep alive for eternity or to stand up against the face of death?

These examples are all lessons that we must learn from and indeed there are many. Even this evil Shah (that ruled Iran) - Muhammad Rida - it is narrated that upon the roof of his mansion, there were two machines installed that if at night, he wanted to see the sky, he would simply turn a key and the roof would open up (so that he could see the stars). At the time in which he ruled, this was one of the newest pieces of technology that was available. However in the end where did the Shah reach to with all of his pomp and glory? Is it not that in the end, he too was buried under the ground?

The Messengers and Intimate friends of Allah (SwT) - who were as a bouquet of beautiful flowers of creation - were not attached to the material pleasures of this life - so, what can be said about others?

It is for this reason that the Messenger of Allah (S) said, “You should fear that you are travelling towards the next world whereas you have not yet prepared yourselves for death.”

The preparation for death is to turn back towards Allah (SwT) - Tawbah - meaning that one must sincerely purify one's heart and soul of sins so that one will be ready to meet death!

  • 1. Bihar al-Anwar, vol. 74, pg. 181.