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I Forget Death: How Can I Stay Motivated?



Reply Date

Dec 06, 2016


I have a question that I've always wondered about. One of the reasons that make us lazy when it comes to working on our religion and faith is that we forget about death easily, or that it seems very far away. My question is: wouldn't it have been easier for us if we were made in a way so that we constantly remember death: or we know when we will die and could somehow see Hell so that we don't get lazy, so that we actually actively do everything that we are required to do?



Peace be upon you dear questioner,

Thank you so much for this question and for expressing your thoughts so that everyone can benefit from discussing them.

What you mentioned is very interesting indeed. You are basically saying that you think it would be best for us to be created in such a way so that death is so vivid in our minds and we are constantly conscious of it; and so that we can see the hellfire so we never get lazy or lax in regards to doing what we need to do in this life.

That’s interesting. But let us think about it. When you work on an assignment for work or school, for example, and you are conscious of the deadline and know that it is approaching, how does this make you feel? From my experience dealing with university students, I can see that they are very anxious, stressed, and pressured all the time while working on their assignments because they are very conscious of their approaching deadlines.

Too much stress

Not only are they stressed, but also many end up not fulfilling their assignment with love, passion, and enjoyment because they feel they must submit anything because the deadline is near. As one of my young colleagues told me, she feels “enslaved by all the deadlines”.

Now going back to your question, don’t you think that it is a beautiful mercy from Allah Almighty that we don’t actually remember death so vividly all the time. And that we don’t have to feel forced, pressured, and stressed while working on our religious duties and actualizing our purpose in life?

When I think about it, it is indeed a mercy from Allah and a means to allow us to enjoy our worship and our relationship with Him and to not feel burdened all the time. Allah Almighty always honors human beings. As He Almighty says:

{And We have certainly honored the children of Adam and carried them on the land and sea and provided for them of the good things and preferred them over much of what We have created, with [definite] preference.} (Quran 17:70)

Balance between hope and fear

At the same time, it is important to remember that Islam is based on balance. Allah knows that some people love to work when they’re relaxed and others work better under pressure. So, in our religion we always have the “hope and fear” equation.

Those who love to enjoy their worship and their deen have hope so that they can excel at what they’re doing and not feel pressured. Also, those who tend to get too relaxed by hope and delay or postpone their obligations are encouraged to remember the uncertain timing of death often so they can get serious.

Like the Messenger of Allah (PBUH) said:

Remember more often the destroyer of pleasures – death. (At-Tirmidhi)

This reminds me of one of my friends who told me that she had a dream in which she died and that she was able to see all the people crying at her funeral. In her dream, she kept crying and saying that she needed another chance and wanted to go back to life so she could do better.

When I asked her if there was something in specific she had been neglecting, she said that she hadn’t prayed regularly in a long time. Her dream came at the right time. It gave her a big wake up call about prayer and other obligatory acts.

Allah Almighty says:

{And We have not sent you except comprehensively to mankind as a bringer of good tidings and a warner. But most of the people do not know.} (Quran 34:28)

So, the good tidings are for those who are working hard, and the warnings are for those who are denying and neglecting their obligations. This is balance. And it is a mercy from Allah that He allows us to receive good tidings when we need them and wake up calls when we need them, instead of being afraid all the time or stressed and nervous.  

This hadith for example gives us hope and motivation to continue working and doing the best that we can until the last Hour.

Anas ibn Malik reported that the Prophet (PBUH) said:

If the Final Hour comes while you have a palm-cutting in your hands and it is possible to plant it before the Hour comes, you should plant it. (Al Adab Al Mufrad)

On this note, I remember the beautiful verses from Surat Al Mu’menoon (Chapter 23)

{Certainly the believers have succeeded: They who are during their prayer humbly submissive. And they who turn away from ill speechAnd they who are observant of zakahAnd they who guard their private parts. Except from their wives or those their right hands possess, for indeed, they will not be blamed -But whoever seeks beyond that, then those are the transgressors –And they who are to their trusts and their promises attentiveAnd they who carefully maintain their prayersThose are the inheritors. Who will inherit al-Firdaus [paradise]. They will abide therein eternally.} (Quran 23:1-11)

Note how the first verse started with a past tense “qad aflaha” (certainly they have succeeded) … and then all the deeds listed are in present continuous verbs (fa’loon/working on purification, yohafezoon/maintaining the prayers, mo’redoon/staying away from useless activities).

This shows us that if we are working on ourselves, to Allah Almighty we have already succeeded.

Imagine, instead, if you are studying all semester. And then, on the night of your exam, you get really sick or have an emergency. You achieve very poorly in the exam, as a result. So, your effort is wasted because the professor will judge you on the results of the exam, not your effort in studying. But, with Allah Almighty, there is no effort that goes to waste. And this is the glad tidings and ease and peace of mind that He gives us:

{But Allah is the best guardian, and He is the most merciful of the merciful.} (Quran 12:64)

The summary of all of this is that Allah Almighty has made the best plans for us. He is most knowing of His creation. He gives reminders to those who need reminders, hope for those who need it, and warning for those who need it … all at the perfect time and for our own benefit so that we may get the best in this life and the next.

Indeed, His Mercy is beyond all limits and calculations. And He is The One who constantly honors His created beings and is Most Merciful to them.

I hope this helps. Please keep in touch. 


Please continue feeding your curiosity, and find more info in the following links:

New Day, New Life: The Balance Between Fear And Hope

Fear and Hope: Abdel Rahman Murphy

Hope in Allah: Never Feel Disappointed?

Reflect on the Mercy of the Most Merciful

3 Steps to Prepare for Death

About Dina Mohamed Basiony

Dina Mohamed Basiony is a writer based in Cairo, Egypt. She is the Chief Editor of ProductiveMuslim.com. She specializes in Islam and spirituality. Dina holds an MA and BA in Journalism and Mass Communication from the American University in Cairo.

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