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When Death Draws Near

When we receive a sign that our life is nearing the end, it is a decisive and enabling moment. It empowers us to engage in righteousness deeds that we had putting off all our lives. It emboldens us to go to people we have wronged and ask their forgiveness.

It inspires us to write our last will and testament, stating therein all of our debts, obligations, and the gifts we wish to give, and to do so according to the dictates of our conscience. We might also entreat our heirs to carry out some religious obligations on our behalf, like the pilgrimage, or advise them to engage in some other act of worship where we might share in the reward.

Allah has permitted us to set aside a third of our estate for bequests. The other two thirds are not ours to dispense with as we wish. They are to be divided up among the rightful heirs in fixed shares as Allah has prescribed in the Quran.

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It is best for us to start assuming the best about Allah from now, so we will assume the best about Him when our time comes. We should not despair about our past sins, nor be anxious about what the future holds, nor grieve over our present state. We should pay heed to Allah’s words when He tells us:

{Indeed, those who have said, ‘Our Lord is Allah’ and then remained steadfast – the angels will descend upon them, saying: ‘Do not fear and do not grieve but receive glad tidings of Paradise, which you were promised’.} (Quran 41: 30)

Ikrimah said that when death approaches, “you should not fear what lies ahead and nor despair of your sins, nor despair over your children.”

This is because Prophet Muhammad gave this advice:

“When you die, you should assume the best about Allah.” (Sahih Muslim)

Coping with the Death of our Loved Ones

Wailing and ritualized mourning are forbidden in Islam. It is not pious behavior, nor is it the proper way to honor the deceased. Allah advises us:

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{Do not grieve.} (9: 40)

The Prophet (peace be upon him) enjoins the following upon us:

“Be patient and look forward to Allah’s reward.” (Sahih al-Bukhari and Sahih Muslim)

Rituals of mourning throughout the world sanctify the state of sorrow and bereavement, reviving the pain that we feel for our lost loved ones. Reason, on the other hand, dictates that we should put our sorrow behind us, and instead cultivate the beautiful sentiments that will allow us to go forward in hope and with hearts full of light.

Those who are truly dead are not those who have passed over into the next life. Rather, they are people who are alive in this world, but they do not know life’s value, nor the blessing of having a direct relationship with Allah.

Allah points to this fact when he says:

{And is one who had been dead and We raised him to life and made for him a light by which to walk among the people, like one who is in darkness from which he can never emerge?} (6: 122)

Does this mean that we who are living should forget our loved ones who have passed away? Not at all. We must never forget them. We should remember them warmly and honor them with our words. We should applaud the good that they have done. Indeed, that is often a manifestation in this world of Allah’s pleasure with them in the Hereafter.

Likewise, we can give charity or sponsor an orphan in their names and do other acts of worship for the sake of sharing the blessings with them. This could be as simple as keeping a savings bank in our living room where we collect our small change and periodically donate this to charity in our loved one’s name, so that Allah can bless them for our good deed on their behalf.

Another way to commemorate our loved ones is to name a park, a street, a public library, or an endowment after them. In this way, their name and memory lives on in their community.

We can visit their graves and greet them in peace, keeping in mind that they will know of our greeting them even though they cannot reply to us.

We can see them in our dreams, sometimes as vividly as if we were awake, and feel joy in our hearts when it happens.

There is nothing wrong with shedding tears. Allah does not take us to account for the tears that fall from our eyes, nor for the sorrow in our hearts. Crying relieves our pain. Ninety percent of people say that their emotional state improves after they allow themselves to cry.

A teardrop can be a poem. Someone had a dream where they saw a teardrop fall from my eye after the death of my child Abdurrahman, and that tear was a poem. Indeed, elegies for the dead are among the sincerest and most heartfelt of poems, rivaled only by love poetry.

I once visited a friend who had recently lost his wife and five children in a fire. Another friend of mine lost three of his children in an automobile accident. These are the hardest of deaths to endure. Their suddenness makes their pain all the more severe. This is why the Prophet (peace be upon him) said:

“True patience is exercised at the initial moment of realization.”

He also said:

“Those who exercise patience, Allah will bless them to have patience.” (Sahih al-Bukhari and Muslim)

Over time, that same pain will provide you with strength and fortitude. You will say to yourself: I have experienced pain, now what do I have to fear?

But at the moment when tragedy strikes, we are more likely to be asking another question:

Why me? Of all people, why is this happening to me?” This is a passing moment of selfishness which almost inevitably strikes us, even in our deepest sorrow. Does anyone really escape it?

Maxine Schnall’s daughter had a near-fatal car accident, and she felt acutely that her neglect was responsible for her almost losing her daughter. The experience changed her life. It led her to write the book What Doesn’t Kill You Makes You Stronger, which provides strategies for coping with loss interspersed with the stories of people who had to face tragedies, great and small.

Source: en.islamtoday.net

About Salman al-Ouda
Muslim scholar. Al-Ouda is a member of the International Union for Muslim Scholars and on its Board of Trustees. He is a director of the Arabic edition of the website Islam Today and appears on a number of TV shows and authors newspaper articles.