This article is from the On Demand Course: Preparing for the End of Life. In Islam death is not an end state but a station on the way. Preparing for death is central to the life of a Muslim. This is the sixth article in a series.
Clear your debts. Unless there’s a clear need, and the debt is controlled, it is not a smart situation to be in, in worldly terms or spiritual terms. Debts are things one has borrowed but not given back. Keep track of those things.
Redress wrongs. If you’ve insulted, slandered or spoken ill of someone then redress that. Apologize and rectify. Follow any bad with good to wipe it out.
Mend relations. As well as keeping families together, good relations keep human beings together. Without community, one cannot preserve worldly or spiritual good.
Be on good terms with parents, children, siblings, family, friends, all your circles of concern, neighbors, etc. Part of being ready to die is to have no claim against you.
One needs to have a sense of urgency. You know you will die, but you don’t know when. Intelligence would be to assume that any moment you could pass. Certainty is not left due to doubts.
إِنَّ ٱلۡإِنسَـٰنَ لَفِی خُسۡرٍ
إِلَّا ٱلَّذِینَ ءَامَنُوا۟ وَعَمِلُوا۟ ٱلصَّـٰلِحَـٰتِ وَتَوَاصَوۡا۟ بِٱلۡحَقِّ وَتَوَاصَوۡا۟ بِٱلصَّبۡرِ
“By the End of the Day!
Truly Man is ruined in loss!
Save those who believe and work righteous deeds, and bid each other to right, and bid each other to patience” [Keller, The Quran Beheld 103:1-3]
This chapter describes the four aspects of success, keeping one’s faith alive, committing to and being resolute on the good and coming together on that good and being steadfast therein.
This sense of urgency requires knowledge. You need to know the good so you can pursue it and you need to be aware of harm so you can avoid it. It requires inspiration. You need to connect to things that will inspire you to uphold what is right. That requires exemplars. One needs to keep the company of those who have that similar sense of urgency and that is only found in the community.
It is one of the travesties of modern living that people are alone. It is a grave innovation of human history.
False hopes are to imagine that one is going to live to the next moment without the possibility of death. The basis of all harm in life is false hope. This negates urgency. Time will run out and you don’t know when.
Rather, ask yourself concerning any action you intend, “Is this what I want to die doing?” If not then don’t do it. Ask yourself, “Is this the best thing I want to die doing?” If you do not want to die doing what you are doing then you must question yourself as to why you are doing this.
Consider what is best to be doing and what state you would like to be in. If one remains unsure then consult.
A Living Will
Have a living will. This is a very strong Prophetic encouragement. The Prophet (Allah bless him and give him peace) emphasized having a living will so much that he said that “no person should go to sleep without their will under their pillow.” This narration is not meant literally but in the sense that have a living will.
The first thing that enters into wills are the rights of others such as debts you owe other people and debts you owe the Divine. It is not a default that your will is to be discharged by the guidance of the Quran. Ensure how your estate is to be apportioned is Islamically valid.
Keep track of the debts you owe as well as the debts you have to expiate for that you haven’t fulfilled with respect to Allah. There is expiation for missed prayers, missed fasts, missed Zakat, unperformed Hajj, etc.
If you are a lawyer with concerns about this, it doesn’t take that much to work with people of knowledge to come up with these needed resources. Pick an area where you can provide some clear religious benefit, have a plan, and benefit people with it.
A Clean Slate
Renew your repentance and seek forgiveness. Repentance, if sincere, rooted in remorse, with a commitment to leave the sin and not return to it, wipes away the sin.
Sincere forgiveness is an affirmation of being genuine in one’s remorse. Keep renewing your repentance, even if you are stuck in a sin. Commit to leave it and renew your repentance. If you are still stuck, seek the means of getting out
of it. Consult.
You are not the sum of your bad qualities, so clean your slate. When you struggle, seek assistance.
A Beloved State
What state do you want to die in? The Prophet (Allah bless him and give him peace) is reported to have said, “Let none of you die except that they have a good opinion of their Lord.”
Truly Allah loves the repentant, the mindful, the generous, the patient. Nurture those qualities so if you were to die, you would die in a state that Allah describes:
یَـٰۤأَیُّهَا ٱلَّذِینَ ءَامَنُوا۟ مَن یَرۡتَدَّ مِنكُمۡ عَن دِینِهِۦ فَسَوۡفَ یَأۡتِی ٱللَّهُ بِقَوۡم یُحِبُّهُمۡ وَیُحِبُّونَهُۥۤ
“O you who believe: whoever of you reneges his faith, Allah shall replace with a single group of people whom He loves and who love Him” [Keller, The Quran Beheld 5:54]
He loves them and they love Him. Nurture these qualities. Be content with your Lord. Die in a state of contentment without latent resentment.
Be ready to die by being hopeful of a good ending. It’s kind of simple. Ask for a good ending. There are many things mentioned in the Quran that are signs of a good ending. Reflect on this. Similarly, there are many things in Prophetic teachings that are signs of good endings.
One should not forget to supplicate. If you would like a good ending then ask Allah for one.
A Note on Grief
There is a lot of wisdom as to why we grieve. However, there are restraints to that grief. One expresses one’s grief yet channeling it positively. Excessive grief is harmful. Part of grief is to turn to Allah in dua and to renew the realities of faith.
The Prophet (Allah bless him and give him peace) warned against solitude in general. One should not remain alone. When troubled, whether by death, loss or other matters, seek assistance. The time when one should least be alone is when one feels like one does not want to be around other people.
If you know someone who has suffered loss, embrace them and be with them. Community is mercy and being alone is torment.