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Dying Upon Love of Allah — the Beautiful Counsel of al-Abbas ibn Abd al-Muttalib to His Son

Imam Bayhaqi relates in his Shu’ab al-Iman that when al-Abbas ibn Abd al-Muttalib—the uncle of the Messenger of Allah (peace & blessings be upon him and his folk)—was on the verge of death, he said to his son:

 

“O Abd Allah! I counsel you to:

(1) love Allah (Mighty and Majestic),
(2) and to love His obedience;
(3) to have fear of Allah,
(4) and fear of His disobedience.

“If you are this way, then you will not dislike dying when death comes to you

“I counsel you to regarding Allah, my dear child.”

“Then al-Abbas turned towards the Qibla, said, “La ilaha illa’l Llah (‘There is no god but God’),” raised his gaze, and died.”

[Bayhaqi, Shu’ab al-Iman, 2.15]

 

Translated By Shaykh Faraz Rabbani

 


 

 

 

Why Do We Die? – Shaykh Hamza Karamali

Shaykh Hamza Karamali addresses a topic that is uncomfortable to our western sensibilities, yet is of great significance to the life of faith. Here he tackles the reason behind death.

Why do we die? A materialist might answer that we die because our body stops working. Our breathing, our heartbeat, our brain activity, everything, stops. We saw in the previous episode that this materialist is wrong. We are not our bodies, but our souls, and although our death is accompanied by bodily changes, it is not those bodily changes themselves, but something else related to the soul.

Death is the separation of our soul from our body. We die because our soul is separated from our body. But that is not, in fact, what I am asking. When I ask, “Why do we die?” I am not inquiring about the cause of our death. I am inquiring about the purpose.

Everything in the universe appears to have some purpose. Another way of saying this is that everything in the universe appears to happen so that something else that comes afterwards can also happen.

Allah Set Everything in Motion

Allah Most High sends winds to move rain clouds over dry land (Sura al Furqan 25:48). He sends rain to make plants grow (Sura al Furqan 25:49-50). He makes the earth orbit around its axis, the moon around the earth, and the earth around the sun to enable us to tell time by counting days and months (Sura Yunus 10:5 and Sura al Isra 17:12). He made hemoglobin in our blood cells to carry oxygen from our lungs to the rest of our body. He made chlorophyll in plant cells to absorb light energy from the sun. And so on.

When I ask, “Why do we die?” I am asking, “What is the purpose of our death?” Everything in the universe has a purpose. Everything in our bodies has a purpose. It would make sense for our death, too, to have a purpose. What is that purpose? Why do we die?

A Fool’s Errand

We have all heard someone remark, “You only live once.” The one who makes this remark has to make a choice between being responsible: doing a chore, studying for an exam, putting in extra hours at work, taking care of a father, a mother, or a child; and doing something he enjoys: playing a game, watching a movie, going on a vacation, any kind of entertainment.

What he means by his remark, “You only live once,” is that after he dies, he will stop existing. This life, he is saying, is all that there is. What this entails, he is saying, is that the purpose of his life before death is to maximize his pleasures. That every moment of his life that is spent in something other than the pursuit of pleasure is a wasted opportunity, a foolish choice. And that he should therefore only be “responsible” when that leads to some immediate pleasure, some selfish gain.

He might strengthen his conclusion with a second remark, saying, “Life is short.” He is now saying that not only only do you only live once, you only live once for a short time, and the urgency to experience immediate pleasures, to acquire a selfish gain, is even greater. That, according to his point of view, is the purpose of death. We die in order for us to be motivated to experience immediate pleasures, to acquire selfish gains, and to do so with great urgency. That is why we die.

The Way of Depression and Despair

He is wrong. But before I explain why, I want you to see that if, as he says, “You only live once,” then the pursuit of pleasure is not, in fact, the purpose of death. The purpose of death, if you only live once, is not make you happy, but make you miserable.

Leo Tolstoy captured this well. He wrote in the late nineteenth century that:

“If not today, then tomorrow sickness and death will come to everyone, to me, and nothing will remain except the stench and the worms. My deeds, whatever they may be, will be forgotten sooner or later, and I myself will be no more. Why, then, do anything? How can anyone fail to see this and live? That’s what is amazing! It is possible to live only as long as life intoxicates us; once we are sober we cannot help seeing that it is all a delusion, a stupid delusion! Nor is there anything funny or witty about it; it is only cruel and stupid.” (Leo Tolstoy, “A Confession”)

The urgent pursuit of pleasure and selfish gain is not the purpose of death, but a distraction from death’s depressing reality. That everything we do will be wiped out forever. That all of our dreams will be ruined. That every pleasure, every achievement, every aspiration is a mirage that disappears to reveal the terrifying face of our mortality. And that is the bright side of things.

That is how life appears when things go well. When things go wrong. When we fail at work. When our loved ones let us down. When we are assailed by difficulties and we are unable even to distract ourselves with a mirage, we ask, “Why does it always happen to me?” We feel the pain of failure, we feel trapped, we fall into depression, we despair.

The Fool Is Wrong

Now that you see why the one who remarks, “You only live once,” is heading down a path to depression and despair, I will explain why, in addition to being miserable, he is also wrong. He is wrong because his death is not the end of his existence, but the separation of his soul from his body and the continued existence of his soul in another, everlasting abode.

This means that his remark: “You only live once,” is false. You live, you die, and then you live again. You don’t live once; you live twice, and your second life lasts forever. What, then, is the real purpose of death? Remember that what it means for something to have a purpose is that it happens so that something else might happen after it. We can discern the purposes of wind, rain, celestial orbits, hemoglobin, and chlorophyll by observing what they lead to.

But we cannot discern the purpose of death by observing what it leads to because we cannot observe — before we die ourselves — what death leads to. For that, we need to turn to the one who made death. We need to turn to Allah Most High.

A Test of Faith

I began the last post with the words of Allah Most High: “Every soul will, without doubt, fully experience death.” (Sura al Anbiya 21:35) Immediately afterwards, Allah Most High explains why He made death. He says, “We are surely testing you with unpleasant and pleasant things and it is to us alone that you will all be returned.” (21:35)

Allah Most High makes us die so that the unpleasant and pleasant things in our life before death might test our slavehood to Him. After death, He will make us live a second time, forever, and reward those who showed Him slavehood with everlasting bliss. That is the purpose of death. That is why we die.

Let me explain further. When we experience difficulties, those difficulties have a meaning and purpose beyond our death into our everlasting life after death. Allah Most High sends us difficulties to test our slavehood to Him. To see whether or not we live through them as needy and faithful slaves who turn to Him in prayer and repentance. Needy slaves begging Him for help, confessing to Him their weakness and sin, praising His mercy and grace.

Thereby transforming the pain of their difficulties into the joys of humbling themselves before their generous Maker. And having complete conviction that their patience for the sake of their Maker will lead them to an infinite and everlasting reward in their life after death.

Even Pleasures Test the Faithful

When we experience pleasures, those pleasures, too, have a meaning and purpose beyond our deaths into our everlasting life after death. Allah Most High sends us pleasures for the same reason that He sends us difficulties: to test our slavehood to Him. To see whether or not we live through them as needy and faithful slaves who turn to Him in prayer and repentance, confessing their sin. Acknowledging that they are undeserving of being given those pleasures. Seeing them as sheer favors from Allah Most High. Praising him for them. Thanking Him for them. Savoring the gratitude of receiving the blessing even more than the blessing itself. And having complete conviction that their gratitude will lead them to an increase of that blessing in this life and an infinite and everlasting reward in their life after death.

(Allah Most High swears in the Qur’an that he will increase every blessing that we give Him gratitude for (Qur’an, 00:00))

Allah Most High says, “Tremendously exalted and full of good is the One who has complete and undisputed control over everything—the one who directly runs and governs everything in the universe—and who has complete power to do all things, the one who created death and life in order to test which of you is best in works.”

Death is a divine blessing. It makes our lives meaning. It gives us purpose. It helps us do good deeds. It helps us be moral. It gives us joy and hope in Allah Most High through our difficulties. It gives us even greater joy and hope in Him through our pleasures. It helps us be happy. And, if we believe in Him and worship Him, clinging to joy and hope in Allah Most High in our life before death, it gives us His infinite and everlasting reward in our life after death. That is the purpose of death. That is why we die.


This post is taken from the second episode of the podcast series: Remembering Death and the Afterlife with Shaykh Hamza Karamali.


 

On Death and Dying, by Ustadh Salman Younas

With the current year drawing to a close, social media has come alight repeatedly with news of the passing of yet another celebrity. Ustadh Salman Younas shares some personal thoughts on an inevitable journey all of us will embark upon: death.

I have seen many people in my wider circle of friends/acquaintances express how death has seemed so much closer to us this year than previous ones. We have witnessed the passing of many a parent, teacher, sibling, friend, and child. Some of us directly suffered these losses; others suffered through seeing these losses endured by people they knew, such as friends; yet, other losses were so global and impactful that all of us were effected by them.
I was never particularly fearful of death until my daughter was born. After her birth, the fear kicked in. It was in most ways a worldly fear. I wanted to see my little one take her first steps, speak her first words, start school, become a rebellious teenager, go to college, and have a family. I wanted to live to see my child grow.
This all changed after my father passed away. I remember standing with some of my close friends after a Quran recital telling them about how the birth of my daughter led to an increased fear of death on my part. But my attitude had changed now. I knew my father had moved into another room that was out of my sight. But I was no longer afraid to have the door to that room opened for me because I knew that he would be there. It was the first time in a long time that I was not afraid to leave the room my daughter was in for the room my father had gone too.
[cwa id=’cta’]

The Fear Factor

This taught me an important lesson. We often understand death in negative terms: we will be questioned, there is a thing called Hell, God will take us to account for everything, and so forth. The motivating factor in death for many is the fear factor. This is important, of course. Yet, the passing of my father taught me that it is also a motivator because of a love factor, a love and desire for reunion.
This was the perspective of Fatima (God be well-pleased with her). When the Prophet (blessings and peace be upon him) was in his final illness “he said something secretly to Fatima and she wept. Then he said something secretly to her and she laughed.” [Bukhari] When asked later why she wept, she said it was because the Prophet (blessings and peace be upon him) was moving to the next life. But when asked what made her smile, it was because she was told that she would join him in Paradise.
This was the perspective of the Prophet (blessings and peace be upon him). In one of his final sermons, he mentioned how “God had given a slave the choice between immortality in this world or meeting his Lord, and he had chosen to meet his Lord.” He was speaking about himself. His last words according to A’isha were, “to the highest Companion!” He had chosen to move on and unite with God. [Bukhari]

A Beautiful Union

To all of my brothers and sisters who have lost someone, to those saddened by separation, and to those still grieving, do not forget the union that death brings. A union with a merciful and compassionate Lord. A union with a most beautiful and perfect Prophet who will not cease pleading to God until each and every one of his followers is in Paradise with him.
Remember that your loved ones from this community wait for you, and that you have the opportunity to be with them in a place where time has ceased, where there will be no separation, nor grief, nor sadness, nor pain. It is a place where all of you can be together in utter bliss, love, and happiness.
This is the hope and trust we place in our Lord. This is why we worship and engage in righteousness: so we can reunite with those whom we love – God, His Prophet, our parents, children, siblings, friends, and others. So, do not despair, do not lose sight of the bigger picture, and make your life a road to reunion.
We ask God to renuite us in the eternal garden with those we love in the company of our Prophet (blessings upon him) and all the righteous.

What You Need to Know About the Fiqh of Burial, by Imam Tahir Anwar

How much do you know about the fiqh of burial? Do you know what is the first call to make when someone dies? What sort of preparation do you need to make? Is there a religious significance to washing the shroud in Zamzam water? What sort of instructions should you give to your relatives? Is it really true that we must encourage a dying person to recite the testimony of faith? And is organ donation permissible?

In this video, Imam Tahir Anwar discusses what we possibly consider the most difficult subject to think about: death and dying. However, it’s also one of the most important subjects, not to mention a situation that we are all absolutely guaranteed to face, sooner or later.

“Life has no guarantees. A person could pass away at any time.”

 Resources for Seekers

We are thankful to Al-Maqasid for this recording.

What Is Some Prophetic Guidance on Remembering Death?

Answered by Shaykh Faraz Rabbani

Question: I was wondering what the guidance of the Messenger of Allah (peace & blessings be upon him) was with respect to remembering death. Please share some of his teachings.

Answer: Assalamualaykum wa rahmatullahi wa barakatuh,

I pray this finds you in the best of health and spirits. This is a very good question, MashaAllah. We would recommend that you refer to Chapter 65. Chapter of Imam Nawawi’s Gardens of the Righteous (Riyad al-Salihin): On remembering death and constraining expectation.

This is Ustadha Ayesha Bewley’s translation of that chapter:

Allah Almighty says, “Every self will taste death. You will be paid your wages in full on the Day of Rising. Anyone who is distanced from the Fire and admitted to the Garden, has triumphed. The life of this world is only the enjoyment of delusion,” (3:185) and the Almighty says, “No self knows what it will earn tomorrow and no self knows in what land it will die.” (W31:33; H31:34) The Almighty says, “When their specified time arrives, they cannot delay it for a single hour nor can they bring it forward,” (16:61) and the Almighty says, “O you who believe! Do not let your wealth or children divert you from the remembrance of Allah. Whoever does that is lost. Give from what We have provided for you before death comes to one of you and he says, ‘O Lord, if only you would give me a little more time so that I can give sadaqa and be one of the righteous.’ Allah will not give anyone more time, once their time has come. Allah is aware of everything you do.” (63:9-11) The Almighty says, “Until, when death comes to one of them, he says, ‘My Lord, send me back again. so that perhaps I may act rightly regarding the things I failed to do!’ No indeed! It is just words he utters. Before them there is an interspace until the day they are raised up. Then when the Trumpet is blown, that Day there will be no family ties between them, they will not be able to question one another. Those whose scales are heavy, they are the successful. Those whose scales are light, they are the losers of their selves, remaining in Hell timelessly, forever. The Fire will sear their faces making them grimace horribly in it, their lips drawn back from their teeth. ‘Were My Signs not recited to you and did you not deny them?'” to His words, “‘How many years did you tarry on the earth?’ They will say, ‘We tarried for a day or part of a day. Ask those able to count!’ He will say, ‘You only tarried for a little while if you did but know! Did you suppose that We created you for amusement and that you would not return to Us?'” (W23:100-116; H23:99-115) The Almighty says, “Has the time not arrived for the hearts of those who believe to yield to the remembrance of Allah and to the Truth He has sent down, and not to be like those who were given the Book before for whom the time seemed over long so that their hearts became hard. Many of them are degenerate.” (W57:15; H57:16)

574. Ibn ‘Umar said, “The Messenger of Allah, may Allah bless him and grant him peace, took me by the shoulder and said, ‘Be in this world as if you were a stranger or a traveller on the road.”
Ibn ‘Umar used to say, “In the evening, do not anticipate the morning, and in the morning do not anticipate the evening. Take from your health for your illness and from your life for your death.”
[al-Bukhari]

575. Ibn ‘Umar reported that the Messenger of Allah, may Allah bless him and grant him peace, said, “It is not right for a Muslim man who has anything to bequeath to spend two nights without having a written will in his possession.” [Agreed upon. This is the variant in al-Bukhari]

In a variant of Muslim, “To spend three nights.” Ibn ‘Umar said, “Not a night has passed since I heard the Messenger of Allah, may Allah bless him and grant him peace, say that without my having had my will with me.”

576. Anas said, “The Prophet, may Allah bless him and grant him peace, drew some lines and said, ‘This is man and this is end of his lifespan. That is how he is when this nearest line comes upon him.” [al-Bukhari]

577. Ibn Mas’ud said, “The Prophet, may Allah bless him and grant him peace, drew lines making a square and then drew a line in the middle which extended beyond it. He drew some small lines up to this middle line from the side within the square and said, ‘This is man, and this is end of his lifespan which encircles him – or by which he is encircled – and this which goes beyond it is his hope and these small lines are things that happen. If this one misses him, that one gets him, and if that one misses him, this one gets him.'” [al-Bukhari] This is its form:

diagram

578. Abu Hurayra reported the Messenger of Allah, may Allah bless him and grant him peace, said, “Race to good actions as fast as you can. What are you waiting for except delayed poverty, oppressive wealth, debilitating illness, dottering senility, a swift death or the Dajjal? Or are you waiting for an unseen evil, or the Last Hour? The Last Hour will be most bitter and terrible.” [at-Tirmidhi]

579. Abu Hurayra reported that the Messenger of Allah, may Allah bless him and grant him peace, said, “Remember frequently the thing that cuts off pleasures,” i.e. death.” [at-Tirmidhi]

580. Ubayy ibn Ka’b said, “When a third of the night had passed, the Messenger of Allah, may Allah bless him and grant him peace, stood up and said, ‘O people! Remember Allah! The first blast has come and it will be followed by the second blast. Death has come with all that it involves. Death has come with all that it involves.’ I said, ‘O Messenger of Allah, I do a lot of prayer on you. How much prayer should I allot for you?’ He said, ‘However much you like.’ I said, ‘A quarter?’ He said, ‘However much you like, but if you do more, it will be better for you.’ I said, ‘A half?’ He said, ‘However much you like, but if you do more, it will be better for you.’ I said, ‘Two-thirds?’ He said, ‘However much you like, but if you do more, it will be better for you.’ I said, ‘I will allot all my prayer for you.’ He said, ‘Then you will be spared from worry and forgiven your wrong action.'” [at-Tirmidhi]

Please see also:

Death & Dying: Spiritual Dimensions – Shaykh Ramzy Ajem

Death & Dying: The Importance of Remembering Death & Being Ready for It – Habib Hussein as-Saqqaf

Wassalam,
Faraz Rabbani

Photo: Ahron de Leeuw

The Realities of Death and Dying – SeekersHub Toronto’s Seminar with Shaykh Faraz Rabbani, Shaykh Ramzey Ajem, and Habib Hussein al Saqqaf

Death. Dying. Bereavement. Afterlife. Not subjects we particularly want to think about. But sometimes, it’s the things we are most avoiding, that are, in reality, the closest to us.

As the first snowflakes of the year fell to the street outside the Hub, burying out the autumn leaves that had fallen just days earlier, I was struck by how death always seems to be a morose subject of discussion despite being manifested all around us. Why, then, I wondered, are we still not ready to acknowledge it?

But in the final of the Living Religion seminar series at SeekersHub Toronto, aptly titled Death and Dying, we literally looked death in the face.

Spiritual Dimensions of Death and The AfterLife – Shaykh Ramzy Ajem

“Who here, by a show of hands, is ready for death?” asked Shaykh Ramzy Ajem, the first speaker of the seminar. No one moved.

“No one? Death isn’t a morbid subject; it shouldn’t be like that for a Muslim.” He said. “Death isn’t an end, it’s a beginning. You have a merciful Lord.”

He encouraged us to look at death in a positive light, and look forward to receiving that mercy. In regards to the afterlife, no one will enter Paradise based on his good actions; Paradise is from the mercy of our Lord. He told us that this life could never be a time for us to “collect” good deeds in a basket to be presented to Allah on the Day of Judgement; it is in our neediness of Him, that we attain a knowledge of Him.

He ended by urging us to examine our lives in perspective. “Our lives aren’t just cooking and cleaning, career, spouse. Love what you like, but you’re going to lose it. If your attachments are unbalanced, dying is going to be painful.”

However, if we see things in perspective, and realize that our purpose in life is to know Allah, and nothing more, death will be a pleasure.

 

The Importance of Remembering Death – Habib Hussein al Saqqaf

The next lecture was a video broadcast from the UAE, where Habib Hussein al-Saqqaf resides and teaches.

“The traveller,” Habib Hussein reminded us, “will not settle until he reaches his destination.” He emphasized that this worldly life is only one of the many stages that a human soul will pass through; that the stage of life is connected to the body, the stage of the barzakh is connected to the soul, and the stage of the afterlife is a perfect connection of both. He referred to death as a liqaa, a meeting.

That liqaa could be a happy one for you, if you loved Allah, His Messenger, and the noble ones. However, if you were attached to evil in your life, your liqaa would be an evil one.

A theme that is echoed throughout Islamic teaching is the idea of the husn al-khatima, the good ending. Habib Hussein encouraged us to seek that good ending proactively and with direction.

“No one is protected from sin,” he said, “but follow a sin with a good deed without delay.” He especially urged us not to wait; a good deed could be as simple as a smile, a kind word, or the act of giving food to another.

Habib Hussein left us with a practical plan to fortify our hearts, saying, “Whatever is in the hearts of men will spill out at the time of death,” and that constant repetition of the shahada, the testification of faith, la ilaha illa-Allah (there is no deity except Allah) cause it to be contained within our hearts, such that those could be our last words at the time of death.

 Practical Guidance for Preparing for Death – Shaykh Faraz Rabbani

Shaykh Faraz, as is his habit, focused on the practical aspects of preparing for death. “At a spiritual level, you’re dying every moment, because you have no inherent existence. You winked into existence, you would wink out if He didn’t sustain you.”

He shared ten ways:

1. Know your realities—Who is your Creator? Who are you? What is life and its purpose?
“One of the most amazing things about our religion,” he said, “is that we don’t just talk about God in the abstract; we know His attributes.”

2. Reflect on death—“Only a fool would believe that something changing is eternal,” he said.

3. Know the rights of Allah over you—your obligations to Him.

4. Know the rights of creation over you—“You have no right to harm God’s creation,” he warned. That could come in the form of physical harm, or something as simple such as gossiping.

22809255903_67e3137f79_b 5. Sense of urgency—that death could come at you any moment.

6. Use the “Death Test”—by asking yourself before any given action, “Is this what I want to die doing?” and during the action, “Is this the best use of my time?”

7. Having a living will—keeping track of your material and spiritual rights over God and others.

8. Keep a clean slate—through regular repentance.

9. Die beloved—with love and thankfulness, faith and trust, and certitude, pleased to meet your Lord.
And lastly, very practically:

10. Ask for a good ending.

Personal Reflection

Granted, death is a heavy subject, and will be so until the time comes when death is no more. However, the seminar had left me feeling hopeful rather than hopeless.

But the words of the ignorant and inexperienced cannot explain clarity. The only way to explain my feelings are contained in the final chapter of the miraculous poem Al-Burda:

“My Lord! Let not my hope on You be overthrown, nor let my credit with You be void of worth. Deal kindly with Your slave in both worlds, for when terrors call to him, his patience is weak.” (trans. Abdul Hakim Murad)

What little is contained in this world, cannot explain everything. What transpired in this world, cannot be the end of the matter. Therefore, death is a passage, not obliviation.

It took me a seminar to realize that.

 

What Is the Proper Etiquette in Giving Condolences to the Family of a Deceased Who Is Non-Muslim?

Answered by Ustadh Tabraze Azam

Question: As salam alaykum,

What is the proper etiquette in giving condolences to the family of a deceased who is non-muslim?

Answer: Wa alaikum assalam wa rahmatullahi wa barakatuh,

I pray that this message finds you well, insha’Allah.

In general, most customary forms of giving condolences, which are free from any particular religious connotation, would be fine.

What Should I Intend?

You can intend by your visit maintaining family or social ties, upholding noble character, and being a person who cares for others, actively, by expressing your sorrow to the family of the deceased in a way that is beneficial for both the one giving and receiving those condolences.

Allah Most High says, “and He does not forbid you to deal kindly and justly with anyone who has not fought you for your faith or driven you out of your homes: God loves the just.” [60.8]

Giving Condolences

The scholars mention that in giving condolences to a non-Muslim who lost a non-Muslim relative, you can say either:

(1) “May God requite you for your loss, and may He not reduce your number (akhlafa ‘Llahu alayka wa la naqasa adaduk).” [al-Fatawa al-Hindiyya, from al-Siraj al-Wahhaj; Nawawi, al-Adhkar] or,

(2) “May God requite you with something greater than your loss, and make you prosper (akhlafa ‘Llahu alayka khayran minhu wa aslahaka).” [Khadimi, al-Bariqa al-Mahmudiyya, quoting from al-Fatawa al-Tatarkhaniyya]

It is also reported that the Messenger of Allah (Allah bless him and give him peace) said, “What Allah takes is His and what He gives is His. Everything has a fixed term with Him.” [Bukhari]

For further supplications, discussion and proper manners, I’d recommend reading the relevant section from The Book of Remembrances (Kitab al-Adhkar), edited by Dr. Muhammad Isa Waley.

Supplicating for a Deceased Non-Muslim

The basis is that we do not supplicate for the forgiveness of a deceased non-Muslim because of the words of Allah Most High, “It is not fitting for the Prophet and the believers to ask forgiveness for the idolaters– even if they are related to them– after having been shown that they are the inhabitants of the Blaze.” [9.113]

As for supplicating that they get what is best for them, or that which they deserve, whilst consigning their affair to Allah Most High, this would be permitted.

[al-Mawsu`a al-Fiqhiyya al-Kuwaitiyya]

Please also see the following resources: How to Deal With a Non-Muslim Relative’s Death and: Is a Memorial Service for a Non-Muslim Permissible in Islam? and: Can We Pray for Non-Muslims Who Passed Away?

And Allah alone knows best.

wassalam,

Tabraze Azam

Checked & Approved by Shaykh Faraz Rabbani

Imam Khalid Latif on “Losing Someone Close To You”

grave-coffinThere is a narration that is found in the Islamic tradition in which a companion of the Prophet Muhammad, peace be upon him, named Abdur Rahman ibn Awf speaks about visiting the Prophet’s infant son, Ibrahim. In this particular narration, he mentions that the Prophet kisses Ibrahim and takes him close, and then later begins to shed tears because Ibrahim is in his last breaths. Abdur Rahman asks about these tears to which the Prophet responds “Oh Ibn Awf, this is mercy.”

The Prophet then cries more and says: “The eyes are shedding tears, and the heart is grieved, and we will not say except what pleases our Lord. Oh Ibrahim! Indeed we are grieved by your separation.”

Losing someone close to us is always a hard situation to deal with. Just as hard is also knowing how to help and support someone who has lost someone close to their hearts. The pain of that separation causes even the hardest of hearts to tremble and puts us in a place where we at times don’t know what to do. The reality of this life being something that is finite comes as a secondary thought as we begin to deal with the aftermath of a heaviness placed upon our hearts. How do I cope or help someone to cope with this loss?

Primarily we want to understand that feeling grief at the loss of loved one is not somehow an absence of faith or a deficiency of it. Faith can actually become a potential source of making sense of the loss, and we lose out on it if we tell ourselves getting sad is somehow wrong. For the Muslims who are reading this, the Prophet Muhammad cried when his son died. None of us would say he is lacking in faith. We shouldn’t tell ourselves or each other that we somehow are lacking faith simply because we are responding the way most humans would respond.

There is no set amount of time that one has to reconcile the loss of a loved one. One can very subjectively make a determination as to how much time they need and telling yourself or someone else that because a certain number of days have passed they should now move forward doesn’t necessarily make sense. Although time is an important factor, reconciliation isn’t purely a product of time and making yourself or someone else feel as if they are doing something problematic by taking the time they need isn’t going to help the situation.

Moving on also does not entail completely forgetting. How we remember becomes key as does what we do through that remembrances. Our hearts will respond to things that remind them of what they hold as beloved. The Prophet Muhammad deeply loved his first wife Khadijah. The year in which she, as well as the Prophet’s uncle Abu Talib, passes away becomes known as the “Year of Grief.” Khadijah definitely had a special place in the Prophet’s heart and his “moving on” did not entail forgetting her. On one instance after her passing, he is sitting with a group of his companions when someone brings to him a necklace. He holds the necklace and recognizes it as once belonging to his wife Khadijah and begins to cry as he remembers her.

He builds upon this remembrance through his action. After Khadijah’s passing, the Prophet would regularly send gifts to her family and friends. He would speak of her and mention how important she was to him. His moving on did not include forgetting entirely. Our moving on doesn’t have to either.

We can remember those that we have lost through actions undertaken through their remembrance; coming together to remember and doing good in their memory. Islam teaches its practitioner that even after a person has passed, those who remain in this world can bring benefit to them by performance of deeds on their behalf. I can give of myself with the sole intention that the person I have lost should be the benefactor of any reward from my actions and in the process I still maintain a relationship with the one I love while at the same time bringing their presence into the lives of others.

Losing someone close to you can definitely be tough. Whether it’s a parent, a child, a friend, or really anyone, that loss hurts. You don’t have to deny that pain and you can take your time to deal with it. But just keep in mind that although the person is not physically there, they can still be present in your life and the lives of many others, based off of how you remember them.

Imam Khalid LatifImam Khalid Latif is a University Chaplain for New York University, Executive Director of the Islamic Center at NYU, and a Chaplain for the NYPD. He is also the co-founder of Honest Chops, the first-ever all-natural/organic halal butcher in NYC, the Muslim Wedding Service, an agency specializing in providing charismatic and inspirational marriage officiants for wedding ceremonies.

 

Resources for Seekers:

The Loss of a Child: Seeking & Turning to Allah in Difficult Times
Basic Rulings and Length of the Waiting Period (`idda)
The Ruling on Women Visiting Graves and Etiquettes of Visiting
How Can I Deal with Several Pregnancy Losses?
How Do We Deal With the Death of a Loved One?
How To Benefit from Remembering Death?
How to Deal With a Non-Muslim Relative’s Death
How To Overcome My Fear of Death?
The Soul’s Journey after Death and The Day of Judgement
Dealing With Anxiety About Death and Dying
Dealing with Death: Inward & Outward Manners
How Do I Deal With Excessive Fear Of Death?

Lessons from a Medina Graveyard with Photos – Fahad Faruqui – HuffingtonPost

Lessons from a Medina Graveyard with Photos – Fahad Faruqui – HuffingtonPost

One can learn many lessons at a graveyard. I once found myself helping carry the corpse of a stranger, an old woman, to its final abode. At the time, I was a 20-year-old on a family trip to the Holy City of Medina in Saudi Arabia.

Following the ish’a (night) prayers at the Prophet’s Mosque (Al-Masjid al-Nabawi) and the recitation of obligatory funeral prayer, I came across a middle-aged man searching for help to transport the coffin of the woman, who I later learned was his mother. She had passed away a few hours earlier and her son was eager to fulfill her final wish: to be buried immediately after death.

The son was the only family member present. He was anxious to hastily transport the steel coffin, containing the corpse of his mother wrapped in a white shroud, to the Garden of Heaven or, as it is called in Arabic, Janatu l-Baqi’, a graveyard adjacent to the Prophet’s Mosque. (Photos of the Prophet’s Mosque and the Garden of Heaven are below.)

Since it was late at night, the mosque had emptied quickly and there weren’t many eager beavers to lend a hand. A few men on their way out of the mosque regrettably declined the man’s pleas for assistance, saying they had far travel before reaching home. I wanted to help, but I was unsure if I would be able to carry the coffin all the way to the grave situated a couple of hundred meters away.

After a handful of men gathered to move the coffin, four men including me lifted it in unison and rested each corner on the shoulder. As we proceeded toward the graveyard, the coffin was tilted toward my side since I was relatively shorter than the other three.

“She isn’t heavy,” I thought to myself in relief.

A man behind me yelled blessings to the dead as we commenced our walk towards the Medina graveyard. We all joined in enthusiastically, chanting blessings to the dead.

Our voices started to get dimmer as we ran out of breath. The farther we moved away from the mosque, the darker it became. In the sunlight, the sands of Medina graveyard vary in color from orange to a shade that borders on red, with volcanic rocks scattered throughout the grave marking the grave. But at night, it was pitch-black. Our pathway was lit only by the light illuminating from the towering minarets atop the mosque, where Prophet Muhammad, peace and blessings be upon him, rests along with Abu Bakr, the first caliph, and Umar ibn Al-Khattab, the second caliph, may God be pleased with both.

After a few uneven steps, the buckle of one of my sandal’s broke, forcing me to push it aside as we continued forward. The ground was warm, even at this late hour. I could barely see where my feet were stepping in the wide graveyard around us. I was granted some relief when a man volunteered to help, seeking only reward from the Creator.

We walked aimlessly for a bit, trying our best not to trample over the other graves as we searched for the woman’s resting spot. Once we located it and rested the coffin beside the dugout, I took a peak at the grave. It was remarkably dark — the darkest shade of black that I have ever seen.

As I stood among these strangers with death before my eyes, and a six-foot deep grave that felt suffocating from above, the importance of my worries drifted away, and I began reflecting on the temporality of life.

It dawned on me how near we are all to death, our inevitable fate, although many of us think about death very rarely.

Quite out of the blue, I felt I was granted clues and answers to questions that had been filling my mind: Why am I here? And where will I go from here?

I had little to no sense of time. My startled parents went out looking for me when they saw all the doors of the Prophet’s Mosque closed from the window of our hotel room. I arrived back at the hotel more than an hour later than usual, yet the impression the experience left on me has been lasting. It was a moment of clarity, an hour that changed the very foundation of my existence.

“A moment of true reflection is worth more than ages of heedless worship,” Faraz Rabbani, a leading Islamic scholar, said recently on Twitter.

His words reminded me of that night. At certain points in our lives, we have experiences that shake us to the core and compel us to question our outlook on existence and, if we cultivate them properly, bring us nearer to the Almighty. Even many years later, in times when anger, distress, tribulation or temptation has attempted to sway me, my mind returns to that graveyard.

When you become mindful of death, you think and act differently. It becomes difficult to lash out in anger when we know how near death could be. A person conscious of death would think twice before defrauding and deceiving another human being.

By remembering that we will all perish and be buried in dirt, taking none of our possessions with us, it becomes undesirable to wrong or hurt someone intentionally. But one has to realize that death is inevitable.

My recollection of the funeral procession that night is vivid. I remember how time seized for me in the midst of that graveyard. I recall the haunting feeling of suffocation and discomfort that kept me awake that night.

Back in the hotel, as I rested my head on the plush pillow, in an arctic air-conditioned room, I thought of the rock-hard walls encircling that meager grave.

We need not reflect on death at all times to keep us on track. Paying attention to life — to the wondrous creations of the universe around us — can always draw us near to God and prompt us to be grateful. But also reflect on death, since it turns you away from the superficiality of the world and curbs your ego.

I would not say I am a man of immense knowledge. I haven’t spent an adequate amount of time fully uncovering the miracles of the Quran as deeply as I should. I have my ups and down. My faith, at times, dangles, and then I have to realign my thoughts. It happens more often than I am ready to confess here.

Yet I find remembering the inevitability of death from time to time is one way to stay grounded. During a course on Buddhist ethics I took a decade ago with Robert Thurman, the professor related a tale of a newlywed royal couple who went to a celebrated monk, Atisha, for marriage advice.

Initially hesitating to offer any since he had never been married himself, the monk finally yielded, giving some of the soundest marital advice I have heard: “Eventually, husband and wife, each will die. So now while alive, you should strive to be kind to each other.”

Thoughts of death need not flood our minds with sorrow and negativity, as we should understand that death is a natural part of the journey of life.

If we work on making every prayer count as if it’s our last and set aside time from our busy schedules, including the social media that consumes a measurable chunk of our day, to unwind the thoughts and worries entangled in our minds, we may become better humans and will indeed have a greater chance of living with peace.

Click here to view the Photos

How to Deal With a Non-Muslim Relative’s Death

Answered by Sidi Abdullah Anik Misra

Question: I have a question regarding the situation of my grandma. I am a recent convert and my grandma is ill. I have recited the Fatiha to her and listened to recitation of the Koran (Surat Al-Bakarah) with her and it seems to bring her comfort, but I want to know how I can best pray for her and what I should ask Allah for.

So my questions are as follows: What is the best dua to make for an elderly person who is ill and who might be nearing their end? Can I make the same dua for a non-Muslim relative? Also, what is the best verse from the Koran to recite for someone in this situation? I learned that when praying for non-Muslims we should always ask for the Prophet’s intercession. Is this correct?

Answer: Wa alaikum salam wa rahmatullahi wa barakatuh,

Thank you for your question.  Firstly, I want to congratulate you on your being guided to Islam.  Truly, Allah Most High lovingly chose you out of millions to accept His guidance.  We pray that Allah makes you a light and a means for others to enter into Islam also.

I am sorry to hear about the health of your grandmother.

Allah Most High has given your grandmother a tremendous opportunity in that He has given her a granddaughter who is a Muslim, who can advise her towards Islam in her last days.

The most important thing for any human being is that they end their life in a state of submission to their Creator, commensurate to the amount of knowledge of the Truth that reached them in their lifetime.

The best prayer you can make for your grandmother is to ask Allah Most High to create faith (iman) in her heart before she dies.  The greatest gift is to believe with conviction that that there is no god except Allah and that Muhammad (peace be upon him) is His final messenger, so naturally, you should want that for her.

This can be done in your own words and sincere entreaties.  You can always, in any prayer, approach and ask Allah for something for the sake of the love and station of His beloved Prophet (peace and blessing be upon him), because Allah is the only One who can guide others and answer prayers.

Since a Muslim relative would already have faith, the nature of the prayer you make for them would be different than what you would ask for a non-Muslim relative.

Also, difficulty or pain at the time of death is something that can occur to all people, and it in itself is not bad or evil, or a punishment.  Rather, it is a natural part of the exit from this world that even the best of mankind, the prophets of God (peace be upon them all), went through.

Temporary comfort from the pangs of death in this world pales in comparison to everlasting comfort in the Hereafter, so the real concern should be for the person’s Hereafter.

The Duty to Call Others to the Truth

The best and most dutiful thing that you can do is to speak to your grandmother about Allah.  Use gentle reasoning why she should believe in only One God, how He is above having any son or partner, and how He alone should be worshiped because our eventual return is to Him.  If she agrees, you can speak to her about the prophethood.

This can be done in your own language, in loving and simple words- this is not time for complex reasoning nor proofs.  It may be awkward to open a conversation about this, but try to do it in private.  This could be your last chance with her, so throw off all inhibitions for her sake.

If she differs with any of this, at last resort, you can also tell her that this is what you believe, and that those who believe it will one day enter Heaven with God’s pleasure.  You can gently ask her to believe this also, so she can be with you in Heaven, if she loves you the way you love her.

Once you have tried your best given the situation, you have done your duty of giving the Message.  If she does not or cannot accept it, do not feel to blame.

It is not clear to me, when you said she can no longer speak, whether she can still hear and understand, and nod her head.  If she cannot, then I would personally advise still talking through the Message with her gently, because she may still be able to understand without showing signs of it.

Surah Yasin from the Qur’an is something you can listen to, or read, perhaps in translation as well, both for yourself and in her presence because it speaks about life and death.

The Fate of a Non-Muslim After Death

Finally, if she passes away in a state where it was not clear to you if she understood and accepted what you invited her to, although you cannot say she died with faith nor can you pray for her after death, it is permissible to hope that Allah created faith in her heart before she died, because this is not difficult for Allah to do.  This is what my teacher and spiritual guide taught me to do in this situation.

If a non-Muslim dies without having heard or understood the message at all, according to the Ash’ari school (one of the two main schools of Sunni belief), they are not held accountable for their faith or their actions.  This is a general amnesty due to ignorance of the message however, rather than a confirmation of their religion’s validity. [Nuh Keller, Knowing: The Validity of One’s Faith]

In the end, we can never conclusively say what a person’s fate in the Hereafter will be, rather we leave this up to Allah, but this does not excuse us from inviting others to the message of Islam and believing that the deliberate rejection of the truth leads one to eternal perdition.  For more information on the fate of non-Muslims in the afterlife, please see the links below.

Allah Guides Whom He Wills

While we are concerned for the dying person, we cannot forget our own hearts and our relationship with our Lord.

A most relevant verse at this time is not necessarily directed at the dying person, but rather, at ourselves.  It is the verse that Allah Most High revealed to His Messenger (peace and blessings be upon him) when his own beloved uncle, Abu Talib, died without accepting Islam at his hands.  Allah Most High said:

“Truly, you do not guide whom you love, but rather Allah guides whom He wills.  And He knows best about who is upon guidance.” [Qur’an 28:56]

Times like this are a trial, especially in the life of a convert.  It reminds us of the great bounty of faith that Allah gave to us, yet at the same time, it is a time of concern and pain to see a family member leave the world without this bounty for themselves.

It also challenges us to realize the reality of this life, and tests whether we will hold fast to Allah Most High and the truth, or allow our lower selves to dictate what should be and should’ve been.  So the best thing is to keep your relationship with Allah strong through prayer, dhikr, supplication and submission to His wisdom.

I ask that Allah Most High guides your grandmother, and keeps you strong and close to Him at this time and thereafter.

Wasalam,

Abdullah Anik Misra

Related answers on the fate of non-Muslims in the afterlife:

What is the Fate of Non-Muslims in the Afterlife?

Can We Pray for Non-Muslims Who Passed Away?

Are non-Muslims Who Lived Good Lives Condemned to Hell?