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Dealing With a Terminal Illness and Impending Death

Answered by Ustadh Abdullah Anik Misra

Question: I have a family member who is suffering from a terminal illness and does not have long to live. I would like to know what a person in this situation should focus on with regards to their Islamic worship during the last months of life e.g seek forgiveness, making up fasts???

 

Answer: In the Name of Allah, Most Merciful and Compassionate,

As salamu alaikum wa rahmatullah,

Thank you for your question. I ask Allah Most High to make it easy for your loved one and the family.

A person with a terminal illness should prepare to meet Allah. This means rectifying themselves and their life by doing whatever Allah has enjoined on them that they had not been doing thus far, and refraining from what He has prohibited against that they haven’t yet left off. They should keep up what good they were doing with even more sincerity and focus as best they can.

They should take account of and fulfill any outstanding duties owed to Allah (such as making up missed prayers, compensating for missed fasts, zakat, Hajj, etc) and to people (debts, trusts, borrowed items, etc). If these cannot all be fulfilled, they should still intend to do so while striving their utmost, and seek forgiveness for what remains from Allah, and from the people they owed to.

Such a person should make tawbah (repentance) from all previous sins and resolve never to return to them. They should make peace with everyone around them, apologize to those they ever hurt, and completely forgive those who ever hurt them. Not a grain of negativity against any human or selfish desire from the world should remain in their heart.

They should prepare inwardly by increasing in remembrance (dhikr), gratitude and intimate discourse with Allah. They should work to free their hearts of any bitterness or complaint against what Allah had decreed for them in life, thinking only the best of Allah, and hope for the best from Him in what is to come. They should strive to understand the wisdom behind what they are going through, and approach Allah with serenity and peace of heart.

If possible, they should not leave off being productive in their daily lives: they should continue to pursue constructive endeavors with excellence, maintain a good appearance and diet, and enjoy Allah’s blessings. We are only on this earth for some time to please Allah in whatever we do.

Finally, we must remember that everyone’s life is terminal: the end is near for all of us. Allah Most High says, “Every soul shall taste death,” [Quran 3:185] and so this is a reminder for each of us. I ask Allah Most High to make things easy for your loved one, and your family, and keep everyone strong.

Wassalam,
Abdullah Anik Misra

Checked & Approved by Faraz Rabbani

Related Answers:

How Do We Deal With the Death of a Loved One?

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

Advice to a Young Cancer Patient

Advice to a Young Cancer Patient

Answered by Sidi Abdullah Anik Misra

Question: I know a sister who has cancer and she is young. What advice do you have and how should she deal with this illness?

Answer: In the Name of Allah, Most Gracious Most Merciful,

As salamu alaikum wa rahmatullahi wa barakatuh,

Thank you for your question.  I ask Allah Most High to send his healing and blessings upon our sister who has this illness, and upon all our ailing brothers and sisters in this world.

The first thing is to understand the reality of life and its temporary nature.  It must be put into perspective against our ultimate return and eternal life with our Most Loving Creator.

Then, to see this illness as a test placed in our life that reminds us of our purpose here, and brings out the best of us as believers.  For a believer, it is a source of reward and forgiveness.

After understanding this reality, we should take every worldly means to overcome our trials, while staying positive and productive throughout.

Then, we should be try to be content with what has happened, and what we cannot change, all the while putting our trust in Allah.  It cannot be stressed enough to think positively- about Allah, yourself and life.

Putting Life Into Perspective

The first thing the person should realize is the reality of this life.  For each and every one of us, not just those who are sick, we must remember that life is temporary and limited.  Allah Most High created us and gave us all a specified lifespan that cannot be decreased or increased in the slightest by our actions alone, though we take the means to try.

The point of life is to return to our Creator in the best state possible, through living a life of faith with a sound heart and good works.  Experiencing some type of loss or difficulty is often the way Allah Most High brings our attention back to this fact.

These illnesses or losses, then, are just a test. They don’t necessarily imply that someone is bad, or cursed or being punished.

When these tests come, will we understand their purpose, and realign our hearts with the ultimate goal, or will we continue to be heedless?

Allah Most High says in the Qur’an: “Do you expect to enter Paradise without being tested, like those before you [were]?” [Qur’an 2:214]

Allah also says: “And We will most certainly test you until we know which amongst you are those who strive and those who are patient, and so We can bring out your true qualities [whether obedient or sinful, etc].” [Qur’an 47:31]

However, these tests will pass.  Those who accept this sooner often fare better through the challenges they face, in that they do not succumb to excessive fear, depression or despair due to the worldly events around them.  This does not mean one has to be morbid in any way however.

Everything in a Believer’s Life is Good

The good news is, for the believer, everything that happens in their life is good for them, as long as they deal with the events in their life with the correct outlook.

Our beloved Prophet Muhammed (peace and blessings be upon him) said, in wonder at the affair of a believer:

“Truly, [the believer’s] entire affair [ie. all events in his life] is good.  And it isn’t that way [ie. entirely good] for anyone except a believer.  If some happy event occurs with him, he gives thanks [for it, to Allah], and [his doing so] is good for him.  And if some harmful event affects him, he is patient [with it], and [his doing so] is good for him.” [Muslim]

The Prophet [peace and blessings be upon him] said: “Nothing affects a Muslim, whether fatigue or illness or stressful worry or grief or injury or deep sadness – not even a thorn that pricks him- except that Allah covers up his sins through it.” [Bukhari and Muslim]

So, by being patient and content with Allah’s decree, the sickness actually becomes a cause for earning rewards from Allah Most High.

Take the Best Means AND Put Your Trust in Allah

It is from the sunnah of our beloved Prophet (peace and blessings be upon him) to take the best of means.  When he was ill, he himself took medicine and sought treatment, and told others to do the same.

He (peace be upon him) said that “indeed, for every sickness, there is a treatment… so when the treatment correctly addresses the sickness, a person is cured- by the permission of Allah.” [Muslim]

Thus, one’s hope should be in Allah and not on the medicine which one takes.

It is important to remain engaged in good works.  Learn and recite the dua’s that have been recorded in the Qur’an and the Sunnah of the Prophet (peace be upon him), as well as the famous litanies for healing written by the great spiritual masters of the Islamic tradition.  One should also give optional charity as much as possible, read the Qur’an and make the dhikr of Allah.

Also, supplications are best answered when a person removes as much of the unlawful elements in one’s life as possible.  This includes leaving sins, and only eating, earning, and wearing what is lawful and wholesome.

It also means looking at the debts one has to Allah, in the form of missed prayers, fasts or charity, as well as the things that are owed to people, and working to fulfill those obligations with a plan in place.

It is important to note however, that some people take on a religious lifestyle and its works only for the purpose of getting the outcome they want.  If they don’t get it, they feel let down or disillusioned with Allah.

This means that they have missed the point about why we worship Allah- it’s not about earning outcomes.  Nothing and no one can force Allah’s will by any amount of righteousness, nor expect that they deserve anything.

Rather, by increasing in good works, one should understand that they are worshipping Allah because He alone deserves to be worshipped, and that they want to improve themselves for His sake, and knowing that whatever the outcome is, Allah will give them what is best for them whether we see the immediate benefit or not.

Staying Positive and Staying Productive

Finally, the person should stay positive and think well of Allah.  Allah Most High is quoted in a hadith as saying, “I am to My servant the way he expects me to be towards him.  And I am with him when he remembers Me.” [Bukhari]  Allah Most High loves us seventy times more than our own mothers.

A Muslim is an optimist at all times, seeing some good in every situation.  A person who is sick should never fall into despondency or depression, and stop pursuing their goals in life, to the extent possible.

They should continue learning and improving themselves and their world around them with dedication and excellence.

The Prophet (peace be upon him) said that if while a person is planting a sapling, the Day of Judgment suddenly seems to erupt on the earth, to carry on and finish planting the tree [Musnad Ahmad], since one never knows what will actually happen, and what benefit they can bring to the world.

I ask Allah Ta’ala to grant this sister and all those who are ailing in the Ummah of our master Muhammad (sal Allahu a’alaihi wasallam) ease, healing, blessings and forgiveness of sins.

Below is a good answer for supplications when one is sick:

Prophetic Supplications to Cure Illnesses

Wasalam,

Abdullah Anik Misra

Checked & Approved by Faraz Rabbani