Latest posts by Dr. Abu Ameenah Bilal Philips (see all)
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- Resolving family conflicts - October 14, 2015
- Dr. Bilal Philips’ Official Statement from Immigration Detention, Davao City - September 12, 2014
- Beyond Ramadan: Sustaining the Spirit of Worship - August 7, 2013
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Why do we fear death? Why do we fear something, which we have not tried out? Normally, we fear fire, because we have been burnt by it. We fear only something we have experienced, and from that experience we understand its dangers and harms. So why it is that we fear death, since none of us has experienced it or have come back and spoken about it?
We suppose that the reason for our fear is, perhaps, partly instinctual. This is something, which is shared by all the Allah’s (swt) creatures. They all have a natural desire to survive. But beyond that we, who remain above Allah’s (swt) other creatures, have an intellectual ability to go beyond our instincts.
If our intelligence serves us right, we should not fear something which is unavoidable – death – which comes to everyone. We know without a doubt that we cannot take this world with us. We will leave everything behind – all the things we have gathered: the house, car, wife, children, friends and everything else. If we are certain about this reality, then our intellect should also indicate that we cannot become too attached to this world.
However, we choose to fear death and love this world. This is one of the signs of our times, which Prophet Muhammad (sa) predicted would happen to Muslims. In the Prophet’s (sa) time, his companions were not afraid of death. And that is why they defeated people around them, who were far greater in number and stronger than them in might.
A renowned publication called “The Companions of Prophet Muhammad (sa)” written, compiled and translated by Abdul Wahid and published in England is worth mentioning here. It is critical for us to read these stories, because they give us the feeling about the lives of the early generation of Muslims, their understanding of Islam, and how it transformed them in their time.
Fourteen hundred years ago, our beloved Prophet (sa) had spoken of a time, when the world would partake in the destruction of the Muslim Ummah. What happens, when you put a plate of food down before a group of animals? They all rush to the plate, and every one sticks his mouth in the plate for gobbling up the food. He (sa) gave this metaphor to explain that the plate of food represented the Muslims of the future. The companions questioned him, bewildered – will this happen, because Muslims will be few in numbers in the future? He replied: “No. Their number will be many.” We always hear that one third or one fourth of the population of the earth is Muslim – that comes to nearly one billion Muslims.
The Prophet (sa) continued: “They (Muslims) will be many, but they will be like bubbles, like the foam produced by the flood. The flood comes through and takes things away, churns them up and, hence, bubbles are created on the surface of the flood, having no strength, very weak, useless and that is what all Muslims will be like.” He went on to explain why.
They will be useless, because they will have a deep and strong love for life and fear of death. The fear of death will penetrate into their hearts so deeply that they would do anything to stay alive and to collect the trinkets of this world. Because of that, other nations will destroy them. This state will not change, until Muslims once again realize the reality of this life and return to the essence of the faith of Islam.
The meaning of the religion is not for people to come to the Masjid to pray, while in reality they are not praying. You see them playing with their head guards, checking their watches, leaning on one foot and switching to the other foot, cracking their knuckles and engaging in all kinds of other distractions during prayer except praying. It is as if prayer is just a ritual their parents do and, thus, they are doing it, too.
What is the purpose of praying? Are we doing Allah (swt) a favour? Does Allah (swt) need our prayers? Are we praying, because we need to pray? And if we need to pray, why do we need to pray? These are the realities, which we have to grasp in order to become meaningful Muslims. And when Islam becomes a way of life, it will ensure that we will loose the fear of death. Only then we will be able to become Muslims, who are the source of guidance for this world. We will become an example of righteousness, upholders of the law, which should govern the lives of mankind.
But the reality is that we, today, fear death, because we don’t know, what comes after it. We don’t know, what we are going to find, when we die. It is unknown; though Allah (swt) has told us in great detail what we will find, following our demise. He has explained to us about the angel, which comes to takes a person’s soul, about the whole process of being in the state of grave, about resurrection and the judgment, about crossing over the bridge (Saraat) and going either to Paradise or Hell, about what is in Paradise and what is in Hell. In spite of all this being unknown, through revelations Allah (swt) has explained it to us vividly. Because our faith has not gone beyond the state of meaningless rituals, we remain in darkness.
It is a reality that the societies, which have gone to the Moon, etc., are the same societies destroying the various creatures and vegetation, the atmosphere and themselves, too. We find the rate of murders, suicides, AIDS, diseases, etc., rising higher every year. Technological advancement does not provide stability to society, as ultimately the stability comes from faith. It is spiritually based. This is one of the things, which amazed some Westerners and caused them to become Muslims. They came across Muslims, who, under the worst circumstances, seemed to have a spiritual calmness and ability to deal with their situation, in spite of the severity of the calamity. This serenity was a result of their firm faith in Islam as a way of life. Western society cannot explain how it can be that some people seek death. Those early empires, which came across Muslim regions, could not understand it then, and society cannot understand it today either.
Transcribed for Hiba by Nazir-uddin Qureshy