Anyone, who has ever been on an out-of-town journey, would testify to the pre-travel stress and jitters. One aspect of the preparations is to make sure that, once the packing is done and the travel arrangements are made, everything the traveller leaves behind (from his belongings and house to his family) is protected and cared for until his return.
This analogy can be appropriately applied to the life of a Believer. Not only does he prepare for his journey to Akhirah, which begins with his death, but he also ensures that what he leaves behind in the world benefits him after he has gone.
“Whatever is with you, will be exhausted, and whatever with Allah (of good deeds) will remain.” (Al-Nahl 16:96)
Allah’s Messenger (sa) said: “When a man dies, his good deeds come to an end, except three: ongoing charity, beneficial knowledge and righteous offspring, who will pray for him.” (Muslim)
Imam Al-Nawawi said in “Sharh Muslim”: “The scholars said: the meaning of this Hadeeth (above) is that the deeds of the deceased come to an end when he dies, and the renewal of reward ceases for him, except in these three cases because he is the cause of them: his offspring is counted among his earnings, as is the knowledge that he leaves behind through teaching or writing, and ongoing charity, i.e., a Waqf (Islamic endowment).”
The Hadeeth below further elaborates upon this: Narrated Abu Hurairah (rta): “The Messenger of Allah (sa) said: “The good deeds that will reach a believer after his death are: knowledge which he learned and then spread; righteous offspring whom he leaves behind; a copy of the Quran that he leaves as a legacy; a mosque that he built; a house that he built for wayfarers; a canal that he dug; or charity that he gave during his lifetime when he was in good health. These deeds will reach him after his death.” (Ibn Majah)
Consequently, a Muslim should not just persist in doing good deeds while alive; he or she should also do things that will give benefit after death. Options for such endeavours are listed below:
One of the best ways to do good deeds that will benefit us after the death is to remember death itself, often and consistently.
Invest Money in Welfare Projects
Whether it’s a hospital, school, mosque, domestic shelter or a welfare organization that helps the needy, a Muslim should invest some money in it. This would ensure that the rewards for charity will keep coming even after the person has died. The investment will continue to benefit others in different ways.
Spread Beneficial Knowledge
- Educate another person or teach others a skill; contribute in starting a regular Islamic class. The more students you have, the farther your trail of good deeds will extend after you leave this world.
“And We record that which they send before (them), and their traces [their footsteps and walking on the earth with their legs to the mosques for the five compulsory congregational prayers, Jihad (holy fighting in Allah’s cause), and all other good and evil they did, and that which they leave behind], and all things We have recorded with numbers (as a record) in a Clear Book.” (Yasin 36:12)
All it takes is an hour a week to teach others what you know. The point is: just start!
- Sponsor the printing and distribution of the Quran or Islamic books and magazines.
- Record and distribute Islamic classes and lectures. Islamic lectures can be recorded on various formats, spread physically among people or uploaded to the Internet.
- Write articles and books. Now, e-books make it easier for writers to get published. For example, Lulu.com allows its users to publish their own books free of charge.
- Create an Islamic website or write for other websites: If you are tech-savvy, you can start your own Islamic website! You can easily publish short articles on the Internet by registering on such websites as Helium.com, AssociatedContent.com, Hubpages.com, etc.
- Start and maintain an Islamic blog. WordPress.com, Blogger.com and IslamicInk.com allow individuals to upload their personal content. Be it personal reflections on the Quran, tips and advice on acting upon Islam or general musings, maintaining a blog will benefit you well after your death, Insha’Allah.
Get Married and Bear Children
A Muslim should try to get married to a pious person and to raise a family, instilling high Islamic values in their children. Moreover, if the children grow up to be righteous, they’ll benefit their parents even after they are dead. But if they grow up to be disobedient to Allah (swt), their evil actions will bring punishment to the parents in the Hereafter.
Show Mercy for Travellers
Planting trees and other vegetation, particularly the ones that produce fruits, vegetables or grains that provide shade to the passer-bys and oxygen to the environment, is a great ongoing act of charity. Having wells dug, or water-coolers installed on wayfarers’ paths is also an excellent charity.
Anas Ibn Malik (rta) has narrated that Allah’s Messenger (sa) said: “There is none amongst the Muslims, who plants a tree or sows a seed, and then a bird, or a person or an animal eats from it, but it is regarded as a charitable gift from him.” (Bukhari)
Pay your Debts
A Muslim should also think about whether he or she owes anyone any debts at the time of death. After death, their debts will still have to be paid. Consequently, pious Muslims make up Qada fasts of previous years, give Qada Zakat of assets, which they were heedless of in the past, and ensure they live without any debts. Since they constantly think about and prepare for their death, they also ensure that their transition from this world is as smooth as possible. When they return to their Lord (swt), they have no debts – either that of His (swt), or of His servants – left to be paid.
Using all available resources, tools and technologies to benefit others, facilitating the growth and spread of Islamic knowledge and helping alleviate the misery and suffering of the less fortunate enable Muslims to prepare for their exit from the transient life of this world. Even after they are gone, the ‘ripple effects’ of their fruitful actions will still be felt by succeeding generations, Insha’Allah.