Don’t Get Caught Dead Without Islam – Part 2

Don’t Get Caught Dead Without Islam (2)

By Dr. Bilal Philips – Scholar, lecturer, author, editor, translator, professor, and founder of Islamic Online University, Doha

We all believe that we cannot escape death. However, if we accept that death is inevitable and consider ourselves to be practicing Muslims, our actions should reflect our preparation for death. Preparation for death does not mean buying your Kaffan (wrapping shroud), travelling to Makkah, washing it in Zam Zam water and bringing it back to store in your closet. It means to follow Allah’s (swt) commandments in order to be rewarded in the Hereafter with what He has promised the believers.

We should realize that it doesn’t make sense to fear death; this is because if we fear death, we fear Allah (swt) Who has created death. If we fear Him, it simply means that we fear the harm that will come to us because of our disobedience. It is not like fearing fire and hence avoiding it, or fearing a lion by escaping from it. Similarly, we should not fear Allah (swt) in that sense and should not try to run away from Him.

Today, the fear and avoidance of death, which has become deeply rooted in people’s hearts needs to be addressed. For this, firstly, we should supplicate in our Salah and request Allah (swt) to grant us the spirit of sacrifice in this world; we should ask Him to make our life and our death dedicated to Him and in accordance with His Will. This Dua should then become a reality in our lives because whatever good we do in this life, we are doing it for ourselves; whatever evil we do will ultimately be against us only. We might think we are settling scores with somebody or we are hurting someone in this life, but in the end, what we have done is unjust. Allah (swt) says that whatever evil we do in this life is really against ourselves, because the greater it is, the greater its punishment in the next life.

Death is just a transition; it is unavoidable. We should visit the graveyards to remind ourselves that this transition is a reality. We should visit the sick to comfort them and also to remind ourselves that we can be sick any time and may not recover. Health is a blessing from Allah (swt), which can be taken away anytime. While we are healthy, we need to prepare for the time we are ill – the worst that can happen to any Muslim is dying in a state of Shirk. The only way we can protect ourselves from such a situation is by understanding the principles of Tauheed thoroughly and applying them on ourselves.

Unfortunately, even though much has been written about Islam, there is very little material on Tauheed. You will find many books talking about the fundamentals of Islam, but Tauheed is given only a paragraph. As a result, people who read and study about Islam today miss some of the essential material, which should form the basis of everything else. Allah (swt) is One, and that is the final truth. Our economics, our politics, and our prayers – in fact, everything has to be built on a solid foundation of Tauheed. One verse of Allah (swt) is more than just a statement – it represents the entire framework of life for a believer. Thus, it is essential for us to understand how Tauheed should operate in all the factors of our life. For those with limited knowledge in this area, I would personally recommend a book which I have written – “The Fundamentals of Tauheed”. It is perhaps one of the very few books available, which deal in depth with the essential principles concerning Tauheed.

When we die, all our deeds in this life will end. But we can still earn and receive genuine benefit after our death from three basic actions that we did while we were alive:

One: Charity which we give to people and it continues to benefit them.

Two: Knowledge that we pass on, which continues to guide others.

Three: A righteously-raised child who prays for us to Allah (swt).

Our preparation for death should involve giving as much charity as possible. If we know that the only thing which can benefit us after we die is charity which people continue to benefit from, we need to find multiple avenues where we can give our wealth. We need to find out as much about Islam as we can and educate others.

Furthermore, we should prepare for death by looking after our children – by trying to educate them as best as we can primarily from an Islamic perspective. Of course, we also need to prepare them for surviving in this world, so secular education is a part of their life too. However, we should not allow them to consider secular education to be the main goal – we should not let it become the most important aspect of their education. We should discover new avenues for our kids to educate them spiritually, for instance, by bringing them into contact with other righteous young people and by involving them in gatherings wherein righteousness is spoken about, etc.

Our Prophet Muhammad (sa) said that whoever says “La Ilaha Illa Allah” as his/her last words will be led to Paradise. This is not easy for a person who has not lived “La Ilaha Illa Allah”. On the death bed, a corrupt person will not automatically utter “La Ilaha Illa Allah”. Thus, if we consider our God to be Allah (swt) and if we want to enter Paradise as Prophet Muhammad (sa) said, we have to start living “La Ilaha Illa Allah” from now only.

Our will is also a part of our preparation. Abdullah Ibn Umar (rta) has narrated that the Prophet (sa) said: “If we have anything to will others and we want it to be given to others after our death, we should not allow two nights to pass without writing it down.” (Malik, Bukhari, Muslim and others) This is a part of awareness of death. Because people are unaware of death, they die and never avail the opportunity to write down any special thing they wanted done upon their burial or regarding their belongings left behind.

If we are believers in reality, we have to be amongst those who prepare for death. We cannot have in our hearts an overwhelming fear of death; instead, we have to be aware of the reality of our end and of what is to come, which should be reflected in our preparation throughout our life.

A point to contemplate concerns the Jews, who claim to be the beloved and the chosen people of Allah (swt): “Say (O Muhammad (sa)): ‘O you Jews! If you pretend that you are friends of Allah, to the exclusion of (all) other mankind, then long for death if you are truthful.’” (Al-Jumuah 62:6)

Allah (swt) commands the Jews to wish for death but they will not do so because of the evil they have committed. They know they are not really the chosen people of Allah (swt); it is only their claim. Hence, they fear death because of the evil in their hearts.

This fact shows a mirror to the Muslims – are we repeating what the Jews have done? Do not Muslims around the world harbour this fallacy that they are going to enter Paradise just because they are born Muslims and their parents are Muslims? In reality, they fear death. Sadly, we, too, have become like the Jews and the hypocrites.

May Allah (swt) enable us to adequately prepare for our death throughout our life. Ameen.

Transcribed and compiled for Hiba by Mr. Nazir-ud-Din Qureshy.

Don’t Get Caught Dead Without Islam – Part 1

Dont get caught without Islam

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

Preparing for Death – What We Leave Behind

Vol 6 - Issue 3 Preparing for Death

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:

Remember Death

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.

Conclusion

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.