Thursday, 23 February 2012

Remembering Death & the Standing In Front of Allah Ta'ala

The topic of death is something that makes many people uncomfortable; and it is also something that I dislike speaking about since up to this point, I have never written about it and I have only once (when I was young) given a talk about it.

The subject of death hits a nerve into many of those who are God-fearing; death to them signifies the end, the full stop which abruptly finishes their story. After this full stop, a question mark arises; have I done enough to be forgiven? And similarly, the aspect of death hits a nerve into many of those who are not religiously inclined; because it once again signifies an end to their existence and it pulls a dark curtain over their performance (i.e. living). The reality is that death is something which no person has a disagreement in; every single sane person who lived regardless of his faith knew that one day, inevitably, he would have to go. Thus, logic would suggest that the clever person is he who prepares for what is to come next.

Yes, the discussion of death and the coming of the angel of death is one which creates anxiety but this is only coupled thereafter with the standing in front of the Creator of death. There is always Allah Ta’ala to save us from the pain of death; but who is there to save us from the wrath of Allah Ta’ala? Failure in front of Allah Ta’ala is the ultimate end; “If Allah helps you then nobody can overcome you and if He forsakes you, then who is there after Allah who can help you?” (Surah Ale Imran). Thus, it is established that though death is something which is testing; there is something far more greater in trial after that.

However, this fear is not something which is disliked in Shari’ah. Allah Ta’ala mentions in the Qur’an, “...whereas for the one who feared to stand before his Lord, and restrained his self from the (evil) desire, the Paradise will be the abode.” (Surah Nazi’ah). There are three steps mentioned in this verse which will lead a person to Jannah; the first is fearing the standing before Allah Ta’ala. When a person does this, it will enable him to take the second step which is to stay away from evil. Because he is constantly thinking about the end of his lowly existence and the perceived horror of standing in front of Allah Ta’ala as a criminal; he is immediately inclined towards doing good deeds. This fear in reality becomes a pious friend who pushes one to do good deeds. Thereafter, when that person has amassed so many good deeds, he is able to take third step. And that third step is Jannah.

Thus we should think about death often despite it not being a topic which is beloved to our heart; it will help us in reaching our goal. When a person is sitting in an exam hall and the teacher reminds him that he has only a few minutes left, he begins to cram as much good in as he can. Similarly, we have to remind ourselves that our time will soon be over upon this earth and thus we too should try do cram in as many good deeds as we can.

Our pious elders would think about death regularly to subdue their desires; they would think of their last breath, the sight of the angel of death, the extraction of the soul from the feet till it leaves from the mouth, the pain it creates, the crying of those around, the ghusl of one’s own body, the praying of the Janazah, the burial in the cemetery and that final clod of mud which lands upon one’s portion of this world. Then the dread of hearing the footsteps of loved ones bidding farewell as if to say, ‘There is nothing we can do for you now’. We too should keep these thoughts in mind. This is why Rasulullah salallahu alayhi wasallam mentioned, “Remember the destroyer of all pleasures (i.e. death).”

However, we should never be despondent of Allah Ta’ala. Our hope should be in His mercy alone. Perhaps this is the reason as to why I have not written about death before as I can’t bring myself to think of a situation so severe in which there is not Allah’s Ta’ala softness. My heart can’t bare the idea that Allah Ta’ala will deal so severely with any slave who at least tries to do good and thus I can only make my tongue moist with the supplication of our Prophet Muhammad salallalhu alayhi wasallam, “O Allah, do not disgrace me for indeed You know of my state and do not punish me for indeed you are dominant over me.” and thereafter hope for His mercy.

May Allah Ta’ala give us all the ability to remember death and prepare for our hereafter and the standing in front of Allah Ta’ala. May He out of His kindness and benevolence pardon our reckoning and admit us into Jannah without any trials. Ameen, Ya Rabbal Aalameen.


Anonymous said...

I'm in need of some help. Basically I'm not doubting the existence of God, but rather I'm doubting some aspects of Islam. I'm one of those people, that think a lot, and when I do, I get numerous questions surrounding me. OK, the major thing that is kind of making me feel urgh, is the idea that Muslims are only to go to heaven. What about those people who have lived a short span of life, and never had a chance to even know what Islam is. Isn't that unfair. Or what about those people who are just really good people. If God, is forgiving, wouldn't he forgive his 'good' creation?

Abu Huzayfa said...

Bismillahir Rahmanir Raheem.

Firstly I commend you for asking as it is the first step to clear doubts. You have asked a very deep question and one which confuses many as it somewhat appears that injustice is being done and that Allah Ta’ala is doing some form of oppression on His slaves but Allah Ta’ala mentions in Surah Kahf, “And they will find what they had done present (there); and your Lord does not deal unjustly with anyone.” Allah Ta’ala doesn’t say that He doesn’t deal unjustly with Muslims but rather, He incorporated the entirety of humanity into the verse. Likewise, in many verses in the Qur’an, Allah Ta’ala highlights His impartiality.

Having understood that, it is important to also quickly mention thoughts; Islam encourages stimulating discussion in regards to knowledge etc so that a person does not live in ignorance. However, in matters of belief; a person has to be extremely careful especially if he/she is not a learned scholar. The field of aqeedah (beliefs) becomes a playground for Shaytaan and if a person is not well learned in regards to the intricacies of Shari’ah, he/she could begin to doubt the very substance of their salvation in the hereafter. Thus, in matters of belief it is best not to think about them too deeply as our brains quite simply do not have the capacity to understand the wisdom of Allah Ta’ala. Our brain is so small and up to this day, it cannot fully comprehend and understand the creation so then how is it possible for it to grasp the Creator?
Moving onto your question; there seems to be three categories of people you have mentioned:

1) Those people who die in childhood and thus have no chance to know what Islam is.
2) That person who is past the age of puberty and has not received the message of Islam.
3) A good person who knows about Islam.

In relation to the first question, the most accepted opinion which is highlighted by Imam Nawawi rahimahullah is that non-Muslim children will enter into Jannah. (See Ashrafut Tawdeeh 1/241 & Hashiya Bukhari volume 1).

In relation to that person who is mature and has not received the message of Islam due to insufficient materials available to him (i.e. he lives in such a place where nobody knows what Islam is). He will be judged in accordance to his faith in God alone i.e. it is necessary for him to believe in Allah Ta’ala by looking at his surroundings and using his intellect to understand that there is a transcendental being who has created everything. Thus, according to Imam Abu Hanifa rahimahullah, a person who did not have a chance to learn Islam due to it not being available to him will not be punished and this is highlighted in the Qur’an when Allah Ta’ala says, “it is not Our way to punish (anyone) unless We send a Messenger.” (17:15). (Usul Ash Shashi pg. 34)

However, the above should not be confused with that person who attained maturity and knew that there was a religion which called to Allah Ta’ala but ignored it for one reason or the other. The above criterion is in relation to a person who had no clue whatsoever.

Abu Huzayfa said...

Finally, with regards to the third category which is in relation to a person who does much good but is not Muslim. It seems that while looking at the great characteristics people have, you have become blind to one core issue and that is the purpose of the creation. Allah Ta’ala has sent us here to worship Him and Him alone and thus the greatest ‘good’ a person can do is obey Him. The criterion for entry into Jannah is quite simply belief in the oneness of Allah Ta’ala and the prophethood of Muhammad salallahu alayhi wasallam; this is our creed. If we make the criteria for entry into Jannah ‘good deeds’ and disregard the basic creed of our faith, then we have done great injustice to the efforts of Rasulullah salallahu alayhi wasallam and the companions. Allah Ta’ala sent the Prophets to their nations so that they could call them towards what Allah Ta’ala wants; and what Allah Ta’ala wanted from this nation was belief in the statement ‘there is no God but Allah and Muhammad is His messenger’. Therefore, even if a person does billions of good things in this worldly life, it will be of no avail to him as he has not done the core act of virtue for which he was created. Whilst being a good person and fulfilling the rights of people, he has forgotten his Creator and therefore not fulfilled the rights of His Lord. It is for this reason Allah Ta’ala says, “Surely, Allah does not forgive that a partner is ascribed to Him, and He forgives anything short of that for whomsoever He wills. Whoever ascribes a partner to Allah commits a terrible sin.” (4:48). Allah Ta’ala is ready to forgive anyone and anything but denying Allah Ta’ala His fundamental right gives rise to His anger.

Also, it should also be born in mind that according to other faiths, those who do not conform to their beliefs will not attain salvation. For example, if we look at the Christian faith, if a person does not accept Jesus as the son of God, he will not attain salvation despite him being a good person. Thus, if a person is a good Muslim, he still won’t attain Jannah according to the doctrine of Christianity.

Therefore, the principle in relation to salvation is widespread amongst all religions. Every religion calls on people to believe in their faith in order to attain salvation, not just Islam. Thus to single out our deen and say that how can Allah be so severe is not correct. It is the right of Allah Ta’ala that He rewards those live in conformity to His laws and punishes those who disobey His laws.

Finally, some scholars have even gone to the extent of saying that a disbeliever who does good is given his wants and desires in this world. The paradise of the hereafter is swapped for goodness in this world.

I hope this has given you some clarification but once again, I urge you not to be deceived by thoughts which play on emotions. The wisdom behind the commands of Allah Ta’ala is something we cannot comprehend.

Wallahu A’lamu bis Sawaab

Anonymous said...

Thanks for the reply. I feel slightly more at ease now. I guess it's just a matter of attaining more knowledge, so I'm able to challenge them thoughts.