“She is no more…” I kept visualizing the words again and again, felt my heartbeat thundering in my ears while my mind refused to accept the fact – the fact that it was true. She was no more and had passed away to the next world!
She was my close friend, a dear school mate, a loving friendly soul – may Allah forgive her and bless her with the highest levels of Paradise. The news of her death that I had received as a text message two years ago still lies fresh in my mind and my eyes well up every time I remember that night. I think about all her qualifications, her accomplishments in life, her dreams and aims and I wonder about her last thoughts. What had it been, just before she breathed her last. I wonder like always, did she know it would be this sudden?
Death is always a bitter realization, a huge reminder and a recurring scary thought: ‘how long before I am the one lying lifeless being washed, shrouded and buried by others?’ Allah says in His Glorious Book: “Every soul will taste death, and you will only be given your [full] compensation on the Day of Resurrection. So he who is drawn away from the Fire and admitted to Paradise, he indeed is successful. And what is the life of this world except the enjoyment of delusion. (Al Qur’an 3:185)
The skins shiver and the eyes become moist when the beautiful words of Allah sink in. Actually, this is what life is all about. We have been created for a purpose and our time on this earth is limited. Striving and competing to do all that Allah has commanded, avoiding all that He has forbidden and hastening to Him with our record full of good deeds has to be our major goal in life. All of us, regardless of the religion we follow, know and accept that this life is temporary. It will someday come to an end for us and an end for humanity altogether. But in Islam we are taught to believe in the life after death, the life of the Hereafter, which is eternal. Wise is the one who prepares for the eternal life rather than losing himself in materialistic, worldly desires.
Most of us know but tend to ignore the fact that age, status, nationalities, ambitions, plans and promises all lose color when death stands there glaring at our faces. There certainly are no second chances, no turning back and no last good byes! But how many of us take heed of these frequent heart wrenching, soul shattering reminders that our loved ones leave behind? How many of us prepare for that last moment leaving petty worldly desires aside? How many of us thank the Creator for all the breaths we take, how many of us turn to Him sincerely by submitting to His commands, by taking care of His rights, His servants’ rights, how many fear the sudden end.., the final meeting with Him?
Allah has made it clear in the Qur’an that the experience of the worldly life is almost nothing compared to the Hereafter. The Messenger of Allah (peace be upon him) said: “What is the example of this worldly life in comparison to the Hereafter other than one of you dipping his finger in the sea? Let him contemplate what his finger will come back with.” (Sahih Muslim)
When we dip our finger into the sea, the little bit of water we pull out of it, i.e., the wetness which dries up in a while, is almost nothing compared to the entire sea. In the same way, the temporary life of this world is practically nothing compared to that of the Hereafter. The reality is that the Hereafter is the true life and this world is only a means to prepare us for the eternal life after death. The path we choose to follow in this world and the actions we do determine our fate in the life after death. Allah has told us in the Qur’an about the people who will realize on the Day of Resurrection that the Hereafter is the true life, and they will be filled with remorse because they did not perform many good deeds for their eternal life. Allah says: “He (Man) will say, “Oh, I wish I had sent ahead [some good] for my life.” (Al Qur’an 89:24)
Let’s take a moment and reflect on this verse; do the worldly tests and worries really matter when we know the result of this major test is drawing close? Would we still delay repenting for the sins we think are trivial? Would we still hesitate to turn to the Qur’an, read, recite, learn and practice it as it should be practiced? Would we still hold on to those riyals, dollars and pounds rather than giving them away to those in need or for the spread of our religion? Would we still let our egos stop us from being the first ones to forgive our loved ones’ mistakes and be kind to them for the sake of the Most Merciful?
Ibn Umar said: Allah’s Messenger (peace be upon him) took me by my shoulder and said: “Be in this life as if you were a stranger or a traveler on a path and If you reach the evening then do not expect to reach the morning, and if you reach the morning then do not expect to reach the evening. Take from your health before your sickness, and from your life before your death.” (Sahih Bukhari)
The death of my beloved friend and of all those dear to me has made me realize that while their time on this earth is over, I still continue to live and breathe; I still have all those opportunities to do good deeds with Ikhlas (sincerity), stay away from sins and draw closer to Allah – the opportunities that they would never get again. While they rest in their graves I continue to live on with my loved ones, continue to have chances of loving them, being kinder and more loyal to them.
This life is too short to carry on worrying about what is and what could have been. No doubt, we will face tests and trials of all sorts until we reach our graves, but let’s make sure that they don’t deter us from our aim to be of the best of believers – the kind of believers who let the tests and reminders make them grow stronger in faith, increase in empathy towards fellow believers and persevere in patience, humble gratitude and submissiveness to the Most High for all that He has blessed them with.
Allah says: “Whatever you have will end, but what Allah has is lasting. And We will surely give those who were patient their reward according to the best of what they used to do. Whoever does righteousness, whether male or female, while he is a believer – We will surely cause him to live a good life, and We will surely give them their reward [in the Hereafter] according to the best of what they used to do.” (Al Qur’an 16:96-97)
-Written by Mariam Anwer
Originally Published in Arab News in January 2016