Preparing for the Tremor of Death

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Are we ready for the death tremor?

Hasan Basri –Allah have mercy on him- says:

“There are two nights and two days, the likes of which have never before been seen or heard. The first of these nights is the first night you spend in the grave with the dead. You had never before stayed with them. The second of these nights is the night whose morning breaks with the Hereafter. A day without a night is then to begin. As for the days, the first is when an emissary of Allah comes and tells you whether He is pleased with you or not, whether you are destined for Paradise or for Hell. The second day is when you shall receive your book of deeds, from your right or left, and then be taken to the presence of Allah.” (See, Ibn’ul-Jawzi, az-Zahr’ul-Fatih, p. 25; Abu’l-Faraj Abdurrahman, Ahwal’ul-Qubur, p. 154)

Death is the greatest tribulation for man, the most terrible trial; but even worse than death is to live oblivious to death, to put it completely out of the mind and to fail to offer appropriate deeds for its preparation. Intelligent is the one who prepares for death before it comes knocking and cleans his or her soul of immorality.

Sheik Sadi says:

“You will become earth in the end, brother; so before you do, seek to become humble like earth.”

Omar –Allah be well-pleased with him- has said:

“Call yourselves to account before you are called to account. Adorn yourselves with righteous deeds before the greatest tribunal! The tribunal in the Hereafter of one who used to call himself to account during life, will surely be comfortable.” (Tirmidhi, Qiyamah, 25/2459)

As our mortal bodies are placed in the grave, our children and wealth will remain behind. Only our deeds will accompany us as we lay buried in the depth of earth. There, our bodies will turn to soil, together with our shrouds, leaving nothing behind but our good deeds.

Imam Ghazzali –Allah have mercy on his soul- says:

“Only three things remain with a person at the moment of death.

1) Purity of the heart, that is a heart purified of the dirt of the world. Allah states:

‘He will indeed be successful who purifies it…’ (as-Shams, 9)

2)  Familiarity with the remembrance of Allah, glory unto Him, who says:

‘…Now surely by Allah’s remembrance are the hearts set at rest.’ (ar-Rad, 28)

3) Love of Allah, glory unto Him. Again, He declares:

‘Say: If you love Allah, then follow me; Allah will then love you and forgive your faults. And Allah is Forgiving, Merciful.’ (Al-i Imran, 31)

Purifying the heart is possible only through marifah, knowing Allah, glory unto Him, in the heart. Marifah, in turn, is acquired through being constantly occupied in dhikr and contemplation. These three qualities are thus saviors.” (Ruh’ul-Bayan, XI, 274)

If a person is able to make adequate preparation for ‘tomorrow’, death starts to assume a beautiful shape; he soon finds himself no longer afraid of it.

Bishr ibn Harith –Allah have mercy on him- in fact asserts, “What a wonderful station the grave is for he who obeys Allah.”[1]

Similar words of wisdom come from Mawlana Rumi -Allah have mercy on him:

The color of death, son, is in the eye of the beholder. To those who hate death without sparing a thought that it is death that unites one with the Lord and are hostile to it, death appears as a terrifying enemy. To the friends of death, death comes as a friend.

O the soul who flees in dread from death! If you want to hear the truth of the matter, you are not really afraid of death; you are but afraid of yourself.

For it is not the face of death that you behold in the mirror in horror; it is your own ugly face. Your spirit is like a tree. Death is a leaf on that tree. And every leaf belongs to the species of the tree it stems from…”

In short, our death and experiences of the grave, set to continue until Resurrection, will take shape according to the way we lived and the deeds we offered. It is for that reason that Allah, glory unto Him, explains to us the gist of both the life of the world and that of eternity on numerous occasions in the Holy Quran. Encouraging us to consider how the world will ultimately come to an end in due course, He urges us to remain aloof from its dazzle and deceit. He wants us to consciously turn instead to the life eternal, a life approaching by the minute that shall never cease.

It is therefore necessary for a person to sincerely repent from all of ones sins before death and make amends for his or her shortcomings in complying with the commands and prohibitions of the Almighty. Again, he must restore the rights to all those whose rights he may have infringed on; that is, before breathing his last, he must seek the pardon of people he may have verbally or physically assaulted, slandered, backbitten or acted with malicious intent, and be cleared of all personal debts, be they physical or spiritual.

An ignorant person may rejoice over having infringed on the rights of others; he may misread his corruption for joy. But there is simply no telling how bottomless his remorse will be on the day when the scales of justice are set and it is said to him, “You are a helpless, low and deprived man in ruin. Here, you may no longer restore any rights or seek the forgiveness of anyone.”

As his death approached, Abdulmalik ibn Marwan, the Umayyad Caliph, saw a launderer in the outskirts of Damascus wrapping the clothes around his hand and thrashing them against a washing rock. Heaving an agonizing sigh upon suddenly remembering the terrifying tribunal of the Hereafter, the Caliph lamented:

“If only I too was a launderer! If only I earned my daily feed with my hands and did not have any say in worldly affairs!” (Ghazzali, Ihya, VI, 114)

Together with preparing for the tremor of death, it is also essential not to lose hope in the mercy of Allah, glory unto Him.

Uqba al-Bazzar recounts:

“Viewing a funeral procession, a Bedouin standing next to me, who was looking on at the coffin, commented, ‘Congratulations…you have all the joy in the world!’

‘Why are you congratulating him?’ I asked.

‘How can I not congratulate a person being taken into custody by an Eternally Generous Custodian, whose treatment of His guests is splendid and mercy boundless!’

It was as if I had never before heard words so beautiful.” (Abu’l-Faraj, Abdurrahman, Ahwal’ul-Qubur, p. 155)

[1]     The Commission, Nadratu’n-Naîm, III, 963; Abu’l-Faraj Abdurrahman, Ahwâlu’l-Qubûr, p. 155.

Source: Osman Nuri Topbaş, Contemplation in Islam, Erkam Public.

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