The Moment of Death

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What is the moment of death? What happens at the moment of death in islam?

Death will greet each person in a way that is consistent with their life. For some, the morning bliss of a day of festivity and for others, a torturous journey.

Indeed, the angels will seize the souls of righteous believers at the moment of death, slowly and pleasantly, without causing any trouble: “…and those who draw out gently…” (An-Nazi’at, 79:2)

“Those the angels take in a virtuous state. They say, ‘Peace be upon you! Enter the Garden for what you did, (16:32) this is how they will offer glad tidings to them.

The veil will be lifted from one’s eyes, the angels will become visible and happy news will be given to them. This reality is described in a Qur’anic verse as follows:

“The angels descend on those who say, ‘Our Lord is Allah,’ and then go straight: ‘Do not fear and do not grieve but rejoice in the Garden you have been promised. We are your protectors in the life of this world and the Next World. You will have there everything you demand. Hospitality from One who is Ever-Forgiving, Most Merciful.” (Fussilat, 41:30-32)

Similarly, it is revealed that one who has spent their life in worship and dutiful obedience to Allah, whose heart has found contentment with remembrance of Allah, will be addressed first at the moment of death, then at the place of the Supreme Gathering, followed by their entry to the Garden, with the following words:

“O self at rest and at peace, return to your Lord, well-pleased and well-pleasing! Enter among My slaves! Enter My Garden.” (Al-Fajr, 89:27-30)

A closer look at the words in the verse reveals that the servant’s being pleased with their Lord is mentioned first. That is to say, in order to obtain their visa for the Garden, the slave must always be pleased with the will of their Lord and must continue their servitude with patience and thanks, that their Lord, too, may be well pleased with them.

The moment of death for hearts darkened with ignorance that have been deprived of the light of belief will be an utter tragedy. The angels seize their souls violently,[1] and they will die an agonising death, caught between the scolding and striking of the angels.

Allah Almighty describes this horrendous scene as follows:

“If you could see when the angels take back those who disbelieved at their death, beating their faces and their backs: ‘Taste the punishment of the Burning!” (Al-Anfal, 8:50)

“As for those the angels take in death while they were wronging themselves, they will offer their submission: ‘We did not do any evil.’ Oh yes you did! Allah knows what you were doing. ‘Enter the gates of Hell, remaining in it timelessly, for ever. How evil is the abode of the arrogant!” (Al-Anfal, 16:28-29)

“But how when the angels take them in death, beating their faces and their backs?” (Muhammad, 47:27)

The following depiction in a Prophetic narration of the way in which the soul of a transgressor will be taken from their body offers a terrifying warning:

“The soul is taken from the body like a pronged skewer is ripped out through a wet piece of wool.” (Hakim, Mustadrak, I, 93-95/107, cf. Ahmad, IV, 287, 295; Haythami, III, 50-51)

Again, Allah addresses the polytheists in the following Qur’anic verses:

“No indeed! When it reaches the gullet and he hears the words, ‘Who can heal him now?’ and he knows it is indeed the final parting, and one leg is entwined with the other: that Day he will be driven to your Lord. He neither affirmed that truth nor did he pray, but rather denied the truth and turned away and then went off to his family swaggering.” (Al-Qiyama, 75:26-33)

The state, at the moment of death, of those with a frightful end is described in the Qur’anic chapter al-Waqi’a:

“Why then when death reaches his throat and you are at that moment looking on – and We are nearer him than you but you cannot see – why then, if you are not subject to Our command, do you not send it back if you are telling the truth.” (Al-Waqi’a, 56:83-87)

All humanity shall inevitably surrender to the Divine will at the moment of death. Even those tyrants and self-conceited people who oppose the Divine commandments in stubborn defiance, will not be able to object in any way. With the countless veils before their awareness and perception lifted, the human being will only at that moment be able to fully see, in complete awe, that it is to Allah we and the universe belongs. Alas, to no avail!

The verses which follow, read:

“But the truth is that if he is one of Those Brought Near, there is solace and sweetness and a Garden of Delight. And if he is one of the Companions of the Right, ‘Peace be upon you!’ from the Companions of the Right. And if he is one of the misguided deniers, there is hospitality of scalding water and roasting in the Blazing Fire. This is indeed the truth of Certainty. So glorify the Name of your Lord, the Magnificent.” (Al-Waqi’a, 56:88-96)

On one occasion, the Messenger of Allah (may Allah bless him and grant him peace) said:

“Allah loves to meet anyone who loves to meet Him. Allah is averse to meeting anyone who is averse to meeting Him.”

‘A’isha (may Allah be well pleased with her) or another one of his wives said:

“O Messenger of Allah, “We dislike death.”

The Messenger of Allah (may Allah bless him and grant him peace) (may Allah bless him and grant him peace) said:

“This is not what is meant, for when the believer is given the good news at the moment of death of the mercy of Allah and His good pleasure and His eternal grace and kindness, there remains nothing more agreeable to him than attaining these things. He wants to meet Allah and so Allah wants to meet him.

When the unbeliever is given the news of the punishment of Allah and His wrath, there remains nothing more disagreeable to him than these things. He is averse to meeting Allah and so Allah is averse to meeting him.” (Bukhari, Riqaq, 41; Muslim, Dhikr, 14)

Again, the Messenger of Allah (may Allah bless him and grant him peace) said:

“Prophet Dawud (upon him be peace) was a very devout man and attached great importance to protecting the honour and reputation of his family. When he went out of his home, he locked the door, so that nobody could enter his house until he returned. One day he went out and returned, only to find a man standing in the middle of the house, so he asked him:

‘Who are you?’

The man replied, ‘I am the one who fears no king, nor am I hindered by any veil.’

Prophet Dawud (peace be upon him) then said:

“Then, you could be none other than the Angel of Death, so welcome with Allah’s Command.’

His soul was seized shortly after…” (Ahmad, II, 419)

The late Necip Fazıl (may Allah have mercy on him) puts it beautifully:

At that moment veils are lifted and veils descend,

Welcoming the Angel of Death, the true attainment.

There is a saying about the one who laughs last. The real meaning of this is that there can be no better smile than the smile on the face of the person for whom all the veils are lifted at their last breath and who is shown their destined place. The best happiest smile of the slave in this world is at that moment. May Allah grant us such happiness.

The famous Umayyad caliph Sulayman ‘Abd al-Malik (may Allah have mercy on him) once asked the gnostic Abu Hazim:

“What will the return to Allah be like?” Abu Hazim replied:

“The return of an obedient slave is like the return home to his family after separation from them, who eagerly await his return. As for the transgressor, it will be like the return of a slave who ran away from his master.”

[1] See (79:1).

Source: Osman Nuri Topbaş , Journey To Eternity, Erkam Publications

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