Connect with us

Inspiration and Spirituality

Thoughts on Death

Published

GraveWhile death is a subject often discussed in khutbahs and duroos and something that I’d heard and read about from an Islamic point of view, I’d never had any real personal exposure to death until recently.

Back in September, I helped wash and shroud my first dead body. Last weekend, my granduncle passed away. Both were eye-openers and caused much reflection and contemplation about death. However, what interests me now is how very different my reaction was in each case.

The ghusl that I helped with was for an elderly woman, a total stranger to me. As I gingerly lay my latex-gloved hands on her cold body, gently washing her pale skin and rinsing her thin hair, I thought about all the things regarding death that I’d read about in our Islamic centre’s library… what struck me most was how this woman’s body was quite literally in my hands, yet her soul was somewhere else altogether, on the plane of existence called the ghayb (unseen) which we will all one day experience, but until then know very little about. I wondered about what her situation would be like in the grave, and prayed that she would have an easy questioning and a peaceful rest. For days after that experience, I walked around with a different attitude – quieter, more thoughtful – and prayed my salaah with the knowledge that I may very well be the next dead body to be washed and buried.

Keep supporting MuslimMatters for the sake of Allah

Alhamdulillah, we're at over 850 supporters. Help us get to 900 supporters this month. All it takes is a small gift from a reader like you to keep us going, for just $2 / month.

The Prophet (SAW) has taught us the best of deeds are those that done consistently, even if they are small. Click here to support MuslimMatters with a monthly donation of $2 per month. Set it and collect blessings from Allah (swt) for the khayr you're supporting without thinking about it.

Last weekend was a totally different experience altogether. This time, it was not a stranger who had died – it was instead my granduncle, whom I loved and considered as my second grandfather. It was, understandably, a great deal more emotional… I rarely cry, but I shed more than a few tears the first two days. Seeing the grief of my other family members, who were even closer to my granduncle than I was, made it all the more difficult.

I find it fascinating how the death of a stranger provoked a more “intellectual” kind of reaction – thinking about death as I’ve always been taught about it (reality of death, what comes after death, etc.) – yet the personal loss made me think not about death, but about life and how death affects the living.

The loss of a loved one can be a make-it-or-break-it moment, in that either our emaan will increase and we’ll grow closer to Allah, turning to Him in need, humility, sincerity, and obedience or we can be overwhelmed by it all and succumb to Shaytaan’s whispers by questioning the Qadr of Allah, by demanding to know why why WHY it was our family that experienced this calamity, and so on.

To a lesser degree, one may not totally turn away from Allah but still have their emaan and ‘ebaadah negatively affected – rather than using this as an opportunity to spend more time in worship, the grief in our hearts can foster a lump of resentment that makes us feel less inclined and eager to pray our salaah or moisten our tongues with dhikr. The temptation to focus far more on our own emotions is strong: sometimes it’s easier to sit and cry and be comforted by other people, to be babied, than it is to make the effort to translate our sorrow into a means of increasing our worship of Allah.

For those of you have been exposed to death, whether distantly or personally, what was your reaction? How did it make you feel, spiritually? Did you observe any particularly interesting reaction from others?

Keep supporting MuslimMatters for the sake of Allah

Alhamdulillah, we're at over 850 supporters. Help us get to 900 supporters this month. All it takes is a small gift from a reader like you to keep us going, for just $2 / month.

The Prophet (SAW) has taught us the best of deeds are those that done consistently, even if they are small. Click here to support MuslimMatters with a monthly donation of $2 per month. Set it and collect blessings from Allah (swt) for the khayr you're supporting without thinking about it.

Zainab bint Younus (AnonyMouse) is a Canadian Muslim woman who writes on Muslim women's issues, gender related injustice in the Muslim community, and Muslim women in Islamic history. She holds a diploma in Islamic Studies from Arees University, a diploma in History of Female Scholarship from Cambridge Islamic College, and has spent the last fifteen years involved in grassroots da'wah. She was also an original founder of MuslimMatters.org.

14 Comments

14 Comments

  1. Samir

    February 21, 2008 at 11:10 AM

    I don’t have much to add, but Jazakallah Khair for this post. I myself don’t know how I’ll contend with a death in my family, I’ve yet to experience that with someone close to me Alhamdulillah. But I will do my best to keep this in mind.

    Shaytaan will definitely try to get us when we are at our weakest.

  2. Amad

    February 21, 2008 at 11:24 AM

    Touching post.

    I was readin a blog os a sister (landers) whose husband passed away only a little time after marriage. He didn’t live long enough to see the birth of his second child, who she is pregnant with. I wish I could post that link to appreciate this sister’s patience, but I don’t have it handy.

    May Allah grant patience to all those who have dealt or dealing with the death of a close person.

  3. miami

    February 21, 2008 at 3:23 PM

    Reading this made me think of my beloved father who died unexpectedly in 1995. I was a teenager doing my A/Ls.

    Loosing someone you love is the most hardest and worst thing that happen to a person…I was a jovial happy go lucky teenager..My Eeman was somewhat ok. I began to pray continuously when I was 13. But apart from that I listened to music,collected lyrics, wrote to pen pals, in short I did what a person of that age does..I was very happy until the shock of my life happened..

    It was inexplicable. Still I try to forget thinking about my father..Because when I think of him I become so sad that nothing could make me happy.He was there for me in everything. He was our shadow .It was our father and not mother who took great worry and interest about our future. Not that our mother was without any responsibility. But our father was more than a father could be. He took special interest in our education (being an educator himself)
    I must confess that it was a living nightmare for me and my family. I couldn’t sleep without dreaming of him. I would suddenly wake up and realize my father is not living anymore…I really can’t describe how desperate I was. When I travelled I did seek my father in other travellers. I can still remember one person looked just like my father..I couldn’t believe my eyes.
    When I went for my higher studies I kept the truth away from my friends. When they asked what my father did I’d say his profession with a satisfied smile.Now I guess I did it because I didn’t want to accept the truth. I always wanted my father to be proud of me. He was, when he was alive. And still I continue to make him proud. Î’d think that if I did so and so he’d be proud. when something worries me I’d think why my father can’t intervene. In short he still lives in my heart.I remember back in time when I was a fresh moaner I’d search for my father’s apparition in the dark. I was not scared of it but was more scared of thinking about a future without him. I would wonder why it had to be MY father , my beloved father..why it wasn’t soneone unknown..Being tested by Allah this way made me indifferent to the deaths of others. I would say to myself `what’s the use of grieving over other deaths..MY father is dead too’

    After all those years I grew up to become an adult. A person with much responsibilities .I take Allah’s blessings somewhat seriously. I know that my nightmares are not over..I’m vulnerable to some more nightmares..I know that I must give in again..until that day arrives I gain courage and thaqwa. I realized these musings afterall made me be very close to Allah. Our cousins and aunts were so protective of us. I pray for their well being to this day. I was a more religious person after my father’s death.In fact I’m now thankful to Allah that it happened at a time when I had so much time for my father.I had the opportunity to recite and do good deeds for the sake of my father. I had to give my father my love and afection eventhough he was in the grave..I woud recite salawath, seleted suras and perform salahs for him too. I didn’t know if it was acceptable or not but my love for my deceased father made me arrogant to dedicate two nafal salahs after every obligatory salahs. I stopped doing it lately due to other ‘duties’ of mine.

    I guess everyone on earth has to undergo an experiance simillar to mine. What I want to stress is the fact that we must have patience and courage to face it.Allah knows the exact time for everything. We can not blame anyone for someone’s death. Just remember Allah loves you so much so that you’d be more closer to Him through one’s death. May Almighty Allah guide all of us in his way.

  4. Muslimah

    February 21, 2008 at 8:04 PM

    Recently one of our relative passed away at middle age leaving his teen age children and illiterate wife.

    SubhanaAllah! His wife doesnt have her parents anymore and is an illiterate depending on her ailing husband for all these years.

    When we called, she couldnt talk and was crying and then later said , “I havent harmed anyone or even thought of harming anyone, why am I given this test ? What will I do with my children now ? I dont have parents and I dont have my husband, who will take care of us?”.

    All we have to say is, “Trust in Allah. Be patient. Allah is the one who will take care of us and not any other men whether they are father/brother/husband. This is not the end of life and Allah will never let anybody hopeless while they live.”

    She asked the same question that the brother posed above… “Why me ? Why my children have to be without father ?”.

    For past 10 years her husband’s health was deterioating and last few months was hard struggle for him.

    His grandmother who was there in janaza couldnt take the death of her grandson passing away before her leaving his wife and children.

    But our life is predetermined and age has got nothing to do with that. Young or old, death can knock at our door any time.

    -Muslimah

  5. Amad

    February 21, 2008 at 8:25 PM

    I was talking about this blog:

    Impossibly Blue Skies

  6. sharif10

    February 21, 2008 at 10:45 PM

    My grandmother in Pakistan passed away about two years ago. Over the summer I went to our family’s village and at the cemetery prayed for her, my grandfather, and my Uncle’s son who died young (in his twenties). The feeling you get when you are there…it’s really quite a wake up call.

  7. Faraz

    February 22, 2008 at 10:11 AM

    Touching post, masha-Allah, and something we all need to think about. I think this post also reflects your growing maturity, as it differs considerably from your usual writing.

    This post is rather timely, as I was just informed this morning before fajr that one of the most respected elders of our community passed away this morning. I will be attending his janaazah after Jumah, in a few hours. This comes only two months after another highly respected member of our community passed away, leaving a significant void in leadership that will be hard to fill.

    But ultimately, death needs to be seen as the only certain part of life. It is also a “changing of the guard” of sorts, in that it often shifts responsibility. We lost two of the pioneers of Islam in our city, but it means that we as the younger generation need to step up. They did their part, may Allah have mercy upon them, but now we need to take the reins and keep making our effort for the sake of Allah.

    I’ve witnessed close family members (and potential family members) pass away on a few occasions now, and subhanAllah, it always pushes me to reassess my life. Unfortunately, we forget so quickly afterwards, and carry on with the same frivolousness. May Allah guide us all.

  8. khawla

    February 22, 2008 at 10:28 AM

    MashaAllah
    Jazzakumullahu khair for posting this sis Anonymouse and all those who shared their stories of death.

    My own dear father passed away a few years ago due to illness. May Allah forgive him and have mercy on his soul.
    We are surrounded by death, everything around us is decaying every second, we do not realize it, so we do not really think anything of it. I heard someone said about death being a hidden occurance. That last hour has no sign but life is often in full view, spring time, flowers blooming, babies being born and people always celebrate it and Syaitan lures us into thinking that we are going to live forever thus we forget our true purpose in life to worship Allah. We tend to procrastinate.
    That is why when any close family member dies, it shakes us in some way that Allah is testing us, reminding us as tests that we are all going to return to Him.

    The Prophet peace and blessings be upon him reminded us many times to be patient, for there are many great rewards.

    However it is only human nature to feel sad.
    I even grieved when my pet fish died of old age.
    ‘Inna lillahi wa inna ilaihi raajiun’

  9. imran khan

    February 22, 2008 at 1:06 PM

    I’ve witnessed close family members pass away, and I have taken part in washing the deceased but,….. well the feeling only stay with you for a very short period of time. Is this just me???? This morning I had a call from my friend who has lost his second child (miss carried). The news hasn’t really changed my Friday; I will go to the cemetery tomorrow, but no change today. I will finish work soon and I am ring my friend asking for “what the plan for tonight/weekend” most likely will be going out to watch new Rambo. Life carries on…….

    • Saleem

      March 15, 2012 at 3:57 AM

      My parents performed their Hajj and left from Madinah bidding me goodbye- My father before leaving from Madinah uttered the words ” This may be the last time we are meeting each other” and then left to India. After a few months I got the news that he is critical and I tried much to go down to India but my employer refused to send me and I was only able to keep speaking to him over the phone.  My son called his grand father ‘Dada’ for the first time over the phone and 12 Jul 2003 during maghrib he passed away. Unfortunately I could not see my father for the last time and could not attend his funeral. Tears roll down my eyes when I think of him. May Allah forgive him, provide maghfirah and a place in Jannah

  10. AllAboutAsma

    February 22, 2008 at 11:14 PM

    Salaamualaikum,

    I can completely relate to you in this post. I lost my youngest sister, Asma, in 2005. Actually, it has been three years on Feb. 11th.

    Although it has been three years, it feels like yesterday. It really has changed my life. It brought me closer to the deen and has made me want to live for the sake of Allah.

    I am far from being a ‘good’ Muslim, but I can only try and hope that Allah forgives my sins and takes my Soul in the state of Islam.

    Asma meant the world to me. I miss her more and more everyday. That wound will never heal. I just learned to accept it and move on. However, I still think of her every single day.

    You can read about her and everything relating to her on my personal blog ( http://AllAboutAsma.blogspot.com )that I have made for her. You can even read about the day she passed away and the day she was buried. It wrote it in detail.

    I think how if I feel like this, how do my parents feel and deal with it? Subhana’Allah…

    May Allah keep us all firm upon the truth. Ameen
    May Allah guide us all and take our Souls in the state of Islam. Ameen

    Masha’Allah, nice post.

    WaSalaam

    – Omar

  11. Amad

    February 22, 2008 at 11:31 PM

    Omar, I read your and your sister’s memoirs sometime ago. After reading them, I felt as if I had lost my own family member; both blogs were so powerful. I shed tears for your loss and I can only imagine how those who wrote such painful words actually felt.

    I hope everyone reads the memoirs you linked to and remembers that we are never too young to die, and to thank for all the loved ones who continue to live.

    May Allah unite your family with Asma in jannah and forgive your sins for the patience and pain you all have endured

    Jazakallah khair for sharing.

  12. Saleem

    March 15, 2012 at 4:01 AM

    My parents performed their Hajj and left from Madinah bidding me goodbye- My father before leaving from Madinah uttered the words ” This may be the last time we are meeting each other” and then left to India. After a few months I got the news that he is critical and I tried much to go down to India but my employer refused to send me and I was only able to keep speaking to him over the phone.  My son called his grand father ‘Dada’ for the first time over the phone and 12 Jul 2003 during maghrib he passed away. Unfortunately I could not see my father for the last time and could not attend his funeral. Tears roll down my eyes when I think of him. May Allah forgive him, provide maghfirah and a place in Jannah

  13. Pingback: » Handling Painful Moments with Grace

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

..
..
..

Ramadan Video Series

MuslimMatters NewsLetter in Your Inbox

Sign up below to get started

Trending