Importance of thinking about death
The rising of the sun reminds of Sakhr, I remember him at every sunset, If it were not for the number of those weeping around me, for their brothers, I surely would have killed myself, they do not cry for anyone as dear as my brother, but I console myself by weeping for him, for I have said farewell to the day we separated, father of Hassan, with it my pleasures and happiness, how my sorrows go out to him and my mother, for him to awake in his grave and then to rest at night?
With these phrases and others like them, Al-Khansaa’ mourned the death of her brother, Sakhr, and cried for him until she lost her eye-sight, falling into anguish, disparity and wishing for death. This is how Al-Khansaa’ saw death and this is how she handled it. In the battle of Al-Qadisiyyah, in an honourable stance of life and death, Al-Khansaa’ stood with her four sons and said to them: “You became Muslim and did not apostatise, and you emigrated and did not turn back, then you came to your old mother and placed her in the hands of the people of Persia. You are the sons of one man, as you are the sons of one woman. I did not betray your father, nor did I disgrace your uncle. Go, and be witnesses of the battle from the beginning to its very end.” All four of her sons were martyred, and when the news reached her she said her famous words: “All praise be to Allah, who honoured me with their death. I ask Him, glory be to He, to join me together with them, in the dwellings of his mercy.”
What changed the picture of death in the eyes of Al-Khansaa’ from ignorance to Islam? Was honour sought from the death of her sons after losing her eyesight due to her crying over the death of her brother? And after the anxiety of death, prayers of meeting them in paradise were made? What change of heart and mind is this? What change is this that can change a human being from one life to another, and from one point of view to another? It is Islam, with its Aqeeda, which made death for a Muslim the meeting of Allah (swt).
Allah (swt) said
“Among the Believers are men who have been true to their Covenant with Allah: of them some have fulfilled their obligations, and some of them are still waiting: but they have never changed (their determination) in the least”
There are the ones who wait and those who were truthful to the promise they made to Allah (swt), but their time has not come yet, so they wait. There are the ones who wait, yes! Waiting as if they are living in this world, remaining patient over it and waiting for their Ajal (decree of death) to come, for them to catch up to their companions, and to meet the countenance of their Lord; and why not wait when they were the ones who were truthful to the promise they made to Allah (swt), and Allah (swt) confirmed this for them and those like them, that they would not turn back and change their determination, so they were the ones who did not turn back and change. Of them are those who have moved on, their Ajal having ended, and there are those who wait for its coming, and prepare them-selves for it. Those who have not prepared for this meeting do not wait for it: Allah(swt) said:
“Say: The Death from which you flee will truly overtake you: then will you be sent back to the Knower of all things secret and open: and He will tell you (the truth of) the things that you did!”
So the one who runs away from death, either does not believe in the meeting of Allah (swt) and wishes to seek the greatest amount of pleasure in this world for as long as he can, and Allah (swt) said, “Until, when death comes to one of them, Allah (swt) says:
“O my Lord! Send me back (to life), in order that I may do good in that which I have left behind!” - No! It is but a word that he speaks; and behind them is a Partition until the Day they are raised up. Then when the Trumpet is blown, there will be no more kinship among them that day, nor will they ask of one another! Then those whose scales (of good deeds) are heavy, they are the successful. And those whose scales (of good deeds) are light, they are those who lose their own selves; in Hell will they abide”
He who is a Believer who is weak in his remembrance of Allah (swt) and the Day of Judgement, thus is heedless of the Akhirah (afterlife), too busy with his world, so when death comes to him, he becomes regretful and sorrowful:Allah (swt) says
“Of no effect is the repentance of those who continue to do evil deeds, until death faces one of them, and he says: “Now I repent” nor of those who die while they are disbelievers. For them have we prepared a painful torment”
It was narrated that when death approached Abdul-Malik b. Marwan, he looked to a man washing his clothes near Damascus, twisting his clothes, then slapping them against his washing basin, when Abdul-Malik said:
“How I wish that I were a cleaner, eating from the earnings of what my hands have earned day after day, not having desired anything in this world.”
When this reached Abu Hazim, he said:
“All praise be to Allah, who made them wish for what we have when death approaches them, and when death approaches us, we do not wish for what they have.”
Belief in that the ending of Ajal is the cause of death is a necessity that cannot be separated from it, causing one to be wary of death every second of every moment, and what follows this wariness of readiness and preparation is in line with the belief in the Akhirah, whose doors open upon death, where there is no more work, or Jihad or carrying of the Da’wa. The Messenger of Allah (saw) said to Abdullah b.Umar (ra),
“If you awoke in the morning, do not speak to yourself of the evening, and if you reach the evening, do not speak to yourself of the morning. Take from your life for your death, and from your health for your illness, as you, oh Abdullah, do not know what your name will be tomorrow”
The Messenger of Allah (saw) said,
“The clever one is he who disciplined himself and worked for what is after death, and the feeble one is he who followed his desires, then made (vain) prayers to Allah”.
And in the Sahih (authenticated) narration of when Jibreel (as) asked the Messenger (saw) about Ihsan, he (saw) said,
“To worship Allah as if you see him, and if you do not see him, then he surely sees you”.
Belief in death is worthless without the belief in the Akhirah(Hereafter), for death is the beginning of the path to the Akhirah; the everlasting life, the life where fate is decided; either complete bliss, or severe punishment. So whoever feared death and believed that its cause is the ending of Ajal, but did not carefully guard and account himself and did not imagine the Akhirah in a manner that prepares him to travel to it at any moment, will find no effect of his Iman upon his actions in this world, and if he is affected, then this will add up to no more that a few quick moments of guilt, without being followed up with careful guarding and accounting, thus he will very quickly go back to his old ways of disobeying Allah (swt) after the effects of what he saw heard or what reminded him wear off. ‘Uthman bin ‘Affan (ra), in the last Khutba he gave in his life, said:
“Allah (swt) gave you this world to request the Akhirah, and did not give it to you for you to rely upon, for this world ends and Akhirah is everlasting. So let not that which ends make you disregardful, nor keep you busy from that which lasts. Choose to seek that which lasts over that which ends, for this world will be cut off and our return is to Allah.”
Death reminds us of Akhirah, and there is no better reminder. The Messenger of Allah (saw) said,
“Increase the remembrance of that which destroys all desires”
[Al Tirmidhi and said the Hadith is Hasan]
And he (saw) said,
“If animals knew what the sons of Adam knew of death, you would not have found any fat on them to eat”
[Al Baihaqi in “Al Sha’ab”].
Ibn ‘Umar (ra) said,
“I came to the Prophet (saw), and I was the tenth of ten men, when a man from the Ansar asked: Who is the most clever and the most honourable of people, Oh Messenger of Allah? He (saw) replied: “Those who remember death the most and work the hardest to prepare for it; they are the clever ones. They have left with the honour of this world and the dignity of the Akhirah”
[Ibn Majah (Summarised version) and Ibn Abi Al Dunya (Complete version) - Good chain of narrators].
‘Umar b Abdul Aziz (ra), in one of his Khutbas said,
“Doubtlessly, for every travel provisions must be made, so provide for your travel to Akhirah with Taqwa (fear of Allah), and be like those who examined what Allah has prepared of rewards and punishments, so that you may desire and fear. And do not delay, as your heart may harden and you may be led to your enemy, for, by Allah, there is no-one who has more expectations than the one who is unaware that he may not awake after he goes to bed, or go to bed after he awakes, even though he may find glimpses of the fate of death between them. How many people have you and I seen in this world who walk about arrogantly, but only those who are confident of their being saved from the Hellfire will have their hearts at ease, and only those who have been protected from the tribulations of the Day of Judgement can be happy, for the one who does not nurture his wounds will only be cut once again from another direction, so how could he be happy? I seek refuge in Allah that I order you to do what I do not order myself, so that I lose my deal (with Allah), and my shame will show, and my weakness will be laid bare on the day that the rich and the poor will be made to show all, and the scales in it are set up. You have been burdened with a task, if the stars were bur-dened with it, they surely would have fallen, and if the mountains were burdened with it, they surely would have melted away, and if the earth was burdened with it, it surely would have been torn to pieces.”
Every night ‘Umar b. Abdul Aziz (ra) would gather the Fuqahaa’ and remember death and the Day of Judgement and the Akhirah, and they would cry as if a funeral was before them. And it was said that if death were to be mentioned around him, he would shiver like a bird and cry until tears would run down his beard, once cry-ing making the whole house cry with him, and when the moment passed, his wife Fatima asked him:
“May my father be sacrificed for you, oh Amir of the Believers, why do you cry?” He said: “I imagined the departure of the people from between the hands of Allah, and saw a group in Paradise and a group in the Hellfire.”
Then he cried out and fainted. Death reminds us of the Akhirah, and involves much reminding and careful examination. Al-Hassan (ra) entered a room where a man was reading Qur’an to himself, and said:
“The first of this matter (life) is made proper when its end is feared, and the end of this matter is made proper when its first is renounced.”
Whoever imagines that his Akhirah may come at any moment must prepare for it the best he can. When Ahmed b. Khadhrawiyyah neared death, he said to his son:
“My son, a door that I have been knocking at for 95 years is about to be opened upon me this hour, and I do not know if it holds for me happiness or misery.”
And it was narrated that one of the pious Muslims was approaching his death and his wife began crying, so he asked her:
“What makes you cry?” She said: “I cry for you.” He said: “If you wish to cry, then cry for your-self, for I have cried over this day for 40 years.”
Do you see, how it is if you have a long journey ahead! Would you disregard preparing for it and making yourself ready? If you did this, then you fall under one of these two categories: Either you do not really care about the trip, nor worry about it, nor do you give it any value whatsoever; or you are heed-less, as time means nothing to you. Death is a reality which we all believe in its coming, a belief that meets no doubt whatsoever. And at every passing day we come one day closer to death. So whoever reaches thirty years of age has come thirty years closer to death, and who-ever reaches sixty years of age has come sixty years closer to death, and so on. Who amongst us has prepared to travel at any moment… now… or in a short while… or tomorrow… or after it…? You only have two types of breath, one inhaling and one exhaling, and you do not know which one will take out your soul. Oh, Allah, we beg for your mercy and for peace on the day that we meet you.
Death is a reminder, which is followed by careful accounting and guarding, as Al-Rabee’ b. Khaytham had dug a grave in his house, so that if he found hardness within his heart, he would enter it and lay down for as long as Allah wished and read:
“O my Lord! Send me back (to life) in order that I may work righteousness in the things I neglected” repeating it, then he would reply to himself saying: “Oh, Rabee’, here, you have been returned, so work.”
Remembrance is not crying and wailing and blaming one’s self when one is on the brink of death, or attending a funeral or visiting graves alone. Rather, remembrance of death is when a believer imagines that he will meet his Lord at any moment, and his actions will be cut off, as will his ability for repentance. So he will be aware of himself, careful to obey Allah (swt), wary of his Lord every second of his life. Anas (ra) said: I overheard ‘Umar b. Al-Khattab (ra) as he entered upset, and there was a barrier between us, saying:
“Oh, ‘Umar b. Al-Khattab, Amir of the Believers, bravo! By Allah, Oh, son of Al-Khattab, you better fear Allah, or he will punish you.”
And Abu Bakr Al-Siddiq (ra) said:
“Whoever detests himself before Allah (swt), Allah will protect him from His anger.”
Accounting one’s self and guarding it from mistakes is how a believer saves himself from the punishment of Allah (swt), preparing himself so that he may meet Allah (swt) obedient and in submission, committing himself to what Allah has ordered him, not getting tired, or compromising or giving up, rather treading the path of Allah (swt), withstanding the trials of the world and its disasters, renouncing what the created have to offer, seeking what the Creator has to give.
The Messenger of Allah (saw) read the verse:
“Those whom Allah (in His plan) wishes to guide, He opens their breast to Islam.”
“If the Nur (light) enters into the breast, it widens.” Then someone asked: Is there a visible sign of that, Oh, Messenger of Allah? He said: “Yes, increased renunciation of the dwelling of vanities (Dar Al-Ghurur), and the desire for the everlasting dwelling (Dar Al-Khulud), and preparation for death before its’ time.”
[Al Haakim in “Al Mustadrik”]
Allah (swt) said:
“He (is the one) who created Death and Life, that He may try which of you is best in deed”
Those of you who remember death the most, and the best of you in preparation, and who are most cautious and fearful of it. Have you, examined what Allah (swt) has enjoined upon you, firstly, as a Muslim and secondly, as a carrier of the Da’wa? Have you asked yourself if you have put forth the deserved effort, or have you been negligent in its undertaking? Have you realised that you are of the most burdened, and of the most responsible, and you are the most needy of people, in this day and age, of accounting yourself and subduing it to what Allah (swt) has enjoined upon it of actions, and to what your back has been burdened with of responsibilities?
Have you realised,as you contemplate death, and remember the Akhirah, and cry, fearing the punishment of the Hellfire, and work, desiring the pleasures of Paradise; have you realised that what you have of enlightened thought, and precise understanding, and sincere awareness will not make you an oblivious Sufi or an ignorant Darweesh, or someone stuck in a corner with only the pillars and corners of Islam, crying and moaning? No, and it is not acceptable of you to do so, either. Ratheryou should be a carrier of the Da’wa, who sold his soul to Allah (swt), a political leader who cries upon hearing an Ayah, and a special moment can agitate his emotions.
Did you not know that the Messenger of Allah (saw) was the most fearful of the people, and cried the most? Abu Bakr Al-Siddiq (ra) once said to him:
“Your hair has become grey, Oh, Messenger of Allah.” So he (saw) said: “[Surah] Hud and its sisters have made my hair grey: Al-Waqi’a, ‘Amma Yatasaa’alun and Itha Al-Shamsu Kuwwirat.”
And it was narrated by Ibn Najjar, of Ibn ‘Umar that the Messenger of Allah (saw) overheard a reader reading:
“With Us are Fetters (to bind them), and a Fire (to burn them)”
and he (saw) fainted. And it was narrated that when he (saw) was travelling to Makkah to liberate it, and the Muslims were fully prepared and armed, he (saw) saw a lark flying above his head, crying out, so he (saw) cried and said, “Who upset her by taking away her son? Give back her child.” When Allah revealed,
“Do you then wonder at this recital? And will you laugh and not weep?”
The people of Al-Suffa cried until the tears ran down their face, and when the Messenger (saw) heard this, he cried with them, causing the rest of the Companions to cry along with him, then he (saw) said,
“The one who cries from fear of Allah will not be made to walk through the fire, and the one who insists on disobedience will not enter Paradise, and if you did not commit sins, Allah would bring another people who would commit sins, so that he may forgive them”
Did you not know that ‘Umar b. Al-Khattab (ra), due to his strong stance upon the truth and his nerve, as well as the strength of his courage, would drop at the hearing of an Ayah and would be streaming tears whenever he was reminded of the afterlife; and on his ring he had engraved: “Death is enough of a reminder, oh Umar”. Did you not know that one of the Companions said of Abu Bakr Al-Siddiq,
“If you saw him as he was preparing the armies, you would think that he does not depend on Allah whatsoever, and if you saw him as he prayed profusely to Allah for victory, crying and weeping, you would say: This man has not prepared a single thing, at all.”
Have you not heard the saying of Allah (swt), describing the best of His creation,
“Muhammad is the Messenger of Allah; and those who are with him are severe against disbelievers, and merciful amongst each other. You see them bowing and falling down prostrate (in prayer) seeking bounty from Allah and (His) Good Pleasure. On their faces are their (visible) marks, (being) the traces of their prostration. This is their description in the Taurat; and their description in the Injeel: is like a (sown) seed which sends forth its blade, then makes it strong; it then becomes thick, and it stands straight on its own stem, (filling) the sowers with wonder and delight, that it may enrage the disbelievers with them. Allah has promised those among them who believe and do righteous deeds, forgiveness, and a mighty reward.”
These are the leaders who established Islam and fought in the way of Allah (swt) until they met their Lord. As Ali bin Abi Talib (ra) said, describing them:
“By Allah, I have seen the companions of Muhammad (saw), and I do not see anyone here today any-thing like them. They would awake ruffled and dirty, between their eyes what is similar to those who ride goats, for they have spent the night prostrating and praying, reading the book of Allah (swt), moving from their face to their feet, and when they awoke, they would mention Allah, the Most High, swaying like a tree would on a windy day. Their eyes have cried until their clothes have been soaked, and by Allah, it was as if that evening the people had been put to sleep.”
Abu ‘Ubaydah Al-Baji said:
“We entered upon Al-Hassan while he was ill, the illness which he died from, and he said: Greetings to you and welcome. May Allah greet you with peace, and may He make the everlasting dwelling (Paradise) lawful for you and I, if you are patient, and truthful and god-fearing. So do not make your share of this information, may Allah have mercy upon you, that you take it in one ear, while it goes out the other, for whoever saw Muhammed (saw), saw him coming and going, and he did not simply lay brick upon brick, or straw upon straw, rather knowledge was raised up to him, so he embarked upon it. Al-Wahi, Al-Wahi (the revelation, the revelation), to be delivered, to be delivered. Allah has blessed a slave with his mercy who lived life as it were once, so he ate little, and wore tattered rags, stuck to earth and exhausted himself in worship, crying when he made a mistake, fleeing from punishment and seeking His mercy, until his time comes and he is in that state.”
[Ibn Habban in “Al Thuqaat” and Abu Na’eem in “Al Hilya”]
This world,and what it has of pleasures and trials can make a Believer busy, no matter how measly the pleasures, and how insignificant the trials. They will keep him busy if he accepted them, and allowed them to keep him busy. Allah (swt) says,
“Know that the life of this world is but play and amusement, pomp and mutual boasting and multiplying, (in rivalry) among yourselves, riches and children. It is as the likeness of vegetation after rain thereof the growth is pleasing to the tillers; soon it withers; then you will see it grow yellow; then it becomes dry and crumbles away. But in the Hereafter is a severe torment (for the disbelievers - evildoers). And forgive-ness from Allah and (His) Good Pleasure (for the believers - good doers). And what is the life of this world, but a deceiving enjoyment? Race one another (in seeking) Forgiveness from your Lord, and a Garden (of Bliss), the width whereof is as the width of heaven and earth, prepared for those who believe in Allah and His Messengers: that is the Grace of Allah, which He bestows on whom He pleases: and Allah is the Lord of Grace abounding.”
Death is no more than the truthful companion for those who continues to remind the Believer of the Akhirah, and as long as a Believer remembers his Akhirah and acts accordingly, then he is heading in a good direction and he will live his life in a state of remembrance and preparation for it. This is why the Messenger of Allah (saw) stressed the remembrance of death and to pre-pare for it, as he stressed the visiting of graves and praying for peace upon them, as it is the best admonition and the best of reminders. Abi Tharr (ra) said The Messenger of Allah (saw) said:
“Visit the graves, as it will be a reminder of the Akhirah, and wash the dead, as taking care of an empty body is an outstanding admonition, and pray over the Jana’iz (funerals), as it may sadden you, for the sad one is in the shade of Allah”
[Ibn Abi Al Dunya and Al Haakim -Good chain of narrators]
And Ibn Abi Mulaykah said, The Messenger of Allah (saw) said:
“Visit your dead and pray for peace upon them, for there is an admonition for you in it”
[Ibn Abi Al Dunya - Good chain of narrators].
It has been narrated of Abu Hurairah that if he saw a funeral, he would say: “Move on, for we are to follow.” And Al-Dhaahik said: A man once said: Oh, Messenger of Allah, who is the most Zaahid (abstinent) of people? He (saw) said:
“He who does not forget the grave and abandoned the luxuries of life, seeking that which lasts above that which ends, not counting yesterday as one of his days, and counted himself amongst the people of the graves”.
In the Messenger of Allah (saw) we have a beautiful pattern of conduct to follow, and in the honourable companions we have integrity of conduct and forthrightness, and in those who preceded us, who were righteous, we have admonition and remembrance, for they were mindful to always remember death to help them remember and prepare for the Akhirah, and if death were to approach them, you would find them between one crying over himself out of fear and terror of Allah’s (swt) punishment, and one who has done righteous deeds for the sake of Allah (swt), hoping for the best, praying for his forgiveness, and one who is fully pre-pared and ready.
As for the Messenger (saw), he began his preparation by praying for the forgiveness of those in the graves, and this was during the illness which he died from, where Abu Muwayhiba, the servant of the Prophet (saw), narrated:
“The Messenger of Allah (saw) called for me in the middle of the night and said to me: “Oh, Abu Muwayhiba, I have been ordered to pray for forgiveness for the people of the graves, so come with me.” So I departed with him, and when he (saw) stood between them, he said, “Peace be upon you, dwellers of the graves. What you are in is more comfortable than what the people are in, for tribulations have approached like dark patches of night, one following another, and each one is worse than the one before it.” Then he came near to me, and said: “Oh, Abu Muwayhiba, I have been given the keys to the treasures of the world and lasting life in it, then Paradise, and was given a choice between this and the meeting of my Lord and Paradise, so I chose to meet my Lord and Paradise.” So I said: May my father and mother be sacrificed for you, take the keys to the treasures of the world and lasting life in it, then Paradise. But he said, “No, by Allah, oh Abu Muwayhiba, I have chosen to meet my Lord and Paradise.” He then prayed for forgiveness for the people of the graves and left, when the pain that he (saw) was going through showed upon him. As the pain increased, he (saw) said to Al-Fadhl, with his head wrapped, due to the overwhelming pain, “Take my hand, Fadhl”. So Al-Fadhl took his hand until he sat on the Minbar, then said to Al-Fadhl: “Call the people.” So they gathered. He then praised Allah, and prayed for peace upon the companions of Uhud, and forgiveness for them and prayed much for them, then said: “and furthermore, oh people, I praise Allah between you, of whom there is no Lord worthy of worship other than Him. It has been made known to me that there are some (unful-filled) rights between yourselves, so whoever I have whipped his back (unjustly), this is my back, so take back your right, and if I have vilified someone’s honour, this is my honour, so take back your right. Although resentment is not in my nature, nor my disposition, but you would be beloved to me if you took from me what was rightfully yours, or if you forgave me the right, so I can meet Allah with my soul at ease, and even this, I do not see as sufficient until I undertake (the responsibility) over and over again.” He then stepped down and prayed Dhuhr, then returned and sat upon the Minbar, returning to his speech regarding resentment, and other matters. A man then stood and said:
“Oh, Messenger of Allah, I have with you three Dirhams.” So he (saw) said: “Fadhl, give it to him.” Then he (saw) said: “Oh, people, whoever has something to finish, he should, and (do not fear) the embarrassment of this world, for the embarrassment of this world is less than that of the Akhirah.” So a man then stood, and said: “Oh, Messenger of Allah, I have three Dirhams which I took (unjustly) in the way of Allah.” He (saw) then asked: “Why did you take it?” The man replied: “I needed it.” He (saw) then said: “Take it from him, Fadhl.” and said: “Oh people, whoever fears something of himself, he should come forth and I will pray for him.” So a man stood, and said: “Oh Messenger of Allah, I am a liar and indecent and I sleep too much.” So he (saw) said: “Oh, Allah, bless him with truthfulness, Iman and lift away his sleep if he so wished.” and another man stood and said: “By, Allah, Oh Messenger of Allah, I am a liar and a hypocrite and there is not one crime that I have not committed.” when ‘Umar b. Al-Khattab (ra) stood and said: “You have disgraced yourself.” So the Messenger (saw) said: “Oh son of Al-Khattab, the disgrace of the worldly life is less than that of the afterlife; may Allah bless him with truthfulness, Iman and lead his matter to a good end.”
The Prophet (saw) urged the people to take care of the Ansar, and said: “…and furthermore, oh group of Muhajireen, it has become that you are increasing (in number), and the Ansar are not increasing (in number), (they will remain) as they are today. The Ansar are my cover who extended to me their aid. So be generous to their generous and look past their shortcomings.” The Messenger (saw) then said: “A certain slave of Allah (swt) has been given the choice between whatever he wishes of the delights of this world, or what Allah (swt) has to offer, so he chose what Allah (swt) has to offer.”
Abu Bakr (ra) then cried and said:
“We sacrifice ourselves, our fathers, our mothers and our sons for you, oh Messenger of Allah (swt).”
The people were surprised by the reaction of Abu Bakr (ra), and some said: ‘Look to this Shaykh; The Messenger of Allah (swt) informs us of a slave who has been given a choice by Allah (swt), and he says, "we sacrifice our fathers and mothers?"' The Messenger (saw) then said, in reply to Abu Bakr (ra): ‘Be at ease, Abu Bakr). Do you see these open doors of the Mosque (in Makkah), close them, except for the one that is facing the home of Abu Bakr, for the most gracious of people in his friendship and his wealth to me is Abu Bakr, and if I were to take from the slaves (of Allah (swt)), a bosom friend I surely would take Abu Bakr as a bosom friend, but it will remain as companionship and brotherhood in Iman until Allah (swt) brings us together in His company.’
The mother of the believers, 'A'ishah (ra), said: 'I saw the Messenger of Allah (saw) as he was dying. With him was a container of water, where he would put his hand into the container then wipe his face, saying:
"‘La 'ilaha 'illAllah, truly death has its agonies. Oh Allah, help me with the agonies of death.’ and held his finger up, saying: ‘Nay, the Most High companion, the Most High companion.’ He (saw) then turned his sights, focusing them on the roof of the house, and said: ‘Oh Allah (swt). The Most High companion.’"
Then he (saw) died, his hand falling into the water.
When the time of Abu Bakr Al-Siddiq (ra) came, 'A'ishah (ra) expressed her thoughts of the situation with the words: ‘By your life, wealth is of no use to a person when it (death) rattles the throat and constrains the breast.’ So Abu Bakr (ra) uncovered his face, and said: ‘It is not like this, my daughter, rather I say: "And the stupor of death will bring Truth (before his eyes). This was the thing which you have been trying to escape!” Take my two pieces of clothing here, wash them and bury me in them, for the living are more needy of new clothing than the dead.’ As Abu Bakr (ra) was dying, 'A'ishah (ra) said, praising him: ‘(His) white (face), feeding the birds with the (light of) his face, the spring time of the orphans and the protector of the widowers.’ Abu Baker then said: ‘This is a description of the Messenger of Allah (swt).’ The Sahaba then entered the room, seeing the pain he was going through because of the effects of the poison, they said to him: ‘Should we not send our doctor to take a look at you’? He replied: 'My doctor has looked at me and said: I am the doer of whatsoever I intend.’ Salman Al-Farisi (ra) then entered the room and said: 'Oh, Abu Bakr (ra), entrust us with something.' So the Siddiq said: 'Allah (swt) is opening the world to you, so do not take of it except what you need, and know that he who prays Fajr is under the protection of Allah (swt), so do not embarrass Allah (swt) in His protection 'Allah (swt) will throw us in hell fire on our faces'?
When the burden became heavy on Abu Bakr (ra), he sent for Umar (ra) b. Al-Khattab (ra), and entrusted him with a mighty duty, saying: 'I wish to entrust you with a duty, if you allow … Allah (swt) has rights upon you at night-time which He will not accept of you in the daytime, and rights upon you in the daytime which He will not accept from you at night-time. He does not accept a Nafila (supererogatory actions of worship) until the Fard (obligation) is completed. Truly, the scales are heavy for the one whose scales become heavy in the Afterlife because of his seeking the truth in this world. And it is proper for the scales to become heavy if truth were to be placed into them. And truly, the scales are light for the one whose scales have become light in the Afterlife because of their following falsehood and how insignificant this was to them. And it is proper for the scales to become light if falsehood were to be placed into them. Have you not seen that Allah (swt) has revealed the verses of anticipation with the verses of severity and the verses of severity with the verses of anticipation. And He revealed the verse of mercy and the verse of punishment so that the slave may be in a state of desire and fear, so that he does not to throw himself into destruction (the Hellfire) and not to ask of Allah (swt) anything but the truth. If you safeguarded this trust of mine there will be nothing absent but more beloved to you than death, as you cannot do without it. And if you forget and lose this trust of mine, there will be nothing absent but more hated by you than death, and you cannot be without it, nor will you ever escape it.' The last thing he (ra) said before his soul departed his body was: 'My Lord, Cause me to die as one who has submitted to Your Will, and join me with the Saliheen (the righteous)'
As for Umar (ra) b. Al-Khattab, he went out four days before his death to traverse the markets. He met Abu Lu'lu'a, the servant of Al-Mughirah ibn Shu'bah, who said: 'Oh, Amir of the Believers, show me the way to Al-Mughirah b. Shu'bah, for he pays me well.' Umar (ra) said: 'How much is your pay?' he replied: 'two Dirhams.'
Umar (ra) asked: 'What is your trade?' Abu Lu'lu'a said: 'Carpentry, sowing and ironmongery.' Umar (ra) said: ‘I do not see your wages to be much in comparison to your skills and it has reached me that you are able to construct a mill that grinds using the power of wind.’ The disbelieving Kafir replied: ‘If you wish I will make a mill that people will speak of from east to west’, and then departed. Umar (ra) then said: ‘This slave has promised me before.’
Umar (ra) then departed to his home and when he neared it Ka'ab Al-Ahbar came to him and said: ‘Oh Amir of the Believers, be informed - you are to die in three days.’ Umar (ra) said: ‘And how do you know this?’ Ka'ab replied: ‘I have seen it in the Torah.’ Umar (ra) said: ‘By Allah (swt), you find Umar (ra) bin Al-Khattab in the Torah?’ Ka'ab replied: ‘By Allah (swt), no, but I do find your description and disposition, and your Ajal (Decree for life) has run out.’ The next day Ka'ab came to him again and said: ‘Oh Amir of the Believers, one day has gone and two are left.’ And the day after, saying: ‘Two days have passed and one day and one night are left.’ Which was that night and its' morning. When morning came, Umar (ra) left for prayer where he delegated one man to make sure the lines were straight, and when he was confident of their organisation he began the prayer. Just then, Abu Lu'lu'a, may Allah (swt)'s wrath come down upon him, came between the people with him a double headed dagger that meets in the middle, and struck Umar (ra) six times - one of them just under his navel, which was the one that, in the end, killed him. Ka'ab Al-Ahbar then ran away, not leaving anyone to the left or right of him without striking them. At the end thirteen men were stabbed, nine of which died. When one of the Muslims saw this occurring he threw a cloak over the murderer, and when Ka'ab Al-Ahbar thought that he had been caught he committed suicide.
When Umar (ra) felt the warmth of the stab wounds, he fell, and called out: 'Is Abdul-Rahman b. 'Awf between the people?' They replied: 'Yes, he is over here.' Umar (ra) said to him: 'Come forth and lead the people in prayer.' So Abdul-Rahman led the people in prayer, while Umar (ra) was lying on his side. The rows behind Umar (ra) could see what was happening but the people praying at the outskirts of the Mosque had no idea what was occurring, only that they had lost Umar (ra)'s voice and were calling out 'Subhan Allah, Subhan Allah.’ So Abdul-Rahman led the people in a light prayer, then the people carried Umar (ra) to his house, where he said: 'Oh Ibn Al-'Abbas, go and see who stabbed me.' So Abdullah left, returning after one hour, and said: 'The servant of Al-Mughirah b. Shu'bah.' Umar (ra) said: 'May Allah (swt) declare war on him. I had just done a good deed for him.' Then said: 'All praise be to Allah (swt) who did not make my death at the hands of a Muslim man who prostrated even one prostration to Allah (swt).’ The people that day were acting as if they had never seen a calamity before this one, where one man would say he is doing just fine, and another saying that he is worried. They brought him some wine, which he immediately vomited in a different colour. They then brought him some milk, which he also vomited, then they knew that he was to die.
The Muhajireen and the Ansar began to visit him and to pay their last respects. When Ka'ab Al-Ahbar came between them, Umar (ra) remembered what he had said: 'Ka'ab told me of three he counted, and there is no doubt that the matter is as he told me, what good is it for me to be cautious of death, for I surely will die, but I fear the sin that is followed by another.’ One of the people who visited him was a young Muslim, who said to him: 'Glad tidings, oh Amir of the Believers, with glad tidings from Allah (swt), you had the companionship of the Prophet (saw), and a role in Islam which you know quite well, you then took care of the Muslims and were just in your duties, then a Shahadah.' When Umar (ra) said: 'Amir of the Believers? I wish this were neither a point for me nor against me.' And when the young man walked away, Umar (ra) noticed his robe was dragging on the floor, so he said: 'Bring the boy back to me.' And when the boy came, he said to him: 'Oh son of my brother, lift your garment, as it is purer for your clothing and more god-fearing.'
When Ali b. Abi Talib (ra) entered the room, he noticed Umar (ra) crying, so he asked: 'What makes you cry, oh Amir of the Believers?' Umar (ra) replied: 'I cry over the news in the sky, will I be sent to Paradise or thrown into the Hellfire?' Ali said: 'Glad tidings, for I have heard the Messenger of Allah (saw) say: "The two masters of the Kuhool (respected men) of Paradise are Abu Bakr (ra) and Umar (ra).”' Umar (ra) said: 'Are you a witness for me, oh Ali, that I will have paradise?' Ali answered: 'Yes.' Umar (ra) then said: 'And you, oh Hassan, are a witness on your father that the messenger of Allah (saw) said that Umar (ra) is of the people of Paradise' When Abdullah Ibn 'Abbas arrived, he said to Umar (ra): 'Glad tidings of Paradise, oh Amir of the Believers. You were a companion of the Messenger of Allah (saw) and this companionship was a long one, then you took care of the Muslims affairs, where you stood firm and fulfilled your trust. Allah (swt) brought many matters down to you. He paid the charities through you and spread the wealth through you.' Umar (ra) said: 'As for your glad tidings of paradise, by Allah (swt), to whom there is none worthy of worship but He, if I had this world and all what is in it, I would pay it as a ransom to escape the horrors I am to face before I am given the decision. And as for what you said regarding the leadership of the Muslims, by Allah (swt), I wish that I would be taken out of it, the same as I had entered it, having neither good deeds nor sin. As for what you have said regarding the companionship of the Messenger of Allah (saw), it is this (that I truly wish for).’ Then he (ra) said: ‘Sit me up.’ And when he was sitting upright, he said to Abdullah Ibn 'Abbas (ra): ‘Repeat to me what you have said.’ And after he repeated it, Umar (ra) said: ‘Will you testify to this on the day of Judgement’? Ibn 'Abbas said yes, so Umar (ra) was pleased with this when he said: 'If a caller called out from the sky: Oh people, you are all to enter paradise except for one, I would fear that I would be that one. And if a caller were to call out: Oh people, you are all to enter the Hellfire except for one, I would have hoped to be that one.'
As Umar (ra) neared death, he said to his son: 'My son, when death comes to me place your right hand on my forehead and your left on my cheek so if I die, shut my eyes and bury me quickly. For if I have a better place with Allah (swt), then He will grant me a better place, and if it is other than this, then I will be taken away more quickly. And do not send a woman with me (my burial) or speak well of me in that which I am not, for Allah (swt) is more knowledgeable of whom I really am. If you depart with my body, walk quickly, for if there is good with Allah (swt) then you have sent me to what is better for me and if it is otherwise, then you will have removed this evil from off your shoulders.' He (ra) then said: 'Place my cheek on the ground.' As his head was in Abdullah b. Umar (ra)'s lap, so Abdullah moved his head down to his leg and said: 'What is the difference whether it is in my lap or on the ground?' Umar (ra) said: 'Put my head on the ground, motherless one [an Arabic expression, not to be taken literally]', Abdullah did so. And when Umar (ra)'s cheek and beard were pressed against the ground he said: 'Woe to you and to your mother, oh Umar if Allah (swt) does not forgive you, oh Umar.' Then he passed away.
As for Thul-Nuwrayn (the one with the two radiating lights), Uthman (ra) b. Affan, when he was held captive in his house and he was fasting, he asked his captors for clean water for him to break his fast with. They denied him this and said: 'You will have no more that what has gathered in the garbage over there.' Thus Uthman (ra) did not break his fast. So his wife, Naailah bint Al-Qaraafisah, departed to seek water. Finding a group of people, she asked if they has clean water, so they gave her a small sachet of water and she returned to Uthman (ra) upon the calling of Adhan for Fajr and said: 'This is clean water I brought for you.' Uthman (ra) then looked outside, seeing that the sun had risen, and said: 'I have started the day fasting.' She asked: 'How did you eat, when I have not seen anyone give you any food or water?' She exclaimed this with bewilderment, as it is obliged upon the Muslim to break his fast with food or drink before beginning a new fast. He said: 'I saw the messenger of Allah (saw). He entered upon me from the roof and he had a water container and said to me: "Oh, Uthman, have they held you captive?'" I said: "Yes.” He said: "Have they denied you water?" I said: "Yes." So he extended the water container out to me and said: "Drink, oh Uthman." And I drank until I was satisfied. Then he (saw) said: "More." So I drank until I was well fed. He (saw) then said: "These people will turn against you, so if you wished, fight them and you will claim victory against them, or if you wished, you may leave them, and break your fast with us." So I chose to break my fast with him.
Katheer b. Al-Sult then entered, upon where Uthman (ra) said to him: 'I do not see myself but murdered on this day, oh Katheer.' So Katheer said: 'Allah (swt) will give you victory over your enemy, oh Amir of the Believers. Did something happen to you today or was something said to you?' Uthman (ra) replied: 'No, but I stayed up late last night and during the time of Suhur (just before sunrise) I fell asleep, and I saw the Messenger of Allah (swt), Abu Bakr (ra) and Umar (ra), where the Messenger of Allah (swt) said to me: "Oh Uthman (ra), do not keep us waiting, for we are awaiting you." Uthman (ra) died that day.
After Uthman (ra) was murdered, they searched through his storage and found a small case with a paper in it. On it was written: 'This is the Will of Uthman, in the name of Allah (swt), the Most Gracious, the Most Merciful. Uthman b. 'Affan bears witness that there is no lord worthy of worship but Allah (swt), alone, having no partners attributed to him and that Muhammad is his slave and Messenger, and that Paradise is truth, and the Hellfire is truth, and Allah (swt) brings forth the dwellers of the graves to a day that will without doubt come. Allah (swt) does not break his appointment. Upon it we live and upon it we die and upon it, by the Will of Allah (swt), we will be brought forth.'
It was narrated that on the night Ali b. Abi Talib (ra) was stabbed, Ibn Al-Siyaaj came to him at sunrise to call him to prayer and found him sluggish and lazy, then came to him for a second time and found him the same, then came to him a third time, where Ali awoke and started walking, saying: 'Prepare yourself for death, for it will meet you and do not fear death, even if reached your dwelling place.' When he reached the entrance to the mosque, Abdul-Rahman b. Muljam ran up to him and stabbed him and Ali said: 'By the lord of the Ka'bah, I have won.' As they carried Ali away, he asked: 'What has happened to the one who stabbed me?' They said: 'We took him away.' He said: 'Feed him my food and give him of my drink, so if I were to live, I will decide what to do with him, and if I were to die, then strike him once, not more.' Ali then entrusted Al-Hassan to wash him (and perform the rituals of burial) and said: 'Do not be excessive in wrapping my body, for the Messenger (saw) said: "Do not be excessive in wrapping (the dead body), for it will be taken away very quickly." Walk quickly, but do not rush nor move slowly, for if there is good awaiting, you will have brought it to me quickly, and if there is evil awaiting, you would remove my weight from off your shoulders more quickly.'
When death approached Mu'ath b. Jabal (ra), he said: 'Check if morning has come yet.' And it was said: 'Not yet.' And he continued to ask them until morning came, at which time they informed him that: 'Morning has come.' So he said: 'I seek refuge in Allah (swt) from a night whose morning is in the Hellfire.' Then said: 'Welcome, death, you absent visitor and beloved one who comes at the times of need. Oh Allah (swt), in the past I have feared you, and today I implore you (for Your mercy). Oh Allah (swt), You know that I never did love this world and long life in it to make paths for rivers or to plant trees, rather I loved the thirst on long midsummer days (from fasting) and staying up (praying) the long winter nights, the wrestling with the hours and the crowding of the scholars at the gatherings of remembrance of Allah (swt).' When death approached Bilal (ra), his wife said: 'How sad this moment is.' And he said: 'No, say: How joyous this moment is. For tomorrow we see the beloved ones, Muhammad (saw) and his companions.' As for the Mother of the Believers, 'A'ishah (ra), at the time of her death, Abdullah b. 'Abbas came to her and praised her and said: 'Glad tidings, oh wife of the Messenger of Allah (swt), he did not marry anyone before her coming of age other than you, and your innocence was sent down from the sky.' Ibn Al-Zubair (ra) then entered the room after Ibn 'Abbas and she said to him: 'Abdullah b. 'Abbas praised me when I did not wish to hear anyone praise me today. How I wish that I were completely forgotten, wiped out of existence.' Abu Muslim said: 'I came to Abu Al-Darda' (ra) and found him moaning to himself: 'Is there a man would work himself to such a destruction as mine? Is there a man would work himself to this day of mine? Is there a man who would work himself to this hour of mine?' He then passed away, may Allah (swt) have mercy upon him.' Salman Al-Farisi cried when death came to him. It was asked: 'What makes you cry?' He said: 'The Messenger of Allah (swt) promised us that whatever we have of excess (wealth), will be similar (on the Day of Judgement) to the excess carriage of a rider, and look at all this excess (wealth) around me.' And it was said: 'There was only his plates and cutlery, a bowl and a wash basin, where their worth was no more than about 10 Dirhams.'
Abu Hurairah (ra) cried on his death bed and it was asked: 'What makes you cry?' He replied: 'I do not cry for this world of yours, rather I cry over the long journey ahead of me and how few provisions I have with me. I am rising on a runway to Paradise and Hellfire and I do not know which of them it will lead me to.' It was narrated by Al-Muzni saying: 'I came to Al-Shafi'i during the illness from which he died and said to him: “How was your morning?” He said: “I awoke departing this world, leaving my companions behind, on my way to meet my bad deeds, to drink from the cup of desire (for forgiveness) and to Allah (swt) I proceed. I do not know whether my soul will be sent to Paradise so that I may congratulate it, or to the Hellfire so that I may give my commiserations." He then began saying: "When my heart hardened and the places for escape ran out, I made the escape from myself; Your forgiveness. As my sins towered above me, I compared them to Your forgiveness, my Lord, and found Your forgiveness to be greater. You continue to forgive my sin until now, by Your Graciousness, Mercy and Generosity."'
When Al-Hassan b. Ali (ra) neared death, Al-Hussein (ra) entered the room and said: 'My brother, why are you worried? You are approaching the Messenger of Allah (swt) and Ali b. Abi Talib, and they are your fathers; and Khadijah bint Khuwaylid and Fatimah bint Muhammad, and they are your mothers; and Hamza and Ja'far, and they are your uncles!' He replied: 'My brother, I am approaching something unlike anything I have ever approached before.' It was also narrated that when Umar b. Abdul-Aziz (ra) became ill, a doctor came to see him and after looking at him he said: 'It seems the man has been fed poison and I cannot say that he is secure from death.' Umar (ra) then raised his sights to the doctor and said: 'Nor can you secure one from death even if he has not taken poison!' The doctor said: 'Have you felt this (poison), oh Amir of the Believers?' He replied: 'Yes, I had known it from the very moment it entered my stomach.' The doctor said: 'You should get treatment for I fear that you may die.' Umar said: 'My Lord is a better choice to go to. By Allah (swt), if I knew that my cure was sitting at the tip of my ear, I would not raise my hand to get it.' And when death came to him, he began crying and it was asked: 'What makes you cry, oh Amir of the Believers? You should be joyous, for Allah (swt) has brought many Sunnahs back to life with you and spread justice through you.' He replied: 'Will I not be made to stand and be questioned regarding these creations? By Allah (swt), I may have been just, but I fear for myself that it will not bear any weight before Allah (swt) until it is scrutinised with its evidences, so how is it with most of our actions?' And he cried profusely, then said: 'Sit me up!' So they sat him up, and he then said: 'I am the one who you ordered, and I fell short, and I am the one who you accounted, and I disobeyed.' Saying this three times, he then said: 'But there is no Lord worthy of worship except Allah (swt).' He then lifted his head, and seemed to be inspecting something keenly. When he was asked regarding this, he said: 'I see green fields,...and they are neither humans nor Jinn.' Then he died.
It was narrated of Haroon Al-Rasheed that he chose the shrouds which he was to be buried in himself and would look at them reciting: 'My wealth has not been of any profit to me. My power has perished from me.' And it was said that Abdullah b. Al-Mubarak opened his eyes upon his death and recited: 'For the like of this, let the workers work' Then passed away. It was also narrated of Huthayfah that when death approached him, he said: 'A beloved one has come at a time of need, I will gain nothing from sorrow. Oh Allah (swt), if you know that poverty is more beloved to me than wealth and illness is more beloved to me than health and death is more beloved to me than life, then make death easier for me until I meet you.' This was their stance and this was their accounting of themselves. They lived in the vast expanses of Allah (swt) earth.treading the path He laid out, following His Messenger (saw), continuously accounting and scrutinising themselves over every matter, big or small, so that when death came to them their reaction was as if they had lived their lives in complete disobedience to Allah (swt). This was due to the intense fear they had of Allah (swt) and how much they desired His mercy and forgiveness. Truly this is how the believer should be, ever watchful, always accounting himself, catching up before time runs out, when sorrow is of no value and regret is useless.
"Oh carriers" of the call to Islam you are undertaking a mighty task, for when the people have turned away to seek what this world has to offer, you turned to seek what the After-life has to offer. During the times where those who are working are few, you took the weight of the Prophets upon your necks, so you moved to achieve what no men, other than Muhammad (saw) and his beloved companions (ra), had ever achieved. Although the Companions (ra) have been favoured with the companionship of the Prophet (saw) over you, you have been favoured over all others in the work to bring Islam, the Deen of Allah (swt) and the final message, back to life on Earth, so that you may please your Creator and follow the way of your Prophet (saw). So congratulations, to the Da'wah carriers, for what you are in and be sincere in accounting yourself and each other, for what you carry on your shoulders of a superior Minhaj (Methodology), great determination, patience and endurance would cause the mighty mountains to collapse. Truly it is a trust and if we were to make our commitment and undertake this task, giving it what it deserves of effort, we may become one of the brothers of the Messenger of Allah (saw), who he said regarding them:
‘How I wish to see my brothers who will come to Al-Hawdh (a pool in paradise), where I will greet them with a container, in it a drink, and I will feed them from my Hawdh before they enter paradise.’ They asked: ‘Are we not your brothers?’ He replied: ‘No, you are my companions. My brothers are the ones who believed in me, although they had never seen me. I am very anxious to see them.’
It may be that your Kutlah (party or group) will be of those who the Messenger of Allah (saw) said regarding them:
‘Oh Huthayfah, in every group of my Ummah, there is a group of ruffled, dusty (individuals), who desire my way and follow my path. They uphold the book of Allah (swt). They are from me and I am from them, even though they have not seen me’, and his (saw) saying: ‘Allah (swt) revealed to Musa b. ‘Imran that in the Ummah of Muhammad there will be men who stand upon every elevated place and in every valley, calling out the Shahadah of La-ilaha-illAllah (swt), their reward will be that of the Prophets.’
Oh Allah (swt), you know that we did not say this except in obedience to Your order and we did not remind ourselves of our meeting you except in fear of Your punishment and we have not prayed to you except out of desire for Your pleasure, so place this onto our scales on the day that the scales will be weighed. Keep us firm onto Your Deen and onto the work of carrying the message of Your beloved Prophet (saw), until we meet you and help us with the trials of this world and do not send upon us calamities so that we become disgraced, and if you do send upon us calamities, then keep us firmly upon the truth.
May Peace and Blessings be upon our Prophet Muhammad (saw) and upon his pure and generous family and companions, and upon all those who follow his guidance, until the day of Judgement. Ameen.