Coping with the Fact of Our Mortality
  • Wed, 07/29/2015
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Prophet Muhammad said: “Whoever loves to meet Allah, Allah loves to meet him, and whoever hates to meet Allah, Allah hates to meet him.”

`Ā’ishah said: “Are you speaking about hating death? Everyone hates death.”

The Prophet explained: “This is not what I mean. When a believer is given glad tidings of Allah’s mercy and pleasure, and of Paradise, he loves to meet Allah and Allah loves to meet him. However, when the unbeliever is given forebodings of Allah’s punishment and anger, he hates to meet Allah and Allah hates to meet him.” [Sahīh Muslim]

The Babylonians believed they could use alchemy to produce an elixir of life. That would bestow immortality on anyone who drinks it.

However, Allah says: “We did not grant immortality to the people before you. What! If you die, should they live forever? Every soul shall taste of death.” [Sūrah al-Anbiyā’: 34-35]

He also says: “Truly you will die one day, and they too will die one day.” [Sūrah al-Zumar: 30]

People naturally like things to stay the way they are, but this is not the way Allah has made the world. It is also not in a person’s best interests, nor in the interests of humanity as a whole. However, people’s habits and comfort zones keep them from seeing the big picture.

Those who seek a way to escape death altogether see death as the end of everything. It is, for them, the end of consciousness and the end of human hope forever.

To live in fear of death is to die before your time. When young people have an inordinate fear of death, it is usually because of the following reasons:

1. They do not have a positive, healthy awareness of how to view death and life together, whereby they can accept both equally as a natural part of existence.

2. Family breakdowns cause a person to face life’s problems alone without the necessary moral or emotional support to develop a healthy attitude.

3. Parents often fail to give their children a proper understanding of death. The children grow up with a distorted, superstitious, and ominous view of death that casts a shadow over their lives.

A reasonable and moderate fear of death is healthy. For one thing, it inspires people to live a wholesome life and hasten in doing good deeds.

Here is a letter someone wrote to me:
I am always imagining my death. It happens whenever I eat or drink anything, whenever I am intimate with my wife, whenever I go to sleep, and even at work. It is suffocating, and it can strike me at any time. If I am not fearing my own death, I am worried about someone I love dying.
This is a form of neurotic anxiety. It is like when a wife on her honeymoon sees her husband’s longing and says: “This is parting love!” It is like when a young person feels like a failure at every achievement, at every career success, and at every occasion for joy. It is like a religious person who constantly feels like he is committing a sin, no matter what he does.

This sickness can develop as a result of a traumatic life experience. It can also come from being taught false ideas in childhood. It can manifest itself as a fear of death simply because the person has a distorted understanding of death.

When preachers give sermons, they generally like to instil righteous fear in their listeners. They talk about the pain of death and what waits after death for those who have shortcomings. Ibn al-Qayyim laments this practice in his book Zād al-Ma`ād, saying:
The Prophet’s sermons always focused on affirming the essentials of faith. They were about believing in Allah, or about our belief in His angels, books and messengers, or about our meeting with Him. He spoke about Paradise and Hell, and what Allah has in store for those who are righteous as well as those who are sinners. The listeners’ hearts were filled with faith and gloried in the oneness of Allah. They knew Allah and were aware of His presence in their days.

They were not like other people’s sermons, which are always filled with common concerns; namely, bemoaning life’s woes and invoking the fear of death. This does not increase our faith in Allah, nor strengthen our monotheism, nor increase our knowledge of Him and His ways. It does not inspire us to love Him more or increased our longing to meet Him. The listeners are left without any real benefit – except for the reassurance that they are indeed going to die one day and then their bodies will turn to dust. What faith comes from hearing this? What understanding of Allah’s monotheism or any other benefit is gleaned from it?
Faith in Allah has a profound effect on our spiritual peace. It adds beauty to our lives, balances our perspective, blesses us with fortitude, and gives us a more hopeful outlook.

Some people speak about death as if it means oblivion. The Qur’an declares to such people: “Say: ‘Who has forbidden the adornment of Allah which He has produced for His servants and the good things of His providing?’ Say: ‘"They are for those who believe during the worldly life and theirs exclusively on the Day of Resurrection’.” [Sūrah al-A`rāf: 32]

We need to come to the end of our lives in a state of spiritual peace. Faith, good works, and helping others are part of what makes this possible.