Importance of remembering death and to prepare for it
Let’s remind ourselves of the importance of remembering death in order to prepare for it.
Scientists and Doctors can tell you what happens to the body during death but they can not tell you what happens to the essence of it. Death is no doubt in the minds of Many (Muslims and Non Muslims) Everyone wants to know what happens during death, especially the Non Muslims. We can see their imagination of the death through their literature, novels and movies We take this opportunity to thank Allah (S) for giving us this comprehensive religion. This beautiful religion has the solution to all our problems and it tells us everything that we need to know about death.
Why Remember Death
Death is a reality and a calamity that we will all face. When we remember death, we realise that this life is a temporary abode which is meant to please Allah (S) by doing a lot of good deeds and by worshiping him alone without associating any partners.
It was narrated that Abu Hurairah said:
حَدَّثَنَا مَحْمُودُ بْنُ غَيْلاَنَ، حَدَّثَنَا الْفَضْلُ بْنُ مُوسَى، عَنْ مُحَمَّدِ بْنِ عَمْرٍو، عَنْ أَبِي سَلَمَةَ، عَنْ أَبِي هُرَيْرَةَ، قَالَ قَالَ رَسُولُ اللَّهِ ـ صلى الله عليه وسلم ـ : “ أَكْثِرُوا ذِكْرَ هَاذِمِ اللَّذَّاتِ ” . يَعْنِي الْمَوْتَ .
“The Messenger of Allah (ﷺ) said: ‘Frequently remember the destroyer of pleasures,’ meaning death.” Sunan Ibn Majah
Remembering death changes our outlook to life.We look at life more seriously and this world and its pleasures will become less significant.
It is narrated that Al-Hasan al-Basri (رحمه الله) went to see a sick man whom he used to visit, and he found him in the agony of death. He looked at his distress and the hardship that he was suffering, then he went back to his family with a different expression than that with which he had left them. They said to him, “Food is ready, may Allah have mercy on you.” He said, “0 my family, enjoy your food and drink, for by Allah I have seen death and I will keep striving for that until I meet Him (Allah).”
Remembering death also helps to soften the heart. It is narrated that a woman complained to ‘Aa’ishah (R) of the hardness in her heart. She said to her: “Remember death often, for that will soften your heart.” She did that, and her heart was softened (Qurtubi)
Qurtubi (رحمه الله) related: the scholars said: remembering death deters one from sin, softens the hard heart, stops one from delighting in this world, and makes disasters look bearable.
Descriptions of Death
The definition of death is: “Al-Mawt (death) is the opposite of Al-Hayaat (life).” The root meaning of mawt in Arabic is stillness. Everything that has come to a standstill is dead. Example the Arabs say – “Maatat an-naar mawtan (the fire has died)” when its ashes turn cold and there are no embers left.
Death is inevitable for every living creature hence there is no escape from it. Allah (S) informs us in the quran that every soul will die and that no matter wherever you are, death will reach you. The knowledge about the appointed time of our death is only with Allah (S).
The Moment of Death
When the appointed time comes and a person’s life is drawing to a close, Allah sends the messengers of death to bring forth the soul which is controlling and moving the body.
Surah Al-‘An`ām (The Cattle) -(6:61) سورة الأنعام
وَهُوَ الْقَاهِرُ فَوْقَ عِبَادِهِ ۖ وَيُرْسِلُ عَلَيْكُمْ حَفَظَةً حَتَّىٰ إِذَا جَاءَ أَحَدَكُمُ الْمَوْتُ تَوَفَّتْهُ رُسُلُنَا وَهُمْ لَا يُفَرِّطُونَ
“He is the Irresistible [Supreme], over His slaves, and He sends guardians [angels guarding and writing all of one’s good and bad deeds] over you, until when death approaches one of you, Our messengers [angel of death and his assistants] take his soul, and they never neglect their duty”.
The angels of death come to the believer in a beautiful form, and they come to the kaafir and the hypocrite in a frightening form.
According to the hadith of Al-Baraa’ ibn ‘Aazib, the Messenger (S) said:
“When the believing slave is about to depart this world and move to the Hereafter, angels come down to him from the heavens, with white faces like the sun. They bring with them a shroud from Paradise and aromatics (for embalming) from Paradise, and they sit in front of him as far as the eye can see. Then the Angel of Death (AS) comes and sits at his head, and says, ‘0’ good soul (according to one report, ‘0’ peaceful soul), come out to forgiveness from Allah and His pleasure.’ Then it comes out like a drop of water from the mouth of a jug, and they take it…
But when the disbelieving slave (according to one report, immoral slave), is about to depart this world and move to the Hereafter, angels come down to him from the heavens, (harsh and severe) with black faces, bringing sackcloth (from Hell). They sit in front of him as far as the eye can see. Then the Angel of Death (AS) comes and sits at his head, and says, ‘0’ evil soul, come out to the anger of Allah and His wrath. Then it cowers within his body and is dragged out like a (many hooked) iron skewer passing through wet wool (with which veins and nerves are cut).”
The Stupor of Death
Death involves a kind of stupor or intoxication which every person will face when the time of death comes.
Surat Qāf (The Letter “Qaf”) (50:19)- سورة ق
وَجَاءَتْ سَكْرَةُ الْمَوْتِ بِالْحَقِّ ۖ ذَٰلِكَ مَا كُنتَ مِنْهُ تَحِيدُ
And the intoxication of death will come in truth; that is what you were trying to avoid. Ar Raaghib (R) said in his book Al-Mufradaat: “This stupor (sukr) is the state where a person loses his mind; this word is used mostly in connection with intoxicant drinks.
It is also used to describe such things as anger, love, pain, slumber, and the delirium caused by intense pain.
The Messenger (S) also suffered from this stupor. During his final illness there was a pot or jug of water in front of him, and he kept putting his hand in it then wiping his face, and saying, “Laa ilaaha illallah, indeed death has stupors. ”
‘Aa’ishah (R) said, describing the final illness of the Messenger of Allah(S): ” I never saw pain more severe than that of the Messenger of Allah (S).”
The Soul’s Departure and Journey To Heaven
The Prophet (S) informed us about the journey of the soul after its departure from the body it used to dwell in. He (S) informs us as to how the soul will travel to the heavens and come back to the grave. This is the life of the hereafter and this is what every soul will go through and remain there until the day of resurrection.
The honor given to the believing soul when it departs the body is far much greater. When the believing soul is extracted by the Angel of death, the angels do not even leave the soul in his hands for a twinkle of an eye. They wrap the soul in a perfumed shroud from Jannah. They embalm (preserve) the soul in this shroud. This shroud is full of aromatics. It emits beautiful fragrance that is superior in smell than the smell of musk. Then the angels ascend to the heavens.
According to the hadith in Sahih Muslim, it is met by two angels who take the soul up to the heavens. When the soul passes by the heavens, the inhabitants of the heaven (Angels) will say, “What a good soul” and they will make supplication/Dua that “May Allah swt bless you and bless the body in which you used to dwell”
And in one narration, reported by Al Baraa Ibn Aazib (R), it is mentioned that all the Angles between the heavens and the earth send their blessing on the soul.
As they pass by the group of angels, they will ask “who is this beautiful soul”. It will be said that he is so and so and the son of so and so and he will called by beautiful names by which he was known in this world.
When they reach the first gate, the gates will be opened and the gates keepers will pray to Allah swt for the soul to ascend. The Angels closest to Allah swt will ascend with the soul to bid the soul farewell as it moves to the next heaven until the seventh heaven.
Then Allah swt says, ‘Place the book of My slave in Illiyyeen (the Register of righteous deeds).’
So they place his book in ‘Illiyyeen, then it is said, ‘Take him back to the earth, for from it I created them, to it I will return them, and from it I shall bring them forth again.”
Then the soul will be safely brought back to the earth and into the body which is in the grave.
The Disbelieving Soul
When the Angel of death extracts the disbelieving soul, the angels surrounding it will not leave that soul in the hands of the angel of death even for a twinkle of an eye. Then it is wrapped in a sackcloth from hell. This sackcloth will have a foul smell, like a foulest stench (stink) from the dead flesh that is found on the face of the earth. They take it up and whenever they pass by a group of Angels, the smell will offend the Angels of Allah swt and they will say “Who is this evil soul”.
Every Angel in the Heavens Will Curse the Soul.
They will say it is so and so, the son of so and so, calling him by the worst of names that the soul was known as in this duniya.
Then when they reach the gates of the first heaven, it will be asked to be opened but it will not be opened for that evil soul. The gatekeepers will pray that the soul is not ascended to the next level.
The prophet (S) while narrating the hadith, recited his ayah from Surah Al-Araf
إِنَّ الَّذِينَ كَذَّبُوا بِآيَاتِنَا وَاسْتَكْبَرُوا عَنْهَا لَا تُفَتَّحُ لَهُمْ أَبْوَابُ السَّمَاءِ وَلَا يَدْخُلُونَ الْجَنَّةَ حَتَّىٰ يَلِجَ الْجَمَلُ فِي سَمِّ الْخِيَاطِ ۚ وَكَذَٰلِكَ نَجْزِي الْمُجْرِمِينَ
Indeed, those who deny Our verses and are arrogant toward them – the gates of Heaven will not be opened for them, nor will they enter Paradise until a camel enters into the eye of a needle. And thus do We recompense the criminals. (7:40)
“Then Allah (S) says: ‘Record his book in Sijjeen (the Register of evil deeds), in the lowest earth. Then He says, ‘Return My slave to the earth, for I have promised them that from it I created them, to it I will return them, and from it I shall bring them forth again.’ So they throw it down from heaven, (until it returns to his body).”
The Prophet (S) recited this aayah from Surah Al-Haj when speaking this hadith:
حُنَفَاءَ لِلَّهِ غَيْرَ مُشْرِكِينَ بِهِ ۚ وَمَن يُشْرِكْ بِاللَّهِ فَكَأَنَّمَا خَرَّ مِنَ السَّمَاءِ فَتَخْطَفُهُ الطَّيْرُ أَوْ تَهْوِي بِهِ الرِّيحُ فِي مَكَانٍ سَحِيقٍ
Inclining [only] to Allah , not associating [anything] with Him. And he who associates with Allah – it is as though he had fallen from the sky and was snatched by the birds or the wind carried him down into a remote place. (22:31)
The Barzakh/ Grave
The Terrors of the Grave
Haani’, the freed slave of ‘Uthmaan ibn ‘Affaan, narrated that whenever ‘Uthmaan (may Allah be pleased with him) stood over a grave he would weep until his beard would be wet.
It was said to him, “You remember Paradise and Hell and you do not weep, but when you remember the grave you weep?”
He said, “I heard the Messenger of Allah (S) say ‘The grave is the first stage of the Hereafter. Whoever passes through it safely, whatever comes after that will be easier for him, but if he does not pass through it safely, whatever comes after that will be harder for him.'” (Tirmidhi)
He said, “And I heard the Messenger of Allah (S) say, ‘I have never seen any (disturbing) scene, more terrifying than the grave.”‘ (Ibn Majah)
The Darkness and the Squeezing of the grave
The Messenger Prophet (S) said: “These graves are full of darkness, but Allah illuminates them for their occupants by virtue of my praying for them.”This is narrated by Bukhari, Muslim, Abu Dawood, Ibn Maajah, Al-Bayhaqi and Ahmad.
When the deceased is placed in his grave, he is squeezed in a manner from which no one, great or small, righteous or immoral, can escape.
In Musnad al-Imam Ahmad it is also reported from Ibn ‘Umar that the Messenger of Allah (S) said: “There is squeezing in the grave; If anyone were to have been saved from it, it would have been Sa’d ibn Mu’aadh.”
In another narration “He was squeezed once, then released”
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