Remembering Death


We spend hours everyday working towards our goals and ambitions in this life; we try to be successful socially and economically and prepare for a better worldly future. But how much time do we spend thinking about our ultimate future: death? How long do we spend preparing ourselves for it? The sad truth is we live in a culture that simply denies the existence of death. Or at least tries to. We distract ourselves and direct our focus on this life alone. That’s the culture of this era. But what good does it do? Does it somehow save us from mortality? It’s no different than turning your head around while danger is approaching so you don’t see it coming. It just doesn’t make sense.


Rejecting reality or pretending it does not exist will not get us anywhere. In Islam, we are taught to accept reality and prepare for it. Imagine being told you had only a week left to live. Would you do the same mistakes you normally do? Would you waste your time in pointless, useless things? Or would you use it in the wisest way possible?


Imagine living every moment of our lives with death in mind; how different our lives would be. There are many hadiths emphasizing the importance of remembering death.

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; English reference: Vol. 5, Book 37, Hadith 4258; Arabic reference: Book 37, Hadith 4399.]

حَدَّثَنَا الزُّبَيْرُ بْنُ بَكَّارٍ، حَدَّثَنَا أَنَسُ بْنُ عِيَاضٍ، حَدَّثَنَا نَافِعُ بْنُ عَبْدِ اللَّهِ، عَنْ فَرْوَةَ بْنِ قَيْسٍ، عَنْ عَطَاءِ بْنِ أَبِي رَبَاحٍ، عَنِ ابْنِ عُمَرَ، أَنَّهُ قَالَ ‏:‏ كُنْتُ مَعَ رَسُولِ اللَّهِ ـ صلى الله عليه وسلم ـ فَجَاءَهُ رَجُلٌ مِنَ الأَنْصَارِ فَسَلَّمَ عَلَى النَّبِيِّ ـ صلى الله عليه وسلم ـ ثُمَّ قَالَ ‏:‏ يَا رَسُولَ اللَّهِ أَىُّ الْمُؤْمِنِينَ أَفْضَلُ قَالَ ‏:‏ ‏”‏ أَحْسَنُهُمْ خُلُقًا ‏”‏ ‏.‏ قَالَ فَأَىُّ الْمُؤْمِنِينَ أَكْيَسُ قَالَ ‏:‏ ‏”‏ أَكْثَرُهُمْ لِلْمَوْتِ ذِكْرًا وَأَحْسَنُهُمْ لِمَا بَعْدَهُ اسْتِعْدَادًا أُولَئِكَ الأَكْيَاسُ


“I was with the Messenger of Allah (ﷺ) and a man from among the Ansar came to him and greeted the Prophet (ﷺ) with Salam. Then he said: ‘O Messenger of Allah, which of the believers is best?’ He said: ‘He who has the best manners among them.’ He said: ‘Which of them is wisest?’ He said: ‘The one who remembers death the most and is best in preparing for it. Those are the wisest.’ [Sunan Ibn Majah; English Reference:  Vol. 5, Book 37, Hadith 4259; Arabic Reference:  Book 37, Hadith 4400.]


Due to the importance of remembering death, many Muslims (especially sufis) spend time meditating about their death. It goes something like this: they imagine themselves dying – say today – and ponder on how it would be like. They imagine themselves taking their last breath, their soul departing their body, their body being washed and wrapped to be placed in their grave, angels asking questions, and so forth. By doing this frequently enough, death seems more and more real to them. They begin to live their whole lives with death in mind. Maybe if we can spend some time each day thinking about our death, insha’Allah our mindset will begin to change with the help of God.


Of course there are many ways to meditate about death. Ustadh Bediuzzaman says that perhaps a more effective way of meditating is by imagining the day you will die as opposed to imagining dying today. In other words, to go to your death in the future through imagination instead of bringing your death to the present time. This method may be helpful in protecting oneself from the deception of satan and the nafs since, in the latter, you might be distracted from meditation thinking it is probably not true that you will die today. In the former, you know for a fact that you will surely die someday and distraction or deception of oneself is less likely. [Twenty First Flash, Your Fourth Rule]


So what should we say when we are told to “just live your life”, ignoring the reality of death? We can simply ask them if they can put an end to death. If not, we simply ignore them. Our focus is reality, not delusion.


Relevant Passage From The Seventh Word

“Beware! Do not get deceived. And tell that trickster:
If you have [or] find a solution to kill the lion behind me, remove the gallows before me, get rid of the wounds in my left and right, prevent the journey following me; then do it, show it, let’s see. Then say ‘Come let’s have fun.’ Otherwise be quite o fool! So that this Khidr like heavenly person can say what he says.”


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