Death a bitter fact, a reminder

Updated 28 January 2016

Death a bitter fact, a reminder

Death is always a bitter realization, a huge reminder and a recurring scary thought: ‘How long before I am the one lying lifeless being washed, shrouded and buried by others?’
Allah says in His Glorious Book: “Every soul will taste death, and you will only be given your (full) compensation on the Day of Resurrection. So he who is drawn away from the Fire and admitted to Paradise, he indeed is successful. And what is the life of this world except the enjoyment of delusion.” (Qur’an, 3:185)
The skins shiver and the eyes become moist when the beautiful words of Allah sink in. Actually, this is what life is all about. We have been created for a purpose and our time on this earth is limited.
Striving and competing to do all that Allah has commanded, avoiding all that He has forbidden and hastening to Him with our record full of good deeds has to be our major goal in life.
All of us, regardless of the religion we follow, know and accept that this life is temporary. It will someday come to an end for us and an end for humanity altogether. But in Islam we are taught to believe in the life after death, the life of the Hereafter, which is eternal.
Wise is the one who prepares for the eternal life rather than losing himself in materialistic, worldly desires.
Most of us know but tend to ignore the fact that age, status, nationalities, ambitions, plans and promises all lose color when death stands there glaring at our faces. There certainly are no second chances, no turning back and no last good byes!
But how many of us take heed of these frequent heart wrenching, soul shattering reminders that our loved ones leave behind? How many of us prepare for that last moment leaving petty worldly desires aside?
How many of us thank the Creator for all the breaths we take, how many of us turn to Him sincerely by submitting to His commands, by taking care of His rights, His servants’ rights, how many fear the sudden end.., the final meeting with Him?
Allah has made it clear in the Qur’an that the experience of the worldly life is almost nothing compared to the Hereafter. The Messenger of Allah (peace be upon him) said: “What is the example of this worldly life in comparison to the Hereafter other than one of you dipping his finger in the sea? Let him contemplate what his finger will come back with.” (Sahih Muslim)
When we dip our finger into the sea, the little bit of water we pull out of it, i.e., the wetness which dries up in a while, is almost nothing compared to the entire sea.
In the same way, the temporary life of this world is practically nothing compared to that of the Hereafter. The reality is that the Hereafter is the true life and this world is only a means to prepare us for the eternal life after death.
The path we choose to follow in this world and the actions we do determine our fate in the life after death.
Allah has told us in the Qur’an about the people who will realize on the Day of Resurrection that the Hereafter is the true life, and they will be filled with remorse because they did not perform many good deeds for their eternal life. Allah says: “He (man) will say, “Oh, I wish I had sent ahead [some good] for my life.” (Qur’an, 89:24)
Let’s take a moment and reflect on this verse; do the worldly tests and worries really matter when we think of this major test that’s drawing close?
Would we still delay repenting for the sins we think are trivial? Would we still hesitate to turn to the Qur’an; read, recite, learn and practice it as it should be practiced? Would we still hold on to those riyals, dollars and pounds rather than giving them away to those in need or for the spread of our religion?
Would we still let our egos stop us from being the first ones to forgive our loved ones’ mistakes and be kind to them for the sake of the Most Merciful?
Ibn Umar said: Allah’s Messenger (peace be upon him) took me by my shoulder and said: “Be in this life as if you were a stranger or a traveler on a path and If you reach the evening then do not expect to reach the morning, and if you reach the morning then do not expect to reach the evening. Take from your health before your sickness, and from your life before your death.” (Sahih Bukhari)
The death of all those dear to me has made me realize that while their time on this earth is over, I still continue to live and breathe; I still have all those opportunities to do good deeds with Ikhlas (sincerity), stay away from sins and draw closer to Allah, the opportunities that they would never get again.
While they rest in their graves I continue to live on with my loved ones, continue to have chances of loving them, being kinder and more loyal to them.
This life is too short to carry on worrying about what is and what could have been.
No doubt, we will face tests and trials of all sorts until we reach our graves, but let’s make sure that they don’t deter us from our aim to be of the best of believers — the kind of believers who let the tests and reminders make them grow stronger in faith, increase in empathy toward fellow believers and persevere in patience, humble gratitude and submissiveness to the Most High for all that He has blessed them with.
Allah says: “Whatever you have will end, but what Allah has is lasting. And We will surely give those who were patient their reward according to the best of what they used to do. Whoever does righteousness, whether male or female, while he is a believer, We will surely cause him to live a good life, and We will surely give them their reward (in the Hereafter) according to the best of what they used to do.” (Qur’an, 16:96-97)


The beauty of prayer in Islam

Updated 23 September 2016

The beauty of prayer in Islam

GOING deeper into our spiritual state during prayers (salah) requires that we have a presence of heart and are mindful of the words being said during the prayers.
Our prayer will feel shorter, yet when we look at how much time we actually spent, we will think, “Did I just spend 10 minutes?” or even 15 and 20 minutes.
A person who began applying this said he wished the prayer would never end.
A feeling that Ibn Al-Qayyim describes as “what the competitors compete for… it is nourishment for the soul and the delight of the eyes,” and he also said, “If this feeling leaves the heart, it is as though it is a body with no soul.”

The love of Allah
Some people’s relationship with Allah is limited to following orders and leaving prohibitions, so that one does not enter hell. Of course, we must follow orders and leave prohibitions, but it needs to be done out of more than fear and hope; it should also be done out of love for Allah. Allah says in the Qur’an: “… Allah will bring forth [in place of them] a people He will love and who will love Him.” (Qur’an, 5:54)
We often find that when a lover meets the beloved, hearts are stirred and there is warmth in that meeting. Yet when we meet Allah, there is not even an ounce of this same feeling. Allah says in the Qur’an: “And (yet) among the people are those who take other than Allah as equals (to Him). They love them as they (should) love Allah. But those who believe are stronger in love for Allah.” (Qur’an, 2:165)
And those who believe are stronger in love for Allah. There should be a feeling of longing, and when we raise our hands to start the prayer, warmth and love should fill our hearts because we are now meeting with Allah. A dua of the Prophet (peace be upon him): “O Allah, I ask You for the longing to meet You” (An-Nisa’i, Al-Hakim)
Ibn Al-Qayyim says in his book Tareeq Al-Hijratain that Allah loves His Messengers and His believing servants, and they love Him and nothing is more beloved to them than Him. The love of one’s parents has a certain type of sweetness, as does the love of one’s children, but the love of Allah far supersedes any of that. The Prophet, peace be upon him, said: “Any person who combines these three qualities will experience the sweetness of faith: 1) that God and His messenger are dearer to him than anything else; 2) that his love of others is purely for God’s sake; and 3) that he hates to relapse into disbelief as much as he hates to be thrown in the fire.” (Bukhari)
Thus, the first thing he mentioned was: “… that God and His messenger are more beloved to him than anything else…”
Ibn Al-Qayyim says: “Since ‘there is nothing like unto Him’ (Qur’an, 42:11), there is nothing like experiencing love for Him.”
If you feel this love for Him, it will be a feeling so intense, so sweet, that you would wish the prayer would never ever end.
Do you truly want to feel this love? Then ask yourself: ‘why do you or should you love Allah?’
Know that you love people for one (or all, in varying degrees) of three reasons: For their beauty, because of their exalted character or/and because they have done good to you. And know that Allah combines all of these three to the utmost degree.

All-embracing beauty
We’ve all been touched by beauty. It is almost fitrah (natural disposition) to love what is beautiful. Ali ibn Abi Talib, may Allah be pleased with him, said about the Prophet, peace be upon him, that it was “as if the sun is shining from his face.” Jabir (may God be pleased with him) said: “The Messenger of Allah was more handsome, beautiful, and radiant than the full moon” (Tirmidhi)
Allah made all His Prophets have a certain beauty so that people would have a natural inclination toward them.
And beauty is more than what is in the face, because beauty is in all of creation and somehow has the ability to take our breath away and give us peace simultaneously. The glimmer of the crescent moon on a calm night, the intensity of a waterfall as the water drops for thousands of feet, the sunset by the sea … certain scenes of natural unspoiled beauty stirs something in us. As Allah is the One Who made it beautiful, so what of Allah’s beauty?
Ibn Al-Qayyim said: “And it is enough to realize Allah’s Beauty when we know that every internal and external beauty in this life and the next are created by Him, so what of the beauty of their Creator?”
This fitrah for loving what is beautiful is because Allah is beautiful. One of His Names is Al-Jameel (the Most Beautiful). Ibn Al-Qayyim states that the beauty of Allah is something that a person cannot imagine and only He knows it. There is nothing of it in creation save for glimpses.
Ibn Al-Qayyim says if all of creation were the most beautiful they could be (so let’s imagine, ever single human being looked as beautiful as Yusuf, peace be upon him, and the whole world was like Paradise), and all of them combined from the beginning of time until the Day of Judgment, they would not even be like a ray in comparison to the sun when compared to Allah. Allah’s beauty is so intense that we will not even be able to take it in this life. In the Qur’an, Allah describes Musa’s (peace be upon him) request: “And when Moses arrived at Our appointed time and his Lord spoke to him, he said, ‘My Lord, show me (Yourself) that I may look at You.’ (Allah) said: ‘You will not see Me but look at the mountain; if it should remain in place, then you will see Me.’ But when his Lord appeared to the mountain He rendered it level, and Moses fell unconscious.” (Qur’an, 7:143)
Even the mountain could not bear the beauty of Allah and crumbled, and when Musa, peace be upon him, saw this (he did not even see Allah), he fell unconscious. This is why on the Day of Judgment it is Allah’s light that will shine on everything. We talk about breathtaking beauty, but we have yet to experience Allah’s beauty. While things in this world can be beautiful or majestic or if they combine both they are finite, true majesty and beauty are for Allah: “And there will remain the Face of your Lord, Owner of Majesty and Honor.” (Qur’an, 55:27)
Keeping all of this in mind, the Prophet, peace be upon him, said: “Allah directs His Face toward the face of His servant who is praying, as long as he does not turn away” (Tirmidhi).
Remember this in your prayer, and ask Allah to allow you the joy of seeing Him in Paradise.