One of the saddest moments in life is seeing a loved one dying. Until then, we
delude ourselves, although we read, hear and even see others pass away. Nothing,
however, prepares us for our own mortality like the death of the person whom we
hold most dear.
Death is the utmost mystery of life: the puzzle that remains unsolved, that is
shrouded in conjecture and myths and that has captured the imagination of
philosophers, scholars, scientists, authors, poets and fiction writers
throughout the centuries.
Death is inevitable, and the fear of it is inherent in the human heart.
However painful his life may be, and however worthless he might believe himself
to be, a person will never agree to die, except in a state of extreme emotion,
as is witnessed in the case of suicide. Death is perceived as the annihilation
of life — a life that provides a person with a sense of being.
The Quraan suggests something entirely different. Life is made up of two phases:
one is transitory and short, to be spent in this world; the other is eternal and
in a world unknown to anyone who lives. Death is not destruction but the passage
of the whole living being, including body and soul, from one phase to the other,
the duration of the former varying from individual to individual.
“Every soul shall have a taste of death” (3:185).
Every living person is in a waiting room and may be called to die at any time.
The room is full of entertaining games and sights that keep the inhabitants
occupied, to the extent of being unaware of the ultimate call.
All of us are witness to others passing through the exit, in a one-way route. We
are shocked momentarily and spend some time thinking of our own journey and
where it might take us. Then we forget about it.
We spend our waiting time engrossed in various activities, depending upon our
whims and desires. If we have paid heed to advice on what to expect outside the
door, we may attempt to prepare ourselves, or we may decide that this waiting
room is all that there is and we will never come to life again. In reality, this
waiting time begins from the moment of our birth. As the English churchman and
historian Thomas Fuller puts it, “the first breath is the beginning of death”.
Death is a return to our Creator. A return signifies going back to where we came
from: in short, our real home.
“To Allah We belong, and to Him is our return” (2:156)
Our stay in this world is a mere journey, to be lived briefly, but with constant
reminders of our origin. Returning to Allah (Subhaanahu Wa Ta'aalaa) is
returning home, and we will find that it was our stay in this world that was
strange. Our real and natural abode is the one promised to us when we have
exited to the Aakhirah (Afterlife). When our dear ones depart, we grieve over
their loss and we miss them in our daily lives. But it is important to realize
that we shall soon be united with them, hopefully under circumstances where no
pain or worries would trouble us.
The Quraan also likens death to sleep wherein the soul is taken by Allah (Subhaanahu
Wa Ta'aalaa) and returned (when a person wakes up) but not when death has been
“It is Allah that takes the souls (of men) at death; and those that die not (He
takes) during their sleep: those on whom He has passed the decree of death, He
keeps back (from returning to life), but the rest He sends (to their bodies) for
a term appointed....” (39:42)
There is an intermediary phase between death and the Day of Judgment. This is
the ‘Aalam-e-Barzakh, when the souls of dead humans exist, unknown to the
The best and worst of people are rewarded or punished immediately after death
but others must wait for questioning on the Day of Judgment.
If death is a must, as all of us know, and if we are brought back to life after
dying, as believers believe, why do we not take steps to prepare for an eternal
existence that may be full of joy and not one that is doomed to punishment?
What is it that covers our souls with sins and which prevents us from repenting,
even when we realize our errors? We mouth platitudes and clichés of religious
piety, invoking Allah (SallAllaho Alaihe WaSallam), swearing upon our integrity
and good faith and intentions, yet we remain false in action. We have limited
time before the final trumpet is sounded, for none of us will have any leeway in
purgatory or later. The time to correct our ways is now.