A Death In The Family

One of the most pivotal topic in Islam that acts as a cornerstone of guidance is the topic of death. 🤲

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One of the most pivotal topic in Islam that acts as a cornerstone of guidance is the topic of death. 🤲

Inspired by the lectures of Hazrat Allamah Rasheed Turabi (RA) on the topic of Adab Aur Madhab

The most pivotal topic in Islam that acts as a cornerstone of guidance is the topic of death.

The idea of death is deeply rooted in its obscurity and mysterious nature, hence forcing human beings to withdraw themselves from the discussion of death. However, if a man fights his fears at an early stage of life or is forced to face his fear at a later stage of life, and begins the expedition of contemplation, then man eventually reaches some state of reconciliation, in my opinion.

Since my early years of life, it’s been a constant state of anxiety anticipating death in the family, because to me, burying a loved one is more difficult than experiencing death itself. Nevertheless, I have been to many funerals of young and old over the years, and tried to embrace the idea that a day will come when I will have to bury my parents. 

It was the 18th of September, a  Monday, at 3:30 PM when my father passed away. I was holding his hand when he breathed his last. The fear and anxiety that was hoarding over the years should have erupted like a volcano of tears of intense grief.

However, to my surprise, I observed that the anxiety that was compounding over the years has worked as an ointment of grief, and with all-encompassing divine mercy, the anxiety was transformed into strength and enlightenment. From thereon, the whole process of funeral and burial became a phase of the compassion and mercy of Allah (swt) in the form of strength, patience and tranquility.  

Relying on such experience, I have come to understand that regarding the idea of death, there are two types of thoughts that linger in the mind.

The first concern – that occupies the mind – is the concern of experiencing death itself. We fear anything that is mysterious to us, anything that is not in our control surrounded by the trauma of separation from our dear ones. The unknown future, the unknown realm, and our migration from a materialistic world to a metaphysical world leads to demoralizing moments.

The second thought concerning death is related to anticipating the death of a dear one. In both cases, the subject of death sparks anxiety, fear, and grief in our hearts. The perplexity and complexity of death are super intimidating and cannot be dodged by ignoring this reality or by searching for a concoction of immortality, because every human shall taste death. But how is it possible that a human being is left to carry the burden of the unknown in fear and grief all his life, and Allah (swt) has not provided any remedy?  I think the remedy is easy and obvious, and it lies in the contemplation of what should a human being Abandon, and what to Acquire as a preparation for the transition. 

We need to first contemplate to understand that this materialistic world and the next metaphysical world are two opposite realms. The means that we seek for the comforts of life in this materialistic world begins to find its place in the metaphysical heart of the human being and find its permanent home until death appears. The more deeply rooted a human being becomes – to this materialistic and superfluous world – the harder and more difficult it is for him to transition to the next world.

For example, scholars say that a human being is a composition of three elements, the Body, the Soul (Nafs), and the Spirit (Ruh), and essentially death refers to the separation of these three elements. If our Nafs is glued to this world, then the separation becomes very daunting for the deceased. Imagine separating Velcro as opposed to nonstick plastic wrap (as an example). Hence, the recommendation to embrace the idea of death refers to reconfirming at regular intervals in our lives that we are not getting attached to this world. It is expected by a human being to abandon the attractions of the world and not consider seeking the means of this world as his ultimate goal. 

The simultaneous objective, in pursuit of alleviating difficulties of the transition, is to acquire the provisions of the next world. What are we expected to acquire in this world that will be instrumental in removing the difficulties of the journey? The answer lies in one of the lectures on the topic of Adab aur Madhab by grand scholar Allamah Rasheed Turabi, who mentioned an irrefutable argument to help understand the issue.

The grand scholar, Allamah Rasheed Turabi (RA) presents his argument from the Holy Qur’an reciting the following verse (2:266) where Allah (swt) questions human beings in his pursuit of wealth.

 أَيَوَدُّ أَحَدُكُمْ أَن تَكُونَ لَهُ جَنَّةٌ مِّن نَّخِيلٍ وَأَعْنَابٍ تَجْرِي مِن تَحْتِهَا الْأَنْهَارُ لَهُ فِيهَا مِن كُلِّ الثَّمَرَاتِ 

Does any of you wish that he should have a garden with date-palms and vines and streams flowing underneath, and all kinds of fruit,

Imagine a human being who has built for himself a beautiful garden. However, in his struggle to build the garden old age has overtaken him, and his children turned out to be incompetent to take care of the garden. 

وَأَصَابَهُ الْكِبَرُ وَلَهُ ذُرِّيَّةٌ ضُعَفَاءُ فَأَصَابَهَا إِعْصَارٌ فِيهِ نَارٌ فَاحْتَرَقَتْ ۗ

while he is stricken with old age, and his children are not strong (enough to look after themselves)- that it should be caught in a whirlwind, with fire therein, and be burnt up? 

Then a cyclone of fire hit the garden and burnt everything, while his children were not competent enough to protect the garden from destruction. Here, Rasheed Turabi says that a physical garden, a house, a piece of land, and its likes are not wealth as the Qur’an is not talking about a materialistic garden! The real wealth that will usher you into the gardens of the next world is the treasure of Faith in this world. The term garden in the verse is a symbolic term for Faith, and the fulfillment of the Mawadah of Ahlul Bayt (as).  Regarding the upbringing of children, the infallible (as) says, 

عَنْهُ (صَلَّى اللَّهُ عَلَيْهِ وَآلِهِ): أَدْبُوا أَوْلَادَكُمْ عَلَى ثَلاثِ خِصَالٍ: حُبِّ نَبِيِّكُمْ، وَحُبِّ أَهْلِ بَيْتِهِ، وَقِرَاءَةِ الْقُرْآنِ

“Raise your children with three qualities: love for your Prophet (saw), love for Aale Muhammed (as), and the recitation of the Quran.” 

The garden of wealth is the love for Ahlul Bayt (as) and the Holy Quran, and the most important provision that can be acquired in preparation for death, is a formidable offspring who can guard this wealth. But how unfortunate is that father who possesses such a garden of wealth, yet his children are weak to protect this wealth, like the old man with incompetent offspring? Thus, the parent must arrange such upbringing of the offspring so that the wealth of a father is not plundered by the destruction of deviated ideologies of today.

The Imam (as) says, teach your children Adab, which means to be mindful in observing the boundaries of love and obedience. As love increases, discipline increases, because love increases the recognition of the loved one. The degree of mindfulness in your offspring towards observing the boundaries of religion is a measure of your wealth. The degree of manifestation of the Adab is the scale of the strength of your offspring. 

So, how does a parent strengthen their offspring? Allamah Rasheed Turabi suggests that the annual gathering of Muharram is a period to refine our faith and strengthen our determination. The month of mourning serves as a divine mercy to the believers where the parents and children are seeking divine cognizance (Marifah) through lectures in the community centers and preoccupying themselves in the practices and rituals of mourning as a token of Love (Mawadah) for Ahlul Bayt (as).

The act of being consciously mindful of the boundaries (Adaab) when practicing faith during the holy months has a significant impact on the conduct of life around the year. The sensitivity towards the dos and don’ts of Islam remains alive in your children when they operate in life without the supervision of the parents or the watchful eyes of the community. The collective efforts of the whole community can provide fertile grounds to make the next generation formidable to protect the garden of wealth that we have received from our ancestors and bequest them to continue this effort until we meet on the Day of Judgment with the trust of this wealth. 

So, this is not just an article or (mis)articulation of words, this is a forewarning mentioned in the Qur’an. So, what premonition shall come to pass if the parents fail to strengthen their offspring? 

There is a supplication in the Qur’an where Prophet Nuh (as) is pleading to Allah (swt) to destroy the disbelievers because the children of the disbelievers will misguide others and they themselves will multiply with immoral and ungrateful offsprings. Thus, Allah (swt) shall punish them along with their offsprings who ignored the mindfulness of the boundaries (Adaab) of Islam, the Qur’an recalls (71:26-27),  

وَقَالَ نُوحٌ رَّبِّ لَا تَذَرْ عَلَى الْأَرْضِ مِنَ الْكَافِرِينَ دَيَّارًا

And Nuh said: My Lord! leave not upon the land any dweller from among the unbelievers:

إِنَّكَ إِن تَذَرْهُمْ يُضِلُّوا عِبَادَكَ وَلَا يَلِدُوا إِلَّا فَاجِرًا كَفَّارًا

For surely if Thou leave them, they will lead astray Thy servants, and will not beget any but immoral, ungrateful (children) 

In other words, the messenger is sent as a mercy from Allah (swt) to mankind and it is not the practice of a divine guide to utter the words damnation (pray for annihilation) towards a nation until he is certain that the children of the nation are gone astray. The children are raised with such principles that they will certainly become the virus of IMMORALITY and UNBELIEF that will spread and infect all human beings.

For those who struggled to strengthen their offspring and succeeded in handing over the garden of wealth to them, then (for them) the provision to transition to the next world is sufficient. When their time comes and they confront the angel of death, they are at peace and their separation from the world is not difficult. Such believers will be surrounded by their offspring, at the time of death, bearing witness to Allah (swt) that this man has worked very hard to build the garden of wealth which he is leaving behind in the hands of strong offspring who shall not let any cyclone of fire smite the garden. As a result, the offspring that the deceased has left behind do not consider themselves as orphans (Yateem), because as infallible (as) says – 

لَيْسَ الْيَتِيمُ الَّذِي قَدْ مَاتَ وَالِدُهُ إِنَّ الْيَتِيمَ يَتِيمُ الْعِلْمِ وَالْأَدَبِ

The true orphan is not he who lost his parents, but rather an orphan is he who is deprived of Knowledge (‘ilm) and mindfulness of the boundaries (Adab) of the religion. As for those who have departed from this material realm, their reality continues to live in the next world, and their reckoning will come to pass, and the grave of that person will be either a paradise or a hell as the Prophet (saw) said – 

 القَبْرُ رَوْضَةٌ مِنْ رِيَاضِ الْجَنَّةِ أَوْ حُفْرَةٌ مِنْ حُفَرِ النَّارِ

The grave is either a garden from the gardens of paradise or a pit from the pits of hell.

مَن مَاتَ فَقَدْ قَامَتْ قِيَامَتُهُ

Whoever dies, his resurrection has begun.

A tribute to my late father

Syed Riaz Ahmed Rizvi 

ibn Syed Mohammed Rizvi