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FaithSpirituality

Why We Need to Regularly Remember Death

Death is inevitable, and Muslims are urged to remember it often through the duas we recite. Learn more about the value of remembering death and the specific duas you can recite for yourself or a loved one.

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Death is inevitable, and Muslims are urged to remember it often through the duas we recite. Learn more about the value of remembering death and the specific duas you can recite for yourself or a loved one.

In Islam, death is not something to be feared. It is a natural part of life and an essential step on the journey to Allah (SWT). In the Quran, Allah (SWT) tells us:

Every soul shall taste death.”

[3:185]

Death is inevitable and fills us with a sense of fear when thinking about our own death or sadness when we are suffering from the loss of a loved one. In this article, we will mention the Islamic philosophy of death and specific duas we can recite if a loved one or we are nearing death.

Death is Relief for the Believers

The Dunya and its tribulations are tough. The average human will suffer from financial worries, poverty, loss of a loved one, homelessness and more. The test for Muslims, specifically, can be summarised as trying to live in this world whilst abiding by the laws of Allah (SWT). In this regard, the Holy Quran states:

(God) who created death and life to test you [people] and reveal which of you does best––He is the Mighty, the Forgiving.”

[67:2]

If there were ever an aya of the Quran that summarised why we’re here, it would be this one. This world is a testing ground for us to accumulate good deeds before eventually returning to God. And this is an arduous task – even for the best of creation – our Prophet Muhammad (PBUH). It is reported that whilst he was on his death bed, the Angel of Death relayed a message from God that gave the Prophet an opportunity to delay his own death. A special dispensation for the Prophet as the Angel of Death isn’t one to ask! Still, the Prophet opted to return to his Beloved God.

In one sense, death is a relief to the believers. It means the trials of the world have stopped, and one is now in the folds of the mercy of God. No wonder the Prophet said:

A believer is relieved (by death).”

[Sahih Bukhari]

The Value of Remembering Death

Remembering death is a sobering experience. Think back to the time a near-one died. Did your worldly affairs matter anymore? They probably took a back step as we came to terms with our loss and re-evaluated our lives. Thus, remembering death on a regular basis reminds us our stay here is temporary, re-aligns us to our original purpose (as stipulated in Surah Mulk) and stops us from over-indulging in the world. In many instances, the Prophet has recommended for us to remember death often:

Surely the heart rusts like iron.’ People inquired, ‘How can it be polished?’ He said, ‘By remembering death and with the recitation of Quran.”

[Nahjul Fasahah]

Remember often the destroyer of pleasures (i.e. death)”

[Tirmidhi]

Ali ibn Abi Talib reiterates the value of remembering death:

He who remembers death frequently will remain content with whatever little quantity of wealth he has. He never craves for more and he neither becomes greedy nor miser.”

[Bihar]

With death comes the reminder that whatever material gains we’ve acquired are going to be left behind and inherited by somebody else. Once we realise our material possession are not really ours, it stops us from being greedy and stingy.

Can a Muslim Wish for Death?

Suicide in Islam is not allowed, so we’re not necessarily allowed to ask Allah (SWT) for death or artificially bring about our death. Of course, one can make a dua for martyrdom, i.e. to die in the service of God. The Prophet has forbidden longing for death due to calamities:

None of you should long for death because of a calamity that had befallen him.”

[Sahih Bukhari]

Death is Not The End

For a Muslim, death is far from the end. Rather, it is a passageway from this life to eternal life. That doesn’t mean death isn’t scary and sorrowful. To help us, the Prophet, Quran, and other notable Muslim sages have left behind duas we can recite for when we are fearful of death or if we feel death is near us and a loved one. Here are X duas we can refer to on the topic of death.

Remembering Death During Calamities

Reciting duas that remind us of death helps put calamities into perspective. Calamities will bring about sadness, but it’s important we don’t let it get to the realms of despair, which can lead us toward haram acts or despairing in the mercy of God –  considered the worse sin after polytheism. The famous verse of the Holy Quran invites us to recite the following when calamity strikes:

..those who say, when afflicted with a calamity, ‘We belong to God and to Him we shall return.'”

[2:156]

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This powerful aya that is also recommended to recite upon hearing news of someone’s death is a crucial affirmation and reminds us:

  • the calamity is from God, and He will never give us a test greater than we can bear [2:286];
  • as a result, there is a secret benefit for me in this calamity;
  • the calamity is temporary as we will eventually return to God.

Wishing we were dead when hardship strikes are common for everyone. Even Lady Maryam (as) said the following whilst in labour with Jesus (as),

I wish I had died before this and was a thing long forgotten!”

[19:23]

She was worried about the damnation she would receive from society. An unmarried woman turning up with a baby boy would raise eyebrows and cause people to question her character. God reassures her and rescues her from the situation by allowing the baby Jesus to speak from the cradle.

Lady Maryam was not suicidal, but in the heat of the moment, one may utter such words. It’s like going through an embarrassing moment and saying, “I wish the ground would swallow me up!”

Another dua to recite to remember death that can ground us during calamity is the following, given to us by our Prophet:

O Allah! Keep me alive as long as life is better for me, and let me die if death is better for me.’ ”

[Sahih Bukhari]

If we are feeling a sense of despair, this dua reminds us that Allah (SWT) will only do what is good for us. So, we can indirectly ask for death by requesting Allah (SWT) to take our souls when death is a better option for our akhirah but to keep us alive as long as remaining in Dunya is better, i.e. there is still some purpose left to fulfil, good deeds to accumulate etc.

A Dua to Recite When Death is Near

Only God knows when we are going to die. However, if we feel our or a loved one’s death is near and we are fearing what’s to come, we can recite the following:

O Allah! Help me over pangs and agony of death.”

[Tirmidhi]

This was the same dua the Prophet recited when he was approaching his own death.

Duas to Ask God for an Easy Death

A lengthy dua recited by the Prophet ends with:

and make my death a source of comfort for me protecting me against every evil.”

[Sahih Muslim]

An easy death does not necessarily mean a comfortable death in the worldly sense, i.e. dying in our sleep or surrounded by our loved ones (although there’s no harm in wanting that). When the Prophet speaks of death being a source of comfort, he means to make it easy to transition to the eternal abode. It is considered the Angel of Death will appear in a form that is representative of how we lived our life. If we led a good life, the angel would appear beautiful. If we lived a life of sin, he would appear ugly (may God protect us). For the latter, death is not going to be a comfortable experience. So, the Prophet is asking for a death that is comfortable from the moment the angel appears all throughout, extracting his soul and taking him to the next life.

The Prophet recited a similar dua, reported in Sunan an-Nasai:

O Allah, I seek refuge in You from laziness, old age, cowardice, and incapacity, and from the trials of life and death.”

The trials of death pertaining to the above-mentioned.

Satan does not stop attempting to misguide us as long as we are alive in this world. Even at the time of death, Satan will bargain for our souls. As an example, if we are experiencing deep physical pain at death, Satan may offer to relieve it in exchange for our good deeds. If the pain is too much, we might even accept it. But this leaves us with very little to present to God. The Prophet sought refuge in this (Abi Dawud):

I seek refuge in Thee from the devil harming me at the time of my death.”

Duas to Recite if Our Loved One is Nearing Death

Muhammad ibn Ali (d.114AH), a descendant of the Prophet, advised the following dua if it is believed a loved one is approaching death:

There is no god save Allah, the All-forbearing and All-generous. There is no god save Allah the All-high and All-great. All glory be to Allah the Lord of the seven heavens, the Lord of the seven layers of the earth, whatever is in them, whatever is between them, whatever is above them, and whatever is beneath them, and the Lord of the Great Throne. All praise be to Allah the Lord of the worlds. Blessings be upon Muhammad and his Immaculate Household.”
The dua reaffirms Allah (SWT) and his oneness and embeds the idea in our hearts as it is the one belief that will help relieve any difficulty in the hereafter.

For a Muslim, death isn’t something to be feared. It is the day we will be reunited with God and insha’Allah a chance to meet the blessed Prophet Muhammad (PBUH). We have to try and ensure we live as goodly a life as possible to ensure death is a comfortable and even enjoyable experience – and only the regular remembrance of death will help us stay on track with that objective.

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