The Sunnah of Remembering Death

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Every moment that slips by is an opportunity to do good deeds and seek forgiveness, but one day these moments will run out. So fill each day with peace, kindness, and remembrance of Allah, knowing that the reward of a believer is never lost.   

If you are reading these words, one day you will die. Scary? It doesn’t have to be. When properly remembered, knowing the reality of this dunya can bring us peace and success. 

Abu Huraira reported: The Messenger of Allah, peace and blessings be upon him, said, “Remember often the destroyer of pleasures”, by which he meant death (Sunan al-Tirmidhi 2307).

Death Leads Us to Reflect

I’ve been training to be a doctor for some years now. Among the many lessons my experiences have taught me, I’m constantly reminded of the fragility of life. Death takes some of us young, some of us old, some of us suddenly, some of us slowly. But in the end, it takes us all. 

I can still see the faces of many of the patients who have been told that their end is near. Many have casually sailed through life without a sense of urgency for making the most of their time. Now, they look on in terror and despair, as it dawns on them that they have wasted their most valuable gift: their life. It’s a tragedy to see people realise that life is short only when it’s too late. They may not know it, but what I see reminds me never to waste a moment.  

Death is among the very few certainties of this dunya, and in its remembrance, we come to reflect on how we use our time. Death teaches us that amassing wealth and status is ultimately useless – our dollar bills will be of no use to us in the grave. Instead, we should focus on worshipping Allah and performing good deeds. These are the actions that will bring us enduring benefits that will last beyond the grave, and bring us success on the Day of Judgement. 

Every moment we have is a moment to better prepare for our deaths. Allah has given you this time, so don’t waste it. There are so many ways to draw closer to Allah, such as giving charity, seeking knowledge, fasting, educating, memorising the Quran, and so many more. The Quran warns us of the disbeliever who fails to use his time for serving Allah:

When death comes to one of them, he says, ‘My Lord, send me back that I might do righteousness in that which I left behind’. No! It is only a word he is saying and behind them is a barrier until the Day they are resurrected.”

(Quran 23:99-100)

Like the individual described in the above ayah, when we face the reality of death we desperately desire to prepare for the life that follows it in a way that is best. However, for the individual who used this world only to serve himself and rejected the guidance of Allah, it will be too late. Your efforts are sealed at the point of death, and these efforts will decide your position for the hereafter. 

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Death Destroys Pride 

We all know of arrogant, egotistical individuals who walk boastfully on this earth. Such people are nothing new, with excessive vanity going back to the time of the Pharaohs and beyond. The final ayah of Surah Maryam leaves us with a powerful reflection:

And how many have We destroyed before them of generations? Do you perceive of them anyone or hear from them a sound?”

(Quran 19:98)

The Quran highlights that even the most proud and conceited people came to destruction. Their wealth and status were utterly useless, and Allah lowered them all to dust and bones. Pride and greed are the drivers of oppression, something that many of us are the victim of. However, we can take comfort that every oppressor will one day breathe their last, and Allah will bring their deeds in front of their despairing eyes on the Day of Judgement.

For the thoughtful believer, death is humbling. It reminds us that everything we have can be taken away at any moment, and that our hearts are totally reliant on Allah for permission to beat. Its inevitability reminds us that there are somethings that we cannot control, and that ultimately we must put our trust in Allah.

Death Brings Hope 

It’s easy to become saddened when thinking about death, but Islam brings us a message of peace and happiness. It teaches us that the permanent life is yet to come, and for Muslims, it will be one of endless peace, delight, and tranquillity.

“For those who do good in this world is good; and the home of the Hereafter is better. And how excellent is the home of the righteous. Gardens of perpetual residence, which they will enter, beneath which rivers flow. They will have therein whatever they wish. Thus does Allah reward the righteous. The ones whom the angels take in death, [being] good and pure; [the angels] will say, ‘Peace be upon you. Enter Paradise for what you used to do'” (Quran 16:30-32).

Don’t fear death, fear failing to prepare for it.  Allah has already fixed the date of your death, but you have been blessed with the time to prepare yourself for it. Every moment that slips by is an opportunity to do good deeds and seek forgiveness, but one day these moments will run out. So fill each day with peace, kindness, and remembrance of Allah, knowing that the reward of a believer is never lost.   

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