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08/06/01 at 01:09:40
Assalamu Alaikum Warahmatullahi Wabarakatuh

Death: A source of anxiety

When a human being chooses to follow the path of those who thank God and express their gratefulness to Him, first by believing in Him, then by believing in the Last Day, and thirdly by doing good works throughout life, then such a person will never go astray or be unhappy. [i][color=Green]How could he go astray when the light of faith illuminates his way for him and enlightens his mind and heart? How could he be unhappy when he enjoys the guidance provided by God Almighty?[/color][/i]

It is only logical to expect that such a servant of God, who is ever grateful to Him for the blessings he enjoys, will never fear death, or experience any anxiety over it. That is perfectly true. Yet human nature hates death, because life has been made to appear desirable to us. However, some of us may have reasons which make them feel very apprehensive of death, to the extent that a sense of anxiety over it creeps into them.

Some people may imagine that the very process of dying is an exceptionally painful experience. They may be worried about going through such a painful experience which their imagination may paint as intolerable. That fills them with anxiety. But this is a misconception which needs to be rectified. There is no doubt that a person may go through the throes of death, which is a description repeated by the Prophet shortly before his own death. Yet the complete picture, from an Islamic perspective, is totally different.

Death is the point at which punishment starts for those who are bent on denying the truth of faith, deny God and reject His guidance. God says in the Qur'an: "If you could but see how it will be when He causes the non-believers to die: the angels will strike their faces and their backs, and (will say): 'Taste suffering through fire in return for what your own hands have wrought. God never does the least wrong to His creatures'." (8: 50-51).

We have also a contrasting picture showing the death of the God-fearing believers: "Those whom the angels gather in death while they are in a state of inner purity, greeting them thus: 'Peace be to you! Enter paradise by virtue of what you were doing (in life)." (16: 32). This Quranic verse is highly reassuring. It tells every pious believer that his or her death will be accompanied by inner purity and peace, coupled with the happy news of admission to heaven leading to the enjoyment of perfect and everlasting happiness.

All human beings, whether they believe in God or not fear death because it takes them away from all that they may be enjoying. It also signals a complete departure from family, wealth, position and other things that they may love. Pious believers, however, know that a heaven of limitless dimensions awaits them where they will have pure spouses, and experience enjoyments beyond imagination. They will have all this, by God's grace, after they die, in reward for their actions in this life. Hence a pious believer should not be worried for leaving behind all that he or she loves in this life, because they will have what is far better. Moreover, whoever of his family, parents, spouses and offspring, is good and pious will be sure to join him in heaven. Thus death signals no loss. Indeed it heralds a great gain and a rich reward for action that is essentially mediocre.

A believer may also be worried that death may overtake him at any moment, while he is not yet ready to face God: his sins are numerous, and he fears that he may have to be punished for them. Such worries can only be dispelled by repentance and avoidance of cardinal sins. When a believer genuinely repents having committed a sin, he is considered like one who has not committed it. Moreover, the five obligatory prayers a believer offers every day, and other good actions, are sure to erase from the record of his actions any petty offenses.

When we say this, we do not indulge in wishful thinking. We are only looking at what Qur'anic verses state. However, a person who indulges in every sinful action, hoping to repent and seek God's forgiveness when he feels death approaching, deludes himself by overlooking the fact that death may come all of a sudden, allowing him no chance for repentance of past sins. He also forgets that when God is displeased with a person, as a result of his persistent commitment of cardinal sins, this may result in raising a mental barrier, separating him from his heart. Thus his heart remains oblivious of the need for him to repent and seek God's forgiveness. He dies without declaring his repentance. Thus he stands carrying his burden of sin, and deserves severe punishment.

A believer may yet have another reason to be apprehensive about death. A person with young children may fear that his children will struggle to make ends meet after he has died. Such a person should first of all try to save whatever he can for his family. If he earns more than he needs, he must not spend it all, paying no heed to his family's future needs. On the other hand, if he is of limited means, he must, like every believer, put his trust in God, and always pray Him to look after his children. He should also remain pious and God-fearing. Let him, then, be reassured that God will not abandon his children.

We need only to remember the story of Al-Khader, which is reported in the Qur'an. God commanded him to go to a township whose people were inhospitable. There he was to erect a wall, in order to safeguard a treasure buried underneath it, belonging to two young orphans.

That was only due to the fact that the father of those orphans was a God-fearing man: ďAnd as for that wall, it belonged to two orphan boys (living) in the town, and beneath it was (buried) a treasure belonging to them (by right). Now their father had been a righteous man, and so your Lord willed it that when they come of age they should bring forth their treasure by your Lord's grace. I did not do (any of) this of my own accord. This is the real meaning of all (those events) that you were unable to bear with patience."(18:82)

[i]By Dr Muhammad Kamal Al-Shareef - Arab News - 08 May 2000[/i]

Wassalamu Alaikum Warahmatullahi Wabarakatuh

Haniff (with 2 f's)

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