Death’s Spectre

This is a ‘morbid’ post, but bare with me. It gets better at the end…

Never have I witnessed ‘death’ and its derivatives become the prevalent topic in public discourse. On the news, on whatsapp, on every channel of communication, death is being discussed because of the Coronavirus

As sad as it is, as painful as separation can be, this is a good thing. Death is the single certainty of life. When Allah recounts in the Quran our conversation that is to come in the next life, He quotes us saying “certainty” (يقين) to describe death. Deep down, we all know this reality. To this, our Beloved Prophet ﷺ advised:

“أكثروا ذكر هاذم اللذات” ‏(‏‏(‏يعنى الموت‏)‏‏)‏
“Remember more often the destroyer of pleasures (i.e. death)”.

Death indeed is not something to be sought or rejoiced over. It is not pleasurable to recall. It’s very thought brings great sadness and pain, and its reverberations are felt across entire communities.

But it’s remembrance can bring about great beauty, things ordinarily obscured in times of joy. The realisation of our fragility humbles us. No longer are we as invincible as we subconsciously see ourselves. Our very real mortality is there before us to bare. It brings to question the purpose in which we live our life and whether we are spending it in the way we really ought to.

The realisation of death’s certainty quickly extends out to our loved ones. How would we cope with their separation? Have we said the things we wish to say? Have we done the things we dreamt to do? The reminder of death stands as a warning sign for the regret that is to come, allowing us to repair the damage done before the inevitable strikes. Rarely would such conversations ever be brought up around a dinner table, yet the spectre of death forces us to confront the very real reality of our end.

But perhaps most significantly, the realisation of death’s certainty forces us to consider what comes after, an uncomfortable yet extremely important and liberating journey. Given its certain reality, should we not learn and prepare for what is to come after?

Our Beloved Prophet Muhammad ﷺ, Prophet Jesus and each of the Prophets before them foretold what would happen when we finally pass. They spoke of Heaven and Hell, a judgement day and a final meeting with our Lord. They warned us that now is the time to act, as our death marks the end of our account with our Lord.

And, almost with the same breath, each and every one of them spoke of the unimaginable mercy of our Lord, how he would forgive a lifetime of sin in a single instant of repentance. They stressed how it was never too late to turn back; how a person could be a hand span away from eternal doom, then a single repentance will enter them paradise. They described how a prostitute – a sin recognised almost universally as heinous – was forgiven for the simple deed of giving water to a dog. Every one of them knew of God’s eagerness to forgive, and knew that the realisation of our mortality was a time for us to turn back to Him ﷻ.

So in the midst of all the gloom around us, take hope that we have been allowed to prepare for the inevitable that will strike us all. Reach out to those you cut ties with, make amends for what wrongs you did, and most importantly, turn back to God. “All the sons of Adam are sinners, but the best of sinners are those who repent often.”

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