New Islamic Directions

By Imam Zaid Shakir

Death Comes Suddenly

Posted in notes by Imam Zaid Shakir on 2020-01-27 Thumb

This past Sunday Jan. 26. 2020, I was teaching a class at the DarusSalam Seminary in Lombard, Illinois. The class was based on an Arabic book entitled الاستعداد ليوم المعاد (Preparing for the Hereafter). One of the last things we covered before taking a break was the following poem:

يا من بدنياه اشتغل *  قد غرّه طول الأمل
O one preoccupied with his worldly affairs! He has been deceived by hopes for a long life.

أ و لم يزل في غفلة  *  حتى دنا منه الأجل
Will he remain enveloped in heedlessness?
Until the end of his lifespan draws near.

الموت يأتي بغتةً  *  و القبر صندوق العمل
Death comes suddenly, and the grave is a container for deeds (be they good or bad).

اصبر على أهوالها  *  لا موت إلا بالأجل
Patiently endure its (the world’s) travails, there is no death except with the expiration of the fixed term.

As the break drew to a close, the news of the death of Kobe Bryant, his daughter Gianna and seven others in a helicopter crash reached me.  I could only reflect on the words of the poem, “Death comes suddenly…” One day, like countless others, Kobe is with us, the next day he is gone.

No, Kobe was not a Muslim, nor was he without his flaws, yet the death of a figure who has been etched into the public consciousness in the way Kobe had, has shaken many of us in a powerful way. Still young at 41, embarking on a new career, having great hopes that his daughter would continue his athletic legacy, death and Kobe Bryant seemed so oxymoronic. Kobe is gone, however, leaving us to reflect on our own mortality.

I feel that one of the best things I can do at this moment of contemplation and introspection for so many people is to share some of the passages from the above-mentioned book, “Preparing for the Hereafter.”

Abu Bakr (May Allah be pleased with him) said, “Whosoever enters the grave without sending forward righteous deeds for the benefit of his soul, is like the one endeavoring to sail the sea without a ship.”

Umar (May Allah be pleased with him) said, “Exalted status in the world comes through wealth. Exalted status in the Hereafter comes through righteous deeds.”

Yahya b. Mu’adh (May Allah have mercy on him) stated, “A noble person does not rebel against Allah, and a wise person does not give preference to the world over the Hereafter.”

One of the ascetics (May Allah have mercy on him) said, “Whosoever laughingly commits a sin, Allah will enter him into Hell while he is crying; and whosoever obeys [Allah] and he is weeping, Allah will enter him into Paradise while he is laughing.”

Imam Ali (May Allah be pleased with him) said, “Among the blessing of the world is that Islam suffices as a blessing; among occupations is that obeying [Allah] suffices as an occupation; and among admonitions is that death suffices as an admonition.”

It is related that the Prophet David (peace be upon him) said, “It has been revealed in the Psalms that an intelligent person should rightfully be preoccupied with three things: preparing for the Hereafter; taking provisions for one’s livelihood; and seeking pleasure from the lawful.”

Yahya b. Mu’adh (May Allah have mercy on him) also said, “Paradise (طوبى) is for one who leaves the world before it leaves him; who prepares for his grave before he enters it (literally: builds his grave before he enters it); and pleases his Lord before he meets him.”

Hatim al-Asamm (May Allah have mercy on him) stated, “There is no morning except that Satan says to me, ‘What will you eat? What will you wear? Where will you live?’ I respond to him, “I eat death. I wear my burial shroud. I live in the grave.” Note: Satan is trying to induce him to be dissatisfied with his food, clothing and shelter. Hatim lets him know that his greatest concerns transcend the world so the things he asks him about are inconsequential.

While the book is filled with passages and aphorisms such as those quoted above, we will conclude with the following: Allah revealed to one of the previous Prophets (peace be upon him), “Whosoever meets Me while loving me, I will enter him into My Paradise. Whosoever meets me while fearing me, I will ward off from him My Hellfire, and whosoever meets me while embarrassed by his sins, I will cause the recording Angels to forget his sins.”

May we be blessed to love Allah while reverencing Him and may we never become comfortable with sin. May we hasten to repentance, righteous deeds, and a consciousness of the nearness of our demise. Godspeed and God bless.


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