By Maulana Wahiduddin Khan for New Age Islam
24 March, 2015
What is Death?
Dictionaries often define death as ‘the permanent cessation of life’. This definition reflects a negative image of death. It seems to suggest that death means the complete extinguishing of a living being after its having been alive on earth for a short while. It is as if when one dies, one ceases to exist forever.
In contrast to this, Islam presents a positive understanding of death. Islam teaches us that death is not the end of life. Rather, it marks the beginning of a new phase of our lives.
According to Islam, man has been created as an eternal being. His life-span has been divided into two parts. The first is the pre-death phase; and the second is the post-death phase.
The pre-death phase of our lives is a time for us to make preparations for our post-death phase, the life that is to come after we die. The post-death phase is where we will reap the results of all that we had done in the pre-death phase of our lives.
As per God’s Creation Plan, the phase before death is our preparatory period. Accordingly, we should focus completely on preparing ourselves for the eternal life to come after death. We should know that in the post-death phase that we will have to face one day, we will not have the chance to do any actions that can be of any use to us. In that phase of our life, we will only reap the fruits, sweet or bitter, of what we had sowed in our pre-death phase.
Death is a message from life, as it were. And the message it delivers is this—that whatever good you need to do to earn yourself a good life after death, you should do it today, because tomorrow you may no longer be alive.
The First and the Second Life
When a human being takes birth in this world, it is his first life. Without having to make any effort at all, a new-born infant finds that everything that it needs has been carefully arranged for it. It has a loving family that cares for it. The world around it is incredibly finely-tuned to make it favourable for it to live. It is enveloped by an amazing life-support system that provides all that it requires for survival. All these things the infant gets without having to do anything at all!
This new living being passes through various stages, and, finally, one day, it dies. Death is not its final end, however. Rather, it is the start of a new journey.
After death, man enters a world where, once again, he is all alone. This time too he is a living, conscious being, but now he has been parted forever from all the many things that he possessed in the world that he came from.
Almost no one wants to die. Most people want to live long, till a ripe old age. Yet, everyone has to die some day or the other. We all want to set off on a long journey, to travel to somewhere really far-off, but before we reach our hoped-for destination, death stops us in our tracks and carries us away.
Why does this happen? Why is it that we want to live long, but yet death arrives, suddenly and without our permission, and blots out our dreams? Every person has definitely asked himself or herself this question and has tried to find an answer to it. We all want to know why we have to die. We all seek answers to existential questions about life and death.
We can get some clues about the answers to these questions from modern scientific discoveries about DNA. Every person has a certain DNA. Your DNA is a complete encyclopaedia of your personality. It contains information about every aspect, big and small, of your personality. If you decode this DNA, you will find that it is much bigger than the most voluminous encyclopaedia.
Yet, intriguingly, the DNA does not contain information about just one aspect of our personality. If you study someone’s DNA, you can get an idea of everything about him except for one thing. And this one thing is when precisely this person will die.
This, then, is nature’s announcement to the effect that man is an eternal creature, a creature that will never die. Man has eternal life. Death does not put an end to him.
Among all living beings, it is only man who has a conception of ‘tomorrow’. Animals live only in the present moment, in ‘today’. No animal has a conception of ‘tomorrow’. Because they have a limited consciousness, animals are born ‘today’, and they also die in the same state. But man is an exceptional creature in this regard. He is the only creature who has an understanding of ‘tomorrow’.
To properly appreciate the import of this point, bear in mind that human beings have unlimited ambitions, and that they die with their ambitions remaining unfulfilled. In this sense, every man is a case of unfulfilled desires. In the whole of the cosmos, man is the only such creature. No other creature suffers from this painful dilemma.
This fact tells us that there must certainly be an answer to this dilemma. Human desires and ambitions ought to be fulfilled, just as is the case with all other creatures. This indicates that there is a world that will come after this present one, a world where human beings will find complete fulfilment of their wishes and hopes.
There is another important aspect of this issue, and that is that the desire for justice is inherent in, or intrinsic to, human nature. By nature, human beings want that they be treated justly, that there be justice in this world, that good people be fully rewarded for their goodness and that evil-doers be suitably punished. This is a basic demand of human nature. This demand, too, requires that there should be another world after this one, where justice finally prevails, because it is not possible for this to happen in this world.
If you keep all this in mind, the concept of the Hereafter will become absolutely real and clear to you. With belief in the Hereafter, you get a complete answer to every question. Everything falls into place.
An examination was being held in a school. The students were bent over their desks, busily writing away, answering their examination paper. And then, in a short while, the bell rang, indicating that the time allotted for the examination was over. The invigilator announced, “Stop writing! Time’s up!”
Precisely the same thing that happens in an examination hall in a school happens, on a wider scale, in everyone’s life. In this world, every person is sitting in a vast examination hall. Each of us is writing an examination, whose allotted period extends for the entire span of time that has been given to us, from the time we are born till the moment we die. This period has been fixed for each one of us already. As soon as this period is up, God’s angel arrives and announces that the time given to us in this world is up. It tells us that we now must face death and appear before our Lord and Creator and be answerable for all that we did while on earth.
What every student goes through in an examination hall is a metaphor that helps us understand what the examination of life is all about. Life is just an examination. And death is an event that takes you to the next world, where you will face the consequences of all your deeds while on earth.
While sitting in the examination hall and writing his paper, a student is very alert and serious. His entire attention is focussed on what he is writing. He is determined to perform excellently in the examination, and so he tries his best and puts in all his effort.
We need to lead our lives—and to pass through this examination of life—with precisely the same mindset. We should be fully determined to correctly answer the ‘examination paper’ of life that God has given us, so that when the time allotted for the examination is over and our results are out, we should be greeted with the good news of having passed, and not with the shame of having failed.
Think! Think! Think!
When a child comes into this world, he finds a vast life-support system in place that provides him with everything he needs to survive and grow. This life-support system is so perfect and complete that it fulfils man’s every need, small and big, and in just the right way. From the earth to the sun, the entire universe is engaged, in an astoundingly exceptional manner, in the service of man.
After we come into this world, we spend whatever time has been allotted to us here, and then, all of a sudden, we die. Human beings want to live forever, but, generally, within a hundred years or so at the very most, we are forced to leave this world forever, against our will.
Every human being goes through two basic experiences—first, the experience of life; and, then, the experience of death. If you seriously reflect on these two experiences, you are bound to discover the amazing fact that our having been created and sent into this world is not as a reward for anything, but, rather, that it is an examination.
In this world, we think and feel that we are free. We have been given this freedom so as that it can be ascertained who among us has used this freedom properly and has led a principled life, and who among us has not done so.
If you think about this seriously, you will realise that death is the moment of our having to appear before God. We are actually eternal beings, but, as mentioned earlier, our lives are divided into two periods: the pre-death and post-death periods. The former period is for the purpose of being tested, while the latter period is when we will be rewarded or punished, as the case might be, according to the record of our deeds in the pre-death phase of our lives.
Today, we find ourselves as living and conscious beings. And when we die, we will be taken, while still as living and conscious beings, towards the next world. Each one of us is going to face that day, sooner or later. It is an unimaginably serious moment. Even after death we will remain the same beings as we were before, but everything that we possessed while on earth will have been stripped away from us forever. We will have left behind for good the world where we had spent the short pre-death period of our lives. In front of us will be another world, where we will have to live for eternity.
A truly wise man is he who prepares himself adequately for this day.
Break in History
If you are an employee of the government and you take long leave without approval, the government has the right to term this as what is called ‘break in service’. It will cause you to lose your seniority. In fact, you might even be demoted to the same position where you started off from when you joined government service. A break in service is a separation from employment status.
The same principle applies, but on a wider scale, in the case of every human being. This general principle can be called ‘break in history’. In other words, your ‘history’—your life in this world—is, one day or the other, going to come to a complete stop. The ‘history’ that you have brought into being through all your many actions while you were in this world will suddenly come to an end with your death.
In this world, each one of us stands on the foundations of the ‘history’ that we have constructed for ourselves. We all receive numerous different resources and opportunities—in the form of family, wealth, friends, fame, influence, power and so on—which we use to construct our own individual ‘histories’. This ‘history’ that we create for ourselves establishes our identities, through which we know ourselves and others know us. Each of us is engaged throughout our lives in efforts to build up our own ‘histories’, the basis on which our sense of our identity rests.
Yet, none of us gets to remain living in our ‘histories’ for too long. Within a hundred years or so, death suddenly arrives and takes us away. Death is a decision that cannot be revoked. It separates us from our pre-death period and takes us into the post-death period of our lives. In this sense, death can be said to mark a ‘break’ in our ‘history’.
In this world, we spend all our energies trying to build a little world of our own, a world of our hopes and desires. All of us are living in these little worlds that we have constructed, till death carries us away. Death forces us to leave our little worlds behind, and takes us into a different world, a world for which we may not have made any preparations at all. Behind us is the world we have left for good, and in front of us is an endless world, which we may not have been at all prepared for.
The pre-death period is for every one of us the first and the last opportunity to prepare for the eternal life that is to come after death. We will not get any such opportunity again. If you spend this opportunity simply on worldly pleasures and in accumulating material wealth, you will have to spend the post-death period of life in complete deprivation. Death is bound to separate you from your pre-death ‘history’—all the worldly things and name and fame that you had accumulated—and you will not be given a second chance to make your ‘history’.
How tragic it is how people are wasting the precious opportunities that they have today to shape their ‘history’ in a manner that could help them after they die! How terrible will that deprivation be that people who have wasted these opportunities will face one day, and which they will not be able to save themselves from!
Building This World, or Preparing For the Hereafter?
Today, everyone seems frantically busy with something or the other. People are so caught up doing things that they do not seem to have the time to listen to or think about anything else. They know of just one way of using their time and other resources—and that is, to spend it on seeking to achieve the worldly goals they have set for themselves. People’s business is geared simply to one thing. And that is, to make their little worlds as ‘nice’ (in the sense they understand this term) as possible. By and large, they are concerned only with worldly ‘progress’.
Death, however, is a bold rebuttal of this worldview. Everyone has to die one day, and so all the worldly wealth you have accumulated will one day be snatched from you. You will have to leave behind forever the little world that you have spent all your energy, time and other resources in building up. You will be taken towards such a world for which you possess nothing at all if you did not adequately prepare for it while in this world.
Every person who is born into this world very soon starts thinking in the same worldly terms as the people around him. Like them, he, too, gets entangled in all sorts of materialistically-oriented pursuits. Because of this, materialistic thinking has become a part of the continuing flow of history. This sort of thinking has become such an integral part of cultural traditions that it seems almost impossible for anyone to be able to think free from it.
It is here that man’s real test takes place. If you want to be truly successful in life, you must extricate yourself from this conventional way of thinking and begin to think for yourself. You must separate yourself from traditional culture and form your opinions based on reality. If you do this, you will at once realise that the real issue for us human beings is not this-worldly ‘progress’, but, instead, preparation for the eternal Hereafter. Our real task is to prepare while in our pre-death period for the post-death period of our lives. We must work on developing ourselves in such a way that in the eternal life that will unfold after death we will be considered to be successful.
The Business of Breath
There was once a man, whom people used to call Mullah-ji. He reared buffaloes and sold their milk for a living.
Mullah-ji had a Hindu friend, a trader, who had a business in iron goods. One day, one of Mullah-ji’s buffaloes died. He mentioned this to his friend. His friend said to him, “Mullah-ji, your business is in things that breathe, and their breath lasts for only a short time and then they are dead. A buffalo is only there as long as it can breathe. Once it stops breathing, that’s the end!”
What Mullah-ji’s friend said is true not just for buffaloes but for every human being, too. Like buffalos and other animals, we, too, breathe for a short time and then we are dead.
“Many people spend their entire lives earning as much money as they can, only to buy a costly ticket to Hell.” With great pain, these words often tumble out of my mouth.
When I look at people around me, I see them frantically busy, spending all their time and other resources only to amass money. Their days and nights are spent in this obsessive pursuit.
Reflect, in this regard, on what the Quran (102) relates:
Greed for more and more distracted you [from God] till you reached the grave. But you will soon come to know. But you will soon come to know. Indeed, were you to know the truth with certainty, you would see the fire of Hell. You would see it with the eye of certainty. Then on that Day you shall be questioned about your worldly favours.
It is not just ‘secular’ people, people who do not believe in religion or who do not take religion seriously, who are caught up in this obsession of earning as much money as they can. Many so-called ‘religious’ people are no different at all. Externally, they may look ‘religious’, but their religiosity is simply ritualistic. They, too, have made money their purpose and goal. They use every possible means to maximise their money. There is just one use of all this money—and that is to increase what people regard as their material welfare. That is what they see as the purpose of their lives.
But our stay on earth has to end one day, and we have to be separated forever from all the material things that we may have accumulated here. In amassing material wealth, people think they are making great progress. But death tells them that they were only journeying towards their own destruction.
How strange it is, isn’t it? People spend the best part of their lives and most of their energies only, as the Quran says, to ‘see the fire of Hell’! Those who dream of luxuriating in a ‘heaven’ of material pleasures in this world might soon find themselves in the pit of Hell when death takes over!
Death: A Reminder
We often see or read or hear about people dying. We should take this as a learning experience. Someone else’s death should lead us to be mindful of our own impending death. It should provoke us to remember that we, too, will have to meet the same fate, some day or the other. It should remind us to suitably prepare for our own death, which is on its way.
Death is the end of the pre-death period of life for the deceased, while for those who are still alive in this world, it is a reminder of their own impending death. When a person dies, it appears that someone who could speak has now fallen silent. But his silence is in itself an announcement to those who remain in this world. It calls out to us: “What had to happen with me has now taken place! It will happen with you, too! And so, prepare yourself for it!”
These days, it has become a fashion to celebrate birthdays. In some families, celebrating birthdays starts as soon as a child turns a year old. Better than that, however, would be to consider a birthday as a day that reminds us about our death, instead of our birth. The fact is that our lives are continuously moving towards our ‘countdown’, our day of meeting with death. Our every birthday tells us that we have one year less left of the time allotted to us on earth.
Many people celebrate birthdays with much gusto. ‘Happy Birthday To You!” they excitedly sing. But if you reflect on this realistically, the reality is just the opposite. Every birth anniversary of ours tells us that our death, the day when we will have to account for our lives on earth, has drawn one year closer, and that for preparing for the eternal Hereafter we now have one year less.
On the Other Side of Life
On the face of it, we are complete beings. But in actual fact, we are not. We have eyes to see, but without external light, we cannot see. We have ears to hear, but without external air, we cannot hear. We have feet to walk, but if the force of gravity did not exist and there was no ground underneath, we would not have been able to walk. We have mouths to eat, but if there is no food available, we would not be able to eat anything.
Now, imagine a situation where you are just as you presently are, with all your bodily organs intact, but that the external things that relate to these organs have all been taken away from you. You have eyes, but there is no external light which you need in order to be able to see. You have a mouth, but there is no food. You have feet, but there is no ground below you to stand on. Furthermore, you are all alone. Everyone you knew has abandoned you.
This is no imaginary situation. This is precisely what each one of us is going to face one day, when we die!
The day of our meeting with death is racing towards us. We all have to face this day. There is absolutely no way we can avoid it. We need to realise this and to prepare for that momentous moment. That day will be for us as what is called a ‘point of no return’. After that, we will have to face the consequences of our actions in this world. We will not be able to return to the world and make fresh preparations.
Running Without a Destination
Everyone seems to be talking non-stop, doing this and that, being busy with all sorts of things, chasing all sorts of dreams. They are all driven with the purpose of fulfilling unlimited desires. They want to acquire all sorts of comforts for themselves and their children. This is a mad race of materialism. But what is the end result of all this? Everyone feels that his hopes have not been met, that his desires still remain unfulfilled. And so, people are living in terrible despair, bitterness, tension and frustration. They feel they have been deprived of, or denied, what they wanted. Nobody at all seems content. This is how their days and nights pass—in this sorry predicament—till one day, the little world of their dreams comes crashing down when death sweeps them away.
People are busy with things that belong to this temporary world, instead of preparing themselves for the eternal life after death. The life of this world is a test, and hence it is God’s responsibility to provide every one of us with the things that we need to undergo this test. But as far as life after death is concerned, God has not taken responsibility for it. Our life after death depends entirely on our actions in this world. You will reap there as you have sown here, on earth. Yet, strangely, people are preoccupied doing everything possible for their life in this world but have completely forgotten the life that will come after death.
In this world, if you face a shortage of something today, you can make efforts and acquire what you need tomorrow. But in the life after death, you will not have the chance of engaging in any actions to make up for any shortage on account of your deeds while on earth.
In this world, we have many things that enable us to survive and flourish. We have physical bodies, for instance. We have friends and relatives. We have opportunities for work. We have money. There is an amazing life-support system all around us that is finely-tuned to support life. And so on.
All these things are available to us in this world. Consciously or otherwise, we think we own such things, or that they belong to us. We imagine that they will remain with us forever. But after a limited span of time, each of us dies, and we are forced to leave all these things behind. We now have to travel, all alone, to an entirely different world. We are confronted with eternity before us, for which we will find that we possess absolutely nothing.
Besides the material things of this world, there is something else that we have—our personal status. Each of us makes efforts in whatever way we can to establish a certain position for ourselves. We acquire a status in society. We create a unique ‘history’ for ourselves, which comes to be seen as part of our personality.
This status or position that we establish for ourselves in this world with great effort, too, is only temporary. Death will suddenly steal this away as well. After we die, we will enter the next world totally bereft of our material possessions as well as the worldly stature that we had so carefully sought to cultivate while on earth.
The World after Death
One day, I was sitting in my room when I heard a song being played from somewhere. The words went like this:
How will I spend those nights?
How will I spend those days?
Hearing these words, my mind suddenly turned to the thought of the life after death. I said to myself, “In his pre-death phase, man has everything. If he feels thirsty, there’s water to drink. If he’s hungry, there are different types of food he can eat. Everything that man needs is available in this world. And comforts and luxuries, too. How remarkable!”
And, I further thought, “All this is in the stage of life before death. In the stage of life after death, man will find himself in an eternal desert, where there won’t be anything at all for him. Suddenly, he will find himself in a state of total deprivation and loss!”
If you are conscious of the fact of your death, it is bound to shake you to the very roots. It will make you shed pain-filled tears. You will cry out, “O that day will be such a dark day! O that night will be such a tragic one!”
Today, man has everything, and tomorrow, when death overtakes him, he will have nothing at all. This is man’s greatest problem. This realisation should impel us to think more about the life after death than about this world. It should lead us to plan for our future—our future in the life after death, so that we can be saved from a terrible fate, about which the Bible says:
There will be wailing and gnashing of teeth.
News of Death
Consider the case of a 75 year-old man. When he was young, he was healthy. But now he suffers from various ailments. These ailments are actually news or portents of his impending death. Yet, he does not consider them in that way. Instead, he thinks of them simply as a condition that needs to be cured. And so, he goes from doctor to doctor, from one hospital to the next, in search of good treatment, till at last he exhausts all his money. He does not stop there, though. He takes a loan and goes in for an expensive course of treatment. Yet, that, too, fails to cure him. And then, in a short while he dies.
This is the story of not just one man, but, rather, of almost every single human being in the world.
Old age is for all of us actually an announcement that death is just round the corner. When you get old, you fall prey to all sorts of ailments. This happens in order to shake you up and make you realise that death is now not far off. If you are sleeping, illness comes to force you awake. If you are awake, it comes in order to force you to get up. And if you have got up, it comes in order to force you to walk. Illness comes to make you realise that you are soon about to meet death.
Old age and the difficulties that come with it always come to you to shock you into this realisation so that you start preparing yourself for your death before it actually happens. In this way, you can think deeply about what might await you in the life after death and can, accordingly, plan how you want to spend your remaining time on earth.
Yet, most people simply do not learn at all from such things. Old age and illnesses are portents or heralds of death, but instead of thinking of death when these things happen, people only think about curing their ailments. They make the rounds of doctors and hospitals, but finally they die, in a state of total hopelessness. They do not manage to get the health that they seek. All that they get is death.
All of us see old and sick people—almost every day. Yet, how many of us take this sight as portents of our own impending death? How many of us draw appropriate lessons from this and start preparing for our own death by leading our lives in an appropriate way?
The fact of the matter is that few, if any, of us do so. In this regard, almost all people are completely blind. It is only when death overtakes them that they might open their eyes. But to open your eyes when you die is absolutely useless. It is simply too late.
Once, I attended the burial service of a man. The man’s body was washed, and he was wrapped up in a new sheet. People said the prayers that are recited on such occasions, and then they lifted the corpse on their shoulders and headed to the empty grave. They lowered the body, with great respect, into the ground and covered it up.
As this was happening, I thought, “Why has Islam ordained such honourable treatment for a dead body?”
It is a fact that after death, a human body is nothing more than mud. But unlike other mud, it is not thrown about here and there. Instead, it is treated like a human being.
Treating ‘mud’ as one would treat a ‘human being’ is a commandment directed not at the dead body. Rather, it has significance for those who are still alive. Through a dead person an important lesson is conveyed to living people—that they, too, will meet precisely the same fate one day. In this way, the living can see themselves in the form of the dead. They can experience death before death arrives.
A man who was a living being like any of us is now dead. Just the other day, he was walking, talking, seeing, and so on, but now he lies perfectly still. The value he commanded in people’s eyes has suddenly been completely erased. God uses this event to convey a lesson about life to others.
With great care, people wash and clean and clothe a corpse and carry it to the grave that awaits it. And when they lower the corpse into the grave, each of them takes a handful of mud and puts it in the grave. They do this three times. While doing it the first time, they say, Minha khalaqnakum (“From the earth We have created you”). When throwing in the mud the second time, they say, Wa Fiha Nuidukum (“And We return you to it”). And the third time, they say, Wa Minha Nukhrijukum Taratan Ukhra (“And from it We shall bring you forth a second time”).
This putting mud in the grave three times is the climax of the whole event. In this way, it serves to remind us of the reality of man and of what our final destiny is.
Reading Our Own Funeral Prayers
Once, a Muslim man died, and after the funeral prayers were said, he was buried in a graveyard. A friend of mine had attended the funeral prayers. The prayers were just about to start when a person who was standing next to him asked him, “Should I make the intention of offering Farz (obligatory) or optional prayers?”
My friend replied, “Make the intention of offering your own funeral prayer!”
As you can imagine, the man was really taken aback!
Later, my friend explained to the man that offering funeral prayers on the occasion of someone’s death is not a mere ritual. Rather, it is a reminder of a very serious reality—of the fact that just as the person who has died has encountered death, one day, you, too, will do the same. To say funeral prayers in congregation is actually a reminder of this fact.
A truly meaningful funeral prayer is one in which someone else’s death provokes you to remember your own death. It leads you to realise that whatever has happened with the deceased is bound to happen with you as well.
If this is how you think when you see a dead person, when you attend a funeral prayer you will feel that you are praying at your own funeral.
We should be constantly aware of death. We must think of it often. A person who is so heedless that someone else’s death does not provoke him to think of his own impending death is a cold, unfeeling stone. To remember death often is an attribute of a truly sensitive person. Not to remember death is a sign of an insensitive person.
Marking someone’s Death
These days, it has become a common practice that if some ‘big’ person dies, a large function is organized in the name of offering condolences to the deceased, and messages of condolence are published in the newspapers. This is a wrongful innovation and is not in accordance with Islam. It was certainly not practised in the time of the Prophet and his companions.
Islam teaches us that when we witness someone else’s death, we should think of our own death and that in our solitude, we should beseech God for ourselves and the deceased. Death is a reminder that God sends to us, telling us that just as one person has died, every other human being, too, will die, one day or the other.
We should take death in this way, as a reminder. When we hear of, or witness, someone’s death, it should lead us to remember that one day we will, too, have to stand before God and receive our due. Being mindful of this, we should turn to God and seek His help.
Who is Eligible for Paradise?
Paradise is a world of unparalleled and unimaginable joy and comfort. Only those people will gain entry into Paradise who have paid its price, in the form of developing the heavenly character, thus proving themselves eligible for it. Paradise is an eternal place in the neighbourhood of the eternal God. This place is only for those fortunate people who are determined to pay the price for it. They need to prove their eligibility for this in terms of their actions while on earth.
To get a seat in eternal Paradise, you should be able to discover God and develop conviction in Him, although He is unseen in the present world. Living in space and time, you need to develop the vision that can see outside space and time. You need to find meaning in the midst of a dark jungle of words. Living in a sea of desires, you need to save yourself from drowning in it. You need to make yourself egoless. Living among people who wish you ill, you need to become a well-wisher of all. Possessing complete freedom, you need to voluntarily surrender yourself. You need to hear unspoken words and discover invisible truths. In a world full of lies and deceit, you need always to speak the truth. Surrounded by dishonesty, you need to be scrupulously honest.
God’s angels are active, day and night, drawing up a list of people who are considered eligible for entry into God’s Paradise. These are people who have attained God-realisation, which has enabled them to shift their attention away from everything else and make God alone their supreme concern. Their desire for seeking Paradise has rendered unattractive every seemingly-attractive thing in this world. Overwhelmed by the realisation of the glory of God, all their feelings of pride and superiority have been wiped off. They are ever mindful of God’s admonishment, which makes it impossible for them to indulge in worldly pleasures. They are deaf to the sounds that appear alluring to others. They see worldly ‘progress’ and ‘deprivation’ as synonymous. Instead of going around trying to prove that they are right, they are fond of admitting their mistakes.
Paradise is a place that has real existence. You can enter Paradise if you possess the right qualities and have led the right sort of life while on earth. Only those people who have developed in them divine qualities will be settled in Paradise. Entry into Paradise is not on the basis of any mysterious factors. Rather, it is only possible if during your life in this world you were able to cultivate a personality based on divine qualities.
Paradise is a land of the true, of people who have lived in and by the truth. In this world, these people are being selected for entry into Paradise after they die. Those who prove themselves to be true alone will be considered eligible for being settled in the eternal world of Paradise.
Towards the Most Noble Companion
The Quran (66:11) says that when the ruler of ancient Egypt issued an order to kill his wife, Asiya, who was a believer, she prayed to God thus:
My Lord, build me a house in nearness to You in Paradise and save me from Pharaoh and his misdeeds. Save me from all evil-doers.
These are the words of prayer of a common believer. This same prayer issued from the lips of the Prophet of Islam in his last moments in these words: Allahumma, ar-Rafiq al-Ala. It means, “O God, the Most Noble Companion!”
These two prayers are, in essence, synonymous. The first prayer is in the words of a common believer, and the second are the words of prayer that came from a prophet.
These two prayers are actually an expression of the feelings of a true believer about death. This means that when death arrives, a true believer’s emotions are reflected in prayers such as these. At this moment, a true believer feels that when he leaves behind everyone he knew in this world, he will attain closeness with God Almighty; that on abandoning the company of fellow men, he will be blessed with attendance in the assembly of angels; that when death separates him from his people, he will not be alone, but, rather, will have the most noble companionship of God—and so, for him death will become a journey from a lesser companionship with humans towards a higher companionship with God.
The above-mentioned prayers are not mere words. They are the expression of the inner yearnings of a true believer. A true believer seeks that the stage of life that comes after death should be better for him than the one that death has finished off for him. In this world, he was blessed with many things from God. These were on a temporary basis. Now, he hopes that in the world after death, he will receive loftier blessings from God, as an eternal reward. He hopes that death will become for him an exit from this imperfect world and an entry into a perfect one.