The Angel of Death Series:
A short synopsis by Ustadh Muhammad Al Shareef
Usaamah ibn Zayd radi Allahu anhu narrated in a hadith collected by Bukhari and Muslim that a woman sent a message to the Prophet sal Allaahu alayhi wa sallam that her son was dying and that he should come to visit her. The Prophet sal Allaahu alayhi wa sallam sent a message back to her saying:
“To Allah belongs whatever he takes, and to Him belongs what He gives. Everything to Him has a decreed life, so be patient and seek the reward with Allah."
She sent a message back with an oath that he sal Allaahu alayhi wa sallam must come in person to visit her. So he sal Allaahu alayhi wa sallam went to her home with Sa’d ibn Ubaadah, Mu’aadh ibn Jabal, Ubayy ibn Ka’b, Zayd ibn Thabit, and others. At her home, the young boy was given to the Prophet sal Allaahu alayhi wa sallam, with his breathing faltering. The eyes of the Prophet sal Allaahu alayhi wa sallam welled up with tears. Seeing the Prophet crying, Sa’d said to him, “What is this O Messenger of Allah?”
RasulAllah sal Allaahu alayhi wa sallam replied, “This is mercy which Allah has placed in the hearts of His servants. And indeed it is to only the merciful of His servants that Allah gives mercy.”
When death hits close to home, especially to young ones, many questions arise, especially from their young friends. One of those questions is, “How do we say goodbye?”
Ibn Al-Qayyim wrote in his book Zaad al-Ma’aad about the blessed guidance of the Prophet sal Allaahu alayhi wa sallam at times of death. He wrote:
“It was from the blessed guidance of RasulAllah sal Allaahu alayhi wa sallam to convey his condolences to the family of the deceased. It was not from his blessed guidance to gather people to give condolences, nor was it his blessed guidance to recite Qur’an at the grave, nor away from the gravesite. All of this is bid’ah, innovation, and shunned. From his blessed guidance is his tranquility and acceptance of Allah’s decree, thanking Allah and holding back from saying things unbefitting. He, sal Allaahu alayhi wa sallam, disowned himself from those that rip their clothes due to the calamity, or raise their voices in a wail, or those that shave their head because of the situation.”
Where do our youth normally learn about the concept of love? For the answer, all you need to do is look over the top music charts. A look at the billboard charts shows examples such as, Love Don’t Cost a Thing, What’s Luv, He Loves You Not, and others. These are just the titles, not to speak of the content of the songs, in addition to the TV shows, movies and everything in-between. So it would seem that America is teaching us the concept of love.
When was the last time you heard an Islamic halaqa about the concept of love in Islam? It was probably not recently. Thus, we can safely say that Allah and His Messenger do not dictate to us many of the concepts of love that we harbor in our minds based on American pop-culture.
Allah ta’ala says:
Close friends, that Day, will be enemies to each other (Az-Zukhruf 43/67).
We hear in the music and movies and sitcoms that ‘our hearts will live forever’ with the deceased. This is incorrect, as Allah ta’aala says:
Every time a nation enters, it will curse its sister until, when they have all overtaken one another therein, the last of them (the followers) will say about the first of them (the leaders), “Our Lord, they have misled us, so give them a double punishment of the fire.” He will say, “For each is double, but you do not know.” / … Indeed those who deny Our verses and are arrogant toward them – the gates of heaven will not be opened for them, nor will they enter Paradise until a camel enters into the eye of a needle (i.e. never). And thus do We pay back the criminals (Al-A’raf 7/38-40).
If a friendship was ever made for other then the sake of Allah, then that friendship ends at death. There is no ‘heart that lives on after death’.
But if you have ever loved someone because they said la ilaaha illAllah Muhammad ur RasulAllah, then your friendship will not end at death! Completing the above verse Allah ta’aala says:
Close friends, that Day, will be enemies to each other, except for the righteous (Az-Zukhruf 43/67)!
And on the Day of Judgement, of the seven types of people who will find shade from the horrific heat will be two people who loved one another only for the sake of Allah. Imagine that in the hardest time of your life, if you loved someone for the sake of Allah, they will be saved hand-in-hand with you.
Do all good things will to an end? It’s a good question. Summers come to an end, ice creams come to an end, interesting khutbahs come to an end. So what’s the answer? Allah ta’aala says:
Whatever you have will end, but what Allah has is lasting. And We surely give those who were patient their reward according to the best of what they used to do (An-Nahl 16/96).
There are things that help us in times of sadness:
1. During times of sadness, Allah wants us to come back and reflect upon the Qur’an. He revealed it for us to contemplate over. The believer will find tranquility for his or her heart in it.
2. Whatever happens, when someone is patient and says the du’a that the Prophet sal Allaahu alayhi wa sallam taught us, that person will be blessed with something better. The du’a is as follows:
Inna lillaahi wa inna ilayhi raaji’oon. Allaahumma ‘jurnee fee museebatee, wakhluf lee khayrun minh (To Allah we belong and unto Him is our return. O Allah, recompense me for my affliction and replace it for me with something better).
Umm Salamah radi Allahu anha, the narrator of this du’a, loved her husband very much. When he died she stated, “I was firm to say the du’a, but I thought to myself, how could I get anything better than Abu Salamah? Allah answered my du’a and I married the Messenger of Allah! And he is better then Abu Salamah.”
For those who have had a child die, take glad tidings in the following hadith. Abu Moosa al-Ash’aree radi Allaahu anhu narrates that Allah’s Messenger sal Allaahu alayhi wa sallam said:
“If the child of a servant (of Allah) dies, Allah questions the angels, ‘Have you taken the life of my servant’s child?’
“The angels reply, ‘Yes.’”
“Allah then asks them, ‘Have you taken the fruit of his heart?’”
“The angels reply, ‘Yes.’”
“Then Allah asks them, ‘What did my servant say?’”
“They reply, ‘He praised you and refrained (from saying anything unbefitting).’”
“At that Allah will say, ‘Build a home for my slave in Jannah and call it Bayt-ul-Hamd (The Home of Thankfulness).’”
Umar radi Allaahu anhu said, “We found the best of our provision to be patience.”
PART II: Towards Patience
The term al-Qadaa’ wal qadr is so easily inadequately translated. Some have translated it as pre-destiny or decree. I came across a book once in Madinah though, that cleverly translated the term qadr as pre-recording.
This is a translation we can all understand, especially with our TV culture. Everything that happens to us is pre-recorded with Allah ta’aala, and nothing can happen except by His will and knowledge.
When a death befalls someone, it is permissible to cry (without wailing) and to feel sadness in the heart. When the son of Rasul Allah sal Allaahu alayhi wa sallam was dying, he held his small body in his hand and began crying. The Sahaabah who saw him crying inquired, “What are these tears, O Messenger of Allah?”
He sal Allaahu alayhi wa sallam replied, “The eye cries, and the heart is saddened, but we do not say anything other then that which is pleasing to our Lord, and we, indeed O Ibraheem [my son], are saddened by our separation from you.”
However, we have picked up things from the culture of the non-Muslims, things that we do not find in the tradition dictated to us by the Lord of the worlds. For example:
1. To wear black specifically to honor the deceased.
2. Institutionalizing the placing of flowers at the site of the grave.
3. To lower a national flag in honor of the deceased.
4. There is no mention of a ‘moment-of-silence’ in our Deen.
5. There is no mention of Qur’an Khanis (gathering people to recite Qur’an for the deceased) in the Sunnah of Muhammad sal Allaahu alayhi wa sallam. All goodness is in following the guidance of our Prophet.
6. There is no mention of gathering people 40 days after the death to recite Qur’an for the deceased.
7. There is no mention of having an annual gathering where guests recite the Qur’an for the deceased.
8. There is no mention in the Sunnah of collectively reciting Surat Al-Fatiha for the deceased.
So then what should we do?
1. We should hasten to pay off the debts of the deceased.
2. We should give our condolences to the family of the deceased. This could be done in the masjid, at the gravesite, at their homes, etc. But excessively long gatherings at the deceased’s home should not be encouraged.
3. We should make food for the family of the deceased and not burden them with having to make food for the entire community.
4. We should all attend the funeral prayer and, for men, follow the funeral to the gravesite. The women should not follow, as Umm Salamah said, “We were forbidden from following the funeral processions.”
5. We may give sadaqah on behalf of the deceased, and we may perform Hajj on their behalf.
6. Above all, we should make du’a, a lot of du’a, for the deceased. This is what the Prophet sal Allaahu alayhi wa sallam taught us. Du’a is made for the deceased in the funeral prayer and should continue to be made. There is the dadith about the servant’s actions being cut off except from three things, one of which is, “… a pious child that makes du’a for (the deceased).”
Abu Hurayrah radi Allaahu anhu narrated that Allah’s Messenger sal Allaahu alayhi wa sallam said to a group of Ansari women:
“There is no woman amongst you who has three children of hers die, yet she is patient, hoping for the reward from Allah, except that she shall enter Jannah.”
So a woman amongst them asked, “What about two children, O Messenger of Allah?”
He replied, “Even two.”
May Allah ta’aala increase our reward and perfect our patience if we are tested with the death of a loved one.