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Sunset. Recess. Home. Death.


The four words above all signify the end of an
event. Yet, the final word is often viewed
much more negatively than the first three.
Death is usually associated with terrible pain,
sadness and loss. It is the opposite of a
soothing sunset, a relaxing school recess and
the comfort of coming home.
Is death horrible? And must it be that way?
Indeed, death can be painful and not even the
prophets were spared from its agonies. On his
deathbed, Prophet Muhammad (peace be
upon him) reportedly said to his daughter
‘Your father will suffer no more agony after
this day. There has come to your father that
which no one can avoid, the death that
everyone will encounter until the Day of
But death will be excruciating for disbelievers;
those who squandered their lives by ignoring
God’s messages. The angel of death will take
away their souls in a severe manner, as
described in the Qur’an: ‘And if you could but
see when the angels take the souls of those
who disbelieved… They are striking their faces
and their backs and [saying], “Taste the
punishment of the Burning Fire.”’ ( 8:50 )
Similarly, the ‘waiting room’ that is our grave,
referred to in the Qur’an as the ‘barzakh’, will
seem very menacing to these people. They will
beg God to return them to their previous
living state. The Qur’an puts forth their appeal
in the following verse in The Believers:
‘[For such is the state of the disbelievers],
until, when death comes to one of them, he
says, “My Lord, send me back that I might
do righteousness in that which I left behind.”
No! It is only a word he is saying; and
behind them is a barzakh (barrier) until the
Day they are resurrected.’ (23:99-100 )
On the contrary, when a good servant of Allah
departs from this Earth, the angel of death
will make sure that his or her soul is treated
with the utmost care (6:61 ). The soul will
leave the body easily and greeted by angels of
the heavens and the Earth with a greeting of
peace: “Peace be upon you. Enter Paradise for
what you used to do.” (16:32 )
For those who stray, the arrival of the angel
of death is a painful and distressing event.
But to the faithful and righteous servants of
Allah, death comes with good tidings
Such a beautiful end is promised to each and
every soul who believed in God and spent his
or her life on the righteous path, for example
those who were killed while fighting in Allah’s
cause ( 3:169 ).
In short, for those who stray, the arrival of
the angel of death is a painful and distressing
event. But to the faithful and righteous
servants of Allah, death comes with good
The good will enter their graves feeling like a
child that comes home to its mother’s
embrace: comforted, safe and loved. They will
eagerly wait for the moment of meeting with
their Creator, so much so that God sends
them a note of consolation, as a reminder
that life is temporary:
From the earth We created you, and into it
We will return you, and from it We will
extract you another time. (20:55)
The question now is, are we prepared for our
When death visits us, our laundry list of
earthly concerns will not matter anymore. We
will all return to God in largely the same
state: lifeless and without any possessions.
Our beloved family and friends will bid
farewell to us outside our last home: a hole in
the ground, with zero lighting and no space to
But let us be reminded that death is not the
end of life.
Belief in life after death is fundamental in
Islam, because only with the existence of the
afterlife can true justice be served –
murderers, thieves, rapists and child
molesters who got away, tyrants who
oppressed many, and unsung heroes of this
temporary world. The Qur’an declares:
‘Every soul will taste death, and you will only
be given your [full] compensation on the Day
of Resurrection.’ (3:185)
As soon as we enter the grave, two formidable
angels – Munkar and Nakir will reportedly
come to question us. This is why when
someone passed away during the Prophet’s
time, Rasulullah (peace be upon him) used to
stand for awhile at the burial site and say,
‘Ask Allah to grant to your brother forgiveness
and firmness (of words), because he is being
questioned at this moment.’
Indeed, inside the grave these angels will
reportedly make the departed soul sit up in
the grave to answer these questions:
‘Who is your Lord?’
‘What is your religion?’
‘Who is that man who was sent to you?’
Note that at this point in time, our IQ level,
eloquence or the number of languages that we
speak in this world will be inconsequential.
Only Allah (Exalted and Glorified is He) can
help us to answer these questions:
‘Allah keeps firm those who believe, with the
firm word, in worldly life and in the
Hereafter. And Allah sends astray the
wrongdoers. And Allah does what He wills.’
Guided by God, the believer will firmly
‘My Lord is Allah.’
‘My religion is Islam. I adhered to it, read
Allah’s Book, believed and obeyed it.’
‘That man was Muhammad, the Messenger of
The angels will test the soul by asking the
same questions once again, to which the same
answers will come forth. Then, a call from the
heavens will announce:
‘My servant has spoken the truth, so spread
out carpets from the Garden for him and
open a gate of the Garden for him!’
A door to heaven will open for the believer to
see the grandeur and beauties that await her
in Paradise. Her grave will be illuminated and
made spacious, while a pleasant person
appears to give her company during her
waiting hours. This person is the believer’s
good deeds, and together they eagerly wait
for the Day of Resurrection.
On the other hand, misery awaits the soul of
the disbeliever. Try as he might, he will not be
able to answer the angels’ questions. A voice
from above will then declare:
‘My servant has lied, so spread out carpets
from the Fire for him and open a gate of the
Fire for him!’
From his grave, the soul will clearly see the
fire that is his final abode, feel its heat and
smell its stench. His grave will contract and
engulf him with darkness. His bad deeds will
show up on his side as a hideous, foul-
smelling person. In this condition, the soul
will spend his long and torturous days until
the Day of Judgement. Every morning and
evening he will be shown his final resting
place again and again:
‘The Fire, they are exposed to it morning and
evening.’ (40:46)
May we be among those guided ones who will
be spared from this unbearable punishment of
the grave. Let us strive that upon our deaths,
we will be one of the souls mentioned in this
following verse:
‘[To the righteous it will be said], “O reassured
soul, return to your Lord, well-pleased and
pleasing [to Him], and enter among My
[righteous] servants, eand enter My Paradise.”’

Afia is a columnist for Aquila Style.


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