1. Death -
The Situation of Those in This World and
The Hereafter Who Do Not Take Lessons from Death
Some people falsely believe that "Death is the moment life ends." However if these people could think a little further then they would comprehend that death is the moment the next life starts. This ill-informed outlook makes unbelievers compress everything they want into the very short time of this life. That is why, those who do not come to realize the truth of the hereafter want to make the most of this life without giving it a second thought. Not making a distinction between right and wrong, they seek to satisfy all their tastes in this world. This stance is essentially based upon the notion that death will put an end to all the joys and pleasures of this world. Believing that they still have long years ahead of them, they chase after long-term plans. This is one of the most classical methods employed by satan to deceive man. Allah reveals this "deceptive method" in the following verses:
Those who have turned back to unbelief after Allah's guidance has been revealed to them, are seduced by satan who has filled them with false hopes. (Surah Muhammad: 25)
He makes promises to them and fills them with false hopes. But what satan promises them is nothing but delusion. (Surat an-Nisa': 120)
Amassing fortune in this world as if life would last forever, unbelievers perceive life as a competition. All throughout their lives, they take pride in possessions and children. This pride gives them a sense of artificial superiority, which causes them to drift completely away from the thought of the hereafter. However, the following verses disclose where they are destined for because of this great delusion:
Do they imagine that, in the wealth and children We give to them, We are hastening to them with good things? No indeed, but they have no awareness! (Surat al-Muminun: 55-56)
Do not let their wealth and children impress you. Through them Allah merely wants to punish them during their life in the world and for them to expire while they are unbelievers. (Surat at-Tawba: 55)
Allah gives man many warnings and messages to make him ponder upon death and the hereafter. In one verse, Allah draws attention to the trials given as a warning to man:
Do they not see that they are tried once or twice in every year? But still they do not turn back. They do not pay heed. (Surat at-Tawba: 126)
Indeed, the majority of people encounter various trials, so that they may frequently ask for forgiveness and take heed. These may take place very rarely, once or twice in a year, as stated in the verse. Alternatively, they may be small, daily troubles. Man witnesses accidents, deaths or injuries. In the face of such events, man should remember that calamities can at any time befall him and at any moment his testing period may end. Such an awareness makes one sincerely turn to Allah, seek refuge in Him and ask for forgiveness from Him.
The lessons believers draw from the adversity they encounter are abiding. Yet, the same events have a totally different impact on unbelievers. Being terrified by the thought of death, unbelievers turn their backs on the reality of death or simply try to forget it. In doing this, they seek relief. However, this deceptive method only does them harm. That is because Allah "reprieves them till a predetermined time" and this period, contrary to what they think, works against them. (Surat an-Nahl: 61) In the Qur'an Allah says:
Those who are unbelievers should not imagine that the extra time We grant to them is for their good. We only allow them more time so they will increase their evil-doing. They will have a humiliating punishment. (Surah Al 'Imran: 178)
A heedless person, who does not take a lesson even when death befalls someone very close to him, becomes very sincere towards his Creator, when he himself encounters death. This psychology is related in the Qur'an as follows:
It is He Who guides them on both land and sea so that, when some of them are in a boat, running before a fair wind, rejoicing at it, and then a violent squall comes upon them and the waves come at them from every side and they realize there is no way of escape, they call on Allah, making their religion sincerely His: 'If You rescue us from this, we will truly be among the thankful.' (Surah Yunus: 22)
However upon deliverance, these people return to their initial heedless state. Forgetting their promise, they display a low and false attitude and, while doing this, never feel the slightest pangs of conscience. Yet, this falsity will be evidence against them on the Day of Judgment:
But then, when He does rescue them, they become rebellious in the land without any right to do so. Mankind, your rebelliousness is only against yourselves. Take your enjoyment in the life of the world and then you will return to Us and We will inform you about what you did. (Surah Yunus: 23)
Frantically, man re-attempts to do the same at the moment of death. Yet, the time predetermined for him is already over:
When death comes to one of them, he says, 'My Lord, send me back again. so that perhaps I may act rightly regarding the things I failed to do!' No indeed! It is just words he utters. Before them there is an interspace until the Day they are raised up. (Surat al-Muminun: 99-100)
We see that the unbelievers persist with this attitude even before Allah. This is revealed in the Qur'an as such:
If only you could see the evil-doers hanging their heads in shame before their Lord: 'Our Lord, we have seen and we have heard, so send us back again and we will act rightly. Truly, we are now firm believers.' ...(It will be said to them): 'So taste this. Because you forgot the meeting of this Day, We have forgotten you too. Taste the eternal punishment for your misdeeds.' (Surat as-Sajda: 12-14)
The same unyielding efforts will continue also in hell:
There they will cry out: 'Our Lord! take us out! We will act rightly, differently from the way we used to act!' 'Did We not let you live long enough for anyone who was going to pay heed to pay heed? And did not the warner come to you? Taste this then! There is no helper for the wrongdoers. (Surat al-Fatir: 37)
These hopeless strivings in the hereafter and the painful end are surely the results of man's scant acknowledgement of the actual purpose of his existence on earth and of his value. One who has no faith does not take lessons from the happenings around him, does not listen to the warnings sent by Allah, feigns ignorance of the voice of his conscience or flouts it, and sees death as an unlikely event for himself. He complies with the wishes of the wicked side of his soul rather than seeking Allah's pleasure. All these eventually pave the way for death to seize him suddenly and make him fall into the desperate situation depicted in the above verses. Thus, before death comes upon one, one should wake up from the deep sleep of heedlessness, since the moment of death is too late for such a recovery. People are warned in the Qur'an against this:
Give from what We have provided for you before death comes to one of you and he says, 'My Lord, if only you would give me a little more time so that I can give alms and be one of the righteous!' But Allah will not give anyone more time, once their time has come. Allah is aware of what you do. (Surat al-Munafiqun: 10-11)
A person with wisdom should constantly dwell upon death rather than keep avoiding the thought of it. Only thus can he act in compliance with Allah's will and prevent the wicked side of his soul and satan from deceiving him with this fleeting life. Indeed, making the life of this world one's only goal is the greatest danger for people. Our Prophet (saas) also reminded the believers of this with his supplication "let not worldly affairs be our greatest care of all that we know about. " (Narrated by Abdullah ibn Umar, Al-Tirmidhi, 783)
Getting Prepared for Death
This world is a place where man is being trained. Allah charged man with many responsibilities in this world and informed him about the limits He has set for him. Provided that man observes these limits, complies with His orders and avoids prohibited acts, he will attain personal maturity and a better state of wisdom and awareness. With such attributes, a believer shows inexhaustible patience no matter what befalls him; he turns only to Allah and seeks help only from Him. These are the ways to revere Allah and to feel an inner submission to and an unbounded faith in Him. Realizing the actual worth of favors bestowed by Allah, he expresses a deeper gratefulness to Allah and feels closer to Him. Consequently, he becomes an ideal believer endowed with the superior attributes of wisdom and morality. Furthermore, he becomes the type of person deserving to attain paradise, a place of perfection.
Man continues to be tested by countless events befalling him; his success in dealing with them earns him rewards in his eternal life, while his failure earns him punishment. Nobody knows when his period of testing will be over. In the words of the Qur'an, "the term of every life is fixed." (Surah Al 'Imran: 145) This term can sometimes be long, but can also sometimes be short. The truth is, however, that even the period we regard as being long rarely extends beyond 7 or 8 decades.
That is why, rather than engage in making long-term plans, man has to be guided by the Qur'an and the sunnah of our Prophet (saas) and live by their principles, knowing that he will give an account of all his deeds in the hereafter. Otherwise, failure to prepare oneself for the eternal life, missing the one and only opportunity granted for this purpose, and deserving hell for all eternity will be a painful situation indeed. That is why, every moment spent in vain in this world is a great loss and a giant step taken towards an atrocious end.
Since this is so, this fact should take precedence over everything else in this world. Just as a person prepares himself for the possible situations which he will confront in the course of his life, one needs to devote similar and even greater efforts, to be prepared for the next life. Everyone will experience everything which will happen after death all alone. To those seeking eternal salvation, Allah commands the following:
You who have faith! Have fear of Allah and let each self look to what it has sent forward for tomorrow. Have fear of Allah. Allah is aware of what you do. Do not be like those who have forgotten Allah, so that He has made them forget themselves. Such people are evil-doers. (Surat al-Hashr: 18-19)