EVEN THOUGH A certainty of life and one of its most relevant questions, death is a subject many people do not like to think or talk about—especially in cultures founded on materialism.
Usually, it is lack of faith in the Hereafter and ignorance of what happens after death that causes people to not want to talk about death and its implications.
However, the reason I want to talk about death here goes beyond misunderstanding and fearing of death.
I once read in a science magazine an article suggesting that the recent huge research leap in the area of life sciences have made some scientists hope that a combination of nutritional supplements; biotechnology and nanotechnology may extend life such that humans can live forever.
Even though I tend to support all kind of scientific research, I think that pursuing this type of research is pointless and fruitless. Assuming that such goal is possible, who would want to live forever? Even if one possesses health and wealth, life is so full of changes and difficulties; living forever would be just unbearable.
Since the Quran and the Sunnah encourage Muslims to contemplate and talk about death because that
helps us prepare for it and puts life in the right perspective, I would like to briefly mention two aspects of death that are important for all—especially young—Muslims to realize:
One: Allah says,
Every soul shall taste of death. [Surat Al ‘Imran, 3:185]
And it is for this reason that every one of the 20 billion humans who have ever lived has died—except for one person, Jesus (Whose death is yet to come). So the outlook for this research does not bode well. Death, we must remember, is one of the factors that differentiate the Creator from the creation and it will continue to be so.
Our worldly existence was never intended to be the main realm of life for us, humans. It is rather a place of test and trial. The real life lies ahead of us,
But the Hereafter is [the real] Life if only they knew. [Surat Al-‘Ankabut, 29:64]
In fact, the Quran explains that life is a continuum that is composed of five unique and non-interfering segments through which humans will transition from one segment to the next according to a predestined plan. In the first segment, a human begins as a part (an atom) of his/her father’s semen, in the second, man becomes a fetus in the womb of the mother, in the third he is a full human being, in the fourth, man lives as a soul in a world known as Al-Barzakh (A barrier life, after death and before resurrection), and in the fifth and endless segment, man lives in the Hereafter.
Death, therefore, is not necessarily a good or bad thing. Most importantly, death is not a punishment. It is simply a transition. Muslims should look at death as departure to a greater destiny; one that allows all humans, who try their best to meet the purpose of this worldly life, a real chance to go back to man’s original home, Paradise. Allah says,
We said, let all of you descend from there [Paradise]; but if guidance does indeed come to you from Me, then whoever follows My guidance will have nothing to fear and will not sorrow. [Surat Al-Baqarah, 2:39].
Two: We all know that deadlines help us get things done on time. And whether we know it or not, this life has no more certain and crucial deadline for us than death. And because our lives are limited and we
do not know when death will come, we better keep our purpose of this life clear and alive so that we can fulfill it before it’s too late.
To be prepared for the inevitable, we should start working for that deadline now. To be sure we stay steadfast as we move towards our goal and rework other priorities around it, we must remind ourselves of death as a crucial deadline.
Let us all learn and keep repeating the praises people will say when they enter Paradise:
Praise be to Allah, Who has guided us to this. We could not truly have been led aright if Allah had not guided us. Verily the messengers of our Lord did bring the truth. [Surat Al-‘Araf, 7:43]