I am filled with amazement when I look at someone who knows that death is an inevitable reality waiting to happen, yet he is so heedlessly hypnotized by the ‘beauty’ of this world which will soon come to an end.
Know that the loser is the one who gets fully absorbed by the love of this world, its delusion and trifles. His heart becomes unaware of the fact that one day he will bid this world farewell. Though he may remember death on some rare occasions, he still despises it more than accepts it, and he does all that he can to get over confronting its inevitability.
In the aspect of remembering death, people are of three distinct categories:
al-munhamik (one whose mind is fully taken by the love of this world),
al-ta’ib (one who just repented), and
al-arif al-muntabih (one who knows Allah well and is constantly alert)
As for the first one –the person whose mind is preoccupied by this world– barely remembers death. And if ever he does, it is only because he hates it so much and wishes that death would never overtake him.
In the second case, the person who just turned toward his Lord in repentance, he reminds himself of death quite frequently as a way to keep himself in check. It also fills his heart with more fear of Allah. And even though he may dislike death, it is only because he is so afraid he will die before putting forth some good deeds that he is not considered to be among the ones who dislike meeting Allah by the fact that he merely hates death.
The third one is the situation of the one whose heart is filled with the love of Allah and never fails to remind himself of death, knowing that death will trigger the time when he will meet his Beloved One: Allah. How can such person ever forget about this great moment? All in all, death is quite the reminder for those who truly believe in this verse,
Wherever you are, death will find you out, even if you are in towers built up strong and high! [Sûrat Al-Nisâ’, 4:78]
The Messenger of Allah advised his ummah to remember death and keep it in mention,
Remember more often the destroyer of pleasures: death. (Tirmidhi)
In another hadîth narrated by Ibn ¢Umar, the Prophet œ was asked about who among the believers are more sagacious, to which his answer was,
Those who remember death quite often and do their best while preparing for its upcoming, those indeed are the most sagacious.
Al-Hassan Al-Basri said,
Death has exposed this world and has left for the discerning believer no room to enjoy it and be mesmerized by its deceptive ornaments. There is no servant who constantly remembers death except that the world and all that’s in it become meaningless in his eyes.
It was said that anytime death was mentioned in the presence of ¢Abdullâh ibn ¢Umar, his body would shiver. He used to gather a group of scholars and they would start to talk about death and weep bitterly.
Hâmid Al-Qaysari used to admonish people saying,
We all are quite certain about death, yet we prepare nothing for it. We all are quite certain about Paradise, yet the workers for it are but a few. We all are certain about hellfire, yet only a handful of people are afraid of it. What is it that you all are so happy about? And what is it you all are awaiting? Death? Its arrival is unquestionable. It will be the first comer from Allah to you. It will either bring you that which is good or otherwise. My brothers in Allah, beware!
The danger of death is quite immense, and people have become heedless of it only because most of them are deeply engaged in the pleasures of this world, and because death has become the least mentioned thing in their gatherings and conversations. Some will mention it while their consciousness is absent, that is why they end up not benefiting a bit by its remembrance.
One should remember death with a heart fully aware and the best way to do so is to ponder about those who have gone on before. Think about their wealth and power that was of no avail to them at the time of death. Think how they are now lying all by themselves in the darkness of the grave. ¢Abdullâh ibn Mas¢ûd said,
The successful one is he who was admonished by others (who went on before).
Abû Al-Dardâ’ used to say,
“When dead people are being mentioned, count yourself among them.”
In addition, one should pay sporadic visits to the grave yard and face his own future reality. He must remember that no matter how much we love a thing from this world, the time will certainly come when we are compelled to leave it behind and remember what Jibrîl said to our beloved Prophet œ,
Love you what you want, you will depart from it.
Most importantly, one should quit being the procrastinator that he is, by putting things off. ¢Abdullâh ibn ¢Umar narrated,
The Prophet took hold of my shoulders and said to me: ‘Be in this world as though you are a traveler or a wayfarer.’
Ibn ¢Umar used to say,
‘When you survive till the evening, do not expect to live until the morning. And when you survive till the morning do not expect to live until the evening. Do good deeds while in good health before you fall sick and while you are alive –before death strikes.’ (Bukhâri)
Know that one of the obstacles that hinder us from the remembrance of death is running after the false expectations of this life and forgetting that death can strike anytime. That death does not know any season and does not go by location, gender, race or age. That death does not notify any of us of its arrival.
Allah tells us in the Quran,
Nor does any soul know in what land it is to die. [Sûrat Luqmân, 31:34]