Anxiety and preparation for death and the afterlife

When a person looks at the order of the universe with the eye of discernment he realises that the issue that he should be most concerned with is the fact of death.

Almighty Allahhas said:

“Everyone on it will pass away”.(Ar Rahman, 55:26).

“Every self shall taste death”.(Anbiya, 21:35).

How strange it is that people – visitors in this world for two or three days – (yet) delude themselves. Though they watch scenes of death every day, yet do they see death as being distant from themselves. They think they are the absolute possessors of the fleeting trust which it is possible they will lose at every instant. Whereas every person, on entering this world, has his soul clothed in a body and is destined to travel the path to death. He has entered the preparatory realm for that path but he fails to remember this.  Then the day arrives when his spirit is separated from his body. In the grave, which is the door to the hereafter, he is farewelled to another great journey. Allah Most High says:

“When We grant long life to people, We return them to their primal state. So will you not use your intellect? (Do they not perceive this journey and take heed from it”.(Yasin, 36:68).

The principle aim of this worldly life for mankind is to live a life of servant hood that Allah is pleased with and to thereby gain eternal happiness. The Messenger of Allah has said:

“The intelligent person is the one who does not yield to the desires and whims of their nafs and who prepares for what is to come after death…” (Tirmidhi, Qiyamah, 25/2459).

How beautifully the late Najip Fazil expressed this:

“O niggardly (merchant), sew yourself a different money-bag”.

And save up whatever currency is valid in the grave!”…

Life is like the drops that fill up a glass of water. The clarity of the glass depends on how clear the drops are. The last drop to fill the glass is the person’s last breath.

It is stated in a hadith:

“Whoever’s last words in life are ‘La ilaha illallah’ will enter Paradise”. (Abu Dawud, Janaiz, 15-16/3116; Hakim, I, 503).

That is, the one who eliminates unnecessary whims, pleasures and carnal desires from their heart and fills it with love of Allah and continues in this way living a spiritual life until their last moment, will, it is hoped, migrate from this world with faith and enter Paradise. Because it is very difficult for a person who leads a different life to say ‘la ilaha illallah’ at the last breath. The Messenger of Allah (pbuh) said:

A person dies as they live and will be raised up as they died”. (See Muslim, Jannah, 83; Munawi, V, 663).

A person’s last breath is like a clear mirror, free of mist. A person will know themselves most accurately at their last breath. The account of their life will be displayed before their heart and their eyes. This is why there is no scene more cautionary than the point of death.

The Prophet (pbuh) said:

“According to one’s deeds, the grave is either a garden from the gardens of Paradise or a pit from the pits of hell”.(Tirmidhi, Qiyamah, 26/2460).

Thus it is vital that we prepare well our numbered breaths for the last breath that we will take if we want to leave this mortal world as a good slave and to make our grave a garden from the gardens of Paradise. A prosperous and guided worldly life, embellished with righteous deeds, is a must for a happy afterlife.

Almighty Allah has said:

“And worship your Lord until what is Certain comes to you”. (Hijr, 15:99).

Those special slaves who live their lives in this way, with love for Allah and His Messenger and who adorns them with righteous deeds – through the grace of Allah- will migrate with the spiritual peace of the ‘statement of witnessing’[1] in their last moments. In contrast, those unfortunate ones who are deceived by the fleeting, relative and carnal attractions on this earth and who weaken their spiritual characteristics will, in the majority of cases, die according to how they lived their lives and will be subject to loss and abasement and contempt under the earth.

The Messenger of Allah (pbuh) said as a warning to his community:

There is nobody who will die and not feel regret”.

“What is that regret o Messenger of Allah” he was asked.

The Prophet replied:

“If the one who dies is a good person (a possessor of goodness and righteousness) then he will regret not increasing this state of his; if the person is bad, he will regret not giving up his evil and reforming himself”. (Tirmidhi, Zuhd, 59/2403).

Almighty Allah warns his slaves in this matter:

“O you who have faith! Do not let your wealth or children divert you from the remembrance of Allah. Whoever does that is lost. 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  charity and be one of the righteous people!” Allah will not give anyone more time, once their time has come. Allah is aware of what you do” (Munafiquun, verses 9-11)

In short, our death and our lives in the grave which will continue until the Day of Judgement will take shape according to the state of our worldly life and our deeds.

How beautifully Jaluluddin Al Rumi has expressed it:

“My son, each person’s death is the colour of their own self. For those who abhor death and who are enemies to it, not realising that it is a reunion with Allah, death appears like a frightening enemy. For those who are friends with death, it appears as a friend.

O soul that fears and flees from death! If you want the truth of the matter it is not death that you fear, but rather your own self.

Because what it is that you see and thus fear and shiver about in the mirror of death is not the appearance of death but your own ugly appearance. Your spirit is like a tree. And death is like the leaves of the tree. Each leaf is according to the type of tree (it is on)…”

Thus death becomes attractive depending on how much one beautifies one’s life with righteous deeds.

Scenes of Virtue

Abdullah bin Omar  narrates: “I was once with the Messenger of Allah (pbuh). A man from the Ansar came to Allah’s Messenger, greeted him and asked:

“O Messenger of Allah! Who is the most virtuous of the believers?” The Prophet replied:

The one who has the best character”. This time the man asked:

“Well, who is the most intelligent of the believers?”The Prophet replied:

The one who remembers death the most and who prepares for what’s to come after it in the best way. That is true intelligence”. (Ibn-I Majah, Zuhd, 31).

***

Bara  narrates:

“We were once with the Messenger of Allah (pbuh) at a funeral prayer. The Prophet (pbuh) sat next to the grave and began to cry such that the earth around him became wet with his tears. Then he said:

O my brothers! Prepare well for death (which is to befall us all)”. (Ibni Majah, Zuhd, 19).

***

Omar  ordered one of his servants to repeat the following sentence to him everyday:

“O Omar! Do not forget death”. However when some white hairs appeared in his beard he said to his servant:

“That will do. My white beard is now a reminder of death for me at every instant”.

In truth we must not forget our mortality. We must remember death in order to control the desires of our soul.

***

The Prophet Muhammad (pbuh) has informed us of certain scenes from the grave, the Day of Judgement and the afterlife in order for us to reflect and take heed and to prepare for our last breath, for death, and for what’s to come after death. Some of these are described below:

When a Muslim enters the throes of death, the angels of mercy appear before him with a silk white dress and say:

“Exit from your body, pleased with your Lord and your Lord pleased with you. Reunite with the mercy of Allah and the sweetest of scents and your Lord who has no anger towards you”.

The spirit then leaves the body accompanied by the most beautiful of musk scents. The angels hand him back and forth until they bring him to the gates of heaven and it is said:

“How beautiful is this smell that has come with you from the earth”. Then they take him to the other believing spirits. These believing spirits are more pleased with his coming than one of you would be if he found something that he had lost. They ask him:

“What happened to so and so? What happened to so and so?” That is, they ask about those left behind in the world. Some of the spirits answer (about one of those who has been asked about):

“Leave him alone. He has buried himself in the anxiety of the world”. Then the newly arrived spirit asks:

“So and so died. Did not he come to you?” They answer:

“Is that so? In that case, he has gone where he was supposed to, he has been taken to the Fire.

When a non-believer enters the throes of death, the angels of punishment appear with an ugly dress made of fine bristles and say:

“Leave this body, angry yourself and having drawn the wrath of Allah upon you and run to the punishment of Allah”.

Then the spirit leaves with the worst of smells. The angels bring it to the gate of the earth and say:

“How bad is this smell!” Then they take him to the other unbelieving spirits”. (Nasai, Jenaiz, 9).

***

Allah’s Messenger has informed us:

“On the Day of Judgement the son of Adam will be brought like a lamb and stood before Allah and Allah Most High will say to him:

“I gave you plenty of bounty and property. I showered you with such favours and blessings. What did you do in return?” He will say:

“O my Lord, I amassed it, I increased it, I left it behind in a much greater quantity than it was. Let me go back to the world and bring it back to You”.

Allah Most High will say:

“First show me what you have sent on for your afterlife”. He will say again:

“O my Lord, I amassed it, I increased it, I left it behind in a much greater quantity than it was. Let me go back to the world and bring it back to You”.

This is because this slave had not sent forth anything worth any good. And this is why he will be thrown into the hellfire”.(Tirmidhi, Qiyamah, 6/2427).

And so those people who have wasted the life of this world in heedlessness and have not made any preparations for the hereafter will meet with a dismal end. Almighty Allah informs us of this in the Holy Qur’an:

“But as for him whose record shall be given to him behind his back He will in time pray for utter destruction. But he will enter the blazing flame. Behold [in his earthly life], he lived joyfully among people of his own kind- for, behold, he never thought he would have to return to Allah”.(Inshiqaq, 84:10-14)

Another example of the grievous end of those who rely upon their worldly fortune, position, and power and become impertinent, and conceited and smug as a result is Qarun. Almighty Allah informs us of his story full of warning for us as follows:

“Qarun was one of the people of Musa but he lorded it over them. We gave him treasures, the keys alone to which were a heavy weight for a party of strong men. When his people said to him, “Do not gloat. Allah does not love people who gloat. Seek the abode of the afterlife with what Allah has given you, without forgetting your portion of the world. And do good as Allah has been good to you. And do not seek to cause corruption in the earth. Allah does not love corrupters”. He said, “I have only been given it because of knowledge I have”. Did he not know that before him Allah had destroyed generations with far greater strength than his and far more possessions? The evildoers will not be questioned about their sins. He went out among his people in his finery. Those who desired the life of the world said, “Oh! If only we had the same as Qarun has been given! What immense good fortune he possesses”. But those who had been given knowledge said, “Woe to you! Allah’s reward is better for those who have faith and act rightly. But only the steadfast will obtain it”. We caused the earth to swallow up both him and his house. There was no group to come to his aid, besides Allah, and he was not someone who is helped”(Qasas, 28:76-81)

The story of Qarun is a clear example of the end affair of those heedless people who depend on and are self-satisfied with their wealth and power in this world and who forget that one day they too will die.

***

One day the Prophet (pbuh) was asked:

“O Messenger of Allah! Will we be able to see our Lord on the Day of Judgement?” The Prophet asked them:

Do you ever have any difficulty in seeing the sun at noon on a cloudless day?

When they replied “no” he asked them again:

Do you need to push and shove each other when you want to see the moon on a cloudless night?”

When his companions again answered “No, O Messenger of Allah”, he said:

“I swear by the One who holds my soul in His hands that there will be no pushing and shoving when it comes to seeing your Lord. Just as when you don’t have to push and shove each other to see the sun and the moon. In this way the slave will come face to face with his servant. Allah Most High will ask:

“O so and so. Did I not favour you? Did I not make you lord over all creation  you? Did I not give you a wife? Did I not make the horse and the camel subservient to you? Did I not make you a leader, so that you could take one-fourth of the property from booty for yourself?” The slave will answer:

“Yes O Lord!”

 Allah Most High will then ask:

“So did you not think that you would ever meet me?”

The slave will answer:

“No o Lord!”

Allah Most High will then say:

“In that case now it is I who is overlooking you. Just as you forgot Me in the world”.

Then a second slave appears before Allah. Allah Most High asks him the same questions. Then He asks a third slave the same questions. Each time, the slave is forced to confirm what His Lord says each time.

Allah Most High then says:

“Did it never occur to you that you would meet with Me?” The slave replies:

“O My Lord! I believed in You, and in Your books, and in Your prophets. I prayed, I fasted, I gave charity!” To the best of his ability he sings praises of Allah Most High. Allah Exalted and Majestic is He says:

“In that case stop! A witness will now come against you”. The slave thinks to himself:

“Who will be a witness against me?” The slave’s mouth will be sealed. His thighbone, his flesh and his bones will be told: “Come now speak up”. His thighbone, flesh and bones will speak out and confess everything that the slave ever did. This is so the slave can not put up any excuses. This person is the hypocrite who has come up against the wrath of Allah”.(Muslim, Zuhd, 16).

How can the slave hide his sins in a court in which all of his limbs and the earth will be a witness against him? Thus must we live our lives with the utmost care and vigilance if we do not wish to be put to shame there.

***

The Messenger of Allah (pbuh) said:

“When the slave is placed in his grave and his close ones part from him – and he can hear their footsteps as they (walk away) – two angels appear before him. They sit him down and ask him:

“What did you use to think of Muhammad (pbuh)?” If the person asked is a believer he replies to this question as follows:

“I bear witness that he is Allah’s slave and Messenger!” They say to him:

“Look at your place in hell. Allah has transformed it into a garden from Paradise”. The man looks and sees both places. Then Allah opens up a window in his grave that looks onto Paradise.

If the deceased person is an unbeliever or a hypocrite, he replies to the angels” question as follows:

“I don’t know the person you are speaking of. I merely used to repeat what others were saying”. It will be said to him:

“You did not understand and you did not follow”.  Then he will be beaten between his ears with an iron rod. He will scream with such pain (from the rod) that all creatures near him (except for man and jinn) will hear him”.(Bukhari, Jenaiz, 68, 87; Muslim, Jannah, 70).

***

The Prophet Soloman, the son of the Prophet David u once passed by a farmer who was ploughing a field. The farmer said:

“Undoubtedly the family of David has been given great dominion”.

The wind transmitted these words to the ear of Soloman who immediately descended from his animal and walked towards the farmer:

“I walked over to you in order that you do not desire something that you cannot bear”. Then he continued his words:

“Glorification made by a slave that is acceptable to Allah Most High is undoubtedly better than all of the property and dominion given to the family of David”.

In truth, in this mortal world the good deeds that we do with sincerity will be our capital and happiness in the eternal realm. It is stated in a noble verse:

“You who have faith! Fear Allah and let each self look to what it has sent forward for Tomorrow. Fear Allah. Allah is aware of what you do”. (Hashr, 59:18)

***

There is no way to escape death. The only way out then is to prepare for it. The Messenger of Allah (pbuh) has said:

“The Prophet David u was very passionate in his efforts in his religion and was very particular about his honour. Whenever he left the house he would make sure to close the door securely so that no one could enter until he had returned. One day he left his house and closed his door… When David returned, he saw a man sitting in the middle of his house. He said to him:

“Who are you?” The man answered:

“I am the one who fears no king, nor are any veils an obstruction for me”. Hearing this, David said:

“In that case by Allah, you are the angel of death. Welcome by Allah’s command”.

A little while later his spirit was taken by the angel…”(Ahmad, II, 419).

This is the way that those who are always ready for death greet the Angel of Death, Azrail…

How beautifully the late Najip Fazil has expressed it:

(At that moment) in which the curtains rise and the curtains fall

The (skill) is to be able to say “Welcome Azrail”.

***

We should forward on the favours that Allah has bestowed upon us to the afterlife while we still have the chance and make preparations for the difficult and dire Day of Judgement. The following wise words of Abu Dharr  are a nice summary of the necessity and the way of preparing for death and what follows it.

“There are three shareholders in any piece of property. The first is the owner, that is, you. The second is fate. It does not ask you whether it will bring good or evil such as misfortune or death. The third is your heir. It waits impatiently for you to lay your head down as soon as possible, (that is for you to die) and it takes away your property and you have to account for it. If you are able, do not be the most powerless of these three shareholders!

Allah Most High has said: لَنتَنَالُواْالْبِرَّحَتَّىتُنفِقُواْمِمَّاتُحِبُّونَ “You will not attain true goodness until you give of what you love”. (Al’i Imran, 3: 92).

Here is my most beloved possession… this camel. In order to meet with it again in Paradise, I am sending it ahead of me (that is I am giving it away to charity)” (Abu Nuaym, Hilya, I, 163).

***

There was once a famous scholar named Ucbas Nureddin Hamza Efendi[2] who lived during the Ottoman period. He used to save his money because he could not bear to spend it. He would not mount a horse and would make do with old clothes and shoes. In this way he would save his money. This is why he used to be known amongst the people as ‘The money-loving Hodja’.

This hodja built Ucbas Madrese in Fatih Karagumruk and then later the Ucbas Masjid with the money he saved up. He had rooms made for scholars and poor people to live in and created many endowments for these. When those who knew him heard of this they were shocked and mocked him saying:

“Hodja, how could you part with your money which you love so much?”

The hodja gave the following significant and witty reply:

“My dear friends! You are right. I do love my money. This is why I couldn’t bear to leave it in this world. So I have sent it on ahead of me to the afterlife”.

***

Ali  has said:

“The world has turned its back and is leaving. The afterlife is ahead of us and awaits us. Each has its own children (followers). Be the followers of the hereafter, not of this world. Today is the day to do good deeds, while there is no accounting. Tomorrow is the calling to account, where there is no more chance to do any good”. (Bukhari, Rikak, 4).

Just like the student who leaves the examination hall can no longer answer any more of the questions or improve his grade…

Benefiting from these words of Ali, some friends of Allah have said the following:

“The world has turned its back and is leaving while the afterlife is headed towards us. How amazing is the one who turns towards that which has turned its back and is leaving, and yet he himself turns his back on and pays no heed to the one coming towards him…”

***

Abu Dharda  used to say:

“I fear for you that you will become absorbed in the blessings that amuse man and be carried away with secret desire. This desire arises when, though you are hungry in terms of knowledge, you fill your stomachs with food. The best of you is the one who advises his friend as follows:

“Come let us fast before we die”.

The worst amongst you is the one who says to his friend:

“Come let us enjoy ourselves before we die. Let us eat and drink and enjoy life to the fullest and get as much pleasure out of it as we can…” (Abu Nuaym, Hilya, I, 218).

***

The back of Sufyan-i Sevri became bent at a very young age. He used to say to those who asked him the reason:

“I had a teacher from whom I was learning knowledge. Even though I tried to convince him to say the testament of faith while he was dying he was not able to say it. Seeing this state bent my back”.

Apart from the prophets, no one is guaranteed the state of their last breath. In fact the prophet Joseph u prayed to almighty Allah:

“… (o Allah!) … take me as a Muslim at my death and join me to the people who are righteous”.(Yusuf, 12:101).

The fact that Joseph sought refuge in Allah shows that even the prophets were concerned about their last breath. This is why the believer must always struggle amongst feelings of hope and fear and must accumulate his provision for the hereafter.

***

When Shakik-i Belhi once passed by a grave he looked at it cautiously and said to those who were with him:

“Most of these here have realised now that that this world deceived them…”

“Why” they asked him. He answered:

“Did they not think that while they were living they had property, wealth, a house, a mount, relatives, gardens and fields? But now here you see that this is not the reality…”

***

The following state of the friend of Allah, Rabi bin Haysem قدس سره, is a striking example of how one should frequently call one’s nafs to account in order to prepare for death and the hereafter:

Rabi bin Haysem once dug a grave in his backyard. At times when he felt that his heart had become hardened, he would enter this grave and lie there for a while. He would reflect on the fact that one day he would leave this world and be left in a position of having to seek refuge and accept charity while in the grave. Thinking that he would have to account for his actions in the hereafter, he would begin to seek forgiveness.

Then he would read the following verse:

حَتَّى إِذَا جَاء أَحَدَهُمُ الْمَوْتُ قَالَ رَبِّ ارْجِعُونِ لَعَلِّي أَعْمَلُ صَالِحاً فِيمَا تَرَكْتُ

“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!”(Mu’minuun, 23:99-100)

When he got out from the grave he would say to himself:

“O Rabi! Look, today you have been returned to life. There is going to be a day when this wish of yours will not be accepted and you will not be sent back to this world. Take your precautions now and increase your righteous deeds, your struggle in the path of Allah and your preparations for the hereafter…”

***

How beautiful is the following advice of Imam Ghazzali:

“Every day after praying the dawn prayer and before one begins the new day, each believer should come face to face with his own soul and make certain contracts with it and come to agreement about certain conditions. Just as if a merchant has to leave his capital to his partner he makes a contract with him. And he does not fail to warn him of certain things. Man too should warn and caution his soul of the following:

“My capital is my life. When my life departs from me, my capital will be lost and profit and gain will come to an end. However this day is a new day. Allah Most High has allowed me this day and has favoured me. If he had of taken my life I would certainly have hoped to be sent back for at least a day in order to be able to carry out good deeds. Now assume that your life has been taken away and you have been sent back. In that case do not commit sins or bad deeds today and do not spend even a moment of this day fruitlessly. Because each breath is a priceless blessing.

Know well that a day is 24 hours with its night and its day. On the Day of Judgement, 24 closed boxes for each day will be brought before man. When one of the boxes is brought forth and opened, the slave sees that it is full of light as a reward for his good deeds that he performed at that hour. He is so pleased thinking about the reward that Allah will bestow, that if this joy of his were to be divided amongst the people of the hellfire they would not feel the pain of (it). When the second box is opened and it is full of darkness and a disgusting stench, then this is the hour that the slave passed in rebellion. The slave will be so sad at this that if this sadness were to be divided amongst the people of Paradise they would not be able to taste the joy of it due to their sadness. A third box will be opened and this will be entirely empty. This represents the time that the slave spent in sleep or performing lawful actions. However on that day when there is an intense need for the reward from even the smallest deed, the slave will burn with regret, even more so that a merchant who has lost an enormous gain even though he had plenty of opportunity and he will cringe with pain at having spent that hour in vain.

In that case, o my evil-commanding soul! Fill your box well while you have the chance and dare not leave it empty. Do not fall into laziness or you will fall from the greatest of heights!”

***

Halid-i Baghdadi, who reached the peak of the outer and inner sciences passed his entire life anxious at his last breath. He writes in his Mektubat:

“…I swear by Allah Most High that I do not believe that I have ever done a single act of goodness that is acceptable and valid in the eyes of Allah from the time my mother gave birth to me until today. (Yet do I seek refuge in the Mercy of my Lord). If you do not see your own soul as bankrupt in terms of performing all acts of good, then this is the peak of ignorance…[3]

The following extract from a letter he sent to a friend are a reflection of this anxiety of preparing for his last breath:

“…I hope that you occupy yourselves with what will be needed when you take your last breath, that you carry out acts suitable to the traditions of the Prophet, that you do not pay any attention to the deceptive beauties of this fleeting world, and that you do not forget to pray for this poor slave. Pray that he meets with success and a good end with faith in his heart having lived the way Allah wishes”. (Mektubat-I Mawlana Halid, p 175).

And so the great friends of Allah never relied on their own deeds and constantly sought refuge in the mercy and forgiving nature of Allah when it came to the matter of their last breath. In that case, we too should not rely upon our knowledge or our actions and must constantly pray to Almighty Allah that we meet with a good end.

***

At one time there was a man who used to run a store which was located at the exit gate of the city. Whenever a funeral used to pass by this gate this man would toss a seed into an urn that stood by him and at the end of the month he would count the seeds and say:

“This month, this many people fell into that urn”.

And so it was that one day he too passed away. Quite a while had passed when a friend, unaware of his death came to visit him. When he couldn’t see him, he asked the neighbours:

“What happened to the owner of this store?”

They said:

“He too fell into the urn”…

What lesson to take heed from…Let us not forget that every person will fall into the urn of death… However, people in general watch others around them migrate to the eternal realm one by one, yet out of their heedlessness, they see their own death as far, far away…

***

The servant of Yavuz Sultan Selim Han, Hasan Can narrates:
“Once a boil had formed on the back of Sultan Yavuz. The boil grew in a short time and became a deep cavity. It grew so much that we could see the liver of Yavuz through that cavity. He was suffering badly. He was like a wounded lion. But somehow he remained unable to accept his powerlessness and continued to give commands and directions to his soldiers. I approached him and indicating his own condition, he asked me:

“Hasan Can, what is this state?”

I sensed that his mortal journey had come to an end and that he was about to begin his eternal life. That is why I said to him sorrowfully, the pain of separation burning in my heart:

“My Sultan, I think your time has come to be with Allah Most High”.

The great Sultan turned to me and said in surprise:
“Hasan, Hasan! Who do you think I have been with up until this time? Have you seen any fault in my (relationship with) Almighty Allah?

Feeling ashamed at these words I said:

“(Allah Forbid) my Sultan! I meant no such thing. I just dared, as a mere precaution, to suggest that this time that you find yourself might be different from other times” I said.

The great Sultan, having delved into a completely different realm, addressed me for the last time and said:

“Hasan! Read chapter Yasin”.

With teary eyes, I began to recite. When I came to the verse “Salam (Peace)” the Sultan gave up his honoured spirit to his Lord.

Overall, those who are not with Allah throughout their lives are not subject to this type of favour at their last breath. This is why it is necessary to live our lives with purpose in order to have a fine death.

***

Sultan Murad II was one who thought not of his own comfort but of gaining the pleasure of Allah. He had a strong will and was very determined to the extent that he did not refrain from sacrificing his life to this end. His biggest concern was to be able to breathe his last breath having faith in his heart and to be able to appear before the presence of Allah on the Day of Gathering blameless and free of sin. After he had married off his son and daughter he said to his vizier, Candarli Ibrahim Pasha:

“O Candarli! Praise be to Allah that we have, with His permission, carried out our duties towards our children in this world. What is now left for us to do is to migrate from here with faith in our hearts….”

***

Officer Muzaffer, who had displayed great success in the Battle for the Dardanelles, later went to the eastern front where he fought with great courage. Whilst fighting a bloody battle here he was severely wounded. During his last moments when neither his voice nor his eyes could speak, he took out an envelope from his pocket. Then, taking a stick from the ground, he dipped it in the blood that flowed from his wound and began to write:

“Which way is the Qibla (the direction of Mecca)?

Realising that he was about to pass away, those around him immediately granted his request and turned him toward the Qibla. At the point of his death, as a last manoeuvre, the Officer turned to give his heroic soldiers the following message. On the one hand, the joy of reunion was written all over his face and yet on the other, there was disquiet and apprehension at the sacred duty he had been given of defending his country:

“Let the squadron continue in its jihad for Allah; Do not let my death be in vain…”

He was about to write his third message but he ran out of time. He became a martyr for the sake of his Lord.

What great sensitivity that made him draw blood from his veins when his tongue could no longer speak, in order to explain his need to submit his spirit to his Lord while facing the direction of Mecca. And so the last moments of a life spent in the way of Allah are also blessed and holy.

***

The state of one of the friends of Allah, Mahmud Sami Ramazanoglu, in his last moments is another good example for us. Sami Efendi was a friend of Allah whose heart was full of love for the Prophet. Just as someone who walks through the snow leaves footprints in the snow; and then one who tries to find their way follows those footsteps. This is how Sami Efendi lived his life, faithfully following in the footsteps of the Prophet. As a display of this he was blessed with passing away in the environs of the Prophet, whom he had spent his entire life following with love and enthusiasm. The moment of his death was the moment that the call to prayer was recited for the tahajjud prayer (late night prayer). Those who were with him in those final moments heard only the following words from his lips:

“Allah, Allah, Allah!”…

It was not just his tongue, but his entire body, together with all of its cells and his soul that continually cried out “Allah”…

***

In short, in order for the slave to depart this life with a beautiful ending, that is to breathe his last breath with faith in his heart, he must first purify his soul and cleanse his heart. He must rid it of its ugly inclinations, and allow it to arrive at a state of being adorned with elevated characteristics, and a place of manifestation of the beautiful names of Almighty Allah. For the heart to reach this state of piety is the most precious gift of guidance in this journey of life. The following lines by Jalaluddin al Rumi explain the nature of purification of the heart:

“You do not make your grave with stones or wood or felt. You must dig your own grave, within your own untainted heart and within the inner purity of your world, in order that you destroy your own claims and self in the face of the exalted Being of Allah”.

Then it is necessary to prepare for an eternal realm in the best possible way, with a soul that has been purified, with worship, obedience, and by performing good deeds and giving out.

At the last breath of the slave, Almighty Allah gives him the following good tidings if he is a slave who has embellished his life with good deeds and who has never forgotten his Lord throughout his life:

‘The angels descend on those who say, “Our Lord is Allah,” and then go straight: “Do not fear and do not grieve but rejoice in the Garden you have been promised’(Fussilat 41:30)

May our Lord bless us all by making us recipients of these glad tidings. Amen!…

[1].     The statement of witnessing is as follows: I bear witness that there is no Allahbut Allah and that Muhammad is hte Messenger of Allah (translator’s note)

[2].     This Hodja was given the nickname Ucbas because he was born in the village of Ucbas which is part of Karasu. He is from the scholarly class and (was a judge). He died in 948/1541. For his life and details about this particular event see Taskopruzade, As Shaiku’n Numaniyye (thk. A. Suphi Furat), pg 540-541).

[3].     Halid-I Baghdadi, Mektubat-I Mawlana Halid, Istanbul, 1993, pg 178).