CONTEMPLATION OF MAN

So magnificently has the Almighty created man, that even the lauded science and technology of our age, despite its numerous discoveries, has fallen short of comprehensively making out the wonderful mystery that is the human being. The Quran states:

“O man ! What has beguiled you from your Lord, the Gracious one, Who created you, then made you complete, then made you proportionate? Into whatever form He pleased He constituted you…”(al-Infitar, 6-8)

The Magnificent Subtleties of Creation

Allah, glory unto Him, states:

وَفِي الْاَرْضِ اٰيَاتٌ لِلْمُوقِن۪ينَۙ

وَف۪ٓي اَنْفُسِكُمْۜ اَفَلَا تُبْصِرُونَ

“And in the earth there are signs for those who are sure; and in your own souls (too); will you not then see?”(ad-Dhariyat, 20-21)

So magnificently has the Almighty created man, that even the lauded science and technology of our age, despite its numerous discoveries, has fallen short of comprehensively making out the wonderful mystery that is the human being. The Quran states:

“O man ! What has beguiled you from your Lord, the Gracious one, Who created you, then made you complete, then made you proportionate? Into whatever form He pleased He constituted you…”(al-Infitar, 6-8)

Reminding him of their past, Allah, glory unto Him, urges human beings to reflect on their creation; such that although made the most honorable among entire creation owing to an exceptional design, they were created in the first place from a somewhat unappealing and unsightly, watery substance.[1]  How absurd it is then for man to take confidence from a temporary, vulnerable existence that is in fact tantamount to nothing, and rebel against his Lord, the eternally Powerful and Wise, who made a magnificent being from a tiny drop of liquid!

The stages of human creation, of which medicine has only recently become aware, are depicted in the Quran in the following:[2]

“And certainly We created man of an extract of clay, Then We made him a small seed in a firm resting-place. Then We made the seed a clot, then We made the clot a lump of flesh, then We made (in) the lump of flesh bones, then We clothed the bones with flesh, then We caused it to grow into another creation, so blessed be Allah, the best of the creators. Then after that you will most surely die. Then surely on the day of resurrection you shall be raised.”(al-Muminun, 12-16)

Just like his creation, man’s organs also invite him to contemplation through a language of their own. As vast objects for our contemplation, our eyes, ears, hands, feet, brains, hearts and in short our entire organs virtually call out to us, urging:

Look carefully at how the Almighty has regulated the limbs, made up of muscles, nerves and veins, and put them all together to form an incredible, harmonious system! He has made the head round and opened up thereon ears, eyes, a mouth, a nose and other inlets…He has created the hands and feet long, divided their tips into fingers and toes and them into phalanges. As for the internal organs such as the heart, stomach, lung, liver, intestines, spleen and womb, He has fashioned them in the most perfect way imaginable. Not one of them is futile and detached from the rest; each serves a crucial function, created in a manner most suitable to carry its specific function out. What’s more, each organ is divided into internal components. The eye, for instance, has layers, each of which has a distinct quality and shape. Should any one of those layers break down or lose one of its qualities, the eye loses its entire power of vision.

The Bones

The formation of bones is awe-inspiring. How is that they have been made so hard and resilient by the Almighty when created from a mere drop of sperm? How are they then, as the skeleton, turned into the buttress of the body, so balanced and sturdy? And how are they then measured into distinct shapes, in a host of sizes and varying densities?

Neither is man made up of a single piece of bone. Bones are attached to one another through flexible joints, each with a shape compliant with the movement it is meant to make. So wonderful is the greasing mechanism of these joints that attempts to explain it through the three recognized types of mechanical greasing have proven fruitless.

Let’s consider for a moment the difficulties we would encounter in life if a single joint in our body was to break down!

Had Allah, glory unto Him, created a bone more in our bodies than the amount there already is, that bone would have been a cause for agonizing discomfort, something needing to be surgically removed. In contrast, had there been a bone less, we would have been required to exert an enormous amount of effort to make up for its loss; and in most circumstances, our efforts would have been of little avail.

Let’s imagine we were not able to use just one thumb. How immense an obstacle would that have proven to be?

Some teeth are flat, suitable for grinding. Others are pointed and sharp, ideal for cutting into and dividing food.

To move the bones, the Almighty has created muscles. The amount and shape of each muscle varies according to its specific location in the body. The eye, too, comprises many muscles. Only a simple malfunction of one has a detrimental effect on the entire eye.

These marvels are just those that are visible. There are also spiritual qualities imperceptible to sensory experience, like temperament, character, personality and conscience, which are even of a more astounding nature.

The wonders of the human body are the Almighty’s art devised from a single drop of water. Upon seeing a beautiful painting, one tends to admire the painter’s skill, art and genius. The painter’s reputation is suddenly blown out of proportion. Yet, far from creating something out of nothing, all that the painter does is assemble some paint and a brush and reflect onto a canvas his impressions of sensible things, all of which are created by the Almighty in the first place.

In that case, seeing that even a painter’s work attracts admiration, should not we contemplate the nature of the admiration we ought to nurture towards the wonder that is the human being, a unique masterpiece of art created, by the Absolute Artist, from a mere drop of liquid?

The Limbs

The structure of the ears, the benefit of the nose, the function of the tongue and the distinct manner in which it utters each letter, the teeth that adorn the oral cavity and their pearl-like wonderful design, the sensitive structure of the vocal chords…That the voice of each person is different from another, so much so that the blind recognize people simply from their voices…

The hair, beard, eyebrows and lashes…The stomach, liver, kidneys and veins…Underlain by a supreme intelligence and wisdom and working harmoniously with each other, each truly merits a lengthy reflection.

Our kidneys are a small piece of meat; they yet discern the poisonous from the nonpoisonous, sending the poisonous out of the body and returning the nonpoisonous thereto. Is it that the kidneys have a mind of their own or have access to computers or perhaps laboratories for medical analysis? We all know the troubles we are put through when this tiny organ begins to malfunction. Machines of enormous sizes are unable to fully perform what that small, 50 grams of meat does with ease.

Now, let’s look at our hands. They have been made long so that they can reach out to the things desired. With a flat palm, the hand has been given five fingers, each with three phalanges. Four fingers stand to one side and the thumb to another. The thumb can run to the help of the remaining four fingers. If every human being, past and present, was to come together and ingeniously try to give the hand a better shape than what it already it has, they truly would not be able to.

If man was to lose a seemingly unimportant part of his body, like perhaps a fingernail, he would find himself the most helpless among all creation upon feeling the urge to scratch. If he were to ask the help of another person to scratch that severe itch, it would take numerous attempts of trial and error for the person to find that itching spot. Yet, one’s own hand never finds any difficulty in locating that spot and scratching it, even when deep asleep.

The seemingly simple motions we carry out with our arms, hands and fingers in fact demand a highly complex and calculated effort. To think that the limb motions of the high-tech robots today still lag incomparably behind those of human limbs, it would be reckless to remain indifferent to the eternal power and wisdom the Almighty exhibits in the human body, day in day out.

Poetically expressed below is the fact that man, like the rest of creation, constantly pronounces through its own language the Absolute Artist, to eyes that can see and ears that can hear:

Witness to the existence of my Creator, is the existence of me

Other certain proofs are redundant, though there indeed may be…

(Şinâsî)

The Compassion and Mercy of the Almighty

Just look at the mercy and compassion of Allah, glory unto Him, that He postpones the full surfacing of teeth to two years after birth. In the first two years, babies are not able to receive nourishment in the fullest sense of the term except by being breastfed. They therefore do not need teeth during that period. Fully developed teeth during this period would have been a great cause of pain for breastfeeding mothers.

As the child develops so does his need for nourishment and there soon comes a time when milk alone is no longer enough to fulfill that need. Arising at this time is a strong need to digest certain foods and with that comes the need to chew and swallow. The full development of teeth in children is hence neither too early nor too late. They develop exactly at the right time. Were they to develop earlier, they would prevent proper breastfeeding. That Allah, glory unto Him, not only thrusts forth those hard bones from out of soft gums but also makes them surface at exactly the right time, is indeed cause for wonder.

The Almighty has moreover imparted parents with an exceptional feeling of compassion to look after the child. Who would have borne a baby’s brunt had not the Almighty placed in the parents’ heart a drop of His own mercy?

The human body presents an incredible object for contemplation. It is an indisputable witness to the existence of the Creator. But one entirely ignorant of this clear fact is constantly preoccupied with the desires of his ego. In attending to such desires, even animals stand on the same level as human beings. The ability that separates humans from animals and what grants them the credit of being the most honorable of creation is the wisdom acquired through gazing at the wonders of the skies and earth with a perceptive eye and contemplating the Divine works of art glaring throughout the universe, as well as human beings. As one grows deeper in this wisdom, he is raised to the level of angels, even higher, shortlisted to be resurrected in a state loved by the Almighty, amid the prophets and the righteous. This honor and privilege is remote from those enchained by their lusts, even more bewildered than animals.[3]

The Face and Fingerprints

One day, someone commented next to Omar –Allah be well-pleased with him-, “Chess truly amazes me. Even though a chess board is only a meter in length and width, a person could perhaps make a million different types of moves on it, without one resembling the other!”

“There is something even more amazing”, replied Omar -Allah be well-pleased with him-. “The length and width of a face is a mere hand span. To add to it, the location of the eyebrows, the eyes, the nose and the mouth always remain the same. Still, you would not find any two people, in East and West, who have the exact same appearance. How great the glory, majesty and wisdom of Allah is that He displays boundless differences on a little piece of skin!”(Râzî, Tafsîr, IV, 179-180 [al-Baqara, 164])

Drawing attention to this wisdom, the poet says:

Who is the Mastermind to have drawn this face?

Will not anyone face the mirror and ask?

(Necip Fâzıl)

Of even greater magnificence are man’s fingerprints. Today, there are computers and doors programmed to have fingerprints as security codes. Each person carries different and unique fingerprints. Even the fingerprints on the fingers of a single hand are different from one another.

It was only towards the end of the 19th century that fingerprints were discovered to carry different patterns in each person, like barcodes, after which they were begun to be utilized for the purpose of identifying people, especially in the legal and criminal sphere. Today, there is a science called dermatoglyphics, reserved exclusively to the study of fingerprints.

Endowing human beings with this unique characteristic, Allah, glory unto Him, has moreover hinted at this wonder in the verses of the Holy Quran revealed some 1400 years ago, declaring that when Resurrection comes to pass, even the fingerprints are to be rearranged in the exact manner they were during life. The verse states:

“Does man think that We shall not gather his bones? Yea! We are able to make complete his very fingertips.”(al-Qiyamah, 3-4)

The Holy Quran, as seen, continually leads the way and science only follows in its wake in confirmation.

Similar to fingerprints, the eyes also vary from person to person. Becoming prevalent in everyday life is the use of devices, from computers to doors that recognize its users not from old fashioned codes but from the specific qualities of their retinas.

Majestic is Allah, glory unto Him, who creates infinity of variety in an area even smaller than 1 cm2.

The Marvel of the Gene

Recent discoveries in genetics show that each person carries another kind of code exclusive to himself. What’s more, so tiny are these genes that even the entire genes of every single living being on Earth would not be able to fill up something as small as a tailor’s thimble.

Invisible even through a microscope, these genes settle in the cells of every living organism and give them their characteristics. In this sense, a thimble might seem too small to be able to hold each individual characteristic of the over 6 billion human beings there are in the world today; yet the evidence in support leaves no room for doubt.

How does, then, this tiny thing called the gene keep hold of the characteristics of every single living organism of who knows what amount? How is it that it can safeguard in an infinitesimally small area every single attribute of a given organism, even all the way to her psychological characteristics?

The fact that millions of atoms trapped in a single gene, too small to see even with the aid of a microscope, can virtually govern life on Earth, can only be through the discretion of a boundlessly Wise Creator. Here, there is not the slightest room for theory.[4]

Drawing attention to this, the Almighty declares:

“And when your Lord brought forth from the children of Adam, from their backs, their descendants, and made them bear witness against their own souls: Am I not your Lord? They said: Yes! we bear witness. Lest you should say on the day of resurrection: Surely we were heedless of this.”(al-Araf, 172)

These and alike manifestations of Divine power and art, which have been discovered only recently, leave reason speechless. Inspired by such feelings was Ziya Pasha, who as early as the 19th century, wrote:

I glorify He whose art makes minds meek,

And whose might leaves the wise weak…

Who operates the Factory that is the Human Body?

Man must appreciate the fact that all beings, in the skies and on earth and in the sea, including him, depend on the Almighty every moment. On the simplest level, he must see:

Nearly all the activities within our bodies take place independently of our will. In this manner do our heartbeats, our breathing, the actions of all our other organs take place, including the inner workings within our cells and the mutual aid and communication that run frenetically between them. Who knows of the amount of malfunctions we would have caused if only the activities of one of these perfectly functioning organs or even the hundreds of types of biochemical reactions that occur within a single cell were left to our administering and control for only a day?[5]

How enormous a lesson there is in the fact that, on the one hand, we see a 10 ton elephant succumb to the command of a 10 year old child while on the other, as an expression of the sheer weakness of man, a tiny virus, invisible to the naked eye, bring down many an imposing man of strength!

We therefore must never ascribe to ourselves the strength given to us by the Almighty; we must never give way to arrogance and must always be reminding ourselves of the True Owner of strength. We must retreat to a constant state of gratitude, acknowledging that we are not even specks of dust next to the Divine Power. We must always seek refuge in the Almighty.

Here, we have only briefly touched upon some of the many instances of Divine power and wisdom so abundantly manifested in human beings. Sparing time to reflect on man is bound to expose many more mysteries and wisdom Allah, glory unto Him, has placed therein. If a book was to be written for each cell of the human body, it would surely be an appropriate undertaking.

Why was Man Created?

What is the true purpose of man, created in the best possible fashion as an honorable being and endowed with countless blessings of the Divine? What is expected of him? What are his responsibilities?

Allah, glory unto Him, asserts:

“What! Did you then think that We had created you in vain and that you shall not be returned to Us?”(al-Muminun, 115)

“And I have not created the jinn and the men except that they should serve Me.”(ad-Dhariyat, 56)

Man must  give thanks, in thousands, for each cell he has in his body, through deeds of worship, charity, enjoining goodness and patience, just to name a few. Each blessing comes with a price and each necessitates an expression of thanks.

The Prophet –upon him blessings and peace- says:

A charity a day is required for each joint man has. Helping a person mount his ride or placing his load upon it is charity. A kind word is charity. Every step taken on the way to the mosque for ritual prayer is charity. Giving directions, too, is charity.”(Bukhari, Jihad, 72. See, Muslim, Zakat, 56)

A charity is required each day for each of your joints and bones. Every tasbih is charity. Every hamd is charity. Every tahlil is charity. Every takbir is charity. Advising with the good is charity. Preventing from evil is charity. Two rakat of ritual prayer offered at midmorning covers for all of these.” (Muslim, Musafirin, 84, Zakat, 56. See, Bukhari, Sulh, 11, Jihad, 72, 128)

Other reports include “adjudicating justly between two people” and “removing from the street things that bother passers by”.(See, Bukhari, Sulh, 11, Jihad, 72, 128; Muslim, Zakat, 56)

The need to strive towards becoming a worthy servant of the Almighty is hence obvious. Making the most of each moment through deeds of worship and goodness and preparing for the life eternal in the best way possible is, moreover, essential.

Solving the Mystery of Death

Muhammad ibn Kab al-Qurazi recounts:

“I had once met Omar ibn Abdulaziz in Medina. Back then he was a young man, quite handsome and wealthy, too. Years later when he became Caliph, I went to see him. After getting permission to go in next to him, I made my way through. Seeing him, however, I was stunned and I could not help but stare at him, astounded.

‘Why are you looking at me like that, Muhammad?’ he asked.

‘You have gone pale, your body looks worn out, you have lost most of your hair and what remains of it is gray’, I responded. ‘Seeing you in this condition, Caliph, I could little hide my surprise.’

‘Who knows then how great your surprise would be Muhammad, if you were to see me three days after I was placed in my grave’ said he. ‘Ants will have taken my eyes out of their sockets and they will have dribbled onto my cheeks; and my nose and mouth will have been filled with pus. It is really then that you will not recognize me and express a surprise greater than you can imagine!’”(Hakim, IV, 300/7706)

Above anything else, each person must contemplate his end: how is he to breathe his last, what will he encounter in the grave and what will his rank be in the Hereafter? These are the greatest mysteries lying in front of human beings; grasping the secret to the journey from the crib to the coffin and the wisdom underlying existence in this world and subsequent passage to the Hereafter. Each of us must make every effort in life to solve this riddle and thereby achieve eternal bliss.

One must first of all contemplate mortality, for it is an indisputable fact that:

“All that is on earth will perish.”(ar-Rahman, 26)

There will come a day with no tomorrow; a day unknown to all of us. Allah, glory unto Him, states:

“And the agony of death will come in truth; that is what you were trying to escape. And the trumpet shall be blown; that is the day of the threatening.”(Qaf, 19-20)

Everyone enters this life through one door, the mother’s womb, and lives out this life, a steeplechase that is run in a flurry of either spiritual or egoistical feelings. After passing through this narrow corridor, through the gate of the grave, each person finally makes their passage to the life of eternity.

The world, like a house with two doors, has been filled with and emptied of countless human beings, from the time of Adem –upon him peace- until today. Where are they now? Where will we be a short while later? Unknown…But one thing is for certain. Death has knocked on the doors of both the oppressors and the oppressed, sinners and saints; and now they stand waiting for the beginning of eternal life, Judgment Day.

Just to think that the ground which we walk on is filled with the bodies of billions of deceased human beings to have lived until now; bodies now completely turned to dust, like billions of shadows piled upon one another…Tomorrow, we too are bound to glide into this dense shadow. From there, an eternal life will begin; a journey to the never-ending. In that case, let us each stop awhile and think: What person in their right mind would trade a moment for eternity?

In the Quran, the Almighty declares:

“On the day that they see it, it will be as though they had not tarried but the latter part of a day or the early part of it,”(an-Naziat, 46), informing us just how short this life is compared to the life of everlasting.

Echoing this truth is the following couplet, abbreviating the essence of worldly life:

Delicate is life, rapid, like the blink of an eye,

A bird taking flight, we heard not, yet it went by…

(Âşık Paşa)

Could there be anything more incredibly foolish than ruinously laying waste to the treasure of this earthly life like it is forever?

Contemplating Death

The Prophet –upon him blessings and peace- used to command a frequent remembrance of death, discouraging us against being lost in worldly affairs.[6] He would say, “A cause for wonder is he who only strives for the deceitful life of the world, despite having belief in the life of eternity.”(Qudai, Shihab’ul-Akhbar, n. 383)

The thought of the impending time of complete separation from the world, after which one will be left face to face with what he or she had done in life, good and bad, and receive her or his rewards or punishment in full, distances one from sin and temptation, and brings one closer to deeds of goodness. Contemplating ones death, in other words, is a means to gaining greater conscience, straightening up one’s life and working towards bettering one’s condition in the life of eternity. The Prophet –upon him blessings and peace- says:

Remember death frequently; for remembrance of death purifies one from sins and renders him indifferent to the world. If you think of death while rich, it will protect you from the disasters of wealth. If you think of it when poor, it will enable you to become satisfied with your life.”(Suyuti, Jami’us-Saghir, I, 47)

Again, encouraging the remembrance of death, the Prophet –upon him blessings and peace- said:

I had forbidden you from visiting graves. But now you may, for visiting graves will remind you of the Hereafter.” (Tirmidhi, Janaiz, 60; Muslim, Janaiz, 106)

Remember death and the decaying of bodies and bones after death. He who desires the Hereafter deserts the dazzle of the world.” (Tirmidhi, Qiyamah, 24)

Allah loves he who often remembers death.”(Haythami, X, 325)

“Who is the cleverest Believer?” a Companion once asked the Prophet –upon him blessings and peace-, who replied:

He who frequently remembers death and prepares for what’s to come in the best possible way…It is they who are truly clever.”  (Ibn Majah, Zuhd, 31)

The Companions’ Contemplation of Death

Abu Bakr –Allah be well-pleased with him- once said during a sermon:

“Where are the handsome, the beautiful, who were once admired by everyone? Where are the young, gallant men of self-importance? Where are those kings who surrounded the grandiose towns they set up with high walls? Where are the invincible heroes of the battlefields? Time has eaten them away and made them level with earth. They have all been buried in the darkness of their graves. Hasten to come to your senses before it is too late and start preparing for beyond death! Save yourselves, save yourselves!”(Ibn’ul-Jawzi, Zamm’ul-Hawa, p. 668; Nadrat’un-Naim, III, 960)

Aisha –Allah be well-pleased with her- explains:

“I once thought of hellfire and began to cry. Seeing me in tears, the Messenger of Allah –blessings and peace upon him- asked, ‘What is wrong, Aisha?’

‘I was reminded of hellfire, so I cried’, I replied. ‘Will you prophets remember your family members on the Day of Judgment?’ I then asked.

There are three places where nobody will remember anyone. Before finding out whether the scale of deeds (mizan) will weigh in heavy or light; before knowing from which  way the book of deeds will come, from the left, right or from behind, up until saying, ‘Here; read my book’ (al-Haqqa, 19); and when the Bridge of Sirat is set up, suspended above Hellfire. On both sides of the bridge, there are many hooks and hard thorns. With them, Allah catches whom He wills from among creation and throws them into Hellfire. A person cannot think of anyone else until he finds out whether he will be spared from these hooks or not.”(Hakim, IV, 622/8722)

Usayd ibn Khudayr –Allah be well-pleased with him-, of the most virtuous Companions, used to repeatedly say:

‘Had I been able to always sustain the state of mind that overtook me in either one of these three moments, I surely would have been Paradise bound: While reading the Quran or listening to someone read it, listening to the talks of the Messenger of Allah –upon him blessings and peace- and upon seeing a funeral. Yes indeed…whenever I see a funeral, I feel like it is me experiencing the things the deceased is going through, taken to where the deceased is being taken.”(Hakim, III, 326/5260)

The Benefits of Reflecting on Death

As stated in the hadithDeath is sufficient advice[7], there are many lessons awaiting the thinking mind in the phenomenon of death.

Excess love of the passing pleasures of the world, and desire for fame and fortune are symptoms of spiritual disease. Envy, conceit, hypocrisy and lust are nothing but products of the love of the world. One of the most decisive remedies in protecting oneself from such malicious habits and spiritual shortcomings lies in the contemplation of death, the grave and events of the Afterlife.

Defeating the ego, becoming free of its damaging dominance and thereby purging the love of the world from the heart is the main objective of tasawwuf. Contemplation of death has therefore been an implemented method in many a tariqah, where the disciple spares five to ten minutes during his daily wird to reflect on death.

The Ottoman tendency to establish graveyards in town centers, by roads and in the courtyards of mosques, was only to provide an incentive for contemplating death. A Western traveler who picked up on this could not help but say, “Turks live with their dead.”

Preparing for the Hereafter by frequently remembering death and brushing aside the desires of the ego will help one avoid the agonizing remorse that may come with the final breath. The Almighty informs that a person, who during the throes of death suddenly comes to his senses as if waking up from a dream, is bound to plea, in deep remorse:

“My Lord! Why did You not respite me to a near term, so that I should have given alms and been among the doers of good deeds?”(al-Munafiqun, 10)

To avoid going through this tragic ordeal of remorse, we therefore need to open our eyes while we still have the time and begin to prepare for the impending life of eternity before the opportunity is forever lost.

Hasan Basri –Allah have mercy on his soul- had attended a funeral. Following the burial, he asked the man next to him:

“Do you think this person is right now wishing to return to the world to increase his good deeds, prayers and repentance over his sins?”

 “Of course he is” assuredly replied the man.

“Then what is stopping us from thinking like him?” responded Hasan Basri.(Ibn’ul-Jawzi, al-Hasan’ul-Basri)

Preparing for the Tremor of Death

Hasan Basri –Allah have mercy on him- says:

“There are two nights and two days, the likes of which have never before been seen or heard. The first of these nights is the first night you spend in the grave with the dead. You had never before stayed with them. The second of these nights is the night whose morning breaks with the Hereafter. A day without a night is then to begin. As for the days, the first is when an emissary of Allah comes and tells you whether He is pleased with you or not, whether you are destined for Paradise or for Hell. The second day is when you shall receive your book of deeds, from your right or left, and then be taken to the presence of Allah.”(See, Ibn’ul-Jawzi, az-Zahr’ul-Fatih, p. 25; Abu’l-Faraj Abdurrahman, Ahwal’ul-Qubur, p. 154)

Death is the greatest tribulation for man, the most terrible trial; but even worse than death is to live oblivious to death, to put it completely out of the mind and to fail to offer appropriate deeds for its preparation. Intelligent is the one who prepares for death before it comes knocking and cleans his or her soul of immorality.

Sheik Sadi says:

“You will become earth in the end, brother; so before you do, seek to become humble like earth.”

Omar –Allah be well-pleased with him- has said:

“Call yourselves to account before you are called to account. Adorn yourselves with righteous deeds before the greatest tribunal! The tribunal in the Hereafter of one who used to call himself to account during life, will surely be comfortable.”(Tirmidhi, Qiyamah, 25/2459)

As our mortal bodies are placed in the grave, our children and wealth will remain behind. Only our deeds will accompany us as we lay buried in the depth of earth. There, our bodies will turn to soil, together with our shrouds, leaving nothing behind but our good deeds.

Imam Ghazzali –Allah have mercy on his soul- says:

“Only three things remain with a person at the moment of death.

1) Purity of the heart, that is a heart purified of the dirt of the world. Allah states:

قَدْاَفْلَحَمَنْزَكّٰيهَا

‘He will indeed be successful who purifies it…’(as-Shams, 9)

2)  Familiarity with the remembrance of Allah, glory unto Him, who says:

اَلَا بِذِكْرِ اللّٰهِ تَطْمَئِنُّ الْقُلُوبُ

‘…Now surely by Allah’s remembrance are the hearts set at rest.’(ar-Rad, 28)

3) Love of Allah, glory unto Him. Again, He declares:

قُلْاِنْكُنْتُمْتُحِبُّونَاللّٰهَفَاتَّبِعُون۪ييُحْبِبْكُمُاللّٰهُ

وَيَغْفِرْلَكُمْذُنُوبَكُمْۜوَاللّٰهُغَفُورٌرَح۪يمٌ

‘Say: If you love Allah, then follow me; Allah will then love you and forgive your faults. And Allah is Forgiving, Merciful.’ (Al-i Imran, 31)

Purifying the heart is possible only through marifah, knowing Allah, glory unto Him, in the heart. Marifah, in turn, is acquired through being constantly occupied in dhikr and contemplation. These three qualities are thus saviors.”(Ruh’ul-Bayan, XI, 274)

If a person is able to make adequate preparation for ‘tomorrow’, death starts to assume a beautiful shape; he soon finds himself no longer afraid of it.

Bishr ibn Harith –Allah have mercy on him- in fact asserts, “What a wonderful station the grave is for he who obeys Allah.”[8]

Similar words of wisdom come from Mawlana Rumi -Allah have mercy on him:

The color of death, son, is in the eye of the beholder. To those who hate death without sparing a thought that it is death that unites one with the Lord and are hostile to it, death appears as a terrifying enemy. To the friends of death, death comes as a friend.

O the soul who flees in dread from death! If you want to hear the truth of the matter, you are not really afraid of death; you are but afraid of yourself.

For it is not the face of death that you behold in the mirror in horror; it is your own ugly face. Your spirit is like a tree. Death is a leaf on that tree. And every leaf belongs to the species of the tree it stems from…”

In short, our death and experiences of the grave, set to continue until Resurrection, will take shape according to the way we lived and the deeds we offered. It is for that reason that Allah, glory unto Him, explains to us the gist of both the life of the world and that of eternity on numerous occasions in the Holy Quran. Encouraging us to consider how the world will ultimately come to an end in due course, He urges us to remain aloof from its dazzle and deceit. He wants us to consciously turn instead to the life eternal, a life approaching by the minute that shall never cease.

It is therefore necessary for a person to sincerely repent from all of ones sins before death and make amends for his or her shortcomings in complying with the commands and prohibitions of the Almighty. Again, he must restore the rights to all those whose rights he may have infringed on; that is, before breathing his last, he must seek the pardon of people he may have verbally or physically assaulted, slandered, backbitten or acted with malicious intent, and be cleared of all personal debts, be they physical or spiritual.

An ignorant person may rejoice over having infringed on the rights of others; he may misread his corruption for joy. But there is simply no telling how bottomless his remorse will be on the day when the scales of justice are set and it is said to him, “You are a helpless, low and deprived man in ruin. Here, you may no longer restore any rights or seek the forgiveness of anyone.”

As his death approached, Abdulmalik ibn Marwan, the Umayyad Caliph, saw a launderer in the outskirts of Damascus wrapping the clothes around his hand and thrashing them against a washing rock. Heaving an agonizing sigh upon suddenly remembering the terrifying tribunal of the Hereafter, the Caliph lamented:

“If only I too was a launderer! If only I earned my daily feed with my hands and did not have any say in worldly affairs!”(Ghazzali, Ihya, VI, 114)

Together with preparing for the tremor of death, it is also essential not to lose hope in the mercy of Allah, glory unto Him.

Uqba al-Bazzar recounts:

“Viewing a funeral procession, a Bedouin standing next to me, who was looking on at the coffin, commented, ‘Congratulations…you have all the joy in the world!’

‘Why are you congratulating him?’ I asked.

‘How can I not congratulate a person being taken into custody by an Eternally Generous Custodian, whose treatment of His guests is splendid and mercy boundless!’

It was as if I had never before heard words so beautiful.”(Abu’l-Faraj, Abdurrahman, Ahwal’ul-Qubur, p. 155)

[1]     See, Abasa, 17-22; ar-Rûm, 20; al-Qiyâmah, 36-38; al-Mursalât, 20-22; Yâsîn, 77; al-Insân, 2.

[2]     The Quran has been reinforced with each scientific discovery over the past 1400 years. That a Book, presented to humankind through an unlettered Prophet, should touch upon laws effective throughout the universe and thousands of phenomena, the reflections of these laws, and not be disproven by as little as a single discovery, stands as an incontestable proof of its Divine origin. Simply put, the Quran is always at the forefront of science and scientific discoveries always support it, following in its wake.

      Many Western intellectuals, prudent enough to lay anti-Islamic prejudice aside, have been able to draw a connection between discoveries made only recently in our times and their references in the ayat of the Holy Quran revealed some 1400 years ago, and have subsequently opted for the path of guidance, in utter admiration and awe. One of them is the French embryologist Prof. Maurice Bucaille, who became Muslim following a similar thread. Of particular importance are his The Bible, theQuran and Science and Moses and the Pharaoh, which we encourage our readers to pick up.

[3]     See, Imam Ghazzali, Ihyâ, VI, 58-62.

[4]     See, İlim-Ahlâk-Îman, prepared by: M. Rahmi Balaban, p. 189-190.

[5]     See, Şâkir Kocabaş, Kur’ân’da Yaratılış, p. 115.

[6]     See, Tirmidhi, Zuhd, 4; Nasâî, Janaiz, 3.

[7]     Haythami, Majmau’z-Zawâid, Beirut1988, X, 308.

[8]     The Commission, Nadratu’n-Naîm, III, 963; Abu’l-Faraj Abdurrahman, Ahwâlu’l-Qubûr, p. 155.