Remembering Allah

The Prophet Muhammad left behind him life time of sublime memories borne out of his love and compassion for Allah, and migrated from this mortal world to the world of Truth.

In order to leave this world as righteous believers, we must prepare our limited breaths in this temporal world for our last breath. For our happiness in the Hereafter it is essential to spend our lives in this world performing good deeds, showing kindness, and following the straight path of Islâm. As is stated in the following hadîth:

A man dies in accordance with the state he lived in and he is resurrected in accordance with the state he died in.” (Munâwî, Fayd al-Qadîr sharh Jâmi‘ al-Saghîr, vol. V, 663)

The ultimate goal is to take the final step towards Allah Almighty with peace and awareness, and to feel contentment and happiness at the moment we breathe our last; there will certainly be those who at the last moments of their lives will be experiencing nothing less than a nightmare. Our goal is also to be in a position to say happily, “I am coming to you my Lord!” May Allah grant us the ability to be able to say these words, Âmîn!

Whatever the soul is occupied with in this world, it will continue to be engaged with at the time of death. Of course there are exceptions: Even though a believer spends their life doing good deeds in order to finally pass away in a state of belief, they should never take for granted that they will attain the mercy of Allah. Similarly, a person who has sinned and lived a contemptible life should not lose hope in the grace of Allah Almighty. This is since the way in which we expend our final breath is a divine secret.

In the Qur’ân there are many examples of those who struggled at the time of death to protect their faith as well as those who, while living a righteous life, chose to be captives of their desires and consequently fell into blasphemy.

There are the knowledgeable ones who, instead of adorning their knowledge with enlightenment, chose to follow their desires: examples are Shaytân, Qârûn, Bal’am bin Bawra and the Companion of the Prophet, Salâba, all of whom were deceived by the intrigues of this world.

As each of us knows, Shaytân was once highly esteemed by Allah Almighty. But due to his pride he was unable to see the magnificence, power, and glory of the Divine Imperative and, as a result, he claimed that he was superior to Âdam. Deluded by the thought that he was both favored and honored, he opposed the command of Allah. Eventually, due to his pride and stubbornness, Shaytân was subjected to eternal estrangement.

Qârûn was once a poor but righteous person. After the Prophet Mûsâ (upon him be peace), he was the greatest exegete of the Torah. He was gifted with the secret of alchemy as a result of a prayer by Mûsâ, but later was overcome by his desires and his heart inclined to worldly pleasures. He became so wealthy that even men of great strength were unable to carry the keys to his treasure. He was ensnared by his caprice and affluence such that when the Prophet Mûsâ (upon him be peace) ordered him to pay his alms, Qârûn had the audacity to ask: “Are you after the wealth which I have earned?” Indeed, it was his wealth that was the cause of his impertinence and destruction.

Qârûn was also jealous of the spiritual states reached by Mûsâ and Hârûn (upon them be peace). His resentment and envy was so excessive that he attempted to defame Mûsâ by accusing him of indecency. As a result, Qârûn was buried together with his wealth which he had been so proud of. Forgetting who the true owner of wealth is and falling in love with worldly possessions and ranks are the most grievous kinds of heedlessness.

Bal’am bin Bawra was a pious servant and a miracle worker who was granted knowledge of the most-powerful name of Allah, Ism-i Azam. He was known among the Israelites as a saint and a scholar. But Bal’am bin Bawra later squandered his spiritual state by becoming a slave to his carnal passions. This incident is reported in the Qur’ân:

“Relate to them the story of the man to whom We sent Our Signs, but he passed them by: So Satan followed him up, and he went astray. If it had been Our will, We should have elevated him with Our Signs: but he Inclined to the earth, and followed his own vain desires. His similitude is that of a dog: if you attack him, he lolls out his tongue, or if you leave him alone, he (still) lolls out his tongue. That is the similitude of those who reject Our Signs; so relate the story perchance they may reflect.” (A‘râf, 7: 175-176)

Another example of one who, while living a life of excellence, was deceived and destroyed by worldly passions and who exchanged eternal happiness for eternal misery was Salâba. He would spend his time in the mosque and with the Prophet listening to his sermons to begin with but when he became affluent Salâba’s affection for worldly possessions grew and in time he abandoned the community. Refraining from his duty of giving alms, he was subjected to a pitiful end. Later, he regretted not listening to the words of the Prophet Muhammad; when he eventually realized that his time had elapsed, he tried in vain to attain the forgiveness of the Messenger of Allah. In his last moments the words of the Prophet echoed in his ears: “O, Salâba, for you to be grateful for a little wealth is much better than you possessing great wealth for which you are not.”[1]

An example from the life of Sufyân al-Thawrî, one of the greatest figures in the history of Islamic Law and Sufism, is worthy of mention. Sufyân looked much older than his age. He would tell those who asked the reason for this: “I had a teacher who was educating me. While he breathed his last he could not say the kalima-i tawhid, even though I exhorted him to do so. Seeing this has aged me.”

When death will come to us is a matter concealed. Like Pharaoh’s sorcerers, there are those who will be guided unto the right path at the end of their lives; then there are those who have lived pious lives but close the final chapter of life in disappointment and frustration, such as Qârûn and Bal’am bin Bawra. Therefore, however high the spiritual state, rank and superiority of a servant may be, the self (nafs)and Shaytân are at all times waiting for the right moment to attack. No sooner than they find a chance, they attempt to cause the servant’s feet to slip from the Straight Path. Shaytân, as stated in the Qur’ân, said to Allah Almighty:

“Because thou hast thrown me out (of the Way), lo! I will lie in wait for them on thy straight way.” (A‘râf, 7: 16)

He asked to be granted respite until the Day of Resurrection. Allah Almighty granted this time to Shaytân. Shaytân swore that only the sincere believers would escape his attacks:

“Except thy servants amongst them, sincere and purified (by thy grace).” (Sâd, 38: 83)

No human being is safe from the danger of losing his faith unless he is a prophet. This is why all believers must make a resolute effort to make the best use of the blessings given to them. The only way to be saved from the terrors of death is to endeavor to live a pious life. Those who are prepared for death will see death as an opportunity to be united with the Beloved rather than something terrifying. These are the blessed believers who have attained peace in death. Those who spend their lives in blindness and destroy their lives in the Hereafter can never be rescued from the torment of the horrific, dark turbulence of death.

How beautifully Rûmî explains this: “O Son! Everyone’s death is of the same quality as himself: Death is an enemy for those who hate the thought of death without contemplating that it unites the servant with Allah, and who see death as an enemy, yet it is a friend for those who see death as a friend.

O Soul who runs away from death! In fact your fear of death in fleeing from it is really your fear of yourself.

Because what you see in the mirror of death is your own ugly face, not the visage of death. Your spirit is like a tree, and death is like a leaf. Every leaf is of the genus of its tree

If a servant can surpass himself, if he can internalize the divine attributes in his heart, if he can attain the secret of “dying before the arrival of death”, then death will be seen as the first mandatory step towards an eternal life with the Supreme and Almighty Lord. So death, which is a cause for deep fright for many, turns into the excitement of meeting with Rafîq-i A‘lâ, the Supreme Companion.

The final moments of the Prophet Muhammad (May Allah bless him and grant him peace) were times of the greatest excitement in which he looked forward to communion with the Beloved. Since he (May Allah bless him and grant him peace) lived all his life in obedience to the orders of his Lord, his days before his death were as a Shab-i Arus or wedding night. According to a  report from ‘isha and ‘Alî (May Allah be pleased with both of them), every day for the last three days before the Prophet’s (May Allah bless him and grant him peace) death, Allah Almighty had sent Archangel Jibrîl to the Prophet Muhammad to ask about him. On the final day, Archangel Jibrîl, who was with Azrâ’îl the Angel of Death, came to the Prophet and said: “O, Messenger of Allah, the Angel of Death is asking permission to enter. He has never asked for permission to enter from any other son of Âdam! And he will never ask permission to enter from any son of Âdam after you! Please grant him your permission!”

The Angel of Death went in, stood in front of the Prophet Muhammad and said: “O, Messenger of Allah! Allah Almighty has sent me to you and ordered me to obey all of your orders! If you wish, I will take your soul! If you wish, I will leave your soul!” The Prophet Muhammad asked: “O, Angel of Death! Would you really do this?” Azrâ’îl replied: “I have been ordered to obey every one of your commands.” Archangel Gabriel then said: “O Ahmed! Allah Almighty misses you!” The Prophet replied: “Everything with Allah is more favorable and more enduring. O Angel of Death, do what you have been ordered to do, take my soul!”

The Prophet Muhammad put his hand in the water at his side and wiped his face. He then said “Lâ illâha illallâh! (I bear witness that there is no God but Allah) Truly, death has its own agony!” After this, the Prophet Muhammad held his hands up, looked up towards the ceiling and said: “O Allah! Rafîq-i A‘lâ, Rafîq-i A‘lâ (the Most Supreme Companion, the Most Supreme Companion).”

The Prophet Muhammad left behind him a lifetime of sublime memories borne out of his love and compassion for Allah, and migrated from this mortal world to the world of Truth.[1]

The final moments and the excitement of Mawlânâ Jalâl al-Dîn Rûmî to be united with his Beloved after living a life of prosperity was reported by his student Husâmaddîn Chelebî:

‘One day Shaykh Sadreddîn and a number of his disciples came to visit Mawlânâ at his deathbed. They were saddened when they saw that Mawlânâ’s condition was bad. Shaykh Sadreddîn said: “May Allah help you to recover quickly! I hope you will soon be completely well.” Upon hearing this, Mawlânâ said: “May you be blessed with health! There is just a short distance left between the lover and the Beloved; would you not prefer this distance to be removed so that light may reunite with Light?”[2]

Unlike most people, Rûmî never perceived death as something to fear; on the contrary, he saw death as something which rescues one from a foreign land. He considered death to be a reunion with the One of Eternal Goodness, Allah Almighty. In one of his works, Rûmî explains his attitude to death:

Do not call me dead when I die because I was already dead. I have been resurrected with death; a companion has come and taken me…

This is why Rûmî called the moment of his departure from this world “Shab-i Arûs” (the wedding night).

To be able to face death with such grace a person must first destroy his self and passions. He must live his life in accordance with the Divine Imperative and be prepared to breathe his last. Allah Almighty states:

And worship thy Lord until there come unto thee certainty.”(Hijr, 15: 99)

This summarizes the principle of all the lives of the Companions of Allah!

Every wise and adoring soul should maintain the life that has been entrusted to it on the Straight Path and embellish it with worship and adoration. In perfect servitude every human being should make an effort to take a sound heart to Allah Almighty. The Prophet Muhammad’s (May Allah bless him and grant him peace) saying “Rafîq-i A‘lâ, Rafîq-i A‘lâ (the Most Supreme Companion, the Most Supreme Companion)” in his final moments was a manifestation of his servitude; it continues to be seen as such by all wise ones who follow the Prophet’s footsteps.

In fact, the state of our grand sheikh, Mahmûd Sâmî Efendi, in his final moments is a very good example for us. He made every effort to live his life according to the Sunnah of the Prophet Muhammad (May Allah bless him and grant him peace).

Mahmûd Sâmî Efendi was a pious servant of Allah Almighty and his heart was full of love for the Prophet Muhammad (May Allah bless him and grant him peace).

Like the one trying to follow footsteps left in the snow by one who has preceded, Mahmûd Sâmî Efendi spent his life following the footsteps of the Prophet Muhammad.

The greatest manifestation of this is the fact that he surrendered his soul at the time of night prayer (tahajjud) at a place close to the grave of the Prophet Muhammad, whom he had followed with love and commitment.

Those who were beside him at the time of his death reported that the only thing that he could be heard uttering was “Allah, Allah, Allah”. In fact, it was not just his tongue uttering this. His soul and every cell in his body affirmed the presence of Allah.

In short, the objective is to be to live and surrender as a righteous servant; this is what Allah Almighty requires of us. We should follow the life of the Prophet and be kind, thoughtful and gentle human beings. If we wish to achieve the rank of ‘excellent slave!’(Sa‘d 38: 30), we must realize it is only possible through loving Allah Almighty.

Being blessed with spiritual affection is realized by purifying the heart from all filth and consequently having the heart ready for the light of the sun of truth. As a result of this spiritual state, every moment of our breathing lives will hopefully be a preparation for the final breath we will take.

On the other hand, spiritual damage and loss is incurred by forgetting Allah the Merciful. The Almighty says in the Qur’ân:

“And be ye not like those who forgot Allah so He made them forget themselves! Such are the rebellious transgressors!.”(Hashr, 59: 19)

Indeed, we commit sins and do evil deeds when we forget Allah. When we remember the Almighty and are aware of the reality of death, we pay more attention to worship and to our actions; we show more sensitivity and try to avoid hurting the feelings of others. That is why we must never harm anybody with either our behavior or with our tongue.

How well Yunus Emre expressed this level of courtesy in the following poem:

The soul is the throne of the Divine

The Divine glanced at the soul

Unhappy he will be in both abodes

Whoever breaks a heart

Allah Almighty has warned us in many verses of the Qur’ân about our actions, desires and our conduct, showing us the way to avoid having our lives ending in sorrow.

“O ye who believe! Fear Allah as He should be feared, and die not except in a state of Islâm.” (Âl ‘Imrân, 3: 102)

The point is to live in accordance with the injunctions of the Qur’ân. If we live any other way, it will be of no consequence whether we have a long or a short life. All creatures will confront the reality mentioned in the following divine statement:

“The Day they see it, (It will be) as if they had tarried but a single evening, or (at most till) the following morn!” (Nâzi‘ât, 79: 46)

All we need to do is to pray in the evening and in the mid-morning, worship and show obedience.

Junayd-i Baghdâdî warned us with the following words of advice:

“An hour on earth is more valuable than a thousand years in the Hereafter because in the Hereafter there are no deeds for us to do to attain salvation”

O Allah! Grant us a prosperous life enabling us to breathe our last in a state of love and devotion and thus unite with Your Divine Presence!

Âmîn!

 

[1].See Ibn Sa’d, Tabaqât, II, 229, 259; Balazûrî, Ansâb al-Ashrâf, I, 565; Ahmad b. Hanbal, Musnad, VI, 89.

[2].See Ebu’l Hasan en-Nedevi, İslam Önderleri Tarihi, vol. I, 449

[1]. See, Tabarî, Tafsîr, XIV, 370-72; Ibn Kathîr, Tafsîr, II, 388.