Reflecting on Departure from this Life in Preparation for the Next

By Imam Osama Salhia

All praises belonging to Allah (SWT) and may the peace and blessings be upon our beloved Prophet Muhammad (SAWS). Oh you who believe be conscious of Allah and do not die except upon faith, amma ba’ad. Brothers and sisters, Ramadan 2016 or 1437 is now a set of memories. Just as we can all maybe remember some of the scenes of Ramadan 2015, Ramadan 2016 has now come to an end. Each one of us have their own set of experiences, and may remember a few of them, or insha’allah all of them in the years to come. Remember, brothers and sisters, the anticipation and the preparation that we were all making for Ramadan just a few weeks ago. Ramadan 2017, if we’re blessed to witness it, will also be a set of memories in our lives just as we have come to this point two days after Eid last year. We will also come to this point next year, and the days of our lives past.

Our Prophet (SAWS) said that there are two moments of joy for those who fast, Two times, two moments of great joy for those who fast. The first one is when they break their fast, and the second is when they meet their Lord. Ask Allah (SWT) the One who blessed us with the first moment of joy on that day of Eid two days ago to bless us with that second moment of joy when we meet him, and He accepts our prayers and our fasting, and enters us into Jannah. Allahuma ameen.

Brothers and sisters, I was thinking about this a little bit, thinking about the concept of departure and how Ramadan has bid us farewell, and how everything in this life is ever changing, in constant change, things come and go, people come and go, we will go. The only one that will remain, the only constant in existence is Allah (SWT) (Quran – 55:26, 55:27). Everything upon its surface, that includes you and I, that includes your properties and my properties, my wealth and your wealth, all of it will come to an end, and the only thing that will remain is Allah (SWT). Thinking of this concept of departure, how it affects the Muslim mindset, our attitude in this life, the way we deal with our things, our possessions, our loved ones, I share with you a narration on the account of Anas ibn Malik (RA), one of the companions of our Prophet (SAWS). He said that the angel of death came to Sayeedenah Nuh, and he told them, “Oh Prophet who had the longest life among the prophets, how did you find this life and its pleasures?” Keep in mind Sayeedenah Nuh, he lived for a little over a thousand years, and he gave da’wah to his people for a period of 950 years as the Qur’an mentions. He said to the angel of death, according to this narration, “How was my life nearly a thousand years of living?” He said, “It’s just like someone who enters a home that has two doors. He enters the center of the home for a period of time, a short period of time, and then he leaves the other door.” This is the exact sentiment that will be expressed on the Day of Judgement. They will be asked those in regret,”How long were you upon earth?” You will say, “Only a day, or part of a day.” They will be told, “You only were there for a very short amount of time if you but knew.”

Brothers and sisters, thinking of the concept of departure, Ramadan departed. Our loved ones may depart. Our friendships may come to an end, and we may go on separate ways. I may gain wealth today and lose it tomorrow. Our Prophet (SAWS) was told in the authentic hadith reported in Hakim and Qabarani by Sayyidinah Jibril. He told him, The Prophet (SAWS) was told, and Jibril, by way of our Prophet (SAWS) teaching the ummah, and granting us a few gems, he said, “Oh Muhammad, love whomever you will, you will leave them. Either you will relocate, either you will get busy with something else, and you won’t have time to see your loved ones anymore, or they will pass away, or you will pass away.” Everyone, think for a moment in your life, how many people have you developed relationships with? Strong relationships, people you may have lived with for a few years, or even some of us a few decades, and now they’ve gone their own path in life, they live somewhere very far away, or they passed on from this dunya, and you’re somewhere else completely different. Love whomever you will, you will leave them. Do as you please, you will be compensated for it or called to account for it. Live as long as you may, you will die. The hadith in the end gives us general advice, “Know that the believer’s honor is in his night prayers, and that his pride is in being independent of others.”

Brothers and sisters, I must ask myself, am I ready and are those who I will leave behind, or you will leave behind ready? Am I ready for that departure, and are those around me ready for that departure? Let’s reflect on this for a moment. If Allah willed, brothers and sisters, think with me for a moment. May Allah (SWT) bless us all with a long life in His servitude. Just to reflect because reflection on this matter is key and critical to our growth and the way we handle things in life. If I was removed from the equation, from the picture now, not tomorrow, not the day after, right now if I was removed from the equation, or you were removed from the equation, what will happen to your children? Will they lose their connection with their deen because you’re always the one who has to remind them, and they have no dependence or independence in terms of their interest in the deen? They only pray because you tell them, “Get up and pray.” If you were to be removed from the equation, will your children stop praying? Will they be lost in life with no sense of direction? Will they be completely dependent upon others, not knowing how to do anything for themselves? Will they be fighting with each other over the inheritance as many siblings end up doing after their parents pass on?

Forget about the example of family for a moment, say, in our programs and our masajid, in our organizations, if a key person was removed from the equation, he went somewhere else, will everything collapse after he goes? Will the functions all come to a standstill and a halt because the main responsibilities were all tied to one individual? Someone might say, “Well, that is the unknown, why do we have to think about that? Allah will make it easy. Allah will take care of my kids. Allah will take care of my family. Allah will take care of the organizations. Why do I need to worry about that?” Brothers and sisters, this is exactly it. The companions, our righteous predecessors, they excelled in life because they dealt with things in their minds, keeping in mind that they can depart any moment. They don’t put it in their heart, and they prepare their environment that they are in, that if they were taken out of the equation, things would continue. Brothers and sisters, we must discipline ourselves, and our community to function in this way. If we view matters in light of our departure, we cannot function with all of the responsibilities centralized around one person, an awful way to function.

If we view matters in light of our departure, we must raise our children to function independently in terms of their deen, and in terms of their dunya, both, in terms of their religious matters, and in terms of their worldly matters. The worst thing that a parent can do is to develop their child with the mindset of dependence upon them. Many children grow up in this way to their 20s, late 20s, maybe even to their 30s, not knowing how to function by themselves in terms of their deen, and/or their dunya. Brothers and sisters, this mindset is what our Prophet (SAWS) advised us to have. He said to one of the companions, Sayyidina Umar “Be in this dunya, in this life as though you were a stranger or as though you are simply passing through and count yourself among the people of the graves.” Now, someone who doesn’t understand or think, “Okay, well, that’s a very gloomy way to look at life. I’m going to depart from my loved ones, my wealth is all going to go away, and I need to think about my departure, and I need to treat this life as though I’m a stranger.” No, no, no, the point is not to be gloomy here. The point is not to simply look at it at face value. No, this is the Prophet (SAWS) teaching us to be productive through this hadith. Think about how things will be when you’re gone, and deal with things while you are here with that mindset. Deal with your children with that mindset. Deal with those around you with that mindset.

Brothers and sisters, there are those who we meet in life, who we can’t wait to get out of our memory. We wish that they were quickly forgotten, that it’s a patch in my life that I wish I never dealt with this person. There are others in your life and in my life who we always remember even decades later. “Oh, I remember so and so, he did this, and he used to say this, and he used to act in this way.” There are those people who are like that who are praised for generations or in the lives of those that they dealt with. There are those who are cursed, who are cast out for generations, maybe for centuries, by those they dealt with. Which will I be? Which will you be? Treat those around you as though you are departing today. What effect, what influence do you want to leave behind?

Our Prophet (SAWS) also addressing another aspect of this concept of departure when speaking about death. (SAWS) he passed by a Janazah, and he said, two words, very deep, very powerful, reminding us to be productive in keeping mind of our departure. He said, two types of people. The Prophet (SAWS) said, “There are those when they go to their graves, they are relaxing. There are those that when they go to their graves, the world is relieved of them.” Those around them, they are relieved from them. Even the trees, he says, even the cattle is relieved of that person. Many things have happened, brothers and sisters, throughout the ages. So many people have come and gone. So many people mentioned with praise. Many others mentioned and blamed, and most not worthy of mention at all. Where do you want to stand in this paradigm? Where do you want to be in relation to those around you, and those you come across in your life? What effect do you want to leave behind after you are gone for you and I will certainly go? But our effects, that is the question that we must ask ourselves. We ask Allah (SWT) to give us all tawfiq.

Brothers and sisters, as you can see, if you look at the concept of departure from this angle, you will see that it is not a gloomy subject at all, rather it is the way that we can be productive as leaders, as families, as communities, as organizations. Brothers and sisters, many things have happened throughout history, and many people have gone as I’ve said, but what effects remain, positive or negative, many people are damned throughout the generations. Many people are praised throughout the generations. Just with this in mind, I share with you an anecdote in Al-Andalus, we now what is referred to as Spain, an entire Muslim civilization thrived and prospered, but in its later days, Muslims began to lose control of Al-Andalus, and city after city, Al-Andalus fell. One poet eloquently described this reality, this reality of eventual departure we will all go. He said,  and then he goes on to say,  He said in regards to the falling Andalus at his time, “For all matters after fruition is decreased, nothing stays complete in this dunya.” Brothers and sisters, if it reaches a point when it is complete then know that after it  is decreased. He goes on to say, “One should not be deceived by life’s luxuries.” It is life as you see it, changes from day to day. Whoever is pleased with one time, he may be displeased many other times. This dar, this life that we are in does not know the idea of being constant, it’s forever changing.

He goes on to say very eloquently describing the falls of the cities of Andalus, he mentioned five cities, Valencia, Murcia, Jativa, Jaen, Cordova. Those of us who studied history, you’ll see these are entire civilizations, so many scholars, so many leaders, so many righteous people, so many awful people, corrupt people have come and gone. He says, “Ask, go ask. If you want to go to Spain, go to Spain, ask Valencia. What’s going on with Murcia? Where’s Jativa, and where is Jaen? Where is Cordova, the city that had so many scholars? How many of them have risen and mentioned, and had great power and great authority?” And then he concludes with mentioning a very eloquent line, he says, ” To all has come the affair that cannot be changed, that cannot be pushed away. To all has come the matter that was necessary to come, until they have gone on to invest life as though they have never even existed.

Brothers and sisters, we must train ourselves to leave that which we possess whether it’s authority or wealth. It will change our outlook on life. We must prepare ourselves, and our dependence, our families, our students, our communities, we must prepare our dependence for the moment we separate, for we will separate. But the question is one, in our dealings with those around us, we must consider the influence we are leaving behind. We ask Allah (SWT) to give us all tawfiq, and to bless us to live our lives with this understanding of the concept of departure. I ask Allah (SWT) to make the best of our affairs the last of our affairs, to make the best of our days the day we meet Him and He is pleased with us all. I ask Allah (SWT), the One who has blessed us to witness Ramadan 1437, 2016, to bless us to witness Ramadan 2017, to bless us to prepare for it; to bless us, to strive for His pleasure, and to be in His servitude.

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