Bismillah. We are going to continue our discussion on death. I just realized that the last post on this was relatively short…I had done a previous series on this as well, but the posts were a bit broken up, so I’m just trying to get the topics to flow better this time 🙂
This is the stage right before death; it is the stupor of death.
Allah says in Surah Qaaf: “And the stupor of death will come in truth: ‘This is what you have been avoiding!'” (50:19)
Ar-Raaghib said: “This stupor (sukr) is the state where a person loses his mind; this word is used mostly in connection with intoxicant drinks. It is also used to describe such things as anger, love, pain, slumber and the delirium caused by intense pain. This is what is meant by this aayah.”
Even the Prophet sallallahu ‘alayhi wa sallam experienced the stupor of death! He (S) said: “La ilaaha illallah, indeed death has stupors.” (Bukhari) So if the Prophet (S) experienced the agony and stupor of death, then what would we feel at death?
There are different categories of the pain that is experienced at death. The kaafir and the evil doer will suffer more pain at death than the believer, as we have already mentioned in the hadith about the angel of death pulling the soul out (see previous post).
The one who feels very little at death is the shaheed who falls in battle. The Prophet sallallahu ‘alayhi wa sallam said: “The shaheed does not feel the pain of death except as one of you feels the pain of a nip or a pinch.” (Tirmidhi, Nasaa`i, Ad-Daarimi)
Make Tawbah Now, or Forever Hold Your Peace
At the time of death, a person wants to come back to this world. If he was a kaafir, he wants to come back so that he may believe. And if he was a sinner, he wants to come back to make tawbah.
Allah says: “Until, when death comes to one of them (those who join partners with Allah), he says: ‘My Lord! Send me back, So that I may do good in that which I have left behind!’ No! It is but a word that he speaks, and behind them is Barzakh (a barrier) until the Day when they will be resurrected.” (23:99-100) They were given a chance in this world, and they didn’t take advantage of it. Now, when it’s too late, they ask to come back to repent and do good. Allah says that there is a barrier between them and going back; it’s too late. We are going through a road and suddenly there is a road and we cannot go back. Right now, the door of opportunity is open and Tawbah will not be accepted later.
You have the opportunity of making Tawbah until the moment of al-gharghara – when the soul is preparing to leave the body.
One of the most vile, evil men to walk the face of the earth made tawbah before death. Do you know who it was? Pharoah – at the time of Musa ‘alayhis salaam.
Jibril told the Prophet sallallahu ‘alayhi wa sallam: “If you could have seen me while I was taking black mud from the sea and placing it into the mouth of Fir’awn out of fear that the mercy might reach him.” (At-Tabari) Imagine Fir’awn – probably one of the greatest tyrants of all time – about to die. And the angel Gabriel comes; he is stuffing sand in the Pharoah’s mouth out of fear that he may repent and Allah may forgive him. Allah tells us what happened in the Qur’an:
“…he [Fir’awn] said: ‘I believe that La ilaha illa (Huwa): (none has the right to be worshipped but) He, in Whom the Children of Israel believe, and I am one of the Muslims (those who submit to Allah’s Will).’” (10:90-91) So Fir’awn did make tawbah at death! And what does Allah respond to him with? “Now (you believe) while you refused to believe before and you were one of the Mufsidun (evil-doers, corrupts, etc.).” (10:90-91)
Allah did no accept his Tawbah because it was too late. So Allah will accept the Tawbah, as long as it is spoken before this time when the soul is leaving the body.
Death comes suddenly – you are not given a notice. It comes unannounced and there is no way you can change it, or no matter how much you try to convince the angel of death or no matter how busy you are. The best time for Tawbah is NOW.
The Prophet sallallahu ‘alayhi wa sallam said: “Whoever desires or looks forward to meeting Allah, Allah would love meeting him. Whoever dislikes meeting Allah, Allah dislikes meeting him.”
Umm al-Mu`mineen ‘Aa`isha would question something if she didn’t understand it. So when she heard this, she said to the Prophet sallallahu ‘alayhi wa sallam: “And who of us does not dislike death?” (Does disliking death mean we dislike meeting Allah?) The Prophet sallallahu ‘alayhi wa sallam said, “This is not what I meant. When the believer is about to die, he will be given the news that Allah is pleased with him. So the most beloved thing to him would be his future. So he would love to meet Allah, and Allah would love to meet him. When the non believer is about to die, he is given the news that Allah is angry with him and will punish him. So he will dislike meeting Allah, and Allah will dislike meeting him.” (This hadith is not cited; I just rewrote it as heard from a speaker. See the hadith in Muslim 35/6492)
The Last 5 Minutes are the Hardest
Ramadan is coming up alhamdulillah! You know how the family all gathers around the table at iftaar time? And those delicious aromas are just wafting up to your nose and mom’s food just looks oh so yum? Those last five minutes before iftaar seem to be the hardest 🙂
Our scholars mentioned that during those critical moments of death, the shaytaan comes to a person in the form of his father or mother, or some other loved one who sincerely cared for him, advising him and calling him to follow some other principle that goes against Islam. Then those for whom Allah has decreed doom will deviate from the truth.
Ibn Taymiyyah mentioned that the Shaytaan is at his most keen to mislead a person at the time of death, because it is such a critical time. In support of this view, he quoted the hadith which is narrated in As-Sahih: “It is man’s final deed (before death) that counts.” And he (S) said: “A person may do the deeds of the people of Paradise until there is no more than a cubit between him and it, then the decree overtakes him and he does an action of the people of Hell and thus enters it (Hell). Or a person may do the deeds of the people of Hell and thus he enters it (Hell). Or a person may do the deeds of the people of Hell until there is no more than a cubit between him and it, then the decree overtakes him and he does an action of the people of Paradise and thus he enters it (Paradise).” (see a full hadith here). Hence it is narrated that
“The Shaytaan tries his hardest to tempt the son of Adam at the time of death, and he says to his helpers, ‘Try to catch this one, for is he gets away you will never catch him.'”
Between Two Worlds
When you are going from dunya to akhirah, it’s a very difficult change. You’ve been in this world for 60 or 70 years and now you are going to a completely different world. That change between these two stages is difficult, sometimes it doesn’t happen immediately. Sometimes you’ll find that the person goes back and forth.
To simplify this, think of sleep, because sleep is the minor death. Allah says, “And it is He who takes your souls by night and knows what you have committed by day. Then He revives you therein that a specified term may be fulfilled. Then to Him will be your return; then He will inform you about what you used to do.” (6:60) Sleep is a minor death.
You go through a stage in which you’re not awake and you’re not sleeping. The same thing happens before death; you are going through this stage between life and death. There are moments where you are on the other side and other moments on this side.
‘Abdullah, the son of Imam Ahmad ibn Hanbal, said: “My father was dying, and I had in my hand a piece of cloth with which to bind his beard. He was drifting in and out of consciousness, and gesturing with his hand to say ‘No, no.’ He did this several times, and I said to him, ‘O’ my father, what was that?’ He said, ‘The shaytaan was standing near me, biting his fingertips (i.e. trying hard) and saying, ‘Come on, Ahmad!’ and I was saying ‘No, no,’ – until he died.”
Put a criteria to yourself – if you are losing to shaytaan now, while the battle is easy, what will happen to you in the last moments, when it gets tough? If you are already losing the battle now, when shaytaan is giving you half of his attention, what will happen when he gives you his full attention?
When we die, and we are experiencing the agonies of death, shaytaan decides that this is the time to make his last effort and give it his best shot. This is the time that we’ve been training for all our lives. We have to be able to safeguard ourselves from shaytaan and die upon imaan. InshaAllah if we have led our whole lives upon La ilaaha illallah, then we will be able to finish that way as well.
We will end here inshaAllah, and next time we shall talk about evil endings and the reason for evil endings.