People, generally speaking, do not want to die. Even at an advanced age, they remain unconcerned about imminence of death. They live as though death is a far distant reality. Almighty God draws attention to this human instinct, saying: “And you will surely find them the most greedy of people for life ... One of them wishes that he could be granted life a thousand years, but it would not remove him in the least from the [coming] punishment that he should be granted life. And Allah is Seeing of what they do.” (Qur’an, 2:96)
Despite the people having a general sense of indifference with regards to death, everyone, as Qur’an mentioned, has to have the taste of death. Weather an infant or an adult, they are at equidistant from death. No one has even a shred of guarantee about living beyond a certain point of age.
Life is like an hourglass. Since birth, a person’s life of hourglass starts to run down toward the empty part, reducing the grains of life gradually. It hardly matters whether it concerns, and to what extent, to us or not.
The sands of time keep running out until the last grain in the hourglass slides down from the narrow neck of the hourglass. Only God knows how full everyone’s hourglass is. Allah Almighty makes us experience this sense all through our lives. In fact, if one thinks with an open mind, he would see that our lives consist of only a few decades. If we take out our childhood period and the senior years, which will probably be filled with illnesses and weaknesses, what remain to us is two or three decades at most in which we will live in the true sense.
Will those decades pass healthy and strong or with illnesses? God is the only One Who knows this; that is because He is the One Who creates our destiny. Since we are being tried, there is tenacity in our lower-selves not to think about death. As a matter of fact, no matter where we turn our eyes, we continuously come face to face with death but nevertheless we don’t allow ourselves to think about it. Everything in this world is finite: Not only humans, but animals, plants, bugs, fruits, vegetables, even furniture, and even the universe itself is a finite thing.
A rose in the garden would never preserve its freshness forever, nor would a peach on the tree. The dog at our door will not remain with us throughout our lives; it gets old, it gets ill and it dies as well. Our furniture wears down, our houses settle and age, our cars ultimately wear out. The world itself wears out. In an environment in which death prevails to this extent, surprisingly one is able to close his eyes and ears to this fact of life. One is able remain blind to this inevitable fact of life.
However, God wants us to think about death. Our Prophet (peace be upon him) says “Remember frequently death, the thing that cuts off pleasures.” (At-Tirmidhi, 2307) That is because when one thinks about death, he starts understanding that the world is transient. He realizes that the Hereafter is our real abode and that he needs to prepare for the Hereafter. When one thinks about death, he starts to get rid of the impertinence that comes by on one’s soul upon seeing death as a far off concern and not pondering upon his own mortality.
But many people are unable to possess that strength to succeed thinking about death merely with their own free-will. Some because of fear, some because they do not concentrate fully, some because of their obstinacy and some merely because they really are unable to think of it. That is why God makes everyone, without exception, go through many weaknesses, many difficulties, many ordeals throughout their lives.
God does not want us to go to the Hereafter unprepared. He doesn’t want us to experience irrevocable remorse in the Hereafter. God wants us, His servants, to be happy and to lead a beautiful life. For that to happen God wants us to attain the most beautiful morality. All the diseases, injuries and deficiencies we have experienced throughout our lives, even those we have considered as bad at first, have all been created with this intent and wisdom. They have all been created for us to attain a more beautiful morality, a deeper point of view, a mature, grounded soul, without forgetting the truth of our death.
Had people always been healthy and had they remained young all their lives, that insane ambition of theirs wanting to adhere to the life of this world would have grown even stronger. However, when a person sees the signs of his growing older on his face as years pass by, or when he wakes up with some sharp ache when he was perfectly fine the day before, or when he learns that he has cancer or when he loses his arm or leg in a car accident during the prime of his life, only then some can focus his mind to consider such matters more easily.
He starts understanding the irrationality of becoming insanely devoted to a mortal life with a mortal body; that is of course, if he has a mind and a soul that is inclined to faith. The matters that he attaches priority to would then start to change. Even with one single MRI report, one would swiftly start to understand that things like his possessions in this world, his appearance, his wealth and career are all transient things and they will start to lose their importance in his eyes. He might have lived for 20 or 30 years believing in these transient values, but a single illness might be enough to change his erroneous point of view. In this way that illness or hardship that he encounters becomes a blessing for him. He reminds himself of the truth of this world, which is, that every thing is so fleeting. Hence God educates His servants.
God is the One Who is very merciful toward His servants. The love He has for His servants lies beneath those difficulties He makes His servants live through in this world. But as the result of this training, God grants His servants an infinite life in happiness, joy and merriment in the Hereafter.
The writer has authored more than 300 books translated in 73 languages on politics, religion and science.