While this story is often quoted to demonstrate the qualities of a patient and considerate wife, it also reveals her profound wisdom and understanding. She comprehended that Allah was the owner of her son and was entitled to claim him back at His will.
Our reinforcement of Allah being the owner of all things is also reflected by how we are encouraged to react when we hear of someone’s death. We are taught to say “inna lillahi wa inna ilaihi raji’uun” which loosely translated means – “Surely we belong to Allah and to Him shall we return”. This phrase is a comfort and reminder for us. We are not here forever, and our lease of life will one day end.
The First Stroke of Grief
Patience is a virtue often extolled in Islam. Anas (RA) reported: The Prophet (PBUH) passed by a woman who was crying over a grave and said, “Fear Allah and be patient.” She said, “Away from me! My calamity has not befallen you and you are not aware of it.” The woman was later told that it was the Prophet (PBUH) (who had advised her). She came to his door where she found no doorkeeper. She said, “(I am sorry) I did not know you.” Messenger of Allah (PBUH) said, “Patience is (becoming) only at the first (stroke) of grief.” [Bukhari & Muslim].
Numerous ahadith have prohibited us from any excessive or violent display of grief that is reminiscent of the period of pre Islamic ignorance, such as wailing or tearing our clothes. This does not mean that we are to deny our emotions. We are only human and Allah bestowed upon us the faculty to love and feel pain, but we are also reminded to treat death in a dignified and patient manner. Allah understands our distress when it comes to losing someone, and what we are expected to do is to turn to Him for help and ease. The simple message can be distilled into: trust Allah and be patient with what has been ordained.
We are continuously being tested, by what we love and what we don’t, including the loss of life, and the loss of those we love. However, we can turn the loss into a blessing for us:
On the authority of Abu Hurayrah (RA), who said that the Messenger of Allah (PBUH) said: “Allah (mighty and sublime be He) says: ‘My faithful servant’s reward from Me, if I have taken to Me his best friend from amongst the inhabitants of the world and he has then borne it patiently for My sake, shall be nothing less than Paradise.’“[Bukhari]
We may feel as if our situations are unique, and that we feel shocked, devastated and overwhelmed. However, others too have faced terrible losses of their loved ones. Even our Prophet SAW was not insulated from the passing of those beloved to him – his parents, grandfather, uncle, wives, children and cherished Companions. He shed tears at their passing, wept as he laid them to rest, and missed them after they were gone. However, he accepted Allah’s decree. And did not permit his grief to overshadow his mission in life.
Even if our loved ones are gone, we have to hold on to our belief that Allah is our sustainer and cherisher. We will naturally feel the void that has been left behind, but we need to surrender to Allah’s will, and turn to Allah for guidance and strength. Allah will fill the emptiness, and will comfort and provide for us – and slowly, over time, the pain will subside. After everyone is gone, Allah will still remain, and there is great compensation, so much higher than our sorrow and anguish, waiting for us at the finish line if we bear the loss with patience and trust in Allah.
Like the shifting currents of life, the grief too shall pass. However, life will be different, and one has to accept again that nothing in this world is permanent. Physical and emotional adjustments will have to be made to accommodate the new circumstances. It will take time to fully accept that the person will never be there again. Memories and emotions will come flooding back when we least expect. The healing will take time. But if you are patient with Allah’s decree and turn to Him during your anguish, the peace and calm will return sooner rather than later.
The Relationship After Death
Someone once told me that real test of love begins after death. The sincerity of the love that we felt for the ones who have passed on, will continuously crystallize into our supplications for them, by living out any good legacy that they left behind, and by emulating all the good that they have taught us. Whenever we think about them and feel sad, don’t just think of our own personal loss, but also, the condition of their soul and how we can help them with their lives in the hereafter.
We can still communicate our love to the departed through our dua and our prayers for them. We can beg Allah to bestow His mercy on their souls, forgive their sins, give them ease in the grave, and elevate their stations in the hereafter. We also dignify the dead by remembering their goodness, forgiving their wrongs against us, and by never speaking ill of them or their past mistakes. We can even make dua to be reunited with them in jannah. While we may not see the product of our efforts now, the sincerity and depth of our love will prove itself in the hereafter.
This is how I eventually dealt with my mother’s death. My tears will neither bring her back to life, nor ease the guilt for the times when I should have been a better daughter. I still have a relationship with her – a totally different kind of relationship of course, one in which I pray to Allah to save her from the torture of the grave, reward her with jannah, and to give her a better and happier life than what she experienced during her short stay in dunia with us. I do not know if my prayers have been accepted, so I keep trying. She has been gone for over 20 years now, but I still have the rest of my life to pray for her eternal well being, insha Allah. This realization was the turning point that finally made me cope.
What about our own death?
Death is a humbling reminder of our own vulnerability, fragility and mortality. If there is any other lesson to consider, whenever we witness death we should also wonder who will be next. Could it be us?
Muslims are encouraged to recite Surah Ya-seen on the eve of every Friday as a means of commemorating our departed Muslim brothers and sisters. However, it is also a reminder for us, the ones who are still alive, to remedy our own misbehavior and turn back towards Allah before it is too late.
Visit a graveyard, and you will realize the utter loneliness of those buried there, as years go by, visitors stop frequenting, names fade from headstones and the dead are gradually erased from the memories of the living.
The same way that others have left their own footprints in our lives, what legacy are we leaving behind?
When it is time for us to breathe our last, who will weep for us and why?
Who will remember us and pray for us a year, a decade, a century, after we’ve gone?
What awaits us in the next life?
This is what life, and death, is truly about.
May Allah give us all a good ending, ameen.
Written by Muslim Footsteps