Are We Prepared to Die

by:  A Muslim sister

On May 19, 1997, one of the members of our community, although she lived across the border in Ogdensburg, suffered a heart attack in Bangladesh. Her only son had just graduated from MIT and, in the fall, he would begin his next goal, to study Medicine at Columbia. The family had decided to take an extended vacation together during this period when they had a chance. They toured Egypt and then moved on to Bangladesh to visit relatives. One day, she decided to stay at her Aunt's house while her husband and son went to visit relatives in another city. That day she had a pain in her chest and told her Aunt to call a doctor. While waiting she said, 'I'm dying. If I were in the USA I may have lived but I am dying.' It was said that she died within 15 minutes before the doctor was able to come and do anything. Word was sent to her husband and son and both came immediately. The son apparently had a violent tantrum, as he could not accept the loss of his mother at that moment the person whom he had last seen alive and acting as she always had. The Auntie was in her mid-50s and left a husband within a few years of retirement from Medicine and a 23 year old son about to leave for medical school. Those that knew her recalled her last days. She had spent a week in Kingston before and during Eid-ul-Fitr while her husband was in Bangladesh looking into retirement options and during this time was able to spend time enjoying herself with all her friends in the city not worrying about anything. Later on, during another visit with her husband, she had made sure to visit everyone and, since she was about to leave for Bangladesh, she said goodbye to everyone and, especially, asked everyone to forgive her for anything she may have said or done as she may not come back. In fact, she phoned one friend in Syracuse and emphasized that she felt she might not return from Bangladesh.
* In July of 1994, nothing prepared me for the state that my friend was in. I was staying at her family's house when attending a wedding in Toronto. I had been told that she was sick but not how sick. She had been diagnosed with primary pulmonary hypertension. Basically, her lungs had to be replaced and, as a result, her heart was becoming damaged as well. My friend could barely breathe, would have coughing fits which would often cause her to resort to using an oxygen mask. She was taking several types of medication. Over the past few years she had gained a significant amount of weight which probably stemmed from her illness but she had been told that, in order to reduce the strain on her heart, she would have to lose weight. We, along with some other close friends of hers, took walks, stopping frequently, and with her continuously attached to her oxygen mask. She couldn't risk going out without it. She tried some exercises at home but would always get tired after just a few steps.
A month later, we were invited for a barbeque at her house which most were told was for her birthday but was actually because she was about to go into the hospital for tests. Alhamdulillah, she looked her old self again. She had coughing fits but they were not severe. She no longer kept her mask on when going out. It looked as if things were getting better. The next spring she called us from Montreal. She had found a specialist who could help her someone, she said that her own doctor knew about but did not mention to her. When examining her, this doctor was appalled that she had not been given medication for her heart. He was also appalled that her doctors while she was at university had not been able to diagnose her even though she was frequently sick. She could have been diagnosed 2-5 years beforehand. After a 6 week stay with her brother and mother in Montreal, she was able to go home but by now she had had a shunt put in to help her breathe. She stopped over at our house and once again I could not recognize my friend. Now she had lost weight until she was at least half her original size frail is the only way that she could be described. She was tired all the time, and still had coughing fits but that didn't prevent her from sitting and talking with me about what had been going on in her life. Over the next months I kept in touch with her by phone, calling from time to time but she could never speak for very long, as she would run out of breath. She was in line for a lung transplant but her heart was also damaged. In fact, the doctor in Montreal had said that if she had only been given the heart medication two years before she would not have deteriorated this far. Also because of all the medication she
was taken, her liver was becoming damaged and later her kidneys. At this stage she had gained 40 pounds of water because of kidney damage. She often talked about how no one really visited her anymore except for a few close friends and that she always looked forward to my calls because she was so lonely. One day we received a call that she was to be admitted to the hospital. There was a possibility of a lung transplant but they had to ensure that her liver was in a good state as well as her other organs so that they would be able to perform the operation.
It was December of 1995 when her parents called and said that we should come and visit her. She was always asking when we could come visit, even before this. Unfortunately, I had a seminar to give so my parents went without me. When they returned they said that I should write her a letter and tell her about my plan to visit the weekend after my seminar. My mother told me that when she went to talk to her alone, she took her hand and for the first time in two years said that she was afraid. She asked how to pray to Allah (SWT) so that He would answer her prayers. My mother also said that she could barely recognize her anymore because of all the water weight that she had gained, all of which was in her stomach. Her suffering was very apparent. On December 12 after my seminar, I came home to find out that my friend, P, had died that morning. The night before at about 1 a.m. her body slowly started to deteriorate and she started to die. As this was happening, her best friend, S, was returning home from a dinner in Toronto with the people in her night class. When driving towards Ajax on the 401 her car skidded and slid underneath a truck. She was rushed to the hospital and her family was notified at around 2 a.m. P's brother later told us that a brain haemmhorage caused her head to swell to twice its original size. They could barely recognize her. SubhanAllah both these incidents happened at the same time to these old friends and the families, who have supported each other through the decades were now at two different hospitals each needing the other's support. The two friends died within a half-hour of each other one of a long illness and the other in an accident. S's mother later found and read her diary and in the most recent days said that she had written that she knew that P was about to die and could not imagine life without her. P was 24 and S was 27 when they died.
* On July 11, 1995 a teenage boy rode his bike on a hot Bangladesh day to meet his friends at a pond to go swimming. He had had a bad headache earlier but had taken some medication for it and left. While swimming with his friends, at one point, he dove into the pond but did not surface. His friends thought, at first, that he was joking around as usual. But he still did not come up. Scared, the friends tried to call people in the neighbourhood for help but they all thought the kids were just playing a prank. Finally they ran for his father, who was a veterinarian and director of the zoo in the city. He rushed to the pond with a huge net to scour the bottom. His son's dead body was recovered. It is thought that maybe the combination of the overexertion during a hot day and the medication may have caused his heart to stop. Allahu 'Alam. No one really knows what happened. He was 16 years old and the eldest of three children.
There is no common thread in these four cases. The people who died ranged in age from 16-54. Two died of medical causes, one was anticipated. The others can only be called accidents. But really they were not accidents. Their time on this world had come to an end as determined by Allah (SWT). These cases should be a reminder to us who are still living that we do not know when we are going to die. It could be when we are 150 years old or it could be tomorrow. We could die of cancer or a bus could hit us in the winter. Allahu 'Alam. Many times we tell ourselves that we will improve ourselves tomorrow, in a few months, when we reach a certain age, when we reach a certain status. But how do we know that we will get this chance?
There are several ayats in the Qur'an in which Allah (SWT) reminds us of death:
* Surah 31:34 No soul knoweth what it will earn tomorrow and no soul knoweth in what land it will die.
* Surah 16:61 And when their term cometh they cannot put (it) off an hour nor (yet) advance (it)
* Surah 63:9-11 O ye who believe! Let not your wealth nor your children distract you from remembrance of Allah. Those who do so, they are the losers. And spend of that wherewith we have provided you before death cometh unto one of you and he saith: My Lord! If only Thou wouldst reprive me for a little while, then I would give alms and be among the righteous. But Allah reprieveth no soul when its term cometh, and Allah is aware of what ye do.
* Surah 23:99-115 Until, when death cometh unto one of them, he saith: My Lord! Send me back, that I may do right in that which I have left behind! But nay. It is but a word that he speaketh; and behind them is a barrier until the day when they are raised Deemed ye then that We had created you for naught and that ye would not be returned unto us.
All of these verses are reminding us that we should take advantage of the time we have on this world while we can as before we know it, it could be taken away from us. It is like writing a final exam. You can spend hours and hours on one question when suddenly the time runs out and you've found that you've spend all your time doing one thing when you should have been spending it wisely so that you could finish the whole exam. And once the time is up and the paper is handed in, there is nothing more you can do to improve your mark. There is no summer school, no make-up exam.
There is a hadith which states that the Prophet (SAW) said:
Conduct yourself in this world, as if you are here to stay forever; prepare for eternity as if you have to die tomorrow. (Bukhari, Muslim)
What does this mean?
* We should realize that we could die at any moment so we should live our lives so that we are prepared for the Hereafter at any time by anticipating that our life on this world can be cut short at any time.
* Life is a balance. We have been told by Allah (SWT) that we were placed as a vicegerent on this world, that we are its caretakers. We have a responsibility for the next world but we should not forget this world in the meantime. Life is a balance between the material and the spiritual. As vicegerents we should be aware that we are maintainers for those to come. For example, the early Muslims made great advances in sciences, geography, math etc and set the basis for those in later generations so that finally we can perform surgeries to save lives, we can travel to the moon, to Mars, Insha Allah.
There is another hadith which states:
Ibn Abbas (RAA) said that the Messenger of Allah (SAW) said to a man while advising him: Take benefit of five before five: your youth before your old age, your health before your sickness, your wealth before your poverty, your free-time before you are preoccupied, and your life before your death.
(al-Haakim and al-Bayhaqi in Shu'ubu-Iman)
with a saheeh isnaad, and it was declared hasan by al-'Iraqi in Takhreejul-Ihya. It is reported by Ibn-ul-Mubaarak in az-Zuhd and al-Qudaai in Musnadush-Shihaab, al-Khateeb in Iqtidaaul-Ilm, and in al-Faqeeh wal-Mutafaqqih by way of 'Amr ibn Maymon in mursal form with hasan isnaad.

What do you get out of this hadith?
* These five points are pointing out the main things which we tend to take advantage of until it is too late.
* What advantages do you have as youth which you may lose as you get older?
* Obviously, these are the phases of your life in which you have the most opportunity to do good deeds, work to please Allah (SWT). Although this is something which you should be doing all your life, the first four phases are times in which you have the most opportunity to work fi sabeelAllah for the Ummah and in doing so you are helping yourself, Insha Allah. The first phase is the only phase that is definite. Allahu 'Alam. This is a fixed period of your life. The others are not things which you can predict so, in keeping with the first hadith, you should try to live your life under the assumption that your health, wealth, free time and your life itself can end at any time.
Another thing which we should all realize is that, Alhamdulillah, you may be a practising Muslim now but, just like the ayat said no one knows in which land you may die, you can also not be sure of what state you will be in when you die. That is why we should always be striving to stay on the Sirat-ul-Mustaqeem and not make excuses for ourselves since we may not get the chance to improve ourselves later on.
If you remember the first case, the one thing which struck everyone when this Auntie left for Bangladesh is that she asked everyone to forgive her for anything which she may have done. Why do you think this was so important to her? The following hadith may clarify this.
Narrated Abu Hurairah:
Allah's Apostle said, 'Whoever has oppressed another person concerning his reputation or anything else, he should beg him to forgive him before the Day of Resurrection when there will be no money (to compensate for wrong deeds), but if he has good deeds, those good deeds will be taken from him according to his oppression which he has done, and if he has no good deeds, the sins of the oppressed person will be loaded on him.' Sahih Bukhari
There is also Hadith Qudsi (20) which states:
The gates of Paradise will be opened on Mondays and on Thursdays, and every servant [of Allah] who associates nothing with Allah will be forgiven, except for the man who has a grudge against this brother. [About them] it will be said: Delay these two until they are reconciled; delay these two until they are reconciled. Sahih Bukhari
Let's look at this along with the verses of Surat al-'Asr from the Qur'an which states:
By the token of Time. (through the Ages)
Verily Man is in loss except such as have Faith and do righteous deeds and (join together) in the mutual teaching of Truth
And of Patience and Constancy.

* We should always be aware that we may die at any moment and live our lives with this assumption.
* We should also be aware that, even if we are alive, our circumstances may change so that we should take advantage of any opportunities which come our way to please Allah (SWT) and not procrastinate and make excuses for ourselves.
* Surat al-'Asr describes how we as humans can strive for Jannah. But we should also always be aware of how we treat others intentionally or unintentionally and ask for forgiveness.