Inna lilaaahi wainnaa ilaihi raaji’oon. To Allah we belong and to Him we return. One after another, it keeps coming. Today, a former classmate of mine in my ESL year in college in Malaysia passed away, leaving behind two very young children and a husband. Before this, I learned that the author of the Echoes series, sister Jamilah Kolocotronis, passed away. Before that, we received the shocking news of the death of our friend, a 29 year old, leaving behind a wife and toddler. Around the same time, I was also informed that one of our high school friends lost his wife, unborn baby, and toddler in a car wreck, in which he survived with only a few scratches. Way before that, one of our college friends slowly deteriorated and eventually breathed her last due to cancer, leaving behind two young boys and a husband. Way before that, I learned that my cousin, who has been suffering tongue cancer, passed away. So did his mother, my paternal aunt, who is my favorite aunt, due to lung cancer, which when diagnosed, was already in stage 4. And my paternal grandmother is now bedridden. The last time I saw her in 2010, she was still walking and told me that her eyes are still strong enough to read the Quran mashaaAllah.
People may think I’m being morbid when I bring up death in conversations. Maybe I am. But, no one can deny that whether we like it or not, it is one thing that we all know for certain will occur. Death indeed is a destroyer of pleasure. Bring it up in a conversation, and you may have people telling you to be more positive, or to stop talking about it, or even tell you you are disturbed.
I do personally tend to be very hard on myself, and by extension sometimes I tend to be hard on those who are closest to me. It’s a struggle for me to balance being hard on myself and remembering to be easy on others. My approach to motivating myself it mostly berating myself and nit picking on my shortcomings, and by Allah, it works for me. That is how I motivate myself. For some people, this approach just depresses them and hinders them from moving forward.
I personally tend to move towards quotes or sayings of scholars/salaf that focus on self censure, and laying a high standard for oneself. I have since realized, after sharing these quotes, that for some people, these standards and repeated and sometimes harsh self censure are troubling and not appropriate. The answer came in Sheikh Omar Suleiman’s class; it depends on individuals, some people are motivated by constant self reproach and some are motivated by reward and positive reinforcement. Suffice it to say, I happen to be of the former category. Maybe it stems from my perfectionist nature, and maybe it also stems from my experience growing up, being the first child and all. Either way, it’s all good. It’s who I am. I just to understand that not everyone is motivated by constant self critiques.
Having said that, there is a limit to how much self censure I am able to take. One of the tools of shaytaan is to make us despair of Allah’s mercy. This is dangerous. I have felt this several times in my youth; the attitude of “I’m doommed anyway. Why even bother?” It’s really a pathetic attitude. It shows lack of knowledge and understanding of who Allah is. Yes, we should take ourselves into account but we should also remember that Allah is Ghafoor Ar raheem. We will never be perfect, but we can always strive our best to reach it. Good thing Allah looks at effort and not necessarily at the results. Man looks at results and not necessarily at the effort.
It makes my heart skip a beat whenever I get the news of someone’s death, especially those I know personally. Even though I know death is certain, it’s still hard to believe this person is now no longer alive, and has entered the realm of the barzakh, and that his/her Day of Judgment has started. Then I think,
It’s such a clear sign. It’s suppose to bring us to the remembrance that one day, it will be our turn. And we don’t know when that will be. So what have we done to prepare for it? Seriously, what have we done to prepare for it?
When someone passes away, we grow sad, for his/her loved ones, and we miss this person, especially if s/he is really close to us. That pain stabs at your heart, and it can hurt for a while. As time heals that pain, we begin to decrease in the intensity of the emotions we feel at the first news of that person’s death. The question here is, has the death of this person affected us in any way? Has it affected us in how we live our remaining life? Has it affected us as being a reminder that one day we will undergo the same thing, and that we need to do something about it? If it hasn’t, then woe to us.
When I think of death, surah Qiyaamah comes to mind. These three ayaat in particular:
No! When the soul has reached the collar bones
And it is said, “Who will cure [him]?”
And the dying one is certain that it is the [time of] separation
And [by] those who remove with ease