‘Being morbid’

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:

75:26
Sahih International

No! When the soul has reached the collar bones

75:27
Sahih International

And it is said, “Who will cure [him]?”

75:28
Sahih International

And the dying one is certain that it is the [time of] separation

Imagine as our soul is being taken out of our bodies, as it reaches the throat, it is close to completely coming out. Our loved ones around us are busy calling the doctor, sometimes begging the doctor to do something to save us, or hopefully, they are helping us say the shahaadah. And we at that moment, we know, we know that this is it. This is the time of separation. Separation of our body and our soul. Separation of ourselves and our loved ones. Separation of ourselves and our accomplishments and failures in this world. Separation of ourselves and our wealth. This is it. This is it.
At this moment, hopefully, the angel of death is pulling our soul gently, as in surah Naaziaat ;
79:2
Sahih International

And [by] those who remove with ease

and we are met by angels who are reassuring us of good news to come. Imagine if this is the case, how joyous this moment of departure would be, even though we still have to go through the pangs of death. We are leaving one realm and entering another. There has to be some transition that would hurt. Even the Prophet saw was not spared the pangs of death.
But imagine, all the suffering, heartbreaks, sadness, depression, stress, we suffered while we are living, will all come to an end at this moment. No more worries. No more worries. If we are given good news, then it is something to look forward to; chilling out in the grave with good looking men (our prayers, deeds, Quran) and having some aspects of Jannah in it.
That is if we are given good news. But what if we’re not given good news at the time of death? Too depressing to think about? Too scary to think about?
It’s maybe akin to thinking about failing a very important exam. In this world, when we are to take a very important exam, we study like crazy, or at least we should study like crazy. Parents would spend money sending their children to extra classes so they will be well prepared for this exam. People don’t dwell on the possibility of failing and sit around moping and being depressed! They are intelligent enough to do something about it so they don’t fail! They strive their utmost to ensure that they don’t fail. They may fall short, but they try their best.
The thought of failing, or the reward of success are the motivators in this case. Whichever floats your boat is what will  motivate you. For me, it’s a combination of both, but what pushes me to strive is mostly the former. Regret is not a fun feeling to have. The Day of Judgment is also called yaumul 7asrah, the Day of Regrets. Even the believers will regret not doing more on that day. I think of it as failing to take a shower due to laziness ( especially when it’s freezing cold in the house!). Usually, when I hesitate and end up not showering, I will usually regret it because it feels nicer to have taken a shower when you go to bed. So the next time I feel lazy, I would remind myself of the feeling of regret of not taking the shower I should have taken. In applying this to the Day of Judgment, we can think of it as,
I had all that time in the dunya, how did I really spend it? I had 24 hours in a day, how many hours did I waste, realized and not realized? What was my priority in the dunya? Was I too busy acquiring wealth at the expense of being in Allah’s ‘good book’? Was I too busy fearing what people may think of at the expense of losing Allah’s love? Was i too busy building my career at the expense of building my akhirah portfolio?
Oh how I wish I had spent more time paying attention to what truly matters!
Talk is easy. Living a conscious life, is not. Putting what you say and write and think into action, is not. But that is life. Life in this world. It’s not forever. If you’re enjoying it, remember that it will all come to an end one day. If you are suffering, remember that it will all come to an end one day.
I am not saying anything new or mindblowing in this post. It’s been a while since I’m motivated to write a personal post on this blog. And I know this doesn’t do justice to the topic of death. I don’t have the ability right now to extract all the thoughts that have been milling about in my head for the past months and put them into words. Though I hope I have managed to put them into actions instead, but I know I fall short every day. Every day. Every day. But as long as my  heart is beating and my brain is functioning and my faculties and limbs are working, I get to have another go at trying. And trying. And trying. This character building business, is for life. That’s for sure.
May Allah forgive those who has passed before us, place them among the righteous, and may Allah give the rest of us 7husnul Khaatimah (a good end), and give us taufeeq to rectify our shortcomings and increase in deeds that please Him while our hearts are still beating. Ameen.
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