On Death and Dying (1991)

On Death and Dying (1991)
Shaykh Fadhlalla Haeri

In this talk, Shaykh Fadhlalla Haeri expands on the idea that death cannot be understood without understanding what life is. He quotes from several ayahs from the Qur'an and the Prophetic traditions that clarify what death is. We cannot experience life unless there is an experience of death. The Prophet (peace be upon him) urged us to "die before you die".

All aspects of worship involve an aspect of dying. For example, in wudhu and Salat, there is an aspect of giving up one's egocentricity. When you declare, “Allahu Akbar”, you are engaged in a dialogue where you are struck by the immensity of Allah's eternal life. In sajdah, you are obliterated and you lose all your senses. Shaykh Fadhlalla touches on how Fasting, Zakat and Hajj are also forms of worship that demonstrate aspects of dying.

Many ayahs describe death as that point when the Ruh, which is everlasting, leaves the material, physical body. We are warned that every self will taste death which will lead to a resurrection in another form where each person's intentions and actions will be apparent. We are warned that the state in which we are at the time of death is the state in which we will continue in the next life. We are warned of the big fire. By implication we have already tasted the small fire of anger, greed, resentment etc, which are all aspects of our lower selves.

There are also several ayahs about the Qalb (the heart) in reference to death, which is described as “Inqilab”, which means to turn to the other side and to turn back to and return to Allah.

There are several prophetic traditions where the Prophet (peace be upon him) encourages us to think about death several times a day as this brings about greater awareness of the consequences of our actions and intentions. We are reminded that “we are in this world but not of this world” and we are to journey through this life as travellers and strangers, bearing in mind how brief this journey is.

Prophetic traditions, which are quoted, refer to the importance of a sound, healthy and soft heart as preconditions to ensure a good next life. Allah promises that if there is sincerity and goodness in your heart, Allah will give you better than that which He took away. Allah told the Prophet (peace be upon him) to "give the good news and warn them”. You are here in this realm to know Allah and to go against that would be to deny your divine programming.

The talk ends with a warning to purify the inner and not waste time on our "inner" idols, the false images we have of ourselves and to be mindful of qualities such as arrogance and haughtiness, qualities of the lower self.