The Reality of Death
Death is the chief and undeniable reality of life. Ultimately every soul is destined to die. Allah Almighty revealed every aspect of the Universe on man. However, he is yet to find out the reality of life and demise. Now the question arises what is life or death? In simply words, life is introduction of soul to the world of embodiment. While death is the departure of soul from the physical body.
Timespan of Man’s Life in this World
Man’s conscious has always been aware of the fact that there was a life before this life and there will be a life after this life. Actually, life and death are just two stages of man’s eternal life. Sura Ta Ha of Holy Quran, describe the duration of man’s timespan in the world in the following words:
اِنْ لَّبِثْتُمْ اِلَّا یَوْمًا
Meaning: You have not stayed (in this world) for more than a day. (20:104)
The above verse proves that man’s duration of stay in this world is very small. It is beyond man’s intellect to imagine or grasp the reality of life before birth. However, Allah enlightened the inward of his beloved saints with this reality. Allah passed this Divine secret within the spiritual chain from one saint to another who then revealed it to seekers of Allah.
Creation of Noor-e-Mohammadi
Allah intended to manifest Himself coming out of the world of Ahdiyat (Alonehood) to the world of multiplicity. In the beginning of the eternity Allah was One, Alone and in His Divine Isolation. Then in His Divine Essence, arouse the desire of His Own vision (Deedar). For the fulfillment of His desire, He required a mirror. Thus, He made a mirror which is Nur-e-Mohammadi out of His Own Essence. As He Himself is pure, delicate and crystal clear. Here it is important to note that Allah and His mirror were not two different entities.
Creation of Souls
Through, the Nur (also spelled as Noor) of Mohammad, Allah Almighty ordered ‘be it’ and thus created the souls. Then in alam al-LaHoot (the realm of Absolute Divinity), He gathered all souls before Him. The incomparable Divine beauty and the absolute Majesty mesmerized the souls. Therefore, the souls got absorbed in the invocation and praise of the grandeur and beauty of Allah Almighty. This invocation and dhikr of Allah became the sustenance of human souls in this realm which nourished them.
Then Allah Almighty raised a question to these souls اَلَسْتُ بِرَبِّکُمْ (Am I not your Rab (Sustainer?) Said another way, Am I not providing nourishment (livelihood and energy) to you through My invocation, vision, grandeur and beauty?) That was the time when the souls were free of the filth of the innerself. Rather, the Divine beauty was a feast for the souls. Thus, in reply to the question, all souls unanimously replied; “certainly! You’re our Sustainer. (Yes, O Allah! We are being nourished by Your majesty, grandeur and invocation).
The Divine Trust (Ishq)
After energizing and boosting the souls with the sustenance of His vision and invocation, Allah offered the Divine Trust in the form of ishq (intense love) to all souls. Of all the souls, the soul of man accepted the Trust of Allah. As Allah says in Sura Al-Ahzab:
Meaning: Indeed, we offered Our trust to the skies and the earth and the mountains, but they refused to bear this and became scared, but man took it. Verily he is ever so cruel and ignorant. (33:72)
At that time the souls were absorbed and engrossed in Divine beauty and vision. In fact, here all the souls were at the station of Rooh-e-Qudsi which holds the Divine Essence. Also, they had not seen heaven, hell or earth. Therefore, they easily accepted the Divine Trust. In order to verify the truthfulness of their love, Allah concealed His Majesty and Nur in the veils of innerself and kept it in the inward of man.
Allah Almighty passed souls through different trials and stations to ultimately prepare them for the trial of love. He sent Rooh-e-Qudsi from alam al-LaHoot (realm of Divinity) to alam al-Jabarut (realm of power). In this realm, He concealed Rooh-e-Qudsi with the Jabaruti dress and called it Rooh-e-Sultani. From here it was sent to alam al-Malakut (realm of angels). It refers to the world of symbolic forms called Malakut (angels). Here Allah clothed Rooh-e-Sultani in the cover of Rooh-e-Noorani (the soul with celestial light) which appeared in symbolic forms. Finally, the symbolic forms were covered with their bodies and different bodies of the creature appeared in this world. This world of physical and material bodies is called Nasut. At this level, Rooh-e-Noorani is covered in Rooh-e-Hewani (the soul directly associated with physical body which was then breathed into the physical bodies of flesh and bones or nonliving materials).
The Reason of Creation of World
In the last level, Allah clothed the souls in the embodiment of physical elements like soil, water, air, fire etc. Hence, Allah adorned and prepared the man for the physical world to test him. As Allah says in Sura al-Tin,
لَقَدْ خَلَقْنَا الْاِنْسَانَ فِیْ ٓ اَحْسَنِ تَقْوِیْمٍ۔ ثُمَّ رَدَدْنٰہُ اَسْفَلَ سٰفِلِیْنَ
Meaning: Indeed, We have created man in the best constitution (equipoised in the finest proportion). Then We returned him to the lowest state of low. (95:4-5)
When man came in this world, his physical life started, the purposed of which is to uncover the veils from the physical being and take a flight back to the Origin and recognize his Sustainer. As Allah says:
کُنْتُ کَنْزًا مَخْفِیًا فَاَحْبَبْتُ اَنْ اُعْرَفَ فَخَلَقْتُ الْخَلْقَ
Meaning: I was a Hidden Treasure, I intended to be recognized so I created the creation.
World is a Place of Trial for Mankind
Allah Almighty wanted to test if man can protect Allah’s Trust (ishq) that He concealed in his inward. Furthermore, He wanted to test how truthful was man’s claim to love Allah in the realm of Divinity. Does man still love Allah in the physical world? Or does he keep up his promise of Divine love in this physical world as well? Does he still wish for the Divine love which was nurturing him in the station of no station?
To test the intensity of man’s love, Allah faded away his memories from the station of no station. However, He did send prophets and saints in different eras to remind people of their promise to Allah. This world of physical bodies is merely a place of man’s trail. And the imprisonment of soul in the physical body is rule of this trial. Quran, Sunna, fate and man’s lifespan in this world are all questions in this examination. While man’s deeds and intentions are the answer to the questions.
Reason of Man’s Trial
From the aforementioned discussion, now we know that Allah Almighty has sent man in this world for trial. The main reason behind this trial is recognition of Allah. Desires of innerself are the hurdle in this path of recognition. Sultan Bahoo beautifully explains the entire situation in the following words:
کن فیکون جدوں فرمایا، اساں وِی کولے ہاسے ھُو
ہکے ذات ربّ دِی آہی، ہکے جگ وِچ ڈھنڈیاسے ھُو
ہکے لامکان مکان اساڈا، ہکے آن بتاں وِچ پھاسے ھُو
نفس پلیت پلیتی کیتی باھوؒ، کوئی اصل پلیت تاں ناسے ھُو
Explanation: When Allah Almighty created this world by His command, we were all there as well. There was a time when Allah Almighty was in our sight. Now is the time when we are looking for His vision everywhere while encaged in physical body. There was a time when we were at the station of no station. While now the physical world has prisoned our inwards. The dirt of innerself has polluted our souls, otherwise our original state (Rooh-e-Qudsi) was not like that.
Man’s Quest in the World
When man came to this world he got absorbed in the temporary colors and beauty of this world. This strayed him from the real purpose of life. The materialistic filth of the world corrupted his soul. Yet his soul remains restless to search for its origin. This restlessness sets man to a quest. Now if the innerself diverts this quest to the materialist world then he toils to gain world and strays from the real purpose of life. This toil for world has no end and soul remains restless as it does not find its niche.
Contrarily, by virtue of Allah’s blessing the direction of man’s efforts may turn towards Him. Resultantly, his quest and toils are only to seek Allah and fulfil His will. If he is fortunate enough, the destiny may take him to the court of the perfect spiritual guide. Here he gains the invocation and contemplation of Ism-e-Allah Zaat which nurtures his soul. Eventually, his dead soul shows signs of life through the sustenance of dhikr and the spiritual sight of Murshid. This also refreshes the memory of his soul from the realm of Divinity. The soul desires to see to its beloved Allah, fly back to its homeland and have Divine union. This desire ignites the flames of ishq (Divine love) in man. In fact, it is ishq which gives him courage to pass through the biggest trials to reach his ultimate destination. This is the journey towards Origin (Allah).
Soul’s Journey Towards Origin
The soul flies back from the realm of physical bodies to realm of angels to realm of power and ultimately to realm of Divinity. This flight back to Origin is only possible under the guidance and supervision of the perfect spiritual guide. Ultimately, the benevolence and spiritual attention of Murshid removes all veils of innerself that are hurdle between man and Allah. It is important to note here that the man’s journey of recognition of Allah is within. Once soul completes this journey it reaches its original status of Rooh-e-Qudsi. Thus, returning successfully to its homeland from the physical world which is its trial place. Per mystics and saint’s, death is in fact homologous to the flight of soul to its homeland.
Now the question arises, how can the soul fly back to its origin? The following verse has answer to this question.
مُوْتُوْا قَبْلَ اَنْ تَمُوْتُوْا
Meaning: Die before dying
This verse in fact refers to the journey of soul to the realm of Divinity. The Rooh-e-Qudsi achieves its purpose of coming to this world once it is released from the imprisonment of the physical body and flies to its original world before the death of the physical body. That is why it is said:
اِنَّا لِلّٰہِ واِنَّا اِلَیْہِ رَاجِعُوْن
Meaning: Indeed, everything belongs to Allah and to Him shall we return.
How the Journey of Soul to its Origin Begins?
The journey towards Allah starts not through the physical demise rather it is through the death of innerself. Iqbal talks about the death of innerself in the following words;
موت کے آئینے میں تجھ کو دکھا کر رخِ دوست
زندگی تیرے لیے اور بھی دشوار کرے
Explanation: Demise (of innerself) is a mirror for the soul in which it gets the Divine vision. When innerself dies, man desires to have Divine vision and union. That is when life becomes colorless or unappealing to man.
Purpose of Life
As mentioned before, the purpose of life is recognition of Allah. In the form of worldly life, Allah allotted life span to every individual to complete this purpose. The end of life is the finish line of this trial which determines the success or failure of man. At the end of trial, Allah liberate the soul encaged in the human body which refers to physical death. This is when the physical body made of earthly matter, like water, soil etc., is buried to where it belongs. Contrarily, the soul returns towards Allah which is its origin. At this point, Allah removes veils from all souls no matter what religion or belief they belong to. Thus, the soul is awakened with the death of physical body. The following hadith elaborates it:
“All human beings are in a dream state, they wake up as soon as death hits them.”
Death Remove Veils between Man and Allah
Although, physical death means separation of body from the soul, however, even then it is in fact only the death of the innerself. As with the death of innerself, soul breaks itself from all physical veils and returns to Allah. This is why Allah says in sura al-Imran of Quran:
کُلُّ نَفْسٍ ذَآئِقَۃُ الْمَوْتِ
Meaning: Every innerself (nafs) is going to taste death. (3:185)
Here, Allah Almighty did not use the word ‘every man’, ‘every body’ or ‘every soul’. Man is the unification of body and soul. Body is considered dead without soul and non-living things do not die. However, soul is the command of Allah which cannot die. Therefore, only the innerself (nafs) undergoes death. For a believer, death is rather relief of his innerself from the physical body. As the innerself of the true believer is has already been zapped during his life. Such innerself is at peace, therefore, it happily surpasses the phase of death as it is the final step to the Divine union. Allah welcomes this innerself at peace in the following words:
“O contented (pleased) self! Return to your Lord in such a state that you are both aspirant to and aspired of His pleasure (i.e., you seek His pleasure and He seeks yours). So join My (perfect) servants. And enter My Paradise (of nearness and sight).” (89: 27-30)
Reward for the Pious
Returning the Divine Trust (ishq) and will of Allah in intact form is the basis of peace for the pious and is their paradise. Allah Almighty is so pleased with them that even their physical body buried under tons of soil remain ever fresh and untouched by soil.
Those who forget the real purpose of life return towards Allah with nothing but failure and regret. The fear of Allah’s rage and fury accompanies them. Since, the death takes over not only their physical being but also their innerself. Sooner or later, the Divine reality is revealed upon them. That is why Allah says about the dying person:
وَنَحْنُ اَقْرَبُ اِلَیْہِ مِنْکُمْ وَلَکِنْ لَّا تُبْصِرُوْنَ
Meaning: And We are nearer to him (the dying one) than you but you do not see (Us). (56:85)
In the exegesis of the above verse, Riyaz Qadri says in the exegesis of Fusus al-Hikam:
“After death, Allah removes the veils, illusions and oblivion from the inward of the corpse. And the inward is enlightened with the bright light of Divine insight. Then one corpse is no different than the other corpse. In other words, at this stage the fortunate and the tyrant have no peculiarity in Divine proximity. The secret of Divine Reality is revealed upon both pious and the sinner.”
What is Death?
- Death is not a frightful incident or a bad ending. Rather, it is the return of man to his original homeland.
- In fact, demise is knowing the Divine secret.
- End of trial and return from the place of trial to back home is called death.
- Union with the Beloved is in fact death.
- In reality, man’s demise is his reunion with the Beloved who became the reason of our existence at first place.
- If birth is the initiation of journey, then death is the finish line. The ultimate end of this journey is in fact return to the beginning.
Death in Reference to Hadiths
Abdullah bin Umar narrates that Prophet Mohammad (pbuh) said;
- “Death is the biggest reward for a believer.”
At another instance Ibn Malik relates that Prophet Mohammad (pbuh) said:
- “A worthy deed in world is remembering death and a worthy prayer is contemplation.”
It is important to note that Prophet Mohammad forbid to desire death from the fear of illness, indigence and trials. However, desire of death over luxuries of life for the sake of Divine union is the Sunna of Prophet Mohammad. Five days before his death, Prophet Mohammad said the following;
“Allah Almighty gave me choice to either choose world and its belongings or choose whatever He has to offer. I chose whatever is in Allah’s court.”
Furthermore, a few moments before his death, Prophet Mohammad said the following three times,
اَللّٰہُ الرَّفِیْقُ الْاَعْلٰی
Meaning: Allah is the best comrade.
Prophet Mohammad has advised to aspire for Allah’s mercy when returning towards Him. Jabir bin Abdullah relates that Holy Prophet said;
“Whoever amongst you is close to death must be optimistic (of Allah’s mercy).”
One Must Seek Divine Vision
Muadh ibn Jabal narrates that Prophet Mohammad said;
“On the Day of Judgement, Allah will ask the believers, O believers! Do you wish to see Me? People will reply, Yes O our Lord. Then Allah will ask, why do you want to see Me? People will say, O Allah! We beg Your mercy, forgiveness and indulgence. At that time Allah Almighty will say, Now your forgiveness is obligatory on Me.” (Sharh as-Sunnah)
- Aqbah bin Muslim narrates;
“Of all the traits of man, Allah’s most favorite trait is that man desires for Divine vision.”
- Ubada ibn Samit narrates that Prophet Mohammad said the following;
“When one desires to meet Allah, then Allah also desires to meet him. And the person who does not wish to see Allah then Allah also does not wish to see him.”
About this Aisha or one of other Umm al-Mu’minin (Prophet’s wives) said;
“We thought demise is bad.” In turn Prophet Mohammad replied, no that is not the case. The happiest moment for the believer is when at his demise he is informed that Allah is pleased with him. That is why a believer desires of Divine vision and Allah also desires to see him. (Bukhari)
Demise Becomes Easy on Seekers of Allah
Allah easies the agony of demise for the believers who desire of Divine vision on their demise. Allah says in Quran,
“The angels take their lives whilst they are pure, clean, pleased and contented (due to obedience and piety). Then they tell them (the moment they take their lives), ‘peace be upon you! Enter Paradise due to (the pious deeds) that you used to do.’
- Abu Hurraira narrates that Holy Prophet said the following;
When a believer die, the angels of benevolence brings a white silk cloth with them and say, O soul! Leave the body in the state of content and in the optimism that Allah is pleased with you. Leave to return towards Allah, Who is not angry or upset at you. Then the soul is released from the body in the form of exquisite fragrance or scent. Angels take it towards the door of the sky and say, how good is this aroma from ground.”
In short, a believer should prepare for his demise in a way a bride embellish herself for union with her beloved. He should be ornamented with the pious deeds and his inward should be enlightened with the love and desire to see his Beloved.
We should peek into our inwards and inquire, are we afraid of death and desire to live a long life? If yes, then definitely we lack the love of Allah. While, if we are awaiting death and wish for Divine union and vision then congratulations! For sure Allah is also awaiting us.
This article is the English version of the Urdu article ‘Haqeeqat-e-Maut’. Mrs. Ambreen Moghees Sarwari Qadri originally penned this article for Monthly Sultan-ul-Faqr magazine, October 2019 edition. Fatima Noor Sari Qadri translated it in English with few changes. To read the original article click the link below:
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