Several years ago when I was going through my quarter-life crisis and an Islamic resurgence in my own life, I remember attending the last night of tarawih prayers under a block of flats in Jurong. It was the closest I could perform tarawih in congregation, being a student in NTU and living in hostel at that time.
It was an emotional night, as the last few nights of Ramadan always was, but it took on a new level of weepiness when they read a long, long list of names of the deceased post-prayers. I was the only female left when this was being done, everyone else at the ladies section of the prayer space had left during various times when the names were read out.
I cried and cried when I wondered if anyone would remain behind to read a short du’a or Fatihah for me when I had passed. Would my name be read out to be heard only by one teary girl and the imam with the mic? Would my name even be included in the list? For the first time in my life, I was seriously reflecting on my own death.
At that time, I had yet to lose anyone I love and death, as true as I knew it to be, was still a removed reality from my life. Fast forward 8 years and I now have a list of 4 people that I love that has returned to Allah.
The first time I felt the pangs of deathly separation was from my teacher, Almarhum Shaykh Zakaria Bagharib. I had never known a pain like that and I was shaken for a long time. The second was my grandfather, Almarhum Sardar Mohamed, from whom only love, gentleness and free kisses ensued. The third was my grandmother who joined her husband only a year later, Almarhumah Salmah Bee. And the latest to join the list was my teacher and spiritual father, Almarhum Shaykh Muhammad Nazim al-Haqqani. Al-Fatihah for all of them.
All their deaths presented new kinds of pain and loneliness to me. But as the list gets longer, I realize new things too. For one, I’m mostly crying for myself. I cry over my regrets of not having spent more time with them, or regret something I should have done when they were around. I lament my own loss at losing the opportunity to receive more blessings by serving such individuals when I had the chance.
It also becomes clearer and clearer to me, like getting a new pair of glasses, that they are the ones truly living, while I am still collecting tokens in a game to enjoy them later. While the ones who have left are now no longer burdened with wondering of how they will meet their end, I still need to worry if I’m going to die on the kalimah of La ila ha ilallah. While they are now in the company of beautiful companions who were their recitation of the Qur’an, and the rewards of their prayers and their fasting, I am struggling to ascertain my sincerity in performing such deeds.
While at first I pray for them and ask Allah to make their graves from one of the gardens of Paradise, very soon I find myself talking to them and asking them to pray for me instead! I know for a fact these 4 amazing individuals were exemplary Muslims, I have no doubt in my heart that they would be granted Jannah, no doubt at all. And they are now with Allah and the Prophets and the Companions and martyrs, while I am stuck here with my desires, temptations, bad choices and mounting sins. It’s very clear who is more in need of prayers!
After the initial shock of death hits, the following days (like this one) is usually saved for reflection. These questions have helped me to realign my priorities, realize who’s in charge and spur me to the good path again. InshaAllah if anyone dedicates a specific period of time to think about these questions, they would find the answers they need to live a Godly life in themselves.
1) How will I be remembered when I leave this world?
If my greatest contribution to this world is my ability to make people laugh by making funny faces, then I need to seriously consider a reset button on my life. The goal here isn’t fame, and it isn’t how many people remember me, but what kind of memories I’m leaving them with. We don’t have to endeavour to have thousands accept Islam at our hands like Shaykh Nazim did, or to rehabilitate terrorist ideologies from Muslims like Ustaz Ibrahim Kassim did, but what is our legacy? How did we make the world a better place? How did we serve our deen? Are we the person people will go to to get the latest episodes of Game of Thrones? Are we the boy the old man at the mosque thinks of because we are the ones to take a chair for them when we see them? What is our legacy?
2) How am I spending my time? Is this how I will continue to spend my time?
Our only capital in life is time. We are all given the same number of hours, it’s how we choose to fill these hours that separates the successful from the losers. Shaykh Nazim and Ustaz Ibrahim and Shaykh Zakaria were tireless in their efforts to teach Islam, spread goodwill, change lives and write books. My grandfather always made sure to pray on time, even till his last days when his movements were slow. Most of the time, he had performed the prayer 15 minutes after the azan, latest. My grandmother constantly had the counter in her hand where it clicked continuously as her lips made zikr.
These were examples of people who made good use of their time. Tracking just one set of 24 hours in my day is enough to make me shudder at how many pointless things I get myself occupied with. That is why the second part of this question is crucial in making a necessary change. Is this how I will continue to spend my time?
3) What have I done?
Usually this question is asked with a negative undertone, and very rightly so. We all know what is halal and haram, and know which actions in the grey areas our deeds are tending towards. Most of the time, we don’t need another person to point out to us our sins. We know what they are when we seek for forgiveness from Him, we know which actions causes us to lose sleep, we know which actions we don’t want to have to answer to God for. We know. As I type this, I know which actions are foremost in my thoughts, and I’m sure as you read this you can think of a few of your own that you’ve been meaning to rectify as well.
Alhamdulillah, Allah has given us this inner moral compass. And alhamdulillah He has gifted us more time to set things right! It’s only up to us to use the time we have been given to change our blameworthy deeds into praiseworthy ones.
We ask Allah for His Help and Guidance always. We ask Him for a good and blessed end. We ask to be reunited with our loved ones and comfort to our grieving hearts till that day comes. And from Him is all manner of goodness and blessings.