بسم الله الرحمن الرحيم
Taken from: Chapter three of Heaven’s Door, Part Two of Tazkiyat an-Nufus wa Tarbiyyatuha kama Yuqarriruhu ‘Ulama as-Salaf , collected and arranged by Ahmad Farid:
The heart of whoever is drowned in the pleasures of this world and its attractions is distracted from remembering death — and if someone mentions death to him, he hates it and runs away from it. As regards such people, Allah says:
( Say: ‘Death from which you are fleeing will certainly catch up with you. Then you will be returned to the Knower of the Unseen and the Visible and He will inform you about what you did.’ ) (62: 8)
In regard to remembering death, people are divided into three categories:
Firstly, there is the one who is preoccupied with worldly desires and pleasures and who does not reflect on death. If he does happen to think of it, then he only feels sorry about the life which he will have to leave behind. For such a person, remembering death veils him from Allah.
Secondly, there is the one who turns in repentance and who is mindful of death all the time. His heart experiences fear of Allah and so his turning in repentance has good results. Perhaps such a person is troubled by death out of fear that it will take him by surprise before he has repented sincerely. His dislike of death is justified, because he is one of those who wish to delay the meeting with their Lord until they are fully prepared for that meeting. In spite of this, one of the main characteristics of the person who turns in repentance is that he is always ready to meet death. If not, he would be among those who are preoccupied with the pleasures of this world.
Thirdly, there is the one who is an ‘arif — who is in constant remembrance of Allah. He longs to meet his Lord. Such a person waits for death impatiently. He wants to be free of the life of this world and to be near his Lord.
Abu Hurairah related that the Prophet said, “Constantly remember death — which brings all pleasures to an end.” [At-Tirmidhi, 9/187; An-Nasa’i, 4/4; Ibn Majah, 4258; Al-Hakim: 4/321.]
‘Abdullah Ibn ‘Umar related that the Prophet said, “Hearts grow rusty just as iron does when it is exposed to water.” On being asked what keeps them clean he replied, “Much remembrance of death and recitation of the Qur’an.” [Transmitted by at-Tirmidhi and al-Bayhaqi in Sh’ab al-Iman.]
‘Abdullah Ibn ‘Umar related, “I was with the Prophet t and a man of the Ansar asked him, ‘Who are the most clever and generous of people?’ The Prophet replied, ‘The most clever and generous of people are those who constantly remember death and who are prepared for it —they earn the honour of this world and nobility in the akhira.” [Ibn Majah, 4259.]
Allah it has made death one of the worst disasters. He describes it as a misfortune in the Qur’an:
( … if you are travelling when the misfortune of death occurs, ) (5: 106)
Death is described as a misfortune because the one who dies is suddenly moved from one abode to another and from one state to another. However, worse than death itself is being negligent of it — not being constantly mindful of it and not preparing for it. There is a consensus among the majority of our scholars that death in itself is sufficient to act as a reminder and a warning. In Mukhtasar at-Tadhkira, the author states, “You should all know that the heart is softened, Allah willing, by many things: visiting the graves, going to gatherings of knowledgeable and righteous people, listening to the stories of previous nations and learning lessons from them, and remembering death — which brings all pleasures to an end, divides families and friends and separates children from their parents.
“One of the benefits of remembering death is that it prevents you from doing wrong actions and prohibited deeds and it helps you to relinquish the pleasures of this world and to attach no importance to its disasters.
“Another example of what softens the heart is to be with people when they are dying and to witness the agony of their death and their worries and their struggle. Whoever is not moved by such a disturbing situation will not be helped by any advice.”
Al-Hasan al-Basri said, “Death exposes the life of this world for what it is by leaving no moment of joy to sensible people. Whenever a servant turns to the remembrance of Allah, the life of this world and everything in it becomes insignificant in his eyes.”
Ibn Muti’ was looking at his house one day and was captivated by its beauty. Then he cried out and said, “By Allah! If it were not for death, I would have been happy here, and if it were not for the confinement of the grave to which we are heading, we would have been content with the life of this world.”