- What is the reality of death?
- Why do we fear death?
- The best of death.
Man may doubt everything even common senses. But no one doubts or denies that he will die, “Truly thou wilt die (one day), and truly they (too) will die (one day).”1 Nonetheless, the majority of people are deeply incautious of death and they lead life as if they were unable to comprehend this truth though death is surely coming.
Imam Ali said, “I have not seen any undoubted certainty similar to a doubt that has no certainty more than death.”2
Death, as a result, is a certainty free from doubt, and at the same time it is doubted because most people do not turn to it during most intervals of their lives and imagine that they will not die.
The Horrendous Reality
Most people detest and dread death. They tremple with fear and their hearts even quiver when they feel death. The Holy Qur’an was so eloquent when describing this condition as the polytheist surrounded the Muslims from all sides, and some Muslims were in a condition as Allah says, ﴾Behold! They came on you from above you and from below you, and behold, the eyes became dim and the hearts gaped up to the throats, and ye imagined various (vain) thoughts about Allah!﴿3
Even the most powerful men in history showed their impotence in the presence of death and looked small when their time came, and some of them had his thoughts up side down. The Holy Qur’an tells us about the arrogance and the haughtiness of the Pharaoh when he said, “I am your upper Allah.” But when he was drowning, he said, “… "I believe that there is no Allah except Him Whom the Children of Israel believe in: I am of those who submit (to Allah in Islam)."”4
When the Al Mamoun, the strong Abbasid Caliph, felt he was about to die, he ordered that tents be set in the desert. It was night, and the fires, scattered here and there and set by the soldiers, added magnificence and majesty. Al Mamoun saw that all his wishes have gone in vain and all his reign and power would bring him nothing. At that moment, he looked into the sky and cried, “O Ye who has the everlasting existence! Have mercy on the one whose reign and glory have gone away.”
This is how the hopes of life seekers fall apart in one moment and the falsity of their wishes is revealed and everything is turned into rubble.
Why do we fear death?
If we seek the reason, we shall find that it is one of two things: either we do not know the reality of death so we imagine that it is mortality, vanishing and absence, or we have fallen deep in love with life and clung to its attractions and much tasted its blessings and pleasures, rightfully or not. So if death comes, it will cut our connections with what we love and adore and this causes pain and misery, and recalling it causes us concern and anxiety.
Therefore, the more the relation is attached with life, the harder and bitter death is for a dying person.
Imam Baker (peace be upon him) is reported to have said, “He who is firmly attached to life feels more sorrow and regret when he departs life.”5
The Reality of Death
To get rid of this anxiety, we first have to know the reality of death. Death is the moving of man’s soul from life and the disengagement with the body and the ascend to the life hereafter. There are two worlds where man lives. The first is life in this world and the second is the hereafter. Death is just a bridge that leads him the mortal life to the eternal one.
The Prince of Believers says, “Life in this world is just a passage to the everlasting afterlife whereas Hereafter is the world of immortality.”6
But we already know that and believe in it, so why do we hate death then? Our hatred towards death comes from the attraction of our hearts to life in this world and our busy engagement in constructing it and gathering its decorations, as well as our incautiousness about working and building for the hereafter. In addition, we never desire to move from a well-constructed, prosperous place into a place that is destroyed and devastated.
A man asked Abi Zar Al Ghaffari, “Why do we hate death, Aba Zar? Aba Zar replied, “Because you have built life in this world and devastated the hereafter. You then hate to move from a prosperous place into a devastated one.””7
Believing and Loving Death
A real believer must not hate death and feel alienated. A real believer must love and adore death, as the Prince of Believers is reported to have said, “By Allah I swear that Ibn Abi Taleb (I) is more intimate with death than an infant with his mother’s breast.”8
Man adores immortality and everlasting life and detests extinction. Death is the movement from the mortal state into the immortal state. And, does man hate immortality? Knowledge and believing in mind differs from believing in heart. Although we know life in everlasting hereafter, our hearts have resorted to life in this world.
Imam Khomeini says, “All the misfortunes of ours are on account of this lack of faith and conviction. Had we even a tenth of what faith we have in this world's life and living, its existence and survival, in the world of the Hereafter and its eternal, everlasting life, our hearts would have been more attached to it and we would have devoted some effort to building it. But, alas, the springs of our faith are dry and the edifice of our faith rests on water. Inevitably, we fear death, extinction and end. The exclusive and definite remedy for this malady is cultivation of faith in the heart through beneficial reflection and deeds as well as sound knowledge and works.”9
The Best of Death
The best kind of travel is that when the traveler leaves nothing to regret behind in the departed place and migrate into a place where all the good and desired things are awaiting. Moreover, sacrificing one’s life (blood and soul) for the sake and in the cause of Allah is the most expensive thing man could participate into his life after death. This is a no-matched giving that no one could better. And whoever is so generous shall be rewarded more generously.
Allah says, ﴾Allah hath purchased of the believers their persons and their goods; for theirs (in return) is the garden (of Paradise): they fight in His cause, and slay and are slain…﴿10
Prince of Believers also said, “The most glory is death; I swear by Him He who owns my soul that for me to be killed in one thousand hit by the sword is easier than to die on bed not obeying Allah.”11
When Ibn Ziad threatened Imam Zein Al Abidin (peace be upon him), the Imam replied, “With death you threaten me, Ibn Ziad. Have you not known that killing is our habit and our dignity is martyrdom.”12
This is why we found the fighters (moujahideen) of the Islamic Resistance and its leaders race to the fronts of war and jihad anxiously hoping to win martyrdom. We can evidently deduce the level of believing they have reached and the levels of feeling secure and yielding they have ascended.
* Path of Knowledge. Islamic Cultural Knowledge Organization. Knowledge Center for Islamic Studies and Researches.
1- 30 (Az-Zumar [The Troops, Throngs]).
2- Al Amali, P.309.
3- 10 (Al-Ahzab [The Clans, the Coalition, the Combined Forces]).
4- 90 (Yunus [Jonah]).
5- Ausul Al Kafi, V2, P320.
6- Bihar Al Anwar; V70, P134.
7- Ausul Al Kafi, V2, P458.
8- Nahj Al Balagha P52; Kashf Al Yakin P180.
9- Forty Hadith - 22.
10- 111 (At-Tawba [Repentance, Dispensation]).
11- Nahj Al Balagha, 179.
12- Al Bihar, V45, P118.