This was our chill-spot at Masjid al Haram, where my husband and I sat down to eat a snack after performing Tawaf. The enclosing architecture of the entire Masjid was marvelous, reminiscent of a castle-type construction, unlike any I had ever seen. The main entry to our secret hangout place was tucked in a corner outside the courtyard of the Ka’bah. It was arched and had within it two large marble columns with lintels at the end. It was topped with verses from the Qur’an, sculpted in gold and emerald green. We would relax here before going for Sa’I. Little did we know that this was actually the area where the deceased are brought for Salat al Janaza (funeral prayers).
So as I was enjoying a cold glass of zamzam water, a funeral procession coming towards us gave me a sudden jolt. I not only lost my appetite but jumped to my feet, mortified. Being so close to the dead bodies made me feel scared and sick. Although death is a natural part of the cycle of life, we often forget that it even exists. Let’s face it, we live in a death-denying culture. We try to hide death behind anti-aging creams, food guides and medical technologies. Yet how many young and healthy people have died before they reached old age?
My heart started racing as the funeral procession drew closer. I felt myself tense up and I crossed my arms tightly. Then it hit me; the realization of my own mortality: This will be me one day. I am going to wear a shroud, not a dress; I will return to dust.
I got up and the dead bodies took my place. These souls had crossed over to the Hereafter, about to meet their Lord. I shuddered at the thought that I could’ve been in their place. The currency of the Hereafter is neither in dollars nor a university degree or a really nice car, but only pure hearts and positive contributions to society.
In the face of death, all my pride, anger, grudges and jealousies crumbled away, leaving me with the realization of what is truly important. Our lives, from beginning to end, belong to Allah, so those years in between, spent on this earth, should also be focused on Him.
We are all dying; each one of us has come into this world with an expiry date. A dying person lives in pursuit of holiness, not chasing the next gadget craze, binge watching Netflix or fritting over friends. She enjoys this world in moderation and strives for a life radiating with faith and good deeds. When frivolous things become tempting, she calls to mind the inescapable fact of the grave and prioritizes her life in light of the Hereafter.
A Muslim is characterized by her belief in the Afterlife. Our certainty and confidence in meeting Allah should be the motivation behind Salah (prayers), acts of charity and commitment to the Qur’an, which are a priority for anyone who is conscious of Allah. Here are some tips to bring us closer to our Lord:
1. Perform Salah as if it were your last
Pray to Allah on time, with the utmost love, humility, and concentration, as if it were your last prayer on earth. Salah will be the first question that Allah will ask on the Day of Judgment. Pray with no regrets, seeking maximum reward from Allah, aiming to pray like the Prophet Muhammad (P.B.U.H.) prayed.
2. Leave a legacy of charity
Be generous with the time, money and knowledge that Allah has blessed you with. After death, people will remember how you treated them. Spend time with your parents. Mentor your young siblings. Feed the homeless. Participate in clothing drives. Volunteer at the Masjid or at an NGO. Donate your blood. Spread your warmth, love and joy to everyone. Our charity today will echo in eternity; it will protect us in the grave and shade us on the Day of Judgement.
3. Connect with the Qur’an
Our culture is obsessed with information. In the end, the only thing that is really worth reading is the Qur’an. Allah is talking directly to us – they are His own words. Connecting with the Qur’an will help you to know Allah and understand His divine wisdom. While Twitter and YouTube videos can be full of empty gossip and vain philosophies, only the stories of the Qur’an contain profound insight, for those who reflect.