Just as without the remembrance of Allah, the belief in Allah is of no use, in the same way only believing in the Resurrection day is not sufficient; it is very necessary to remember it. The Holy Qur'an particularly reminds and warns only the man of wisdom. It says:
What! he who is obedient during hours of the night, Prostrating himself and standing, takes care of the Here after and hopes for the mercy of his Lord (be like one who does not.2) Say, 'Are those who know and those who do not know alike? Only the wise are mindful. (Surah Zummar, 39.9)
Unlike some people's belief that the remembrance of death and the Resurrection day makes one negligent about worldly affairs and material gains, our belief is that the remembrance of the Resurrection day prevents us from heedlessness and indiscipline. He who is cautious about his performances big or small will not commit any wrong thing.
Of course our belief in the Resurrection day is not sufficient, but we should remember this day of accountability and we should scrutinize our behaviour at the same time. It is just as only liking the flower is not enough to give us mental pleasure but it is necessary that from time to time we should enjoy its pleasant fragrance.
Sometimes the Holy Qur'an objects to those who do not have belief in the Resurrection day and sometimes it criticizes those who are unmindful of it or have forgotten it altogether. The Holy Qur'an says:
They only know the palpable life of this world, and are oblivious of the Hereafter. (Surah ar-Rum, 30:7)
The visit to the graves is recommended so that we should be reminded of our death. We all know that during day and night we recite the following Qur'anic verse several times in our obligatory prayers so that we are reminded of the Resurrection day:
Master of the Day of Judgement. (Surah Fateha, 1:4)
Imam Ja'far Sadiq, our sixth Imam, says about the effects of remembering Death and the Resurrection day:
o Remembering of death suppresses the inordinate desires
o It uproots the very foundation of negligence and apathy.
o With the reminding of Allah's promise, it strengthens man's heart.
o It softens the hard mentality of man.
o It demolishes the banners of inordinate desires and transgression.
o It suppresses the evil of greediness and makes the world humble before one's eyes.
After that the Holy Imam says, the saying of the Holy Prophet, "A moment's reflection and pondering over is better than one year's worship" (Biharul Anwar, vol. VI, p. 133) means thinking over and making arrangement for one's future, that is, thinking over his being questioned and his answering, and his accountability in the court of Allah's Justice.
We read in the Islamic traditions that the most wise and thoughtful are those who keep remembering death all the time. (Biharul Anwar, vol. VI, p. 135)
When the Holy Prophet said that hearts also get rusted like iron, the people asked, "With what substance can it be cleansed?" The Holy Prophet replied: "By remembering death and reciting the Holy Qur'an".
Another tradition that is narrated from the Holy Prophet is this: "Remember death frequently for it has four effects.
o It washes off your sins.
o It reduces your keen fondness for the world.
o It checks your indulgence in bad practices and improper use of wealth during the period of affluence.
o It makes a man content with whatever little quantity of wealth he has as during poverty his remembering of death makes him realize how easily he will account before Allah because he sees that when he has a small quantity of wealth his accountability also would be less". (Nahjul Fasahat, saying, 444)
Imam Ali in connection with a tradition says, "He who remembers death frequently will remain content with whatever little quantity of wealth he has. He never craves for more and he neither becomes greedy nor miser". (Biharul Anwar, vol. VI)
Actually, the world deceives its own lovers. Anyone who after having the thought of death and the Resurrection Day diverts his heart to the next world, this world's hypocrisies, pomp and show do not allure him towards it.
Imam Ali says, "Anyone who remembers death frequently saves himself from the hypocrisies of the world".
In another tradition which is about the impact of remembering death, we read: "Anyone who sees death in front of him and awaits it, will never lay behind in his daily performances because he knows that the time at his disposal is short and death can overtake him any movement. He gets busy in doing the noble deeds as much as is humanly possible".
Imam Ali reminds the people of how death overtook the people of the past generations and prepares them for it and says, "Where are now the kings of Yemen and Hejaz and their offsprings? Where have the Emperors of Iran and Rome gone? Where are the tyrants and their progenies? Where are those people who had built strong fortresses and decorated them with gold? Where are those people, whose life span was greater than that of yours and whose signs were greater than those of yours?"
Actually those mothers, who are anxious for the future of their daughters, prepare their dowries, little by little, from their very childhood. Those traders who think of their future debts and liabilities start saving something from the beginning.
Similarly those people who are concerned about death and the Resurrection day from today give up their bad deeds and start performing noble deeds so as to present them on the Resurrection day.
Some people asked a known religious scholar, who was an erudite scholar of Karbala: "If a credible man tells you that you are going to die in a week's time what will you do in the remaining few days?" He replied, "I will continue doing what I have been doing since my youth, because from the days of my youth whenever I intended to do a thing, I thought of the explanation to give on the Resurrection day and, therefore, for me to die at any moment is no worry at all".
Such people are the dedicated followers of that exalted person, Imam Ali (A.S.), who on the 19th of Ramadan, after receiving the fatal wound of the sword of Ibn Muljam said, "By Allah I have become triumphant". This very exalted personage in his sermon in Nahjul Balaghah advises his son to remember death at all moments so that by the time death overtakes him, his deeds are with him intact and he may not be questioned for his negligence. (Vide, Peak of Eloquence, ISP, 1984)
We read in many Qur'anic verses that when you think that you are a self-made person and you are pious and honorable before Allah, you should not be afraid of death; rather you should be desirous of it.
Remembering of Death in Supplications
Remembering death and the Resurrection day is the integral part of supplications. As for example in the Supplication of Abu Hamza Thamali we read as follows:
O Lord! At the time of my dying bestow Your Mercy on my sorrow and helplessness.
O Lord! Bestow Your Mercy in the loneliness of my grave and in my fear and restlessness.
O Lord! On the Day of Judgement Bestow Your Mercy at the time of the scrutiny of my deeds when I am disgraced for failing to give explanation.
O Lord! Bestow Your Mercy at the time when my friends take my coffin to the graveyard.
Imam Ali's Supplication in Masjid Kufa
O Lord! Protect me from that day and put me under Your shelter, when the tyrant will be chewing his own flesh and would be repenting and saying, 'Would that I had not followed those who misguided me to go astray and instead had adopted the path as shown by the Holy Prophet'.
O Lord! Bestow Your Mercy and protection on me on the day when the parents would not be able to help me; when the repentance of the tyrants will be of no avail; when man will run away even from his father, mother, brothers sons and friends when man will be singularly responsible for his own deeds
O Lord ! Protect me on the day when the sinners would wish that their sons, brothers, friends and the entire family might be caught instead of them, and save me from the torment of Hell.
Reciting of these supplications cures the sick and brightens the darkness of the soul. They purify the souls, broaden our mental horizon and enlighten us.
However the sinners and the transgressors are those who do not believe in the accountability and the Resurrection day or if they have belief in it they are spiritually bankrupt.
Why Do We not Remember Death?
Imam Ali says, "I am concerned about two things. Your following of the inordinate desires and your long hopes, as the former will distract you from the right path and the latter will take you away from the remembrance of the Resurrection day". (Peak of Eloquence)
Muhsin Qara'ati , Lessons From Qur'an , Publisher: Islamic Seminary Publications, ISBN 0-941724-51-4