Islamic Wisdom

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)

  


 

References

  1. Muhsin Qara'ati , Lessons From Qur'an , Publisher: Islamic Seminary Publications, ISBN 0-941724-51-4


 


Many of us think that as long as a man's heart beats, and the nerves are active and he walks about, he is alive. When can he be said to be dead? When the physician listens to his heart and declares that it has stopped functioning.

This is to some extent true, but this kind of life is not a really human life; it is his biological life. In this respect he has a common bond with animals. A dog, too, has a heart, nerves, veins (in which blood flows), organs and limbs. So what is the difference between a human being alive and an animal being alive?


A little reflection on this issue reveals that a human being has another kind of life, as well. According to the Qur'an, a man's heart, nerves and limbs may be active, but he may be 'dead'.

The Qur'an refers to people as dead and alive, and then says that Quran affects those who show a trace of life, while it has no effect on the dead ones. What is meant by being dead or alive? The Qur'an says that whoever is born comes into the world with a divine-endowed nature, which seeks truth. But in some people this light of inquiry is extinguished, and thus they "die," though they are biologically alive.

The Qur'an gives another example and says that those who show a trace of life blossom forth in spirit when they assimilate the Qur'an, since they become susceptible to the same, like a land prepared for the growth of plants and trees.

The Qur'an says:

"Is he who was dead and We revived him (through the Qur'an) and gave him a light by which he walks among people, like one who remains in utter darkness and without access to the world beyond him?..."(Quran, 6:123)

Another verse of the Qur'an in which the people are divided into two groups of "dead" and "alive", Qur’an says:

"O 'Believers! Obey God and His Messenger when He calls you to that which gives you life, and know that God comes in between man and his 'heart' and that He it is to Whom you will be gathered." (The Qur'an, 8:24)

How explicitly and beautifully it exhorts to the effect that God and the Prophet invite us to accept Islam for its life-giving quality, since it will revive us.

Islam speaks persistently of life, and says the Prophet has brought "life" for you. You are dead now but you do not know it. Come and submit to this spiritual physician to see how he offers you life.

What does life mean? It means clear-sightedness and ability. The difference between life and death lies in these two. The greater the measure of these two, the livelier is life. Why do we call God alive? Does it mean having a beating heart and blood flow? This meaning does not apply to God; in His case heart and blood do not exist.

Does life mean breathing and letting breath in and out? No, this is not the meaning of life. These are conditions of life for us, not life itself. Life itself is awareness and ability, we call God alive because He represents Absolute Wisdom and Ability, and because an excellent human life reflects qualities of His Essence, including kindness, mercy, compassion and beneficence. Islam, too, promotes wisdom and ability in actual practice, as it did for many centuries. Therefore, when human thought does not reflect the divine-endowed wisdom and ability, and instead, leads only to aggravation of ignorance and inactivity, it no longer represents Islam.

Islam is the religion of life which is incompatible with ignorance and inability. You can accept this as a general criterion of understanding Islam. It is important to note that Islam considers ‘action’ as an element of life. Islam tries in its teachings to predicate human destiny on action, so as to make man rely on his own will. Islam says that your unhappiness is the result of your own misdeeds.

A human being must rely on his own conduct and personal initiative. What is more explicit than the phrase of the Quran which says: "There is not for man save what he strives for." (53:39). No doubt, it involves human dynamism, alertness, insight and ability.

Today, educators try hard to awaken the sense of self-reliance in man, and rightly do so. The kind of self-reliance that Islam awakens in man is that it puts an end to the hope of relying on everything outside him except God, and if there is a hope it must be centered on oneself. Similarly every connection with other things or persons is through action. You cannot be connected with the Prophet (s.a.w.a.f.) or Imam Ali (a.s.) or the latter's chaste Fatima (a.s.) except through deeds.

There is an anecdote from the life of the Holy Prophet (s.a.w.a.f.), so fine and meaningful, and peerless in the biography of all human beings. It is amazing how a man in a desert, such as that of the Prophet's could act in an extraordinarily thoughtful manner.

The Prophet in one of his travels with his companions ordered the caravan to stop and dismount. Then he dismounted and started walking in a certain direction. Soon he returned, and his companions supposed that he was looking for a suitable place for camping before he could decide about moving to another spot.

They saw him approach his camel, take a knee-band from the sack, tie the camel's knees and walk on as before. They wondered why the Prophet (s.a.w.a.f.) had walked so far and back for such a trifling task, and asked him why he did not order them to do it. The Prophet said: "Never seek help from others even for a small piece of work. Try to do it yourself."

If the Prophet (s.a.w.a.f.) had said this from the pulpit it would not have had such a deep effect, but he said it when it was combined with action. The purpose of this story is to show that one of the principles of Islamic teachings which revives Islamic thought is ‘action’ and reliance on action.

The dynamic concept of reliance on God has an ethical and educational meaning in Islam. The Qur'an conveys an extraordinarily harmonious and heroic sense in endorsing absolute adherence to, and trust in. God. The Qur'an brings man into action and removes all fear from him. It teaches us not to fear, but rely on God and go ahead. It instructs us to tell the truth without fearing any might of an enemy.

When you seek to find this kind of reliance in the minds and hearts of people today, you see that it is absent or dead. Even so some people take it wrongly and try to justify their laziness and inactivity. When they want to be idle, and tend to neglect their duty, they resort to "reliance on God," and use it in a sense quite the reverse of what the Qur'an teaches.

       

 


 

 References

The following sources are used to prepare the above article.

1. Murtda Mutahhari, Reviving Islamic Ethos

Imam Husain, the third Imam was born on 3r'd of Shaban, 4 A.H. in Medina. On his birth, the Holy Prophet Muhammad (S) prophesied that the faith of Islam would be rescued by his second grandson Husain (A). 

Read more: Life of Imam Hussain (A) - In Brief