Tag Archives: death

The Final Deadline: A Tool For Success

Do you work better under pressure? Do you procrastinate and at the final hour suddenly give it your all?

In Islam, the inclination of human beings to procrastinate has been accounted for and we’ve been given tools to help prevent us from waiting to the last minute to truly live with purpose.

We’ve been taught to remember the thing that effectively destroys all the attractions of life on earth and puts priorities into perspective: death.

It can come at any moment, therefore we are technically perpetually in that potential final hour.

If we remain aware that this could very well be our last day, our last meal, our last conversation, we could be propelled to weigh our words and actions more thoughtfully.

We will be less inclined to hold on to material things and put more importance on lasting things, like treating others well and giving gratitude to the source of all we have, whether rich, poor, well or sick, etc.

So although death may seem like a taboo topic, a downer, a negative subject worthy of avoidance, Muslims actually welcome it as a subject of thought and even discussion.

Knowing our deadline may be around the corner encourages us not to waste time or live oblivious to our purpose.

When we think of death, it is a motivator. Motivating us to do more good, both in our private spiritual lives as well as with our families and communities. It also causes us to fear doing wrong, because we would hate to face our Maker with wrongdoing on our account, especially as our last deed.

If you were to remember death more often, do you think it would also motivate you to strive to be a better person?

What Would You Do?

You wake up startled and find yourself on an airplane. The rest of the seats are empty.

Leaning over to the window, you see impassive clouds hovering over a sparkling sea miles below.You don’t know how you got into the plane and you have no idea where you are going or why.

What would you do next?

Sit back, relax and enjoy the ride, or search for answers?

In this context, I suspect most would agree that it would be abnormal to just sit back and enjoy the ride, unaware of how you wound up a passenger on an empty plane and where the plane is headed.

If confronted with the above hypothetical situation, most people would probably get up, walk around and look for some sort of message or clue as to how they ended up on the plane and why. Many would not rest until finding some kind of answers.

Yet, how many people don’t ever stop to think about why they are here, living on Earth, and where they are going? How many people reach old age without ever having asked the question, “What is the purpose of life?” and without ever having found the clear, undoubtable answer to that question?

How can we sit back and enjoy the ride when we didn’t put ourselves here? How can we relax, not knowing our final destination?

Virtually everything around us has a purpose. When we see intricate gadgets or lofty buildings we effortlessly understand that those objects did not spontaneously come into being on their own. If we find a watch or a smartphone lying on the ground, we would scoff at the notion that it automatically materialized from nothing.

When we observe the detail and function within our bodies and consider mankind’s inventive abilities, it is natural to conclude that there is a creative force behind our existence.

If we are in fact confident that there is a cause for our existence, the next natural questions are who or what? and why?.

Back in 1998,  after careful exploration, consideration and introspection, I abruptly arrived at the conclusion that there must be some force – some originator of the astonishing wonders of the Earth – of humanity and human ingenuity.  I also suddenly felt an innate inclination to communicate with that force as I sat staring out at the deep night sky. So, I spoke, silently and from my heart.  I asked to know. I asked to understand. I was admitting my complete vulnerability and need in that moment. I was also willing to surrender to whatever it was, knowing its greatness, knowledge and abilities must be, by necessity, beyond compare.

After listening to countless stories related by people who’ve found and accepted Islam as their way of life, it has become apparent to me that almost all of our unexpected journeys to Islam began with an instance where we implored the Originator, sincerely wanting to know and understand.

Collectively, we are riding the vehicle of time; moving forward whether or not we like it. We have virtually no control over time’s passing, over our growth and our eventual deterioration, or whether or not our lives are cut short before we reach old age. Our journeys’ lengths are unknown to us.

By acknowledging this, it is similar to the parable I presented at the outset, and the most rational course of action is to pursue knowledge of the inherent purpose for which we have been made, and then to strive to fulfill it successfully.

It’s the difference between leaving our vehicle on autopilot, or taking control of our direction and safe arrival at our ultimate destination.

I’m Dying

It’s definite, confirmed.

I’m Dying.

The most sure, undeniable thing about my life, is that I am going to experience death.

I just don’t know when.

It could be today, in a week… anytime really.

My hands will no longer touch the skin of my children, their hair.

My eyes will cease to gaze at the breathtaking sky and my shoulders will no more feel the pleasure of embrace.

My life is only a road leading to that destination.

That inevitable moment where my body will become just an empty vessel that will be consumed by the earth.

Before my Islam, this realization was difficult to endure.

I realized I could leave my home to go somewhere and never arrive, or never return; that I could begin crossing the street and be smashed by a car; that virtually at any moment- my life could simply end… and that’s true for all of us.

The fragility of life begs many questions doesn’t it?

Do you ever wonder; Why?

I am a Mother. My husband and I have five adorable and sweet, little children.

I watch my youngest daughter, who is two, bouncing around the house, her cheeks like plump pillows or balloons when she smiles and laughs. So adorable, so precious,

But she too will have to die… my baby.

Doesn’t that make you think?

Think of your favorite actor or actress… or the most beautiful model you admire – they seem so eternal in their pictures, in their roles…

But they too are only traveling towards their deaths.

Doesn’t that bother you?

Of course it does, it should.

When we realize that life is temporary it necessitates that we search for it’s meaning,

Not ignore it!

I’m not saying we should find meaning in our lives, like, “My purpose in life is to help others.” or, “my purpose in life is to make art.”

But the actual reason we are here; that we have been given life.

Often instead, we treat it like a freak accident when someone dies. We search for diets and health regimens as if they will protect us from life’s end –

But they won’t.

We say goodbye to our friends and coworkers as if we will definitely see them tomorrow.

We look at our treasured children and forget that their lives are finite.

We should be preparing them not just for college and marriage – but for true success and we can only do that if we are preparing ourselves.

We can only do that if we have sure knowledge and clear guidance.

How could you be here on earth, where there is illness and loss and earthquakes and fighting and death and birth and happiness and beauty and pain and uncertainty and pleasure and time…

Yet, your greatest purpose is to have fun and enjoy it?

Or to love and be kind?

How is loving people or being kind to people who are also going to die, an integral purpose?

The fact that these things are not completely satisfying should propel us further – one shouldn’t rest, until they are sure they’ve found the truth.

That’s right: truth.

Not blind faith, or something that makes you feel better.

Truth.

And there cannot be multiple truths about our existence.

Only one.

Then, upon finding the truth one must pursue knowledge and practice of it – that is by necessity.

Life is not a mystery left for us to wonder about for it’s extent.

Isn’t that good news?

It’s good news.

If you are someone who is truly seeking the truth and you are fully willing to submit to it once you discover it, then ask the One who created you for help, and He will surely guide you to it.

That is a fact.

I know why I am here. I know why we are here, how we got here and where we are going. I only know this because the One who created all of it provided us that information.

I don’t ignore death or try to forget about it. I remember it often  – the destroyer of life’s pleasures.

It’s not to be macabre or morbid, but as motivation to do good and avoid being lazy.

Because that is how we keep from being distracted by life from our true purpose.  So we don’t get lost in pleasure and family and tasks and responsibilities. Or even sadness, depression or anxiety. 

Death is not the calamity, but the hardening of our hearts and the denial of the One who gave us life, that is the real misfortune.

So we remember life is short and can end at any moment, thus we better use it wisely and stay focussed on the goal – our ultimate reality.

My fear of death itself is replaced with concern for the manner in which I return to my Maker. Will I be one with whom, He is pleased? Or will I die wronging myself and denying Him?

I can’t avert my death, but I can strive to return to my Lord in a good state – fulfilling the purpose for which I was created.

I can strive for the real life, that isn’t fraught with difficulty and displeasure, but filled with peace.

So while I am closer to my death with every breath I take, I try to also be closer to the One who owns everything, is of extreme Mercy and Who can grant me eternal life.

After I die.

And We did not create the heaven and earth and that between them in play.(Quran 21:16)

Then did you think that We created you uselessly and that to Us you would not be returned?” (Quran 23:115)

Do you not see that (The One God) has made subject to you whatever is in the heavens and whatever is in the earth and amply bestowed upon you His favors, [both] apparent and unapparent? But of the people is he who disputes about (God) without knowledge or guidance or an enlightening Book [from Him].
And when it is said to them, “Follow what (God) has revealed,” they say, “Rather, we will follow that upon which we found our fathers.” Even if Satan was inviting them to the punishment of the Blaze?
And whoever submits his face to (God) while he is a doer of good – then he has grasped the most trustworthy handhold. And to (God) will be the outcome of [all] matters.
And whoever has disbelieved – let not his disbelief grieve you. To Us is their return, and We will inform them of what they did. Indeed, (God) is Knowing of that within the breasts.”
(Quran 31:20-23)

I Was Born Muslim

Did you know everyone was born in a state of Islam?

It’s true.

I didn’t choose my gender… did you?

I didn’t choose my eye color or hair. I didn’t choose my country; my family, my language.

I was born in submission. I was born a Muslim.

We all were.

But humans only remain in the state of natural Islam for a short time until our free will kicks in; Then it’s up to us what we do and what we believe.

You were taught to be a Christian, or a Jew, or an Atheist, or a Hindu, or a Buddhist or whatever you might have been as a child. 

I used to go to Catholic church, because my family is Catholic.

But we all have had a spiritual spark embedded in us. Kind of like a homing feature.

It’s our intrinsic spiritual and moral disposition. In Arabic, it’s called the fitrah.

It is the reason why some  people search for truth. They know there is something more to this life.

Do you remember wondering?

You probably had all kinds of big questions, like:   Why are we here?   What’s the purpose of life?   How do we know if we are doing what we are supposed to be doing?   What happens when we die?   Why is there suffering?   What is reality?

Does God exist?

In some though, especially after time passes and questions go unanswered, that spark can be completely buried and forgotten.

There are other tools and evidence that support the fitrah though; if we are willing to look.

My unique fingerprint is a sign.

Snowflakes, fruits, the sun and the moon are all signs.

When I look in the mirror at the features I didn’t choose, I remember where I came from.

As I age and begin to notice, that the lines on my face don’t disappear after I smile anymore;

I remember where I am going. 

Freely choosing to submit to the guidance provided by our Maker is like following the instruction manual for a machine. It doesn’t make any sense to use a refrigerator as a bookshelf or a computer as a chair.

I would’t use my lawnmower on my hardwood floor or my vacuum in my garden.

Following the guidance is like that. Using your existence for it’s purpose.

The sense of relief that comes with that is indescribable.

When you align your will with the supreme will of the one who designed us, you accept that you have curly hair, or brown eyes. You realize you couldn’t have been born to be a little taller or more attractive. You are supposed to be just how you are.

You then focus on the things you can control: choosing between good and bad actions, using your time wisely.

You can stop fighting what can’t be fought.

And the link between the two involuntary submissions: birth and death, is complete.

It’s the only way to make the transition from one, to the other

in peace.