Written for the IRO (Inter-Religious Organization) in Singapore - by Ustaz Zhulkeflee, the presentation delivered by Bro. Jaafar Mah Li to educate non-Muslims invited by IRO sharing session pertaining to the Islamic perspective and the practices of the Muslims)
"A MUSLIM PERSPECTIVE ON LIFE, DEATH AND BEREAVEMENT”
Salaa-mun- ‘alaa - manit-taba-‘al-Huda
Before we can understand what death is, one must understand what this life is all about. Where did we come from? Where are we going to? Muslims are taught that all of us come from a spiritual world, the world of Souls (‘alam al-arwah), and then we were transferred in the world of the womb (‘alam raHeem) before coming into this present world (‘alam al-dunya). AND this does not stop here.
After death we will all be placed in the intermediary world of the grave (‘alam al-qobri or barzakh) to await the Day of Resurrection where we will be gathered in the Hereafter (‘alam al-aaakhirah). There is the final destination where we will definitely face God’s Judgment either being placed in Paradise with Allah’s Mercy or suffer punishment of Hell for our own evil rejection of His guidance and Mercy cause us to deserve to face God’s Justice.
We may not have been perfect in this life, yet Islam extends the greatest hope, that of the forgiveness and mercy of God through His religion Al-Islam (The religion of Submission to His Will). Amongst the most important message, the good news as well as the warning, brought by the Last Messenger of God, Prophet Muhammad [pbuh].He is the Conveyor of glad tidings and the Warner (al-Mubash-shira wa al-Nadziira) – who has been sent as a Mercy from God unto all the worlds (Rahmatan lil-‘aalameen) - is this:
‘Say: [Thus speaks God] ‘O you servants of Mine who have transgressed against your own selves! Despair not of God’s mercy: behold, God forgives all sins’ – for verily, He alone is much-forgiving, a dispenser of Grace!
Hence, turn towards your Sustainer [alone] and surrender to Him before the suffering [of death and resurrection] comes upon you, for then you will not be saved.”
(Qur’an: az-Zumar: 39: 53)
Muslim perspective of life and death ……..
Whenever a Muslim faces any trial or tribulations in life, any mishaps or misfortune, news of death or calamity, etc. he or she will spontaneously utter a Qur’anic verse:
IN-NAA LIL-LAA-HI WA IN-NAA ILAY-HI RAA-JI- ‘UUN
“Verily, unto God (Allah) do we belong and verily, unto Him we shall return.”
(Qur’an : al-Baqarah : 2 : 156)
Muslims are taught that this life in this world is meant to be a place of trial or testing; a place for every one of us to actualize our potential towards being good or one may choose to be otherwise. Each human is given a limited freewill for the purpose of this test and thus will have to be responsible for our every action. Guided be the Shari’ah (God’s revealed code of law as guidance), Muslim utterly believe in God’s promise for those who do good with goodly reward in Paradise and warning of punishment for evil actions in the Hereafter. This teaching underlines one of the main messages of Islam – the revealed religion of submission to God’s Will, brought by every Prophets of Allah, from Adam until it culminated with the Seal or Last of the Prophethood, Muhammad [salutations of peace and blessing be unto all of them]. God clarifies the purpose of this life here thus:
“He (God) who has created death as well as life, so that He might put you to a test [and thus show] which of you is best in conduct, and [make you realize that] He alone is almighty, truly forgiving.”
(Qur’an : al-Mulk : 67 : 2)
Muslims are taught never to fear death but expect it as something inevitable in this life. It is how well you live in this life that matters rather then how long, because the life of this world is temporary. Those who become overly obsessive of the life of this world, forgetting the life eternal in the Hereafter, is only deluding themselves because this worldly life will have to end with death and we will most certainly be brought to face God’s judgment:
“Every human being is bound to taste death: but only on the Day of Resurrection will you be requited in full [for whatever you have done] – whereupon he that shall be drawn away from the fire (of hell) and brought into paradise will indeed have gained a triumph: for the life in this world is nothing but an enjoyment of self-delusion.”
(Qur’an: al-Imran : 3 : 185)
“O You who have attained to faith! Be conscious of God with a true consciousness (of Him), and do not allow death to overtake you unless in a state of submission to God i.e. Islam.”
(Qur’an: al-Imran : 3 : 102)
Muslims yearn for peace and contentment by following every percepts of Islam. True peace and tranquility can on be possible through submission and surrender to the Will of the One God (Allah), our Creator and Sustainer unto Whom we shall all have to return – willingly or unwillingly. There is no other god but God. The meaning of being Muslim indicates our willingness in submitting to His Will by following His Messenger, the Last Prophet Muhammad [pbuh] and this ultimately leads us to meet God’s approval, as recorded in the Qur’an:
“O You (human) that has attained to inner peace! Return you unto your Sustainer, well-pleased and pleasing (Him): enter, then, together with My other true servants – yea, enter you into My Paradise.”
(Qur’an : al-Fajr : 89 : 27-30)
“Verily, those who [despite all evidence] are bent on denying the truth – [be they] from among the followers of earlier revelation or from among those who ascribe divinity to others besides God – will find themselves in the fire of hell, therein to abide: they are the worst of all creatures.
[And] verily, those who have attained to faith and do righteous deeds – it is they, they who are the best of all creatures. Their reward [awaits them] with God: gardens of perpetual bliss, through which running water flow, therein to abide beyond the count of time; well-pleased is God with them, and well-pleased are they with Him: all this awaits him who, of his Sustainer, stands in awe!”
(Qur’an : al-Bayyinah : 98: 6-8)
Muslim bereavement ……..
Below are important to be noted by non-Muslims when encountering and socially interacting with Muslims, who may be facing grave illness, calamity or death and of their bereavement:
- Usually a Muslim is reminded to always be positive, with patient perseverance to God’s Decree, in facing the trials and tribulation. Prophet Muhammad [pbuh] said: “Whatsoever a Muslim is experiencing [in his life whether it be [any kinds of] difficulty, pain, sadness, suffering, even that of being pricked by a small thorn, [all these are not in vain] except that such experience is all meant for God to cover or erase his past sins because of it.”
(Hadith reported by Bukhary and Muslim)
- Muslims worldview is always positive, holding good opinion of God and His Decree (Qadha’ wal Qadr);
- Muslims are those who believe in God Who is Most Compassionate, Oft-Forgiving Most Merciful; God Who loves all those who patiently persevere (As-Swaa-bireen) in facing the trial and tribulation of this life and will never forsake those who believes in Him;
- To a sick or dying Muslim, preference must be given to reminding him to utter the “KALIMAH” – Muslim will instinctively know that it refers to professing the credo of [Tawhiid] Absolute Oneness of God - in the Arabic phrase “LAA-ILAA-HA-IL-LALLAAH” meaning “the is no god [i.e. none deserves to be worshiped as Divine] but God”.
Much Qur’anic recitations are also done because these will bring much blessings and through it God instils in him tranquillity, healing and covers us in His all-encompassing Mercy – even to those who merely listens to them.
- Get other Muslims who know how to do these for him;
- Hold to silence and do not cause any distraction when these are being done.
- A Muslim funeral is usually carried out within 24 hours of death;
- If you wish to pay your last respect, you must find out when the body will leave the house; and you may accompany it to the mosque for prayer or even to the graveyard for the burial.
- Visits and condolences can be offered to the bereaved family in the subsequent days after burial.
- The body is bathe, shrouded and prayer is performed over the body;
- These are now carried out by benevolent Muslim association and casket companies;
- These are solemn ceremonies which, in some cases, others may be allowed to observe;
- The men usually are actively involved until the burial;
- A Muslim grave is about 6 feet in length, 2 feet wide and 6 feet in depth;
- Body is lowered into it, laying as in sleeping position but slightly tilted on the right shoulder with face exposed to the earth facing the Qiblah (facing Makkah);
- Planks are then placed over so that it formed like a small chamber, before the earth are filled back above it until the top formed into a mound, about one foot above ground and then 2 headstones with name of the deceased are placed as markers;
- Those wishing to convey condolences to family member must observe rule of (male/female) segregation in Muslim gatherings;
- Contributions are customarily accepted but for those sending wreath, do deliver it on the burial day to the cemetery and not to the home;
- Muslims usually do not give wreath but donate cash for the family to defray whatever funeral expenses incurred, and for supply of meals for the bereaved family during the days of bereavement;
- For the deceased, it is enjoined that surviving Muslims should make special du’a (prayer) for him; forgive any wrongdoings ever done by the deceased towards them; settle whatever debts owed by him (if any); do charity and good works or make endowment and donation in the deceased name; always to keep good memory of him through assisting and to offer whatever support towards his bereaved family,
Wa Allaahu a’-lam
Wabil-laahil - Hidaa-ya wat-tau-feeq
Was-salaa-mun- ‘alaa - manit-taba-‘al-Huda