The Value of Remembering Death

When Hazreti Muhammad (s.a.v.s) was about to leave this world he announced his close departure to the companions, and added that he would leave behind two great teachers to continue his work- a talking teacher and a silent teacher: The Holy Qur’an, and death.

Hz. Omer (r.a.) had a paid employee whose sole duty was to come to him at various times of the day and remind him of death by pointing at him and saying: "Ya Omer, you are going to die." One day, the sultan of the believers told this man that he didn’t need his services any more, and pointed to a single white hair in his beard, which henceforth served him as a reminder of death.

Someone came to Abu Darda, one of the most beloved of the companions of the Prophet (s.a.v.s.), asking for advice. He said, "Ya Abu Darda, help me. I have a terrible sickness- the sickness of the love of this world. My heart is darkened; I don’t see a speck of light from my prayers and devotions. I have no joy." Abu Darda answered, "Indeed this sickness is the greatest of all sicknesses, and if not cured in time, may cause the death of your faith. I will give you three remedies. Take them all. Visit the sick. Go to funeral services. Walk in the graveyards. If you do all these things often, your sickness will leave you. Your love and attachment to this world will disappear; your heart will be light again, and your inner eye will open." That person followed the saint’s advice, but his sickness did not leave him. He came to complain to Abu Darda. The saint told him, "If you visited the sick like some doctors and nurses do, believing that they can cure them, and doing it as a part of their profession and livelihood, and if you attend funeral services like some priests do, judging by the flowers and the crowd of relatives, thinking of the payment which he will receive for his services, and if you walk in the graveyards reading the tombstones glorifying the worldly deeds of the dead, you haven’t done any of the things I asked you to do. When you visit the sick, see yourself in his place- suffering, unable to eat and drink, near death, as it will be like that for you too sooner or later. What is all this running around, what is all this fighting about. Talk to your nafs, your ego, and show it that helpless dying creature and tell it ‘take heed, soon this is going. to be your end, leave the love of the world.’ When you go to funeral services, imagine that you are lying in that wooden box, wrapped in a piece of cloth, nude as the day you were born. All your goods, all your money, all our fame, your home, your wife, your children, everything which you have loved is left behind. Tell you r nafs that lovely wooden box is a vehicle in which it will soon ride, as everyone has and everyone will. All those goods which you have accumulated with such pain and effort, all the reputation, the result of so much pretense, will be scattered. Show our nafs that. Show it how all those who thought they loved the dead person are turning their faces away from him, although he left everything to them. He can’t bring with him a drink of water or a mouthful of food. No one knows what will happen to him; neither does he. Ask your nafs if it is ready.

"When you go to the graveyard, look under the earth upon which you are treading. Tender skins rotting, handsome heads falling from their bodies, beautiful eyes filled with earth; those tongues singing like nightingales either for the glory of the world or the glory of the Creator, have become food for insects. All their wrongdoings have turned into ugly monsters biting them. As you walk, think on which kings’ heads you are stepping, of those foreheads which were used to crowns, and ravishing lips which men would have given their lives for to touch with their lips.

Oh ego, when will you ever believe, when will you have enough of the illusions of the world. Don’t you see what will happen to you. You too, very soon- as "all future is very soon"- will be exactly like those. You will be left in a dark hole which could be a pit of hell, face to face with the ugly monsters of your doings. Take the world out of your heart. Be pure in your doings. Oh nafs, before we fall into that dark pit, before the snakes and the insects come to feed on us, let us prepare together."

That person followed Abu Darda’s remedies. His heart received light, his inner eye opened, and he thankfully remembered his teacher, the doctor of the heart who revived his dead heart.

My fellow travelers on the path to truth, remember death often. Who will help you to keep away from this world and from the love of this world, who will help you to serve as doctor of the heart yourself to cure the ills of this world. Do you know what death is- "Kullu nafsan zayi katul maut", "All beings, all created things will feel, will taste, will know death," It is not a small matter, it is not an easy matter. It is not easy to tell; it is not easy to understand. There are three things which it is impossible to describe: paradise, hell and death. In order that you may meet this great teacher, I will describe it to you as much as it could be described, so that you know it, and cast terror upon your nafs with it.

Death is a created being. Allah says, "I have created both life and death." It is the biggest of all created things and the most terrifying. Whoever sees it dies instantly. It is as big as all the human beings that have been created, and will be created, and all the suns and moons and stars put together. It has as many heads as the number of these, with as many eyes, mouths, ears, and hands. Imagine it. God created death before He created the living being. The Prophet (s.a.v.s.) says, "Allah created the souls of the beings 4,000 years before He created the bodies of the beings, and 4,000 years before He created the souls he created the sustenance of the created beings, and 3,000 years before He created the sustenance, He created death. When death was created with all of its mouths, it screamed, and all the angels trembled with fear, and asked Allah, "Oh Lord, what is this terrifying noise which puts fear in our hearts and makes us forget our devotions?" Allah said, "It is the voice of death, who will make all that exists in the worlds and in the heavens to pass." The angels begged God to see death. Allah said, "Then prepare yourselves." Then He asked death to stretch its wings and speak. When the angels saw the grandeur of death, and heard its terrifying voice, they all fell senseless for a whole year, and asked God, |Oh Eternal One, have You ever created a being greater than death?" Allah said, "Of all my creatures, death is the greatest, as big as all living beings put together." Then with God’s orders, death sat silent and motionless. Allah called upon the Angel of Death and said, "Oh Azrail, be the master over death. When I ask you to take the lives of My servants, send it over them so they all taste death, and see their impermanence.|

Azrail approached death and said, "I am sent by the Eternal Truth. When I will be ordered to take the lives of the temperal beings, I will send you upon them, and you will obey me. " Death answered, "You are my master with the order of God, and I obey, but know that I also will kill all the inhabitants of heaven, and Gabriel, Israfil, Michael and you." And death itself will be killed by the Prophet Yahya(John the Baptist) (a.s.) somewhere between paradise and hell, before the day of last judgement. If you really would like to know death, ask the dead, and find one of those who died before dying. They are the ones who have met death, their bodies have become earth, their needs naught, all the tastes of the world have left them. They are all patience and totally satisfied with their state. Their submission is complete, like the corpse in the hands of the washer.

If you wish to know what will happen to you after death, hear this. The greatest suffering awaits the sinner in dying and after death. The Prophet (s.a.v.s.) says, "At the moment of death one will feel the terror and pain of 300 blows of a sword." Hz. Omer (r.a.) says, " The moment of death will be as if a tree which is all thorns will be stuck through your throat. Its thorns will catch on all your veins an nerves and they will be pulled out of your mouth. The pain of death is exactly like that."

If an atom of the state of the moment of death would be given to the living ones, they couldn’t bear it, they would all perish. The Prophet (s.a.v.s.) says, "If the animals knew what death was, you wouldn’t’ have any meat to eat, because they would all turn into skin and bones."

And know that it comes in its appointed time, to some when they are seven, to some when they are eighty seven. Allah says, "When your appointed time comes, it could not be delayed an hour, nor could it be put forward an hour." There is no time. Be prepared. When they stretch you on the table to wash you, and when they will take you to that dark hole in the ground, you will be asked questions. The answers had better prepared, otherwise there is the torture of the tomb. What pain and horror will come until what is made of dust turns back to dust. Then there is the raising of the dead, then there is the day of judgement, where God will be the judge This is where the right of the weak over the strong will be asked. The hardest to bear is the day of last judgement. It is such a fine judgement that Hz. Ali (r.a.) says, "that a leaf of autumn which fell on another leaf will be made to lie under the leaf on , which it lay." Think sincerely of the rights of others which we continuously grab. Allah is Merciful; He may forgive the sins which we commit against Him, but the wrongs which we do to His Creation He will not forgive. We will be asked to pay there, where there is no payment. We will pay our debts by giving our good deeds to those whom we wronged, and when we are out of good deeds, we will pay by receiving their sins. Make your accounting and pay your debts. When they will stretch you on the table to give you last ablution, you will hear the voice of the Eternal Truth. He will say, " Oh My servant, I gave you life. I sent you to this world for an appointed time. I gave you health and sustenance. You squandered that life, you didn’t take care of the health which I gave you. You ate my food. You showed respect to tyrants, You prostrated in front of the rich. To whom did you pray, to whom were your devotions, at whose door did you stand?" Have you prepared your answers? These answers will come to you only if you leave the desires of your nafs. Allah says, "Don’t depend on the desires of your nafs, as this will make you leave the path of Allah."

To be a slave to your nafs is worse than being a fire worshiper, worse than taking the moon and the sun and the golden calf as your gods, because the idols will not necessarily lead you to sedition and disorder, while your nafs with arrogance, pride and envy, will lead you to revolt.

For all your faults, you put the fault on others, and on the devil. Whose fault was it which led the devil himself to sedition, to disobey Allah- his nafs which gave him foolish arrogance, and envy. If you leave the desires of your nafs, see if the devil or the man devils around you will be able to lead you astray. If you cannot educate your naf’s yourself’, take it to a sheikh. Perchance he may do it for you.

When you will be brought to the grave, you will be brought back to life. You will look around and see that you are in the company of friends with beautiful faces. When you ask them who they are, they will tell you they are your good deeds, that they came there before you so that you would not be afraid. For the only things you can bring to your grave are your deeds. If your deeds are ugly, you will find your tomb filled with stinking, slimy ugly creatures. They are your ugly deeds. Then you will meet the two angels, Munkir and Nakir. Their faces are the color of the sky. Their teeth digging into the earth like the shovel of the bulldozer, flashes of lightning coming from their eyes, their voices like thunder, they will ask you ‘~Who is your Lord?" If you have taken your nafs as your lord, you will say |I don’t know.| Or worse still, you will say that they are your lord, that they are your prophet, because you have been a liar and a hypocrite all your life, you have been used to praising tyrants out of fear or hoping for benefit. The questioning angels’ screams will fill your grave. "You are wrong you accursed one. You haven’t done any good deeds in the world. You followed your nafs you squandered your life, you filled your heart with the animals while it was created to house Allah. Taste a sample of the hell which you will inhabit for eternity.| Then they will squeeze your grave around you so that your bones will be crushed and you’:will be flattened. They will release snakes of fire upon you~which will devour your flesh. Angels of punishment will beat you with iron bars; you will scream in pain. All the created beings, plants and animals will hear you scream. Only the men and the jinns will not hear, because they have been given the gift of consciousness, and also the curse of unconsciousness. And the angels will ask you to look at your right side. You will see all the beauty, which is paradise. The angels will say, "Oh unfortunate one, if you had been wise and done what your Lord asked you to do, and avoided that which your hord asked you not to do, this could have been your station." Then they will ask you to look to your left side, where you will see the tortures and horrors of hell, and they will fill your grave with the fire of hell. There you will stay until the day of last judgement. One day of this punishment is equal to one year on this earth.

Keep the remembrance of your Creator in your heart and repeat continuously "La illahe .i.Lallah Muhammad ar-rasullallah." There is no god but Allah, and Muhammad is His messenger. This is the right answer. The one who loves Allah and fears Allah and remember Allah knows that he is always in the presence of Allah, cannot but be good and do good, and cannot want anything else but Him. Those are the beloved of Allah, and with their effort and with the closeness of Allah to them, their nafs, their ego, their personal devil will become a Moslem; and instead of leading them astray, it will be . their servant. These will know and taste the secret of dying before death, which means that although they are here in this world, it is lost to them. This world has no place in their hearts, they are here to serve their Lord. They see with the eyes of Allah, they hear with the ears of Allah, they speak the words of Allah, they are with the hands of Allah. If you become a lover of Allah and a beloved of Allah when your physical body will die, your worldly life will be pulled out of you like a hair from butter. And your soul in the form of a beautiful green bird will fly skyward from your chest, and will be welcomed by the angels in heaven. You will answer all the questions of Munkir and Nakir from your heart, as your mind will no longer be with you, with the blessed words "La. illahe illallah, Muhammad ar- rasulallah." And in the blink of an eye they will turn your tomb into a rose garden from the gardens of paradise. If you knew a single ayet from the Holy Qur’an, this will become a beautiful light over this garden, and there, perfumed and comfortable, you will lounge like a bride or a groom till the day of last judgement.

Inshallah, I will tell you of the day of last judgement and of heaven and hell next time.

Shaykh Tosun Bayrak al-Jerrahi al-Halveti , October 30, 1981