Death and us: The eternal reality we all ignore

ALLAH takes souls at the time of their death and [the souls] of those that do not die during their sleep. He retains those souls for which He has ordained death, whereas He releases the rest for an appointed term." [Quran, 39:42]

By Abid Ishaq

Published: Fri 13 Apr 2007, 9:19 AM

Last updated: Sun 5 Apr 2015, 1:06 AM

Dear readers, this verse of the Holy Quran emphasises that there is only one source of life and death, Allah. It clarifies that each created soul is totally dependent on Allah, The Master.

The ‘appointed term’ mentioned is a reality regardless who we are and applicable to each one of us whether we accept Him as the One worthy of worship or not. The Quran further states, "Know that the life of this world is only play and amusement, pomp and mutual boasting among you, and rivalry in respect of wealth and children. (It is) like a rain (Ghayth), thereof the growth is pleasing to the tiller; afterwards it dries up and you see it turning yellow; then it becomes straw. But in the Hereafter (there is) a severe torment, and (there is) forgiveness from Allah and (His) pleasure. And the life of this world is only a deceiving enjoyment." [Quran, 57:20]

These divine words revealed to the Last Prophet Muhammad (peace be upon him) form a dreaded warning to the wrongdoers. The disbelievers in the One Lord taste the pangs of death as the angels stretch their hands out [saying], "Deliver up your souls. This day you will be awarded

a degrading punishment."

[Quran, 6:93] In the Islamic sense, regardless of how the living interpret it, death is painful for the dying disbeliever. Although they are ordered to surrender their souls to the angels, they are unwilling; therefore, the soul must be forced out as it does not wish to meet its punishment.

According to a hadeeth: The Angel of Death... [says], ‘O you foul soul, come out to the anger and wrath of your Lord.’ The soul inside the disbeliever’s body is overcome by terrible fear [and does not want to deliver itself up], whereupon the Angel of Death violently pulls it out like multi-pronged skewers being yanked out of wet wool —tearing with them the arteries and nerves. The above quoted verse also states "... and (there is) forgiveness from Allah and (His) pleasure." [Quran, 57:20]

The fact that the Creator readily forgives when He is solely called upon perhaps explains the primary reason as to why a great multitude of people turn towards the Abrahamic faith of Islam. Those who face the ‘appointed term’ in a state of Islam are never alone. Regarding the treatment meted out to them, the noble Prophet’s words are encouraging. The Prophet’s Companion Abu Hurairah (May Allah

be pleased with him) narrated that the Messenger of Allah said, "When the soul of a believer comes out [of its body], two angels receive it and rise with it towards the heavens, whereupon the inhabitants of the heavens say, "A good soul has come from the earth. Allah has blessed you and the body which you used to occupy."’ [Muslim]

The hardships and agonies related with the experience of death are extremely difficult for the one who associates partners with Allah and at the same time also painful for the one who believes in Him. "And the agony of death comes, in truth; that is what you wished to avoid." [Quran, 50:19].

This verse implies that every dying person must experience some degree of pain and torment. The Prophet’s wife Ayesha (May Allah be pleased with her) related, "[On the occasion of his approaching death], Allah’s Messenger had a small vessel of water placed before him. He began to dip his hands in the water, and wiping his face with them. He said, ‘There is none worthy of worship except Allah. Indeed death brings with it agonies!’

Then he raised his hand up and kept repeating, ‘In the most exalted company’ until his soul was taken and his hand fell limp." [Bukhari] But unlike the one who turns away from the divine and universal truth of Islam, the believer longs to face his Lord. Dear readers, death is a reminder of our meeting with the One Creator.

Every dying person, regardless of who he/she is, should make us ponder over our lifestyle and transform us into those who turn solely to Allah in repentance and humility. Those who die associating partners with Allah earn His wrath and fall short of His infinite mercy.

Abid Ishaq can be reached at

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