When someone dies, Muslims usually say to the family, Innalillahi wah innalillahi rajiun (to God we belong, to Him we return). This is taken from the Holy Quran, Sura Baqara – Verse 156. The full verse is as follows: “Who, when a misfortune overtakes them, say: ‘Surely we belong to Allah and to Him shall we return’.”
Last August 10, 2014 at 2:40 pm, the grandmother of my wife passed away. She had more than eight years of fighting cancer.
I always tell my wife and my in-laws, she fought a good fight. We did our best to keep her company. Looking back to those years we still had her, I saw in her eyes the pain and suffering. But never did she complain or give up.
Every time I ask her, “Mang, mapia bun” (Mang, are you okay?) She always replied, “owai” (yes). Even though I know that deep inside she feels the pain. She doesn’t want us to feel sorry for her.
A day before she passed away, she was in the hospital intensive care unit. I brought my eldest son, Ethan Jamal, to visit her.
Ethan cried so hard when he saw his great grandmother in the ICU. He kept calling her, “Mamang”. I gave him time to approach Mamang and say his parting words. To my surprise Ethan said, “Mang, dont worry we will be fine. I will take good care of my younger brother and my younger cousins. Have a peaceful journey back to Allah.”
On the day we laid her in her final resting place, deep inside of me, I said, “good bye Mang. Mom (my mother who passed away last 2006) is there in heaven waiting for you. Please send my sallam to her. Till we all meet again… Inna lillahi wa inna lillahi rajiun.
As our family grieves of losing Manang, I reflect and remembered Islam requires us to know the phrase sharh as-sadr. This is a common Arabic expression used to refer to a spiritual expansion of the heart or chest that gives rise to inner enlightenment, tranquility, and relief from anxiety and worry. It is also a phrase that is used in a number of verses in the Holy Quran. It was mentioned in the Holy Quran that when Prophet Moses (AS) was going to face the Pharoah and convey to him the message of Islam, “the noble prophet Musa (alayhis salaam) prayed to Allah, “My Lord, expand for me my chest, ease my task for me, and remove the impediment from my speech so that they may understand what I say.” (Taha, v. 25-28)
Imam Gahzalli, rahimahullah (may Allah have mercy on him), wrote a letter which was entitled, sharh as-sadr. This letter is a good reminder for Muslims to prepare for death. This means we need to attain spiritual expansion, illumination, and comfort as we live our every day life in this world.
Imam Gahzalli (RA) is the author of the magisterial Ihya Ulum ad-Din (Revival of the Religious Sciences), spiritual master and scholar, and the individual who has been historically credited with merging the outward and inner sciences of Islamic law.
The letter was translated by Shazia Ahmad.
“[I begin] with the name of Allah, Most Merciful, Most Loving. We rely on Him, and seek help from Him alone. All praise is due to Allah, and may blessings be upon the Messenger of Allah Muhammad, his family, and his companions one and all.
Allah the Exalted said, “Is one whose chest Allah has opened to Islam [sharaha Allahu sadrahu] so that he has received light from his Lord (no better than one hard-hearted)?” (Az-Zumar v. 22)
The Messenger of Allah (SAW) was asked about sharh as-sadr and he said, “It is a light cast into the heart by which the chest is opened and expanded.” He was asked, “Is there a way of recognizing one who possesses that light?”He (SAW) responded, “Yes. [Such people can be recognized by their] indifference towards the abode of delusions [i.e., the life of this world], their constant turning towards the abode of eternity [the hereafter], and their preparation for death before it arrives.” He was asked, “How does one prepare for death?” He (SAW) said, “Those of you who remember it the most are the best prepared for it.”
From reading the texts of this letter, we may ask ourselves, how can we be ready for death? How can a Muslim prepare for death?
In Islamic view, death is an expression used for the journey from this world to the Divine Presence with Allah (SWT). Thus, we usually say, “to Him we belong, to Him we return”.
Thus, life is a journey. We are all travellers. Imam Gahzalli said, as a traveller we need to prepare three things for this journey: cutting our ties of the material things life can offer; a deep consciousness [taqwa] of God; to be near Him in the most appropriate way.
It is important that Muslims remember the word, taqwa. Taqwa means obeying the commandments of Allah Most High and avoiding that which He has prohibited to such an extent that one fulfills all of Allah’s commandments and remains far removed from all of His prohibitions.
Muslim religious scholars say that a sign that a Muslim has true love for Allah is that he or she does not have any feeling of dislike towards death, no matter when it may come. This simply means that we can accept death any time, and our physical attachment of this world is just temporary. For when we die, we simply return to Him.