Friday Sermon: The Vanity of The Dead

By Babatunde Jose

And to Allah belongs the dominion of the heavens and the earth, and Allah is over all things competent. Indeed, in the creation of the heavens and the earth and the alternation of the night and the day are signs for those of understanding. Who remember Allah while standing or sitting or [lying] on their sides and give thought to the creation of the heavens and the earth, [saying], “Our Lord, You did not create this aimlessly; exalted are You [above such a thing]; then protect us from the punishment of the Fire..”(Quran 3: 189-191)

In 1972, while working as a reporter at the Nigerian Broadcasting Corporation, in Ikoyi, I developed the morbid pastime of walking through the Ikoyi cemetery, marveling at the vanity of men and the type of tombstones many have fashioned for their departed. However, there were some that amazed me, such as those that were erected by those still living, with the sure intention of being interned therein. Hmmmm! Man proposes and God disposes. We have read in the good books that ‘nobody knows the hour, not even the Angels, nor the prophets of God’, the secret of ‘the hour’ is with God. My grand uncle, late Sir Mobolaji Bank-Anthony built a mausoleum at Ikoyi cemetery complete with marble finishing and a headstone with the inscription: Here lies the remains of Sir Mobolaji Bank-Anthony, 1907—-‘. What vanity! My Uncle did not die for another 20 years after the erection of the monument; and he was not buried there either. He was buried at Ayinke House, Ikeja General Hospital.

My client, the publisher and owner of Islamic Publications Bureau, was an Indian entrepreneur and had lived for long in Nigeria. His publications were text books for many schools in Nigeria. One December, he went on a tour of the North to visit his branches and consult with the various state governments that patronized his books. Unfortunately his car had an accident on the road to Sokoto and he died, only his driver survived to tell the story. The villagers on realization that he was a Moslem, did ‘janaza’ for him and he was buried there, with a small mound to mark his shallow grave.  His wife later visited the site and asked that his soul should not be disturbed. That was where Allah said he would sleep. Allahu Akbar!

Many have built such grandiose mausoleums to burnish their vanities but in the end such monuments lie waste with the passage of time.

We were at the Vaults and Garden private cemetery last Monday to intern the body of a dear mother Alhaja Dabiri, mother of our new chairman: Crescent Bearers. She was aged 87 and buried according to Islamic rites, without fanfare or earthly embellishments. But not so with the wonders of man’s vaingloriousness we saw at the cemetery which kept many of our mouths agape. Here were graves like no other; with billboards advertising the occupants, many with life-size, wide format portraits of the departed souls. There were some with garden benches for prospective visitors to the graves. Vanity upon vanity; there were empty tombs with built up enclosures, some with marbles, others granites and palladium. Most had enclosures with glass and decorated wrought iron designs, complete with sliding glass doors. Some of those in attendant at the burial were hissing openly and loudly at the obscenity of the spectacles. It was a most odious sight to behold.

If men were remembered for their loudness and vain acts, perhaps it would have been worth their while. Unfortunately, these posers and spiritually ignorant beings are soon forgotten; they did not leave wells for people to drink from, neither did they leave mosques or madrasas nor did they leave worthy children who would continue to pray for them and carry their flags after their demise.

Why are men so vain?  The vain creature is an irreligious being, as he is devoid of compassion and empathy for his fellow man. All he knows, is about himself and his image. He goes to any length to look good and accepted.  In all he does, he plays to the gallery. He donates the fattest offering in the church or mosque, but insist it must be announced for all to know; he is always at the front row in the Friday prayer in the mosque and he has a reserved seat in the front pew in the cathedral. It is however a very sad commentary on our belief and faith that we have carried this odious behavior to the cemetery. The idiocy of human vanity makes one reflect deeply on the whole purpose of life. Why are we here? What is the whole essence of man? Where are we going from here?

Allah says, “I have not created men except that they should serve Me” (Quran, 51:56). This life is a preparation for the Hereafter the ‘Eternal Home’ that will not be going to an end to which all human beings ultimately go. So, Muslims are required to observe righteousness in their daily life, based on Quranic teachings.

In another verse of Quran Allah Almighty says that:

“Know that the life of this world is but amusement and diversion and adornment and boasting to one another and competition in increase of wealth and children – like the example of a rain whose [resulting] plant growth pleases the tillers; then it dries and you see it turned yellow; then it becomes [scattered] debris. And in the Hereafter is severe punishment and forgiveness from Allah and approval. And what is the worldly life except the enjoyment of delusion.” (Quran 57:20)

No doubt, all those billboards and fancy epitomes of vanity will wither away with the passage of time and their owners and offspring’s will have a lot to answer for on the Day of Reckoning. Vanity is an emptiness or uselessness of things and Solomon wrote more about vanity than any other author in the Bible and more so in Ecclesiastes where vanity is mentioned 32 of the 35 times in the Bible. We also read in 2nd Timothy 3:1-5 But mark this: There will be terrible times in the last days. 2 People will be lovers of themselves, lovers of money, boastful, proud, abusive, disobedient to their parents, ungrateful, unholy, 3 without love, unforgiving, slanderous, without self-control, brutal, not lovers of the good, 4 treacherous, rash, conceited, lovers of pleasure rather than lovers of God— 5 having a form of godliness but denying its power. Have nothing to do with such people. A great admonition indeed!

Those who have ears should listen now!

Barka Juma’at and a happy weekend



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