Friday Sermon: A Season of Death 2: Untimely Death

By Babatunde Jose

  • O Allah forgive our living and our dead, those who are with us and those who are absent, our young and our old, our menfolk and our womenfolk…

    Sahih Ibn Majah

    This is a take away from the beautiful and thought provoking Huthba at the prayer for our late friend Abiodun Bashua, organized by his family at the Moslem Community Mosque of Dolphin Estate, Ikoyi last Friday. The erudite Imam delivered a verdict that struck at the heart of our whole notion and classification of death. His verdict: Death is death. No death is untimely.

    What is untimely about death? Who set the ‘death clock’ in our body? Who determines when we would live or die? Who determines where we would die and the type of death? A man destined to die in a fire would not die in a storm at sea! Likewise a man destined to die in a fire would probably die in a fire in a boat at sea. This is the joker God Almighty holds in his hands and is never revealed to anyone, even the Angels.

    Except if we are thinking of the dialogue in Isaiah 38 where God gave Hezekiah 15 more years to live. Nowhere in the dialogue was the hour of death revealed to either Hezekiah or Isaiah the prophet who delivered the message. God is Great!

    Mr Enejew left his home in downtown Addis to catch the ill-fated flight to Nairobi. Suddenly, another car jumped the median and smashed into his car. He was rushed to the hospital. Lying on a stretcher in the emergency ward, news flashed that the Ethiopian Airline flight 302 had crashed killing all 170 people on board. Mr Enejew could not believe his luck. He was simply not destined to die. His ‘hour has not come!

    Something untimely is defined as what has occurred prematurely. The most common use of this term is probably in discussing someone’s untimely death, meaning they died young. This has been the usual notion and interpretation of the concept. However, spiritually it is a wrong notion. Our death does not lie in our hands but that of God. Death comes to a new born as it comes out of its mother’s womb; it comes to an infant just learning how to walk, so also does it come to an adult who is neither sick nor infirm.

    Doctors define sudden death as unexpected deaths that are instantaneous or occur within minutes or hours from any cause other than violence, sudden death following coronary occlusion especially sudden cardiac arrest. For a variety of reasons, something causes the heart to beat out of control. This abnormal heart rhythm is known as ventricular fibrillation. Some specific causes of sudden cardiac death in young people include: Hypertrophic cardiomyopathy (HCM). Despite all these medical mumbo jumbo, it is still death; it cannot be hastened or delayed. A man could be placed on machine to keep alive, this does not mean that his death is delayed. Unfortunately, God determines the day and time when the machine will be unplugged.

    Premature mortality is a measure of unfulfilled life expectancy. Because it is believed that deaths of younger people are often preventable, the premature mortality rate is a measure that gives more weight to the death of younger people than to older people. … A person dying at age 60 has lost a potential 10 years of life. Death is an inevitable part of life, but dying before our time is presumed entirely preventable: But is it? According to the Organization for Economic Co-operation and Development (OECD), the average life expectancy for Americans was 78.7 years in 2012. Dying at any point before that age could be considered a premature death. The questions posed are: Who determines life expectancy? Who says a man must live to a certain age? Is death of young people actually preventable or that of an adult as the case maybe? The best looked after patient who records excellent marks in all medical tests often stun medical experts by dropping dead in unexpected circumstances.

    The whole life of a Muslim constitutes of a trial and test by means of which his final destiny is determined. For him, death is the return of the soul to its Creator, God, and the inevitability of death and the Hereafter is never far from his consciousness. This serves to keep all of his life and deeds in perspective as he tries to live in preparedness for what is to come. For Muslims, the concept of death and the afterlife in Islam is derived from the holy Qur’an, the final revealed message from God.

    We learn that death is exactly like sleeping; complete with dreams (Quran 6:60, 40:46). The period between death and resurrection passes like one night of sleep (Quran 2:259; 6:60; 10:45; 16:21 😉 See Sura Kahf, story of the Companions of the Cave; (Quran 18:11, 19, 25; and 30:55).

    The Qur’an, contains various death themes that add significantly to our insight into the meaning of death, the concept is left undefined and always portrayed in close relationship with the concepts of life, creation, and resurrection.

    All that is on earth will perish. (Quran 55:26) Allah says in the Quran: “Everyone shall taste death. And only on the day of resurrection shall you be paid your wages in full. And whoever is removed away from the fire and admitted to paradise, this person is indeed successful. The life of this world is only the enjoyment of deception.” (Quran 3:185)

    Death is the termination of an individual comprehensive being, capable of believing and disbelieving, and not simply a living organism. Life does not end with death.

    In the same way that a person does not cease to exist in sleep, similarly he does not cease to exist in death. And in the same way that a person comes back to life when waking from sleep, also he will be revived at the great awakening on the Day of Judgement. Hence, Islam views death merely as a stage in human existence. Physical death should not be feared but one should, however, worry about the agonies of spiritual death caused by living a life of moral corruption, a life of brigandage and self-aggrandisement, a life of injustice and cheating, a life of unbridled venality.

    Last Sunday night my daughter was on admission at Reddington Hospital; in the morning as she was being discharged, a fellow patient with similar vaso occlusive crisis dropped dead on her way to the toilet. Unfortunately, my daughter had bonded with her as they were both under observation, hence she felt shaken by the death. I told my daughter that the girl’s time was just up. Considering that my daughter left the hospital that morning alive to tell me the story. That is life and death. As our elders will say: Iku oto, arun oto; sickness and death are two separate issues.  May the soul of that unknown girl rest in peace; Amen.

    Last Monday too, we woke up to the news of the death of Alhaji Idris Sulaimon, a close friend and disciple of my late father. Alhaji Sulaimon was a partner in the firm of Egunjobi Sulaimon and Co until he set up his own accountancy firm Sulaimon & Co. A devout Moslem, Alhaji Sulaimon lived a modest and unpretentious life. May Allah admit him to Aljannatul Firdous.

    Death should not by any stretch be defined as untimely. People die when it is  their time just as we would all die when our time comes. The only thing is that we never know for whom the ‘bell tolls’.

    Barka Juma’at and a happy weekend


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