By Babatunde Jose
There is no single, universal way to grieve. The ways that older widows and widowers grieve reflect how the couples related during marriage, how their spouses died, the strains experienced during the final weeks and months, and their other roles and relationships that might protect against (or exacerbate) the pain of losing a loved one.
The whole life of man constitutes of a trial and test by means of which his final destiny is determined. For man, death is the return of the soul to its Creator; 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 Quran, the final revealed message from God.
We learn that death is exactly akin to sleeping; complete with dreams (Quran 6:60, 40:46). The period between death and resurrection, passes like one night of sleep (Quran 259; 6:60; 10:45; 16:21; 18:11, 19, 25; 30:55). The Quran contains various death themes that add significantly to our insight into the meaning of death; however, 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)
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 Judgment; Day of Resurrection. Hence, Islam views death merely as a stage in human existence or the translation to another realm or consciousness. 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, debauchery and iniquity.
The mystery of life and death is resolved in the holy Quran by linking it to the working of human conscience and its ability to maintain a healthy status of human spiritual-moral existence with faith in God. Human efforts should be concerned with the revival of human conscience, which will lead to a meaningful life.
Death is divinely willed and when it arrives it should be readily accepted. There should, therefore, be no reasoning by the bereaved as to why they have lost their loved one. Islamic scholars such as the twelfth century theologian, Al Ghazali stress that death is unpredictable and can happen at any time and as such Muslims should always be prepared for the inevitable and for what is about to occur. It is but a gateway from this short but mortal existence to a life of immortality in the afterlife. Illness is not a true sign of impending death. Men have survived 20 years or more of illness while a feeling of slight discomfort could be the precursor of death.
This brings into focus the death of Taiwo Soyombo, wife of our amiable friend and brother Kayode Soyombo; mother of his three boys; Ayodele, Olumide and Ladipo. A friend of our wives and a very temperate soul; despite her afflictions, she always kept a cool and unassuming mien. Aged 63, she was in the evening of her life.
This kind of death is usually referred to as an untimely death. But in fact, no death is untimely. Every death is a timely death according to the Creation Plan of God. Every death is consciously planned by the Creator. The form may differ but in terms of its reality, every death is the same. Untimely what? Who determined the time? Who knows the time? The Good Books tell us that ‘no one knows the time, place or manner of death: Only the Creator; Matthew 24:36; Quran 31:34. A perfectly sound man can drop dead at the barbers shop or on the train to work or at the traffic light in his car. Death is no respecter of mood, place or time.
Every death gives a message to those alive that they still have their chance and therefore must avail of it. Every person is born into the world according to a divine plan. Each person spends his life on earth for a limited period. To be born is to be given a chance. When a person reaches the end of his destined period, death is decreed for him by the Creator—neither before nor after. The manner of death is irrelevant; the fact remains that the time of death has approached for the concerned person.
“To Allah (Almighty God) we belong, and to Him is our return.” (Qur’an 2:156) Multitudes of men have walked on the surface of this Earth. They all belonged to different nations and cultures. A few of them made history for which they were remembered, whereas others were never to be mentioned again. Although each one was personally different from another – their habits, thinking and tastes differed – they all had two things in common, first, they were all delivered from their mother’s womb (birth) and second, they all tasted death. Taiwo has tasted both and was interned yesterday at the Vault and Gardens, Ikoyi; May Her Soul rest in Perfect Peace.
Her death like all deaths is a sermon for those of us alive. The outpouring of friends and relations is a glowing testimony to her life of righteousness. It is therefore left for us to keep up our good work and seek the benevolence of God in all that we do. We need to walk on the right path of the spiritual realm in order for us to reap Jannatul Firdous when the time comes for us to depart and translate into the other realm.
There is no doubt our riches will not avail us in the presence of the Almighty as He would never ask us for what we have brought for Him. God does not need our houses and mansions neither does He need our limousines nor our jewelry, wives or children. What is required from us is our attitude to life and our fellow men. This is what will ultimately determine our altitude.
“The Sun travels to an appointed place. This is the decree of the Mighty, the All-Knowing.” (Quran 36:38) Almighty God blesses us with all His gifts. The Sun gives us light during the day to help us see and it helps our crops grow so that we can eat. But the Sun also teaches us other things. The Almighty God causes the day to die with its setting and allows the night to take over, which is a time for rest. In this way, He may be showing us that all of us will eventually have to die just like the day.
And when the Sun rises in the morning again after our period of rest, it is as if Almighty God is telling us that we too will be raised to life after we have died. These are all signs of Almighty God to teach us to take care of our life.
Barka Juma’at and a happy weekend
Reminder: Thursday December 19, 2019 is a date to keep. Our book: Reflection on Juma’at Greetings, a collection of our weekly sermons will be Unveiled at 11 Am at the Sir Adetokunbo Ademola Hall, Law School, Victoria Island, Lagos. We look forward to seeing you Deo Volente!