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Thursday 18th of April 2024
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Aversion for Death

With my continuous sanad reaching up to the pillar of Islam and its reliable authority, Muhammad ibn Ya'qub al-Kulayni, from Muhammad ibn Yahya, from Ahmad ibn Muhammad, from some of his teachers, from al-Hasan ibn 'Ali ibn Abi 'Uthman, from Wasil, from 'Abd Allah ibn Sinin, from Abu 'Abd Allah (A) that he said: "A man came to Abu Dharr and said to him, ' O Abu Dharr what is wrong with us that we abhor death?' Abu Dharr replied, 'That is because you have built and cultivated your world and ruined your Hereafter. So you hate(rail)  to be moved from prosperity towards desolation.' He was asked, 'How do you see our entry into God's presence?' Abu Dharr replied, 'As to the good-doer amongst you, he is like someone returning to his family after a (long) absence. As to the evil-doer amongst you, he is like an absconding slave being returned to his master.' He was asked, 'How do you see our situation before God?' Abu Dharr replied, 'Evaluate your deeds in view of the Qur'anic criterion. Verily God says, "Surely the pious shall be in bliss and the profane shall he in a fiery furnace" "'(82:12,13). The Imam(A) added: "Thereat the man said, 'Then where is the mercy of God?' Abu Dharr replied, 'The mercy of God is near to the good-doers.' "

Abu 'Abd Allah (A) continued: "A man wrote to Abu Dharr, may God be pleased with him: 'O Abu Dharr, teach me something new of knowledge.' Abu Dharr wrote to him, 'Knowledge is vast. However, if you can abstain from wronging someone that you love, do so.' The man asked him, 'Have you seen anyone muddled(jumbled) someone that he loves?!' Abu Dharr replied, 'Yes. Your own self is the dearest of all things to you. And when you disobey God you have wronged it.' " [1]

Exposition:

One should know that people differ in their fear and abhorrence of death and the reasons that underlie their abhorrence. That which Hadrat Abu Dharr - may Allah, the Exalted, be pleased with him - has described, relates to the state of the middle ones (mutawassitun) and we will briefly describe here the condition of the deficient (naqisun) as well as that of the perfect (kamilun).

It should be known that the fear and abhorrence of ours, the deficient (naqisun), for death is on account of a cause that was referred to in the course of exposition of some of the foregoing traditions. It lies in this that man, in accordance with his original and God-given nature, loves life and survival and hates death and extinction. This love is related to absolute survival and immortal, everlasting life, a survival free from extinction and a life that knows no end. Some of our honoured predecessors used to prove the necessity of Resurrection on the basis of this human nature, and a description of their arguments here is outside the aims of our present discourse. Now, since this love and that hate lie in human nature, man comes to love that which he reckons to be the enduring realm of life and hates that which he regards as being contrary to it. Since we have no faith in the realm of the Hereafter and our hearts have no conviction in immortal life and eternal survival, we are attached to this world and abhor death in accordance with that nature.

We have mentioned earlier that rational judgement and perception is different from the faith and conviction of the heart. In accordance with our rational apperception, or judgement based on traditional belief (taqlid), we affirm that death - which is a transition from the dark, lowly sphere of corporeal (mulki) existence to the radiant world of immortal life and the everlasting higher sphere of incorporeal (malakuti) existence - is a reality. However, our hearts do not partake of this knowledge and are oblivious of it. Rather, our hearts cling to earthly nature and the corporeal realm and consider life to be exclusively confined to the lower corporeal mode of animal life. They do not believe in the life and immortality of the other world, which is the world of Hereafter and the realm of (pure) life. Hence we put total reliance in this world and regard the other world with fear, repulsion and resentment. All the misfortunes of ours are on account of this lack of faith and conviction. Had we even a tenth of what faith we have in this world's life and living, its existence and survival, in the world of the Hereafter and its eternal, everlasting life, our hearts would have been more attached to it and we would have devoted some effort to building it. But, alas, the springs of our faith are dry and the edifice of our faith rests on water. Inevitably, we fear death, extinction and end. The exclusive and definite remedy for this malady is cultivation of faith in the heart through beneficial reflection and remembrance as well as sound knowledge and works.

However, as to the fear and abhorrence of the mutawassitun -that is, those who have inadequate faith in Hereafter - that is because the attention of their hearts is turned to the cultivation of the world and they are neglectful of cultivating the Hereafter. Therefore, they are not inclined to move from a well-built and prosperous place to one which is a desolation, as pointed out by Hadrat Abu Dharr, may God be pleased with him. This attitude is also on account of inadequate faith and conviction. Otherwise, with a complete faith it is not possible that one should confine his efforts to the base mundane affairs to the neglect of the Hereafter. On the whole, these fears, anxieties and hatreds arise from unwholesomeness of deeds, waywardness and opposition to one's Master (mawla). Otherwise, had our evaluation been a correct one and had we critically examined ourselves we would not have been fearful of God's reckoning. For there, the reckoning is just and the judge(arbitrator) is a just one. Hence our fear of the reckoning is due to our own inequity and our self-deceptive and fraudulent evaluation of our own selves. In the noble al-Kafi the following musnad tradition of Hadrat Musa ibn Ja'far (A) is recorded:

 

The Imam (A) said: "One who does not examine and evaluate himself every day is not one of us (i.e. he is not a follower of the Prophet and the Ahl al Bayt). (A person who examines himself every day), if he does a good deed, he beseeches God to increase him (in virtues and if he has perpetrated a vice, he seeks God's forgiveness for it and is penitent before Him." [2]

Hence if you have been taking account of yourself, you shall have no fear of the time of reckoning, for the perils and tribulations of that world are subject to the works performed in this. For instance, had you walked in this world on the straight path of prophethood and the straight path of wilayah without deviating or swerving from the! path of the wilayah of `Ali ibn Abi Talib, upon whom be peace, there will be no fear on you when passing over the Sirat. [3] For the reality of the Sirat is the inward form of the wilayah, as it has been mentioned in ahadith that Amir al-Mu'minin (A) is the Sirat. [4] In another tradition, the Imams of the Ahl al-Bayt are reported to have stated: "We are the Sirat. " In the blessed al-Ziyarat al jami`ah, it is stated:

 

You (the Ahl al-Bayt) are the greatest path (sabil) and the firmest way (sirat). [5]

Whoever moves on this path steadily without stumbling, his feet will not stagger(limped) on that Sirat too, and he will pass over it in a moment as short as the stroke of lightning. Similarly, should his morals and habits be equitable and radiant, he will be immune from the darkness and horrors of the grave, of the Barzakh and the Resurrection, and there will be no fear upon him in those realms. Hence, here, we are ourselves responsible for the malady, and its remedy is in our own hands, as pointed out by Hadrat Amir al-Mu'minin in verses ascribed to him:

 

The remedy lies in you and you perceive not; The malady arises from you and you discern not. [6]

And the noble al-Kafi records the following musnad tradition of al' Imam al-Sadiq (A):

 

The Imam (A) said to a man: "Verily, you have been made your own doctor. The malady has been described to you, the sign of health ho also been made known to you, and the medicine has been shown to you. Hence look how you attend your own soul." [7]

You are afflicted with corrupt beliefs, morals and behaviour. The signs of health are contained in the prescriptions of the prophets and the illuminations of (primordial) nature and the intellect. The remedy for the soul's sickness lies in taking steps for its removal. This is the condition of the mutawassitun. However, as to the condition of the perfect and those of convinced faith, they have no abhorrence of death, although they may regard it with fear and anxiety on account of their awe of the Majesty of God, the Exalted, and the dignity of that Sacred Essence. And hence the Messenger of Allah (S) used to say;

 

So where is the terror of him who knows?

And Hadrat Amir al-Mu'minin (A) had a terrific fear and horror on the night of the nineteenth of Ramadan (the night of his assassination), although he used to say:

 

By God, the son of Abu Talib is more intimate with death than the infant with his mother's breast. [8]

Their fear is on account of other matters and is not like the fear of those like us who are in the chains of desires and hopes and are enamoured to the transitory world. The hearts of the awliya', too, greatly differ from one another. Their difference cannot be encompassed by any description or writing, and we will refer briefly to some of their points of difference. The hearts of the awliya' differ in their capacity to receive the irradiations (tajalliyat) of the Divine Names. The hearts of some of them are characterized with love and yearning and God Almighty is manifested in them through the Names of Beauty (jamal). Such an irradiation brings an awe suffused with yearning, and the fear in their terror is on account of the manifestation of Divine Majesty and its vision. The lover's heart palpitates with fear and anxiety as the time of meeting the beloved approaches, but this anxiety and terror is different from the ordinary kinds of fear.

The hearts of some of them are characterized with trepidation and grief and God Almighty is manifested in them through the Names of Majesty and Glory. Such a tajalli creates an intense yearning suffused with dread and a wonder and an awe suffused with grief. And it is related in hadith that once Hadrat Yahya (John), upon whom be peace, noticed Hadrat 'Isa (Jesus), upon whom be peace, laughing. Angrily, he said to the latter, "It appears as if you are immune of God's chastisement!" Hadrat `Isa retorted, "It appears as if you have despaired of God's mercy and beneficence!" God Almighty revealed to them that, "Whoever of you has a better opinion of Me is the dearer to Me."

Since God manifested Himself in the heart of Hadrat Yahya (A) through the Names of Majesty, he always dwelt in dread and awe and showed his displeasure to Hadrat 'Isa (A), who gave him a reply in accordance with the tajalliyat of Divine Mercy and Compassion.

 

 

[1]. Al-Kafi, ii, "kitab al-'iman wa al-kufr","bab muhasabat al-'amal", hadith no. 20.

[2]. Ibid., hadith no. 2.

[3]. Tafsir al-burhan, i. 46.

[4]. Ibid., 51.

[5]. Man la yahduruhu al-faqih, ii, 613; Mafitih al-jinan, "al-Ziyarat al-jami'ah al-kabirah."

[6]. The Diwan ascribed to Amir al-Mu'minin, 57.

[7]. Al-Kafi, ii, "kitab al-iman wa al-kufr", "bab muhasabat al-amal," hadith no. 6.

[8]. Nahj al-balaghah, Khutbah no. 5.


source : Forty Hadith/ by Imam Ruhullah al-Musawi al-Khumayni
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