Lately I have been thinking a lot about life and death. How we consider the two to be the opposites of each other, like light and darkness. Perhaps it is this idea of the two being seen as the converse of one another that I find the concept of death so challenging. It seems tragic, and as I try to find meaning in it, I’m lost. Perhaps it’s a sign of weak faith; perhaps it is only introspection. Regardless, this post is an attempt to find peace in an elusive concept, and gain clarity through the thoughts and feelings of others who understand it better.
“Every Soul shall have a taste of death: in the end to Us shall ye be brought back,”
Every Soul shall have a taste of death, it says in the Quran…Ashes to ashes, dust to dust, as the oft-quoted lines go. There’s a finality to it, an inevitability. And there’s loss; the heartbreaking pain of losing someone dear to you; there’s a sense of lost time, and things unsaid; of memories and mistakes, and helplessness…
One of my earliest memories is my grandmother’s funeral when I was about 4 years old. Nanoo was 51. She was too young to have passed away. I don’t remember a lot, perhaps because I was too young to understand it at the time. But I can still recall the emotions from that day; the utter sense of loss, of confusion and tears, of knowing not how to respond. And finding pillars of support in unlikely places, and seeking solace in prayer.
Everything changes…Yet it all comes back to you, in vivid images. There’s a sense of eternity in memories, the idea that they will always be with you. Yet you think of the things you could have said; your last memories with them; what you could have done to change things; could you have done anything? And the process is debilitating…dealing with your own loss and grief.
I know that the words of God hold comfort. There’s the idea that a soul is returning to its original abode, “brought back,” and going back to the Creator. After all, He who gave life, takes it away. So life then becomes an amanah(t): God’s trust in you to fulfill your responsibilities, and a kind of blessing. You pray for the departed souls, and you hope with all your heart that they are at peace.
Yasmin Mogahed once wrote about the journey of a soul back to its home, and its one desire: a union with God. This prayer held comfort:
“O Lord, make my soul a sanctuary, a fortress within. That no one and nothing can disturb. A place of calm, silence, serenity, untouched by the outside world. The soul that Allah (swt) calls al-nafs al mutmaina (the reassured soul) (Quran, 89:27). The soul that Allah (swt) calls back saying:
“(To the righteous soul will be said:) ‘O (thou) soul, in (complete) rest and satisfaction! Come back thou to thy Lord – well pleased (thyself), and well-pleasing unto Him! Enter thou, then, among My devotees! Yea, enter thou My Heaven!’” (Quran, 89:27-30)”
Ramadan is a test of patience…and one of the biggest tests of sabr is dealing with loss. This Ramadan, remember those who have passed away in your prayers. May God give us all courage.
“And certainly, We shall test you with something of fear, hunger, loss of wealth, lives and fruits, but give glad tidings to As-Sabirun (the patient). Who, when afflicted with calamity, say: “Verily! To Allah we belong and verily, to Him we shall return.” (Quran, 2:155-156)