Death and Ajal (the End of One’s Lifespan)
During the month of March, some of the top headlines in the news included tragic stories of the devastating loss of life that came about from unexpected and unpredictable situations that continue to cause us great grief and sadness. For example, on March 10th, news emerged that an Ethiopian Airlines plane crash-landed due to faulty airplane software, instantly killing all 157 passengers on board. After less than a week, we were horrified to learn that Muslims were targeted and massacred in a brazen attack on 2 Masajid in Christchurch, New Zealand, by a self-proclaimed white-nationalist, leaving 50 Muslims killed and 50 injured.
In the aftermath of such dreadful events, it is natural for us to feel greater anxiety than usual when performing everyday tasks, which we may have taken for granted. For example, when boarding a plane or attending the Masjid, especially during Friday prayers, many people may experience a looming feeling that our lives are under threat.
During these situations, we feel a heightened sense of anxiety and a natural concern to take greater precautions for our safety as well as for our families. In some severe cases, this kind of fear can paralyze a person from even performing regular day-to-day tasks due to the fear of dying.
This draws our attention to the question of what the Islamic viewpoint on is dealing with the fear of death.
When we understand the difference between the various situations in which death occurs and the cause (Sabab) of death, then we will then have a correct and proper understanding of the topic, allowing us to move forward in this life with more confidence and steadfastness in serving our Creator.
The meaning of death according to the deluded
We find that the perception of death in liberal, secular societies, are affected by materialistic and hedonistic perspectives on life, where mottos such as “You only live once,” and “Live life to the fullest” are prevalent in popular culture. We find that the topic of discussing the meaning of death and its implications are treated as a social taboo and is mostly avoided in public discourse.
Such a belief encourages people to focus on maximizing their pleasures through satisfying one’s desires and attaining as much wealth as possible in this life before their inevitable death. Such a destructive view on life and death promoted in Capitalist societies does not care to provide people with a serious answer to one of the most fundamental questions for human beings: What happens after this life? Instead, such questions are treated as insignificant and philosophical, only to be swept under the rug when structuring society.
This generates a society of individualistic, shallow, and short-sighted people who are primarily programmed to indulge in as many experiences and base desires (even if that includes drugs and illicit sexual relations) as possible, as well as to pursue amassing as much wealth as possible before their eventual demise from this world. For such people, death is viewed as an “inconvenient truth,” as it only serves as a reminder of the eventual end to the pursuit of one’s pleasure and personal gain.
The Islamic view of this life and the afterlife
From the Islamic point of view, life and death have a clear purpose and a crucial role in creating enlightened individuals who live with a strong purpose and strive to please their Creator – knowing that death is not the end, but rather the beginning of a new life in the Akhirah (afterlife).
Allah (swt) states very clearly in the Qur’an:
“And they say: ‘What! When we lie, hidden and lost in the earth, shall we then be in a creation renewed?’ Nay, they deny the meeting with their Lord! Say: ‘The Angel of Death put in charge of you will duly take your souls, and then shall you be brought back to your Lord.” [32:10-11]
The Companion of the Prophet (saw), Uthman bin ‘Affan (ra), in the last Khutba he gave in his life, said: “Allah (swt) gave you this world to request the Akhirah, and did not give it to you for you to rely upon, for this world ends and Akhirah is everlasting. So, let not that which ends make you disregardful nor keep you busy from that which lasts. Choose to seek that which lasts over that which ends, for this world will be cut off and our return is to Allah.”
The Islamic view on death provides the believer with a complete and far-sighted point of view of life, in which we take our responsibilities and obligations in this world seriously since we realize that our stay in this world is temporary and that we are accountable to Allah (swt) for our actions on the Day of Judgement.
Ajal (Lifespan) according to Islam
According to Islam, Ajal (the end of one’s lifespan) is the only cause (Sabab) of death. All situations where death occurs are simply that – situations. Every situation varies from time to time and place to place, and do not always lead to death. People have been shot in the head and have survived. People have jumped from skyscrapers and lived. People have faced countless situations where they should have died, but they did not. And this is due to the fact that these are merely situations where death normally occurs, but the only cause (Sabab) of death is the Decree of Allah (swt) that is manifested in the concept of Ajal. If one’s Ajal is not complete, death will not occur. The Messenger of Allah (saw) said
“(The Angel Jibreel) revealed into my chest that no one shall die except after they complete their Ajal (lifespan decreed for them) and use up all their Rizq (wealth predetermined for them).”
And the Qur’an teaches us that the death of any person can only occur at the end of a person’s Ajal, and not from any other external materialistic cause. Allah (swt) said:
“Nor can a soul die except by Allah’s leave, a term being fixed as by writing.” [3:145].
And He (swt) also said:
“When their Ajal is reached, not an hour can they delay it, nor (an hour) can they advance it.” [7: 34]
Therefore, the difference between the cause (Sabab) of death and a situation in which death normally occurs is that the cause (Sabab) will intrinsically and absolutely result in the death of a person 100% of the time, since the person’s lifespan that has been decreed by Allah (swt) has come to an end. Whereas we find that in the situations in which death would normally occur, a person may survive against all odds or defy predictions from medical doctors.
Therefore, such Ayat and Ahadith prove beyond a shadow of a doubt that a person ceases to live only after their lifespan (Ajal) has completed, at the time appointed by Allah (swt).
The undefeatable mentality of the believer
Once a Muslim understands that human beings do not die except after one’s Ajal (lifespan) has ended, and understands that the one who gives life (Al-Muhyee) and causes death (Al-Mumeet) is Allah (swt) alone, this creates an unshakeable resolve to fulfil our obligations to Allah (swt) regardless of the consequences faced, even at the expense of one’s life and safety.
While Muslims are commanded to take safety and security precautions that are within our control seriously, we must not allow a climate of fear to cause us to compromise on our identity nor our obligations as Muslims. Therefore, despite the devious plots of the Kuffar and the corrupt regimes in the Muslim world to instill fear into us and prevent us from working for change and upholding our Islamic values, we are advised to remember the following:
1- Remember that obeying Allah (swt) and remaining steadfast on His Deen is our very purpose in life. Allah (swt) is our only Protector and Helper, as He (swt) said:
“So establish prayer and give Zakat and hold fast to Allah; He is your protector – and a most excellent protector is He, and a most excellent helper is He.” [22:78]
We should not rely on the United Nations, secular politicians, or the colonial powers for protection. Allah is our protector and He is with the believers.
2- Remember that death is inevitable, so we should not fear it. Instead, we should prepare for death with firm Iman and courageous good deeds. Allah (swt) said:
“Wherever you may be, death will reach you – even if you are within fortified towers.” [4:78]
Therefore, we should continue to speak the truth to the tyrant rulers, expose anti-Muslim agendas in the West, reject calls for integration into unIslamic systems and nationalities, and move forward without fear in the call for the full implementation of Islam in the Muslim lands.
3- Remember that those of us who died steadfast upon our Deen and obeying the commands of Allah (swt) have the promise of a great reward. Allah (swt) said:
“And if you are killed in the cause of Allah or die – then forgiveness from Allah and mercy are better than whatever they accumulate in this world.” [3:157]
We must not compromise fulfilling our communal and personal Islamic obligations, irrespective of the pressures from society. And we hope to meet Allah (swt) while in His service.
We ask Allah (swt) to protect the Ummah and to protect our families, and we ask Allah to remove the fear of death from our hearts and that we meet Him while we remain courageous and steadfast in the service of His Deen. Ameen.