Thursday 24 March 2011

Reflecting on Death and Priorities

I had a visit from my uncle last night (my dad’s younger brother) who is quite close to me. He is very active in his community and in particular with his masjid. Last night he told me about a middle-aged man who used to live alone in one of the rooms above the masjid. He had lived in the UK illegally for 17 years having travelled here from Pakistan. He sold mangoes on Green Street until he finally got his leave to stay in the country last year and was in the process of applying for his passport. He fell ill three months ago and with swine flu which developed into all sorts of other nasty things, meaning that he was moved from one hospital to another until he died a few days ago. Inna Lillah Wa Inna Ilayhi Raji'oun - truly we belong to Allah and truly to Him shall we return.

Someone contacted the man’s family and it was found that he had relatives in the US and Pakistan, but no-one was willing to take responsibility for his burial. My uncle and members of his community managed to get enough money together to arrange his burial. My uncle told me that at one time he was making good money and supplying fruit to other street traders too, but he fell on hard times when a supplier conned him out of his money. Since then, until he ended up in hospital, he had been surviving on a bit of leftover curry from neighbours and acquaintances and a few pitta’s once or twice a day.

A family member from Pakistan eventually contacted and asked my uncle to send his belongings back – probably not realising that he didn’t have anything worth much.

I had to write about this partly because it was a painful thought for me that a man could live such a lonely and uncomfortable existence and then just be promptly forgotten by everybody including the people he had been calling regularly and sending money to before he became destitute and then ill. I just pray that his hardships in this life lead to ease in the next life insh’Allah.

The other reason I had to write about this is because of a conversation I had with a colleague and friend at lunch time today. None of us is guaranteed even a second more than the one we are in. We live in frightening times: tsunami’s, earthquakes, floods, man-made disasters and then the sheer savagery of human beings against each other. Islam teaches that there will be an end to this world and then we will be held to account for our every word and action. Muslim’s believe in the last days, and there are many Prophetic (PBUH) traditions regarding this (Ibn Kathir’s The Signs Before the Day of Judgement is a good source to learn more).

The point is not to frighten people or to put a downer on people – but Islam teaches us to look around us and reflect and not trudge along each day with our eyes and our minds closed. Seeing all of these things, makes me question - what is our purpose? Why are we here? What are we meant to do? It makes me think about what is important, what should I prioritise and what holds value – when I think like this, I start to see how spending time in worship is more important than surfing the net. It makes me want to spend more time with my children, instructing them, rather than spending time on other things, preparing my Sadaqah Jariyah (ongoing charity, which benefits after death, e.g. pious children insh’Allah). It makes me question what, in the scheme of things, is the point of me spending all day at the office – if death came tomorrow. Wouldn’t there have been better ways to have spent that time.

This way of thinking also inspires me – to do more, to do better, to take more care. One of the things I discussed today with my friend was how easily we fall to backbiting others at work and amongst friends without even realising. I have realised that when I am around good friends, this doesn’t happen, but when I am around certain people, the tendency to speak without thought creeps in. It made me think about the people I am keeping company with and I and my friend promised we would help each other to stop this.

Neither backbite one another. Would one of you like to eat the flesh of his dead brother? You would hate it [so hate backbiting]" (Quran 49:12)

These things have been on my mind a lot in the last few days – sometimes encouraging me, sometimes serving as a warning to me – but informing much of what I do. May Allah (SWT) have mercy on the Muslim’s and give us the opportunity to reflect on His words and on the example of His beloved Prophet, to understand them, to act on them and to be steadfast on what he has sent to us insh’Allah. Ameen.


  1. Very well written and thought-provoking post as usual Darling Sis! I coincidentally wrote on this very subject myself and linked to this post as well...

  2. Assalam-alaikam Dearesr Sis Washi,
    Jazakh'Allah khairun for linking to your post, plenty of food for thought.

  3. ZenPrincess31 March, 2011

    Very moving post, really made me feel sad for this man. I have probably passed him on Green Street countless times without giving him a thought, or knowing what troubles he was going through.

    I also sometimes worry about the large number of students who have come from overseas, sometimes to study really rubbish qualifications, and how they are faring with the huge increases in the cost of living.

    Life is a test, and I pray that Allah SWT showers his infinite mercy on the whole of his creation - amin.