Islamic Principles for Grieving Death

Death is a very scary reality that each and every one of us must face at some point. It is part of the natural life cycle. Every living entity must die. There are various ayat in the Noble Qur’an that remind us about the reality of death. Allah (swt) says,

“Everyone upon the earth will perish”

Surah ar-Rahman, Ayah 26

Every soul will taste death, and you will only be given your [full] compensation on the Day of Resurrection. So he who is drawn away from the Fire and admitted to Paradise has attained [his desire]. And what is the life of this world except the enjoyment of delusion.

-Surah ale-Imran, Ayah 185

The second ayah is very profound and is very interesting. For believers the end of life is very pleasing and pleasant. Imam Ahmed narrated that al-Bara’ ibn ‘Aazib (ra) said:

“Verily, when the believing slave is about to depart this world and enter the Hereafter, there come down to him angels from heaven with white faces, as if their faces are the sun. They bring with them one of the shrouds of Paradise and some of the perfume of Paradise. They sit with him as far as the eye can see. Then the Angel of Death comes to him and sits by his head and says, ‘O pure soul, come out to the forgiveness and pleasure of Allah (swt).’ Then his soul comes flowing out like a drop of water flowing from a cup. Then he takes the soul, and no sooner does he seize it but they take it and place it in that shroud and perfume. Then out of it comes the most excellent fragrance of musk to be found on the face of the earth. Then they ascend with it and they do not pass by any group of angels but the angels ask, ‘Who is this pure soul?’ and they reply, ‘It is So and so the son of So and so’ – using the best names by which he was known on earth. Then they bring it to the lowest heaven, and ask for it to be opened, and it is opened for him. Those who are of high rank in each heaven accompany it until they approach the next heaven, and so it goes until it reaches the seventh heaven. Then Allah (swt), may He be glorified and exalted, says: ‘Record the book of My slave in ‘Illiyoon (the highest heaven) and take him back to the earth, for I created them from it, and I shall return them to it, then I shall take them out from it again.’ Then his soul is returned to his body and two angels come and make him sit up”

Abu Hurayrah (ra) narrates that the Prophet (saw) said,

“Angels come to the dying person and if the man was righteous, they say: ‘Come out, O good soul that was in a good body, come out praiseworthy and receive the glad tidings of mercy and fragrance and a Lord Who is not angry.’ And this is repeated until it comes out, then it is taken up to heaven, and it is opened for it, and it is asked, ‘Who is this?’ They say:  ‘[It is] So and so.’ It is said: ‘Welcome to the good soul that was in a good body. Enter praiseworthy and receive the glad tidings of mercy and fragrance and a Lord Who is not angry.’ And this is repeated until it is brought to the heaven above which is Allah (swt), may He be glorified and exalted. But if the man was evil, they say: ‘Come out O evil soul that was in an evil body. Come out blameworthy and receive the tidings of boiling water and dirty wound discharges, and other torments of similar kind, all together [Saad 38:58]. And this is repeated until it comes out, then it is taken up to heaven and it is not opened for it. And it is said: ‘No welcome to the evil soul that was in an evil body. Go back blameworthy, for the gates of heaven will not be opened to you.’ So it is sent back down from heaven, then it goes to the grave.”

The souls of the disbelievers are instead given the news of hell and divine punishment. The disbelieving soul is cursed and humiliated and the gates of heaven do not open for it. Then the soul is thrown back to Earth and is returned to its body. The individual is then tormented and punished in the grave and the smoke and imagery of Hell is shown to that person.

In Islam, we are taught certain things in regard to grieving the loss of a loved one. Firstly, we are instructed to say the phrase,

“Indeed, to Allah we belong and to Allah we shall return.”

-Surah al-Baqarah, Ayah 156

This is the Islamic way to pay our respects to the departed one. Saying other things such as RIP is not from our tradition and should not be said. This is a saying that the disbelievers say when a person departs from this world, hence as Muslims we need to stay away from imitating them in this manner. Furthermore, in regards to a disbelieving soul, how can we possibly even wish for them to RIP (rest in peace)? If our own Prophet (saw) couldn’t wish that for his loved ones, how can we possible extend that to other disbelievers in the world who pass away? In regards to grieving the loss of a disbelieving individual, it is permissible in the sense of being compassionate and having humanity. However, for us to wish peace for that person is not permissible. This is evident from the our own Prophet’s (saw) life when he grieved for his own mother. Abu Hurayrah (ra) said,

The Prophet (saw) visited his mother’s grave; he wept and caused those who were around him to weep, and he said: “I asked my Lord for permission to pray for forgiveness for her, but He did not grant me permission. And I asked Him for permission to visit her grave and He gave me permission, so visit graves, for they will remind you of death.” 

The Prophet (saw) similarly mourned the death of his loving uncle Abu Talib who died in a state of disbelief. However, Allah (swt) had forbid the Prophet (saw) to pray for his forgiveness and peace in the Hereafter.

In today’s world when somebody (Muslim or non-Muslim) famous dies, the entire world falls into a period of sadness and mourning. We see that social media becomes flooded with posts and pictures of the departed individual. People dedicate so much time to the departed person’s death, not realizing their own is shortly arriving. Dwelling on that person’s death and extreme sadness and depression is not allowed in Islam in that regard. People begin to idolize that individual and get turned away from the remembrance of Allah (swt). What is supposed to be a time of personal reflection and remembrance of the Lord unfortunately becomes a time of idolizing the departed and extreme depression. May Allah (swt) protect us all and guide us to the right path, Ameen.

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