Contemplating One’s Departure from this Life

Whoever reflects on the nearness of the moment of his departure from this life shall surely busy himself in collecting the supplies needed to make this journey. How disgraceful it is when a person barters his precious self for the paltry gains of this life.

The soul is the quintessence of his self, indivisible and perpetual; it is a priceless jewel that cannot be valued; the limbs of the body are merely instruments made to serve it in its journey to Allah.

Within the receptacle of the heart, there is a fire that is like a burning lantern; life is its light, blood is its fuel oil, movement is its light beams, desire is its heat and anger is its smoke. When Allah created man, He made the forehead the soul’s guard, the middle part a counsellor, the back part of the head a protector, the faculty of intellect a teacher, and the sensory faculty a learner. Then He deployed the limbs to be in its service, whether in a state of inaction or motion. He also made this wordily life a battlefield, and gave him the freedom to move to and fro in his battle array; thus when he defeats his enemies it is as if he has subdued Chosroes [the King of Persia], but if he is defeated then no one survives.

When the pious became mindful of the journey to the Hereafter, they walked through the darkness of their nature, cutting across it with exertion and endeavour. And when the light of the unseen shone over them, “Every time it lights [the way] for them, they walk therein.” (Surah al-Baqarah 2:20) Until they arrives at the gates of Paradise, their state of poverty being their sole adornment, their night vigils [night prayer] being their source of pleasure and humility being their distinguished characteristic. For too long have they been imprisoned in this world, so they communicate their grievances [against this life and its temptations] to Allah through their invocation and worship; had you been awake during the night you would have heard the voices of the inmates of this prison.

The birds of their longing [for their Lord] are locked in secret cages of their innermost selves, lamenting out of their yearning desire, late during the night [anxious to meet their Lord in the Hereafter]. Whenever the doves of their anxiety cool, the clouds of their eyes send down a torrent of rainfall. And it is when the Angel of death is about to take their souls that the cage is opened up letting their soul out to seek the soothing Mercy of Allah. Momentarily does their soul waver as if dreading the knock of “who will cure [him]?” (Surah al-Qiyamah 75:27) But as soon as they hear the call of love addressing them, “Return to your Lord, well-pleased and pleasing [to Him].” (Surah al-Fajr 89:28) The sweetness of the summon makes them completely forget the bitterness of the cup, and the agony of death becomes ease.

Wounds were insignificant to them, and they were content to live in anguish; O you who are distant from them, what are you in comparison to them! Do not think of it as a trivial matter; indeed snatching the star of Canopus out of the sky would be an easier matter than catching up with them! It is akin to polishing a worthless sword, or encouraging an old man to play like a child, or making a wingless eagle fly!

He who was not moved by a subtle suggestion will not benefit from a flood of admonishment or lengthy sermons! Do you see even one arrow from my quiver of exhortations being broken? Aye, maybe it hit the heart of a grieving person without him knowing who the shooter was!

Advance forward purposefully, full of determination, letting victory be your only concern – not your share of the spoils – because glory can never be attained by a coward; the pens that write the best are those with the sharpest tips.

Awaken yourself from the slumber of your heedlessness, for the dawn of greyness (of your hair) has appeared. Be swift of foot and hasten forward, because the fellowship of the righteous has already left. Beseech your Lord in the valleys of the dark nights, so that He might bestow upon you His Mercy. Seek out the traces of those who undertook this journey before you, to ensure that you stay on the right track. And when you catch up with your company, devote yourself to serving their mounts, so that perhaps you might have the good fortune of entering the tent of the One you love.

And our closing supplication is that all praise is due to Allah, the Lord of the Worlds, and may the peace and blessings of Allah be upon Muhammad and his family and companions.

Seeds of Admonishment and Reform by Imam Ibn Jawzi Pages 216-219 (end)