On Remembering Our Mortality

mortality

Islam does not imply indifference towards our life in this world, all its transitory nature notwithstanding. On the contrary, ours is to exert ourselves in doing Good in this world herein, for it is only this Good here that can become the cause of our salvation in the Hereafter, writes ANEES AZIZ.

A few days ago, I read an article, in a mainstream daily newspaper, titled ‘Mortality thoughts good for health’. The article spoke about the results of a study which showed that an awareness of our mortality is a good thing — that it can improve physical health and help us re-prioritize our goals and values. When I read this article, I was reminded of the saying of Prophet Muhammad wherein he exhorted us to remember death often. In fact, there are several narrations from him which speak of the importance of remembering death, and of the good it will do us.

If we look at our actions and at how we spend our time, it is apparent that we assume our complete control over our life and death. We plan out our days, weeks, months and years as if we were given a guarantee that we will live to see all the days we are planning for. While we thus plan for life, we do not plan for death. We live as if we would live in this world forever. We forget that this life is fleeting and that we all have an appointment with death that must be kept.

The real challenge of the revelation brought by Muhammad (pbuh), however, is in its call to affirm, and act upon, the belief in the life hereafter – the life after death – not as a possibility, but as a concrete reality imminent upon every living person: man or woman. It is this constant imminence of death and, more importantly, the eternal life after death that worked, and still works, as the real motivating factor for countless number of believers to regulate themselves within a code of conduct at once beneficial to their own lives as also to the lives of those around them.

Remembering our mortality benefits us both physically and spiritually. Physically, it makes us take good care of our health so as to preserve and prolong life. And spiritually, it inculcates worldly detachment – the elixir of spiritual well-being – which, in turn, motivates us to re-prioritize our goals and values. Remembering our mortality helps us to prepare for it. This is, on the one hand, by our repenting for our sins and undoing any wrong we may have caused others unwittingly or otherwise. And, on the other hand, this is by helping and doing good to others.

Moreover, it makes us see our lives in the right perspective. Prophet Muhammad used to say: ‘’Be in this world as if you are a stranger or a traveller on the road.” However, this recommendation does not imply indifference towards our life in this world, all its transitory nature notwithstanding. On the contrary, ours is to exert ourselves in doing Good in this world of ‘the here and the now,’ for it is only this Good here that can become the cause of our salvation in the Hereafter of ‘the then and the there.’