Since death is certain and no one knows when it will strike, a Muslim should never be heedless of it. He must always keep himself in a state of preparedness for the last journey, and, specially, when he is ill, he should take greater care to put right his religious and spiritual condition and mend his affair with the Lord. His friends and relatives, on their part, should try to bring good cheer to him through service and sympathy. They should pray for his recovery, and, talk hopefully, in his presence, of Divine reward, mercy and benevolence. In particular, when it appears that the chances of the patient’s recovery are remote and his time is near, everything possible should be done to turn his heart towards God and put him in mind of the cardinal principle of Islam, i.e., the Kalimah. Finally, when death occurs, the kinsmen should show patience and forbearance and believing death to be the Will of God, yield themselves to it like dutiful bondsmen and hope and pray for reward on their loss. The dead body should, then, be bathed and wrapped in a good, clean shroud and perfume should be applied, and, after it, the funeral service should be held consisting of the praise and glorification of God, the affirmation of His Might and Magnificence and the invocation of blessings on the Prophet Muhammad through whom Guidance had reached the dead person as well as the participants in the service and a fervent supplication for mercy and forgiveness for the deceased. The dead body should, thereafter, be buried with due reverence and people should try to relieve the distress of the bereaved family by sharing its sorrow and bringing succor to it by word and deed.
The aim and wisdom of these precepts is self-evident, and, as we all know, much peace and comfort is derived by acting upon them in sickness and in death and in all other forms of sorrow and suffering. Every teaching of the Prophet, in that regard, serves as a balm for the heart, and death, as a necessary prelude to meeting the Lord, begins to look like an agreeable event.
These are the ready gains and worldly advantages of these instructions. What has been promised in the Traditions, given below, will God-willing be seen and experienced, in the fullest measure, in the Hereafter.
1] It is related by Abu-Hurayrah that the Prophet, peace be upon him said, “Remember death much and often which is the terminator of worldly pleasures.” – Tirmidhi, Nasai, and Ibn-Majah
2] It is related by ‘Abdullah ibn-’Amr that the Prophet, peace be upon him, said: “The gift of the Believer is death.”– Bayhaqi
Death is not pleasant to anyone but the bondsmen who are blessed with Faith remain mentally eager for it owing to the Divine rewards, the special propinquity to the Lord and the ecstatic joy of seeing Him that await them in After-life. It is like this that though no one, by natural inclination, finds it pleasing to have an eye-operation, rationally he prefers it for himself in the hope that vision will be restored by it. The difference, however, is that while the restoration of eyesight is not certain, sometimes, it proves unsuccessful, the choicest favours of the Lord, His closeness and the delightful experience of seeing Him are bound to be the lot of a truthful believer in the Hereafter.
3] It is related by Abu-Hurayrah that the Prophet, peace be upon him, said: “No one of you should be desirous of death. If he is virtuous, it is hoped that the stock of his good deeds will go on multiplying as long as he lives, and if his deeds are not good, it is possible that he earned the good pleasure of the sincere Lord through repentance, etc. in later life.” – Bukhari
4] It is related by Anas that the Prophet, peace be upon him, said: “No one of you should desire (or pray for) death owing to a distress or suffering. Should he feel utterly helpless, he might pray: ‘O God! Keep me alive as long as life may be better for me and let me be dead when death may be better for me.’” – Bukhari and Muslim
5] It is related by Abu Sa’id Khadri that the Prophet, peace be upon him, said: “Whatever pain, sickness, loss or suffering afflicts a Muslim, so much so that a thorn pricks him, God expiates his sins through it.” – Bukhari and Muslim
6] It is related by ‘Abdullah ibn-Mas’ud that the Prophet, peace be upon him, said: “Whatever suffering reaches a believer, in the form of a disease or any other thing, God lets fall his sins from him through it in the same way as a tree sheds its leaves in the autumn.” – Bukhari and Muslim
7] It is related by Abu-Hurayrah that the Prophet, peace be upon him, said: “Misfortunes and afflictions come down to some believing men or women from God, sometimes, on their bodies, sometimes, on their goods, and, sometimes, on their progeny, (and, as a result of it), their sins fall away to the extent that, after his death, he makes his appearance before the Lord in such a state that not a single misdeed is left.” – Tirmidhi
8] It is related by Abu Musa Ash’ari that the Prophet, peace be upon him, said: “When a bondsman is sick or in a journey (and cannot carry out the daily routine of worship etc.) his deeds are recorded in the same way with God as when he was healthy or staying at home.” – Bukhari
9] It is related on the authority of Abu Sa’id Khadri and Abu-Hurayrah that the Prophet, peace be upon him, said: “Instruct the Kalimah of Laa ilaaha il-lallah to the dying.” – Muslim
10] It is related by M’aqil ibn-Yasir that the Prophet, peace be upon him, said: “Recite Surah Yasin upon those of you who are dying.” – Musnad Ahman, Abu Da’ud, and Ibn-Majah
11] Haseen ibn-Wahuh narrates: “When Talhah ibn-Ba’ra fell ill, the Prophet, peace be upon him, visited him, and (seeing his critical condition), he said to others: ‘I feel the time of his death is near. (If he dies), I should be informed and (the bathing and shrouding of his dead body) should be done quickly because it is not proper for the dead body of a Muslim to remain for long in the midst of the family members.’” – Abu Da’ud
12] It is related by ‘Abdullah ibn-Mas’ud that the Prophet, peace be upon him, said: “Whoever slaps his cheeks, beats his face and tears his clothes and bewails in the manner of the (Polytheists of old), (in moments of loss or grief), is not one of us.” – Bukhari and Muslim
13] It is related by ‘Abdullah ibn-Mas’ud that the Prophet, peace be upon him, said: “Whoever consoled or comforted a person in distress, for him is the same reward as for the distressed one.” – Tirmidhi and Ibn-Majah
14] It is related by Abu-Hurayrah that the Prophet, peace be upon him, said: “God says that ‘when I lift (i.e., send down death upon) the dear one of a faithful bondsman (or bondswoman) and he (or she) shows patience (on it) in the hope of recompense, I have no reward for him (or her) save Paradise.’” – Bukhari