Life-Giving Effects of Awareness of Death
Mortals may come and go, but God carries on His work of providing mankind with sustenance.
A young man graduated from an Islamic university in India. He had intended to pursue further studies further, but before he could do so he received news from home which shattered his resolve. His father had died. The small bit of land which his family owned had been looked after by his father. Now there was no one left to till the land; his mother and little brothers and sisters were left alone at home. He was now the only bread-winner in the family. Conscious of his responsibilities, he realized that there was only one thing he could do now that his father had died. He would have to give up any idea of further studies and return home to take up his father’s work on the family farm.
The young man enjoyed a close relationship with one of the senior teachers in the university. He went to see this teacher, and told him that he was taking leave of him now. He was going home and would not be returning. The teacher asked him the reason for this sudden change of heart. “My father has died,” he explained, “and now I am the senior member of the family. I must return to look after household affairs. There does not seem to be any chance of pursuing my studies further.”
His teacher was silent for a moment. Then, looking up at the young man, he asked: “Tell me, are you immune from death? Can you be certain that you yourself will not die on reaching home? What will happen if you do? Who will look after your family then?” No human being, he said, could look after another. God alone is responsible for everyone’s upkeep and maintenance. “God will continue to look after your family even after your father’s death. Mortals may come and go but God carries on His work of providing mankind with sustenance. “You persevere with your studies,” he said to him, “and leave Almighty God to look after your household. Just imagine for a while that you, too, have passed away.”
The young man took his teacher’s advice. He abandoned the idea of going home and decided to leave his family affairs in the hands of God. He carried on with the arrangements that he had been making for further education, sending an application to a foreign University. His application was accepted, and he went abroad. Once his course there was completed, he went to an African country in a missionary and teaching capacity.
He and his family were happy with the way things had turned out for him in Africa. He traced his whole success to those magic words of his teacher: “Just imagine for a while that you, too, have passed away.”
To base one’s life on awareness of the inevitability of death is thought of as a negative attitude by some people. But, in fact, this awareness has a dynamically positive effect on people’s lives. When people really become aware of the fact that they are going to die, they become better positioned to live their lives to the full. They see death and life as they really are. Having seen death, they come to know life better. n
(Maulana Wahiduddin Khan)