Islam values life. One of the higher objectives of Islamic law (Maqasid al-Shariah) is the preservation of life. This is why any form of suicide, which includes suicide bombing and assisted suicide, is not permissible in Islam. Saving a life is a praiseworthy act in our faith and therefore, if we can save any life, we should attempt to do it.
While life is sacrosanct in Islam, our faith reminded us that this life that is given to us by Allah s.w.t in this world is not forever. We will be tried for our actions in this life, in our next life.
Death marks the end of our life in this world. It is a natural phenomenon that every living creature experiences since the beginning of time. For some, death is merely the cessation of the functioning organs or their decomposition.
Islam reveals to us that death is the cessation of life in this world, and thus, it marks the beginning of the next life in the Hereafter. Death happens with the separation of the soul from the body. It is part and parcel of Allah’s way in creation. In other words, death is not the end of everything.
وَٱلْمَوْتَىٰ يَبْعَثُهُمُ ٱللَّهُ ثُمَّ إِلَيْهِ يُرْجَعُونَ
As for the dead, Allah will raise them up, then to Him they will (all) be returned.
(Surah Al-An’am, 6:36)
No one knows when, where or how they will die. That knowledge is only reserved for Allah s.w.t, The Knower of the unseen. Allah s.w.t. mentions in the Quran:
إِنَّ ٱللَّهَ عِندَهُۥ عِلْمُ ٱلسَّاعَةِ وَيُنَزِّلُ ٱلْغَيْثَ وَيَعْلَمُ مَا فِى ٱلْأَرْحَامِ ۖ وَمَا تَدْرِى نَفْسٌ مَّاذَا تَكْسِبُ غَدًا ۖ وَمَا تَدْرِى نَفْسٌ بِأَىِّ أَرْضٍ تَمُوتُ ۚ إِنَّ ٱللَّهَ عَلِيمٌ خَبِيرٌ
Indeed, Allah (alone) has the knowledge of the Hour. He sends down the rain and knows what is in the wombs. No soul knows what it will earn for tomorrow, and no soul knows in what land it will die. Surely Allah is All-Knowing, All-Aware.
(Surah Al-Jumu’ah, 62:8)
Death is certain and no one is exempted from it. Islam teaches us that there are also merits in remembering death. It acts as a reminder of our purpose in this world. The fact that we do not know when it will come should motivate us to take every chance we have in life to live virtuously with purpose according to His pleasure before all opportunities end.
Here are some excerpts from the Quran and Hadith that tell us about death:
تَبرَكَ ٱلَّذِى بِيَدِهِ ٱلْمُلْكُ وَهُوَ عَلَىٰ كُلِّ شَىْءٍ قَدِيرٌ.ٱلَّذِى خَلَقَ ٱلْمَوْتَ وَٱلْحَيَوٰةَ لِيَبْلُوَكُمْ أَيُّكُمْ أَحْسَنُ عَمَلًا ۚ وَهُوَ ٱلْعَزِيزُ ٱلْغَفُورُ
Blessed is He in whose hand is dominion, and He has power over all things. (He is the One) Who created death and life in order to test which of you is best in deeds. And He is the Almighty, All-Forgiving.
(Surah Al-Mulk, 67:1-2)
Islam reminds us that death is Allah’s creation. In Surah Al-Mulk, it is explained that death, as it is with life, is a test from Allah s.w.t. to witness which of us are best in deeds. This is pointed out in the verse:
أَفَحَسِبْتُمْ أَنَّمَا خَلَقْنَـٰكُمْ عَبَثًا وَأَنَّكُمْ إِلَيْنَا لَا تُرْجَعُونَ
Did you then think that We had created you without purpose and that you would never be returned to Us?
(Surah Al-Mu’minun, 23:115)
كُلُّ نَفْسٍ ذَآئِقَةُ ٱلْمَوْتِ ۗ وَنَبْلُوكُم بِٱلشَّرِّ وَٱلْخَيْرِ فِتْنَةً ۖ وَإِلَيْنَا تُرْجَعُونَ
Every soul will taste death. And We test you with evil and with good as a trial, and to Us you will be returned.
(Surah Al-Anbiya’, 21:35)
It is inevitable that death will come to every soul. Allah s.w.t. describes to us in the Quran that there are two distinct reactions to death. There are those who not only neglect it but also despise it. On the other hand, there are those who accept it as being part of the cycle of life and make the right preparations until fate arrives. These two features can be seen in Surah Al-Baqarah:
قُلْ إِن كَانَتْ لَكُمُ ٱلدَّارُ ٱلْـَٔاخِرَةُ عِندَ ٱللَّهِ خَالِصَةً مِّن دُونِ ٱلنَّاسِ فَتَمَنَّوُا۟ ٱلْمَوْتَ إِن كُنتُمْ صَـٰدِقِينَ. وَلَن يَتَمَنَّوْهُ أَبَدًۢا بِمَا قَدَّمَتْ أَيْدِيهِمْ ۗ وَٱللَّهُ عَلِيمٌۢ بِٱلظَّـٰلِمِينَ. وَلَتَجِدَنَّهُمْ أَحْرَصَ ٱلنَّاسِ عَلَىٰ حَيَوٰةٍ وَمِنَ ٱلَّذِينَ أَشْرَكُوا۟ ۚ يَوَدُّ أَحَدُهُمْ لَوْ يُعَمَّرُ أَلْفَ سَنَةٍ وَمَا هُوَ بِمُزَحْزِحِهِۦ مِنَ ٱلْعَذَابِ أَن يُعَمَّرَ ۗ وَٱللَّهُ بَصِيرٌۢ بِمَا يَعْمَلُونَ
Say “If the (eternal) Home of the Hereafter with Allah is exclusively for you out of all humanity, then you should long for death, if your claim is true!”. But they will never long for death, because of what their hands have done. And Allah has (perfect) knowledge of the wrongdoers. You will surely find them clinging to life more eagerly than any other people, even more than those who associate others with Allah. Each one of them wishes to live a thousand years. But even if they were to live that long, it would not save them from the punishment. And Allah is All-Seeing of what they do.
(Surah Al-Baqarah, 2:94-96)
It is important to note that while a person may long for death because of his longing for the promised abode in the Hereafter, this should never be misunderstood as longing for life to end nor should it be misunderstood as a suicidal tendency. Allah s.w.t. says in the Quran:
وَلَا تُلْقُوا۟ بِأَيْدِيكُمْ إِلَى ٱلتَّهْلُكَةِ ۛ وَأَحْسِنُوٓا۟ ۛ إِنَّ ٱللَّهَ يُحِبُّ ٱلْمُحْسِنِينَ
Do not let your own hands throw you into destruction (by withholding). And do good, for Allah certainly loves the good-doers.
(Surah Al-Baqarah, 2:195)
Life is a blessing from Allah s.w.t. that should be shown gratitude and spent in the way that He loves. When death comes to us, it brings us from one phase in life to another phase. This is why the remembrance of death does not contradict loving life.
أَكْثِرُوا ذِكْرَ هَاذِمِ اللَّذَّاتِ
Increase in remembrance of the severer of pleasures (death).
(Narrated by At-Tirmizi)
The remembrance of death does not mean thinking of the possible unfortunate ways we could die. This could leave us traumatised and even hinder us from living a proper way of life.
When we think about death, we think of our mortality. We remember that we don’t live forever in this world and that we have another life in the Hereafter. When that happens, It allows us to reflect and focus on what matters most in our present as we ponder on how best we can live our life. This will help us to detach from any unnecessary worldly attachments, increase our God-consciousness (taqwa) and develop an objective mentality.
It's not wrong to enjoy the pleasures of this world. However, it is wrong to let the temporal joys and pleasures of this world consume and distract us from our purpose in life. The companion Ibn Umar r.a. reports:
كُنْتُ مَعَ رَسُولِ اللَّهِ صلى الله عليه وسلم فَجَاءَهُ رَجُلٌ مِنَ الأَنْصَارِ فَسَلَّمَ عَلَى النَّبِيِّ صلى الله عليه وسلم ثُمَّ قَالَ: يَا رَسُولَ اللَّهِ أَىُّ الْمُؤْمِنِينَ أَفْضَلُ قَالَ: أَحْسَنُهُمْ خُلُقًا. قَالَ فَأَىُّ الْمُؤْمِنِينَ أَكْيَسُ قَالَ: "أَكْثَرُهُمْ لِلْمَوْتِ ذِكْرًا وَأَحْسَنُهُمْ لِمَا بَعْدَهُ اسْتِعْدَادًا أُولَئِكَ الأَكْيَاسُ
I was with the Messenger of Allah s.a.w. and a man from among the Ansar came to him and greeted the Prophet s.a.w. with Salam. Then he said: ‘O Messenger of Allah, which of the believers is the best?’ He said: ‘He who has the best manners among them.’ He (then) asked: ‘Which of them is the wisest?’ He said: ‘The one who remembers death the most and is best in preparing for it. Those are the wisest.
(Sunan Ibn Majah)
As we remind ourselves of our vulnerabilities and our mortality, let us also not forget our purpose of being in this temporal world. We are created to be in the service of His Almighty. We submit to Him and part of this submission is for us to contribute to humanity and all of His creation.
This temporal world is the place for us to accumulate and invest in good deeds for us to achieve eternal success in the hereafter. Imam Al-Ghazali reminded us in his Ihya’ Ulumuddin,
الدُّنيَا مَزْرَعَةُ الآخِرَة
The world is a place to harvest for the hereafter
Therefore, let us ensure we make the best of this life for the eternal happiness of the afterlife. Let’s avoid evil deeds and amplify our lives with deeds that benefit all creations of Allah s.w.t, as commanded by Him.
Let us pray that may Allah s.w.t. grants us ease to perform good deeds to the best of our abilities and that He ends our life on a good note.
اللَهُمَّ اخْتِمْ لنا بِحُسْنِ الْخَاتِمَة وَلاَ تَخْتِمْ عَلَيْنَا بِسُوءِ الخَاتِمَة
O Allah, end our life with a good ending and do not end our life with a bad ending
And Allah knows best.