Ash-Shaykh ‘Ali at-Tantawi
related that a man who drove a truck in Syria once picked up a passenger to
give him a lift. The passenger sat in the back where there was neither roof nor
cover. There was, however, a coffin that had been prepared for burial. Lt started
to rain and the man, noticing that it was a large coffin, decided to seek
shelter inside of it. Another passenger came onto the truck and he also made
his way to the back. He happened to choose a seat beside the coffin. While it
continued to rain the second passenger thought that he was alone in the truck.
Without warning, the first passenger stuck his hand out of the coffin to see if
the rain had subsided. On seeing the hand, the second passenger became
terrified, thinking that a dead man in the coffin was rising to life. From the sheer
terror and shock of the moment, the man stumbled backwards, fell out of the
truck, and smashed his head on the pavement, dying instantaneously.
This unexpected way of dying
is how Allah had written for this man to die.
according to a Divine decree, and in the deaths of others are morals and lessons.”
lt is incumbent upon
everyone to realize that death is hovering above us. At any moment, day or
night, death can come. ‘Ali (may Allah be pleased with him) expressed in lucid
terms the reality of our life:
"The Hereafter is
traveling towards us and this life is traveling away from us, so be from the
children of the Hereafter and not from the children of this world. For today is
action without reckoning (judgment), and tomorrow is reckoning without action."
From this saying, we can learn
how imperative it is for us to improve ourselves, to renew our repentance, and
to know that we are dealing with Allah, Who is most Generous and All-Powerful.
Death does not ask a person
for permission prior to arrival, nor does it give one an early warning about
its being on its way:
(No person knows what he
will earn tomorrow. and no person knows in what land he will
die.) (Quran 31:
(…the Appointment to you is
for a Day, which you cannot put back for an hour [or a moment nor put
forward.) (Quran 34: 30)
At-Tantawi related another
story that equally illustrates the unexpectedness of death. A bus full of
people was moving when the driver suddenly pressed on the brakes. The
passengers asked him what was wrong. He said, "I am stopping for this old
man who is waving so that he can get on the bus." They all said in wonder,
“We do not see anyone."
He said, “Look at him over there."
They repeated that there was no one to be seen. He said confidently, "Now
look, he is coming to get in." Now the situation was beyond wonder, and
they exclaimed, “By Allah, we don’t see anyone." Then, in an instant, the
driver died in his seat.
Thus death came to him in
the most bizarre and unexpected of scenarios:
(When their term is reached,
neither can they delay it nor can they advance it an hour (or a
moment).) (Qur’an 7: 34)
Man is cowardly when he
faces danger; his heart begins to thump when the possibility of death arises,
and then, without prior warning, he dies at a time when he feels most safe.
([They are] the ones who
said about their killed brethren while they themselves sat [at home]: 'lf only
they had listened to us, they would not have been killed. ‘Say: ‘Avert death from
your own selves, if you speak the truth.) (Qur’an
The strange thing is that we
do not think about meeting Allah or about the transient nature of this life.