DEATH. Arabic Maut موت; Wafat وفاة
It is distinctly taught in the Qur’an that the hour of death is fixed for every living creature.
Surah xvi 63: “If God were to punish men for their wrong-doing. He would not leave on the earth a single living creature; but He respites them until a stated time; and when their time comes they cannot delay it an hour, nor can they hasten it.”
Surah iii 182: “Every soul must taste death and ye shall only be paid your hire on the day of resurrection.
Surah l 17: “The agony of death shall come in truth, that is what thou didst shun.”
In the Traditions, Muhammad has taught that it is sinful to wish for death: “Wish not for death, not even if thou art a doer of good works, for the peradventure thou mayest increase them with an increase of life. Nor even if thou art a sinner, for with increase of life thou mayest obtain God’s pardon.”
One day the Prophet said: “Whosoever loves to meet God, God will live to meet him, and whoever dislike to meet God. God will dislike to meet him.” The ‘Ayishah said “Truly we all dislike death and consider it a great affliction.” The Prophet replied, “Thou dost not understand me. When death comes near a believer, then God gives him a spirit of resignation, and so it is that there is nothing which a believer like so much as death.”
Al-Bara’ ibn ‘Azib, one of the Companions, says:-
“I came out with the Prophet at the funeral of one of the assistants, and we arrived just at the grave, before they had interred the body, and the Prophet sat down, and we sat around him with our heads down, and were so silent, that you might say that birds were sitting upon our heads. And there was a stick in the Prophet’s hand with which he kept striking the ground. Then he raised his head and said twice or thrice to his companions ‘Seek the protection of God from the punishments of the grave.’ After that he said: ‘Verily, when a Muslim separateth from the world and bringeth his soul to futurity, angels descend to him from the celestial regions, whose faces are white. You might say their faces are the sun and they have a shroud of the shrouds of paradise, and perfumes therefrom. So they sit apart from the deceased, as far as the eyes can see. After which the Angel of Death (Malaku ‘l-Maut) comes to the deceased and sits at his head, and says, “O pure soul, come forth to God’s pardon and pleasure.” Then the soul comes out, issuing like water from a bag, and the Angel of Death takes it; and when he takes it, the angels do not allow it to remain in his hands for the twinkling of an eye. But when the Angel of Death has taken the soul of a servant of God, he resigns it to his assistants, in whose hands is a shroud, and they put it into the shroud and with the perfumes, when a fragrance issues from the soul like the smell of the best musk that is to be found on the face of the earth. Then the angels carry it upwards, and they do not pass by any concourse of angels who do not say, “What is this pure soul, and who is owner of it?” And they say, “Such a one, the son of such a one,” calling him by the best names by which he was known in the world, till they reach the lowest region of heaven with him. And the angels ask the door to be opened for him, which is done. Then angels follow it through each heaven, the angel of one region to those of the next, and so on till it reaches the seventh heaven, where God says, “Write the name of My servant in ‘Illiyun, and return him towards the earth, that is, to his body which is buried in the earth, because I have created man from earth and return him to it, and will bring him out from it again as I brought him out first.” Then the souls are returned into their bodies, when two angels [MUNKAR and NAKIR] come to the dead man and cause him to sit up, and say to him “Who is thy Lord?” He replies, “My Lord is God.” Then they say, “What is thy religion?” He says, “Islam.” Then they say, “What is the man who is sent to you?” (ie the Prophet). He says, “He is the Prophet of God.” Then they say, “What is your proof of his mission?” He says, “I read the book of God and believed in it, and I proved it to be true.” Then a voice calls out from the celestial regions, “My servant hath spoken true, therefore throw for him a bed from Paradise, and dress him in clothes from Paradise, and open a door for him towards Paradise.” Then peace and perfumes come for him from Paradise, and his grave is enlarged for him as far as the eye can see. Then a man with a beautiful face comes to him, elegantly dressed, and perfumed, and he says, “Be joyful in that which hath made thee so, this is the day which was promised thee.” Then the dead person says to him, “Who art thou, for thy face is perfectly beautiful? And the man replies, “I am thy good deeds.” Then the dead person cries out, “O Lord hasten the resurrection for my sake!”
“‘But, continued the Prophet, ‘when an infidel dies, and is about to pass from the world and bring his soul to futurity, black-faced angels come down to him and with the sackcloth. Then they sit from the dead as far as the eye can see, after which the Angel of Death comes in order to sit at his head and says, “O impure soul! Come forth to the wrath of God.” Then the soul is disturbed in the infidel’s body. Then the Angel of Death draws it out as a hot spit is drawn out of wet wool.”
“‘Then the Angel of Death takes the soul of the infidel, and having taken it, the angels do not allow it to remain with him the twinkling of an eye, but they take it in the sackcloth, and a disagreeable smell issues from the soul, like that of the most fetid carcass that can be met with upon the face of the earth. Then the angels carry it upwards and do not pass by any assembly of angels who do not ask whose filthy soul is this. They answer such an one, the son of such an one, and they mention him by the worst names that he bore in the world, till they arrive with it at the lowest heaven, and call the door to be opened, but it cannot be done.’ Then the Prophet repeated this verse: – The doors of the celestial region shall not be opened for them, nor shall they enter into paradise till a camel passes through the eye of a needle.’ Then God says, ‘Write his history in Sijjin,’ which is the lowest earth; then his soul is thrown down with violence. Afterwards the Prophet repeated this verse: – ‘Unite no partner God, for whoever uniteth gods with God is like that which falleth from high, and the birds snatch it away, or the wind waiteth it to a distant place.’ Then his soul is replaced in his body, and two angel [MUNKAR and NAKIR] come to him and set him up, and say, ‘Who is thy Lord?’ He says, ‘Alas! Alas! I do not know.’ Then they say, ‘What is thy religion?’ He says, ‘Alas! Alas! I do not know.’ And they say to him, ‘What is the condition of the man who is sent down to you?’ He says, ‘Alas! Alas! I do not know.’ Then a voice comes from above, saying, ‘He lieth; therefore spread a bed of fire fro him and open a door for him towards hell.’ Then the heat and hot winds of hell come to him, and his grave is made tight upon him, so as to squeeze his ribs. And a man with a hideous countenance comes to him shockingly dressed, of a vile smell, and he says, ‘Be joyful in that which maketh thee miserable; this is the day that was promised thee.’ Then the dead man says, ‘Who art thou? Thy face is hideous, and brings wickedness.’ He says, ‘I am thy impure actions.’ Then the dead person says, ‘O Lord, delay the resurrection on my account!’”
The ceremonies attending the death of a Muslim are described as follows by Jafir Sharif in Herklot’s Qanun-I-Islam, as follows: –
Four or five days previous to a sick man’s approaching his dissolution, he makes his will in favor of his son or any other person, in the presence of two or more witnesses, and either delivers it to others or retains it by him. In it he likewise appoints his executor. When about to expire, any learned reader of the Qur’an is sent for, and requested to repeat with a loud voice the Surah Ya Sin (or chap xxxvi), in order that the spirit of the man, by the hearing of its sound, may experience an easy concentration. It is said that when the spirit was commanded to enter the body of Adam, the soul having looked into it once, observed that it was a bad and dark place, and unworthy of it presence! Then the Just and Most Holy God illuminated the body of Adam with “lams of light,” and commanded the spirit to re-enter. It went in a second time, beheld the light, and saw the whole dwelling, and said “There is no pleasing sound here for me o listen to.” It is generally understood from the best works of the mystics of the East, that it was owing to this circumstance that the Almighty created music. The holy spirit, on hearing the sound of this music became so delighted that it entered Adam’s body. Commentators on the Qur’an, expositors of the Traditions and divines have written, that that sound resembled that produced by repeating of the Suratu Ya Sin; it is therefore advisable ro read at the hour of death this chapter for tranquillising the soul.
The Kalimatu ‘sh-shahadah [CREED] is also read with an audible voice by those present. They do not require the patient to read it himself, as at such a time he is in a distressing situation, and not in a fit state of mind to repeat the Kalimah.
Most people lie insensible, and cannot even speak, but the pious retain their mental faculties and converse till the very last. The following is a most serious religious rule amongst us viz that if a person desire the patient to repeat the Kalimah, and the sick man expire without being able to do so, his faith is considered dubious; whilst the man who directed him so to do thereby incurs guilt. It is therefore best that the sitters by read it, in anticipation of the hope that the sick man, by hearing the sound of it, may brings it to his recollection and repeat it either aloud or in his own mind. In general, when a person is on the point of death, they pour sharbat, made of sugar and water, down his throat to facilitate the exit of the vital spark, and some procure the holy water of the Zamzam well at Makkah. The moment the spirit has fled, the mouth is closed; because, if left open, it would present a disagreeable spectacle. The two great toes are brought in contact and fastened together with a thin slip of cloth, to prevent the legs remaining apart. They burn perfumes near the corpse. Should the individual have died in the evening, the shrouding and burial take place before midnight; if he die at a later hour, or should the articles required not be procurable at that late hour, he is buried early on the following morning. The sooner the sepulchral rites are performed the better, for it is not proper to keep a corpse long in the house, and for this reason the Prophet said that if he was a good man, the sooner he is buried the more quickly he will reach heaven; if a bad man, he should be speedily buried, in order that his unhappy lot may not all upon others in the house; as also that the relatives of the deceased may not, by holding the corpse, weep too much or go without food. There are male and female washers, whose province it is to wash and shroud the corpse for payment. Sometimes, however, the relatives do it themselves. In undertaking the operation of washing, they dig a hole in the earth to receive the water used in the process, and prevent its spreading over a large surface, as some men and women consider it bad to tread on such water. Then they place the corpse on a bed, country-cot, plank or straw. Some women, who are particular in these matters, are afraid even to venture near the place where the body has been washed. Having stripped the corpse and laid it on its back, with its head to the east and feet to the west, they cover it with a cloth – reaching, if it be a man, from the navel to the calves of the legs, if a woman, extending from the chest to the feet – and wash it with warm or with cold water. They raise the body and gently and rub the abdomen four or five times, then pour plenty of water, and wash off all the dirt and filth with soap &c, by means of flocks of cotton or cloth; after which, laying the body on the sides, they wash them; then the back, and the rest of the body; but gently, because, life having but just departed, the body is still warm and not insensible to pain. After this they wash and clean it well, so that no offensive smell may remain. They never throw water into the nostrils or mouth, but clean them with wicks of cloth or cotton. After that they perform wuzu for him ie they wash his mouth, the two upper extremities up to the elbows, make masah [MABAH.] on his head, and throw water on his feet; these latter constituting the four parts of the wuzu ceremony [ABLUTIONS.] They then put some camphor with water into a new large earthen pot, and with a new earthen pot they take out water and pour it three times, first from the head to the feet, then from the right shoulder to the feet, lastly from the left shoulder to the feet. Every time that a pot of water is poured the Kalimatu ‘sh-shahadah is repeated either by the person washing or another. Having bathed the body and wiped it dry with a new piece of cloth, they put on the shroud. The shroud consists of three pieces of cloth, if for a man, and five if for a woman.
Those for men comprise, 1st, a lunig, or izar, reaching from the navel down to the knees, or ankle joints; 2nd, a qamis, or kurta, or alfa; its length is from the neck to the knees or ankles; 3rd, a lifafah, or sheet, from above the head to below the feet. Women have two additional pieces of cloth; one a siah-band, or breast-band, extending from the arm-pits to above the ankle-joints; the other a damni, which encircle the head once and has its two ends dangling on each side. The manner of shrouding is as follows: – having places the shouds on a new mat and fumigated them with the smoke of perfumes, the lifafah is spread first on the mat, over it the lungi, or izar, and above that the qamis and on the latter the sinah-band, if it be a woman; the damsi is kept separate and tied on afterwards. The corpse must be carefully brought by itself from the place where it was bathed, and laid in the shrouds. Surmah is to be applied to the eyes with a tent made of paper rolled up, with a ring, or with a pice, and camphor to seven places, viz on the forehead, including the nose, on the palms of the hands, on the knees and great toes, after which the different shrouds are to be properly put on one after another as the lay. The color of the shroud is to be white; no other is admissible. It is of no consequence, however, if a colored cloth is spread over the bier; which, after the funeral, or after the fortieth day, is given away to the faqir who resides in the burying-ground, or to any other person, in charity. Previous to shrouding the body, they tear shreds from the cloths for the purpose of tying them on; and after shrouding the body, they tie one band above the head, a second below the feet, and a third about the chest, leaving about six or seven fingers’ breadth of cloth above the ends being fastened. Should the relict of the deceased be present, they undo the cloth of the head and show her face, and get her, in the presence of two witnesses, to remit the dowry which he had settled upon her; but it is preferable that she remit it while he is still alive. Should the wife, owing to journeying, be at a distance from him, she is to remit it on receiving the intelligence of his demise.
Should his mother be present, she likewise say, “The mild with which I suckled thee I freely bestow on thee”; but this is merely a custom in India; it is neither enjoined in books of theology nor by the law of Islam. Then they place on the corpse a flower-sheet or merely wreaths of flowers. [GRAVE, BURIAL.]
Based on Hughes, Dictionary of Islam