by Shaykh Mawlānā Muhammad Saleem Dhorat hafizahullāh
The journey to the Hereafter is one which almost every person fears, yet we fail to show any concern for our dear and near ones from the time of their demise to after burial. Our condition at such a critical time is worthy of much lament and shame. Rather than our benefitting the deceased in anyway, we return from the funeral with no benefit to ourselves or to the family; in fact we return with increase in the hurt and grief of the family and maybe sin too. This is because we are neglectful and forget the severity of the stages which our beloved ones are soon to reach. Rasūlullāh sallallāhu ‘alayhi wasallam has said:
If you were to frequently remember the severer of desires, then I would not see you in this condition [of laughing], therefore excessively remember the severer of desires—death, because not a day passes upon the grave except that it says, ‘I am a place of loneliness, I am a place of solitude, I am a place of dust, I am a place of worms and insects.’ When a believing person is buried, the grave says to him/her, ‘Welcome! You were the most beloved of the people who used to walk over me. Since I have been given control over you and you have come to me, you shall see my treatment with you. The grave then opens up as far as one’s sight can see, and a door towards Jannah is opened for him. When a disbelieving person is buried, the grave says to him/her, ‘Most unwelcome! You were the most hated of the people who used to walk over me. Since I have been given control over you, you shall see how I deal with you.’ The grave then closes upon him until his ribs interlock into each other. Rasūlullāh sallallāhu ‘alayhi wasallam interlaced his fingers to express this.
‘Seventy serpents are set upon him; if only one was to spit in the world, nothing would grow till the world remains. They will bite him and torment him until he is reckoned.’ Rasūlullāh sallallāhu ‘alayhi wasallam also said, “The grave is either a garden from the gardens of Paradise, or a pit from the pits of Hell.” (At-Tirmidhī)
Being oblivious to the crucial phase our beloved is going to be facing, we stand around and dwell on worldly matters, eager for the ‘ordeal’ to end and rush back to business. The hope of remembering the deceased and praying for him in the days to come is farfetched. In fact we do not even take care to utilise the time between the point we leave for the janāzah till we return in reading something and sending its reward to the deceased. Moreover, even in the graveyard we can neither focus our minds towards the matter ahead, nor have the fervour to at the least utilise the time spent waiting to recite a few verses or adhkār and pray for the deceased.
The crux of the problem behind this sad culture of ours is that we are completely neglectful of what is to come after death and attend the funeral only to show our faces to the family or the associates of the deceased. The spirit behind attending a funeral has long vanished from our lives. It is time we set the tables straight, otherwise we will be in no better state when our time comes; we can only anticipate a further decline. Our current attitude to attending a funeral is in need of radical reform as we are in no way benefiting anyone.
When attending a janāzah, a person can benefit three parties; the deceased, the relatives and ourselves.
The first person to benefit from the funeral is the deceased. Rasūlullāh sallallāhu ‘alayhi wasallam said:
When a person passes away and forty people who do not ascribe partners with Allāh, perform his/her janāzah salāh, Allāh accepts their intercession on behalf of the deceased (and forgives him/her). (Muslim)
Obviously, this will only happen if they are all sincere. It is for this reason a large crowd is encouraged and appreciated by the Sharī‘ah, as this gives the probability of forty sincere individuals being present a better chance. If we attend a janāzah and our intentions are only to show our faces, we are not in any way benefitting the deceased as in reality we have not attended. A deed done without sincerity is not accepted and it is as though it does not exist. It is possible that many people have attended a janāzah, yet the large crowd may not comprise of forty sincere people. May Allāh ta‘ālā save us all. Āmīn. In attending the janāzah, our attitude has become to attend merely to get ourselves ticked present. Large crowds of people with such intentions will not help the deceased in anyway. We need to assess our intentions and rectify them if needed. Our prime intention should only be the Pleasure of Allāh ta‘ālā and to seek forgiveness for the deceased; then only the deceased will benefit.
Another primary objective of attending a funeral is to give moral support to the family and relatives of the deceased which is needed at such times by sharing the grief they are experiencing. Imagine no one turning up to the funeral from the community and associates; an avalanche of sorrow and grief would come hurtling down on the family. The more people that attend, the more comfort the aggrieved feel. It is for this reason special encouragement has been given in regards to attending funerals. Rasūlullāh sallallāhu ‘alayhi wasallam has said:
Whoever attends the janāzah and performs the ṣalāh, he will get one qīrāt. And whoever attends the janāzah and remains there until the deceased is buried will get two qīrāt. It was asked; how much is two qīrāt? Rasūlullāh sallallāhu ‘alayhi wasallam said, ‘Like two great mountains.’ (Muslim)
By engaging in meeting people and talking and laughing, do we bring comfort to the relatives of the deceased?
Attending a janāzah benefits us too. Firstly, we will gain the reward mentioned above. Secondly, a person will find it easy to contemplate over the life Hereafter, the grave, the reckoning and the shortness and uncertainty of this life. A person can take a lesson from the deceased that a little while ago he was amongst us, happy, enjoying himself, healthy, not a sign that the last seconds are ticking away. The same could be for us, and the next bier that is lifted could be ours. A poet says:
No man is aware of his death;
provisions of hundred years have been accumulated but one does not know of the next second!
Looking at the deceased and the graves and contemplating upon the stages of the Hereafter will make us realise that we too need to prepare for this inevitable day.
Every person desires comfort in the eternal life. No matter what spiritual condition a person may find himself in, a believer will never say he does not desire the everlasting bliss and bounties Allāh ta‘ālā has stored for His servants in Jannah. However, the opportunity to succeed in this desire is only until a person is alive; once death sets upon a person this opportunity has slipped from his hands. A dead person himself cannot earn a reward of even one subhānallāh. Therefore, each person should strive for the Hereafter and send forth whatever is possible and leave behind what will benefit him after his demise.
As-sadaqah al-jāriyah is an action from which a person continues to reap rewards even after his death, such as construction of a masjid. Similarly, a person continues to get reward from the knowledge he has left behind in the form of books and students, and also children he nurtured and brought up pious. Other than this a person will not be able to do anything for himself after death.
Rasūlullāh sallallāhu ‘alayhi wasallam has said:
When a person dies, his deeds cease [he does not attain any reward] except for three: as-sadaqah al-jāriyah, knowledge (he left behind) from which benefit is derived, and a pious child who prays for him. (Muslim)
So, earn for yourself as much as possible, as in this day and age we cannot rely on others to pray or send reward. One only has to contemplate and think how much he remembers his own near and dear ones and sends reward for them. Let alone remembering our deceased after many days have passed, let us just take a glimpse at our condition when a loved one from our own house has departed. Seldom will you find a son who will immediately spend some form of charity within an hour of his father’s demise; the thought of making some provision for him before he reaches the grave does not even cross his mind. Relatives and friends will gather and talk of the deceased person’s merits and qualities, but they will not take the trouble of spending money or reciting some supplications or adhkār to send the reward to the deceased. A little assessment of our reaction and behaviour at someone’s funeral will be sufficient for us to make an analogy of what we can expect from people for ourselves. Therefore, the most imperative point for every person is to make an earnest effort for his own Hereafter.
Let us correct our objectives and intentions of attending the janāzah. Inshā’allāh, the sad situation of seeing people wasting time, gossiping about worldly matters, laughing, and being insensitive of the phase the deceased is about to face will all change. Furthermore, if we make an effort from now and change this appalling current culture, then not only will we benefit others, but most importantly we will benefit ourselves, as when our time comes people will only act according to what has become the culture.
May Allāh ta‘ālā grant us the tawfīq. Āmīn.