Boost Your Iman Series – “Death and Dying”

Speaker: Sis Mariam Ardati

So, just another lecture about dying, right?

Well, as I made my way to the sister’s section at MIA, these were the thoughts running through my mind. Although this was my first seminar on the topic of death, I couldn’t help but think to myself, well what could possibly be said that I don’t already know?

Well let me reassure you, these thoughts quickly vanished when I volunteered to help Sister Mariam bring up her belongings to the centre. There it was, a life-sized mannequin with a cloth draped over its body and face, as if signalling to me personally that I will lay and be carried away in the same helpless manner. I held it together and, while helping with the bags of props, couldn’t help but envisage myself under that very sheet of fabric.

So how does one become involved in this community obligation of washing and burying our dead? Sister Mariam’s reply to this sent me my first set of shockwaves that I knew were going to be inevitable during this seminar.

“The reality check I personally needed wasn’t found amongst the living…….I found it amongst the dead” Mariam A.

This response really had me propped up in my seat and it was at this point that I knew this workshop was going to be eye-opening, to say the least. This workshop was designed to empower us with our rights and enable us to be armed with the knowledge to get us through what may be the most challenging time of our lives.

So, what did we take from this seminar?

  1. An understanding of what happens to a Muslim from their death to their burial.
  2. 4 rights offered to the deceased – wash, shroud, janazah and burial.
  3. Steps of the janazah prayer.
  4. The Coroners Court role and function.
  5. Grief and loss – Presented by Sister Marita.
  6. Washing and shrouding – Practical session.

So why does something as inevitable as death continue to disappear from our thoughts? Dunya is designed to distract and preoccupy us. We could literally be on the next list of yearly deaths revealed to the Angel of Death.
Let’s just say we were lucky enough to have a life expectancy of 100 years. We know that on bare minimum we will spend 50 000 years in the barzakh (1 day=50 000 years in the akhirah). When we deduct from that 100-year life expectancy the years of sleep, jaahiliyyah, old age, childhood/non-accountability, how many years are we left with in comparison to our akhirah? The answer is miniscule in value. So why is it that we neglect our death and akhirah when its significance is so grand in the spectrum?
We take such care in preserving and grooming our bodies. We pluck, groom, shave, burn, bleach, condition, strengthen, tighten, laser, and this list goes on. So, let’s give this body of ours the reality check it needs!

Did you know that:

  1. Decomposition of the body – within 4 minutes of the soul departing the body, it will begin to decompose. This usually lasts 24-72 hours.
  2. Bloating of the body – This occurs 3-5 days after death.
  3. The Body Liquifies – Nails, teeth… begin to fall and turn to liquid. This occurs 8-10 days after death.

So basically, after a mere month of being buried, there’s nothing but liquid and bones left of that very body we paid thousands upon thousands on, hours upon hours while in turn neglecting the spiritual needs of our souls.

We were clearly reminded and established the need to remember death often. We can all…

  • Visit the sick
  • Visit the cemetery
  • Prepare a will
  • Have regular medical check-ups – a comprehensive medical record

Now, I personally have never been around someone during their last moments of life, during their Sakarat Al-Mawt. So, what should we do if presented with this situation?

  1. Encourage the dying to say the Kalimah. Insha’Allah once they’ve said it we don’t say anything to them after that. We also need to remember that even if they’re in a coma, or in and out of consciousness we still need to encourage them with the kalimah as it can be said without movement of the lips, and for all we know –they could be saying it… keep reminding them.
  2. Remind them of Allah SWT’s Mercy and love. We need to instil hope and try and calm them.
  3. Provide them with water.
  4. Do not leave them alone. This is crucial. Create a roster of family and loved ones to stay with the dying at all times, whether at home, but particularly if in hospital.

Once the death has occurred, call the ambulance/doctor! It’s surprising how many people forget to call 000. Those present should then do the following to the best of their ability:

  1. We say ‘Innalilah wa innah ilayhi raaji-oon’
  2. Cover the body from head to toe immediately
  3. A family member removes the jewellery, adornments worn
  4. Make dua for them
  5. Lay their hands and legs straight down
  6. Notify the family if not present

Now, whilst I could continue for pages trying to cover all the knowledge sister Mariam empowered us with, I don’t think I would be doing the workshop the justice it deserves.

I urge and offer you this naseehah (advice) from one Muslim to another, keep a look out for the next death and dying workshop and do yourself the favour of registering and empowering yourself and your loved ones with the knowledge that sister Mariam was able to share with us today.

Our beloved Prophet Muhammed SAW said, ‘Remember the destroyer of pleasures – Death’.

As hard as it may be, we need to picture one of our loved ones in that position. Don’t we owe it to the ones we love to know their rights, the correct procedures, the correct etiquette and the sunnah of such processes? Are we willing to leave it entirely to a stranger from a funeral service?

I ask Allah SWT to continue to allow our amazing centres such as MIA and individuals from our community such as Mariam to continue to educate and empower us with knowledge to better ourselves and implement the teachings of our perfect deen. I ask Allah SWT to reward these centres and individuals and accept their efforts, and in turn allow us to offer our loved ones the dignity and honour they deserve with a correct Islamic death and burial procedure. Ameen!

– written by sister E.R., a student at MIA