Despite knowing that death is inevitable, most people are engrossed in the trappings of this worldly life and neglect to prepare adequately for the certainty of what follows – our death and ultimate reckoning. Our stay in this world is temporary and it is when we recognise this and live by this that we may be successful.
The Prophet (sall Allāhu ʿalayhi wa sallam) said,
“Remember often the destroyer of pleasures – death.”
This past year we remembered the inevitable reality with reflections and motivations taken from the lives of over a dozen influential individuals whose passing shook the Ummah in 2016 and, in some cases, the world. We were inspired by the lives of some of these individuals, motivated by their successes, moved by their journeys, and amazed by their impact on the world.
The Islam21c team in particular were affected by the passing of Sheikh Haitham al-Haddad’s father, Shaikh Jawwad al-Haddad. His commitment to tarbiya; the nurturing and cultivation of people, resonated deeply with what we, as a team, strive to achieve every day. We were reminded of his characteristic enthusiasm for encouraging people towards good and learnt that, despite being in his 80s, he would regularly fast and pray in the masjid, including fajr prayers. This was a lesson for us all in proactivity and strength for worship.
His passing was soon followed by the shocking deaths of a number of pioneers and leading figures in the Muslim Ummah including that of Hafiz Patel Saheb, a pioneer of Da’wah and the UK Tabligh, and Sheikh Muhammad Ayyoub, the treasured Imām of Masjid An-Nabawi whose entire life, teachings and absolute love for the Qur’ān is an inspiration to Muslims the world over. He was a man who spent his life in service to the Book of Allāh and its teaching from his earliest days right through to his final moments, before returning to his Lord.
We have all heard of the ḥadīth of the Prophet (sall Allāhu ʿalayhi wa sallam),
“Take benefit of five before five:
Your youth before your old age,
your health before your sickness,
your wealth before your poverty,
your free time before you are preoccupied,
and your life before your death.”
In the past year we were never more reminded of this ḥadīth and never more motivated towards proactivity than with the passing of these inspiring individuals. As well as pioneers, teachers, ambassadors and leaders, they were charitable, devout worshippers and spokesmen against human injustice.
Indeed, one of the most impactful deaths of the year was of a Muslim who was a beacon of hope and an inspiration to the world. He was one of the world’s greatest boxers, sports personalities, a cultural icon and probably the most famous man on the planet – Muhammad Ali.
We have not granted everlasting life to any other human being before you either. If you die, how can they think they will live forever? Every soul is certain to taste death: We test you all through the bad and the good, and to Us will you return.
Dr Izzadeen Chowdhury gave us a sobering nudge to reflect on ourselves as compared to Muhammad Ali and ask ourselves, What will you achieve with your life?
“Will your answer amount to nothing more than being a till receipt? Is the sum of your life’s achievements waking up, going to work, coming home, some telly, Salah and then sleep? You were created for so much more. Whatever anyone says about Muhammad Ali, he did something with his life.”
Though only Allāh knows the final abode, whether Paradise or Hell, of any specific person, a Muslim rejoices or is saddened by what is apparent of good action and beliefs or otherwise. Qatāda b. Rib’i reported that the Messenger (sall Allāhu ʿalayhi wa sallam) said:
“…(the death of) a wicked person relieves the people, the land, the trees, (and) the animals from him.”
This year, we not only witnessed the passing of inspirational figures, we were also impacted by the deaths of individuals such as President Islam Karimov of Uzbekistan, who was responsible for gross abuses towards human beings and excessive persecution of Muslims under the banner of preventing “Islamic fundamentalism”. Muslims rejoiced in relief and realisation that the tyrant and oppressive dictator of 27 years could no longer bring harm to the Muslims of his nation. However, his death also served as a stark warning that our lives in this world are not eternal; we will come to an end and we will stand on the Day of Resurrection only with the deeds we performed in this world in our hands.
“You who believe! Be mindful of Allāh, and let every soul consider carefully what it sends ahead for tomorrow; be mindful of Allāh for Allāh is well aware of everything you do.”
In giving time to focus on these individuals, their lives, achievements, legacies and impacts on the world, we aim to reassess our own lives and realign our priorities. These individuals, along with Abdul-Sattar Edhi, Moazzam Begg’s father, Junaid Jamshed and Sheikh Muḥammad Surur b. Nayif Zayn al-ʿAbidīn were with us just over a year ago, and now they have left us and passed on to the next, eternal stage, with no chance of return. The deeds they died with are the deeds they will present on the Day of Judgement, and that which they sowed on this Earth before their end.
Are we prepared for our deaths? Are you prepared?
As Shaikh Abu Rumaysah Refi Shafi wrote, when a person frequently remembers death, he will keep things in true perspective: Allāh’s good pleasure as compared to people’s pleasure, the Hereafter as compared to this world, and the wage with Allāh as compared to the wage of this world. He will internalise the reality of the next life, the desire to sin will decrease, his heart will soften and he will turn to Allāh in repentance and servitude.
Scroll down below for an interactive timeline of some of those who passed away last year.
 Abū Huraira (raḍiy Allāhu ʿanhu) reports in At-Tirmidhi Book 1, Hadith 579
 Narrated by Ibn Abbas and reported by Al Hakim
 Al-Qur’ān, 21:34-35
 Hadīth: Saḥīḥ Bukhārī and Muslim
 Al-Qur’ān, 59:18
 The Messenger of Allah (sal Allahu alaihi wa sallam) said: “When a man dies, his deeds come to an end except for three things: Sadaqah Jariyah (ceaseless charity); knowledge which is beneficial; or a virtuous descendant who prays for him (the deceased).” [Sahih Muslim]