Remember the Standard

There are two ways to lead our lives. The way we want and the way Allahﷻ wants for us. Whichever way we choose, we will be held accountable for it when we die. The issue with living the way we want is that our knowledge is limited, and our desires rule us. The benefit of living the way Allahﷻ wants us to live is that He knows what is best for us and guides us to that and since the accounting is with Him, if we live by His way, that day will be a day of rejoicing. I remind you and myself that to live is not merely to draw breath. That is the way animals live. They are the slaves of their drives, they follow their desires, and one day they die, and the story is over. Humans on the other hand have the option of living like animals, fulfilling every desire. Or of living a life of purpose and leaving behind a legacy of honor. That is the choice which we must make.

To underline this and set the standard, Allahﷻ said:

كُلُّ نَفْسٍ ذَآئِقَةُ ٱلْمَوْتِ وَإِنَّمَا تُوَفَّوْنَ أُجُورَكُمْ يَوْمَ ٱلْقِيَـٰمَةِ فَمَن زُحْزِحَ عَنِ ٱلنَّارِ وَأُدْخِلَ ٱلْجَنَّةَ فَقَدْ فَازَ وَمَا ٱلْحَيَوٰةُ ٱلدُّنْيَآ إِلَّا مَتَـٰعُ ٱلْغُرُورِ

Aal Imraan 3: 185   Every soul will taste death. And you will only receive your full reward on the Day of Judgment. Whoever is spared from the Fire and is admitted into Jannah will ˹indeed˺ triumph, whereas the life of this world is no more than the delusion of enjoyment.

Let’s give this some thought and ask how our lives compare to this standard. Success and failure in life are products of the choices we make. The Qur’an and Sunnah guide us to the best of them, the path of those who Allahﷻ rewarded and not those who angered Him.

In this Ayat-ul-Kareema, Allahﷻ mentioned four critical things that we must always keep in mind. They are:

  1. We will die
  2. We will be called to account and be rewarded or punished
  3. Freedom from the Fire and entry into Jannah is final success
  4. The life of this world is deception

There is a saying in English, ‘Forewarned is forearmed.’ This means that if you have early warning about a forthcoming event, especially a danger, then you can be prepared to face it and succeed. That is the reason Rasoolullahﷺ said:

أبو سعيد الخدري رضي الله عنه ، فجاء فتى من الأنصار فسلم على رسول الله صلى الله عليه وسلم ثم جلس ، فقال : يا رسول الله أي المؤمنين أفضل ؟ قال : أحسنهم خلقا قال : فأي المؤمنين أكيس ؟ قال : أكثرهم للموت ذكرا وأحسنهم له استعدادا قبل أن ينزل بهم أولئك من الأكياس ثم سكت الفتى

Abu Saeed Al-Khudri (R) narrated, “Then a youth from the Ansar came and greeted Rasoolullah then he sat down and said: Ya Rasoolullah which of the believers is best? He (Rasoolullah) said: The best of them in character. The boy asked: Which of the believers is wisest? He (Rasoolullah) said: The ones who remember death the most and are the best prepared for it before those people take them down from the bags.

We see from this Hadith that it is a sign of intelligence to be prepared for death. There are numerous Ayaat where Allahﷻ mentioned death and the need to be prepared for it. Allahﷻ said about those who continue to live a life of heedlessness, denying the meeting with Allahﷻ on the Day of Judgement:

وَقَالُوٓا۟ أَءِذَا ضَلَلْنَا فِى ٱلْأَرْضِ أَءِنَّا لَفِى خَلْقٍ جَدِيدٍۭ بَلْ هُم بِلِقَآءِ رَبِّهِمْ كَـٰفِرُونَ

قُلْ يَتَوَفَّىٰكُم مَّلَكُ ٱلْمَوْتِ ٱلَّذِى وُكِّلَ بِكُمْ ثُمَّ إِلَىٰ رَبِّكُمْ تُرْجَعُونَ

وَلَوْ تَرَىٰٓ إِذِ ٱلْمُجْرِمُونَ نَاكِسُوا۟ رُءُوسِهِمْ عِندَ رَبِّهِمْ رَبَّنَآ أَبْصَرْنَا وَسَمِعْنَا فَٱرْجِعْنَا نَعْمَلْ صَـٰلِحًا إِنَّا مُوقِنُونَ

Sajda 32: 10-12   ˹Still˺ they ask ˹mockingly˺, When we are disintegrated into the earth, will we really be raised as a new creation? In fact, they are in denial of the meeting with their Rabb. Say, ˹O Prophet,˺ Your soul will be taken by the Angel of Death, who is in charge of you. Then to your Rabb you will ˹all˺ be returned. If only you could see the wicked hanging their heads ˹in shame˺ before their Lord, ˹crying:˺ Our Rabb! We have now seen and heard, so send us back and we will do good. We truly have sure faith ˹now˺!

This preparation for death has numerous values. The best of them in this world is a life without stress. The one who is preparing for death is never disappointed about not getting any worldly success because he knows that if he had got it, he would have had to leave it behind. He makes all the effort he needs to succeed in his legitimate goals but is saved from disappointment and sadness.

The second matter is to always be conscious of our accountability before Allahﷻ. The cause of confusion in life is that Shaytaan and his agents constantly try to deceive us into believing that there can be benefit in disobeying Allahﷻ. It seems such an oxymoronic thing to believe but I have come to the conclusion that the more oxymoronic and stupid something is, the more easily people believe it. I don’t think I need to give you any examples because we are surrounded by such beliefs. Sadly, we Muslims, who believe in Allahﷻ and the Last Day, subscribe to these beliefs and allow ourselves to be misguided in pursuit of transient pleasures. Remembering the Day of Judgement reminds us that pleasure is transient and temporary, but its consequence is permanent. Just think of everything that Allahﷻ has prohibited and you can see if it is worth the pleasure it gives. It is pleasant and attractive. That is why it is prohibited. The choice of whether to still indulge in it or not is ours, because the consequences are also ours. Allahﷻ warned us about Shaytaan:

يَـٰٓأَيُّهَا ٱلَّذِينَ ءَامَنُوا۟ ٱدْخُلُوا۟ فِى ٱلسِّلْمِ كَآفَّةً وَلَا تَتَّبِعُوا۟ خُطُوَٰتِ ٱلشَّيْطَـٰنِ إِنَّهُۥ لَكُمْ عَدُوٌّ مُّبِينٌ

Baqara 2: 208    O believers! Enter into Islam wholeheartedly and do not follow Shaytaan’s footsteps. Surely he is your sworn enemy.

Allahﷻ told us that on the Day of Judgement, Shaytaan will abandon his followers and declare that he had deceived them.

وَقَالَ ٱلشَّيْطَـٰنُ لَمَّا قُضِىَ ٱلْأَمْرُ إِنَّ ٱللَّهَ وَعَدَكُمْ وَعْدَ ٱلْحَقِّ وَوَعَدتُّكُمْ فَأَخْلَفْتُكُمْ وَمَا كَانَ لِىَ عَلَيْكُم مِّن سُلْطَـٰنٍ إِلَّآ أَن دَعَوْتُكُمْ فَٱسْتَجَبْتُمْ لِى فَلَا تَلُومُونِى وَلُومُوٓا۟ أَنفُسَكُم مَّآ أَنَا۠ بِمُصْرِخِكُمْ وَمَآ أَنتُم بِمُصْرِخِىَّ إِنِّى كَفَرْتُ بِمَآ أَشْرَكْتُمُونِ مِن قَبْلُ إِنَّ ٱلظَّـٰلِمِينَ لَهُمْ عَذَابٌ أَلِيمٌ

Ibrahim 14: 22   And Shaytaan will say ˹to his followers˺ after the judgment has been passed, Indeed, Allah has made you a true promise. I too made you a promise, but I failed you. I did not have any authority over you. I only called you, and you responded to me. So do not blame me; blame yourselves. I cannot save you, nor can you save me. Indeed, I denounce your previous association of me with Allah ˹in loyalty˺. Surely the wrongdoers will suffer a painful punishment.”

Remembering that we will die and be called to account helps us to stay on track and reveals the deception of this life so that we can stay away from it and not be deceived by Shaytaan.

The third thing that Allahﷻ mentioned is that only on the Day of Judgement people will receive their full reward. This is a matter of huge consolation because we see so many instances in life where either people do a lot of good and remain unknown and unrewarded or they do a lot of evil and seem to get away with it. This leads to some people who don’t know Allahﷻ and who don’t believe in the Day of Judgement, to ask, ‘If there is a God, why is this happening?’ The answer is very simple, as Allahﷻ told us. This life is a test for us to see what decisions we take. In the entire continuum of our existence from the Ilm of Allahﷻ to Jannatul Firdous In-Sha-Allah, it is in this short life that we have been granted limited choice. But that choice has permanent consequences. This is so important that Allahﷻ sent His Anbiya and His Books to guide us to make the right choices. It is an open book exam with infinite opportunities to correct any wrong choices and seek forgiveness. Allahﷻ promised to forgive all sins.

قُلْ يَـٰعِبَادِىَ ٱلَّذِينَ أَسْرَفُوا۟ عَلَىٰٓ أَنفُسِهِمْ لَا تَقْنَطُوا۟ مِن رَّحْمَةِ ٱللَّهِ إِنَّ ٱللَّهَ يَغْفِرُ ٱلذُّنُوبَ جَمِيعًا إِنَّهُۥ هُوَ ٱلْغَفُورُ ٱلرَّحِيمُ

Zumar 39: 53   Say, ˹O Prophet, that Allah says,˺ “O My slaves who have transgressed against themselves! Do not despair of Allah’s mercy, for Allah certainly forgives all sins. He is indeed the All-Forgiving, Most Merciful.

Finally, Allahﷻ warns us that this life is deceptive. The demo or promo is different from the real thing. Forwarding messages on WhatsApp that people are starving is not the same as putting your hand in your pocket and donating to feed them. Forwarding messages about being dutiful to your parents is not the same as picking up the phone and talking to them or even better, visiting them. Today one of the biggest killers of the elderly is loneliness. They have children but their children have no time for them. Complaining about the state of youth is not the same as spending time in the Tarbiyya of your children. Throwing money at them won’t do the same thing. And handing over parenting to iPads or smartphones has very painful long-term consequences.

Today we face a world that seems to have been taken over by people who are totally devoid of ethics and morals. People whose rapacious greed has no end. People who will do anything at all to get more money. People to whom human life and suffering has no meaning. People whose hearts are made of iron or something even harder. Who have not an iota of kindness or compassion. We wonder at this. I wonder why we wonder. If you don’t understand me, simply ask yourself and your friends to name three role models. We did that in this masjid and there are many here who were there and you know the names of the people who were mentioned as role models. When you define net worth as the amount of money a person has, that too in terms of notional wealth and nothing else, then we should stop wondering at the results. Just ask yourself when was the last time we defined net worth as character, kindness, mercy, commitment to justice, to human rights, to freedom of all people? This life is like a fertile field. It will give you a harvest of whatever you plant. But only of what you plant. We get what we pay for, so be very careful what you plant. The Qur’an warns us not to be deceived by this life and its glitter. But to remember that one day we will meet Allahﷻ. I ask Allahﷻ to make that our best day.