1. Death -
The Actual Death and What is Observed about Death
Have you ever thought why does man need to devote so much time and effort to keeping his body clean? Why does an unclean body, a foul-smelling mouth, greasy skin or hair seem so unbecoming? Why does man sweat and why is the odor accompanying sweat so disturbing?
Unlike man, plants have extremely pleasant odors. A rose or a carnation never stinks, despite the fact that it grows in soil and remains in an environment of dust and dirt. However, man can hardly achieve such a permanent fragrance, no matter how much he cares for his body.
Have you ever thought why man is created with so many weaknesses? Why Allah created flowers with beautiful fragrances but made the human body prone to such weaknesses? The weaknesses of man are not limited to things mentioned above: he gets tired and hungry, feels weak, gets injured, becomes nauseated, sick...
All these may seem to be ordinary to man, yet it has a deceiving aspect. It could well be that a bad odor never came from the body. Likewise, one might never suffer from a headache or fall sick.
All these difficulties happen not by "coincidence" but are created by Allah on purpose. Allah assigned man a particular goal and intentionally made him with these features.
First of these goals is to make man realize that he is a weak being, a "servant" of Allah. Being perfect is an attribute of Allah. His servants, on the other hand, are infinitely frail and thus inherently in need of their Creator. This is explained in the Qur'an as follows:
Mankind! you are the poor in need of Allah, whereas Allah is the Rich Beyond Need, the Praiseworthy. If He wills He can dispense with you and bring about a new creation. That is not difficult for Allah. (Surat al-Fatir: 15-17)
Another purpose these weaknesses serve is to remind man of the temporary nature of this life. That is because these weaknesses are peculiar to the body in this world. In the hereafter, the Companions of the Garden will be endowed with a perfect body. The poor, imperfect and weak body in this world is not the actual body of the believer but a temporary mould he remains in for a certain period.
That is why, in this world perfect beauty is never attainable. The most physically perfect and beautiful person also has physical weaknesses, sweats, has bad breath in the mornings and now and then suffers from acne. One needs to involve oneself in endless routines to keep clean and fresh. Some people have pretty faces but lack shapely bodies. There are also cases in which just the contrary is true. Some have beautiful eyes but a big nose. There are countless such examples. A person with outwardly perfect looks might be suffering from a serious disease.
Over and above this, even the most perfect-looking person ultimately grows old and dies. In an unexpected traffic accident, his body might be irremediably injured. It is not only the human body which is imperfect, flawed and temporary in this world. All flowers fade, the most delicious food decays and goes bad. All these are peculiar to this world. The short life in this world granted to us as well as this body are temporary favors bestowed by Allah. An eternal life and a perfect creation are possible only in the hereafter. As it is put in the Qur'an:
Whatever you have been given is only the enjoyment of the life of the world. What is with Allah is better and longer lasting for those who have faith and trust in their Lord. (Surat ash-Shura: 36)
In another verse the real essence of the world is explained as follows:
Know that the life of the world is merely a game and a diversion, ostentation and a cause of boasting among yourselves, and a quest to outdo one another in wealth and children. It is like the plants which flourish after rain: this delights the cultivators, but then they wither and you see them turning yellow, and then they become broken stubble. In the hereafter a terrible punishment awaits you but also forgiveness from Allah and His good pleasure. The life of the world is nothing but the enjoyment of delusion. (Surat al-Hadid: 20)
In brief, in this world, Allah, as a sign of His infinite might and knowledge, creates many beautiful and wonderful things as well as many flawed things. Permanence and excellence are against the laws of this world. Nothing the human mind can imagine, including advanced technology, will ever change this law of Allah. This is so that people has to strive to attain the hereafter and show due respect and gratefulness to Allah. It is also so that people may realize that the actual place of these favors is not this temporary world, but the eternal abode prepared for believers. In the Qur'an, this is alluded to as follows:
Yet still you prefer the life of the world when the hereafter is better and longer lasting. (Surat al-A'la: 16-17)
Another verse says: "The abode of the hereafter—that is truly Life if they only knew." (Surat al-Ankabut: 64) There is a very thin border between this world, which is a temporary abode, and our "actual life", the hereafter, which is our real life. Death raises this curtain. By death, man will break off all his relations with his body and this world; he will start his eternal life with his newly created body.
The real life is the one beginning with death. Flaws, imperfections and impermanence are the laws of this world. The real laws are formulated on the principles of infiniteness, excellence and immortality. In other words, what is normal is a non-fading flower, a neverageing man, a never-decaying fruit. The actual laws entail the instant realization of every wish of man or the removal of pain and diseases, or even sweating or feeling cold. However, temporary laws are in effect in this temporary life, while the actual laws are binding upon the next life.
The abode of the actual laws, namely the hereafter, is very close. Allah can end the life of man at any moment He wills and makes him pass to the hereafter. This transition will occur in a very short period; in the blink of an eye. This is similar to waking up from a dream. The brevity of this world is explained in the Qur'an follows:
He will say, 'How many years did you tarry on the earth?' They will say, 'We tarried there for a day or part of a day. Ask those able to count!' He will say, 'You only tarried there for a little while if you did but know! Did you suppose that We created you for amusement and that you would not return to Us?' (Surat al-Muminun: 112-115)
When death comes, dreams come to an end and man starts his actual life. Man, who remained on earth for a period as short as "the blink of an eye" comes into the Presence of Allah to give an account of his deeds in this world. If he has kept death in his mind all throughout his life and lived to attain Allah's approval, he will hope to be saved. In the Qur'an, the words of "those who are given their Books in their right hands" are quoted as follows:
As for him who is given his Book in his right hand, he will say, 'Here, come and read my Book! I counted on meeting my Reckoning.' (Surat al-Haqqa: 19-20)