Sunday, August 28, 2005

Reflections on Death

Spectacle of Death: Scene of a Cemetery from Summit

Peace be upon you. O ye dwellers of those graves! May God forgive us and you! You are our forerunners and we are at your heels.
(Inscription on the main gate of India’s largest Muslim cemetery at Malegaon, Nasik).

Dye the crown of your head, knot thy hair in plaits; for aught you know, presently the Beloved may send for thee: thou can’t do much on the appointed day: And there will be much to do; but thou wilt only lie still and stare. (Unknown)

Age travels at a galloping pace/ Who knows where it will stop?/ We do not have the reins in our hands/ We do not have our feet in the stirrups. (Poet Asadullah Khan Ghalib)

Nobody knows when the death was born. But we all know it was born to extract our soul. Death does not believe in discrimination. Whether it was King Solomon of Israel or Mongolian Chengiz Khan who murdered millions, all willingly or unwillingly succumbed to it. Death does not announce its arrival. It comes all of a sudden with no prior warning and nobody can delay it by a second also. You simply can not turn a blind eye to death. Fewer people have a date with death.

When will death die? Who will give death to

Death will not die unless it finishes off the entire living race.

On Thursday August 19, death took away my mother’s maternal grandmother. She was 107. The end was peaceful. Around 5 O’ clock in the evening while reading the holy Qur’an she took her last breath. For a devout Muslim there is no better way of dying than under the shade of their holy book. The old faithful lady surrendered with a smile. As Iqbal said,

‘You ask me of the marks of a man of faith?
When death comes to him, he has a smile on his lips.’

May her soul rest in peace. Amen.

It’s been 10 days since we left her in 6-feet deep 2 feet wide grave. Everybody around, except my mom, seems to lead a normal life. Truly public memory is really short.

Death reminds us that however prolonged this worldly life may be, it is mortal and one day it will come to an end. It is the afterlife which is immortal and everlasting. Rationalists like Khushwant Singh may not believe in life after death but I am a believer. In his book ‘Death at my Doorstep’ he says,

“I do not accept irrational, unproven theories of lifedeath-rebirth in different forms as an unending process till our beings mingle with God and we attain nirvana. I do not accept the belief that while the body perishes, the soul survives. I do not know what the soul looks like; neither I, nor anyone has seen it. Nor do I accept the Hebrew, Christian and Islamic belief in the Day of Judgment — heaven and hell…. I accept the finality of death; we do not know what happens to us after we die...”

There is something which leaves the human body at the time of death and that is called soul – which is invisible to human eyes. It’s like air which exists but we can not see it. Denying afterlife amounts to denying the existence of God. It will be apt to quote Jalaluddin Rumi (1207-1273), one of the greatest spiritual figures of all time:

‘Someone who seeks God through logical proof is like someone who looks for the sun with a lamp.’

Whatever, we all will definitely come to know as to what reality is. For that we have to wait for death which is hovering over our heads. The final call may come any time yet we are busy planning our day today life. Such is mine own case.

Nobody knows who is the next.

Life is a journey with an end. Then there is a life with no end.

Perhaps the last word should be left to an Urdu poet:

‘No living being knows the time of its end. Man makes provisions for a hundred years, yet knows not that he might die the next minute.’

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