In the name of Allah, the Merciful, the Mercy giving. We praise Him, seek His help and ask for His forgiveness. Whoever Allah guides, none can misguide. And whoever Allah allows to go astray, none can guide them aright. I bear witness that there is no god but Allah, Alone, and that Muhammad is His Servant and Messenger. To begin ...
Al-Fudayl ibn Iyadh, rahimahullah (may Allah have mercy upon him), once sat with a senior and asked him, "How old are you?" The man replied, "60 years old." "Did you know," said al-Fudayl, "that for 60 years you have been traveling towards your Lord, and that you have almost arrived." The man was reduced to silence. He whispered, "Inna lillahi wa inna ilayhi raji'un (to Allah we belong and to Him we return)." Al-Fudayl asked, "Do you know the meaning of that statement? You are saying that you are Allah's slave and that to Him you are returning. Whoever knows that he is the slave of Allah, and that to Him he shall return, should know that he shall be stopped on the Day of Judgment. And whoever knows that he will be stopped, let him also know that he will be responsible for what he did in life. And whoever knows that he will be responsible for what he did, let him know that he will be questioned. And whoever knows that he will be questioned, let him prepare an answer now!" "What then shall I do?" asked the man. "It is simple," said al-Fudayl, "Do good in what is left of your life, forgiven shall be your past. If not, you shall be taken to account for the past and what is to come."
In the not-so-far-away days of old, whenever a journey was to be undertaken proper provisions had to be prepared. The deserts were long, hot, and harsh. Unmerciful. There were no truck stops to fill up with Doritos, or rest stops to buy a coke from a vending machine. In fact, there was not even a human in sight for miles upon miles of barren sand dunes.
Thus, you had to have the provision with you before you made the journey. Enough food, enough water, enough everything to carry you to your destination.
From here, in the verses dealing of Hajj, when everyone shall have to make some sort of journey to reach the Ka'bah, Allah tuned the attention of His slaves to another journey, a journey every soul is traveling, whether they know it or care to just remain heedless. Allah turned their attention to the journey to the Hereafter, to Paradise or Hell.
"And take a provision (with you) for the journey; verily the best provision is taqwa (piety and righteousness)." [Al-Qur'an 2:197]
Ibn 'Umar narrates, "One day I was with the Messenger of Allah, sallallahu 'alayhi wa sallam (may Allah's peace and blessing be upon him). He then turned to me, held my shoulders with both of his blessed hands, and said: 'Be in this life like a stranger or a traveler.' "
And whenever Ibn 'Umar narrated this to his disciples he would add: "If you reach the evening, do not await (to be alive) by dawn, And if you reach dawn, do not await (to be alive) by evening. Take advantage of your health before you fall sick. And take advantage of your life, before you die." [Bukhari]
Your story and mine in this life should be the story of a stranger in town or a traveler. Recently, the writer lived the life of a stranger about to begin a journey. It had been six years that he had lived in Madinah Munawwarah and now had come the time to move on. In the last days, he would buy a bar of soap and think, 'will I be around long enough to use the whole bar or should I get a smaller one?' Gadgets and inventions bounced off the supermarket's shelves. It all looked interesting, but there was no time to enjoy it, it had to be left on the shelf. The journey was about to begin. A few extra trips were made to the Prophet's masjid. Concentration was up a few notches in prayer. The journey was about to begin.
When our father and mother, Adam and Hawwa' (Eve), alayhumas salam (may peace be upon them), were expelled from Paradise, their hearts continued to sob in remembrance of their first home. You know how it is when some youth go to camp. Night after night they cry homesick. Well that's how our parents were. And as their children, believers in Allah, His Messenger, and the Hereafter, that is the kind of homesickness we should have day after day, until we come home, insha'Allah (if Allah wills). That is what a stranger feels; this is how we should go through life.
The Prophet, sallallahu 'alayhi wa sallam, said, "What have I got to do with the material world. The example of the material world and I is that of a traveler. Traveling in the afternoon heat, he stopped to rest under the shade of a tree for some moments. Then, he rose and left it." [Ahmad and at-Tirmidhi. The hadith is hasan]
The journey? Life. The destination? Paradise or Hellfire. 'Ali, radiallahu 'anhu (may Allah be pleased with him), used to say, "The material world has gotten up to leave you and the Hereafter has gotten up on it's way towards you. Both of them have children, so be from amongst the children of the Hereafter and not from the children of the material world. For verily, today is deeds and no accountancy, and tomorrow is accountancy and no deeds."
A wise man once said, "Strange is he who has the material world walking away from him and the hereafter walking towards him. How could he busy himself with what is leaving him and turn his back to that which is coming towards him."
This is the journey that we are all traveling; now it is up to us to take advantage of the time. Muhammad ibn Wasi', rahimahullah, was asked once how he was feeling. He replied, "What's your opinion of someone who travels a mile towards the Hereafter every single day?"
Dear brother, dear sister. Every soul is on this journey. Some have understood this and are spending their days in preparation for the questions to come, for the repayment. Others are living life 'to the fullest' as they say, heedless and negligent of the hereafter. Allah, subhanahu wa ta'ala (how far from imperfection is He and He is the Most High), describes the day that they will finally wake up and smell the fire:
"(It will be said to the sinners): 'Indeed you were heedless of this, now We have removed your covering, and sharp is your sight this Day!' " [Al-Qur'an 50:22]
They are living in a satanic intoxication. All that concerns them is a new car, a bigger house, and a handsome mate. Some wake up in this life with time to repent. Others will here the above verse when regret will be worthless.
Part II: The Heedless
In Surah al-Qiyamah, Allah, subhanahu wa ta'ala, describes the extraction of the soul, those last minutes. He probably went to sleep that night not intending to pray Fajr. He promised his kids they would go to Disneyland in the summer. He promised his wife a new dress. He promised himself a new car if he beat his golf score. Tonight, however, he had an unexpected visitor. O the visitor had an appointment with him, he was just careless and forgot.
"Nay, when (the soul) reaches to the collar bone (i.e. up to the throat in it's exit)." [Al-Qur'an 75:26]
The soul does not leave the entire body in one swoop. It leaves body part by body part until it reaches the collarbone, until it reaches the throat. His legs were dead, his arms were dead. The soul gargled in his throat. He screamed. His wife and children ran to his side. What's wrong? What's wrong? Not now, he is about to begin another journey.
"And it will be said: 'Who can cure him and save him from death?' " [Al-Qur'an 75:27]
Even in the last breaths, the wife runs to the phone to call an ambulance. The children look left and right for someone to save their dad. Nay, no one can save him from death when death arrives. Everyone shall die.
"And (the dying person) will conclude that it is the time of departure (death)." [Al-Qur'an 75:28]
Reality has hit him now. He knows this is the end. The time for departure has arrived, the journey is about to begin. What is he departing from though. From a Qur'an he used to recite after 'Asr? From 4 rak'at he used to pray during those long winter nights? Was he even departing from the 5 daily prayers?
"And leg will be joined with another leg (i.e. shrouded)." [Al-Qur'an 75:29]
Strangers washed his body, strange hands shrouded his body, strangers prayed on his body. Down, down into that hole that was waiting for him from the day he entered this world. Now, the journey begins ...
"The drive will be, on that Day, to your Lord (Allah)!" [Al-Qur'an 75:30]
Dear brother, dear sister. Do not leave your repentance till Ramadan. Do not wait until you go for Hajj. Do not even wait till tomorrow. Do it now and prepare for this journey. Come back to Allah before it is too late. Now.
'Ali, radiallahu 'anhu, once stood at the head of a grave and said to his companion, "If he had a chance to return to this life, what do you think he would do?" His companion replied, "He would do nothing but good deeds." 'Ali, radiallahu 'anhu, then said, "If it is not going to be him, then let it be you."
If you are young and handsome now, fear Allah, subhanahu wa ta'ala, and cover as He commanded you. If you are healthy now, worship Allah, subhanahu wa ta'ala, as much as you can before you are old. If you are wealthy now, use your wealth for the sake of Allah, subhanahu wa ta'ala, before the day comes when you may lose it. If you have some free time now, spend it memorizing Qur'an and reading hadith before a time comes when you will not find the time. If you are alive now, take advantage of your life in preparation for the next leg of your journey, in preparation for your meeting with Allah, subhanahu wa ta'ala.
Ibn 'Abbas, radiallahu 'anhu, heard the Prophet, sallallahu 'alayhi wa sallam, advising someone saying, "Take advantage of five before five: You're youth before your old age, your health before your sickness, your wealth before your poverty, your free time before you become occupied, and your life before your death."