Remembrance of death and sense of accountability as a cause of revivification of Qalb
Rasulullah (Sallallahu Alaihi Wasallam) said that:
Qalb gets rusted. He was asked by his companions y as to how can this rust be removed from the Qalb. Rasulullahe replied, the rust of the Qalb can be removed by two things viz; remembrance of death and recitation of the Qur’ân. (Baihaqi)
Remembrance of death plays a very effective role in purifying the heart. Allah Ta’ala has created man as a very wonderful creature. Despite having excellent qualities, man has also some characteristics contrary to excellent and one of them is negligence. It would have been very difficult for man to commit a sin if this negligence would not have existed. Rasulullah (Sallallahu Alaihi Wasallam) says that a Mumin (true believer) does not remain a Mumin during the time he steals or indulges in adultery .There is a consensus among the scholars (Ulema-e-Haq) that one does not become a Kaafir (disbeliever) by committing a grave sin. But the above mentioned Hadith states that a Mumin does not remain Mumin during the time he steals or commits adultery. Commentators of Hadith have given the explanation that it is impossible to commit disobedience of Allah Ta’ala in the presence of Imaan. In other words we can say that when a Mu’min commits a grave sin, his Imaan is present but he becomes negligent about it. It is during this period of negligence that he dares to commit disobedience of Allah Ta’ala. Prerequisite of Imaan is that one has firm belief that Allah Ta’ala is always watching and is always present wherever one may be. In presence of such a firm belief, how can a Mu’min dare to commit a sin? Obviously it is his negligence which makes him to commit a sin resulting in rusting of his Qalb. Unfortunately most of the Muslims today spend their whole lives under the dark clouds of this negligence (Gaflat). This negligence is the root cause of deteriorating condition of the present day Muslims and their unawareness about the treasures of the glorious Qur’ân. It has been many times stated that the instrument for understanding the Qur’ân is the Qalb and that the sins committed cause rusting of the Qalb and hence depriving it of its ability to understand the Qur’ân. Here we can understand that a Mu’min commits a sin when he is negligent of the basic belief of Imaan that Allah Ta’ala is seeing, is present and that he has to appear before Him for accountability on the Day of Judgment.
Since Rasulullah (Sallallahu Alaihi Wasallam) has been the most kind to his Ummah, he (Sallallahu Alaihi Wasallam) has very kindly taught the Muslims that if they want to get rid of the rust on their Qaloob in order to get it revived, they should constantly remember death in abundance. Every one of us must have experienced the softening of heart on the death of any of our close relative. One experiences a strange change in his heart. Man is such a negligent creature that he even forgets this absolute reality of death which he witnesses now and then. This negligence is indeed horrible. This negligence hardens his Qalb and he gets busy with mundane affairs to such an extent that his Qalb loses all its excellences. The death of some near and dear one reminds him of the short life span of this world life and the everlasting life in the Hereafter. At the same time death makes him to remind the horrifying incidents which he has to experience after death. It makes him to remind that he has to leave his children, wife, parents and other relations who are most dear to him and for whom he is working day in and day out. It makes him remind the luxurious bungalows and all its luxurious decorative things will remain behind and won’t accompany him in the grave. These painful thoughts definitely soften the hardened hearts.
One of the important causes as well as the effect of the negligence is development of distant hopes.
Rasulullah (Sallallahu Alaihi Wasallam) says in a Hadith:
"I fear two things that may overcome you, first—obedience of the desires of Nafs (self) and second—the distant hopes (Tooli-Amal)”. (Mishkat Sharief)
Satan (Shaitân) takes full advantage of this quality of negligence of a man and involves him in distant hopes. The distant hopes mean that a person thinks in his inner thoughts of great ambitious plans which he hopes may get fulfilled in the coming decades, but at the same time forgetting that the present day may be his last day. He enjoys the thoughts of these future plans (in air) least realizing that he is wasting his time and that Satan (Shaitân) and his self (Nafs) are keeping him away from the Reality.
When Imâm Ghazzali (RA) wrote the chapter of "Akhlaaqi-Razeelah — ‘Despicable Morals’" in his famous book “Ihya-ul-Uloom”, he kept this bad quality of distant hopes on number one in the list of human despicable morals. When I read this in the early years of my life, I got surprised to see this at the top of the list and other bad qualities like pride, jealousy, greed, back biting etc below it. I could not understand it at that time, but later on as I gained some experience, I had no words to praise the depth of Ilm (know-ledge), this great man of Islam (Imâm Ghazzali R.A) was having as he has rightly placed this on number one. I could also appreciate by the grace of Allah Ta’ala, that this bad disease of distant hopes ruins a Muslim. A person who gets this disease of distant hopes, is always having false hopes about his future, lives in a fool’s paradise. These distant hopes keep him away from Allah Ta’ala, and from the real life—The Hereafter. He remains busy in materialistic things least realizing that they are not going to last. He gets no time to explore the treasures of the Holy Qur’ân. He boasts of his worldly status, worldly knowledge and worldly gains. He is like a person who constructs a huge beautiful building on a bridge, feels proud of it and takes rest in that building very comfortably. He is satisfied and fell secure in this building. Suddenly a strong wave arises from the river, strikes against the bridge and engulfs it and this man’s false paradise. Then this person realizes that every thing in this world was a nightmare. He wakes up to the realities at a time when it is too late and of no use to him.
Most of us know the story of Shaikh Chilly. He becomes a very rich man in a few minutes and marries a very beautiful lady in his thoughts while carrying a tin of oil on his head (as he was a very poor porter). He gets lost in his thoughts feeling so much joy that he shakes his head in happiness and the tin of oil falls down and collapses and all his hopes are dashed to ground. We laugh at him whenever we narrate this incident, but if we go a little deeper in ourselves with sincerity, most of us will definitely find that we are no different than Shaikh Chilly. We will find out that we too also think like Shaikh Chilly. Then what is the difference? There appears to be no difference. May Allah Ta’ala make all of us to understand this point and cure us of this fatal disease of Tooli Amal. The ultimate result of both these despicable morals i.e., distant hopes and negligence is the cause of the rusting of the Qalb. This rusted Qalb remains blind to the realities revealed in the Qur’ân. The remedy lies in the remembrance of death. A person who remember death cannot think of distant hopes and cannot afford to be negligent of his basic duties which include knowing Allah Ta’ala, His Messenger (Sallallahu Alaihi Wasallam) and understanding of the Qur’ân.
How to remember death
Every night when you go to bed, switch off the lights, close your eyes, when it is absolutely calm in the room, start thinking about death as this -- it may be my last night, I may not get up from my bed tomorrow. What will happen then? My children, wife and parents etc will remain behind. All my property will remain behind. My clothes will be taken off. I will be helpless in the hands of few people who will wash my body. I will wrapped up in a simple white cloth (Kafan). I will then be put in a closed box (Taboot) and buried in the darkness of the grave. The grave will be closed and I will be alone there. Nakeer and Munkar—the two angels) will come and will question me. What will be my fate that time? What will be my fate on the Day of Judgment and so on and so forth.
lnsha-Allah Ta’ala after a few days only one will appreciate the softening of his heart which one needs for understanding the Qur’ân.