On the Day the sky is like molten brass and the mountains like tufts of colored wool. No good friend will ask about his friend even though they can see each other. An evildoer will wish he could ransom himself from the punishment of that Day, by means of his sons, or his wife or his brother or his family who sheltered him or everyone else on earth, if that only meant that he could save himself.
Surat Al-Ma’arij (70:8-14)
There’s a great fear in my heart tonight. I can feel the tremors of it bristling through my fingertips. Sitting here in this empty home, in the darkness of silence, the fear has me ensnared. I’m not afraid of much in life, but that in itself is probably the most telling. I’ve never been afraid to grab life by its horns and tame it to my liking. What I’m most afraid of is what I cannot tame, what I can’t control – what goes beyond life itself. Maybe it’s my fever, or maybe it’s a sign – but the abject fear of the Day is pulling me into a cold sweat.
Lately I’ve been thinking a lot more about how few days we all have left. They’re finite. Even if I knew when I would die, it would be no large task to count them down. I don’t know what’s more terrifying though – the prospect of certain knowledge of my death or its inherent uncertainty. The uncertainty has been weighing on me and it affects every mundane decision I make in a way it never had before. I don’t know whether I’ll live to wake up tomorrow, or make it through the day. With each passing day, each wasteful hour of my remaining life is shaved off, and I manage to survive only by inches. I spent a lot of my time in my car, only half-seconds away from death with each meter traveled. To be clear, though, it’s not death itself that I’m afraid of. It’s what I leave behind – or lack thereof.
I like to justify my weaknesses and vices by telling myself that I’m a good person. I try to do right by almost everyone I meet. I’m a forgiving person, I try to be honest, I try to be kind, I try to be helpful and gracious. I try not to let my anger get the best of me and I put my ethics and morality ahead of everything. When I die, I’d like to think that I’ll be missed, loved, and respected. Despite that, I have no way of knowing that all of that is enough for my Lord. I have no way of knowing whether I’ve been saved from the Fire and the torments of Judgment Day. I have so many shortcomings – and I live almost exclusively for this material life. Thus far in my life I’ve been a slave to the world more than I’ve been a slave to my Lord.
I’m thinking about what I would do if I knew the world was coming to an end and nothing could save me. I cannot possibly say that I’ve lived a life with no regrets. I’m almost always in a state of open defiance against my Creator. Would I drown in an ocean of my own sweat under the unforgiving sun of the Day? Would I be chastised by those who are kept under the protective shade of God? Would my loved ones run from me, fearful to be associated with my open-faced sins? The fear of being that person is striking me at my very core.
Say: “Shall I inform you of the greatest losers in their actions? People whose efforts in the life of the world are misguided while they suppose that they are doing good.” Those are the people who reject their Lord’s Signs and the meeting with Him. Their actions will come to nothing and, on the Day of Resurrection, We will not assign them any weight.
Surat Al-Kahf (18:103-105)
I don’t want to die having neglected the responsibilities and obligations that have been divinely ordained for me. For some time now, I’ve held to the belief that my parents are my life line. The responsibility to care for them is a blessing God has bestowed upon me, and that I’ll find Paradise at their feet. I don’t want to die without having satisfied them and God. I always think being a parent myself and how important that is for my self-fulfillment. There is no ambition, occupation, or title I desire more than being a father. The thought that I may never have the opportunity scares me. Who will speak for me on the Day of Judgment if not my parents or my children? Who can I claim to have bestowed good works upon in my life if not my parents or my children? I don’t want to stand alone on the Day of Judgment as a pariah. I want children that I will love enough to seek shade for, and a family that I can keep together.
I’m afraid that my inability to address my weaknesses will be my downfall. I’m even more afraid that my constant rationalization of my deviance will be even more damning. I’m frightened that Shaytan has lulled me into a false sense of security – an arrogant belief that I will be forgiven for my remorseless misdeeds. I don’t want to wake up one day, with only a handful of days left to live, and have an inescapable mountain of crimes I have to answer for.
I just came back from a trip to Chicago. On the first Friday, I went to prayers on the infamous South Side of the city. There I attended a masjid in the mold and tradition of Black American Islam built by Malcolm X, Siraj Wahhaj, and Warith Deen Muhammad. There was one particular message that I came away with that the Imam so forcefully and passionately tried to make the congregation understand: Most of us haven’t even fully grasped the most basic, fundamental concept of Islam: la ilaha illa’llah. He explained that the Prophet Muhammad (pbuh) spent almost half his years of prophethood explaining just that one concept to the Arabs. 1400 years later, we’re still struggling to understand and come to grips with it. La ilaha illa’llah, “There is no god but God.” There is nothing in existence that is worthy of worship, devotion, or servitude other than God. This is the underpinning of the entire faith. I’m falling short because I haven’t ‘gotten’ it yet. It hasn’t permeated my life the way it should. I’m still chasing after the things that don’t matter. And I’m afraid that that will be my undoing.
O son of Adam, when you see that your Lord, the Glorified, bestows His Favors on you while you disobey Him, you should fear Him.
Ali ibn Abi Talib