Wednesday, December 16, 2009

Excerpt: On the Remembrance of Death, and an Encouragement to Remember it Abundantly

Know that the heart of the man who is engrossed in this world
and is given over to its vanities and harbours love for its appetites
must certainly be neglectful of the remembrance of death.
Thus falling to recall it,
when reminded of it he finds it odious and shies away.
Such are the people of whom God has said:
Say: Lo! the death from which ye shrink will surely meet you,
and afterward ye will be returned unto
the Knower of the Invisible and the Visible,
and He will tell you what ye used to do.
’Now, men may be either engrossed [in the world],
penitent beginners, or arrived gnostics.
The man engrossed does not remember death,
or, if he does, it is with regret for his world,
and he busies himself with disparaging death.
The remembrance of death increases
such a one in nothing but distance from God.
The penitent man recalls death frequently,
so that fear and apprehension might thereby
proceed from his heart, making his repentance complete.
It may be that he is in fear of death lest it carry him off
before his repentance is complete
and before his provisions for the journey are replenished;
lie is excusable in his aversion to death,
and is riot included
in the saying of the Prophet (may God bless him and grant him peace): ‘Whosoever would abhor meeting with God,
God abhors meeting with him’.
Such a man does not abhor death and meeting God,
but only fears the meeting with God passing him
by as a result of his deficiency and remissness.
He is like the man who is made late for a meeting
with his beloved by busying himself with preparations
for the encounter in a way that will find approval:
he is not deemed to be reluctant about the meeting!
The distinguishing mark of thepenitent man
is his constant preparation for this matter
and his lack of any other concern.
Were he to be otherwise he would associate
with the man engrossed in the world.
As for the gnostic, he remembers death constantly,
because for him it is the tryst with his Beloved,
and a lover never forgets the appointed time
for meeting the one he loves.
Usually such a man considers death slow in coming
and is happy upon its advent, that he might have done
with the abode of sinners and be borne away
into the presence of the Lord of the Worlds.
’ Such was the case with Hudhayfa,
of whom it is related that when death came he said,
‘A dear friend has come at a time of poverty.
Whoever repents [at such a moment as this] shall not succeed.
O Lord God! Should You know that poverty
is dearer to me than wealth,
and sickness more beloved to me than health,
and death more dear to me than life,
then make my death easy for me until I meet You.’

AL-GHAZALI - The Remembrance of Death and the AfterLife

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