Hope in difficult times: A temporary parting

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The following is adapted from these lectures by Sheikh Omar Suleiman (Reuniting with your loved ones after death) and (Death of a loved one):

When a loved one passes away, one of the hardest things to deal with is the emptiness we feel – that feeling of having to physically live without them, of not hearing their voice again, of not being able to give them a hug again, of not being able to meet them and talk to them or touch them.

But one of the greatest comforts that Islam gives us is that this parting is inshaAllah a temporary parting. That if they are righteous and we are righteous, Allah (swt) will reunite us with them one day.

The Prophet Muhammad (ﷺ) spoke about this reunion in an authentic narration by Abu Hurayrah (رضى اللهُ عنه) recorded in Sunan an-Nasai when mentioning the passing away of a believing soul:

“Then the souls of the believers come to him and they rejoice more over him than any one of you rejoices when his absent loved one comes to him. They ask him: ‘What happened to so-and-so, what happened to so-and-so?’”

How beautiful is this description? Imagine meeting a relative or a friend you haven’t met for the longest time. Someone you love and are really close to, who has been away for ten or twenty years and you go to receive them at the airport. How excited would you be? How warm of a welcome would you give them? How big of a hug would you embrace them in? How much would you prepare for them at home? How much would you look forward to this meeting?

The Prophet (ﷺ) tells us that the believing souls that have already passed away are more overjoyed to receive the believer’s soul than any of the joy we would feel when receiving a loved one we have been away from for a long time in this dunya. And they ask him/her about the others in the dunya.

Imagine having the loved ones you have lost receiving you in the next life. The father, the mother, the sibling, the spouse, the child, the uncle or aunt you missed so deeply. The parting was only temporary inshaAllah. In Islam, nothing is ever truly “lost”.

If we had to face the grief of losing a loved one in a void, without the hope that Islam gives us of seeing them again, how hard would that be? Islam gives us hope. The Sunnah gives us hope. That inshaAllah if we are righteous and if our loved ones are righteous, there is a chance we will see them when we pass away. And that inshaAllah they are in a much better place. Surely, Allah has the final call about a person’s fate, but we have hope.

Abdullah ibn Abbas (رضى اللهُ عنه) was given this advice by a Bedouin at the time of the death of his father Al-Abbas (رضى اللهُ عنه). He said to him: “The reward that you will have for the patience that you are showing at the time of his death is better for you than Al-Abbas. And Allah is better for Al-Abbas than you.”

Islam also teaches us that we can contribute to the comfort and success of our loved ones in the next life by acts recommended in the Sunnah: things like Sadaqa-jariya or continuous charity, making dua for them, and spreading beneficial knowledge for them. So that is one of the best ways to condolence ourselves or comfort ourselves by channeling our feelings of missing them towards doing something positive to benefit them in the hereafter.

Islam also promises us that we will meet the children we have lost in the next life and that they will be waiting for their parents at the doors of Jannah.

“Abu Hassaan said: ‘I said to Abu Hurayrah (رضى اللهُ عنه): Two of my sons have died. Can you narrate to me any hadith from the Messenger of Allah (ﷺ) which will console us for our loss? He said: Yes: Their little ones are the little ones (da’aamees) of Paradise. When one of them meets his father – or his parents – he takes hold of his garment – or his hand – as I am taking told of the hem of your garment, and he does not let go until Allah admits him and his father to Paradise’.” (Sahih Muslim)

Reuniting with their loved ones

When the Prophet (ﷺ) was dying the last verse of the Quran that he recited according to Ayesha (رضى الله عنها) was verse 69 of Surah An-Nisa.

He was asking Allah: “(Join me) with those who have earned your favor, with the Prophets, with the martyrs, with those who are truthful, and what a blessed company that is.” (Surah An-Nisa: 60)

When he was leaving this world, the Prophet (ﷺ) wanted to be with those whom he loved, those who had passed before him.

And after the Prophet (ﷺ) passed away, the desire of every companion thereafter was to be with him.

Fatima (رضى الله عنها) was told by Prophet Muhammad (ﷺ) you will be the first of my family to join me (Bukhari). She passed away four to six months after his death. She is joined with her father.

When Bilal (رضى اللهُ عنه) was passing away, his wife came in the room as he was dying and she said: “What a day of grief this is! What a day of horrible fortune this is!” He said: “No. Say what a day of joy! Tomorrow I get to meet my beloved ones Muhammad (ﷺ) and his companions. I get to go back to Rasulallah (ﷺ). I get to go back to the companions. The believing souls are waiting for me.”

When Uthman (رضى اللهُ عنه) was placed under siege in his house, he was fasting. And on the last day he saw a dream of the Prophet (ﷺ). And the Prophet (ﷺ) said: “O Uthman! Have they stopped you from drinking water?” He said: “Yes! O Messenger of Allah!”

He said: “Have they stopped you from eating?”. He said: “Yes! O Messenger of Allah!”

He said: “Have they stopped you from praying in my masjid?” He said:

Yes O Messenger of Allah!”

The Prophet (ﷺ) said: “Don’t worry Uthman (رضى اللهُ عنه). Tonight you will break your fast with me, Abu Bakr (رضى اللهُ عنه) and Umar (رضى اللهُ عنه). Your fast tonight will break with us. You will eat with us tonight. Not with the people of this world.”

When Abu Bakr (رضى اللهُ عنه) was dying, it was a Monday. He said to Ayesha (رضى الله عنها) as he was dying: “What’s today?” She said: “Monday.” He said: “What day did the Prophet (ﷺ) die?”

She said: “Monday.”

Abu Bakr (رضى اللهُ عنه) said: “Look, if I am dying, don’t try to resuscitate me and don’t wait to bury me till tomorrow. I want to go today.” He said: “Because the most beloved of nights and days to me are the ones closest to the Prophet (ﷺ).”

He said: “How old was the Prophet (ﷺ) when he died?”

She said: “63”

Abu Bakr (رضى اللهُ عنه) said: “How old am I?”

She said: “63”

He said: “Alhamdulillah.”

He said: “And what was the Prophet (ﷺ) wearing when he passed away?”

She said: “Three cloths. Two of them were from his ihram in Hajjatul wida and an extra cloth.”

He said: “Bring me my two garments from Hajj and an extra cloth and shroud me in them.”

He knew he was going back to the Prophet (ﷺ).

And these are the words of Sheikh Omar Suleiman in this lecture. I wanted to share them exactly as they were said because of how profound and beautiful they are:

“And dear brothers and sisters, that is one of the greatest things to look forward to, that tonight, or whenever Allah (swt) has decreed death for us – be it tonight, or tomorrow, or the day after tomorrow or twenty, thirty years from now, that the Prophet (ﷺ) might receive us, that some of the believing souls will be waiting for us. Those that we love and that we lost, they will say: Welcome to this realm, welcome to your new life. And that’s one of the greatest comforts Allah (swt) gives to us and that’s one of the things to ask Allah for.

I ask Allah (swt) that we live a life that is pleasing to Him, that we are able to overcome any obstacles and any tests that come our way. That Allah (swt) allows us to face our grief with patience. That Allah (swt) allows us to overcome our pleasures with the greater pleasure of pleasing him. That Allah (swt) allows us to be grateful in times of ease. That Allah (swt) allows us to live a consistent life of ihsan, of excellence. And that when we pass away, that the first person amongst the believing souls to receive us is Rasoolallah (ﷺ). And that we are able to break our fast with him and that we are able to drink from his hand. And that we are able to be joined with our parents and our spouses and our children and our mashaikh and our ulema and all of the people that we love. We ask Allah (swt) to join us with them in the realm of believing souls and ultimately in Jannatul Firdous. Allahuma Amin.”

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