Hardening of the Heart - Chapter 2
Methods of Cure:
The Second Method - the Remembrance of Death
The second way (to soften our hearts) is to remember the Hereafter, to remember our death. The one thing that we are one hundred per cent certain of - even if we have some doubt as to whether there is really a God; even if we wrongly wonder if what we are practising is really the truth when there are so many other people doing so many other things - is that we are going to die.
But our lives are such that we become so occupied with the things of this life that we forget that we are going to die. As Allah said, the gathering of wealth has deluded them to the realities of life and they only come awake when they end up in their graves. [At-Takathur 102: "The mutual rivalry for piling up (the good things of this world) diverts you (from the more serious things), until ye visit the graves. But nay, ye soon shall know the reality."] This is a fearful statement, that we should live lives unconscious of our deaths and thereby be lost in trivialities, things that are really ultimately not going to benefit us in the next life.
Consequently, Prophet Muhammad Sallallahu 'Alayhi wa sallam had said: I used to forbid you from visiting the graves in the early part of Islam. But now I command you to visit them because they serve to remind you of the next life.
["I [once] had forbidden you from visiting graves, [and I now enjoin] you to do so, so that the visit may serve as a beneficial reminder." (related by Muslim and others) ]
[Al-Haakim's version : " for [such visits] soften the heart, bring tears to the eyes, and serve as a reminder of the Hereafter, [but be careful] not to speak forbidden expressions [i.e. while visiting]." (Sahih al-Jaami' 4584)
To go to the graveyard, reflecting on the state of those in the grave (not necessarily of your relatives alone). As the Prophet Sallallahu 'Alayhi wa sallam said, "The grave is either a garden from the gardens of Paradise or a hole from the holes of Hell Fire." There are people in the graves who are calling out for help but there is no one to help. When Munkar and Nakir come and ask them, Who is your Lord? What is your religion? Who was the Prophet that was sent to you? they will be unable to answer!
[Volume 2, Book 23, Number 422: Narrated Anas: The Prophet said, "When a human being is laid in his grave and his companions return and he even hears their foot steps, two angels come to him and make him sit and ask him: What did you use to say about this man, Muhammad? He will say: I testify that he is Allah's slave and His Apostle. Then it will be said to him, 'Look at your place in the Hell-Fire. Allah has given you a place in Paradise instead of it.' " The Prophet added, "The dead person will see both his places. But a non-believer or a hypocrite will say to the angels, 'I do not know, but I used to say what the people used to say! It will be said to him, 'Neither did you know nor did you take the guidance (by reciting the Quran).' Then he will be hit with an iron hammer between his two ears, and he will cry and that cry will be heard by whatever approaches him except human beings and jinns."]
This is not something we can memorise in preparation for the questions, because it is not a matter of not knowing, but that we will be incapable of answering as part of the degradation of that life. We know that the answer is the key for the next life, but we cannot use the key. We don't have access to it because it never entered our hearts in this life. If it did not enter our hearts in this life that Allah is our Lord and that Muhammad is our Prophet and that Islam is our religion, then that knowledge will not benefit us in the next life.
So we are encouraged to visit the graves and on that basis, this is not unique to men, for the benefits that come from visiting he graves is not unique to men. This is why some scholars argue that visiting the graves is not prohibited to women, but that it is the frequent visits that are prohibited, due to the sensitivity of their nature. Hence not regular visits, but to go from time to time, as they need the reminder just as men need the reminder.
Allah describes those, in the Quran, who when they reflect on the Hereafter, are affected. It affects them in the nights. They slept little in the night and in the hours before dawn, they were found seeking Allah's forgiveness. They wake up in the night with the remembrance of the life to come the trials of the grave and the Judgement to come. These lead them to get up from their beds at a time when sleep is so sweet.
Brothers and sisters! Let us reflect on that life to come. Let us reflect on the process after death; the process in dying itself - how the souls are taken from the bodies of believers, as the Prophet Sallallahu 'Alayhi wa sallam said, "like water dropping from the spout of a bucket; but for the disbelievers, "like silk being drawn over thorns", tearing away. That soul that fears Allah is taken in the next life up into the Heavens and the angels of the Heavens will praise it. It will return to that body and a Garden from Paradise will be opened up to it and it will lie in that state till Resurrection. But for those whose hearts have hardened towards the remembrance of Allah, the soul will be barred entrance into the Heavens. It will be thrown back into the body. Their evil deeds will come before them as a horrible creature and they will suffer torments. A widow from Hell will be open and the heat will be over them until Resurrection.
And what happens on the Resurrection, when we stand before Allah and answer for each and every deed that we have done, when nothing escapes Allah, when the things that we have in this life will be of no benefit to us. The only thing that will benefit us is to stand before Allah with a healthy heart.