One of my cousins, 27 years old, has been detected with a ‘terminal’ disease. Prior to the detection, he was a very juvenile boy BUT essentially an ‘existentialist’, i.e. didn’t care whether there is God or not and if there is one that has no relevance with his day to day existence. He didn’t live a carnal life but also a life that has not been directed in the Holy Quran.
Now, with the detection of the decease, it is said that he may live up to a few years (Doctor says: may be two or may even be twenty) more with proper treatment and life-style. As it was detected, for the first time in his ‘conscious’ life he felt helpless within his own capacity. He directly submitted to Allah and started saying Naamaz and praying to Allah not for extension of life but for mercy from the Gunah he committed and a healthy life as long has he lives. Initially though he submitted to Allah without any reading or exploration, later he studied and his faith grew stronger.
My question is:
I can’t remember where I’ve read that Farao who chased Moses (pbuh) and died drowning in the river Nile was not granted mercy due to the fact that he submitted to Allah when death was on his shoulder. Thus when my cousin submits to God he knows that death is knocking at the door. Does the fact that he submitted to Allah when he came to know that he is on the verge of death makes his submission makes weak?
He submitted to Allah as he was ‘helpless’ within his own capacity in front of the disaster. He didn’t submit to Allah when he was ‘Free’ and not facing any danger. Does this fact makes his submission weak?
It seems to me that he is praying regularly for his own death being afraid of the suffering he may face. He thinks he would have committed suiside had it not been ‘haram’ in Islam. Could you please explain the scenario in the light of Islam?
He believes that he has committed endless ‘Gunah’ and Allah is not going to forgive him as it is too late for him to ask for mercy. I would appreciate your thought on it.
Your response shall be highly appreciated.
Your answers follow:
The story of the Pharaoh that you are referring to is in 10:90-91. First please note that in terms of being sinful and misguided, your cousin is nowhere near the referred Pharaoh. The referred Pharaoh was a tyrant ruler who used to see himself as God and was oppressing a nation. This is far different from a 27-year-old young man who is (as you described) juvenile and not quite observant of religion.
However, from a more general respect, what you are referring to is when some one repents just before death, when there is no time remaining for one.
The Qur’an says:
And repentance is not for those who go on doing evil deeds, until when death comes to one of them, he says: Surely now I repent; nor (for) those who die while they are unbelievers …. – Al Nisa‘ 4:18
The above verse says that repentance is not acceptable from two persons: a person who repents when his death comes and a person who repents after death. There is a common feature between these two conditions and that is in none of them the person who intends to repent has an opportunity to live any further. This is a key issue here. Life is a test and no repentance is completed unless the person who repents proves that he has really changed and will not repeat what he has repented from. This is why “making up the sins” is often mentioned as one of the conditions of repentance in the Qur’an. It is obvious that one whose death has arrived or one who has passed away will have no opportunity to make up their sins and pass God’s test. This seems to be the reason that repentance on these occasions is not acceptable.
What follows from the above is that if a person has time to prove that he will sincerely try to not repeat the sin and start making up for his sins, then the door of repentance is always open to him.
You said doctors say he might live up to anything between 2 to 20 years. My dear brother, how different is this with what we know about our own moment of death? Your cousin and I both know that we will die. Your cousin thinks his death can arrive anywhere between 2 to 20 years and I think my death can arrive any where between right now to 20 or 30 or so years. I cannot see that much of a difference, except that I might expect to live a bit more than your cousin based on rules of nature; an expectation that we all know is in no way guaranteed to be met. We both have time to pass God’s test and prove that we can be a better person therefore there is opportunity for both of us to repent.
It is, of course, much better to submit to God while being in our free and safe state rather than submitting to him when being helpless. This however does not mean that the submission itself is not accepted by God. This only points out a general weak attitude in many people that the Qur’an too has referred:
And when We show favour to man, he turns aside and withdraws himself; and when evil (ill) touches him, he makes lengthy supplications. – Ha Meem 41:51
We do not have any indications from the Qur’an that if someone sincerely submits to God because of being helpless this submission is not accepted. Instead we have:
Or, Who answers the distressed one when he calls upon Him and removes the suffering … –Al Naml 27:62
The main point is submission itself rather than what led to submission.
No Muslim should pray for his death, no matter what. Life is a gift from God, even if for some reasons it is a painful life. We pray for your cousin to have a long and healthy life; however, if God wants him to suffer from pain, firstly this in itself is a test from God. Second, according to many Ahadith narrated from the Prophet, suffering from pain during life can be a path through which one’s sins are washed away. Looking at it from this perspective, one should in fact be thankful to God if one is suffering from pain.
Please refer to the above. All that can be added is that the mercy of God is beyond our imagination. God has said in the Qur’an, with the most beautiful expression that his servants should not lose hope in his forgiveness.
O my servants! who have acted extravagantly against their own souls, do not despair of the mercy of Allah; surely Allah forgives the faults altogether; surely He is the Forgiving the Merciful. And return to your Lord and submit to Him before there comes to you the punishment, then you shall not be helped. – Al Zumar 39:53-54
In fact becoming disappointed from God’s forgiveness itself can be a sin.
As I have explained, there is no real difference between the situation of your cousin and the situation of other people. All that has happened is that the disease of your cousin has made him realise the inevitability of death and that it is closer than what he used to think. I can only wish that all of us could reach this realisation and I suggest that we all should see this as illustration of what is also happening to us. Unfortunately, we do not always a conscious realization of this fact, as your cousin has.
Our prayers are with your cousin and we request that he keeps us in his.
March 18, 2006