Taken from deoband.org
Advices by Hakim al-Umma Mawlana Ashraf ‘Ali Thanawi
Translated by Shaykh Yusuf Laher
[Advice 75] Life after death
Generally people think that when a person dies and he is placed in the qabr (grave), he remains alone in that fearful place and that life there is ‘lifeless’. Friends! This is not so! There is great comfort for a Muslim there.
It is mentioned in the hadith sharif that the arwah (souls) come and meet and welcome him (the newly deceased). Also, relatives and family who passed away before him come and meet him. They ask him questions regarding their relatives (who they think are still living). If this newly deceased answers that so and so has already passed away, they express their grief and say that that person has entered jahannam (hellfire) otherwise he would have definitely met us. The arwah become saddened at that person’s entry into jahannam. Anyway, the arwah meet each other and become happy. People think that after death one will just lie lifeless and useless! La Hawla wa La Quwwata illa Billah!
Behold! Qabr is not merely that hole. The hole is the external and visible form. In reality qabr is the name of ‘alam al-barzakh (the realm of barzakh). There, they meet each other and it is a meeting of the pure.
People get separated in the world. A worker obtains leave and returns home to stay with his family. On completion of his leave he returns to his place of employment and gets separated again. On the other hand, in the realm of barzakh the togetherness and companionship doesn’t come to an end. There is comfort upon comfort there. The problem arises due to people being unaware of the reality of death, resulting in an unwarranted fear, whereas mawt (death) is a bridge by which one meets the Beloved i.e. Allah Most High! What can be better than meeting Allah Most High? For this very reason do the Ahlullah long for death. Ask them regarding the reality of death! A hadith says: Death is a gift unto a believer.
If the ruler of Hyderabad sends a gift to a person, isn’t it a shame if the recipient’s family cries and laments on such an occasion? What I am referring to here is deliberate and intentional grief and not natural and uncontrollable grief which occurs at the time of separation. There is no harm in natural grief. To deliberately bring back memories of sorrow for the purpose of increasing the grief is wrong and evil. In fact a person should rather ponder over the above-mentioned points with the intention of decreasing the grief.
This world compared to the akhira (hereafter) is like the womb of the mother. For as long as the baby remains in the womb, it considers the womb to be everything. Even if the baby is told to leave the narrow confines of the womb and enter the spacious world, it will not believe and will still consider the womb to be everything. Eventually, when the baby does emerge from the womb, it now sees the world and realizes that the womb is insignificant compared to the world. If the baby is told to re-enter the womb it will refuse and never accept to go back. In the same way, this world compared to the akhira is absolutely narrow and confined. When a person departs from this world he will express shukr (gratitude) and never wish to return.
When the time draws near to meet Allah Most High (the time of death), the bounties of the hereafter are revealed to the dying person. If at that time the dying person is offered a life prolonging substance and is told that if you consume this you will live longer, he will angrily reject it and will wish that he dies immediately.
There was a foreign student who was affected by the plague. To pacify him people would tell him not to worry and grieve, for he will be cured. He would say in reply: “Don’t say that, for now I desire to meet Allah Most High and at this very moment I am receiving the following glad tidings from Allah Most High:
تَتَنَزَّلُ عَلَيْهِمُ الْـمَلائِكَةُ ألاّ تَخَافُوْا وَ لاَ تَحْزَنُوْا وَ اَبْشِرُوْا بِالْـجَنَّةِ الَّتِى كُنْتُمْ تُوْعَدُوْنَ
On them angels will descend (at the time of death) (saying): Fear you not, nor grieve! But receive the glad tidings of janna, which you have been promised. (Sura Fussilat)
Another example is when a ruler sends a proposal of ambassadorship to someone. When this person departs from his home his family will be grieved by his separation but he himself will be happy, eager and excited. Even if the ruler tells him that he may delay his departure by a few days, he will not be happy and will wish to depart immediately.
In the same manner, a person is not only informed of the bounties of the hereafter (at the time of death) but also sees it. He will never be pleased to remain in this world even if he is told to do so.
Friends! Desire that which is by Allah. It is because of this desire that the Ahlullah always remain in high spirits, they constantly desire the various boons of the akhira. They are never grieved. In short, death is child’s play for the Ahlullah and they are preoccupied with it.
We should also adopt this attitude and condition. Instead of grief we should experience the desire for death.
An easy way to develop this desire is to ponder over these points I have mentioned. Insha Allah it will be a cure for grief and simultaneously the desire for the akhira will be developed.
So, in the verse:
مَا عِنْدَكم يَنْفَدُ وَ مَا عِنْدَ اللهِ بَاق
Allah has given us this cure.
SubhanAllah! What an amazing cure! Meditate frequently that the pleasures and comforts of the akhira are far more superior and much more than worldly comforts and also that the deceased have reached Allah. Meditate that it is better for the deceased to stay with Allah than to stay with us, for Allah loves him more than we can ever love him.
It is mentioned in a hadith that the love of Allah for His servant is much more than the combined love and affection expressed by animals and mothers towards their offspring.
Although there is a possibility of the deceased receiving punishment in the akhira, why should we think ill of our deceased and believe that they are receiving the punishment meted out to sinners? In accordance with this hadith: “My mercy has overtaken my wrath”, think well of the deceased. For him (the deceased) to receive this mercy make du‘a for him and also isal al-thawab (by giving charity, making tilawa, etc.) and sending the thawab to him. This is more beneficial to the deceased than merely expressing our grief and sadness.