We try not to think about death and dying, but in reality thinking about death softens the heart towards the worship of Allah Azza wa Jall. It is the most efficient way of relieving anxiety. It is also the most efficient method of overcoming laziness. It is also a potent antidepressant.
Al-Qurtubi quotes in his book at-Tadhkirah, that al-Daqqaq stated: He who enormously remembers death attains three things: accelerated repentence, inner contentment, and effective worship, and he who forgets it gets three penalties: procrastinated repentence, neediness due to discontentment and sluggish worship.
Benefits of Remembering Death:
Softening of the Heart and Increase in Iman
The Messenger of Allah (ﷺ) said: ‘Frequently remember the destroyer of pleasures,’ meaning death. [Ibn Majah]
The things that distract the heart from the remembrance of Allah are worldly pleasures – food and drink, movies and parties, earning and hoarding money. Remembering death brings home to us the urgency of this life. We don’t really have much time – soon we’ll be in the other side of the barrier separating this world from the eternal abode, and then we’ll be asked what we did with our life.
Reliance on Allah
Al-Qurtubi said: ‘Man always fluctuates between happiness and sadness…. And if he is in a state of happiness and abundance, remembering death protects him from rolling in the pleasure of life and counting on it as he knows he will part with it.’
By remembering death, we become aware that nothing is permanent. The person we’re depending on isn’t going to live forever. The marriage we’re looking forward to, we might die before it even takes place.
Everyone upon the earth will perish, And there will remain the Face of your Lord, Owner of Majesty and Honor. [55:26-27]
Cure of (Worldly) Anxiety
We don’t know how much sand is left in the hourglass of our life. We don’t know if we’ll live for another few decades, or if we’ll never see the light of tomorrow. The only thing that is real, that is guaranteed, that is in our control, is the present.
Whoever among you wakes up in the morning secured in his dwelling, healthy in his body, having his food for the day,then it is as if the world has been gathered for him. [Tirmidhi]
Cure for Laziness
The Prophet said: ‘The most prudent believers are those who remember death often, and get ready for their afterlife. Those are the sagest.’ [ibn Majah]
Being lazy means that we’re depending on tomorrow. We’re sure that we’ll live until next week, and that’s why we put things off. Remembering death
Wherever you may be, death will overtake you, even if you should be within towers of lofty construction. [4:78]
Indeed, the death from which you flee – indeed, it will meet you. Then you will be returned to the Knower of the unseen and the witnessed, and He will inform you about what you used to do. [62:8]
Al-Qurtubi said, ‘Man always fluctuates between happiness and sadness. So, if he is in distress, remembering death alleviates his pain because it is harder than any other misery.’
There are more reasons why remembering death can alleviate depression. According to CBT theory, the main cause of depression is negative automatic thoughts – about yourself, about others (the world) and about future.
- Self: Are you angry with yourself because you didn’t get the job, or you didn’t pass in your exam, or you weren’t good enough for the person you proposed for marriage?
If we remember death often, these matters will seem petty, and it will seem laughable that anyone can actually be worried about them, when such a huge calamity is already on its way towards us, coming towards us with speed, closer and closer every second.
- Others: If others are giving us pain, remembering death will ease our pain. We’ll begin to see that these people, and these pains, they are not permanent. They are very temporary – they will all die very soon. So why bother?
- Future: If the worldly future seems bleak, why even think about it? Why let ourselves wallow about something which might not even exist? Soon it’ll all be over, and then we’ll move towards our real future, we’ll go back to our Lord, the Most Merciful.
‘So, brother, think of death and its horrors. Think of its agonies and pains. How truthful the promise of death is! How a fair adjudicator it is! It causes tears to drop and eyes to soar. It separates groups; ends pleasures and blows wishes. So, have you, descendant of Adam, thought of the day of your death? Have you considered how you will move from the wide earth to the constricted grave, after being betrayed by your friends and deserted by your brothers? Have you thought of the day you will be deprived of your bed and coverlets to lie naked under the sand? O you who collect money and strive to develop your property, I swear by Allah you will own no more than a coffin. Your money will perish and your body will turn to dust. Where then will the money you have collected go?’ [al-Qurtubi]