Facing Death – Two Contrasting Experiences by Brother Musa Islam

Bismillāhi Raḥmānir Raḥīm

Brother Musa is an English revert who is currently undergoing treatment for cancer. The following article are his reflections from recent hospital visits where he witnessed those suffering from terminal illnesses.

My recent hospital visit was possibly the worst one I have ever had because in the past I was always in wards where people are going to get better. This time I found myself in a ward where the patients had illnesses that were incurable and which proved to be a profound experience for me. I was with three other gentlemen, two of whom appeared as having no religious background and the other one I couldn’t figure out, who was in the bed opposite to me.

Scared to die

The patient opposite me was only in his mid-forties and had received treatment for many months. He was trying to hold on to life; he did not want to die. He was absolutely terrified of the thought of passing away. He was in so much pain that blood was coming out of every opening in his body. He wasn’t able to eat anything apart from custard and yogurt because the doctors had informed him that if he were to eat anything else, even a light solid like bread, such food would be enough to rip his fragile internal organs and he would die very quickly. Even putting a needle in his arm was unbearable for him because he’d had so much chemotherapy, so he would scream and cry whenever it happened. It was not easy watching this but the worst was that I just couldn’t help him. I just laid there in my bed and I prayed and cried witnessing his treatment. To my relief, towards the end of my visit he came to terms with his situation. He was on the telephone to his sister and was saying that it was time for him to stop the treatment.

Reluctance to Accept the Imminent

The other two gentlemen that were in the room, having heard this patient’s final decision, started to open up and share their situations and experiences. One of them had been in the hospital since June 2020 and had only spent five non-consecutive days away from the hospital. He had been having treatment throughout his life. He just kept saying to me, ‘when you are dead, you are dead, there is nothing more!’ So I tried to explain to him that there was so much more, there was an afterlife; his only belief was that there was only the heaven or hell. He thought the moment he passed away he would either be in hell and be burning for the rest of the time or one could end up in heaven. He had no idea that he would have to account for his actions. He was fighting death. He was really scared; it was a real fear he had of passing away. He said that the only thing that he had been taught by the Christian Church was that if he believed in Jesus (peace be upon him), then his sins would be forgiven. But he didn’t know any more than that.

The other gentleman who was on my right, had much the same attitude. He was terrified of death. He had just found out that he had an incurable cancer and he had nothing to hold onto whatsoever. It was the way that these last two gentlemen had punished themselves by putting themselves through so much pain with their treatments to avoid death, even though they knew there wasn’t going to be a cure at the end of it, which struck me.

Declaring Being a Muslim

A little while later, one of the sister nurses came round to get some details from me. She asked me what my religion was. I said ‘Islām’ and she was very surprised. She asked me why and I explained to her. I started talking about the Qur’ān and how it was an unaltered book and how it had never been changed. I explained to her about the facts that are in there that couldn’t have been known at that time, e.g., how a woman conceives a child and other things that we know as Muslims. There are signs in there for people and if you read them, you would fully understand them. I also explained to her the misconceptions of Islam. We had quite a good chat and I made sure my voice was audible.

Following this, the other two gentlemen started to ask me about Islam and I was able to explain more. I explained about the Qur’ān and about the beliefs and scientific facts in it. The way I put it forward to them, they could agree with the Islamic faith. I said to them that the Qur’ān in many ways is an instruction book on life. I explained how this sacred book tells the human how to lead his life and how to get the best out of it, and how to conduct oneself in this life to achieve success in the Hereafter.  Alḥamdulillāh, I noticed that after sharing my experiences, relief and calmness set in our ward and tranquillity came down. I knew that sharing my faith experiences had made a difference to dispel the previously tense and depressing atmosphere we had all been immersed in.  

A beloved Muslim brother’s everlasting departure  

My previous visit to a hospital was in Kettering’s General Hospital. One of my dear Muslim brothers who lived in Rothwell and who I was very close to, was admitted to hospital with Covid a week before me. We were able to text each other for quite a number of days and even managed to talk, even though he was on and off oxygen. Eventually I left the hospital and a few days later the doctors said that the Covid was so bad that they he had to be put on breathing equipment, as they were giving him 100% oxygen and only 60% oxygen was going into his blood. Sadly, his brain and other organs were slowly failing and then he passed away. However, prior to this when we had spoken whilst in hospital, he had expressed no fear. He had other health conditions and I think he knew that he was not going to go home, but he was grateful to Allāh Ta`ālā, even in those conditions and accepting of what was destined for him. When he learnt he was going on the breathing equipment, he was very calm about it because he had always followed Islam from morning to evening. He was very strong with his beliefs. His reaction was so different, so smooth and peaceful. The difference in the two experiences I had witnessed were incredible.

Wake up to the reality of this worldly life

I want all of my brothers and sisters that were born into Islam and anybody that might be accepting Islam to realise what a gift it is; the gift is that you have this knowledge that this dunyā (worldly life) is not permanent and that it will end. You can’t buy enough; you can’t buy health; you can’t buy possessions or land that you can keep forever; you just need to use your time wisely and above all – always hold on to Islām.

People think that they are strong and that, ‘O well I can leave it till I get old, I can do this and do that’ but it will be too late then. Every morning you have to wake up and think about Islam and you have to concentrate in your ṣalāh, you have to be in it. You will regret it if you get to a situation like my situation and then try to repent and catch up with things you have missed. You know you are going to have a big regret if you don’t make efforts to get close to Allāh Ta`ālā. You are going to feel, ‘I wish I had followed Islam every day, I wish I had built my relationship with Allāh Ta`ālā.’ Therefore, I humbly think this is a really important message that I wish to share with Muslims from all walks of life: to make the most of their lives whilst they have time in their hands. 

Remembering death

I know that Shaykh Saleem Dhorat often writes about the need to value time and preparing oneself for death and gives lectures about these topics, but we need to understand these topics are a reality. It is not something you read and think, ‘O well, that was an interesting story.’ It’s a reality. When you see people that are frightened of dying, you are so relieved that you have Islam. You are so relieved that you have accepted Islam, and it is terrifying to see those who don’t have this blessing and they are being let down because people are not talking enough about death. They are not taught enough about death and being prepared to face it.   

Death will come at any time. You can have a heart attack. You can become seriously ill after two or three hours with a bleeding in your brain and know that you are passing away. However, if you’ve got the security of Islam then you will have nothing to worry about. Therefore, we really need to remind people of it more than ever.

The experience that I had of being in the ward with people that were that frightened of death because they had no religion, actually has been very difficult for me, even after coming home. The vivid memory of their fear was so much that I could touch it, I could put my hand and feel it in the air. I am so grateful to Allāh Ta`ālā that only when I started talking about Islam, the agonising fear of death calmed down and the mood got better.

I have benefitted from many of the Shaykh’s lectures and publications and his teachings have helped immensely to understand various aspects of my life and how to handle them better. Shaykh Saleem Dhorat has such a gift that his simple and clear-cut teachings reach the heart and bring a person closer to Allāh Ta`ālā. Being at home once again alḥamdulillāh, one particular leaflet which I found helpful to me these days is entitled ‘What to Do at the Time of Adversity’ (downloadable from www.at-tazkiyah.com website).

Concluding thoughts

Unfortunately, there are so many people out there that are living their lives in oblivion. They spend their time working and buying things, not thinking about the afterlife, not thinking about any other reason for living. They think that this world and everything within it happens just by accident. When it comes to death, when it comes to the last days of their lives, when they are suffering from an illness, when they are suffering from something, what a loss they experience! They feel so incredibly lost.

I can see why Nabī Muḥammad (ṣallallāhu `alayhi wa sallam) was so dedicated and frightened for us, as he had the reality of death and he wanted to save us, and in this case this knowledge would have helped the situation that patients in the ward were in; it was as if they were already in the fire of Jahannam (hell) because they were living it, they were living it here in this very world and they were going to live this suffering up until the last moment they passed away.  It was a fear that shouldn’t be there if a person is taught beforehand to be well prepared for it.

If this message just helps one person, or it helps the young people who were born into Islam, who know that it is important but they turn away because they get corrupted by everything else that is going on, then alḥamdulillāh. Young people, please remember that you have such a gift; you have been given such a great gift and you need to hold onto it every day because it is inevitable that this day will come.

I find myself doing my ṣalāh and I cry at times and at times I am really happy as alḥamdulillāh I feel the warmth of Islām around me. But knowing how much those men were lost and how many other people are lost out there, is why I feel and pray these thoughts convey an important message. It is clear to me now why Nabī Muḥammad (ṣallallāhu `alayhi wa sallam) was willing to lose everything in his life just to get across to us the importance of Islām. May Allāh Ta`ālā make us value it. Āmīn.   

Note: May Allāh Ta`ālā accept Brother Musa as a means to spread Islām, including amongst his loved ones. May Allāh Ta`ālā grant him good health and ‘āfiyah (safety) in this world, closeness to the Almighty Creator, success in the Hereafter and a very high status in Jannah. Āmīn.  For the benefit of those interested readers, Brother Musa’s story of how he accepted Islām was published in 2019 (Vol. 28 Issue 5/6).

© Riyāḍul Jannah