[FRIDAY SERMON] Death of Arisekola Alao: A Reminder of the Destroyer of Pleasure, By Imam Murtada Gusau
In the name of Allah, Most Gracious, most Merciful
All praise and thanks are due to Allah. We praise and give thanks to Him. We seek His aid and ask for His forgiveness and we seek Allah’s refuge from the evil of ourselves and from our evil actions. Whomsoever Allah guides, none can misguide him, and whomsoever He misguides, no one can guide him. I bear witness that none has the right to be worshipped except Allah alone, who has no partner, and I bear witness that Muhammad is His slave and His Messenger.
In the morning of Wednesday June 18, 2014, Allah (swt) again reclaimed one more of his beloved servants, a renowned businessman and Islamic leader, who died in London at the age of 69 and was buried according to Islamic rites on Friday. Aare Musulumi of Yoruba land, Alhaji Abdulazeez Arisekola-Alao, the Deputy President-General of the Nigerian Supreme Council for Islamic Affairs (NSCIA) was to his family, a devoted husband and loving father. We all knew the Aare Musulumi, not only as a businessman. He was also a much-loved father and respected leader to us all. Surely, the death of Aare Musulumi was very painful and he would be remembered for his humility, kindness and generosity. He was a devout leader. As we mourn him, let his family, people of Oyo state, friends, associates and relatives be comforted by the fact that the Aare Musulumi lived a much fulfilled life. Though Arisekola was dead, his legacies, unprecedented love for his people and compassion should not be forgotten. We are sending our condolence message to his family, the Muslims ummah, people of Oyo state and all Nigerians for this irreparable and irreplaceable loss. Let us pray to Allah (swt), first of all, to give comfort and solace to the Late Aare Musulumi’s family, and to help them quickly to ease their pain, and to overcome their sorrow.
O Allah, shower your mercy and forgiveness on the soul of the late Aare Musulumi of Yoruba land and allow him to enter your garden (Firdausi) Ameen.
Dear Brothers and Sisters,
The topic of this sermon has a very deep spiritual significance. It also has been dealt with numerously in the Qur’an and the sayings of our beloved Prophet (saw). In spite of its importance, most people rarely remember it and if they do, they usually are not willing to reflect upon it because for some people, it causes some inconvenience. Let us follow the guidance of the Qur’an and reflect upon it. This topic is DEATH.
Death is a very well-known fact. It has always been Indisputable. No one has ever doubted death. Although human beings rarely agree on anything, they have never disagreed on their mortality.
Death is mentioned in the Qur’an almost everywhere. The word “Death” and its derivatives “die, dying, dead” are found more than 160 times in the Qur’an. The Qur’an put a lot of emphasis on death. Why is it that the Qur’an is consistently reminding the believers about their own mortality while they already take it for granted?? To understand why we have to take a close look at the verses which mention death in the Qur’an and reflect upon them. Let us explore some of these verses:
“Every soul shall taste death” (al-Imran, 3:185)
The verse is clear and emphatic. The message it conveys to us is: make no mistake about death, it is a forgone conclusion. Every soul shall taste it no matter what. Listen now to full Verse:
“Every soul shall death: and only
On the Day of Judgment shall you be paid your full
Recompense. Only he who is saved from the Fire and
Admitted to the Garden (paradise) will have succeeded. For
The life of this world is but goods of deception” (al-Imran, 3:185)
This verse represents one of the important tenets of Islam which is the fact that there is another life after death. Thus, for us, death is not the end of the world it is just the start of an ever-lasting life. The other fact stated in this verse with no uncertainty is that the true measure of success is not in this life. Success is not having a huge sum of money, or a large family, or a prestigious job, or an Impressive title, or a degree from a respected university, or a big house, or a nice car. All these are nothing but goods of deception. The real success is to be saved from the hell fire and be admitted to paradise. Anything short of this is mere deception. Another verse which conveys a similar meaning says:
“Every soul shall taste death. And we test you by
evil and by good by way of trial. To Us must you
return.” (Al-Anbiyaa, 21:36)
The message is clear; everyone will die and this life is just probation on this earth, our faith will be tested by many things. Some are tested by calamities and some are tested by good things of this life and at the end we will return to Allah so that we are appraised according to our test results.
The whole story of each and every one of us is best summarized in these verses:
“We did create man from a quintessence of clay;
Then We placed him as a drop of sperm in a place of
Rest firmly fixed then we made the sperm into a
Clot of congealed blood; then of that clot we made
A lump; then We made out of the lump bones and
Clothed the bones with flesh then We developed out
of it another creature. So blessed be Allah the
Best to create. After that, you will die. On the
Day of Judgment you will be raised up again.”
This is the history of each one of us: CREATION, LIFE, DEATH, and then RESURRECTION. Se we have to understand that our life on this earth is just a part, actually a very small part of the whole picture. Also, we should not overestimate the value of this tiny fraction compared to our whole existence. There is no escape from death. Allah (swt) says:
“Wherever you are, death will find you out. Even
If you are in towers built up strong and high.”
No matter how long one lives, nothing will save him/her from death. Strong towers won’t save him. Progress of science will never overcome death. Advanced health care systems will never overcome death. Family, friends, money, power, prestige, all are of no avail. Listen to the following verse which describes our helplessness when death comes:
“Why don’t you intervene when the soul of the dying
Man reaches the throat and you sit looking on but
We are nearer to him than you are but you do not
See. Then why don’t you, if you are exempt from
Future account, call back the soul if you are true
in your claim of independence? If the dying man be
of those nearest to Allah, there is for him rest
and satisfaction and a garden of delight. And if
he be of the companions of the right hand, for him
is the salutation ‘peace be unto you from the
Companions of the right hand’ and if he be of those
who treat truth as falsehood, those who go wrong,
for him is entertainment with boiling water, and
burning in hell fire. Verily this is the truth and a
certainty. So celebrate with praises the name of
your Lord, the Supreme.” (Al-Waqi’a, 56:83-96)
One also finds in the Qur’an many verses which admonish believers of their obligations in this life before they die. Allah says:
“O you who believe fear Allah as HE should be
Feared and die not except in the state of Islam”
Allah is commanding us not to die except as Muslims. But we are never sure when death will come to us. Therefore, we have to be Muslims all the time. That is, the message is be Muslim today, tomorrow and forever, be Muslim in faith and in behaviour, be Muslim in private and in public. Be Muslim with others and with your own self, be Muslim when at ease and be Muslim when in hardship. Always be in a state of Islam, in a state of submission to your Allah, so that when Death comes, you will be ready.
The same meaning is very eloquently put in the following Verse:
“O you who believe let not your riches or your
Children divert you from the remembrance of Allah
And whoever does this, the loss is their own. And
Spend in charity out of the substance which we have
Bestowed on you before death should come to any of
You and he would say ‘O my Lord why don’t you give
me a respite for a little while? I should then
Have given largely in charity and I will be one of
the doers of good. But to no soul will Allah grant
Respite when the time appointed for it has come and
Allah is well-acquainted with all that you do.”
This verse is extremely important to us. It states in no uncertain terms that there is no second chance…when death comes, it is over. If you want to do good, do it now before you are dead. If you fail to be a good Muslim in this life, you will be the eternal loser because you will not be granted a second chance. You will not be given some extra time and there are no exemptions. The same meaning is emphasized in another verse:
“When death comes to one of them, he would say ‘O
my Lord sends me back to life in order that I may
work righteousness in the things I neglected.’
No, by no means.” (Al-Muuminun, 23:99-100)
It is the same warning again, Allah is reminding us to watch out: Whatever good you might do, do it now, don’t delay it, and don’t postpone it. If you fail to do good now, it is your mistake. You have already been warned and all the loss will be yours.
There are numerous references to death in the Qur’an. The scenes of death and the scenes of the Day of Judgment are plenty in the Qur’an. They are almost everywhere. Ifwe read the Qur’an every day, which is the Sunnah of the Prophet (saw), then it is very likely that we will read about death every day. If we follow the Qur’anic guidance by reflecting upon everything we read, then we will end up thinking about death every day. We have to ask ourselves why is it that Allah wants us to reflect upon death every day? What is the value for such constant reminder? The fact is remembering death has far-reaching implications in the life of the believer. Remembering death daily can and does transform the whole life of a believer to the better. Death awareness helps the believer to set his/her priorities right.
Imagine a believer who reads the Qur’an every day, who reads and reflect upon death and the Day of Reckoning and then act accordingly. This believer will certainly be more altruistic, less greedy, more careful to the needs of the poor and the needy, more helpful to the weak and the helpless, more giving in charity, more generous because simply this believer asks himself/herself every day the same question: “Will this money I have save me from death?” Will the money deliver me from Hell fire?” “Will greed or saving the money for myself guarantees me the pleasure of my Lord?” Actually, it is quite the opposite. The more you spend for the sake of your Lord, the more you become closer to Him. Death remembrance is the best way to become one of those whom Allah has praised in the Qur’an when He says:
“And those in whose wealth there is a recognized
Right for the needy and the destitute and those who
believe in the truth of the Day of Judgment and
those who fear the displeasure of their Lord. For
Their Lord’s displeasure is one against which there
Is no security.” (Al-Ma’arij, 70:24-28)
Death awareness does create a caring, helpful, generous believer. In short a truly wonderful person. If death awareness is spread among a whole community of believers, that community will be amazing.
Death remembrance also does give the believer a huge spiritual boost. The believer who is always aware of his/her own mortality will always seek refuge with the Almighty. This kind of believer will be very careful not to displease his/her lord and if it happens that he/she does something wrong he/she will be quick to ask for forgiveness. Repentance will become his/her daily practice. Since he/she remembers that death might come to him/her at any time, so he/she will always take precautions by being always repentant.
This mortality awareness will improve the spiritual quality of the believer’s prayers. If in your prayer you remember very well that someday you will be a dead person, then you will truly humble yourself in this prayer. That’s why the Prophet (saw) once advised us that at the start of every prayer we should consider that prayer as our last prayer in this life. Repentance, prayer, humility , self-restraint, patience, charity, fear of Allah, and hope, all of these are the immediate outcomes of death remembrance.
One of the most important ramifications of continuous death remembrance is that it emboldens the believer to struggle, to struggle for the sake of Allah. For the believer who is always aware that he/she will die sooner or later, then he/she will certainly prefer an honourable death to ordinary death and the most honourable death is to die for the cause of the truth, to be a martyr supporting goodness. Listen to how Allah praises those who sacrifices their lives for His sake:
“Allah has purchased of the believers their souls
and their wealth in return for the paradise. They
fight in His cause and kill or get killed. A
Promise binding on him in truth through the Torah,
The Gospel, and the Qur’an and who is more faithful
to his covenant than Allah? Then rejoice in the
deal which you have concluded. That is the supreme
Achievement.” (Al-Tauba, 9:111)
This attitude of continuous death awareness and preferring an honourable death to any other kind of death was the root cause of all the glories of early Islam. Those fearless companions of the Prophet (saw) spread Islam to the shores of the Atlantic and to the borders of China in less than one century. They led the most impressive military campaigns in history and their incentive was very simple. The search for martyrdom is the most honourable death for a Muslim.
Today, it is the fear of death, honourable or otherwise, that is making us by far the most humiliated nation on earth. Last week’s arrest of innocent people from the North in South-east (Abia State) and continuous harassment and molestation of Northerners in the south, in the name of fighting terrorists or Boko Haram is just a reminder of this humiliation. We have to fear Allah and stop this kind of harassment that has the capacity to throw this our great country into dangerous crisis. At the core of all the ills of the Muslim world today lies this simple fact, we Muslims, fear death. Martyrdoms is not as appealing to us as it was to the early Muslims. We are not willing to sacrifice our wealth and our standard of living either.
The evidence to this fact is abundant. Why are we not willing to sacrifice? For the same reason, fear of death. We love life so much; we think we will live forever. We have to understand that fear of poverty and fear of honourable death makes cowards out of men. One of the casualties of our fear of honourable death is that we become afraid of saying the truth. We are now about to enter the month of fasting. This is the truth, but when a Muslim ruler of a Muslim country said that fasting is an obstacle to economic development and it should be abolished, very few objected. When a Muslim ruler or any non-Muslim described the hijab of the Muslim women as a “filthy rag” no one objected. When another Muslim ruler said that hijab was “an Act of Satan” because Eve had no clothes at all, no one objected. When any stupid person or any ignoramus stereotypes Muslims as “Boko Haram” or “terrorist” no one objected. When a Muslim Nigerian governor chase out some Fulanis from his state and drive away some peaceful Darul Islam Muslims living in Mokwa, Niger State, no one objected. Wrong is wrong, no matter who does it or says it. Actually, the only reaction to this particular comment was a wave of applause from the audience who happened to be members of parliament of another Muslim country! Or a useless reaction from some individuals and groups! In Islam, keeping silence when one should protest is a sin, but why is no one protesting? Because life is so dear to Muslims. Muslims assume they will live for too long. The irony is that Muslims countries, by and large, have the lowest life expectancy rates on earth!
To sum it up, I would remind myself and my dear brothers and sisters that death is a reality and we have to always be prepared for it. Please, don’t assume that we will live for too long. We usually think that we will live for too long especially if we are young and healthy. This is not true. Young people die every day and for a variety of reasons.
No one has immunity against death. No one is too healthy to die, or too young to die or too wealthy to die or too powerful to die or too famous to die.
The question that we should always ask ourselves is not whether we are going to die; it is what preparations are we making to die as good Muslims? We should always be ready; we should always struggle to improve ourselves until we become the best persons we can be. We should humble ourselves in our prayers. Read the Qur’an more and reflect upon what we read more. We should help others. We should pay more in charity. We have to get rid of our greed and selfishness. We have to love to others what we love to ourselves. And we have to sacrifice for the sake of Allah by spending from our wealth, our time, and our efforts and if the need arises by our lives, in defence of truth and the people of truth from wherever they come from. We have to remember to repent every day and during and after every prayer.
Finally, the best way to remember death is to read the Qur’an. We have to read Qur’an every day. This is major source of Spiritual power in Islam.
Allah blesses me and you all, ameen.
This khutbah (Friday Sermon) was prepared for delivery today (Juma’ah) Sha’aban 29, 1435 A.H. (June 27, 2014) by Imam Murtada Muhammad Gusau, the chief Imam of Nagazi Jumu’at Mosque, Okene, Kogi State, Nigeria. He can be reached via 08038289761, and firstname.lastname@example.org