Death and the Temporary World
Do I fear death? Do I fear that my loved ones will leave me, one day, through death or by other means? Does my love cause me to cling ferociously to them, not letting them out of my sight, afraid that something may happen to them once I lose sight of them?
Do I fear the loss of my possessions and wealth, clinging tightly to it, finding ways and means to attain more such that in the event that I lose some, I have something to fall back upon? Is that why I rack my brains so hard to find ways to earn, to save, and work from day to night to accumulate the power of the little wad of paper called money?
Everything in this world is transient, temporary. What is the meaning of attaining all these, to lose it all in the event of my own death? What have I gained from all of these, when none of these follow me to my grave?
Our personal world is a page and our life is a pen; many things that are written with it pass to the page of our actions. When we begin to hold so much love for our world, we forget that it is fleeting and unstable, and although we do know that eventually everything is lost at the end, our emotions do not react as such, choosing to embrace the temporary, material things and people with a love so intense and undying that it becomes a form of torment when they finally leave us in the end, one way or the other. We pity those who have lost- forgetting that they were blessed with the opportunity to experience and cope with the beauty of transience- that valuable reminder that grounds them to the realities of life in this world.
Do we forget the signs everywhere, where seeds die to give life to shoots, and where fruits and animals die to give life to humans? Do we forget the elderly and the sick, who in their old age and illnesses beheld much suffering and their death was a blessing and freed them from their duties and burdens of life?
Just as life comes into the world through an act of creation and is appointed and determined, so departure from the world is created and determined, and is planned wisely and purposively…
If the death of plant life, the lowest level of life, is created, wise, and ordered in that way, the death that befalls human life, the highest level of life, must be the same. Similarly, as a seed sown in the ground becomes a tree in the world of the air, so a man who is laid in the earth will surely produce the shoots of an everlasting life in the Intermediate Realm.
– Risale i Nur, Letters (First Letter)
The only thing that remains is what we choose to write on our page of life which translates to our actions. Do we, in our blindness, hold a permanent, passionate love for this world, devoting our entire lifetime to serving and worshipping the material and transient things that eventually leave us? Or do we choose to adopt another type of love which is transient but far more empowering- compassionately loving these material things in a way that help us to remember the One whom all things originated from, and as such, remain ultimately thankful instead of drowning ourselves in sorrow over their eventual disappearance from our lives?
Those who forget God; and he made them forget their own selves. Such are the rebellious transgressors.
– Quran 59:19
* More about Risale i Nur:
The Risale-i Nur Collection is a tafsir (Islamic exegesis) on the Qur’an written by Bediuzzaman Said Nursi between the 1910s and 1950s in Turkey. The commentary does not keep to the order of the ayah as is done in classic Islamic exegesis, as it makes comments on their meanings. It is rather a thematic tafsir which deals with the doubts surrounding the basic doctrines and principles of Islam, and proves and explains the truths of faith in conformity with modern science through rational proofs and evidence.