Writers' Articles

A Simple Farewell


Each day is about beginnings and endings.  With the soft light of the morning sun filtering through the curtains, we start our day.  Going about this and that here and there, we spend the light of the day until the setting of the sun.  If we take a moment through it all, we might inwardly appreciate the precious nature of a child or the delicacy of a colorful, fragrant flower.  Maybe we even verbalize our gratitude for these blessings.  And with the twinkle of the stars in the sky and the waxing or waning of light on the moon, the day ends.

No matter what the date, each brings life and death.  For certain, if we live, we die.  Some avoid mentioning death.  Some even avoid thinking of it.  But neither is of any benefit.  Only if we contemplate it and accept its reality will we accordingly prepare for it.

Prophet Muhammed, peace and blessings be upon him, best exemplified the essence of these preparations.  Living each moment to the fullest, not in extravagant and excessive means of entertainment or recreation but in the remembrance of his Creator and striving to fulfill his obligations to Allah and His creations.  From his affection for family, friends, and neighbors to his passion for the establishment of social justice, from his emphasis on concern for the environment and animals to fair trade, Prophet Muhammed made each waking moment count toward the completion of his duties as a servant of the Almighty.

One of the most comforting things about the prophet's example is what I realized yesterday as I walked to the masjid to pray the noontime prayer.  A lady hurriedly coming from behind me asked if I was going to the funeral.  Replying that I was unaware of the funeral, she quickly went on trying to make it in time to join the prayer for the deceased.  Upon my arrival staying behind the hundreds of people who had lined up for the funeral, the announcement was made for the congregation to read the first chapter of the Qur'an for the one who had passed away.  Cupping my hands together as if to catch the blessing of the words I was about to recite, I like all those around me softly whispered those precious words so dear to our faith.  As each of us separately finished these beneficial words, the casket was raised from the stone altar outside the masjid where it had rested and placed on the shoulders of the men who desired to bear this burden.  The light from the noon sun shown upon this simple pine box draped in an evergreen cloth with the golden letters of the words "There is no god but Allah, and Muhammed is His servant and messenger" in Arabic down the sides reflecting the light ever so subtly.  The pureness of it all reminded me that this cloth would shortly be removed leaving only the washed body wrapped in white cloths for burial and draped over another coffin in the days to come.

And as the coffin was so gently moved through the crowd, the simple cotton scarf neatly placed across the end where the head of the deceased lay within signified that it was a woman inside.  I was reminded of my own death even more.  Surrounded by wet eyes and restrained sobs, I lowered my gaze and reflected upon death.  My eyes moistened with sadness for all those left behind and with happiness for the woman who had passed in that no one was wailing causing her more suffering and that she had been blessed with this funeral so magnificent in its simplicity and peaceful nature.  In keeping with her prophet's example, she had desired and her family had honored her desire for the fulfillment of the purpose of death, an unpretentious disconnection from this life and passing into the next.

There was no need for décor or extravagant ceremony financially burdening those left behind in their effort to show how much they loved her.  Those who loved her in this life, hopefully, had shown it daily and had now come to pray for her and see her off with the hope that her suffering was over, her questioning by the angels of death was easy, and that she would now rest peacefully viewing Paradise until the Resurrection.  A wonderful peace came over me as I hoped that I too would be soothed in death as it was prescribed by Prophet Muhammed, peace and blessings be upon him for being a mercy to mankind in life and death, by the silence and overwhelmingly beautiful simplicity of such a funeral.

As a native of Texas who converted to Islam at age nineteen, Najla Tammy Ilhan strives to share glimpses of the wisdom she has found in the seventeen years since


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