I just got news that the mother of a childhood friend of mine, a woman i knew as a loving aunt back in my school years, passed away. The whatasapp announcement in the friend’s group started..”guys..terrible news..” and it was followed by responses of “i am so sorry..”, “holy shit”, “terrible news”..” i am so sad..” “i dont know what to say,” “may she rest in peace” (whatever that means!). In the face of her sudden death, there is grief and shock and customary references to her soul and expressions of a wish for her to be in peace (even as she is seen to have died). In these moments, the emptiness and therefore presumptuousness of references to the soul being in peace somewhere come to the fore. Of course, that she was and is a soul who always was and still is in the hands of Her Lord is a truth and not presumptuousness but it is presumptuous if it is not what i witnessed when she was alive. To speak of soul and God and that angels came to take her soul, at her Lord’s command, and took it back to Him, with whom she is now and on whose mercy and compassion and justice she is utterly dependent now as she always was, is empty, escapist, consolatory bullshit that only a tone-deaf, insensitive, presumptuous, self-righteous person would dare bring up in a whatsapp group where his son (my friend) and his friends are only expected to be grieve at the cruelty of life and say no more.
So two things came to me:
- it is indeed presumptuous to say things that can “feel good”, to someone in their state of grief, that they did not witness when they were not in that state of grief. If i do not witness that in all that is happening around me (including my mother being alive and breathing and healthy and eating and talking and desiring and feeling sad), it’s truth is that “in it the angels and the spirit descend, by the leave of their Lord, with every command” (97:4). That is to say, that my mother does not have life on her own or naturally, that there is only a night of powerlessness for humans until i can see that their powerlessness shows that all power is from the One and with the One, that she is constantly subject to the command of the Living, Sustaining One who is giving her life and death which she cannot give to herself, that all power to do anything that is being done can only be the power of the One who is the source of all power, all life..if I did not see this and witness this and remember this, then it is absolutely ridiculous for anyone to suggest that, as 6:61 says, “He is the Omnipotent over His slaves. He sendeth guardians over you until, when death cometh unto one of you, Our messengers receive him, and they neglect not.” It is not believable or intelligible for me as the son of a dead mother what angles or messengers receiving or taking my mother means, why my mother is not dead (if she was a witness) but alive and being sustained by her Lord as she was being sustained in her body here.
- And second that if i did see her guarded and sustained by the messengers and commands of her Lord, then it is NOT presumptuous but truth to feel that she is with her merciful Lord, that all things that come from Him are returning to Him…that to witness and remember this is the most important reminder i need to concern myself with as I feel the sadness of her absence in my life and in this world. And so i see that if me and my friend don’t see reality in the way, then in that sense we cannot be friends. out persepctives do not match and where i find security, he finds a lie and where he finds truth (in the cruelty of life), i see a lie. if i find security of life and existence in the One from whom there is life and existence (by His command) then this perspective is NOT reconciled with a perspective that sees no such Living One, powerful one, merciful one commanding there to be life and death and living beings. From this latter perspective, death is the end of a life that existed more or less on its own and that he (rightly) wants to continue to exist but he finds no way to honestly see as continuing to exist beyond death. “the safe ones do not take deniers for their friends in preference to safe ones. Whoso doeth that hath no connection with God unless (it be) that ye but guard yourselves against them, God biddeth you beware of Himself. Unto God is the journeying.” (3:28)
The hands, if any, in which I am now safe (or unsafe) in life, it is in those hands that I shall see myself and my loved ones safe (or unsafe) in death.