Ever since I embarked on the route of spirituality, I have found this life and the ending of it to make a lot of sense. My view of death is very different from what it used to be at one point. It has changed for the better. Death doesn’t feel as scary as it once did. My understanding of it has given me a certain peace and direction and I want to share what I have learned in case it helps you too. It may confuse you or spark your curiosity, which I would say are good cues to learn more.
This post is NOT about dealing with grief or in any way undermining the pain that comes with the death of loved ones. That has its place and it must be felt and processed, however long it takes. What I’m about to share is more of a macro viewpoint on life and death. I love to zoom out and see the bigger picture because I find that that is where the truth lies.
The one thing in life that we know will happen for sure is death. Life on Earth is cyclical, and death is that last step of the cycle through which that which is old, or weak, or ineffective goes away and makes space for something new – new bodies, new genes, and new ideas too. But we also need to realize that nothing that is REAL ever dies. What dies is everything that was temporary to begin with. Let me explain.
In spirituality I learned that as individual humans, we could be “broken down” into three components:
- The Body
- The Mind
- The Soul or Spirit
My body is literally an accumulation of matter consumed in the form of food – water and nutrients from plants & animals etc. It started in my mother’s womb – the food she ate throughout her pregnancy helped maintain her own body as well as create another one inside of her. Then, from birth until now, I have been consuming the elements needed to keep this body going. The body has various needs and wants. It gets ailments and falls prey to other life forms. One day, when it is too weak, all of its borrowed matter will be returned back to Earth where it originally came from.
What I call my mind is an accumulation of experiences, thoughts and emotions. These impressions in the mind started in my mother’s womb too – I was aware of my surroundings, hearing and registering my mother’s voice, even responding to her touch sometimes. That journey of picking up information from the environment around me has continued to this day. I observe, analyze, learn societal norms and concepts, and pick up on patterns, all while building up a memory of experiences and biases that constantly guide my thoughts and emotions about situations. With death, my feelings, thoughts, ideas and emotions will become inaccessible and irrelevant too.
The Soul or Spirit
What is left then is my ‘Ruh’ – the soul, the spirit, or the ever-aware consciousness that animates my body and gives rise to the mind. According to the Quran, God breathed his own soul into Adam (a.s) to give him life. Hence the soul is the essence of my existence – the real, undying part. When my body is too weak to go on, the soul will be liberated from it and continue its journey on to the next dimension. The soul will be resurrected to go back to its creator, and the only thing it will bring forward from its physical life will be a record of its deeds. Depending on how that record looks, the soul will either become blissful or suffer in its new realm.
So how does this knowledge help?
For me, it helps to know that what we call life is basically a limited amount of time & energy in this physical form. While I live, how should I decide what actions get more of my time and energy? Is it my kids’ upbringing, my friendships, my career, my body, my wardrobe, my house, my relationship with God? What is a good balance? ⚖️
Whenever I have these questions and seem to be losing sight of my desired destination (happens too often), I remind myself of that which is real: the soul. Knowing that death is coming serves as the best road-sign to guide me back on track🚏🗺 Death is sure to put an end to all those parts of me that are temporary. It reminds me that this life is a test – a simulation, if you will. And the way to live through it is to pay more attention to those actions that will serve me well in the next life. It also reminds me to not take some things too seriously and enjoy this physical form for what it is.
Death can be equally liberating for a dying person or a living person. Remembering that you’re going to die can teach you how to live.
– Quran 3:185
“Every soul will taste death, and you will only be given your (full) compensation on the Day of Resurrection. Then, whoever is drawn away from the Fire and admitted to Paradise has indeed been successful. The life of this world is merely an illusory enjoyment.”
Is death something you avoid thinking or talking about?