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From the Office of Wan Ahmad Fayhsal

Metaphysics and Death: A Reflection


Monday, Oct 24


Last Saturday (15/10/16) my
beloved Uncle has departed this world to meet our Maker. I was not that close
to him but my built closely resembles his.

As usual like in
any other funeral, the air is full of grief and solemnness.

Throughout the
event suddenly I felt a rush of recollection of what I’ve learned about Islām
and metaphysics at CASIS and others.

Sadness has
always been a definitive character of a funeral. But there are other exceptions
in the history of Islām.

The Companions
(may Allāh be pleased with them all) of our Beloved Prophet (sallalahu ʿalayhi
wassalam) were very much eager to face death and rejoin the Beloved Prophet
(sallalahu ʿayahi wassalam). Same goes to Imām Al-Ghazālī as recorded in his
beautiful poem about death in which he told his families and friends not to be
mourned about him leaving this earth.

Why were they
behaving that way? Instead of being sad, they were yearning to face death and
meet our Creator – God Almighty?

I think the
answers could be found in abundant in the Holy Qurʾān. Just open the second
chapter, verse number three when Allāh SWT made clear that those who have
utmost certainty in the unseen – which of course includes the metaphysics of
death and eschatology – would surely attain happiness and success here and in
the hereafter (mufliḥūn).

But preceding that
verse on assenting on the truth of the unseen (this is ʿAqīdah matter cannot
taqlīd[blind imitation]), Allāh SWT mentioned clearly the a very important
ontological property of the Holy Qurʾān as a book which does not contained any
doubt whatsoever (lā rayba fīhi).

In other words
if human were to assent to the truth of lā rayba fīhi, he or she must attain a
high degree of certitude (al-yaqīn) with the attributed matter in this case the
whole content of Holy Qurʾān.

I was reminded
by Dr Syamsuddin Arif’s lecture in our Arabic class at CASIS when we digressed
a bit to discuss the real meaning of the verse “waʿbud rabbaka hattā
yaʾtiyaka’l-yaqīn” (worship your Lord until you arrived at the level of
certainty). Many commentators of the Qurʾān interpret the word “al-yaqīn” here
to mean death as we all know death is certain for everyone and any creature
except God the Almighty (kullu nafsin dhāiqat’l-mawt).

But Dr
Syamsuddin opined that why don’t we just take the word “al-yaqīn” as
“al-yaqīn”. Meaning to say, as how I understood back then when we were
discussing this in class, when Allāh SWT commanded us to worship him until we
arrive at the level of certainty, He really wants us to strive with our utmost
mortal ability in progressive manner until we feel so certain of His Existence
(I’m referring to the metaphysical attribute as how the Ṣūfī discussed):
metaphysically speaking, nothing Exist but Him as we all know our existence is
contingent on His Existence.

This is where I
believe Prof. Syed Muhammad Naquib Al-Attas very often emphasized the
importance of ontological quality of “al-yaqīn” in his metaphysical system.
From there he builds his other metaphysical concepts that have bearings on our
worldview as Muslīm, notably on the real meaning of Happiness in Islām.

I remember when
I occasionally do lunch suḥbah with brother Asham (Jong Kong) where he would
disclose to me the firmness and certitude of Prof. Al-Attas’ character in
defending his ground on many things especially his intellecto-spiritual work.
Prof. Al-Attas once said throughout his life he has bear witness to what he
believes without an iota of doubt and he is ready with the Grace of Allāh to
bear witness for mankind (as how described in the Qurʾān: litakūnū shuhadāʾ
ʿalā’l-nāss) on the truth of Islām like how many great scholars of Islām in the
past and present have done so.

That is why the
greatest karamah of scholar like Prof. Al-Attas who has attained high degree of
certainty as a believer is to be istiqamah. Never waver no matter what. Never
simulated and lower his ‘maruah’ as a scholar in front of anyone. We all know
that aren’t we? He suffered greatly throughout his career because he refused to
kowtow with the political leaders be it UMNO or the Sultan (he once gave nasihah
to the late Sultan Johor).

Why can’t we be
like Prof. Al-Attas? After all we claim to benefit from his lectures and works?
Why we be timid in front of great oppression?

But this
character of being certain and happy in embracing death is of course only
evident among the elites. Lay people like us we are mere mortals so do not be
upset if we were to feel sad with the death of our loved ones.

But why exactly
do we feel sad? I recalled how Dr. Zaidi Ismail explained in WISE that the
“sakara’l-mawt” is painful not in physical terms rather it is very much depends
on the emotional and spiritual state of oneself in facing the pang of death.

The pang is due
to the soul of not able to release itself from the surrogated physical and
animal body. It yearns to remain in that mortal body and resisting to depart
because of how we mere mortals have accustomed to live in this ephemeral dunyā (linguistically
dunyā means what is close hence we are close and very much attached to it in
contrast to akhirah the ghayb which we always think to be so distant) by
forgetting our true home: the hereafter (Prof. Al-Attas once commented the
hadith “ḥubb al-waṭan min’l-imān” means actually love of nation is part of
faith. The “watan” here refers to hereafter, our eternal abode not so much of
this world or country or Malaysia or Khilafah).

When we read
surah Ya-Sīn, read tahlīl or talqīn for the deceased of course we do
acknowledge the benefits will be received by the arwah (spirits who resided in
the barzakh) but we too must know we the living ones are the one should take
heed on the messages behind those rituals.

We read Qurʾān
to live not read Qurʾān to the dead. Qurʾān is meant to be used, practiced for
the living more than the dead! But sadly most often than not we think other way
round.

Do not worry for
the dead. As I attended the tahlīl for Dr Afifi Al-Akiti’s father before, he
made a clear remark based on the commentary of Imām al-Nawāwī on the hadith of
three types of practices that will continuously benefit the deceased where one
of them is “pious children”. The word “children” here says Dr Afifi as
commentated by Imām al-Nawāwī does not mean biological children only. It also
refers to the whole Muslīm who share our biological and spiritual lineage back
to Prophet Adam and all other Prophets especially our beloved Prophet Muḥammad
sallalahu ʿalayhi wassalam.

So as long as
Muslim continue to pray and seek forgiveness for all mankind from God Almighty,
all arwah will obtain the same reward from God Almighty.

As for us who still
living, our task is to attain that al-yaqīn which bears the fruit of happiness
as explained majestically by Prof. Al-Attas in his monumental metaphysical work
“Prolegomena”.

Just a
reflection.

Al-Fatihah to my
uncle, Haji Jamaluddin Abu Hassan.

God knows best.

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