Isnin, 24 Oktober 2016

Metaphysics and Death: A Reflection

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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