Reflections: The Strange Events Before & After my Dad’s Death & The Lessons Learnt

Almost one week after my dad’s death I pour out my thoughts.

A series of strange events

There were a series of strange things that happened before my dad’s death…

My mother and I had been staying at the hospital every night with my dad before his death – knowing he had very little time left in this world. In the early hours of the morning, before my dad’s final breath, he woke up due to breathing difficulties and called my mum over, and said to her, “stay with me.” Something he had never said before…

About 45 minutes before my dad took his final breath, my aunty – who was sleeping at my house – woke up with a panic attack and texted me to find out how my dad was. Then, minutes later, I got a phone call from my uncle – who lives in Cambridge – asking me how my dad was and whether he had prayed the morning prayer, Fajr. I told him he hadn’t, so I — feeling deep consternation because I wanted to let my dad sleep — woke him up ( sleep that he had been missing out on for weeks because of his illness). I performed wudhu on him, the washing of the body with water, and told him to pray and then go back to sleep. He did this, albeit lying down in his bed due his illness. At 8am, 14 minutes before my dad’s death, my cousin, who was sleeping at his home, suddenly woke up, for no particular reason…

My dad’s eldest brother, my uncle, then turned up at the hospital and began to play the recitation of the Quran on his phone so that my dad could listen to it – subconsciously, perhaps. The chapter of the Quran was Yaseen, and, interestingly, the final verse of this chapter is: “So Glorified is He and Exalted above all that they associate with Him, and in Whose Hands is the dominion of all things, and to Him you shall be returned.” Once the recitation of Yaseen had finished, my uncle then began playing it again. For some reason, and I’m not sure why, my eyes began to water. Seconds later, my uncle began shouting and panicking – my mum and I got out of our beds and ran to my dad’s bed and, seconds later, saw my dad take his final breath…

My dad had been told a couple of weeks before his death that he had “perhaps days, weeks or months left.”He accepted the news and, from that day until his death, showed an immense amount of patience, despite suffering a lot because of his cancer.

Cancer, food, suffering & purification

As most of us know, cancer has become so common that statistics tell us that one in every three of us will get the disease. In a nutshell: cancer occurs when mutant cells in the body begin multiplying more rapidly than the occurrence of new, healthy cells . The causes of cancer are not straightforward but, interestingly, the disease has become more common over the past few decades – but why is this? It doesn’t take a Rocket Scientist to figure out that as man-made technology is advancing at a rapid rate; as food is becoming less organic and is being filled with more additives, and as obesity is soaring – cancer is obviously going to spread. Why would we get cancer for no reason? Our bodies are, generally speaking, designed well and are made to withstand illness. There must be something wrong with the way we are living. Although my dad didn’t eat burgers and chips every day and didn’t drink alcohol, he wasn’t as healthy as he should have been, or, as healthy as my mum has always been. I therefore thought my dad’s cancer was due to his diet…

However, there are people who are much more unhealthy than my dad was, so why did he develop cancer so young? Perhaps it wasn’t his diet, maybe it was just his destiny. Perhaps it was written that my dad would die aged 47. Considering the average age of death in this country is around 80, my dad was taken away very early…

My dad suffered a lot because of his illness, the details of which aren’t important. What is important is the belief within the Islamic tradition that with every affliction comes ease and purification. For every second that my dad suffered, sins were expiated and he was purified. God choses to purify some in this life; to save them from being purified in the next life – a much more difficult form of purification, Hell…

However, what gets me is this: let’s say, for example, my dad’s disease was self-induced, through eating unhealthily, was the cancer a punishment or a purification and blessing? Or perhaps both? The physical body was given to us as an Amanah, a trust, so that we would look after it and use it as an instrument to carry out the will of the soul. If, however, we abuse it, through eating and drinking unhealthily, then, naturally, not only are we going to get ill, but we will earn God’s displeasure. The Quran says: Eat of the good and wholesome things that We have provided for your sustenance, but indulge in no excess therein.” (20:81)

Cancer can also run in the family, so one might be more susceptible to it if there are hereditary traits of it within our DNA. People with blood type A, for example, are more susceptible to more forms of cancer than those with blood type O.

Hope

A couple of hours before the funeral, an old man came to my house – he is a devout Muslim and goes to the local Mosque that I attend. He had heard the news and he asked me: “Was your dad at the mosque last night?” I said: “No, he was at the hospital.” He said: “I saw your dad behind me just as I was finishing my prayer and, when I turned round to greet him, he had gone.”

Then, a couple of days after my dad’s funeral, I was told by my dad’s friend, Naz [not his real name] that he had a dream about my dad. In this dream my dad spoke to Naz and said to him: “tell my family that I am okay”…

My mother and I are naturally strong people. Furthermore, I believe that everything is in God’s hands – this life is just a short, transient, sojourn that we must undertake to reach the next life. What’s reassuring for my mother and I is the way in which my dad died. According to an Islamic scholar who came to our house following my dad’s death, there are some signs that indicate whether one dies as a Shaheed, a martyr. One of the indicators is that the main cause of death is a stomach illness – my dad’s cancer began in the stomach area. Also, dying on a Friday, Jummah, the holy day for a Muslim is a good sign – my dad died on a Friday; finding out one will die soon – my dad found out he didn’t have long to live and, as a consequence, did loads of charitable work; being able to sort out worldly issues, especially money-related – my dad did this; feeling contrition and repenting before one dies – my dad did this; feeling hot before one dies – my dad complained that he felt very hot the night he died, despite his body being cold; and dying a peaceful death – my dad died in his sleep – these are all supposedly good signs. At the funeral, which took place only about five hours after my dad was pronounced dead, there were hundreds of people, another good sign. It also shows my dad was liked by a lot of people…

Coming to terms with the death of a loved one

Death is a strange thing. We have all experienced a death of a loved one, but the human being was created in such a way that, more often than not, we get over the death because if we didn’t, we wouldn’t be able to continue functioning – we would be constantly depressed. Death acts as a reminder that we aren’t going to be here forever -and if the death of a loved one doesn’t wake us up from our heedlessness, nothing will…

Whenever I prayed for my dad, I didn’t pray for God to preserve and extend his life, I prayed that God forgave him, saved him from His punishment and granted him Paradise, how long we live isn’t important. The death of a loved one serves as a reminder about the ephemerality of this life; life is short, too short…

Death has no age, it overtakes us before we are ready for it, everything comes to an end…apart from one’s deeds; these remain with us forever. We need to wake up before we are woken up by The One, The Reality, The Evident and questioned about why we wasted our life… Questioned about why we refused to listen to our innate nature, our intuition, and why we used science, our intellect and our pride to deny, reject and forget Him. Life consists of two basic precepts: remembering and accepting. That is all.

I love you, dad. I will see you again, iA.

Inna lillahi wa inna illahi raajeeon (From God, Allah, we come and to Him we shall return).

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3 Comments

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  1. Beautifully written thankyou. It is helping me with my current situation.
    I know so little.
    God is great.

    Thankyou for sharing.

  2. My mother died of lymphoma few days back. She fought cancer for almost three years. She was very very brave. When her time came, everything like you mentioned about your father happened to her.I feel like i am reading her story. She was also 47, her cancer originated in her womb, then spread everywhere in her body. The day she died, she was in icu, she told me to stay near her, she told me not to leave her even if doctors ask, then she Recited kalma and astaghfarh. After few minutes her breathing troubled, It was the last time i saw her alive, she was looking at me, i felt she was asking me to stay but nurses were pushing me, they literally threw me out of icu. I will regret this all my life. She wanted me near. They put her on ventilator. the next day in the afternoon, my brother started recited surah yaseen standing beside her bed. My whole family was gathered around her, a tear dropped from her left eye and she died 5 minutes later, very peacefully, on ventilator.I dont know if she attained shahadat or not but she suffered from worst kind of pain and sufferings for three years. Cancer riddled every part of her body. Her funeral was also very big. Three days after her death, her uncle saw her in his dream, she told him she is in jannat and asked him to tell her daughters not to cry, she is happy and fine. One thing more, the day after she died, our room where me and my mother used to sleep, smelled of roses, as if tonz of fresh roses have been put there, i felt she came to meet me, because, I asked her for one last time!
    I am sad and grieved because i miss her terribly, how i wish she is alive, she was too young to go but then ideally speaking, there is no age to die but we all have to, sooner or later, thats a fact. but i am happy that her sufferings have ended, she will be in peace forever and looking over us from heaven.

  3. My dad was taken into hospital at 11pm very ill, he was 83, i just knew he would go that night, i didn’t know when but very soon, he died at 8.45am, i started making plans that night, i didn’t sleep! i felt that it seemed weird to do so but for some reason, i just knew, it was like he was giving advice,a very weird night indeed.

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