No nation has the kind of remarkable role models that Muslims are blessed with. These people had exemplary lives and admirable deaths. Allah (swt) has decreed death for all of us, but do we remember?

Prophet Muhammad (sa) remained ill for about ten days before he died. During one of these days, he admonished: “Do not make my grave an idol to be worshipped.” (Muwatta Imam Malik) This is a stern reminder for Muslims who commit Shirk by prostrating and praying to dead ‘saints’ at shrines. He further said: “He, whom I have lashed his back (wrongfully), then, here is my back, let him retaliate. He, whom I have ever blasphemed his honour, here I am offering my honour, so that he may avenge himself.” (Bukhari and Muslim)

The Prophet (sa) had not wronged anyone, yet he humbly offered himself for revenge. Have we made amends to those we have hurt? He (sa) reminded the people to be good to the Ansar, adding: “…They have fulfilled their obligations and rights, which were enjoined on them, but there remains what is for them. So, accept the good (deeds) of the good-doers amongst them and excuse the wrong-doers among them.” or “….accept their good side and ignore their faults.” (Bukhari) What a noble approach! Focus on the positive deeds of your fellow-Muslims; overlook their faults, paving the way to a stronger Ummah, Insha’Allah.

A final instruction that the Prophet (sa) emphasized was: “Allah, Allah. Prayers and what your right hands own (i.e., the slaves).” (Dhahabi) Alas! What is the state of our prayers today? Do Muslims head for the Masjid upon hearing the Adhan? How many Muslims pray five times a day? Empty, divided Masjids tell us a sad story! Do we abandon cosy beds for a timely Fajr?

On the day of his death, Prophet (sa) removed his door curtain, looked at the Muslims praying Fajr and smiled. After sunrise, he asked for Fatima (rta) to be brought in. He whispered into her ear, and she cried. He whispered again, and she smiled. First, he had informed her of his death, and then of her being the first relative to join him, and of being the women’s chief in Jannah. He asked for Hasan and Hussain to be brought in and kissed them.

O, Muslim parents, isn’t there a beautiful example for you in Rasoolullah (sa)? This is an example of love and compassion, not of harshness and aloofness. Note his and Fatima’s (rta) mutual focus – the Hereafter.

In his final moments, the Prophet (sa) was leaning against his wife Aisha (rta). Her brother walked in with a Miswak (tooth-stick) in his hand. Aisha (rta) took and softened it, whereupon the Prophet (sa) used it. Such concern for cleanliness and fondness of the Miswak, as he is about to take his last breath! And what a loving relationship he and his wife enjoyed! Muslim couples can beautify their marriages by turning to the Prophet’s (sa) example. He wiped his face with water, saying: “La ilaha ill-Allah; truly, death has its agonies.” And glanced upwards, supplicating: “…O Allah, forgive me, have mercy upon me and unite me with the highest companions.”

(Quoted in “A Biography of the Prophet of Islam”, by Dr. Mahdi Rizqullah Ahmad, Translated by Syed Iqbal Zaheer, Dar-us-salam, 2005 and “Ar-Raheeq Al-Makhtum”, by Safi-ur-Rahman Al-Mubarakpuri, Dar-us-salam, 1995)

Twelve years later, Umar (rta), the second caliph, was martyred. As he led the Fajr prayer, a Persian slave stabbed him with a poisoned, double-edged dagger. What was Umar’s (rta) concern as he fell fatally wounded? Prayers! He asked: “Is Abdur-Rahman Ibn Awf among the people?” They replied: “Yes, he is over here.” Umar (rta) asked him to lead the prayer.

Later, Umar (rta) was taken home. He thanked Allah (swt) for not causing him to die from a Muslim’s hands. He was given milk to drink, which oozed out of his belly’s wound. He asked for the Muslim children to come. He stroked them affectionately. He gave instructions for the settlement of his debt and named the companions to be chosen from as his successor.

He (rta) also asked his son to seek permission from Aisha (rta) for being buried next to the Prophet (sa) and Abu Bakr (rta). Aisha (rta) agreed, and Umar (rta) thanked Allah (swt), since the most important wish of his was fulfilled. He (rta) said to his son: “Place my cheek on the ground.” And when that was done, he said::“Woe to you and to your mother, O Umar, if Allah (swt) does not forgive you, O Umar.” He then passed away.

(Quoted in “Biographies of the Rightly-Guided Caliphs”, Prepared and Translated by Tamir Abu As-Suood, Dar Al-Manarah, 2001)

More than seventy years after Umar’s (rta) demise, the Ummah witnessed the greatest ruler after the rightly-guided caliphs. That was Umar Ibn Abdul Aziz, great-grandson of Umar (rta). Remember the God-fearing lady, who had refused to mix milk with water because of Caliph Umar’s (rta) prohibition? Umar’s (rta) son Asim married her. Umar Ibn Abdul Aziz was Asim’s grandson. This God-fearing ruler would gather scholars to remember death and the Akhirah, and they would cry, as if a funeral were before them.

He died after a short but exceptional rule of two years. In his last speech, he said: “Don’t you know that protection tomorrow will be limited to those, who feared Allah [today], and to those who sold something ephemeral for something permanent? (…) I swear by Allah (swt) that I say those words to you, knowing that I myself have committed more sins than any of you; I, therefore, ask Allah for forgiveness, and I repent.” He lifted up the edge of his robe and began to sob, causing people to burst into tears.

In the agony of death, he addressed his sons tearfully: “By Allah (swt)! I have not left for you anything in inheritance (except for a room). If you are righteous, then Allah (swt) is the caretaker of the righteous ones. And if you are evil-doers, then I will never help you in evil-doing with my wealth.” Each son kissed him, and he prayed for them. He left his sons barely a dirham each, but years later they were seen distributing multitude of horses as charity. Just before his departure, Umar asked to be left alone and was heard reciting: “That home of the Hereafter (i.e. Paradise), We shall assign to those who rebel not against the truth with pride and oppression in the land nor do mischief by committing crimes. And the good end is for the Muttaqun.” (Al-Qasas, 28:83)

(Quoted in “Biographies of the Rightly-Guided Caliphs” by Tamir Abu As-Suood Muhammad and Noha Kamal Ed-Din Abu Al-Yazid, Dar Al-Manarah; “Sunehray Huroof” by Abdul Malik Mujahid, published by Dar-us-salam and “Umar Bin Abdul Aziz”, Muslim Heroes Series, by Naima Sohaib, Translated by Eeman Asif Misbah, Sahar Publishers, 2006)

Seriously ill before her death, Aisha (rta) was asked how she felt. She would say she was fine. Visiting her, Ibn Abbas (rta) started praising her. She asked him not to, adding, “I would be happy not existing.” What fear of accountability!

(Quoted in “Aisha (rta)”, Muslim Heroes Series by Naima Sohaib. Translated by Eeman Asif Misbah, Sahar Publishers, 2006)

They were well-prepared, yet fearful. We are unprepared, yet relaxed!