Anyone who has ever been on an out-of-town journey would testify to the pre-travel stress and jitters. One aspect of the preparations is to make sure that the packing is done properly and that the travel arrangements are adequately made. Another aspect of planning a journey, however, is to ensure that everything the traveler leaves behind, from his belongings, to his family, to his house, is well protected and cared for, until he returns.
This analogy can be appropriately applied to the life of a believer. Not only does he prepare for his journey to the Akhirah which begins with his death, but he also ensures that what he leaves behind in the world is also beneficial for him after he has gone.
"Whatever is with you, will be exhausted, and whatever is with Allah (of good deeds) will remain."
[Qur'an - Surah Al-Nahl 16:96]
Allah's Messenger [صلی اللہ علیہ وسلم] said: "When a man dies, his good deeds come to an end except three: ongoing charity, beneficial knowledge and righteous offspring who will pray for him." [Sahih Muslim: 3084]
Al-Nawawi [may Allah have mercy on him] said in Sharh Muslim:
"The scholars said: the meaning of this hadith (above) is that the deeds of the deceased come to an end when he dies, and the renewal of reward ceases for him, except in these three cases, because he is the cause of them: his offspring is counted among his earnings, as is the knowledge that he leaves behind through teaching or writing, and ongoing charity, i.e., a waqf (Islamic endowment)."
The narrations below add further details:
Narrated Abu Hurairah [رضی اللّٰہُ عنہ]: "The Messenger of Allah [صلی اللہ علیہ وسلم] said: "The good deeds that will reach a believer after his death are: knowledge which he learned and then spread; a righteous son whom he leaves behind; a copy of the Qur'an that he leaves as a legacy; a mosque that he built; a house that he built for wayfarers; a canal that he dug; or charity that he gave during his lifetime when he was in good health. These deeds will reach him after his death."
[Ibn Majah: 224]
It was narrated that they slaughtered a sheep at the time of the Prophet [صلی اللہ علیہ وسلم] and gave it in charity except for its shoulder. The Prophet [صلی اللہ علیہ وسلم] asked ‘A'ishah, "What is left of it?" She said: "Nothing is left except the shoulder." He said: "All of it will remain except its shoulder."
Consequently, a Muslim must not just persist in doing good deeds while alive, but should also pursue projects that will reap benefit after death. Options for such endeavors are listed below:
- Constantly remembering death: One of the best ways to actively do good deeds and leave behind avenues that will continue to benefit after death, is to remember death itself, often and consistently.
- Invest money in welfare projects: Whether it's a hospital, school, mosque, domestic shelter or a welfare organization that generally helps the needy, a Muslim should invest some money in it, in order to ensure that the rewards for charity will keep coming even after they have died, when the money they invested continues to benefit others in different ways.
- Spread beneficial knowledge through media:
- Educate another person or teach others a skill; contribute in starting a regular Islamic class. The more students you have, the farther your trail of good deeds will extend after you have left this world.
"And We record that which they send before (them), and their traces, and all things We have recorded with numbers (as a record) in a Clear Book."
[Qur'an, Surah Yaseen: 12]
All it takes is an hour once a week to start teaching others what you know. The point is: just start!
- Sponsor the printing and distribution of the Qur'an or Islamic books.
- Record and distribute Islamic classes and lectures: Videos or audios of Islamic lectures can be recorded on various formats and spread physically among people, or uploaded on the worldwide web.
- Write articles and books. E-books now make it easier for writers to get published. Lulu is a tool that allows users to publish their own books for no cost.
- Build and maintain an Islamic website, or write Islamic content for other websites: If you are tech-savvy, you can start your own Islamic website! Else, small articles can be easily self-published on the Internet, by registering to write on websites such as Helium, AssociatedContent, Hubpages, etc.
- Start and maintain an Islamic blog: Wordpress, Blogger and IslamicInk allow individuals to upload their personal content for the world to see. Even if you write something just once a month, after several years, you may have accumulated a vast pool of content for others to read. Be it personal reflections on the Qur'an, tips and advice on acting upon Islam, or general musings, maintaining a blog will benefit you well after your death, insha'Allah.
- Be keen to get married and bear children: Muslims should be very concerned about instilling high Islamic values in their children. All the more so, because they know that if their children grow up to be righteous, they'll benefit them even after they are dead; but if they grow up to be disobedient to Allah, their evil actions will bring punishment to them in the Hereafter.
Therefore, a Muslim tries his or her best to marry a pious person, and to start and raise a family according to Islamic values. They are upright and firm in keeping the influence of Satan out of their homes.
- Plant trees, and install water-sources for travelers: Planting trees and other vegetation, particularly that which yields produce such as fruit, vegetables, or grains; which provides shade to the passersby, and oxygen to the environment, is a great ongoing act of charity. Having wells dug, or water-coolers installed on wayfarers' paths is also the most excellent charity.
Narrated Anas bin Malik [رضی اللّٰہُ عنہ]: Allah's Messenger [صلی اللہ علیہ وسلم] said, "There is none amongst the Muslims who plants a tree or sows a seed, and then a bird, or a person or an animal eats from it, but it is regarded as a charitable gift from him."
[Sahih Al-Bukhari 40:1071]
- Leave no dues unpaid: The Muslim also worries about whether he or she owes anyone any debts at the time of death - this is because when they die, their debts will still have to be repaid. Consequently, the pious Muslim makes up qaza fasts of yesteryears, gives qaza zakah of assets which he was heedless of in the past, and makes sure he lives as debt-free as possible.
Since Muslims constantly think about, and prepare for, their death - they ensure their transition from this world is as smooth as possible, and when they return to their Lord, they have no dues - either that of His, or of other people - left to be repaid.
Using all available resources, tools and technologies to benefit others; to facilitate the growth and spread of Islamic knowledge, and to help alleviate the misery and suffering of those who are less fortunate, enables a Muslim to prepare for his exit from the transient life of this world in such a way, that even after they'll be gone, the "ripple effects" of their fruitful actions will still be felt by succeeding generations, insha'Allah.
Sadaf Farooqi is a freelance writer who contributes articles regularly to Hiba Magazine, SISTERS Magazine, Helium, and more recently, the group blog Muslimmatters. She may be contacted at email@example.com.