At the time of death, the dying man possesses certain attributes whose inculcation is understood from the following aphorism: “Die before your death.” The attributes that are in the perfect state in the dying man are tawba (repentance), zuhd (abstention), qana’a (contentment), tawakkul (trust in Allah), azla (solitude), tawajjuh ila ‘Llah (attention directed to Allah), sabr (patience), rida (being pleased with Allah), dhikr (remembrance of Allah), and muraqaba (meditation).
One has to inculcate the above qualities, which overtake a dying person to a high degree.
Repentance – to emerge from all evil, as is the position at the time of death;
Abstention – to shun the world and everything in it, as is the case at death;
Reliance – to shun all normal worldly agencies, as in the case at death;
Solitude – to sever all ties with creation, as is the case at death;
Abstention from lowly desires – to be satisfied, as in the case at death;
To rivet one’s attention toward only Allah Most High, as in the case at death;
Patience – to shun pleasures, as is the case at death;
Contentment – to abstain from pleasing the lower self, and to be pleased with Allah, and to submit entirely to Allah Most High, as is the case at death.
This is the concept of “Die before your death.”
One has to transform one’s condition so as to be saturated with the conception of “death before death.” In this earthly life, the body is on earth, but the spirit should be directed to the Hereafter and be in communion with Allah. Possession of even the kingdom of the earth should not affect one’s heart. The heart should be empty of the world at all times. The sign that this lofty state has settled over one is total abstention from everything that is branded as evil by the Shari’ah. The mind, tongue, and the whole body have to be sealed from evil. The heart is to be emptied of all things other than Allah Most High. It has to be adorned with praiseworthy character traits.
A man dwelling in this lofty state of purity and communion with Allah Most High is always aloof from gatherings of futility. Whatever diverts the mind of the seeker of Allah from the remembrance of Allah is vain and nonsensical. The seeker refrains from association with men of falsehood and corruption (batil). One who does not pursue the Path in quest of Allah is in fact a man of corruption.
This is the meaning of “Die before your death.” This is the way of the Messenger of Allah صلى الله عليه وسلم. This is the life that the Messenger of Allah صلى الله عليه وسلم desired for his nation.
[Written by Shaykh Masihullah Khan in ‘The Path to Perfection’. He was a renowned student of Shaykh Ashraf Ali Thanawi and extracted teachings in the book from the various works of Shaykh Ashraf Ali Thanawi. Shaykh Abu Yusuf Riyadh ul Haq discussed ‘Dying before death’ in a brothers’ majlis (gathering for spirtual training) held on 26th April 2000].