The musullah I go to on Fridays is just a large room in the basement of a nearby hospital in which approximately three dozen Muslims work. The designated imam doesn’t always attend– it’s a hospital, and staff members are often required to work through prayer times for the welfare of critically ill patients– and therefore men from the community take turns making khutaba, calling azan, and leading prayer.
Yesterday I arrived late, and missed most of the khutbah. He talked about five things that would be taken away from us prior to death. The fifth thing was wealth. No matter how much or little of it we have, it is but a loan from Allah. We can’t take it with us. Everybody knows that, but most people feel it only intermittently, after they’ve lost or profited from an investment, for example. The goal, however, is to feel this fact more often, often enough to inspire the use of wealth more wisely, in service to the well-being of people as opposed to frivolous and exaggerated desires for entertainment.
He also said that entertainment is necessary, and that we needn’t become overly critical of our need for it, but that a balance must be sought, a balance that will satisfy all legitimate needs.
He then asked us, “What would you do today if you knew today would be your last?”
The answer was not necessarily that we should start praying and reading the Qur’an for the duration, but that we should feel secure in our decisions of habit, the decisions and practices by which we lived and performed daily activities. Because we never know when our last day will arrive, we must live every day mindful of that fact, mindful of our relative brevity of physical existence, and our responsibility to enrich the lives of others.
Some of you might say, “I did everything for my family; I will spend the last day doing for myself.” The self has requirements. Those who exaggerate selfless generosity do so to their own deprivation. That is not required nor desired.
I don’t always attend Friday jummah prayer because, I, too, work in a hospital and cannot always take the time off, but I am now committed to attending whenever I can, and passing along what I have heard. That is one of the goals of the khutbah– for those who have heard it to share it with those who have not heard it.
To that question of one’s last day, I have always had similar thoughts. It’s too late for any major change. I would spend it peacefully as usual, maybe make some phone calls just to say hi.
One’s last day… some of us know it, some of us do not. Some of us expect it, some of us are caught by surprise. Some of us embrace it, most of us fear it. However my last day comes, I hope I will say a quick prayer of gratitude and repentance, if I am able. Saying such a prayer daily makes it habitual and easy to do if one thinks he/she is seeing the last day.