In the Path of the Imam (101)
We are going to continue discussing Imam Khomeini’s view on death. If you remember, we discussed the issue of death in different religions.
Death is sometimes used for body and sometimes for the soul or spirit. When it is used for body it means that the body has lost the ability of any movement. But when death is used for the spirit it means it means transferring from one phase to another. It means the separation of body from spirit. According to the ayahs of the noble Qur’an, the angels do not take the soul of human beings in the same way. They take the soul of some people with respect and ease, while take the soul of others very harshly. The Qur’an says in ayah 32 of surah Nahl: “Those whom the angels take away while they are pure. They say, ‘Peace be to you! Enter paradise because of what you used to do.’” Imam Sadeq (Peace upon him) says, “Death for a faithful is like smelling good smell which causes him to go to light sleep and all pains will leave him.”
In view of Islam the best kind of death is martyrdom, meaning dying in the way of God. In ayah 154 of surah Baqara, God says, “And do not call those who were killed in Allah’s way ‘dead’. Rather they are living, but you do not understand.”
It says emphatically that those who are killed in the way of God should not be called “dead”. According to the Qur’an and the words of the Prophet and his Infallible Successors (the 12 Imams of his Ahl Al-Bayt) most of the human beings are not able to sense the realities of the Unseen world due to barriers or curtains that have covered their soul.
The righteous welcome death as they know what awaits them in the Hereafter; but, sinners are scared of death and when they near death, they think of repentance while it is useless. The Qur’an says that their repentance will not be accepted. Ayah 18 of surah Nisa’ reads, “But repentance is not for those who go on committing misdeeds: when death approaches any of them, he says, ‘I repent now.’ Nor is it for those die while they are faithless. For such We have prepared a painful punishment.” God says elsewhere in the Qur’an that the Pharaoh repented at the time of being drowned in the sea, but God didn’t accept his repentance.
Islam says that the real owner of everything, including human soul, is God; and whatever he gives us has in fact been entrusted to us. That’s why the religious leaders never lose their patience in the time of sorrow and demise of their near and dear ones. Prophet Mohammad (SAWA) said in a message to his companion, Ma’āz ibn Jabal, who was impatient and restless at the death of his son, “I have heard of your restlessness for your son whose death God has ordained. Indeed your son was a sweet gift of God and one of His trusts with you. He made you enjoy him for a while and at the time that had been determined He took it away. So, indeed we belong to Allah and to Him do we indeed return.” The Prophet soothed Ma’āz’s heart with these words.
Imam Khomeini, as a true student of the Prophet’s school, was a top example of patience in the way of God. When he lost his elder son, Haaj Aqa Mostafa due to the conspiracy of the Pahlavi regime in a mysterious operation, he didn’t even cry in public although his son was a noted scholar at Islamic seminaries. One of the companions of Imam Khomeini relates his memory of those days, “I never saw a drop of the Imam’s tear for his elder son Haaj Aqa Mostafa. He recited the ayah indeed we belong to Allah and to Him do we indeed return; and said, ‘Mostafa was the hope for the future of Islam and we lost him.’ Moreover, when he went to the tomb of his son for the first time, he was firm as a mountain and behaved very normally. This is while everyone was crying and weeping. He came in among the row of the attendees and asked very solemnly, ‘Where is Mostafa’s tomb?’ Then he sat at the tomb, recited Fatiha and dealt with the issue very normally and then returned.”
Although Imam Khomeini was very patient at the death of his son, he would be very sad and cry intensively at the martyrdom anniversary of the Prophet and the Infallible Imams. This would surprise those who had seen the Imam at the death of his dear son. Late Haaj Eisa, one of the servants of the Imam’s house, said, “Unlike the patience of Imam at the news of martyrdom of his dear ones, he would weep very much at the ceremonies of Imam Hussein (AS). Mr. Kowsari would elegize and the Imam would become very impressed and would sit down crying intensively.”
He also said, “At the time of martyrdom of Aqa Mostafa, the Imam didn’t cry and restrained his sorrow. The people around him decided to elegize. But the more the elegist read out, the Imam didn’t move at all; but as soon as the elegy for Imam Hussein began, he started weeping.”