From the beginning of creation death is inevitable. You surmount any event through hope except this one, though you might be hoping for “the resurrection of the dead and the life everlasting”. Whenever you place your head on a pillow, you do not know if you would wake up in the morning or no. Then, you would pray, if you were from the believers. The question that poses itself is that God “gives life and He causes death” as the Book [the Quran: Al-Tawbah 9: 116, or the Old Testament: 1Sam 2: 6] says, in the sense that God is the cause of both departure and survival. We do not find this verse repeated in the New Testament. However, the best that is said in this concern is: “For the wages of sin is death” (Rom. 6: 23). Here, the apostle speaks of death in two senses: the physical and the spiritual deaths. The rest of the verse proves this: “but the free gift of God is eternal life”.

In several Qur’anic verses it is mentioned that the Lord gives life and He causes death. Does this mean that God is the direct cause of the death of every person, or the causality of God is a general saying, in relation to the whole humanity, due to the fact that death is a law? However, what does Sūra 39 [al-zumar], v.42 mean, “God receives the souls at the time of their death”? According to the interpretation of Imām Al-Rāzī, God receives the souls, at the time of their death, means that God takes hold of them and does not return them to the body. Thus, this great commentator does not consider a difference between taking life [i.e., God’s reception of the soul] and death. Here, the commentator has considered the relative pronoun ‘and’ as joining two synonyms, while ‘and’ might have the sense of the option of choice as saying “she has distanced herself, thus, choose for her patience and morning”, i.e. one of them. From this point of view, there is no linguistic reason that prevents [the consideration] of divine reception of the soul as the work of God, while death as a biological event concerning the human being. Nevertheless, I understand that Al-Rāzī could not move away from divine causality.

Evidently, divine address does not treat the contrast between the divine and the biological. And if we cling to the natural law, that does not prevent Christians to maintain that the human being was created to live eternally and that death is a punishment. Thus, nothing invalidates the truth that God has revealed through Paul that “the wages of sin is death”. That is why Orthodox Christians say that the natural law appeared after sin and that God watches over this order. Therefore, from a divine perspective, nothing prevents the death of the body, because of this deficiency, which has entered this chemical laboratory, which is the body.

Yes, because of purposes God has, God prolongs the life of this or that person, improving the biological functions as God wills, and I am completely confident that this improvement in the case of the elderly is a chance to repent. In this sense, God cares about the particulars, since the calling is for eternal life. Yet, to say with the common people that the age of this person or that is written down in eternity, by God, and that God sends the diseases, until the end of time comes, this is what I do not think, as it is affirmed in the Book, in which I believe.

[It is possible to explain death as] a human situation and a divine favor, in order that the human being dies with blessings, contentment, and readiness for departure. This seems to me to be a possible configuration between that which is in heaven and which is on earth.

It is incorrect what most Christians say that God has reconciled us with death, since Paul says, “The last enemy to be destroyed is death.” (1Corinthians 15: 26) Christ has reconciled us with God through His death, not ours, and the final reconciliation will be accomplished at our rising from the dead, for Christ’s death is life for us. This is the paradox, that the second Adam had to die in order that His life might work in us.

As to why do we escape the physical extinction, through food, sport and medicine? That is because life on this earth is a responsibility and care about those surrounding us, since “every person is a guardian” as Imām Alī Ben Abī Ṭāleb said. The service that we do to ourselves and to others is the fulfillment of this responsibility. It is not prohibited to seek death, but it is impermissible to be disappointed from the difficulties of life. God might want you sick or disabled and broken. That is not of your concern; you need to cure yourself as if you would live eternally, whenever the means of life were available to you. As to surrender to poverty, sickness, and idleness, whenever you could overcome them, that would never be the will of God.

God has granted us life and called us to keep it and preserve it with all the earnestness and the sincerity we have, toward God and the beloved ones, whom we consider seriously.

We are called to contend against death in all possible ways, until we witness that God is alive, and that God’s will is that we live until the time of our departure to God comes. Then, we would recommend our soul to God with contentment, because of our knowledge that God is in control of the world and wants to save us from suffering. The Creator responds to contentment with compassion, since compassion is the only entrance to the Kingdom. There we would meet those whom God has liberated from the oppression of this world and has filled their hearts with divine mercy, and this is the full joy.

If this is the condition of our relationship with God, then, there is no room for wailing. This is so, since our wailing would mean inherently that we opt for the dead person to remain in life, while the truth is that we feel sorry about human love and consolation, i.e., we opt for an unveiled face, rather than a face covered from our sight by compassion.

Natural grieves continue to exist and the Lord does not reject them, and Jesus Himself cried for His friend Lazarus. What is important is that we do not cut our relations with anyone and that we continue the service and we perform the benefactions and the holy recitations until wholeness descends upon us. Wholeness is our connectedness with the one taken from us to the abode of the saints and we truly hope for his/her salvation and the final liberation from the burden of this world. The union between those, whom God has received, and us is peace [that is possible through the bond of wholeness.].

Further, we inherit the virtues of those who have departed us, in the sense that we might perceive those values today, while they were concealed from us [earlier]. Thus, we might be sanctified through the dead ones. There is the remembrance of the virtues that we perform in the worship services. And in these services of remembrance communication takes place, until God brings us together on the Last Day.

Hence, we do not live this remembrance with irritability, but with prayer and imitation of the virtues of those whom God has concealed from the sights. You do not live with those asleep in the Lord unless with the one wholeness, which God has bestowed upon them and us. In this sense, they have not been separated [from us].

Furthermore, there is the cultural aspect, which makes you the inheritor of writers, intellectuals and scientists, whose legacy provides you with whatever they have achieved through their research, poetry, literature and the different sorts of art. From this perspective, you could say that Al-Mutanabbi, Shakespeare, Dostoevsky, Beethoven and others have not die. Their [own] articulation is present in the Kingdom and the extension of their articulation on earth.

Once, as I was walking with a great friend, who was knowledgeable in music, and he asked me, what remains from the Ninth Symphony? I said, the timbre vanishes, but the essence remains.

These are different features of receiving [God], the Lord, in the world beneath, with the hope of meeting God in heaven. This makes [the acceptance of] death easier and enhances your contiguousness to the dear Lord. And if your soul has become a bride of God, then your soul and the Spirit would say, Come. At that time, the kingdom of death vanishes within you.

Translated by Sylvie Avakian-Maamarbashi

Original Text: “الموت” –An Nahar- 16.08.2008