The final state of a person at the time of death is what matters in the Hereafter. In this article, we discuss some of the causes for both good and evil sealing states, and how a person’s inner traits will dominate at the time of death.
In a hadith transmitted by Ibn Abi ’al-Dunya in his Commanding the Good and Forbidding Evil from Abu Umama (Allah be pleased with him) the Prophet (Allah bless him and give him peace) said to his Companions (Allah be pleased with them): “How will your situation be when your women become tyrannical, your youth become transgressors and you abandon striving and jihad in the path of Allah?” They asked, “Will that really occur? The Prophet (Allah bless him and give him peace) said, “Yes, by the One in whose hand my soul is, something even worse than that will occur.” They said, “What could be worse than that, O Messenger of Allah?”
The Prophet (Allah bless him and give him peace) said; “How will your state be when you stop commanding the good and you stop preventing the evil?” They said, “Is that something that will occur?”
The Prophet (Allah bless him and give him peace) said, “How will it be when you will begin to consider the good as evil, and when you will begin to consider the evil as good?” [They were shocked] and said, “Is that truly to occur, O Messenger of Allah?”
The Prophet (Allah bless him and give him peace) said, “Yes, of course. Allah says that I swear by Myself that I will spread such a trial in the land that even the wise ones among you could become lost.”
This hadith tells us of a gradual change in perspectives among people as their righteous behaviour diminishes and they eventually confuse what is good for what is evil, leading to a state where even those known for their wisdom have become lost. At present, we are living through, and witnessing, many of the things which the hadith describes. The point to ponder is that, if Allah has not saved us from these evils, then we may already be guilty of considering what is good according to the Shari‘a to be evil, and what is evil according to the Shari‘a to be good.
There is another hadith in which the Prophet (Allah bless him and give him peace) said: “A servant does work like that of the people of Paradise until there is a short distance left between him and Paradise, when the destiny written about him by Allah (May He be glorified and exalted) [through his eternal knowledge] overcomes him, and he perpetrates an act of the people of Hellfire, and thus enters the Hellfire. Then, there are certain servants who do the actions of the people of Hellfire all their life, until there is a very short distance remaining between them and the Hellfire, until the destiny written about them by Allah (May He be glorified and exalted) overcomes them and they do an act of the people of Paradise and thus they enter into Paradise.”
An explanation of this hadith is that some people’s actions are considered evil based on how they are perceived by other people and other people’s actions are considered good based on how he or she is viewed by others. However, there is something hidden inside the individual that eventually overcomes him or her, which is why the Prophet (Allah bless him and give him peace) said that what is really taken into consideration is the final sealing state of an individual at the time of their death (innama ’l-a’mal bi ’l-khawatim).
The above hadith indicates that what really matters is husn al-khatima or su’ al-khatima.
Husn al-khatima means a good sealing state, and su’ al-khatima means a bad sealing state.
These terms do not refer to what a person has been doing all life long, or how they appeared to be in the sight of others, but rather to the state that they are in at the time they leave this world, their sealing state. This is why the scholars mention that the evil sealing state is such that, even though a person’s actions may appear to be very virtuous, this evil sealing state occurs due to an inner trait which was concurrent with the good that a person did in front of others. Whilst it was perceived that these actions were good, there remained something inside the individual which concurrently occurred or was a regular habit but which was not expressed in front of others. This inner trait was evil and eventually took over, leading one to commit an act of the people of the Hellfire. Likewise, many people who seem to be disobeying the Shari‘a for long periods in their lives have within their hearts much goodness which has not yet dominated and is just waiting to surface and appear in their external actions. Due to the existence of these good qualities, which are pleasing to Allah (May He be glorified and exalted), a person’s goodness can become dominant before he or she passes away.
The Companions (Allah be pleased with them) knew the system of Allah and therefore always remained concerned, primarily about how they would be viewed by Allah regarding their actions. One of the greatest believers and close Companions of the Prophet (Allah bless him and give him peace) was ‘Umar ibn al-Khattab (Allah be pleased with him), who is considered the second greatest man after Abu Bakr. ‘Umar ibn al-Khattab (Allah be pleased with him) would often say, “Have I been regarded (by Allah) as a hypocrite? Will I die with an evil sealing state?” He would ask Huzayfa (Allah be pleased with him) if his name was included in the list of the hypocrites that was given to Huzaifa (Allah be pleased with him) by the Prophet (Allah bless him and give him peace). He was constantly worried despite having to his credit so many acts of worship and so many conquests. ‘Umar (Allah be pleased with him) knew that the inner dimensions of a person are what matter and not the external, apparent actions; and that one should be content with the former.
Here is a supplication that is commonly known: “O Turner of the hearts, establish my heart on your Din, keep it firm on your Deen. You are the turner of hearts.”
We should ask Allah to keep our hearts sound and firm on the Deen because we do not know how and when things could change, and we could become guilty of being boastful about our achievements and this could be the cause of our downfall. This is why having humility, being humble, is always important.
The great scholars have highlighted a few major causes of a bad sealing state. One of the main causes is intoxicants. This could be of any form, including drinking, smoking or the taking of drugs, because intoxicants can overcome a person’s rationality and can affect one’s ability to focus or to be conscious of one’s actions.
‘Abd al-‘Aziz ibn Rawwad says, “I was present when somebody was in the last moments of their life. They were being encouraged to say Laa ilaha illalaah, but the person refused to say it. The final statement the person then uttered was: “He is a disbeliever in what you are saying!”
So ‘Abd al-‘Aziz ibn Rawwad enquired about him, and was informed that, although he did not do it in public, this man was given to drinking in small amounts. This is what overcame him in his last moments. It was then that ‘Abd al-‘Aziz ibn Rawwad advised that one must beware of committing any sin as that is what had caused this person to have this ending.
The scholars mention that a sign of a good sealing state is perspiration at the time of death, and another sign is contentment or satisfaction at the time of death, evidenced by a smile on the face of the person despite the way in which he or she has died. An example of this comes from the stories of martyrs, who may have been killed in a gruesome way, but on whose faces can be seen peace and a sense of happiness.
There are numerous occasions where Allah opens up these kinds of states for his pious servants, blessing them with a vision, and making their state apparent to people around them so as to inspire and encourage others to do good because they have seen the person’s life, and now they see their state at death.
It is related about ‘Abdullah ibn al-Mubarak (Allah be pleased with him) that when death was approaching him, the people around him were saying Laa Ilaaha Illallah. ‘Abdullah ibn al-Mubarak looked up towards the heavens and said, “For the like of this do the people work all their life.” He was given an unveiling of what Allah had kept for him in the Hereafter.
The story of ‘Umar ibn ‘Abd al-‘Aziz (Allah be pleased with him) who was a caliph for about two years and six months, was able to change the whole order and system of the time for the better. At the time of his death, people were gathered around him, and he said to them, “Leave me, nobody should remain here.” Thereafter, the people moved away and sat outside his doors. ‘Umar ibn ‘Abd al-‘Aziz (Allah be pleased with him) was heard saying, “Welcome to these faces. These are not the faces of the human or jinn.” He then recited an ayah of the Qur’an: “That is the abode of the Hereafter which we designate for those who do not want to cause tyranny or corruption in this world. Well-being is only for those who have the fear of Allah.” Then ‘Umar ibn ‘Abd al-‘Aziz (Allah be pleased with him) breathed his last.
Allah (May He be glorified and exalted) does not deprive or humiliate his pious servants who have worked hard all their lives to please Allah, neither in this life, nor in the Hereafter. When Allah loves a person, He will place for them acceptance in the world. People will begin to love them.
Anas (Allah be pleased with him) reports that the Messenger of Allah (Allah bless him and grant him peace) said, “When Allah intends good for someone, He uses him (or takes him for his service).” The Messenger of Allah (Allah bless him and grant him peace) was then asked, “How will Allah use him?” The Messenger of Allah (Allah bless him and grant him peace) replied; “Before death, Allah will give him the tawfeeq (divine Guidance) to do something good.”
In another hadith, the Messenger of Allah (Allah bless him and grant him peace) said, “When Allah wants something good for someone, He will use him.” The Messenger of Allah (Allah bless him and grant him peace) was asked, “How will Allah use him?” The Messenger of Allah (Allah bless him and grant him peace) replied, “Allah will inspire him to do a good action, which he will do before his death, so much so that his neighbours and those people around him will become happy with him.”
Regardless of what a person does or who they are in front of, Allah will select a person and desire good for him and give him the ability to do good actions for his Deen before he dies. That action will then be a means of accomplishment and acceptance for the individual in the sight of Allah, and thus he or she will leave this world with a good sealing state.
We must ask Allah (May He be glorified and exalted) to use us for some form of good work for the Deen, regardless of our area of work or profession. One may think that “I am not capable of giving lectures or calling people towards Allah,” or other commonly known deeds that we see others doing. Do not fear. Regardless of your capabilities, ask Allah to open the doors of guidance. Whatever you do, Allah will guide you to some way in which you are able to do some good work that will be the cause of Allah’s being pleased with you and the people being pleased with you as well. If you already have tawfeeq to do good actions, whether this is through da’wah, or benefitting society through some community work, then ask Allah (May He be glorified and exalted) to accept it, make it a truly genuine and sincere, and ask that you be accepted for the service of His Deen.
Allah (May He be glorified and exalted) gives tawfeeq to his pious servants who have strived and worked hard all their lives to please Him and have done service for His Deen, enabling them to do good actions at the time of death. Ultimately what matters is what is going to happen then and how death will arrive. It is important to remember that it is not only the scholars or learned people who are able to achieve this good sealing state. It is not only through preaching or giving lectures that one can be of service to the Deen. There are numerous ways in which we can benefit humanity, things that we can do to assist and make it easier for people to worship Allah. The options are limitless.
May Allah accept us and use us in the service of His Deen.
May Allah make our actions until the end like the actions of the people of Paradise.
May Allah protect us, and forgive us, and may He remove the hidden defects inside us and the hidden and apparent sins.
May Allah give us tawfeeq to recognise virtue and to follow it.
May Allah give us tawfeeq to recognise evil and to abstain from it.
May Allah give us a good sealing state.
And Allah is glorified and exalted.