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Abstract

Many world religions use teachings on mortality as an integrated strategy for ethical training and spiritual growth. The theme of death forms one of the most important foundations of Ghazālī and Rūmī's thought. The concept of death is presented and interpreted from interesting angles in relation to Islamic spirituality. In the writings of Rūmī, for instance, the idea of dying before death is a recurring theme. In the works of the two Sufi scholars, death is seen as a way of attaining high spiritual life. The present paper examines the various metaphors, imagery, and allegories related to death in the famous works of the two authors. Their ideas speak volumes of their genius, especially when speaking of a concept without shape and form.
The International Journal of
Religion and Spirituality
in Society
RELIGIONINSOCIETY.COM
VOLUME 4 ISSUE 3
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A Brief Analysis of the Meditation on Death in
Sufism
With Reference to Al-Ghazā lī and Rū
ABDULGAFAR O. FAHM
mī
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A Brief Analysis of the Meditation on Death in
Sufism: With Reference to Al-Ghazālī and Rūmī
Abdulgafar O. Fahm, University of Ilorin, Nigeria
Abstract: Many world religions use teachings on mortality as an integrated strategy for ethical training and spiritual
growth. The theme of death forms one of the most important foundations of Ghazālī and Rūmī's thought. The concept of
death is presented and interpreted from interesting angles in relation to Islamic spirituality. In the writings of Rūmī, for
instance, the idea of dying before death is a recurring theme. In the works of the two Sufi scholars, death is seen as a way
of attaining high spiritual life. The present paper examines the various metaphors, imagery, and allegories related to
death in the famous works of the two authors. Their ideas speak volumes of their genius, especially when speaking of a
concept without shape and form.
Keywords: Religious Foundations, Spirituality, Islam, Sufism
Oh, the life of lovers consists in death: thou wilt not win the (Beloved’s) heart except in
losing thine own. (Jalāl al-DīnRūmī, Mathnawī. Vol.I, line 1751)
he quotation above embodies the Sufi perspective on death. A cursory examination into
the works of Sufi scholars [e.g. Sharaf al-Dīn Maneri (d.1381), Ahmad Zarruq (d. 1493)
and ‘Ali Muttaqi (d. 1567)] can easily lead one to see that the dictum “die before you die”
is not uncommon within the Sufi tradition. The details of this type of ‘death’, which essentially
refers to the death of the ‘self’, will form the major focus of this paper. The death we talk about
here is not the one emphasized by theologians, but that expressed by ascetics. Moreover, death in
religious thought and expression is sometimes subsumed by a more attractive reward in paradise.
However, though often not talked about and sometimes masked by orthodoxy, death remains a
vibrant ingredient of religion, and is most noticeable within mysticism.
Islamic mysticism or Sufism is an essential aspect of Islam that draw our attention to the
fleeting nature of human existence and even went a bit further to link it to spiritual growth, not as
a way of evading death, but to take the power of its reality into a higher, purer and more virtuous
life, thereby rendering life “fearless in the face of finitude” (Perreira 2010, 261). To attain this
lofty goal, one is encouraged to practice exercises or deeds aimed at sustaining the remembrance
of death. This, as will be seen later in this paper, should not be conceived as a sporadic practice
nor is it a superficial kind of practice or thought, but an activity that occupies a central position in
an ascetic spiritual outlook to life.
Against this backdrop, this study aims at examining the idea of death within the Sufi
tradition. It focuses on two important sages of Sufi thought and their views on death. The paper
also reviews death as seen among early Muslims and Sufi scholars as well as their approaches
towards it. It examines albeit briefly two popular works of Ghazālī and Rūmī and how they have
described the idea of death in their own unique way.
Contemplation of Death
Contemplating death is regarded as an act of ʿIbādah in Islam; this is why in the Qur’an we find
verses such as:
Did you suppose that We created you for amusement and that you would not return to
Us? (Surat al-Mu‘minun: 115)
And also,
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Say: ‘Death, from which you are fleeing, will certainly catch up with you. Then you will
be returned to the Knower of the Unseen and the Visible and He will inform you about
what you did.’ (Surat al-Jumu‘ah: 8)
Among Muslims, the Sufis tend to pay special attention to the issue of death. They are
extremely and passionately attached to the contemplation on death. From the early period of
Islam, among those who had a profound impact on the reflection of death, as quoted by Al-
Ghazālī in his Kitāb dhikr al-mawtwa-māba‘dahu (Remembrance of Death and the Afterlife)
which forms Book 40 of Iḥyā’ ‘Ulūm al-Dīn (Revival of the Religious Sciences), wasʿUmar
ibnʿAbd al-ʿAzīz (d. 720). He was quoted to have said:
For every voyage there must be provisions; therefore adopt the fear of God as provisions
for your voyage from this world into the Afterlife. Be as though you had seen the
reward and chastisement which God has prepared: harbor longing and fear… for, by
God, the man who does not know whether he will awaken at the end of the night, live
through the morning to the evening, can have no high hopes, for it may be that between
these times lie the hooks of fate. (Al-Ghazālī 1989, 20)
‘Umar bnʿAbd al-ʿAzīz is considered to be one of the highly respected rulers of the Islamic
empire. Although a political leader, ‘Umar bnʿAbd al-ʿAzīz found time to engage in the
remembrance of death to the extent that a jurist of his time was uncomfortable with his approach
to the issue. This made ʿUmar ibnʿAbd al-ʿAzīz responded thus:
Could you but see me three days after having been set in my grave, when the pupils of
my eyes have come forth and flowed across my cheeks, when my lips have shriveled
back over my teeth, when my mouth has opened and the pus run out, when my belly is
inflated and rises above my chest, when my spine protrudes from my rear, and when the
worms and the pus have emerged from my nostrils; then you would behold something
far more remarkable than that which you see now. (Al-Ghazālī 1989, 119)
One of the first things that would come to one’s mind looking at the above words is that they
are not coming from one whom only imagines death, but contemplates deeply the process of
dying. The level of detail given makes this fact obvious. ʿUmar ibnʿAbd al-ʿAzīz was also known
for gathering together scholars on a nightly basis to contemplate death, resurrection and
hereafter. The example of ‘Umar bn ‘Abd al-‘Aziz illustrates that from the earliest time of Islam,
contemplation of death can be seen to go beyond imagining death, but rather deep and critical
scrutiny seem to follow it.
Al-Ghazālī and Death
Among the Sufis who have written extensively on death is Abū Ḥāmid al-Ghazālī, born in Tus in
1056 CE, a district in northeast Iran and died in 1111CE. Al-Ghazālī was a well-known professor
in Baghdad, “the great field of genius and exertion, where talents of every kind had the fullest
scope and the highest encouragement” (Nicholson 1994, 46). He wrote on Muslim law, political
theory and logic, and later on philosophy, ethics and mysticism. His works contributed
significantly to systematizing the evolution of Islamic theology.
An interesting point in his life occurred when; a man of such an influential position had to
abandon his professorship for a long pilgrimage through the eastern regions of the Islamic
empire. In his Deliverance from Error, al-Ghazālī explains that the reason for taking such a
decision was that he transformed from a person of fame and riches to a person who embraces a
life of asceticism as a Sufi. He explains:
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FAHM: A BRIEF ANALYSIS OF THE MEDITATION ON DEATH IN SUFISM
I considered the circumstances of my life and realized that I was caught in a veritable
thicket of attachments. I also considered my teaching and lecturing…(I) examined my
motive…and realized that it was not a pure desire for the things of God, that the impulse
moving me was the desire for an influential position and public recognition… Worldly
desires were striving to keep me by their chains just where I was, while the voice of
faith was calling, “To the road! To the road! What is left of life is little and the journey
before you is long. All that keeps you busy, both intellectually and practically, is but
hypocrisy and delusion as if you do not prepare now for eternal life, when will you
sever them? (Watt 2000, 58-59)
From the above quotation, what is of interest to us is his examination of his motives
including those for learning and teaching, which he recognised were geared towards worldly
benefits. The need to detach himself from such materialistic tendencies preoccupied him to the
point that he could not speak when asked to deliver a lecture. The grief of his sudden impotence
(of voice), which his physicians could not cure with drugs, was the final straw for al-Ghazālī, and
led him to the realisation that he must emigrate. It was during the pilgrimage that the internal
struggle with his ‘self’ intensified and led him to observe Sufism. He vowed to discard the
pursuit of knowledge that led merely to worldly connections and became engrossed in more lofty
success. Al-Ghazālī spent several years in seclusion (‘uzla), engaged in meditation (tafakkur) and
other ascetic exercises in order to purify his soul from all that is other than God.
The most important part of his spiritual journey and cleansing is the exercise of meditation
of death. Al-Ghazālī developed ways of meditating on death to the extent of making it a routine
in his daily life (Watt 2000, 127-128). It is important to note that reflection of death was not
simply a spiritual exercise, but sought to promote one’s actions towards perfection in view that
this day may be his last. Such reflections included, 1) When you sleep, lay out your bed pointing
to Mecca; 2) Sleep on your right side in the manner a Muslim’s corpse reclines in the tomb; 3)
Remember that in the same manner you will lie in the tomb alone with only your good or bad
deeds; and 4) Say the recommended prayer as you go to sleep i.e. “In Your name, O Lord, I live
and die and with, You, O God, do I take refuge” (Watt 2000, 127-128).
Al-Ghazālī believes sleep is closely related to death. For this reason, he insisted that upon
waking up from sleep, the first words that should come from the mouth are the praise of God, as
recommended by the sunnah of the Prophet (PBUH). This is to show our absolute dependence
upon Him early in the morning. In addition, in order to reflect on the brevity of life, al-Ghazālī
encourages us not to cherish long hopes since death often appear suddenly with no specific time,
manner, or age. Such reflection on a daily basis can be a motivation to exercise patience and
dedication in obeying God for the rest of our life (Watt2000, 129-130).
Al-Ghazālī did not stop at assuming the position of death while lying on the bed every night,
he encouraged one to dig up one’s grave at home so as to imagine the process of decay the body
undergoes while lying in the grave. He cited the example of al-Rabīʿ ibn Khuthaym who was
known to sleep in his grave and when asked why, he stated that, “Were the remembrance of
death to leave my heart for a single hour, it would become corrupted” (Al-Ghazālī 1989, 12).
Although al-Ghazālī urges digging up one’s grave, it is not allowed in Shari‘ah. It is only strong
emotions that motivate some Sufis to do as such, and they might be excused for that.
Al-Ghazālī also gave instructions on contemplating on one’s friends and mates who have
died by remembering their devotion to life, their negligence, and their joy and pleasures. When
these reflections are clear in one’s mind, one can then bring to mind how their beautiful forms
have been obliterated and scattered in the tomb. He wants us to recall how they were occupied
with unsuitable behaviour in the world, and then think of the best way to circumvent it. This is
not just to imagine that one would die someday, but an attempt to taste death. This, al-Ghazālī
believes would re-orientate one’s moral life and change the direction of his life for the better. He
pointed out that people who are too engrossed in this world often think they would be following
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the funerals of others and do not think of a day when someone else would be following theirs.
The reason for this al-Ghazālī explains is not due to lack of familiarity with death but the
tendency to see death as a routine and associated exclusively to others, in addition to the
misplacement of our confidence by thinking of youth and good health (Al-Ghazālī 1989, 26-27).
The inclination towards being overconfident in one’s youth and good health al-Ghazālī argues, is
not only uncalled for but spiritually dangerous because it makes death seem distant. Reflecting
on the proximity and process of death should not be an occasional practice, but as al-Ghazālī
recommended, twenty times a day and night. He insisted that one “keep a strict reckoning with
himself and regulate his occupations and activities throughout the night and day with matters
which will benefit him in the next life” (Watt 2000, 122-124).
A quick glance in the work of Sharaf al-Dīn Maneri (d.1381), another Sufi scholar who
wrote on death, is of interest to our discussion. Sharaf al-dīn Maneri met Hazrat Nizām al-Dīn
Awliyā, R.A. (d. 1325), but did not become a disciple of a Sufi master until he met the little
known Najīb al-Dīn Firdausi, R.A. (of the Firdausi Order in India) as time passed, Maneri
became a well-known Sufi Sheikh. He was a Sufi master born in Northeast India where he lived
and taught. In his famous book The Hundred Letters, which he wrote to the Governor of Chausa
in Western Bihar as a basic presentation of his teachings for spiritual advancement, Maneri
divided men into three: the covetous and greedy, those about to turn towards God, and those who
have reached the height of mystical knowledge (Sharaf al-dīn 1980, 407). Maneri noted that the
pleasure loving people do not think of death and if they do it is in pursuit of worldly gains. The
remembrance of God does not benefit such people; rather it makes them move further away from
God. The second type of man (turning towards God) remembers death and feels fear and dread in
his heart and thereby moves closer to Allah. The death he added may come to the second person
before he has the time to turn towards Allah. The third type of man (attained height of mystical
knowledge) is forever recalling death, for it is an opportunity to see someone he wants to be
close with. Maneri describes such a person as one who seeks to be ‘swallowed up by death so
that after being freed from this dwelling place of sinners, he might rise to the abode near his
Friend’. For this reason, he quoted Huzaifah as saying:
O God, You know that I prefer poverty to riches, sickness to health, and death to life.
Make death easy for me, that I might arrive at my reward You! (Sharaf al-dīn 1980,
408).
What Maneri is saying is that while the novice shuns death the advanced Sufi loves and
yearns for it. In understanding the advantages of pondering over death, Maneri quoted ʿĀishah,
the wife of the Prophet Muhammad (SAW) as asking the Prophet, ‘who are those that would be
ranked with the martyrs on the Day of Judgment? And the Prophet replied "Anyone who thinks
about death twenty times each day and night." The Prophet is also reported to have said: "Death
is a present for the faithful, because the world is their prison, and they are always grief-stricken
in it. Death is the release from all that, and release from prison is certainly a much-prized gift!"
(Sharaf al-Dīn 1980, 409)
Sharaf al-Dīn Maneri also gave different examples of Muslim sages and their preoccupation
with death, such as Ibn Sīrīn, who wherever and whenever he remembers death, his entire body
becomes transfixed. Also asan al-Baṣrī was noted to have said, “Death has dishonoured this
world. It has not allowed any sensible man to rejoice.” Further references were made by Maneri
about Khwaja Rabih Tamimi who believes he has been cut off from the pleasures of this world
by death, and Kaʿb Abar who explained that the realization of death makes trials in this life easy
to bear. It was statements like those quoted above that made Maneri say:
O brother, even if there were no sorrow, grief, fear, or torment, still death and its pangs
would be quite sufficient, for the whole of life is made miserable because of that
moment (Sharaf al-dīn 1980, 409).
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FAHM: A BRIEF ANALYSIS OF THE MEDITATION ON DEATH IN SUFISM
Therefore, in examining Maneri’s work, it is easily realized that death is a painful and
difficult experience which man must be wary of in order to be successful in this life and most
particularly the next. It does not matter whether you are a king or beggar. To buttress this further,
Maneri wrote the following poem:
If your possessions were to stretch from earth to the moon,
Finally, they would all lead to this door!
When your jaw suddenly turns rigid,
Then all the World's wealth is no more than a chin!
If you are a Faridun or an Afrasiyab,
In this Ocean you are but a drop!
All the creatures of this world are
submerged in an ocean of blood:
Who knows what their condition is
like beneath the dust? (Sharaf al-dīn 1980, 410-411).
Maneri however advised that one should be filled with fear and hope when dying. He
supported this by stating that:
When a slave is strong and completely correct in his belief and practice, fear is what
should predominate. On the other hand, when he is sick and weak, especially when he is
gripped by the pangs of death, that is when hope should predominate (Sharaf al-dīn
1980, 411).
We now turn to the ways in which Mawlana Rūmī contemplated death. In describing his life,
Mawlanā Jalāl al-Dīn Rūmī, states, “my life can be summed up in three statements: I was raw; I
was cooked; I was consumed.”Mawlanā Rūmī was born on 30 September 1207 in Central Asia
when it was still part of the Persian cultural sphere. He later lived most of his life in Konya,
Central Anatolia, which was then under the Byzantine cultural sphere, thereby explaining his
Kunya,al-Rumi (the one from Rome).
One of the most interesting explications on death can be found in Jalāl al-Dīn Rūmī’s
Mathnawī-ye-Manawi, popularly called Mathnawī. The Mathnawī is not just a work of art; it can
and should be regarded as an Islamic spiritual text that aims at guiding readers to focus on the
most important and most profound aspect of their lives. This is why in Rūmī’s introduction to the
work he stated that:
This is the Book of the Mathnawī, which is the roots of the roots of the religion in
respect of (its) unveiling the mysteries of attainment (to the Truth) and of certainty; and
which is the greatest science of God and the clearest (religious) way of God and the
most manifest evidence of God…
The work showed quite clearly the breadth and depth of Rūmī’s genius as well as his passion
for self-effacement. Rūmī, it must be pointed out, lived in a period in Islamic history when the
line between self-knowledge and self-delusion was becoming vague; a period when the line
between the God-intoxicated and the self-enamoured seem intertwined. We believe that the main
notion of Rūmī in the Mathnawī is that we should strive for ‘annihilation’ of the ‘self’ not assert
it. This message was relevant then and is still relevant now.
The six-volume of the Mathnawī provide a detailed explication of the longing of man’s soul
for God and speculates on the conduct and approach for a purposeful and meaningful life. Often,
when scholars [e.g. Mohammed Rustom, Erkan Türkmen] examine the Mathnawī they focus
more on the theme of love and therefore interpret the lines, through what we can call the ‘love-
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eye goggles’. There is the need to look beyond the theme of love to ‘unearth’ some of Rūmī’s
interesting thoughts on death in his work. Death is strongly related to the love that Rūmī talks
about in his Mathnawī. By death we mean the idea of dying, of sacrificing, of losing the self, of
‘becoming earth’, losing the fleshy soul, ruining the body, freeing the self, conquering the self,
surrendering one’s life and so on. All these can be found in the Mathnawī because the love he
talks about is not a simple love. It is a love that demands sacrifice.
Most times when we talk about this concept of death, we are not referring to mere physical
death. The death we talk about here is the one Rūmī says will take you into the “abode of Light”.
Scholars like Annemarie Schimmel [she wrote a substantial number of works on Rumi and his
Mathnawī] mentioned this concept of death in her I am Wind, You are Fire, when she stated:
Die before you die, for every act of shedding off a lowly quality is a small death; every
sacrifice for the sake of others is another small death whereby the individual gains new
spiritual value; thus, in a series of deaths, the soul rises to immortality or to a level of
spiritualization that it has never dreamed of. (Schimmel 1992, 157-158)
What Schimmel meant by the “shedding off lowly quality” are the bad characters or
attributes that corrupts the heart. These attributes do not take one to the higher spiritual plain;
rather, they pull one down to the lowest of the low. Therefore, in shaking off or better still killing
such bad attributes or base qualities, one causes death to occur slowly and so invariably moves to
spiritualization.
In his Prolegomenon to the Metaphysics of Islam, Naquib Al-Attas made reference to this
idea of death pointing out that:
…In this context it is the animal soul that enslaves itself in submission and service and
so ‘returns’ itself to the power and authority of the rational soul. When the Holy Prophet
said: “Die before ye die” it is the same as saying: “Return before ye actually return”;
and this refers to the subjugation of one’s self by one’s real self, one’s animal soul by
one’s rational soul … (Al-Attas 2001, 59).
From the above we can deduce that Al-Attas views death, as the subjugation of the self. This
subjugation is a form of killing the self, a kind of death in order to reach lofty spiritual goals. Al-
Attas also makes reference to the sacrifice of animals as a means to draw closer to the Lord. If
the self is sacrificed or killed, one’s chances of reaching a higher spiritual goal will increase.
William Chittick in his article titled ‘Rūmī’s View of Death’ described the idea of death in
Rūmī’s Mathnawī as a voluntary return (al-mawt al-ikhtiyārī). He stated that:
This voluntary return to God is the subject of many works…The whole dimension of
Sufi teaching that is connected with the stages and stations of the spiritual journey
describes in voluminous detail the spiritual transformation undergone when a human
being returns to God before his physical death (Chittick 1987, 36).
From the quotation, we can deduce that it is no ordinary death; it is a death that takes you to
a higher spiritual plain and it involves eradicating one’s bad qualities. An interesting story found
in Rūmī’s Mathnawī is that of Bilal and how he died rejoicing. Bilal’s wife thought the situation
to be a moment of grief but Bilal urged “Nay, nay! (say), “oh, joy!’ Bilal’s attitude to his death
was feelings of joy. Bilal noted that “until now, I have been in sorrow from living: how shouldst
thou know how delightful death is, and what it is (in reality)?” [M. III, 3517, p. 895]. Rūmī also
used the moment of Bilal’s death to criticize those who only see his blackness and despise him;
Rūmī asked “why is the man (pupil) of the eye black?” [M. III, 3520, p. 895].
When the wife of Bilal perceived the case to be one of “parting and absence from family and
kindred”, Bilal saw it as a “union with God”, when she asked “where shall we behold thy
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FAHM: A BRIEF ANALYSIS OF THE MEDITATION ON DEATH IN SUFISM
face?”Bilal replied “In God’s chosen circle”, when she cried “Alas, this house has been ruined”,
Bilal retorted “look on the moon, do not look on the cloud”. [M. III, 3525-3531, p. 895-896].
This dialogue between Bilal and his wife summarizes the message of death in the Mathnawī
of Jalāl al-Dīn Rūmī. It shows the attitude people of high spiritual standing have concerning
death, and that death can lead to a higher spiritual station. The issue here goes beyond the idea of
physical death. Rūmī further asserts:
The mystery of “Die before death” is this: After dying come the spoils. Other than dying
no other skill avails with God, oh worker of deception! (M. VI, 3837-3838).
The ocean’s water brings the corpse to the surface, but if a man is alive, how can he
escape its depths? When you have died to human attributes, the Ocean of Mysteries will
bring you up to a place of elevation. (M. I, 2842-2843).
An interesting point about the Mathnawī is the way Rūmī compares things that we can easily
relate to with the message he is trying to pass. For instance, the above quote about oceans will be
understood when one can imagine how a corpse floats on water or the ocean without ‘stresses’.
This is how one who is ‘dead’ to the world will move through life with whatever life throws at
him or her. The Mathnawī further asserts to a similar affect:
This “I-and-we-ness” is a ladder that all men climb-in the end, they all must fall.
Whoever goes higher is a greater fool, for his bones will break the worse. I speak of the
derivative, but this is the principle: To deem oneself exalted is to claim copartnership
with God. As long as you have not died and become living through Him, you are a rebel
seeking a realm for your copartnership. When you have become living through Him,
you are indeed He. That is utter Oneness, how could that be copartnership? (M. IV,
2763-2767).
The saint has died to himself and become living through the Lord; hence God’s
mysteries are upon his lips. When the body dies in self-discipline, that is life: The
suffering of the body is the subsistence of the spirit. (M. III, 3364-3365)
What we have attempted to do in this article is to allude succinctly to the manner in which
death was viewed in the works of two great Sufis. Certainly, Al-Ghazālī and Rūmī are not the
first to propagate this message, but what is peculiar about them are the approaches employed to
express and revivify the traditional position. Their imageries projected their formulations with a
freshness and relevance which calls for a deeper understanding, definition and transformation of
the idea of death that we can still relate to in our time.
Acknowledgement
I am indebted to my indefatigable Prof. Dr. Sayyid Mohamed Ajmal Abdul Razak Al-Aidrus for
introducing me to Rūmī’s magnum opus, Mathnawī. The work has indeed increased my desire to
plunge into the ‘ocean’ of Islamic spirituality.
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Nicholson, Reynold A.1994.Islamic Poetry and Mysticism. Delhi: Adam Publishers.
Perreira, Todd L. 2010. “Die before you die: Death Meditation as Spiritual Technology of the
Self in Islam and Buddhism.” The Muslim World.100. 247-267.
Schimmel, Annemarie.1992. I am Wind, You are Fire: The Life and Work of Rumi.13th-Century
Sufi. Boston, MA:Shambhala Publications.
Sharaf al-dīn, Maneri. 1980.The Hundred Letters. New York: Paulist Press.
Chittick, William C. 1987. Rumi's View of Death.”Alserat. 13(2). 30-51.
Al-Ghazālī. 1989. The Remembrance of Death and the Afterlife, T. J. Winter, trans. Cambridge:
The Islamic Texts Society.
Jalāl ad-Dīn Rūmī. 2004. The Mathnawi of Jalalu’ddin Rumi: edited from the oldest R.A.
Nicholson, trans. Lahore: Sang-e-Meel Publications.
ABOUT THE AUTHOR
Abdulgafar Fahm: Lecturer, Department of Religions, University of Ilorin, Nigeria; Ph.D.
Research Scholar, International Islamic University, Jalan Duta, Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia.
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The International Journal of Religion and
Spirituality in Society aims to create an intellectual
frame of reference for the academic study of religion
and spirituality, and to create an interdisciplinary
conversation on the role of religion and spirituality in
society. It is intended as a place for critical engagement,
examination, and experimentation of ideas that connect
religious philosophies to their contexts throughout
history in the world, places of worship, on the streets,
and in communities. The journal addresses the need for
critical discussion on religious issues—specifically as
they are situated in the present-day contexts of ethics,
warfare, politics, anthropology, sociology, education,
leadership, artistic engagement, and the dissonance
or resonance between religious tradition and modern
trends.
Papers published in the journal range from the
expansive and philosophical to finely grained analysis
based on deep familiarity and understanding of a
particular area of religious knowledge. They bring into
dialogue philosophers, theologians, policymakers, and
educators, to name a few of the stakeholders in this
conversation.
The International Journal of Religion and Spirituality in
Society is a peer-reviewed scholarly journal.
ISSN 2154-8633
Article
Full-text available
Scholarship and research in the field of thanatology require creative responses to address contemporary concerns regarding how people – individually and collectively – make sense of events and experiences associated with death and dying. This present study focuses on the broader Islamic traditions of the experience of death and the afterlife and provides a conceptual overview of the practices of mourning and memoria. This overview offers an exploration of considerations for the well-being of the deceased, interactions between the living and the dead, as well as how dreams act as conduits between the seen and unseen worlds. Additionally, this study draws from the narratives contained within the fortieth and final book of the eleventh-century Persian Muslim philosopher and jurist, Abū Ḥāmid al-Ghazālī’s epic, titled The Remembrance of Death and the Afterlife, to address and juxtaposition Muslim conceptions pertaining to death and the afterlife with death anxiety research not currently articulated within the wider Islamic scholarship. Through the exploration of Islamic traditions and the contribution of al-Ghazālī’s citations within The Remembrance, this work will demonstrate how broader reflections on recognising the inevitability of death and the importance of relinquishing earthly attachments posit a creative response to contemporary death anxiety research. Bearing in mind the commonly studied tenets within the wider corpus of al-Ghazālī’s impressive epic, The Revival of the Religious Sciences, it is the literature presented here which warrants full consideration for creative responses to the discussion on death that may consequently be of pastoral significance and provide techniques for lessening death anxiety.
Book
Full-text available
Through extensive textual analysis, this book reveals how various passages of the Qur'an define death and resurrection spiritually or metaphorically. While the Day of Resurrection is a major theme of the Qur'an, resurrection has largely been interpreted as physical, which is defined as bones leaving their graves. However, this book shows that the Qur'an sometimes alludes to death and resurrection in a metaphoric manner – for example, rebuilding a desolate town, typically identified as Jerusalem, and bringing the Israelite exiles back; thus, suggesting awareness and engagement with Jewish liturgy. Many times, the Qur'an even speaks of non-believers as spiritually dead, those who live in this world, but are otherwise zombies. The author presents an innovative theory of interpretation, contextualizing the Qur'an within Late Antiquity and traces the Qur'anic passages back to their Biblical, extra-biblical and rabbinic subtexts and traditions.
Article
The current conceptual review sought to identify and describe how the end of life was conceptualized and operationalized in top-ranking, peer-reviewed social work journals considering the highly individualized and multidimensional experience of dying put forth by modern scholars and social work practitioners. An iterative content analysis of included articles (N = 103) revealed six themes within reported definitions and four themes within eligibility criteria. Definitions (n = 66) related to treatment responsiveness, the death process, dying, prognosis, admission to specific services, and old age. Eligibility criteria (n = 18) related to proxy assessment, diagnosis, prognosis, and functional ability assessments. Over one-third of included articles did not define what was meant by the end of life (36%; n = 37) and the majority did not include eligibility criteria (83%; n = 85). In conclusion, the complex lived experience of dying was not manifest within included articles raising important implications for research (e.g., measurement, meta-analysis) and social work practice (viz. service eligibility).
The Faith and Practice of Al-Ghazālī
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Watt, Montegomery W. 2000. The Faith and Practice of Al-Ghazālī. Oxford: Oneworld. (Original work published 1953).
Prolegomenon to the Metaphysics of Islam. Kuala Lumpur: International Institute of Islamic Thought and Civilization
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Al-Attas, Naquib.2001. Prolegomenon to the Metaphysics of Islam. Kuala Lumpur: International Institute of Islamic Thought and Civilization.
Islamic Poetry and Mysticism Die before you die: Death Meditation as Spiritual Technology of the Self in Islam and Buddhism The Muslim World.100
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I am Wind You are Fire: The Life and Work of Rumi.13th-Century Sufi Sharaf al-dīn, Maneri. 1980.The Hundred Letters Rumi's View of Death
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ABOUT THE AUTHOR Abdulgafar Fahm: Lecturer, Department of Religions
  • Nicholson
  • Lahore
Nicholson, trans. Lahore: Sang-e-Meel Publications. ABOUT THE AUTHOR Abdulgafar Fahm: Lecturer, Department of Religions, University of Ilorin, Nigeria; Ph.D. Research Scholar, International Islamic University, Jalan Duta, Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia.
The Mathnawi of Jalalu'ddin Rumi: edited from the oldest R.A. Nicholson, trans. Lahore: Sang-e-Meel Publications
  • Jalāl Ad-Dīn
  • Rūmī
Jalāl ad-Dīn Rūmī. 2004. The Mathnawi of Jalalu'ddin Rumi: edited from the oldest R.A. Nicholson, trans. Lahore: Sang-e-Meel Publications. ABOUT THE AUTHOR
Islamic Poetry and Mysticism
  • Reynold A Nicholson
Nicholson, Reynold A.1994.Islamic Poetry and Mysticism. Delhi: Adam Publishers.
I am Wind, You are Fire: The Life and Work of Rumi.13th-Century Sufi
  • Annemarie Schimmel
Schimmel, Annemarie.1992. I am Wind, You are Fire: The Life and Work of Rumi.13th-Century Sufi. Boston, MA:Shambhala Publications.
Rumi's View of Death
  • William C Chittick
Chittick, William C. 1987. "Rumi's View of Death."Alserat. 13(2). 30-51.