"There's a dance party going on in there," my husband announced as the five of us huddled in the hotel stairwell.
"What?!" Now it was my turn to be confused.
Just then the door to the lobby flew open again. Dressed in pjs and robes, a couple two steps ahead of us gave us the all clear as they headed back to their room. Two smoke machines at the New Year's Eve party, they told us, had triggered a false alarm.
What a relief!!! We turned the troops around and headed back upstairs, laughing at our rattled selves the whole way there. The punchline came as we approached our room and realized the sounds we had mistaken for an evacuation had come from a party (with lots of noisy revelers, thud-thud dance music and aromatic food) next door.
But later that night, I couldn't fall sleep. Death suddenly seemed more real and...lurking. I was haunted by this thought: What if death really had been on the other side of the door that night? Truth is, I wasn't ready to meet my Lord.
"The death from which you shrink will surely meet you, and afterward you will be returned unto the Knower of the invisible and the visible, and He will tell you what you used to do." (Quran 62:8)
Our relationship with death is, in fact, a barometer of our faith. Those of us who fail to perform our duties to God and repeatedly fall into sin are afraid of death and want to see it delayed.
"You have ruined and destroyed your Hereafter and instead have made habitable the present life," said Hussain, son of Fatima (one of the four perfect women of all times). "So you do not like the transfer from an inhabited and comfortable place to a ruined and destroyed one."
On the other hand, those who truly believe that this life is temporary stay focused on preparing for death--one of the fifty stations on the way to our permanent abode--and embrace it when it arrives.
Like Fatima did. Right before Prophet Muhammad (S) passed away he whispered some words to her. Fatima: "First my father told me that he was going to die. When I heard this, I began to cry. Then he informed me that I would be the very first to meet him in heaven, and that too, very soon. When I heard this, I was very happy, and I smiled."
"Remember death often," the Prophet (S) instructed.
Only with this understanding of death can we stay fearlessly committed to truth, peace and justice, especially in these times of tanks, tear gas and rubber (or even live) bullets. Indeed, this is the mindset of brave activists everywhere following the footsteps of Hussain, who once said: "I don't see death but prosperity and living with tyrants nothing but disgust and disgrace."
Bless Muhammad and his household,
Appoint for us from among the righteous works a work
through which we will feel the homecoming to Thee as slow
and crave a quick joining with Thee,
so that death may be
our intimate abode with which we are intimate,
our familiar place toward which we yearn,
and our next of kin whose coming we love!
(Supplication of Zain-ul-Abideen, grandson of Fatima)