Death Is Life
According to a story, when the mystic al-Ghazālī felt his death approaching, he dismissed those who were with him, with instructions that no one should come to see him until the following morning. The next day, when they entered his chamber, they found him clad in his shroud, facing the qiblah, (the direction of the Kaaba to which Muslims turn at prayer) dead. At his head, theyfound a sheet of paper with these lines:
Say to my friends, when they look upon me, dead,
weeping for me and mourning me in sorrow:
“Do not believe that this corpse you see is myself.”
In the name of God, I tell you, it is not I.
I am a spirit, and this is naught but flesh:
it was my abode and my garment for a time.
I am a treasure, by a talisman kept hid,
fashioned of dust, which served me as a shrine;
I am a pearl, which has left its shed deserted:
it was my prison, where I spent my time in grief,
whence I have now flown forth, and it is left as a token.
Praise be to God, who has now set me free,
and prepared for me my place in the highest of the heavens.
Until today I was dead, though alive in your midst:
now I live in truth, with the grave clothes discarded.
Today I hold converse with the saints above:
now, with no veil between, I see God face to face.
I look upon the Tablet (al-Lawḥ al-Maḥfūẓ), and therein I read,
whatever was and is, and all that is to be.
Let my house fall in ruins, lay my cage in the ground,
cast away the talisman, ’tis a token, no more;
Lay aside my cloak, it was but my outer garment:
place them all in the grave, let them be forgotten.
I have passed on my way, and you are left behind:
your place of abode was no dwelling place for me.
Think not that death is death, nay, it is life:
a life that surpasses all that we could dream of here,
while in this world.
Here we are granted sleep:
death is but sleep, sleep that shall be prolonged.
Be not frightened when death draws nigh:
it is but the departure for this blessed home.
Think of the mercy and love of your Lord:
give thanks for his grace, and come without fear.
What I am now, even so shall you be,
for I know that you are even as I am.
The souls of all men came forth from God;
The bodies of all are compounded alike
good and evil, alike it was ours.
I give you now a message of good cheer:
May God’s peace and joy be yours for evermore.
al-Ghazālī, in Margaret Smith, al-Ghazali the Mystic