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What Is Your Legacy? Will You Be Missed?

An excerpt from a speech given at the 36th Annual ICNA-MAS Convention

“How many were the gardens and springs they left behind, and corn-fields and noble buildings, and wealth wherein they had taken such delight. Thus, it was. And We made other people inherit [those things]! And neither heaven nor earth shed a tear over them, nor were they given a respite” (Quran 44:25-29).
These verses are talking about Pharaoh and his people — people who had much, people who were given much of the dunya, people who had palaces, wealth, and material comfort. And just like that, Allah SWT took it away. And as the verse tells us, “neither heaven nor earth shed a tear over them.”
Ibn Abbas (RAA) was once asked if the heavens and the earth cry over anybody. And he said, “Yes, they cry; the heavens and the earth shed tears because there is not a single person who does good except that he has a gate through which his good deeds ascend. And whenever he dies that gate is closed. So, the heavens cry for him. And there is not a single place on earth that was affected by his good, even his place of sujud, his musalla, that when he dies, it sheds tears, it cries for him, that he has departed.” Now, if Hosni Mubarak and Bashar Al-Assad and Qadafi were all riding in a van and the vehicle fell off a cliff, I don’t think that many people would feel very sorry for them. And it’s only natural, because the legacy that they left is one of harm and harshness, like Pharaoh.

What About You?

Let’s now look at it from the opposite side. When you pass away, will you be missed? It’s a very simple question. The Prophet (pbuh), as recounted in sahih Bukhari, once saw a janazah and said, “Either he is relieved from the world or the world is relieved from him.” And in another incident, a very famous incident, when one janazah was passing by and Rasulullah (pbuh) was with a group of companions and the companions started to say good things about the man who had passed away. Rasulullah (pbuh) said, “It became mandatory, it became mandatory, it became mandatory.” And then another janazah passed by and they said bad things about that person, and Rasulullah said, “It became mandatory, it became mandatory, it became mandatory.” [One said], “O Rasulullah, what became mandatory?” He said, “As to the person you testified was good, because of your testimony, paradise became mandatory for him. And as for the one you spoke ill of, due to your testimony, hellfire became mandatory for him.” Subhanallah, this is a very powerful hadith.
So here is my point — when you die, and your janazah is being followed and people are at your funeral and people are shedding their tears and people are saying that they’re going to miss you, will they really miss you? Did you really leave a void because you were a person of benefit wherever you were? If you move out of your neighborhood today, will your neighbors even realize a difference, will they even notice that something is different — except that the guy who used to dress funny and the lady in hijab is not there anymore? When you pass away, will there be people who used to receive your sadaqah and receive your goodness who will say, “That person used to do so much for me.” One of the companions narrates that the people of Madinah used to receive much sustenance and they had no idea where it was coming from. No idea. Until Hussain (RAA), the grandson of the Prophet (pbuh), passed away. They then realized it was coming from him. Will there be people who recognize your absence, people who realize you are not here anymore? Will there be a void in your community? Will there be a void in your neighborhood? Would people recognize our absence, as individuals and as a community? Either you are relieved from people or people are relieved from you. Rasulullah says in an authentic hadith, “Whoever makes a well that would satisfy the thirst of some being, not a single jinn, human being, bird, or a wild beast will drink from it except that Allah SWT will reward him for it on the Day of Judgment. And whoever builds a masjid for the sake of Allah SWT, be it large or small, Allah SWT will build for him a house in Paradise.” And what the ulema say about this hadith is so powerful. Dr. A’id El Qarni mentioned that this hadith means that you fulfilled either the physical needs or the spiritual needs of another human being. The most beloved people to Allah SWT are the ones who benefit the people most. When you benefit people either physically or spiritually, you serve a good purpose and there is a void when you are gone.
Rasulullah (pbuh) spoke about the scholars, saying that even the fish in the sea will ask for forgiveness for them. Why? Because they served. They benefited the people with their knowledge. And you look at someone like Imam Ahmad, rahimahullah, whose janazah was held the same day he died. There was no mass media, no television stations, no newspapers to announce his death. Yet, do you know how many people attended the janazah of Imam Ahmad — 1.3 million people! Think about that. When he left this earth, people recognized that there was going to be a huge void. So, think on the smaller scale now. When you die, will you be missed, will your family miss you, will your neighborhood miss you, will your masjid miss you? Sometimes we don’t appreciate people in our communities and our masajid until they leave the community and suddenly the bathroom is not getting cleaned like it used to be. Suddenly the masjid is not getting vacuumed anymore. All of a sudden, the guy who was collecting the donations is not there anymore. We recognize a void.

Distributing Goodness and Benefit

The Prophet (pbuh) and his companions taught us that wherever they were, they distributed their goodness, and even the non-Muslims would wish that they would remain there amongst them. And when Rasulullah (pbuh) was with the ansar, they desired intensely that he stay amongst them, as did the muhajireen. The reality is that no matter how eloquent we are in our speeches, no matter how right our argument is, no matter how involved we get in mass media, we will not truly be able to succeed in giving dawah until the people of this country stand up and testify on our behalf and say that they want Muslims in this country, that they want Muslims to be here, that Muslims offer the society benefits. They could say, “When a flood hit, they were the first people there, ICNA Relief was there. People with Muslims for Humanity shirts were there. They were serving us, we want them to be here.”
I’ve said this before and I’ll say it again – one positive incident, one incident of you giving a sandwich to somebody who is hungry is enough to undo, in that person’s mind, 20 years of FOX News programming. One incident, one encounter. We should think very deeply about that and the role our community should play, and the role that we as individuals should play. Will you be missed? Will the heavens and the earth cry for you when you pass away? Will the people cry for you, will they feel the loss deep in their hearts? We ask Allah SWT to make us among those who are sorely missed, to be among those — not who the world is relieved from — but of those who are relieved from the world when they pass away. And we ask Allah SWT to enter us into the highest level of Jannah to be in the company with Rasulullah (pbuh) and his companions. Ameen.

Sh. Omar SuleimanAuthor Imam Omar Suleiman is the Imam and Khateeb of Masjid Abu Bakr Al-Siddique at Metairie, Louisiana.

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