Pictures have been flooding social media of the death and funeral of one of the richest monarchs in the world, President Sheikh Khalifa bin Zayed al-Nahyan of the United Arab Emirates, has died at the age of 73.
The al-Nahyan family is believed to have a fortune of $150bn (£123bn).
As well as being president of the UAE, Sheikh Khalifa was also the ruler of Abu Dhabi, the oil-rich capital of the seven emirates which comprise the UAE.
As news of his death spread throughout the world, foreign monarchs and Presidents from around the world jumped on expensive planes and immediately flew over to offer condolences and support. From Kamala Harris representing the United States, countries throughout the world have declared a three-day period of mourning. In the UAE itself restaurants have been advised to shut off all music as well as any kind of entertainment throughout the country etc.
It is the power and wealth of the Al-Nahyan family that determined the reactions of the world. Leaders across the world showed their support and their respects and their daily routines and jam-packed schedules were disrupted in order to fly across the world and offer support.
As Muslims, of we are observing two opposing viewpoints. We see the reactions of the world leaders who understand that the wealth and power of this ruler even in death must be respected. Yet as we look at his simple janazah the same cloth and same rights as that of billions of Muslims around the world, this brings home to us all the reality of death.
This reality is explained to us so aptly in a hadith wherein the Prophet (ﷺ) drew a square and then drew a line in the middle of it and let it extend outside the square and then drew several small lines attached to that central line, and said, “This is the human being, and this, (the square) in his lease of life, encircles him from all sides (or has encircled him), and this (line), which is outside (the square), is his hope, and these small lines are the calamities and troubles (which may befall him), and if one misses him, an-other will snap (i.e. overtake) him, and if the other misses him, a third will snap (i.e. overtake) him.”
عن عبد الله بن مسعود -رضي الله عنه- قال: (خَطَّ النبيُّ -صَلَّى اللهُ عليه وسلَّمَ- خَطًّا مُرَبَّعًا، وخَطَّ خَطًّا في الوَسَطِ خَارِجًا منه، وخَطَّ خُطَطًا صِغَارًا إلى هذا الذي في الوَسَطِ مِن جَانِبِهِ الذي في الوَسَطِ، وقَالَ: هذا الإنْسَانُ، وهذا أجَلُهُ مُحِيطٌ به أوْ: قدْ أحَاطَ به وهذا الذي هو خَارِجٌ أمَلُهُ، وهذِه الخُطَطُ الصِّغَارُ الأعْرَاضُ، فإنْ أخْطَأَهُ هذا نَهَشَهُ هذا، وإنْ أخْطَأَهُ هذا نَهَشَهُ هذا)
This highlights to us that no matter the speed at which we run , no matter how much we may earn and accomplish , the reality is that it is completely inevitable that death will overtake us at some point or the other. Your bank account does not matter. Your buildings and your status – none of it can be of benefit. All those world superpowers rushed to offer condolences and whilst appreciated – we understand that as he lies there wrapped in a simple white cloth – they can benefit him no more.
As we look at this example so clear to us – we need to look at the reality of death from the lenses of the hadith – a man asked the Holy Prophet (s) “who was the most intelligent of people and the most honored of people? The Holy Prophet (s) replied: The one remembers death the most and the one who is the most severe in preparation of death- they are the truly intelligent ones. They have taken the honour of this world and the honour of the hereafter.
عن عبدالله بن عمر -رضي الله عنهما- قال: أتيتُ النَّبيَّ -صلَّى اللهُ عليه وسلَّم- عاشرَ عشرةٍ، فقال رجلٌ من الأنصارِ: من أكيَسُ النَّاسِ وأكرمُ النَّاسِ يا رسولَ اللهِ؟ فقال: (أكثرُهم ذِكرًا للموتِ وأشدُّهم استعدادًا له أولئك هم الأكياسُ ذهبوا بشرفِ الدُّنيا وكرامةِ الآخرةِ)
The reality of death is in the understanding that nothing of this world – no matter how much we try to attain it – none of it will truly benefit us as we are finally equally wrapped in those cotton sheets.