Life is short and passing you by rapidly. In late 2007, computer science professor Randy Pausch was diagnosed with terminal pancreatic cancer and given weeks to live. Shortly thereafter he delivered a final lecture at Carnegie Mellon University that became a phenomenon and inspired millions. As Muslims, our tradition teaches us that we must live likewise. We are all headed towards death, with only a few days left. The question is, how do spend those remaining days.
The great Caliph Abu Bakr on his deathbed gave some beautiful parting words of advice to Umar that should serve as a guide to each one of us, and point us to the proper way of living and prioritizing our lives.
I advise with the piety of Allah (taqwa) O Umar, and know that there are some deeds for Allah during the night that cannot be postponed to the day, and some deeds for Him in the daytime that cannot be postponed for the night. And know that superogatory deeds will not be accepted until the obligatory ones are fulfilled.
It is all about prioritizing our lives. Allah has fixed various actions into various timings with an order or succession. Some deeds are more virtuous than others. Some times are more valuable than others. And some deeds are more virtuous in specific times over others. Some deeds cannot be postponed and should be done immediately. And the obligatory deeds always take precedence over the others. Real knowledge is to recognize these priorities and virtues and carefully choose the steps we take in our lives to maximize results.
How many of us waste our time with insignificant or less significant things? How many Muslims are diligent in Taraweeh prayer in Ramadan while neglecting Isha? The great worshipper Fudayl ibn Iyad [died 187H] recalls his former days as a highway robber, when, as he sat down with his band of robbers after a robbery to distribute the spoils, his chief refused to eat, stating he was fasting. They were amazed and began laughing at that, to which the chief responded, “Look, you don’t know what will happen to you, so never sever the link between you and Allah. Always have at least one good deed.”
Those who follow the truth in dunya despite it being heavy on them will have their scales weighty on the Day of Judgement, while those who followed falsehood because it was easier and light upon them will have their scales very light on that Day.
The truth is hard and heavy while evil is easy and light in this dunya. Those who practice the deen find it difficult. But remain focused on the end. What are we filling our scales with? Will they be heavy or light on that Day?
Verily, Allah has mentioned the people of Paradise by virtue of their good deeds and has forgiven their sins, so when you remember them, say, “I fear not being among them.” And He mentioned the people of the Fire with their evil deeds, so when you remember them, say, “I hope not to be among them.” And he mentioned verses of mercy along with verses of punishment so that the servant may be both hopeful and fearful.
If you live by my advice, nothing shall be more pleasing to you than death, which you shall never escape.
This is the action plan for your remaining days. If you remain focused and prioritize, keeping your eyes on the prize, focusing on the obligations, then you will have no regrets. You will not only be ready for death but will welcome it. Professor Randy Pausch died last week but left his Last Lecture for the world. And this was Abu Bakr’s Last Lecture for the ummah.
Live from Houston, Ilm Summit 2008, Day 3