Death? Beautiful? What an insensitive adjective to put besides the word death! Death is painful. Death is loss. Death is grief and misery. Death is ugly. Or is it? This miraculous true story might change the way you look at death…

The elderly woman’s life was ebbing away. It had been days since she last spoke a word. Doctors had given her months to live. Then weeks. Then days. Now it was a matter of hours. It was the month of Ramadan.

Her children were with her.

They were taking turns to be at her bedside. A stream of visitors was coming and going. But none of them could understand the pain that her children were going through.

If only their mother could say the magic words. What words? The words.

The Prophet Muhammad (peace be upon him) once said: “He whose last words from the world are, ‘La ilaha illallah, Muhammadar Rasoolullah’ [There is no god but Allah and Muhammad is the Messenger of Allah] will enter Paradise.”

The situation was critical. For days her son had been exhorting his mother to say the words but not a sound was leaving her lips.

“She couldn’t say it,” he recalled. “She was pointing to her mouth and miming, ‘I can’t say it.'”

He understood that if his mother departed from this world without saying the words, it could be a worrying sign. “I didn’t want the greatest asset of my existence, my mother, to pass away without this.”

Her son had spent the last seven years helping needy people in all the corners of the globe. Whether it was feeding the blind, poor and widowed. Or it was supporting children who had suffered abuse, neglect and war, he was instrumental in setting up the groundbreaking institutions that improved the lives of all these people.

Orphans, the homeless, the elderly… he had helped to save all these people. The question now was: could he save his own mother?

As the day entered the night and the night drew out like a blade, he knew that only one thing could save his mother. Dua (supplication). To the Almighty. So that is what he did. It was the last third of the night. The golden hour in which no supplications are refused by Allah.

He put his head on the floor and begged: “I begged Allah like I had never begged Him for anything in my life. I begged him, ‘O Allah! Please, don’t let her die like this!'”

The answer came. Immediately.

“Within five minutes she began to cough and splutter. I cleaned the phlegm from her mouth. And then she spoke. What did she say? She said, ‘La ilaha illallah, Muhammadar Rasoolullah.'”

“She pointed two feet above my head and said to me, ‘Look! It says it there! Look how bright it is and how nice it is over there!’ I smiled and I became the happiest man I have ever been in my life.”

Shortly after that the woman passed away and at only a few hours’ notice, her funeral was attended the same day by over 500 people. Fasting, hungry and tired, they had traveled from all over the land to be there at the graveyard in the cold, heavy rain…

The Prophet Muhammad (pbuh) said about death: “When Allah wills good for His slave, He sweetens him.” He was asked, “What is this sweetening?” He said, “Allah guides him to do righteous deeds before he dies, then He takes (his soul) whilst he is in that state.”

Death is the proof of life. Our state at the time of our death is the proof whether or not we have lived a wholesome life full of obedience to our Creator. Whether our acts of devotion were sincerely to Allah, or whether they were just a fake front in order to gain wealth and status among the people, death lays it bare.

We can fake our life. But we can’t fake our death.

Although no human knows what is in a person’s heart at the time of death, the scholars of old have listed several signs that indicate a good ending.

Among these are uttering the testimony of faith, ‘La ilaha illallah, Muhammadar Rasoolullah’ and dying on a Friday. Among these are dying a painful or violent death such as due to drowning, being crushed, plague, a stomach illness, or a woman who dies in childbirth.

All these are considered martyrs in the sight of Allah and they are promised Paradise.

And among these is dying to defend one’s religion, one’s wealth or one’s life as per the words of the Prophet (pbuh):

“Whoever is killed defending his wealth is a martyr; whoever is killed defending his religion is a martyr; whoever is killed in self-defence is a martyr.”

During the war in Bosnia, I personally witnessed many good endings. The beautiful deaths of men killed while protecting the defenceless women and children of Bosnia from Serb death squads. I saw the bodies of these martyrs and I saw the peaceful expressions on their faces. There was no doubt in my mind that these heroes had died noble deaths, may Allah accept them.

For sure, death is painful. But it does not have to be ugly. We can decide whether to have a good ending or a bad ending. It is simple. However we spend our lives, that is most likely how we will die.

If most of our time is spent disobeying Allah, tormenting His creation, destroying lives with the jealousy of our hearts, lying, stealing, betraying, bringing misery on people… we will most probably die an evil death while we are busy doing these things.

But if most of our waking hours are spent worshipping Allah, doing good deeds, helping His creation, serving our parents, feeding the hungry, supporting the orphan, being kind to animals… it is more likely that our end will come while we are engaged in one of these activities.

The story that I mentioned at the start of this post did not happen hundreds of years ago to an unknown person in a faraway land. It happened in Bradford, a northern city in England, eight days ago on Sunday 12 June 2016.

Here, the son of this very woman speaks in this emotional video clip recorded at his mother’s burial about how he begged Allah to let her die with the magic words on her lips…

I post a new piece every Monday morning at 08:00 GMT/UTC. Enter your email address in the field below to follow my blog and receive notifications of new posts by email.