Is there really a right or wrong way to grieve? Well, grief is something that saddens a person so it is normal to feel down. The question is to what extent should one grieve? What are we as Muslims allowed to utter in times of grief? How should we act?
It is never easy losing someone you love dearly. It feels as if the sun has gone and will never rise again. We take lesson from the life of our perfect example Nabi Muhammad (Sallllahu ‘Alayhi wa Sallam) and his Companions (RadiyAllahu ‘anhum) and we take comfort from the veres of Qur-aan.
Grief at times consumes, meaning it affects not just our hearts but even the way we think and act. You may disbelieve that your beloved has actually passed away as Sayyidunaa ‘Umar (RadiyAllahu ‘anu) did.
When the Messenger of Allah (Sallallahu ‘Alaihi wa Sallam) passed away Sayyidunaa ‘Umar (ra) said, ‘By Allah, if anyone mentions that the Messenger of Allah (Sallallahu ‘Alaihi wa Sallam) has died, I will strike him with this sword of mine’. [The entire narration is related by Al-Tirmidhi in Al-Shamail; by Ibn Majah in Al-Salah (The chapter on the Messenger of Allah’s prayer during his sickness); by Al-Tabarani, in Al-Kabir; part of it by al-Bukhari, in his Sahih; and part of it by Al-Nisa’i.]
As for the rest of the Sahaabah (Companions), they refrained from speaking. Because there never was a Prophet among them before Rasoolullah (Sallallahu ‘Alaihi wa Sallam), they did not know what to do. But Sayyidunaa Abu Bakr (RadiyAllahu ‘anhu) went to the body of Rasoolullah (Sallallahu ‘Alaihi wa Sallam) and touched him, recited: “Verily, you (O Muhammad (Sallallahu ‘Alaihi wa Sallam) will die and verily, they (too) will die.” (Surah 30, az-Zumar v:30)
What composure from Rasoolullah’s (Sallallahu ‘Alaihi wa Sallam) closest friend! His recitation shows his profound understanding of the Qur-aan. When everyone was in shock and in the dark about what to do, it was Sayyidunaa Abu Bakr’s (RadiyAllahu ‘anhu) words who brought reality in their grieving hearts.
He said “If anyone amongst you used to worship Muhammad, then Muhammad has passed away, but if you used to worship Allah, then Allah is Alive and shall never die. Allah said, “And Muhammad is but a messenger; the messengers have come before him; if then he dies or is killed will you turn back upon your heels? And whoever turns back upon his heels, he will by no means do harm to Allah in the least and Allah will reward the grateful.” (Surah 03, Aal ‘Imraan, v:144)
Physical responses are also to be expected. You may experience tightness in your throat, heaviness across your chest, or pain around your heart. Your stomach may be upset, along with other intestinal disturbances. You may have headaches, hot flashes, or cold chills. You may be dizzy at times, or tremble more than usual, or find yourself easily startled. Some people find it hard to get their breath. You may, in addition, undergo changes in your behavior. You may sleep less than you used to and wake up at odd hours. Or you may sleep more than normal. You may have odd dreams or frightening nightmares.
Some people engage in what’s called “searching behavior”—you look for your loved one’s face among a crowd of people, for instance, even though you know they’ve died. You may become attached to things you associate with your loved one, like wearing an article of their clothing or carrying a keepsake that belonged to them. Or you may wish to avoid all such reminders. [muchloved.com]
You may find it hard concentrating. You may sit unproductive for hours on end. Your thinking may be confused. Some of us will look for work- house or office work, anything to keep us distracted yet the mind will keep wandering back to our beloved whom we lost.
We should not grieve in the same way as those who have no hope, for Allah has promised us comfort and strength right into the valley of the shadow of death, and beyond.
[Nabi Ibraheem ‘Alayhis Salaam said: ‘0 Lord! Show me how you give life to the dead.’ He said: ‘Do you not believe?’ He said: ‘Yes, but to satisfy my own understanding, (tell me).’ Allah said: ‘Take four birds and tame them to return to you; put one of them on each of four separate hills, then call to them. They will come flying to you with speed.’ [Surah 02, al-Baqarah v:260]
When Allah calls us, we will surely ‘come flying’ to Him. Our earthly life is the separation on the hills; when we die, we will be called back to our real home, with Allah.
I console myself with this aayah, ”So do not lose heart, and do not fall into despair; for you must gain mastery if you are true in faith”. (Surah 03, Aal ‘Imraan v:139)
It’s natural to cry and show emotion. Upon hearing that Nabi Muhammad’s (Sallallahu ‘Alaihi wa Sallam) 16 month old son from Maaryah Qibtiyyah, Ibraheem, passed away he immediately went to the house of the nurse, where he held Ibraheem in his hands, and tears flowed from his eyes.
He said, “The eyes send their tears and the heart is saddened, but we do not say anything except that which pleases our Lord. Indeed, O Ibraheem, we are bereaved by your departure from us.” Then he turned his face towards the mountain before his and said, “O mountain! If you were as sorrowful as I am, you would certainly crumble into pieces! But we say what Allah has ordered us: (We are the servants of Allah and we will return to Him; We thank Allah, the Creator of the Universe)”
While Rasoolullah (Sallallahu ‘Alaihi wa Sallam) was grieving for his son Ibraheem, Usaamah ibn Zayd (RadiyAllahu ‘anhu) started to cry. Rasoolullah (Sallallahu ‘Alaihi wa Sallam) warned him not to. Usaamah said, “I saw you crying.”
Rasoolullah (Sallallahu ‘Alaihi wa Sallam) answered: “I have not commanded you against sadness, but against raising your voice in grief”. [Ibn-i Sa’d, Tabaqat v.1, p.131-144]
It is narrated by Bukhari and Muslim, on the authority of ‘Abdullah ibn Mas’ood (RadiyAllahu ‘anhu) that Rasoolullah said “He who slaps his cheeks and tears his clothes and makes supplications of the Jahiliyyah is not one of us.” So we learn that shouting out and wailing is against the sunnah of Rasoolullah (Sallallahu ‘Alaihi wa Sallam). We have been taught that sadness is a natural feeling that we express by shedding tears while adopting patience (sabr). Sayyidunaa Abu Huraira (RadiyAllahu ‘anhu) narrates Rasoolullah (Sallallahu ‘Alaihi wa Sallam) said Allah says (Hadeeth Qudsiyy):
“My faithful servant’s reward from Me, if I have taken to Me his best friend from amongst the inhabitants of the world and he has then borne it patiently for My sake, shall be nothing less than Paradise. [Bukhari]
Losing someone you love is tough but when you accept that it is from Allah as all conditions are, it makes it so much more manageable. When we have Imaan, we will take charge of our own lives and accept responsibility in a disciplined way, and this reduces the causes of guilt and sets in motion wise processes necessary for the management of grief.
Allah mentions in the Qur-aan Kareem “Allah burdens not a person beyond his scope. He gets reward for that (good) which he has earned, and he is punished for that (evil) which he has earned. “Our Lord! Punish us not if we forget or fall into error, our Lord! Lay not on us a burden like that which You did lay on those before us; our Lord! Put not on us a burden greater than we have strength to bear. Pardon us and grant us Forgiveness. Have mercy on us. You are our Maulaa (Patron, Supporter and Protector, etc.) and give us victory over the disbelieving people.” [Surah 02, al-Baqarah, v:286]
Wailing and lamenting that causes people to question Allah’s will brings them closer to kufr. The humanity of silently crying and supplicating to Allah as above versus blasphemous lamenting and wailing… The choice is ours.
May Allah make it easy for all of us who have lost our near and dear ones. May Allah heal our hearts and comfort us when their memory comes flashing before us. May we never utter any statement against Allah for He truly knows best.