Death is a question of ultimate concern for every human being, and Islam has a very vivid portrayal of the stages of death and the afterlife. Death is likened to sleep in Islam; interestingly, sleep in Arabic is called “the little brother of death.” The Prophet spoke often of death, and the Qur’an is filled with warnings of the dangers of ignoring one’s mortality and of not preparing for death before it is too late. In one poignant passage, the Qur’an reads,

And spend something (in charity) out of the substance which We have bestowed on you before death should come to any of you and he should say, “O my Lord! Why didst Thou not give me respite for a little while? I should then have given (largely) in charity, and I should have been one of the doers of good.” But to no soul will God grant respite when the time appointed (for it) has come, and God is well-acquainted with (all) that ye do. (Qur’an, pp. 1473–1474)

Hence, the world is seen as an opportunity to cultivate for the hereafter, and time is seen as capital that human beings either invest wisely or squander, only to find themselves bankrupt in the next life. Prophet Muhammad (peace be upon him) said, “One of you says, ‘My wealth! My wealth!’ Indeed, have any of you anything other than your food that you eat and consume, your clothes that you wear out, and your wealth that you give in charity which thus increases in return in the next world?”

The idea of mentioning death and reflecting on death is very important in a Muslim’s daily life, and attending any Muslim’s funeral, whether known or not, is highly encouraged; for such attendance, one is rewarded greatly by God. Prophet Muhammad (peace be upon him) advised, “Make much mention of the destroyer of delights,” which is death. He also said, “Introduce into your gatherings some mention of death to keep things in perspective.” This is not seen as a morbid exercise, and Muslims surprisingly accept death, resigned to what is called “one’s appointed time” (ajal). Like the telemere in biology that dictates how many times a cell may regenerate before dying, an individual’s appointed term, according to Islam, is inescapable and fated. When a Muslim survives a near-death experience, such as a serious car accident, an operation, or an illness, he or she will often remark, “My appointed time did not come yet.”