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Ali Banat and Dying in Ramadan

Screenshot from a video. Ali Banat’s back is toward the camera.

Allah’s signs are all around us — in life and in death. On May 29, 2018, an Australian Muslim, Ali Banat, passed away in the blessed month of Ramadan, like many other Muslims around the world. What distinguished Ali was his legacy and the attitude with which he faced his affliction.

Ever since he was diagnosed with Stage 4 adenoid cystic carcinoma in July 2015, at the age of 33, Ali went from a successful businessman who self-developed businesses and lived a luxurious life, to someone who turned his life around, and the lives of many others around the world. What he achieved in the three years from his diagnosis to his death is something many others are unable to achieve in an entire lifetime.

Ali took the “gift from Allah” and created a project called MATW (Muslims Around The World) in October 2015 to assist those less fortunate in the poverty-stricken areas of Togo, Africa. He tirelessly raised money for them through public donations, besides giving away his personal belongings.

The news of his death was relayed within minutes across the world on social media and news outlets, with Muslims everywhere making duaa for him. May Allah raise his ranks, accept from him all the good that he did, and enable us to understand and learn from the signs around us.

Death in Ramadan: without account?

Allah has promised some believers that they will enter Paradise without being brought to account and without being punished. In a long hadeeth narrated by  ‘Abdullah ibn ‘Abbas (may Allah be pleased with them both) the Prophet ﷺ said: […] from my Ummah (nation) seventy thousand will enter Paradise without being brought to account or punished.”

Upon hearing this, the people gathered there differed about them. They wondered: were they the ones who accompanied the Messenger of Allah ﷺ,  or those who were born in Islam and did not associate anything with Allah or perhaps some others? The Messenger of Allah ﷺ heard their voices and asked them what were they disputing about.  When he was told, he clarified: “They are the ones who did not seek ruqyah or believe in bird omens, and they put their trust in their Lord. A Companion  ‘Ukashah ibn Mihsan, may Allah be pleased with him, stood up and said: “Pray to Allah  to make me one of them.” The Prophet ﷺ said: “You will be one of them.” Another man stood up and said: “Pray to Allah to make me one of them.” He said: “‘Ukashah has beaten you to it.” (Al-Bukhari, 5705; Muslim, 220)

The Prophet ﷺ did not explicitly say that among these seventy thousand would be those who died during the month of Ramadan.

There is a hadeeth narrated about the virtue of someone who dies while fasting: the Prophet ﷺ said: “Whoever says Laa ilaaha ill-Allah (there is no god worthy of worship but Allah), seeking the Face of Allah and that is his final action, will enter Paradise. Whoever fasts one day seeking the Face of Allah and that is his final action, will enter Paradise. Whoever gives charity seeking the Face of Allah and that is his final action will enter Paradise.” (Imam Ahmad, 22813)

The virtue of someone who dies while fasting, which says that he will enter Paradise, is not simply for death in Ramadan, but  refers to someone whose final act was a righteous deed.

Death is enough as a reminder

Distressing as it may be to contemplate the reality of one’s own death or the death of close, loved ones, Muslims are advised to remember death often. Anas, may Allah be pleased with him, narrated that the Prophet  ﷺ passed by a group of people who were laughing and said: “Frequently remember the destroyer of pleasures.” Then he added: “It is never mentioned during the time of need but would make one feel content, and never mentioned during prosperity but would make one feel restricted.” [Al-Munthiri, Al-Bazzaar].

Imaam Al-Qurtubi, said, ‘Muslim scholars have unanimously agreed that death is not restricted to a certain age, time or sickness, so that man would always be ready to receive death, prepared for what comes after it’.

At-Tameemi, said, ‘Two things prevented me from enjoying life: remembering death and remembering the questioning in front of Allah.’

Ad-Daqqaaq, said: ‘He who frequently remembers death will be granted three things: swift repentance, a content heart and enthusiasm to worship Allah; and the one who neglects remembering death will be afflicted with three things: delay in repentance, discontentment and laziness in worshipping Allah.’

Al-Hasan,  said: ‘There are some people whose hope to be forgiven makes them heedless until they depart from this life having no rewards; and if you ask one of them about his delay in repentance, he would say: ‘I have positive thoughts about my Lord (i.e., He will not punish me)’ How he lies!

If he thought positively about his Lord he would act accordingly (i.e., perform good deeds)’ then he recited the saying of Allah The Almighty which means: {And that thought of yours which you thought about your Lord, has brought you to destruction; and you have become (this Day) of those utterly lost! } (Qur’an, 41: 23)

Sa’eed ibn Al-Jubayr, said: ‘It is a great deception to disobey Allah, but hope to be forgiven.’

Ibn ‘ Umar, may Allah be pleased with them both, reports, “I came to the Prophet, ﷺ and I was the tenth of the first ten people (who embraced Islam). A man from among the Ansaar got up and said, “O Messenger of Allah, who is the most sagacious and the most prudent among the people?” He replied: “Those who are most aware of death and prepare themselves for it. They are the wisest of people and will have honor in this world and a generous reward in the Hereafter’.” [At-Tabarani]

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