Over two years after my father’s passing, I reflected on the famous saying of the Prophet Muhammad, in which he advises us on what we can do for our loved ones after they have returned to Allah. In the hadith, Abu Hurayrah narrated that Allah’s Messenger said, “When a human being dies, all of his deeds are terminated except for three: an ongoing sadaqah (charity), a knowledge (of Islam) from which others benefit, and a righteous child who makes dua for him.”[Muslim and others]
I thought of how easy this would be for me. My father is such an integral part of my every memory that I would easily remember him daily and make dua for him.
But then I realized that there was another side to this hadith that I was completely missing; a much deeper and more proactive side. Righteous child. Why in the world did I assume that I was a righteous child? Was I really that perfect that I thought I would automatically be accepted by Allah? That my duas would be answered for my loved one? Could it be that this hadith is a reminder for me to work on myself, improve my faith, struggle with my weaknesses, so that I could be in a state of constant endeavor to reach piety? Was this hadith also a call for self-improvement, in the face of (or despite) grief and sadness?
As a parent myself, I realize that if I should die suddenly, my biggest worry would be for my young children. I worry about the logistics of who would take care of them, but I am reminded that if I pass, I have nothing to do with what happens after my death. The only and best wish that I could have for my young ones is that Allah protects their faith, and that they grow up in the shade of His remembrance.
I think of how I can strengthen my relationship with them, by nurturing and raising them, by playing with them, by laughing with them, by being kind to them, so that one day they will come searching for how they can continue to do birr (good deeds) to me, long after I have passed. When I think of moments I shared with my father, I think fondly of his loud laugh when I misread a word while reading a story in Arabic to him; I think of him wiping his wrinkled brow while his eyes were closed during a 3 am tahhajud prayer; I think of him making his corny jokes with a sheepish smile on his face. It’s those kinds of moments that inspire good deeds in me.
With my own children, my sincerest hope is that they will realize that there is nothing better that they can do for me than to work on themselves, make themselves the best Muslims they can be. I realize that there could be no better gift than to have my children pray for my salvation, and most importantly, struggling to make themselves the best people that I could leave behind. Only then, will I rest assuredly in my death, knowing that Allah and His Messenger, in their infinite wisdom, gave us pearls of wisdom that we can uncover when we dig a little more deeply.
Fatima lives in Northern Va with her husband and three kids (8,6 and 2). She enjoys reading, watching her kids play and working with youth in her community.