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Losing a loved one is one of the hardest things we must endure in our life’s journey. We know that death is a reality and everyone will go through it, for God states, “Every soul is destined to experience the agony of death.”1 We have heard this verse many times, but it becomes a reality when it actually happens to someone dear to us.
We know that the people who pass away are in a better place—as they move past this temporal world to a state closer to God. However, we remain behind having to cope with the difficulty of the loss of someone we loved and with whom we spent so much time. This is very tough and challenging, and admitting that it is difficult is the first step in truly coping with the tragedy. As hard as it is, the Holy Household (pbut) have left behind advice to help us through these difficult times.
Coping with Loss
Grief is a natural process that we experience when we lose a loved one, and naturally, the closer the person was to us, the more intense the feeling of sadness will be. Every person copes with loss differently. It is important to remember that there is no right or wrong way to grieve and no specific timeline for the grieving process.
At the same time, it is important to look at the example of the best of creation. The Holy Prophet (pbuh&hp), who was God’s most beloved, lost many of his closest family members at crucial points in his life. He lost his father before he was born, his mother at a very young age, his uncle who took care of him after the passing of his mother, his wife in the middle of the prophetic mission, and several children. After the death of his son Ibrahim, the Holy Prophet (pbuh&hp) was in deep grief. Someone asked him, “Oh messenger of God, you have discouraged weeping, but you are weeping?” The Holy Prophet responded, “This is not [mindless] weeping. This is mercy. And the one who doesn’t show mercy will not receive mercy.”2 This is a perfect example showing that there is absolutely nothing wrong with feeling sad and weeping over the loss of a close loved one. We must remember to allow ourselves to feel the pain and sadness and embrace it. This is the first step of the painful healing of the wound.
Moreover, experts suggest that acknowledging our pain, understanding that our grieving process will be unique to us, seeking face-to-face support from people who care about us, and supporting ourselves emotionally by taking care of ourselves physically3 are just some ways to help us get through this painful time.
Quranic Lessons on Grief
Grief, especially due to the loss of a close family member, can be a transformative experience that allows us to reconnect with God and remember the nature of this world. Nothing shatters our desires like remembering mortality, especially when we see a loved one’s life pass so quickly. At the same time, we can reconnect with our Creator—He states, “We shall test you through fear, hunger, loss of life, property, and crops. (Muhammad), give glad news to the people who have patience and in difficulty say, ‘We are the servants of God and to Him we shall all return.’ It is they who will receive blessings and mercy from God and who follow the right guidance.”4
Nevertheless, it is unfair to tell someone who just lost a dear friend or family member to simply remain patient. In fact, it goes against Quranic teachings, as we see in the story of Yaqub (p), as he weeps for the loss of his son, Prophet Yusuf (p). During his grief, we learn that Prophet Yaqub (p) was not weeping out of anger or sadness for something decreed, but it was a means by which he built a relationship with God. The Quran quotes Yaqub (p) saying “I complain of my sorrow and grief only to God.”5 Even amid his grief, Yaqub (p) was in supplication to God.
When we encounter tragedy and loss of a loved one, we may see that we may begin to question God’s decree and ask, “Why did this happen to me instead of someone else?” Then it becomes vital to recollect that this life is a test, as noted above, bear patiently the misfortune, and submit to the divine decree even through our sadness.
Bits of Advice
Remember that it is okay to be in the state of grief: Often, cultural or familial pressures suggest that grieving is a sign of weakness rather than a normal process that everyone must encounter.
Visit the cemetery: Visiting loved ones at the cemetery is an encouraged tradition that also aids our mental and spiritual health. In Islamic tradition, Muslims believe that those who have passed before us can hear our words and benefit from the recitation of the Quran and our prayers. In a tradition, Lady Fatima (p) used to visit the grave of Hamza ibn Abd al-Muttalib (the Prophet’s uncle) and used to “pray for his mercy and seek forgiveness.”6 Naturally, to follow in her blessed footsteps we are encouraged to do the same for our own family members.
Gift good deeds on behalf of our loved ones: One of the most impactful things that we can do is to perform good deeds on behalf of our departed loved ones. Reciting the Quran, supplicating, giving charity, making pilgrimage to Mecca, or visitation to the Prophet and his family (pbut) on behalf of those who have passed away will benefit us and them. A beautiful tradition tells us that, “Prayers, fasting, hajj pilgrimage, charity, righteousness, and supplication all enter the grave of the deceased and they are written for his reward, and for the one who does the deed.”7
1. The Holy Quran 3:185. Quranic quotations in this blog are from the Muhammad Sarwar translation.
2. Bihar al-anwar, vol. 22, p. 151.
3. Melinda Smith, Lawrence Robinson, and Jeanne Segal, “Coping with Grief and Loss,” HelpGuide.org, November 2019, https://www.helpguide.org/articles/grief/coping-with-grief-and-loss.htm.
4. The Holy Quran 2:155-157.
5. The Holy Quran 12:86.
6. Man la yahdhuruhu al-faqih, vol. 1, p. 180.
7. Man la yahdhuruhu al-faqih, vol. 1, p. 185.
1. قال الله تعالى: ((كُلُّ نَفْسٍ ذَائِقَةُ الْمَوْتِ ۗ وَإِنَّمَا تُوَفَّوْنَ أُجُورَكُمْ يَوْمَ الْقِيَامَةِ ۖ فَمَن زُحْزِحَ عَنِ النَّارِ وَأُدْخِلَ الْجَنَّةَ فَقَدْ فَازَ ۗ وَمَا الْحَيَاةُ الدُّنْيَا إِلَّا مَتَاعُ الْغُرُورِ))
2. روي أنه لما مات إبراهيم، بكى النبي (صلى الله عليه وآله) حتى جرت دموعه على لحيته، فقيل له: يا رسول الله تنهى عن البكاء وأنت تبكي؟ فقال: “ليس هذا بكاء، إنما هذا رحمة، ومن لا يرحم لا يرحم”
4. قال الله تعالى: ((وَلَنَبْلُوَنَّكُم بِشَيْءٍ مِّنَ الْخَوْفِ وَالْجُوعِ وَنَقْصٍ مِّنَ الْأَمْوَالِ وَالْأَنفُسِ وَالثَّمَرَاتِ ۗ وَبَشِّرِ الصَّابِرِينَ ﴿١٥٥﴾ الَّذِينَ إِذَا أَصَابَتْهُم مُّصِيبَةٌ قَالُوا إِنَّا لِلَّـهِ وَإِنَّا إِلَيْهِ رَاجِعُونَ ﴿١٥٦﴾ أُولَـٰئِكَ عَلَيْهِمْ صَلَوَاتٌ مِّن رَّبِّهِمْ وَرَحْمَةٌ ۖ وَأُولَـٰئِكَ هُمُ الْمُهْتَدُونَ ﴿١٥٧﴾))
5. قال تعالى: ((قَالَ إِنَّمَا أَشْكُو بَثِّي وَحُزْنِي إِلَى اللَّـهِ وَأَعْلَمُ مِنَ اللَّـهِ مَا لَا تَعْلَمُونَ)
6. روي أن مولاتنا الصدّيقة الكبرى فاطمة (ع) كانت تأتي قبور الشهداء كل غداة سبت فتأتي قبر حمزة فتترحم عليه وتستغفر له.
7. روي عن الإمام الصادق (ع): “يدخل على الميت في قبره الصلاة والصوم والحج والصدقة والبر والدعاء، ويكتب أجره للذي يفعله وللميت”