What Muslims can learn from Steve Jobs’ passing
Yesterday, on the 6th of October 2011, we found out about the passing of Steve Jobs. There was an outpouring of tweets and status updates thanking him for his gadgets, people who quoted his speeches and inspiring talks, and those who made images such as the above to pay tribute to someone who had made such an impact on modern culture.
Not everyone was in on the public mourning though.
I came across several tweets & status updates (from Muslims) who reminded us that we will be alone in our graves without our iPods, Macs and iPhones. Some others questioned the need for Muslims to pay so much attention to Steve Jobs. And others who said that we should be thanking Allah and Prophet Muhammad SAW instead of Steve Jobs.
No doubt their intentions were noble in wanting to remind fellow Muslims to not lose sight of the big picture but I felt it apt to quote The New Yorker on this,
In public mourning, we mourn ourselves, and recognize our own mortality. And so it’s primarily Jobs’s creativity that’s being talked about—so much so that I’ve seen a few posts out there wondering why so many on the left are mourning a “capitalist” whose factories in China operate under infamously bad conditions. (The darker side of Apple is the subject of a new Mike Daisey show, “The Agony and the Ecstasy,” that has its New York première at the Public Theater on October 11th.) The reason, I think, is that we all participate in the world Jobs created. Without him in it, there’s less of us, too. Indeed, not every celebrity death elicits such an outcry: one wagers that it is only the death of those people in whom we see something of ourselves (crazy as it may sound, given Jobs’s brilliance).
Jobs, like the iconic Diana before him, came to represent something about the real possibility of change within a lifetime: he was a kind of late-twentieth-century Horatio Alger, for whom pursuing tech-geeky passion translated into extraordinary wealth and influence. Despite being at the helm of one of the most influential companies in the world, he always held on to his outsider persona. He was the leader who got exiled from his own company, the hard-headed entrepreneur who spoke to college students with earthy earnestness. (“You are already naked. There is no reason not to follow your heart,” he famously told Stanford graduates during a commencement speech in 2005.)
Here are 3 things Muslims (or anyone, really) can learn from Steve Jobs’ (or anyone, really) passing:
Death is certain.
No one, not even iconic figures such as Steve Jobs are exempted from this phenomena.
“Every soul shall have a taste of death: and only the Day of Judgement shall you be paid your full recompense. Only he who is saved far from the Fire and admitted to the Garden will have attained the object (of Life): for the life of this world is but goods and chattels of deception.” Surah Al Imran 3:186
“Wherever you are, death will find you out, even if you are in towers built up strong and high.” Surah an-Nisa 4:78
One of the Caliphs said from his pulpit: “O bondsmen of God! Fear God as much as you are able. Be as a nation awakened by a great shout, which has come to understand that this world is no abode for it, and which therefore exchanges it for another. Make ready for death, for its shadow has already fallen over you; be off, for it pursues you assiduously.
[box_dark]The man who is pious in his Lord’s sight is he who counsels himself, offers his repentance, and overcomes his desires (for his lifespan is veiled from him); lest hope deceive him and he be entrusted to the care of Satan, who causes him to live only in hope of repentance so that he postpones it, and who makes iniquity fine in his sight, so that he commits it, until such time as his fate assails him at the moment when he least anticipates it.[/box_dark]
Between each one of you and Heaven or Hell there lies only advent of death. Therefore, what sorrow shall be the lot of the man of the heedless, that his life should be a warrant against him, and that his own days should cast him into misery! – Imam Ghazali
Said Ibn Umar RA, ‘The Prophet SAW once went out while the sun was upon the tips of the palm branches, and said “Nothing remains of this world save a time proportionate to that which remains of this day.”[quote]And he SAW said, “The similitude of this world is that of a garment torn from end to end, but which remains attached by a thread at one extremity. That thread is almost broken.”[/quote]
Said Jabir RA, ‘The Prophet SAW used, when delivering a sermon, to make mention of the Hour. His voice would be raised and his cheeks would show red as though he were warning them of the approach of an army. “Morning & evening I greet you”, he would say, “while my mission and the Hour are like so,” and he would hold up two fingers held close together.’
Said Ibn Mas’ud RA, ‘The Prophet SAW once recited And whosoever God wills to guide, He opens his breast to Islam(Surah al-An’am: 125), and said, “When light enters into a heart it opens up.” Upon being asked, “O Prophet of Allah! Is there a sign whereby this may be recognised?” he said, “Yes: turning aside from the abode of beguilement to the abode of eternity, and preparing for death before it comes”.’
“Leisureliness in all things is fine, save in the good works which are for the Afterlife.”
– Sayyidina Umar RA
Al-Hasan RA was in the habit of saying when he delivered an exhortation, “Hurry! Hurry! If the breaths which you take were denied you they would signal the end of your works, through which you draw nearer to Allah SWT. May God’s Mercy be upon that man who looks to himself and sheds tears over the profusion of his sins.’ Then he recited the verse, We do but number unto them a certain sum, and said, “This refers to your breaths, the last of which shall be accompanied by the departure of your soul, the separation from your family, and your entry into the grave.”
What greets you?
Said `Ubaid bin `Umayr al-Laythi ‘Not a single man dies without being called by the pit in which he is buried, which declares, “I am the house of gloom, and of loneliness and solitude! If you were obedient to God during your lifetime then today I shall be a source of mercy for you, but if you were rebellious then I am an act of vengence against you. The obedient who enter me shall come forth joyful, while the rebellious who enter me shall emerge in ruin”.
Said Ka’b [al-Ahbar], ‘When the righteous bondsman is laid in his tomb he is surrounded by his righteous acts, such as his prayer, his fasting, his pilgrimage, his engagement in the Holy War, and the charity he used to distribute. Then the Angels of Chastisement approach him from the direction of his feet, but are told by Prayer,”Get back from him, you have no authority over him, for upon those [feet] he stood in me at length for the sake of God”. Then they approach him from the direction of his head, but Fasting says, “You have no authority over him, for in the world’s abode he thirsted at length for the sake of God”.
Next they draw near to him from the direction of his trunk, but Pilgrimage and Holy War say, “Get back from him for he exhausted himself and wearied his body when he accomplished the Pilgrimage and the Holy War for the sake of God; no authority do you have over him”.
Then they approach him from the direction of his hands, but Charity says, “Back! Retreat from my master, for how many an act of charity issued from those two hands to fall in to the hand of God (Exalted is He!), while he acted only for His sake; no authority, do you have over him”.
Then he shall be told, “Rejoice! Good you have been in life and in death!” Next, the Angels of Mercy come, and spread a heavenly cloth and resting-place out for him, and his grave is widened around him for as far as the eye can see. A candle is brought from Heaven, and from it he has light until God resurrects him from his grave.’
- What do you leave behind?
“The best that a man can leave behind after his death are three things: a righteous child who makes du’aa for him, an ongoing sadaqah whose rewards continue to reach him, and a knowledge that continues to be implemented after him.” – Prophet Muhammad SAW[box_light]”Whenever a Muslim man dies, and forty men stand for his janazah prayer, all of them not joining anything with Allaah in worship, Allaah grants them intercession for him.” – Prophet Muhammad SAW[/box_light]
Steve Jobs lived a fulfilled life that benefited millions. What have you done, or will do that will benefit that many people?
“The best of people are those that bring most benefit to the rest of mankind.” Note that this hadith did not say, “The best of Muslims…”
Whatever you need to say, say it now.
Clearly your thanks and flowery eulogies for the dead will be left unread and unheard by them. Why not use this opportunity to let people you love and care about know that you do indeed care and love them? We don’t need a reason to express what’s inside, but if you do, the hadith below and the remembrance of death should do the trick.
“If a man loves his brother, he should tell him that he loves him.” (Abu Dawud, Tirmidhi)