by sister Aida M.

Months ago as I parted with a mentor of mine, I shared with her my sadness at having to leave so many friends behind. She said:

But what if that friend has passed away?

Growing up I had a teacher, who in her final years, had grappled with cancer. I didn’t know how our community would continue without her. Who would teach the youngsters and empower them to organise their own community events? Who would tackle the racism within my community, ensuring that everyone had their role to play, and call out such ills both through their words and in their actions?

One night as I was asleep, I woke up feeling an overwhelming sense of sadness while thinking about losing my teacher. A few weeks before she passed, I sent her a text message telling her that I loved her and how grateful I had been for her company. That was the last time we spoke.

As months passed by I began to realise that her effect on me had been greater after her passing than it had been when she was physically present. I realised that love and friendship were something far more poignant than the physical presence of someone.

For example, we ache to meet the Prophet (pbuh), and although he departed from this world centuries ago, we still feel his compassion and mercy within our lives today – that is because his love is timeless. When we observe his practices in both our character and acts of worship, we feel a unique sense of closeness to him. Even though he’s not physically here with us today, our love and desire to be with him keeps him alive inside of us.

I can remember graduating from University; those goodbyes were especially difficult because I couldn’t fathom leaving behind the people who had such a profound impact on me. These friends had been from all over the world, and even though our time studying together was short, our relationships were strong. Some of us memorised our favourite Surahs together. Others had pointed out to me the areas that I needed to improve upon in my life. We had even stood side by side campaigning for issues of social justice. All of them had inspired me in some way.

Some had been Muslim friends who I could imagine the Akhirah with, while my non-Muslim friends would challenge me with questions that reaffirmed my confidence in my black, Muslim, female and British identity. Their character had been something I had aspired to. Muslim or not, my grades, spirituality and character were improving due to their company. How would I cope without these people? The answer was really simple, though it took a while to understand.

The primary effect of being in the physical presence of a friend is that it helps with building a solid foundation, and by the time they leave, that foundation has been perfected. Thereafter, we have the opportunity for the effects of that friendship to flourish in our lives; we’re able to take the lessons we learnt from them and apply them whenever we need them the most.

At times it may feel like all we have left is a fading memory of our loved ones, but without doubt, there are ways in which we can continue their legacy and – InshaAllah – reunite with them again.

As the Prophet (pbuh) once said to the delight of his companions, while referring to the Akhirah, “You will be with those whom you love”. [Bukhari]

Below are some tips on how you can maximise the value of your friendships, whether your beloved ones are with you or have passed away.

Those who have passed away

  • Du’a – The Prophet (pbuh) said that:

    “When the human being dies, his deeds come to an end except for three: ongoing charity, beneficial knowledge, or a righteous child who prays for him.” [Muslim]. 

    With Du’a being one of the foundations of our connection with Allah, there’s no limit to how many times we may call upon Him, or how often we may seek from His Bounties and Mercy. One of the easiest and best ways we can benefit our beloved friends who have left us is to pray that Allah forgives them, fills their graves with light and grants them Jannah.

  • Legacy – As per the Hadith above, performing Sadaqah on their behalf – e.g. building a well in their name – is a great way in which we may benefit our loved ones to continue acquiring good deeds even after they pass.However, we can also become a living example of their legacy in our own lives. Were they the type of person who would pick up trash from the streets, hold open doors for people, or feed the poor? If so, strive to build upon their legacy by performing those good deeds in your daily life after they are gone.
  • Share them with the world – If you were inspired by someone, imagine the impact they could have on others too if you spoke of them in your stories and experiences with others? Uplifting memories – especially stories of resilience – can have such a profound effect. Often when people pass away, we may be too pained to talk about them. However, one of the best ways to celebrate the life and the legacy of your friend is to share their story with the world. Just think of how many stories of powerful figures from our rich history have inspired you.

For the physically present

  • Contact – in the busyness of life, we tend to forget how important it is to keep in contact with friends. I once heard from a person that when he felt low, he would pick up his phone and scroll through his contacts list. He would look through the names, and when he reached the name of someone he hadn’t spoken to in a long time, he’d call them and spend time catching up. It would make their day, and his too. I’m grateful that I told my teacher how much I loved her shortly before her passing.
  • Remember them in your Du’as, thoughts and in your actions – much like the legacy point for our friends that have left this world, we can still live the legacies of our friends who are still with us. For example, I know someone who was in the habit of greeting an elderly visitor at the mosque. When she had left for a few weeks, her friend continued this act in her absence – building upon that legacy. Thanks to this act her friend will still be earning rewards, even though she’s not there!
  • Invest in the relationship – A dear friend told me that: Whether it’s simply calling them or dropping them a message here and there to ensure that they are well, do not abandon it. An abandoned relationship can sometimes create a void that becomes impossible to fill. For long-distance friendships especially, send letters, gifts etc. – just to make them feel appreciated.
  • Tell them that you love them –  It was narrated from Anas ibn Maalik (may Allah be pleased with him) that a man was with the Prophet (pbuh) when another man passed by and he said: O Messenger of Allah, I love this man. The Prophet (pbuh) said to him: “Have you told him?” He said: No. He said: “Tell him.” So he caught up with him and said: I love you for the sake of Allah. He said: May the One for Whose sake you love me also love you [Abu Dawud].The Prophet (pbuh) himself was known for this. He would tell his companions in person that he loved them. Part of the wisdom behind doing this is that your friends will feel valued, special, and confident around you. This is a sure-fire way to nurture a healthy, long-lasting friendship that transcends the boundaries of distance and hardships.

May Allah bless us with true, sincere and righteous friends who will be our companions in this life and the next, and strive with us towards worship, doing good deeds, and attaining Jannah – Ameen.

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