Reflection No. 3:16 on Q 39:42 – Life and death

اللَّهُ يَتَوَفَّى الْأَنْفُسَ حِينَ مَوْتِهَا وَالَّتِي لَمْ تَمُتْ فِي مَنَامِهَا ۖ فَيُمْسِكُ الَّتِي قَضَىٰ عَلَيْهَا

الْمَوْتَ وَيُرْسِلُ الْأُخْرَىٰ إِلَىٰ أَجَلٍ مُسَمًّى

Allāhu yatawaffal-anfusa Hīna mawtihā wal-latī lam tamut fī manāmihā. Fayumsikul-latī qadhā ‘alayhaal-mawta wa-yursilul-ukhrā ilā ajalin musamma

Allah takes the souls at the time of their death, and those that have not died in their sleep. Then He retains those for whom He has ordained death, and sends the others back till an appointed term. Suratul Zumar (No 39), Ayat 42

Life and death both lie in the hands of Allah, and this verse clearly shows how Allah takes the souls, both at the time of death and at the time of sleep. Souls whose bodies are asleep are actually with Allah, and only come back to join their bodies because their term in this world is not over yet. The connection between the body and soul at the time of sleep is very weak, and that is why sleep is considered a sister of death.

Many things can be understood from the above verse:
– Human beings are made up of a body and a soul. The soul gives life and light to the human being.
– The body soul connection is of three types: complete connection as in wakefulness, weak connection as in sleep, and no connection as in death.
– Sleep is a weak form of death.
– Sleep is a proof of the independence of the soul, especially through the dreams that it experiences.
– Some of those who sleep will not wake up alive. Others will be sent back for more time until their term is over.
– If people were to understand that they are on the threshold of death each night when they go to sleep, it would be a great lesson for them.

The Du‘ā for waking up says:  اَلْحَمْدُ لِلَّهِ الَّذِي اَحْيَانِي بَعْدَ مَا اَمَاتَنِي وَ اِلَيْهِ النُّشُوْرِ
All Praise is for Allah who gave me life after He gave me death, and to Him is the return.

Remind yourself of this verse each night as you sleep, and recite the Du‘ā when you wake up. It will bring new appreciation for each day, and a consciousness of the need to act while there is life.

Sources: Tafsir Namune, Aytaullah Nasir Makarim Shirazi (ed).
Mafatihul Jinan, Shaykh Abbas Qummi.