THE LIVES OF MAN
OF: IMAM ABDALLAH IBN
Rady Allahu Anhu
An Appreciation by Omar Butt
All praise is due to Allah, Lord of the Worlds, and infinite blessings upon
the best of creation, the Prophet Muhammad (Sallallahu 'alahi wa Sallam).
The following pages are written in appreciation of a classic of Islamic spirituality,
the treatise fully entitled the The Way to Remember and Learn from the Lives
of Man That Wane and Perish by Imam Abdallah Ibn Alawi Al-Haddad (Rady
Allahu 'Anh). After reading the book, the reader may notice a penetrating
essence in the work. The reasons for this must be clarified and the best way to
describe this phenomena which may be experienced in all of Imam Al-Haddad's works
can easily be summed up by a short quote from the famed Sheikh, Al-Suhrawardi:
"If words come out from the heart, they will enter the heart, but if they
come from the tongue, they will not pass beyond the ears." Indeed, it is
the true sincerity and realization that great luminaries like Imam Al-Haddad experienced,
which leads to their words changing men's hearts. The present work mentioned,
namely The Lives of Man covers an indispensable virtue in the field of Islamic
spirituality, namely the remembrance of death. The greatest scholars of Islam
have for centuries, written on this topic and as a great scholar it is befitting
that Imam Al-Haddad also wrote a treatise on the topic. As a final note to the
introduction, we must understand the insurmountable importance and relevance this
work has for today's Muslim. The current societal situation is one of frivolousness,
and the engagement in irreligious and decadent matters. The true reason for our
existence and the consequences of our deeds in this earthly abode are often forgotten
or veiled from our thoughts so that we may spiral deeper into our love of the
The Lives is a classic example of the thorough yet brief style in which Imam
Al-Haddad wrote. The English translation by Mostapha al-Badawi is less than one
hundred pages in length including appendices. Imam Al-Haddad knew the nature of
man and the time constraints and span of attention the common man faces and the
Lives, delivers a concise and moving message to its readers. The book is divided
into five main chapters to accommodate the five stages of existence we will all
go through. The first stage is the life before conception (1), and deals with
the metaphysical state before entering the Dunya (2), which is the second life.
This life is particularly addressed because of it's pivotal nature in relation
to the proceeding three stages of existence. After the Dunya we will enter the
Intermediate Realm (Barzakh) (3) from where it will become apparent to us what
awaits on the Judgement Day (4) and ultimately the Fire or the Garden (5).
The following five sections are directed to merely give the reader a taste
of a few points and aspects within each chapter in the book. I strongly recommend
that everyone read the book and concentrate on understanding every aspect of it.
The First Life: (Life Before Conception)
"The first life began with the creation of Adam, upon whom be peace, and
the entrusting of his progeniture to his blessed loins, both the people of the
Right and those of the Left, namely the people of the Two Fistfuls. Then God brought
this progeniture out from Adam's loins all at once, to take the covenant that
they recognized (His) Unity and Lordship." "Because of these events
there can be no doubt that the progeniture was possessed of existence, hearing
and speech; this, however, was at a degree or dimension of existence other than
that of this world."
We must also know that the Prophet Muhammad (Sallallahu 'alahi wa Sallam)
had a more perfect and unique stature in this stage, so much so that his light
(peace be upon him) could be heard glorifying Allah while within Adam's (peace
be upon him) loins, making a sound like that of birds.
The Second Life: ("Dunya" - The Lower World.)
"The second life begins when one is delivered from one's mother's womb,
and ends when one departs from the world in death. This which is the middle of
the lives, is also their purpose. It is the period when man is held accountable
for (responding to) the divine injunctions and prohibitions, the consequences
of which will be reward or punishment, endless happiness in the proximity of God,
the High and Majestic, or perpetual torment and remoteness from Him."
This section of existence is essentially broken down into the stages of Gestation,
Childhood, Youth, Maturity, Seniority, Decrepitude, and ultimately Sickness and
Death. The Imam beautifully explains the important aspects of each of these sub-stages
and gives wise council and advice as to how to understand and succeed in them.
Ultimately the key to understanding the gist of this chapter can be summed up
in the Hadith which is mentioned at the end of the Afterward stating: "A
man dies in accordance with what he had lived in, and is resurrected in accordance
with what he had died in." (Hadith)
In another narration of Hadith the Holy Prophet (Sallallahu 'alahi wa Sallam)
stated to Abu Darr: "O Abu Darr! The world is the prison of the believer,
the grave his place of safety, and the Garden his end. O Abu Darr! The world is
the Garden of the disbeliever, the grave is his torment, and the Fire his end."
May Allah make us one of those who dwell in the Garden of the Afterlife, Amen!
The Third Life: (The Intermediate Realm)
"The third life extends from the time a man leaves the dunya at death
until the moment he rises from his grave at the blowing of the Horn. This is the
Intermediate Realm (Barzakh). God the Exalted has said:
And behind them is a barzakh until the day when they are raised. (23:100)
In this section Imam Al-Haddad breaks the chapter into several useful categories,
namely; a Description of the Torment of the Grave and its Aspects, How the Living
May Help the Dead, and Visiting the Graves.
Perhaps one of the most striking aspects of this chapter appears in the Afterword
in which it is stated: "Created beings may, however, know about those signs
and conditions which indicate its imminent advent. Many of these, which are described
in many sound hadiths, have already come about, and only the major ones such as
the sun rising from the West, the Dajjal (God curse him!), the Beast, and the
coming of Jesus remain."
The Fourth Life: (Judgement Day)
"The fourth life extends from the time when a person leaves his grave
for the Resurrection and Gathering, until the moment when mankind enter the Garden
or the Fire."
Imam Al-Haddad uses this section to highlight the dire situation of the last day
and the different events which will occur. This section is broken down into the
sub-sections of; The Balance and the Bridge, The Hawd, and The Intercession. Each
of these areas are dealt with in the necessary details with mention of why we
would be in our specific predicament at that time and the ways to avoid bearing
the sorrowful and difficult punishments and trials on that day. Perhaps one of
the most riveting quotes from this chapter is a quotation from the Holy Qur'an
relating to after the animals are given their judgment and due and God says to
them "Become dust!"
"At that the disbeliever will say, would that I were dust!"(78:40)
The noble Imam goes on to highlight in detail, the respect, honor, and elevation
that the Holy Prophet Muhammed (Sallallahu 'alahi wa Sallam) will have
on that day, and the relief that will be permitted to the believers through his
The Fifth Life: (The Fire and the Garden)
"The fifth life extends from the time the people of the Fire enter the
Fire and the people of the Garden enter the Garden, and continues into unending,
This is the longest of all lives, the best, most pleasant and most joyous for
the people of the Garden, and the worst, hardest, and most hateful and wretched
for the people of the Fire."
This section outlines details pertaining to the Fire, admonitions, and advise
as to how to avoid spending time in this wretched and painful place. To give a
taste of the severity of this place the Imam relates Quranic verses and hadith
including the following: "O people! Weep! And if you cannot weep then make
as though you were weeping, for the people of the Fire shall weep in Jahannam
until their tears run over their faces like streams. Then the tears will stop,
blood will flow, and eyes ulcerate, so that if ships were launched therein they
would float." (Hadith)
The Imam goes on to elucidate aspects of the Garden and its countless pleasures,
the foremost being the beatific vision of Allah. Relating to one of the beautiful
aspects of the Garden, Imam Al-Haddad quotes the Hadith stating: "The area
of the Garden which could be surrounded by a whip is better than the world and
all that it contains. Should one of the women of the Garden appear to the people
of the earth, she would illuminate it entirely, and render it fragrant with musk.
The scarf which is upon her head is better than the world and all it contains."
The treatise is concluded in accordance with classical Islamic tradition, with
a description of the vision of God, and His overwhelming Mercy. In the final section
Imam al-Haddad quotes the Hadith stating: "God has a hundred mercies, one
of which He has sent down to be divided between humans, jinn, birds, cattle,
and insects, and by which they have compasion and mercy towards each other. And
He has saved ninety-nine mercies, with which He will be merciful to His slaves
on the Day of Rising."
The above is simply a brief taste of the Lives of Man, and after reading this
we hope that one of two things occur: One, if you had never heard of Imam Al-Haddad
and the Lives of Man, that you will read it and take heed, and two, that if you
had heard of the book, or had already read it, that you will read it again to
refresh yourself on the true reality of:
"The Way to Remember and Learn From the Lives of Man that Wane and Perish."
All praise is due to Allah, Lord of the Worlds, and countless blessings upon
the Holy Prophet Muhammed (Sallallahu 'alahi wa Sallam), his family and
companions. May Allah be pleased with, and may we benefit from Imam Al-Haddad
and his legacy. Any mistakes in this work are assuredly mine and may Allah forgive
us all. Amen.