However painful his life may be, and however worthless he might believe himself to be, a person will never agree to die, except in a state of extreme emotion, as is witnessed in the case of suicide. Death is perceived as the annihilation of life — a life that provides a person with a sense of being.
The Quran suggests something entirely different. Life is made up of two phases: one is transitory and short, to be spent in this world; the other is eternal and in a world unknown to anyone who lives. Death is not destruction but the passage of the whole living being, including body and soul, from one phase to the other, the duration of the former varying from individual to individual. “Every soul shall have a taste of death” (3:185).
Every living person is in a waiting room and may be called to die at any time. The room is full of entertaining games and sights that keep the inhabitants occupied, to the extent of being unaware of the ultimate call.
All of us are witness to others passing through the exit, in a one-way route. We are shocked momentarily and spend some time thinking of our own journey and where it might take us. Then we forget about it.
We spend our waiting time engrossed in various activities, depending upon our whims and desires. If we have paid heed to advice on what to expect outside the door, we may attempt to prepare ourselves, or we may decide that this waiting room is all that there is and we will never come to life again. In reality, this waiting time begins from the moment of our birth. As the English churchman and historian Thomas Fuller puts it, “the first breath is the beginning of death”.