What is the Concept of Death and Life in Surah Mulk?

Allah Almighty starts Ayah No.2 of Surah Tabarak by mentioning the creation of death and life. The words “Khalaq” here means ‘created’. I would like to unpack this second, extremely layered ayah.

Concept of Death and Life in Surah Mulk

Why has Allah Almighty deliberately mentioned death before he mentions life? Is the absence of existence a different state of being from death? So, what are the different cycle of life and death? If our true and eternal existence is in Al-Akhirah (the afterlife), then is our short-lived existence on earth a form of death? Is it a death-like experience where the majority of us continue living our lives heedlessly, unmindful of our true existence and purpose here? Movie buff will recognize some of these themes interestingly portrayed in the ‘Matrix’ trilogy. So, why do our spiritual master tell us to die before dying and what does that really means?

Death and Life in Surah Mulk

Allah Almighty mentions the creation of death before life and therefore hints that death is not the absence of life, but is in itself a different and unique creation. For example, even before Allah Almighty created me, he appointed a specific time of my death and the specific manner in which it will happen. This is the unique way in which Allah’s “Qadeer” works over his “Mulk“, as only he is the capable of controlling life and death. The exegetes explain that Allah Almighty mentions death before life, because death is our original state and only Allah Almighty bring us to life.

We are dust, we are ‘Nutufatin‘ (Sperm Fluid) and our existence into life comes only when he blows his spirit into us in the form of our ‘Rooh‘ (Our soul). The mention of death first brings with it dramatic flair a sense of urgency, if you will, we are reminded of our nothingness, our non-existence and our limitedness. This brings us back to the concept of ‘Taqwa‘ (God-consciousness).

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A natural reaction is to become mindful of our actions. Allah Almighty has created us to die. Only in the form of death, are we then returned back to him on the day of judgment. Another way of looking death is that we are experiencing it in every single moment. As each minute passes by, we are coming closer to it. As we age, we deteriorate physically and mentally. Poor eyesight, memory loss and various diseases and conditions that may manifest as we age are but a striking way of showing us that there is no escape from death and deterioration and that we are constantly inching towards our inevitable fate.

As Allah Almighty mentions in Surah Yasin (36-68):

“Those to whom we grant long life, we reverse their nature. Do they not understand anything from this?”

Allah Almighty is telling us that we should always be mindful of death. Death should be the first pre-occupation of our thoughts. Only when we bear in mind that we are limited, will be able to realize the importance and purpose of our worldly existence. Our physical death will come us when it is destined.

Last Words

Who can we then, in the short span of time here, annihilate our lower selves, our ego, in the service and pleasure of our lord? How beautiful is this to experience a kind of death in the “Hayat Ud-Duniya” (worldly life). Where we are able to experience a deeper connection and closeness to Allah Almighty, before we actually meet him in the Afterlife. When Allah’s ‘Kunn‘ becomes ‘Fayakoon’ through us. What a ‘Maqaam‘, what ‘Daraja‘ (state) indeed to attain! Ameen.