Book Review: The Lives of Man

The Lives of Man

Title: The Lives of Man: A Guide of the Human States; Before Life, In the World, and After Death
Author: Imam Abdallah ibn Alawi Al-Haddad
Translator: Shaykh Mostafa al-Badawi
Publisher: Original Edition was printed in 1991 by The Quilliam Press Limited, the edition reviewed here was published by Fons Vitae

Imam al-Haddad is a very well known scholar and sage and is widely held to be the ‘renewer’ of his century. He lived in Tarim, in the Hadramaut Valley, was a descendant of the Prophet, peace be upon him, and wrote many works on devotional matters. Shaykh Mostafa al-Badawi has translated many of his works which are available in the English language.

The book, The Lives of Man, consists of 5 sections each pertaining to a portion of the human existence. It describes the journey that each person takes from the beginning, before entering this world, to the eternal end which is to be in the Fire or the Garden. Imam al-Haddad reminds the reader of the impending phases of the journey throughout this very life, death, the Grave, the Judgement and the Eternal Abodes. Shaykh Abdal Hakim Murad, writes in the editor’s preface, regarding Imam al-Haddad:

He knew that a man might know every detail about the next life, and yet remain in a state of forgetfulness and distraction because his qalb (heart) had hardened. In speaking of the Hereafter, then, the Imam chooses the material which is best calculated to awaken the heart, and fill it with the purifying fear of God, and hope for His mercy. The works of Imam al-Haddad share in a trait of al-Ghazali’s writings in that one cannot read them casually. To open any page, even at random, is to have the attention caught and the heart engaged.

Regarding the second life, the life of this world, Imam al-Haddad writes:

The second life beings 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 a 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.

Imam al-Haddad also mentions that the life of this world is also split into phases:

Ibn al-Jawzi divides the human lifespan into five periods. The first, childhood, ends at the age of fifteen; the second, youth, extends to the age of thirty-five; the third, maturity, ends at the age of fifty; the fourth, seniority, ends at the age of seventy; while the fifth, that of decrepitude, must terminate in death. Other scholars provide more or less similar divisions.

Age forty, however, plays a critical role in the explaination of Imam Haddad. He quotes the gnostic Shaykh Abdal-Wahhab ibn Ahmad al-Sharani:

Our oaths were taken that when we reached forty years of age we would fold up our sleeping mats except when overpowered [by sleep], and remain constantly aware with each breath that we are travelers to the Hereafter, so that no rest remains to us in the world; we must see each atom of our lives past forty as equal to a hundred years prior to that; there must be no repose for us, no competition over positions, no joy in anything worldly. All this is because life is narrowed after forty, and heedlessness, distraction and playing are inappropriate for him who nears the battleground of deaths.

Regarding the age of 60, Imam al-Haddad writes:

‘God as left no excuse to a man who he allows to reach sixty’ [hadith], which means He has left him no way of excusing himself by saying that the end came too soon and his life was too short.

The fourth life is on Judgement Day. Imam al-Haddad writes:

Aisha, may God be pleased with her, once remembered the Fire, and she wept. The Messenger of God, upon whom be blessings and peace, asked why she was weeping, and she replied, ‘I remembered the Fire, and so I wept. Will you remember your family on the Day of Rising?’ And he answered: ‘There are three situations where no-one can remember anyone: at the Balance until he knows whether his balance is light or heavy, at the record when it is said: ‘There! Read my record!’ until he finds out whether his record will be placed in his right hand or left hand, or behind his back, and at the bridge when it is cast across the Fire.

The fifth life is in the eternal abodes, Imam Haddad describes the Fire:

Hunger will be cast upon the people of the Fire, until it equals their other torments. They will cry for help, and help will come in the form of bitter thorn-fruit, which neither nourishes nor releases from hunger. [88:7] They will cry for help, and will be given food that they choke on. They will then remember that in the world they used to relieve choking by drinking, and so they will cry for a drink, and boiling water will be raised to them with iron hooks.

May Allah deliver us all from this painful torment! Ameen. In contrast, Imam al-Haddad describes the Garden:

Abu Hurayra, may God be pleased with him, once asked: ‘O Messenger of God! From what was creation created?’ And he said: ‘From water’ He asked again: ‘Of what is the Garden built?’ And he replied: ‘One brick of gold and one brick of silver; its mortar is fragrant musk, its pebbles are pearls and rubies, its dust is saffron. Those who enter it shall find joy without sorrow, permanence with neither extinction nor death; their clothes shall never wear out, neither shall their youth pass away.’

May Allah cause us all to enter the Garden. Ameen. Imam al-Hadded concludes the book with a chapter titled: The Vision of God and His Overwhelming Mercy, discussing the Beatific Vision, the pinnacle of reward in the Garden. Lastly for further reading, Imam al-Haddad and Shaykh Mostafa al-Badawi both suggest the last chapter of Imam Ghazali’s Ihya’ ‘Ulum al-Din, The Remembrance of Death and the Afterlife which has been wonderfully translated by Shaykh Abdal Hakim Murad and published by The Islamic Texts Society.

This book a comprehensive and concise read on the subject matter. We are all to travel through the lives mentioned in this book, thus it would be prudent to understand our journeys and the lives to come so that we may prepare in this world for the harvest of the hereafter. May Allah increase all those who assisted in making this book available for us. May he save us from the torments of this life and the hereafter, and bless us, out of his Mercy, to enter his Garden. Ameen.

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out / Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out / Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out / Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out / Change )

Connecting to %s