Sakaraat is the state of dissolution just before death when the soul is about to abandon the body. A trance-like condition closes upon one's senses and a kind of coma overcomes the mind. It is time for the life to pull itself out of the body. It is a period of the most agonizing pain. It is the hour of death or the mortification of the soul. Imam Ghazaali(RA) explains the severity of the agony in these words:
"If there were was a thorn in one's side, the feeling of pain would be confined to a particular place because it hurts the living tissues at that point only. If, however, a part of one's body is branded with red hot iron or a piece of live charcoal is placed somewhere on it, causing a wound, the impact of the burn is felt all over the body. If a burn can cause such wide-spread sensation, what will the painful process of attrition of one's soul and extermination of life which ravages the body and mind, do, can be hardly imagined, much less described. There is not a single part or limb of the body which is not affected by the struggle between life and death during one's final moments. It is from each and every point that life is oozing out - including every little vein and sinew, every tiny hair and tissue, every pore and part of skin, causing the most excruciating pain. One had better not ask about the severity of the pain since it is indeed most agonizing. It is the reason that it is said that as compared to being hacked by the sword and split apart by a saw or cut to pieces by a pair of scissors, the parting of the soul from the body is far more dreadful and torturous."
SIGNS OF SAKARAAT
The signs of Sakaraat are that the veins and sinews of the body become stretched and stiff; the face becomes colorless and the complexion become dull and muddy; the bridge of the nose turns to one side; the eye-balls get displaced, moving upwards; a gurgling and choking sound emerges from the throat which become parched and the feet become cold, limp and lifeless. Observing these signs, one should realize that the throes of death(Sakaraat) have commenced. May Allah make it easy for us, Ameen.
DUTIES DURING SAKARAAT
When observing the signs of Sakaraat in a fellow Muslim, it is desirable(Mustahab) that the dying person be turned to his bed onto his right side with the face turned towards the Qiblah. This position is in keeping with the Sunnah. If it is not possible to do so, lay him on his back with feet towards the Qiblah and head raised a bit in the direction of the Qibla. If these arrangements cause inconvenience to the dying person or difficulty in carrying out this method, leave him/her as he is.
The most important duty at the time of Sakaraat is the Kalimah Shahaadat. Recite the Kalimah close to the ear of the dying one. Alternatively, Kalimah Tayyibah may be recited also. Recite the Kalimah softly repeatedly, but do not ask the dying one to recite it. Continue reciting the Kalimah until the dying person has recited it(on his/her own) or indicates by signs that he/she acknowledges it. If after having recited the Kalimah, the dying person indulges in any other talk, repeat the process of reciting the Kalimah as explained earlier. The purpose of this is to ensure that the Kalimah are the last words of the dying persons.
Besides the Kalimah, it is Mustahab for those present to recite Surah Ya Sin and Surah Rad. If the dying person is in his/her pain and anguish utters something untoward or in contradiction to Imaan, do not attach any importance to such utterance. The time of maut is indeed grave and critical. The utterance was in all probably made while the dying one was not in his proper senses. After death, arrangements for the Islamic burial of the dead should be quickly made. There should be no unnecessary delay.
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