The following is a translation from Arabic.
Many people think that though death is the same, the causes of death are numerous. So death could be because of detrimental disease, such as the plague. It could also be due to stab by a knife, or a gunshot or burning by fire of beheading or heart attack or others. In their view, all of these are direct causes that lead to death, ie death occurs because of them. That is why it became common on their mouth the phrase, “The causes are many but the death is the same.”
The truth is that death is the same and its cause (sabab) is also the same, which is the end of ajal (life-term), and nothing else. As regards to these matters, which take place and due to them death occurs, they are cases in which death occurs and are not causes of death.
This is because the cause (sabab) produces the effect (musabbab) definitely; and that the effect (musabbab) can’t result save from its cause (sabab) alone. This is different to the case (halah), it is a specific circumstance within certain surrounding conditions in which death usually takes place. However, death could fail to happen. Thus, the case might exist but the death does not occur; and the death might occur while the case did not happen.
The one who examines many of the things in which death occurs, and the one who examines the death itself, finds that these matters might take place but the death does not occur. Death might also occur while these cases did not take place. As an example, a person might be fatally stabbed by a knife, and the doctors agree unanimously that it is fatal, but the stabbed person did not die, rather he healed and recovered. Death could also occur without an apparent cause, such as when the heart of somebody stopped suddenly and he died immediately without all the doctors being able to discover a reason for this heart attack after the painstaking examination.The incidents about this are many and are known by the doctors. The hospitals have witnessed thousands of these incidents; where a cause that usually leads certainly to death occurs, then the person does not die; and death occurs suddenly without the appearance of any cause that lead to it.
Therefore, all the doctors say that the so and so sick man has no hope (of life) according to the instructions of medicine, but he might recover, and this is beyond our knowledge. They also say that so and so person is beyond the danger (on his life), and he is healthy, and he passed the point of danger, then he suddenly suffers a relapse and dies. All of this is tangible reality sensed by the people and doctors; and it clearly indicates that these matters from which death occurs are not causes for death. For it they were causes they would not fail (in bringing death) and death would have not occurred, by other than them. The fact that they failed (to cause death) even once, and that death occurred by other than them, even once, definitely indicates that they are not causes; they are rather cases. The true cause of death that produces the effect is other than them and not them.
This actual cause could not be discovered by the mind, for it does not fall under sensation. So it is necessary that Allah (swt) tells us about it; and that it is proved by an evidence that is definite in proof and definite in meaning. Allah (swt) has informed us, in many ayaat that it is the ajal (end of life-term); and that Allah (swt) is the One Who causes death. Thus death occurs because of the ajal and the one who causes death is Allah (swt).
There are many verses that mentioned this. Allah (swt) says:
“No soul can ever die except by Allah’s leave and at a term appointed.” [TMQ Al-Imran:145]
“Allah receives (men’s) souls at the time of their death.” [TMQ Az-Zumar: 42]
“My Lord is He Who gives life and causes death.” [TMQ Al-Baqarah: 258]
“And Allah gives life and causes death.” [TMQ Ali-’Imran:156] “Wherever you are death reaches you, even if you were in lofty towers.” [TMQ An-Nisaa’: 78]
“Say (to them): ‘The angel of death, who has charge concerning you, will take you to death.’” [TMQ As-Sajda: 11]
“Say (to them): ‘The death which you are fleeing from will surely meet you.” [TMQ Al-Jumu’a: 8]
“We mete out death among you.’” [TMQ Al-Waqi’a: 60]
“Lo! The term of Allah when it comes can’t be delayed.” [TMQ Nuh: 4]
“When their term comes, then they can’t put it off an hour, not hasten (it).”
[TMQ Yunus: 49]
These and other verses are definite in proof that they are from Allah (swt), and definite in meaning that Allah is He Who causes death; and that cause of death is the end of life term (intihaa’ ul-’ajal), and not the case in which death occurred.Therefore, it is obligatory that the Muslim believes by mind and Shar’ that what he thinks of as causes to death are not causes, rather they are cases; and that the cause is other than them. It has been proved by Shar’ through the definite evidence that death is in the Hand of Allah, that Allah is He Who causes death and that the cause of death is intihaa’ ul-’ajal. Once the ajal came, it can’t be delayed or hastened; nor is there any person who can avert from death or to escape from it absolutely. Thus it will most certainly reach him.
As regards what man was ordered to avert and work to distance from himself, it is the cases from which death occurs. So, he must not submit himself to any of the cases from which death occurs usually. As for death, he should not be scared of, nor to flee from, because he can never save himself from it. This is because man does not die except after the end of his ajal, whether he died naturally, or by killing or burning or any other thing. So death is in the Hand of Allah (swt) and ajal is in the Hand of Allah (swt).
Extract from 'Al-Fikr al-Islami (The Islamic Thought) by Sheikh Mohammad Mohammad Ismael Abduh, Egypt.