Once Prophet Muhammad was sitting amidst His companions in the mosque, when all of a sudden He said “Today I shall rrate a story, which will reveal three riddles for you all to solve”. This hushed the crowd and they all listened intently to what the Messenger of Allah had to say.
Prophet Muhammad began His story by saying that there was once a man who got to know that the days in his life were numbered and very soon he would be confronted with death. With this knowledge, he feared his loneliness in the grave and went searching for true friends who would help and accompany him.
He knocked on the door of his first friend and asked whether he would help. To this, the friend said, “Of course! What are we here for?” But when the man went on to say that he had very few days to live and required help after his death, his first friend shook his head and said, “I am sorry. When death does us apart, there is nothing I can do for you but buy you a place in the graveyard and some cloth for your shroud (kafan) to cover your dead body.”
Grieved but looking forward to his next friend, the man moved on. When he came face to face with his second friend, the man rrated the news of his impending death and asked for help.
But the second friend gave him the same reply: “I have been with you all your life and can only help you here. But there’s nothing I can do for you after you die except take your corpse to the graveyard and bury you.”
Lost in despair, the man headed for his third friend, fearing and feeling almost sure that he would receive the same answer. But when he met this friend and told him what help he required, the friend eagerly volunteered to do so.
The amazed man listened as his friend reassured him with these words: “Do not worry, my dear friend! I shall accompany you to the grave. And I will be there with you in the grave when the angels Munkar and kir arrive for questioning. I shall then assist you on the bridge (Pul-e-Sirat) and lead you to heaven.”
When the man heard these words from his third friend, he heaved a sigh of relief and passed away in peace.
Prophet Muhammad then turned and asked his companions if anybody could identify the man and his three friends in the story. Each man in the gathering thought deeply but no one broke the silence.
The Messenger of Allah then enlightened them by explaining: “The man in the story is any human being. The first friend is wealth, things that help us only in life and not after we die.
“The second friend is our family, our sons and daughters, our near and dear ones. We strive for them all our life. And all they give us is a shoulder to the grave.
“But the third and most important friend is our deeds (Aamal), who accompany us all the way through to death and beyond.