Abu Zur‘ah Raazi (rahimahullah) was a renowned Muhaddith of the third century. He was a contemporary of Imaam Ahmad bin Hambal (rahimahullah), and Imaam Muslim (rahimahullah) was one of his students.
On one occasion, a person said to his wife, “You are divorced if Abu Zur‘ah has not memorized one hundred thousand ahaadeeth.” The people came to Abu Zur‘ah (rahimahullah) and enquired from him as to whether the man’s wife was divorced or not. Abu Zur‘ah (rahimahullah) replied, “He may keep his wife. She has not been divorced.”
When Abu Zur‘ah (rahimahullah) was on his death bed, and his final moments drew near, some of his students were seated around him. They wished to make talqeen (encourage the dying person to recite the kalimah), but out of awe and respect for him, they did not know how to do so. Eventually, they said to one another, “Come, let us narrate the hadeeth (of talqeen).”
Ibnu Waarah (rahimahullah) commenced and said, “Abu ‘Aasim has reported to us from ‘Abdul Hameed bin Ja’far, who reported from Saalih ibnu Abi…” At this point, Ibnu Waarah (rahimahullah) deliberately ceased narrating further, without completing the chain of narrators.
Abu Haatim (rahimahullah) then commenced, “Bundaar has reported to us from Abu ‘Aasim, who reports from ‘Abdul Hameed bin Ja’far, who reports from Saalih…” Saying this, Abu Haatim (rahimahullah) also deliberately ceased narrating further, without completing the chain of narrators.
Having heard the hadeeth of Rasulullah (sallallahu ‘alaihi wasallam) being quoted, but left incomplete, Abu Zur‘ah (rahimahullah) could not contain his love for the ahaadeeth of Rasulullah (sallallahu ‘alaihi wasallam) and had to narrate the complete the hadeeth. Hence, in his final moment, he commenced narrating, “Bundaar reported to us from Abu ‘Aasim, who reported from ‘Abdul Hameed, who reported from Saalih bin Abi ‘Areeb, who reported from Katheer bin Murrah, who reported from Sayyiduna Mu‘aaz bin Jabal (radhiyallahu ‘anhu), who reported that Rasulullah (sallallahu ‘alaihi wasallam) said, ‘The one whose final words are ‘Laa ilaaha illallah…’ (will enter Jannah).’”
As he narrated the hadeeth and recited the kalimah, he breathed his last and departed from this world.
(Siyaru Aa’laamin Nubalaa vol. 13, pgs. 69 and 76)
The students of Abu Zur‘ah (rahimahullah) knew that he had dedicated his entire life to the blessed ahaadeeth of Rasulullah (sallallahu ‘alaihi wasallam). Hence, if he heard a hadeeth partially quoted, then even though he was breathing his last, his love for the hadeeth and Rasulullah (sallallahu ‘alaihi wasallam) was so deep that he would feel compelled to complete it. In this way, they prompted him to recite the kalimah.
We should ponder over that which we dedicate our lives to. When we pass away, what will our final words be? A dedication to a movie star or pop icon? An illicit love or some addictive drug? If we want to die with the kalimah on our lips, we must live with the kalimah on our lips as well as deeply embed it in our hearts. As you live, so will you die!