When I was not so old (around 65), I thought I would never be pre-occupied by thoughts of death (as some of my older contemporaries were). I would regard them as crackpots, especially those who were worried that they hadn't been as religious as they should have been. They were the ones who suddenly grew long beards and spent most of their time in mosques with other men who also thought they hadn't been religious and should make up for it in their old age.

Now that I'm nearing 80, I too find myself thinking about when I will die and whether it'll be painful. I'm not worried that I didn't pray as much as I should have, but about why I haven't accomplished as much as others who've led useful lives. I regret not having helped people so much and not having made many friends. I'm glad that I didn't start smoking or drinking and led a morally good life (I know some billionaire Memons regard me as very stupid for not collecting more wealth whenever I had the opportunity to steal).

And whenever I hear about some relative or acquaintance dying, I wonder when my turn will come. This month a distant female relative of mine has been found to have cancer, and not a week goes by without the club informing me of the death of another senior member. Every time this happens, I think about when I'll kick the bucket.

So what should I do? If I had enough wealth, I'd help those in need. But I can't do more than donate the obligatory two and a half percent zakat every year. I had plenty of opportunity to take bribes and commissions when I was in charge of construction projects, but I refrained. One of my students (himself a very corrupt man) was amazed that I didn't want to accumulate illicit wealth even though it was within my grasp. My priorities were different, and I was right, as an uncle of mine told me a few months before his death. He had lost most of his illicitly earned money and regretted that he didn't have the wisdom to be content with what he had. He was one of those who had thought I was a fool for being honest.