The Journey of the
by Sheikh Suhaib Hassan
Throughout history, all aspects
of the unseen have fascinated man. He has especially attempted
to explore and understand the phenomenon of the soul - that mysterious
power which activates the human body. Many questions were asked,
but only a few answers were available. During the lifetime of
the Prophet (saws) the Jews of Medina sent their allies, the Makkan
infidels, to the Prophet (saws) to ask about the soul. In reply
to their questions, the following Qur'anic verse was revealed:
"They ask you [O Muhammad
(saws] concerning the Ruh (Soul). Say: 'It is one of the things,
the knowledge of which is only with my Lord. And of knowledge,
you (mankind) have been given very little."
[Qur'an Al-Israa 17: 85]
Because so little knowledge was
available, most Muslim scholars considered any discussion concerning
the soul to be 'taboo' and so this avenue of knowledge remained
almost closed within scholastic circles. The most famous of the
few work written on this subject was entitled "Kitab Al-Ruh"
by Ibn Al-Qayyim.' Contrary to his normal approach of scholarly
research, guided by the Qur'an and authentic Sunnah, in this book
he relied heavily on weak and spurious reports attributed falsely
to the Prophet (saws) by transmitters such as Ibn Abi Al Dunya
and Abu Nu'aim. Later scholars argued that Ibn Al-Qayyim was too
great a scholar to have written a book so largely based on fabricated
narrations, and so concluded that he could not have been the author.
Others argued that he must have written it before he met the great
author and teacher, Sheikh Ibn Taymiyya, who had a profound effect
on him and shaped his later works, which were always based on
the Book of Allah and the authentic Sunnah.
In my short and humble contribution
to the subject of the Soul, I have endeavored to rely on authentic
sources alone. Due to the nature of this topic, I seek Allahs
forgiveness for any deviation from the truth on my part and I
pray to the Almighty to accept this meager effort. And may Allah
shower His blessings upon our Prophet Muhammad (saws) and his
Suhaib Hasan (Safar 1416 AH)
"They ask you [O Muhammad
(saws] concerning the Ruh (Soul). Say: 'It is one of the things,
the knowledge of which is only with my Lord. And of knowledge,
you (mankind) have been given very little."
[Qur'an Al-Israa 17:85]
The soul is a creature of Allah.
It is blown into every human being when it is just a foetus of
120 days old, it remains in contact if not inside the human being
throughout its life on earth, and at the point of death it departs
from the body to reside in the heavens. Like everything else in
the universe it is a creation of Allah, but as the above Qur'anic
verse informs us, mankind has been given only limited knowledge
concerning it. When a body is given a soul, life begins. And when
the soul leaves the body, life ends and death begins.
During their journeys through this
universe, the soul and its body travel through four different
1. The womb - where the
soul joins its body.
2. This world - where we
all live for a limited period only.
3. The grave - a Barzakh
4. The Hereafter - The final
destination of all human beings.
Each world is greater than the
last, and the final world of the Hereafter is eternal and the
most important. It is difficult for us as human beings living
amidst the hubbub of worldly life to comprehend the sheer futility
of this world and the permanence of the Hereafter. Thousands of
dead are buried around us every day, but we find it impossible
to envisage the new stage of the journey upon which they have
embarked. To the living, the grave is simply an empty and dark
hole in the ground; to the dead, it is their window into either
Paradise or the Fire. And it is precisely because they cannot
comprehend the next life that the majority of human beings refuse
to believe in and obey Allah.
In this situation, we are like
the foetus in the womb of its mother. Consider the unborn child
whose only home for nine months is a dark and cramped place where
it receives nourishment, warmth and space to grow. Suppose we
could speak to the unborn child; what would we say when describing
the world waiting for it outside? We would talk to it about the
clouds, the mountains, the trees and the oceans. We would talk
of a spectrum of colours, smells, tastes and textures. We would
mention the thunder of trains, the roaring of planes, the speed
of cars. We would describe flowers, birds and animals; a world
of lush gardens, cascading rivers, valleys and plains. An enormous
world of huge deserts, massive oceans and vast landscapes. a bustling
world filled with noise, movement and numerous nationalities of
people speaking a variety of languages
Would the little infant curled
up in it's mother's womb understand the message? Indeed not. The
womb is the only place he knows and to imagine the outside world
would be beyond his comprehension. In the same way, our life in
this world is temporary and like it or not, we will have to leave
it to enter the world beyond the grave. Just because we cannot
envisage or see the world of the Barzakh does not mean that it
does not exist.
What is the Soul ?
The Qur'an and Sunnah give us only
a limited knowledge concerning the soul. From it we can say that
the Arabic words 'Ruh' and 'Nafs' are both used, sometimes interchangeably,
for the soul. Imam Ibn Al-Qayyim wrote in his scholarly work "Kitab
" Ruh is an entity which differs
totally from the physical body. It is a subtle, ecclesiastical,
enlightened living and moving body which penetrates into the depths
of the organs and flows into them like the water in the rose or
the oil in the olive or the fire in the coal. As long as these
organs remain able to accept the impressions of this subtle body,
the 'Ruh' remains attached to these organs and provides them with
feeling and movement. But when these organs are spoiled because
of the dominance of diseased elements upon it, and they are no
longer able to accept the impressions of the soul, it leaves the
body and heads towards the world of the souls. "
There is some difference in the
way the words 'Ruh' and 'Nafs' are used. The 'Ruh' is the subtle
spirit, which resides in the heavens and needs a physical body
to carry it on the earth. When this spirit is given a body, life
begins and it is described as 'Nafs'. The word 'Nafs' is used
in a number of ways by the Qur'an, all of which imply the meaning
of a soul with a body.
1. 'Nafs' meaning "Self."
"You know what is in my
self but I do not know what is in Your self"
(Qur'an Al-Maida 5:116)
2. 'Nafs' meaning "Blood".
"The (insect) which has
flowing Nafs (blood)."
3. Nafs as a strong force in man,
which can push him either towards good or evil. The concept of
'Nafs al Ammara bis Su' ('Nafs' which encourages evil)
and 'Nafs al Lawwama' ('Nafs' which blames) and 'Nafs
al Mutmainna' ('Nafs' which is contented) are discussed in
the next chapter.
Two deaths and two lives
The Qur'an mentions two deaths
and two lives given to us by Allah
"How can you reject faith
in Allah, seeing that you were dead and He gave you life. Then
He will cause you to die, then He will bring you to life, then
to Him will be your return."
(Qur'an Al-Baqarah 2: 28)
"They will say: Our Lord,
twice have You given us death and twice have You given us life
(Qur'an Al Mumin : 11)
When the soul is first created
it has no physical body and is considered to be a dead creature.
In this state it is referred to as 'Ruh', and this is the first
death as even death is created by Allah.
"He is the one who created
Death and life in order that He may try which of you is best in
deeds , and He is the Exalted, the Forgiving."
(Qur'an Al Mulk 67: 2)
The Qur'an also tells us that all
the souls of mankind were created before the creation of Adam
and were asked to testify to the Lordship of Allah.
"When your Lord drew forth
from the loins of the children of Adam their descendants, and
made them testify concerning themselves: Am I not your Lord?.
They said, Yes, we do testify. This lest you should
say on the Day of Judgement: We were not aware of this.
(Qur'an Al Araaf :272)
The first life begins when
the soul is breathed into an embryo in the womb of its mother,
and now the soul is referred to as 'Nafs'. The word Nafs is also
used for blood, and so women who are in a state of
post-natal bleeding are known as 'Nufasaa. As long as blood
surges healthily through the body, there will be life in that
Abdullah ibn Masud reported
that the Messenger of Allah (saws) said:
"Indeed the creation of each
one of you is brought together in his mothers belly for
forty days in the form of a seed, then he is a clot of blood for
a similar period, then a morsel of flesh for a similar period.
An angel is then sent to him who blows the breath of life into
(Sahih al-Bukhari and Muslim)
Scholars of Islam have concluded
from this hadeeth that because the angel of life blows the soul
into the fetus when it is 120 days old, abortion on very strict
medical grounds is permissible only before the fetus is 4 months
old. Once life has been blown into the fetus it becomes a living
creature and to terminate its life is murder.
The second death occurs
when the soul leaves the body at the end of its appointed time
"Every Nafs (soul) shall
(Qur'an Aal Imran 3: 185)
The Nafs dies and is buried, while
its soul soars up to the heavens. That is why the Prophet (saws)
"At death, the eyes follow
the departing soul, so close the eyes."
The second life will be
the eternal life beginning on the Day of Judgement when the bodies
will be resurrected and their souls will be blown into them once
The Different States of Each Nafs
- NAFS AL-MUTAMAINNA - the
- "0 you satisfied soul.
Return to your Lord pleased with yourself and pleasing to Him.
Enter among My servants. And enter My paradise".
(Qur'an Al Fajr 89: 27-30)
- NAFS AL AMMARA BIS SU' -
the soul that dictates evil.
- "And I do not free myself
from blame. Indeed the human self is inclined to evil, except
when my Lord bestows His Mercy (upon whom He wills). Indeed my
Lord is Forgiving, Merciful."
(Qur'an Yusuf : 53)
3. NAFS AL LAWWAMA - the
"I do call to witness
the Resurrection Day. And I do call to witness the self-reproaching
(Qur'an Al Qiyamah: 1-2)
The noblest of the souls is the
satisfied soul, which at its last moments on earth will receive
the glad news from its lord of "Enter among My servants
and enter into my Paradise." In contrast is the soul,
which inspires evil and disobedience. And between these two
extreme states is the self-reproaching soul, which checks its
actions and blames itself when it commits evil. Most souls hover
between these different states depending on the persons
faith and actions.
1. Nafs Mutmainna
The Qur'an explains how one can
achieve the noble state of the satisfied soul.
"Indeed, in the remembrance
of Allah do hearts find satisfaction."
(Qur'an Al-Ra'd 12: 28)
The Qur'an is the voice of Al-Rahman
just as music is the voice of Satan. If the evil-inspiring soul
finds solace in music, dance and its paraphernalia, the satisfied
soul finds its peace and consolation in the Qur'an, prayer and
the company of the righteous. The satisfied soul has such a
deep conviction in Allah and the Last Day that never is it upset
by the sorrows or demands of this world.
During his return from a Jihad
expedition, the Prophet (saws) once sat down to rest under the
shade of a tree far from his devout companions. A Makkan called
Chawrath bin Al Harith saw his golden chance and came forward
with his sword drawn: "0 Muhammad. Who is going to save
you from me now?" Calm and un-fearing, the Prophet (sallallahu
alaihe wa-sallam) stood tall and replied simply, "Allah!".
The man was surprised into confusion by this simple answer
and unconsciously dropped his sword. The Prophet (sallallahu
alaihe wa-sallam) immediately picked up the sword and asked,
"Tell me who will save you now?". The man quietly
answered, "There is no god worthy of worship but Allah."
Illness, financial worries, loss
of property or death of dear ones does not cause the satisfied
soul to wail, curse or lament. Whenever it faces any problems
it simply say, "To Allah we belong and to Him we shall
return" and faces the misfortune with patience and
trust in its Lord.
Such are the souls described
in the Qur'an;
"Be sure, We shall test
you with something of fear, hunger, some loss of goods or lives
or fruits of your toils. But give glad tidings to those who
are patient. Those who say, when afflicted by calamity: "To
Allah we belong and to Him we shall return.
(Qur'an Al Baqarah 2: 155-156)
The satisfied soul believes that
all happiness and sorrow is by the decree of Allah. It therefore
feels no need to lament at misfortunes or to boast at success.
"No misfortune can happen
on earth or to your soul but it is written in a decree before
We bring it into existence. That is truly easy for Allah. In
order that you may not despair over matters that pass you by,
nor exult in favors bestowed upon you, for Allah loves not the
(Qur'an Al Hadid 57: 22-23)
No worldly anxieties upset the
satisfied soul. If it fails to acquire something for which it
has struggled for many years, it will accept its destiny and
remember the following words of the Prophet of Allah (saws):
"What has reached you was
never meant to escape you and what has escaped you was never
meant to reach you." (Muwadih by Al-Khateeb Al-Baghdadi)
The satisfied soul seeks its
nourishment in Dhikr (the remembrance of Allah), prayer, fasting,
Zakat and Hajj. It relies heavily for support on the branches
of faith, the highest of which is to say and believe in There
is no god worthy of worship except Allah and Muhammad is the
Messenger of Allah, and the lowliest of which is to
remove an obstacle from the path. Angels are present to strengthen
this soul and to bless and greet it when it departs this material
life, when it is resurrected and when it is admitted into the
gardens of paradise. Their greeting to it is the greeting of
a Muslim to his fellow Muslim: Peace be unto you;
"And those who feared
their Lord will be led to the Paradise in crowds; until they
arrive there, its gates are opened and its keepers will say:
Peace be upon you! Well have you done. Enter here and
(Qur'an Az Zumar 39: 73)
2. Nafs ammara bis su
In contrast this soul which earns
the company of Satan because it ignores the remembrance of Allah.
"The one who withdraws
himself from the remembrance of the Merciful, We appoint for
him a Satan to be a companion to him."
(Qur'an Az-Zukhruf 43:36)
Satans cohorts and tunes
surround the evil soul day and night. It drives from one satanic
act to other. You will see it lying and cheating, wasting time
on leisure and sports, frequenting cinemas and concerts, listening
to music and dancing.
As one contemporary writer said,
"The godless societys motto is work and play',
while the motto of the god-conscious society is, work
and pray "!
- Nafs Lawwama
The self-reproaching soul succumbs
to evil inspirations but then regrets its actions and reproaches
itself for being weak and vulnerable. These feelings of remorse
cause it to turn back to Allah, to repent sincerely, and to receive
spiritual solace. It is better for each Nafs to blame itself whenever
it commits a wrong. If not, it will find itself being blamed from
all those around it. Consider how the self-reproaching soul is mentioned
with the Day of Resurrection in the Qur'an.
"I do call to witness the
Resurrection Day. And I do call to witness the self-reproaching
(Qur'an Al Qiyarnah : 1-2)
There is a common factor between
these two entities, which is that both are courts of justice. The
Nafs al Lawwama is an inner court of justice within each person;
when he acts wrongfully. his conscience or soul reprimands him,
and it is then up to him to pay heed to it or to ignore it. Besides
placing an inner court of justice within each person, the Creator
has also prepared a larger Court, which will operate on the Final
Day and will mete out justice to all of mankind.
Consequences Of Iman
Student studies hard for his final
examinations, researching in libraries, practicing past papers and
revising his notes because he wants a university degree, which will
help, advance his career.
A businessman invests much of his
time, energy and money into a commercial venture in the hope of
large profits in the future.
A farmer ploughs his land, sows it,
waters it and tends it regularly in the hope of a good harvest.
They all know that success does not
come down on a plate but has to be achieved through hard work. Man
does certain things in life for certain results, and he avoids other
acts because of their consequences. An adult will not put his hand
into a naked flame because he knows that fire burns, but a child
will do so as he is unaware of the consequences.
The most important Belief and Knowledge
that should dictate our actions is that Allah Almighty exists, that
He is the Creator and Provider, and that none can benefit nor harm
us except with His permission. If a persons Iman (faith) in
Allah is firm and unyielding, he will be able to direct all his
worship and obedience to Allah and will feel no fear of false deities
or worldly powers.
Consider the encounter of Pharaohs
court magicians with Prophet Musa as described in the Qur'an. Before
meeting the Prophet, they pleaded with Pharaoh for a substantial
reward were they to defeat Musa in a duel using magic.
"So the sorcerers came to
Pharaoh and said, 'Of course we shall have a suitable reward if
(Qur'an Al-A'raaf :113)
Pharaoh accepted their plea and promised
them not only a reward but also positions at court. When the encounter
with Musa began, the magicians realized quickly that while their
own display was simple magic, Musas display was extraordinary
and much more than any human could conjure up. So overawed were
they by Musas miracles that they all fell down in sajda (prostration)
"We believe in the Lord of
the Worlds. The Lord of Musa and Harun,"
(Qur'an Ta Ha : 70)
Pharaoh was stunned by their declaration
of faith in Allah and shouted :
"Have you believed in Him
before I gave you permission? Be sure, I will cut off your hands
and your feet on opposite sides, and then I will crucify you on
trunks of palm trees. So shall you know which of us can give the
more severe and lasting punishment."
(Qur'an Ta Ha : 71)
These threats did not frighten the
magicians. These men who had just been begging Pharaoh for more
gold coins now became so fearless because of their faith in Allah
that they answered him back easily.
"Never shall we prefer you
over the Clear Signs that have come to us and Him who has created
us. So decree whatever you wish to decree. For you can only decree
concerning the matters of this world. We have believed in our Lord;
may He forgive us our faults and the magic to which you did compel
us, for Allah is the Best and forever abiding".
(Qur'an Ta Ha : 72-73)
What You Sow you will Reap.
The man who believes that there is
no afterlife and that he will not be accountable in a divine court
becomes a slave of this world. He hankers after its comforts and
luxuries, and will break any laws that stand between him and success.
In his desperate quest for more wealth, he will refuse to differentiate
between halal and haram. The tyrants and criminals of this world
operate in the same manner. If to achieve their goals requires murder
and violence, then so be it. The Bosnian Serbs were among the twentieth
centurys worst examples of barbarity and tyranny; led by a
pathological lust for more land, their evil knew no bounds.
In contrast is the man who believes
in Allah and in the questioning of the Last Day. He fears his Creators
wrath and desires his Lords favors. Certainty of belief in
paradise and hell guides his entire life, not just the moments spent
in prayer. To him this world is merely a short journey, the destination
of which is the Hereafter. Thus he directs most of his efforts towards
earning Paradise and devotes only part of his time to earning his
bread in this world. He is constantly aware of his divine mission
to call the misguided people around him to Islam and so he buries
himself in dawah work.
Belief in the Hereafter is the catalyst
which stimulates the souls seeking a better future and its importance
has been emphasized in the Qur'an repeatedly. The true believers
have been described as those who have firm faith in the Hereafter,
because that will be the true life.
"What is the life of this
world but amusement and p lay? But indeed the home of the Hereafter
is the true Life, if only they knew."
(Qur'an Al Ankabut : 64)
The Ultimate Success is not in amassing
fortunes, being famous or having a fantastic career, but success
is in escaping the fires of hell.
"Every soul shall taste death,
and only on the Day of Judgement will you receive your full recompense.
The one who is saved from the Fire and admitted into Paradise will
have attained success, for the life of the world is nothing but
the goods of deception.
(Qur'an Aal Imran : 185)
The Messenger of Allah (saws) declared
that wise is the man who reminds himself constantly of the accountability
on the Day of Resurrection and so works hard for the life succeeding
death. And stupid is the man whose only concerns are the transient
desires and comforts of this life.
The Prophet (saws) also described
this world as a farm for the 'Akhira.' (Hereafter). Whatever you
sow in this world, you shall reap in the Hereafter. In order that
people may not become complacent that the Day of Judgement is far
away in the distant future, he advised each person to remember that
his Judgement will begin on the day he dies
Experiences of the Soul after
The New World of Barzakh begins
when the persons soul leaves his body and his short life
on this earth comes to an end. The dying man experiences things
which cannot be comprehended by the people around him. As his
soul leaves his body through his nostrils, his eyes follow his
soul. For this reason, the Prophet (saws) advised the people to
close the eyes of the deceased to make his appearance less ghastly.
Allah Almighty says about this moment of dying.
"Then why do you not intervene
when the soul (of the dying man) reaches the throat. And you are
at that time looking . We are nearer to him , but you do not see.
And why do you not, if you are exempt from accountability, call
back the soul if you are truthful?"
(Qur'an Al-Waqiah 83-87)
As the person dies and enters a
New World, a window into the 'Akhira' is opened for him to allow
his soul to view Heaven and Hell. Death is a time of truth and
the lies with which disbelievers surround themselves in this world
are exposed. These lies include the denial of the existence of
Allah, rejection of the punishment of the grave, and denial of
the Day of Judgement.
So when death comes to the disbelievers
and they feel the heat of the raging fires of hell, they begin
to plead for a second chance on earth to do good. But all their
pleading is in vain.
"Until, when death comes
to one of them, he says, O my Lord. Send me back to life.
In order that I may do good deeds in the things that I neglected.
By no means! It is but a word he says. And before them is a barzakh
until the day they are raised up."
(Qur'an Al Muminun ; 99-100)
The journey of the soul from the
earth to heaven where it meets its Lord is described vividly in
the following hadith:
Al-Bara b. Azib said: We
went out with the Prophet (saws) to the funeral of a man of the
Ansar and came to the grave. It had not yet been dug, so Allahs
Messenger (saws) sat down and we sat down around him quietly.
He had in his hand a stick with which he was making marks on the
round. Then he raised his head and said, "Seek refuge
in Allah from the punishment of the grave; saying it twice
or thrice. He then said, "When a believer is about to leave
the world and go forward to the next world, angels with faces
white as the sun come down to him from heaven with one of the
shrouds of paradise and some of the perfume of paradise and sit
away from him as far as the eye can see. Then the angel of death
comes and sits at his head and says, Good soul, come out
to forgiveness and acceptance from Allah. It then comes
out as a drop flows from a water-skin and he seizes it; and when
he does so they do not leave it in his hand for an instant, but
take it and place it in that shroud and that perfume, and from
it there comes forth a fragrance like that of the sweetest musk
found on the face of the earth. They then take it up and do not
bring it past a company of angels without their asking, "Who
is this good soul? to which they reply, So and so,
the son of so and so, using the best names by which people
called him on the earth. They then bring him to the lowest heaven
and ask that the gate should be opened for him. This is done,
and from every heaven its archangels escort him to the next heaven
until it is brought to the seventh heaven, and Allah who is great
and glorious says, Record the book of my servant in Illiyyun
and take him back to earth, for I created mankind from it, I shall
return them into it, and from it I shall bring them forth another
time. His soul is then restored to his body, two angels
come to him, and making him sit up say to him, Who is our
Lord He replies, My Lord is Allah. They ask,
What is your religion? and he replies, My religion
is Islam. They ask, Who is this man who was sent among
you? and he replies, He is Allahs Messenger.
They ask, What is your [source of] knowledge? and
he replies, I have read Allahs Book, believed in it
and declared it to be true. Then one cries from heaven,
My servant has spoken the truth, so spread out carpets for
him from paradise, and open a gate for him into paradise.
Then some of its joy and its fragrance comes to him, his grave
is made spacious for him as far as the eye can see, and a man
with a beautiful face, beautiful garments and a sweet odor comes
to him and says, Rejoice in what pleases you for this is
your day which you have been promised. He asks, Who
are you, for your face is perfectly beautiful and brings good?"
He replies, I am your good deeds. He then says, My
Lord, bring the last hour; my Lord, bring the last hour, so that
I may return to my people and my property.
But when an infidel is about to
leave the world and proceed to the next world, angels with black
faces come down to him from heaven with hair-cloth and sit away
from him as far as the eye can see. Then the angel of death comes
and sits at his head and says, Wicked soul, come out to
displeasure from Allah. Then it becomes dissipated in his
body, and he draws it out as a spit is drawn out from moistened
wool. He then seizes it, and when he does so they do not leave
it in his hand for an instant, but put it in that hair-cloth and
from it comes forth a stench like the most offensive corpse found
on the face of the earth. They then take it up and do not bring
it past a company of angels without their saying, Who is
this wicked soul? to which they reply, So and so,
the son of so and so, using the worst names that he was
called in the world. When he is brought to the lowest heaven request
is made that the gate be opened for him, but it is not opened
for him. (Allahs Messenger (saws) then recited, The
gates of heaven will not be opened for them and they will not
enter paradise until a camel can pass through the eye of a needle.
Allah who is most Great and Glorious then says, Record
his book in Sijjin in the lowest earth, and his soul is
thrown down. (He (saws) then recited, He who assigns
partners to Allah is as if he had fallen down from heaven and
been snatched up by the birds, or made to fall by the wind in
a place far distant. His soul is then restored to his
body, two angels come to him, and making him sit up say to him,
Who is your Lord? He replies, Alas, alas, I
do not know. They ask, What is your religion?
He replies, Alas, alas, I do not know. They ask Who
is this man who was sent among you? He replies, Alas, alas,
I do not know. Then one cries out from heaven, He
has lied, so spread out carpets from hell for him, and open a
gate for him into hell. Then some of its heat and hot air
comes to him, his grave is made narrow for him so that his ribs
are pressed together in it and a man with an ugly face, ugly garments
and an offensive odor come to him and says, Be grieved with what
displeases you, for this is your day which you have been promised.
He asks Who are you, for your face is most ugly and brings
evil? He replies, l am your wicked deeds. He
then says, My Lord, do not bring the last hour.
In a version there is something
similar containing this addition:
"When his soul comes out every
angel between heaven and earth and every angel in heaven invoke
blessings on him, and the gates of heaven are opened for him,
no guardians of a gate failing to supplicate God that his soul
may be taken up beyond them. But his soul, i.e., the infidels,
is pulled out along with the veins and every angel between heaven
and earth and every angel in heaven curse him, and the gates of
heaven are locked, no guardians of a gate failing to supplicate
God that his soul may not be taken up beyond them."
(Ahmad transmitted it)
The person who answers the questions
correctly and is destined for paradise will feel that his grave
is expanding and becoming a garden of paradise. The angels will
tell him gently, "Sleep like the sleep of a bride."
But the person who fails to answer
the questions correctly will feel the grave closing in on him
and a door into hell will be opened for him. His mortal body will
decompose and eventually disappear into the ground, but his soul
will continue to feel the punishment it earned in its life on
earth. The punishment of the grave is the first hurdle the person
has to overcome after death, and if he overcomes it easily, the
rest of his trial on the Day of Judgement will be similarly easy.
For this reason, the Messenger of Allah (saws) used to recite
the following duaa frequently :
"My Lord, I seek refuge
in You from the punishment of the grave, and seek refuge in You
from the torture of the hell fire, and I seek refuge in You from
the trials of the false messiah, and I seek refuge in You from
the trials of living and dying."
Zaid b. Thabit narrated that the
Messenger of Allah (sallallahu alaihe wa-sallam) and his Companions
were passing through a belonging to the Banu An Najjar when the
Prophet (sallallahu alaihe wa-sallam) mount shied and almost unseated
him. They were close to a few graves in which |olytheist were
buried, so the Prophet (sallallahu alaihe wa-sallam) said, "These
, , people are being tortured in their graves, and were it not that
you would stop burying your dead, I would ask Allah to let you
hear the punishment in the grave which I can hear."
The Soul's Journey in Brief
1. To sum up the evidence, it is
clear that the souls of all people, believers and unbelievers,
are taken up to the heavens at the time of death by angels and
presented to Allah Almighty.
2. The record of the believers
deeds is placed in a high place in heaven called Illiyyin and
the sinners record is thrown into the lowest earth known
"Nay! Truly the record
of the evil-doers is preserved in Sijjin. And what will explain
to you what Sijjin is? A register inscribed. Nay! Truly the record
of the pious is preserved in Illiyyin. And what will make you
know what Illiyyin is? A Register inscribed. To which bear witness
those nearest to Allah (i.e. the angels)."
(Qur'an Al-Mutaffifin :7-9,
3. The souls are returned to their
bodies temporarily for questioning by the angels.
4. When the soul returns, the dead
person is able to hear the retreating footsteps of the men who
came to bury him. This is an exception to the general rule in
the Qur'an that the dead cannot hear the living.
"Verily, you cannot make
the dead to hear, nor can you make the deaf hear the call when
they flee, turning their backs."
(Qur'an An Naml v 80)
"Nor are alike the living
and the dead. Verily, Allah makes whom He will hear, but you cannot
make those in the graves hear."
(Qur'an Fatir v. 22)
5. The blessed soul is taken to
the heavens where it is changed into a bird and eats freely from
the fruits in paradise. It rests in a state of peaceful sleep
while the cool breezes of paradise flow gently over it. In contrast
is the sinners soul, which is thrown with contempt into
the lowest earth to feel the savage heat and stench of hell. Both
kinds of soul reside in the same places as their Records of deeds.
6. The torture of the grave is
for the soul, but if Allah Wills, it can also be felt by the body.
The human body has to decay and decompose into the ground, but
as the punishment of the grave is for the soul, it can continue
until the Last Day.
Common Questions Answered
1. Groups of Muslims claim that
the questioning in the grave is proved only by hadeeth literature
and not by the Qur'an. To reply to them, consider the following
verse of Surah Ibrahim :
"Allah will keep firm those
who believe, with the Word that stands firm in this world and
in the Hereafter. And Allah will cause the wrongdoers to go astray.
and Allah does what He wills."
(Qur'an Ibrahim : 27)
The first stage of the Hereafter
is the time of Barzakh, the period between death and resurrection.
The Prophet (saws), as narrated by Al-Baraa bin Aazib, explained
that the believers will be aided in standing firm with their answers
in the grave when the angels Munkar and Nakir come to question
them, while the wrong-doers will falter at this critical time.
2. The same group of Muslims claim
that the punishment or bliss of the grave are also proven only
from hadeeth and not from the Qur'an. Our reply is that the punishment
of the grave is mentioned in a number of Qur'anic verses:
(a) Pharaoh and his followers have
been exposed to the Fires of Hell every morning and evening since
their deaths, and they will continue to suffer in this manner
until the Day of Resurrection. On that day they will actually
enter the fire.
"The Fire; they are exposed
to it morning and evening. And on the Day when the Hour will be
established, it will be said: Cause Pharaohs people to enter
the most severe torment."
(Qur'an Ghafir 40: 46).
(b) "Because of their sins
they were drowned, then (immediately) were made to enter the Fire,
and they found none to help them without Allah."
(Qur'an Nuh : 25)
The disbelievers from the people
of Nuh were drowned and then immediately thrown into the Fire.
According to Arabic grammar, the letter fa in this
verse indicates immediacy. As the Day of Judgement is still in
the future, the punishment, which began, immediately after Nuhs
people drowned must be the punishment in Barzakh.
(c) "And among the Bedouins
around you (0 Muhammad), some are hypocrites and so are some among
the people of Madina. They exaggerate and persist in hypocrisy.
You know them not, but We know them. We shall then punish them
twice, and thereafter they shall be brought back to a severe torment".
(Qur'an Al Tawba : 101)
Abdullah bin Abbas explained in
his tafseer of this verse that the disbelievers and hypocrites
would be tortured twice before their chastisement on the Day of
Judgement. The first will be a wretched life on this earth, and
the second will be in Barzakh.
"And if you could see when
the wrong-doers are in the agonies of death while the angels are
stretching forth their hands saying, Deliver your souls!
This day you shall be recompensed with the torment of degradation
because of what you used to utter against Allah other than the
(Qur'an Al Anam : 93)
A disgraceful punishment is promised
the day their souls leave their bodies. The use of the word today
indicates that the torture will be immediate, and as such cannot
be referring to the Day of Judgement but to the time in the grave.
"And if you could see when
the angels take away the souls of the disbelievers, they beat
their faces and their backs, (saying) Taste the punishment
of the blazing Fire. This because of that which your hands had
sent forward. And indeed, Allah is not unjust to His slaves."
(Qur'an Al Anfal: 50-51)
"Then how will it be when
the angels will take their souls at death, beating their faces
and their backs?"
(Qur'an Muhammad 27)
Both the above verses speak of
a beating by the angels immediately after death.
3. The rewards and bliss of the
grave are also mentioned by the Qur'an. For example, the story
is told of a man who warned a prophet that his enemies were plotting
to kill him. When the disbelievers realized that the man had betrayed
them, they punished him and viciously put him to death. Immediately
after his death the man was told to enter paradise and when he
saw the luxuries and wonders of paradise, the man wished he could
tell his people about his happy fate.
"It was said to him (when
the disbelievers killed him): Enter Paradise. He said:
Would that my people knew that my Lord has forgiven me and
made me one of the honored ones."
(Qur'an Ya Sin : 26-27)
The real Paradise will reveal all
its favors and wonders on the Day of Judgement, but this man received
only a taste of paradise in his grave which gave him such rapturous
"Those whose lives the
angels take while they are in a pious state, saying to them, Peace
be upon you, enter Paradise because of the good which you used
to do in the world".
(Qur'an Al Nahl : 32)
"Think not of those who
are killed in the Way of Allah as dead! Nay! They are alive, with
their Lord, where they have provisions. They rejoice what Allah
has bestowed upon them from His bounties. Rejoicing for the sake
of those who have not yet joined them but are left behind (not
yet martyred) that on them no fear shall come nor shall they grieve."
(Qur'an Al Imran : 169-170)
The life of the martyrs is not
like the life on earth. The Messenger of Allah (saws) explained
this further in the following narration.
"Their souls are in the
crops of green birds which are in lamps suspended from the Throne
of Allah, which fly where they wish in Paradise and then return
to these lamp. Their Lord looks on them and asks whether they
desire anything, and they ask in reply what they wish when they
can go where they like in Paradise. He asks them three times,
and when they see they will not be left until they ask something,
they tell their Lord that they wish Him to return their souls
to their bodies so that they may be killed in His path again.
Then when He that they lack nothing they are left without further
(Transmitted by Muslim)