Philosophy & Theology

The Souls Journey after Death: From Death to the Grave

The Soul’s Journey After Death:

From the Pangs of Death to the The Grave

***

  • Our existence is a dual one – ‘worldly’ (dunyawi) and ‘other-worldly’ (ukhrawi).
  • We have a worldly existence such as the one we know now – the world of direct sensory experience.
  • But we also have an existence that is beyond the immediate world and the Islamic literature is plentiful on that.
  • We as Muslims believe in a non-physical aspect to our being which is called the ‘soul’ (ruh) which is the secret of life but a necessary entity for our existence.
  • This soul we are told by the Prophet will undergo its journey after separating from the body.
  • It is one of the four stages of human life within our theology: 1 = life in the womb, 2 = life in the world, 3 = life in the barzakh (the grave before being raised up) and 4 = the resurrection – eternity.
  • Let us look briefly into stage3…

Outlines: Taken from al-Ghazali’s Kitab Dhikr al-Mawt wa ma Ba`dahu (‘The Book on Death and what will Happen After’):

  • There are broadly two narrative events regarding the individual’s death: 1) death until the trumpet is blown by the Angel Israfil and 2) resurrection until the final judgement and entry into either Heaven or Hell.
  • This part will only deal with the first set of events.

[A] Death is agonising (= sakrat al-mawt) and the moment the soul is being dragged out is intense (= shiddat al-naz`):

  1. Each limb or extremity (`udwun) deteriorates.
  2. Revulsion.
  3. Screams.
  4. The pain increases.
  5. Choking and gasping occurs where death is imminent.[1]
  • The Holy Prophet (saw) is reported to have said: “O Allah, indeed You pull out the Soul from the sinews, the nasal bone and the fingertips. O Allah! Grant me Your support in death and make it bearable for me”:

اللهم أنك تأخذ الروح من بين العصب و القصب و الأنامل… اللهم فأعني على الوت وهونه علي

  • Reports or descriptions of the agony of death include:
  • A person in the state of death is followed by three ‘calamities’ (al-dawahi, sing. = al-dahiya).
  1. It is worse than 300 blows of a sword (wa huwa qadru thalaatha mi’a darabati al-suyuf)[2] or 1000.[3]
  2. Branch of a thorn tree caught in wool (bi-manzilat hasaka fi ’l-suf).[4]
***
1. The Angel of death (malak ul-mawt) then appears to the person.

For the sinner (al-`ussat): the Angel of death is the most frightening being, ghastly, horrible, ugly…[5]

For the righteous (al-mati`): the Angel of death is the most beautiful, pleasant, perfumed, youthful…[6]

2. Visions of the Two Recording Angels (mushaahadtu al-malakyn al-hafizayn):

  1. A person’s deeds will be shown to h/her.
  2. If a person is obedient, then h/she will be greeted well and will be blessed.
  3. If a person is disobedient, then h/she will be cursed and censured.

3. Each person will be shown their respective position or maq`ad of either Paradise or Hell.

  • The Prophet (SAW) said: “none of you shall leave this world before knowing his destination before beholding the place he is to occupy in either Heaven or Hell”

لن يخرج أحدكم من الدنيا حتى يعلم أين مصيــــره و حتى يرى مقعده من الجنة أو النـــــــار

Lan yakhruj ahudukum min al-dunya hatta ya`lamu ayna masirahu wa hatta yara maq`adahu min al-janna aw al-naar.[7]

  • The ruh departs only after the Angel of Death says either: ‘Rejoice o friend of God at the prospect of Heaven’ (ubshur ya wali Allah bi ’l-janna) or ‘Rejoice o enemy of God at the prospect of Hell!’ (ubshur ya `aduw Allah bi ’l-jahannam).

[B] A dead person is made to rest or lay down in the grave. Realities include:

  • There, Angels of Chastisement (mala’ikat al-`adhaab) and Angels of Mercy (mala’ikat al-rahma) come to the graves.
  • The grave speaks to its inhabitant warning and censuring if h/she is disobedient saying: ‘Woe to you o son of Adam! What distracted you from contemplating me’ (wayhak yabna Adam! Ma gharraka bi…).[8]
  • The grave will also say: ‘do you not know (a lam ta`lamu anni) I am the house of trials and tribulations (bayt al-fitna), house of darkness (bayt al-zulma), house of solicitude (bayt al-wahda) and house of worms/maggots (bayt al-dud)?’[9]
  • Ka`b al-Ahbar (ra) relates that when a righteous person is put into the grave, his righteous deeds surround him, e.g. his prayer, fasting, Hajj, jihad in the way of Allah, charity, etc. The narration from the Ihya’ is as follows:

******

Said Ka`b [al-Ahbar], ‘When the righteous bondsman is laid in his tomb he is surrounded by his righteous acts, such as his prayer, his fasting, his pilgrimage, his engagement in the Holy War, and the charity he used to distribute. Then the Angels of Chastisement approach him from the direction of his feet, but are told by Prayer, “Get back from him, you have no authority over him, for upon those [feet] he stood in me at length for the sake of God”. Then they approach him from the direction of his head, but Fasting says, “You have no authority over him, for in the world’s abode he thirsted at length for the sake of God”. Next they draw near to him from the direction of his trunk, but Pilgrimage and Holy War say, “Get back from him for he exhausted himself and wearied his body when he accomplished the Pilgrimage and the Holy War for the sake of God; no authority do you have over him”. Then they approach him from the direction of his hands, but Charity says, “Back! Retreat from my master, for how many an act of charity issued from those two hands to fall in to the hand of God (Exalted is He!), while he acted only for His sake; no authority, do you have over him”. Then he shall be told, “Rejoice! Good you have been in life and in death!” Next, the Angels of Mercy come, and spread a heavenly cloth and resting-place out for him, and his grave is widened around him for as far as the eye can see. A candle is brought from Heaven, and from it he has light until God resurrects him from his grave.’[10]

وقال كعب إذا وضع العبد الصالح في القبر احتوشته أعماله الصالحة الصلاة والصيام والحج والجهاد والصدقة

قال فتجيء ملائكة العذاب من قبل رجليه فتقول الصلاة: إليكم عنه فلا سبيل لكم عليه فقد أطال بي القيام لله عليهما

فيأتونه من قبل رأسه فيقول الصيام: لا سبيل لكم عليه فقد أطال ظمأه لله في الدار الدنيا فلا سبيل لكم عليه

فيأتونه من قبل جسده فيقول الحج والجهاد: إليكم عنه فقد أنصب نفسه وأتعب بدنه وحج وجاهد لله فلا سبيل لكم عليه

قال فيأتونه من قبل يديه فتقول الصدقة: كفوا عن صاحبي فكم من صدقه خرجت من هاتين اليدين حتى وقعت في يد الله تعالى ابتغاء وجهه فلا سبيل لكم عليه

قال فيقال له هنيئا طبت حيا وطبت ميتا قال وتأتيه ملائكة الرحمة فتفرش له فراشا من الجنة ودثارا من الجنة ويفسح له في قبره مد بصره ويؤتى بقنديل من الجنة فيستضيء بنوره إلى يوم يبعثه الله من قبره

******

[C] Interrogation: The questioning/interrogation in the grave (qabr) are by two Angels. The hadith reads:

عن أبي هريرة قال قال رسول الله صلى الله عليه وسلم إذا قبر الميت أو الإنسان أتاه ملكان أسودان أزرقان يقال لأحدهما المنكر وللآخر النكير فيقولان له ما كنت تقول في هذا الرجل محمد صلى الله عليه وسلم فهو قائل ما كان يقول فإن كان مؤمنا قال هو عبد الله ورسوله أشهد أن لا إله إلا الله وأشهد أن محمدا عبده ورسوله فيقولان له إن كنا لنعلم أنك لتقول ذلك ثم يفسح له في قبره سبعون ذراعا في سبعين ذراعا وينور له فيقال له نم فينام كنوم العروس الذي لا يوقظه إلا أحب أهله إليه حتى يبعثه الله من مضجعه ذلك

  • Two blue-black Angels – one called Munkar and one called Nakir will appear.
  • They will as: ‘what say you about this man Muhammad?’
  • If h/she is a true believer, then the reply will be: ‘he is the servant of Allah and His Messenger and I bear witness that there is nothing worthy of worship and that Muhammad is His servant and Messenger…’
  • The grave will be widened 70 cubits by 70 and light poured into it and made to rest serenely until they are raised by Allah on the Day of Judgment.[11]
  • If the person is a hypocrite or sinner then the reality will be as follows:

فإن كان منافقا قال لا أدري كنت أسمع الناس يقولون شيئا فكنت أقوله فيقولان له إن كنا لنعلم أنك تقول ذلك ثم يقال للأرض التئمي عليه فتلتئم عليه حتى تختلف أضلاعه فلا يزال معذبا حتى يبعثه الله تعالى من مضجعه ذلك

 

The Messenger of Allah (SAW) said, “When the dead person is buried, two black-blue angels come to him, one called al Munkar and the other called an Nakir, and they say to him: ‘What had you used to say about this man?’ So he says what he used to say: ‘Allah’s slave and His Messenger, I bear witness that none has the right to be worshipped except Allah and that Muhammad is His slave and Messenger.’ So they say: ‘Verily we knew that you (would) say that.’ Then his grave is widened for him to the extent of seventy cubits by seventy, then it is made light for him, then it is said: ‘Sleep.’ So he says: ‘I should go to my family and inform them.’ So they say: ‘Sleep as the newly married sleeps whom no-one awakes except his favorite wife.’ Until Allah raises him up from that place of sleep. And if he is a hypocrite (munafiq), he says: ‘I heard the people saying something so I said it too, I don’t know.’ So they say: ‘We knew that you (would) say that.’ So it is said to the earth: ‘Crush him’, so he is crushed until his cross over and he remains in the state of torture until Allah raises him up from that resting place.”[12]

  • If one is a hypocrite/sinner, h/she will say in answer to the interrogation: ‘I don’t know about this man Muhammad. I used to hear the people say something about him.’
  • The earth will be told to draw tightly around the person until h/her ribs crack and protrude.
  • An interior torment will remain until Allah raises h/her on the Day of Judgment.

[D] Another narration, the Prophet (saw) contrasts how a righteous soul is honoured with a disobedient soul:

حدثنا أبو العباس محمد بن يعقوب ثنا محمد بن إسحاق الصغاني ثنا محمد بن عبد الله بن نمير ثنا أبي ثنا الأعمش ثنا المنهال بن عمرو وحدثنا أبو بكر بن إسحاق الفقيه أنبأ إسماعيل بن قتيبة ثنا يحيى بن يحيى أنبأ أبو معاوية عن الأعمش ثنا المنهال بن عمرو عن زاذان أبي عمر قال سمعت البراء بن عازب يقول:

خرجنا مع رسول الله صلى الله عليه وسلم في جنازة رجل من الأنصار فانتهينا الى القبر ولما يلحد بعد قال فقعدنا حول النبي صلى الله عليه وسلم فجعل ينظر إلى السماء وينظر إلى الأرض وجعل يرفع بصره ويخفضه ثلاثا ثم قال:

اللهم إني أعوذ بك من عذاب القبر ثم قال:

إن الرجل المسلم إذا كان في قبل من الآخرة وانقطاع من الدنيا جاء ملك الموت فقعد عند رأسه وينزل ملائكة من السماء كأن وجوههم الشمس معهم أكفان من أكفان الجنة وحنوط من حنوط الجنة فيقعدون منه مد البصر قال: فيقول ملك الموت أيتها النفس المطمئنة أخرجي إلى مغفرة من الله ورضوانا قال فتخرج تسيل كما تسيل القطرة من السقاء فلا يتركونها في يده طرفة عين فيصعدون بها إلى السماء فلا يمرون بها على جند من ملائكة إلا قالوا ما هذه الروح الطيبة فيقولون فلان بن فلان بأحسن أسمائه فإذا انتهى إلى السماء فتحت له أبواب السماء ثم يشيعه من كل سماء مقربوها إلى السماء التي تليها حتى ينتهي إلى السماء السابعة ثم يقال اكتبوا كتابه في عليين ثم يقال أرجعوا عبدي إلى الأرض فإني وعدتهم إني منها خلقتهم وفيها أعيدهم ومنها أخرجهم تارة أخرى فترد روحه إلى جسده

  • The Prophet sought refuge in Allah from the torment of the grave (`adhab al-qabr).
  • The Angel of death will hover and sit by his head.
  • Swathes of Angels will descend from the heavens with resplendent and radiant faces like the sun (wujuhuhum al-shams).
  • The Angels with bring with them coffins and a scent from Paradise and wil sit before him as far as the eye can stretch.
  • The Angel of Death will request the soul to come out and join the forgiveness and pleasure of it Lord.
  • The soul will come out of the body like a droplet of water from a jug (tasilu kama tasilu ’l-qatra min al-siqa’).
  • The Angels will ask who this soul is and it will be praised and named with the most beautiful and noble names.
  • The Angels will carry the soul through the levels of the heavens until it reaches the 7th heavens.
  • The righteous deeds will be recorded a special register called “al-`illiyyin”.[13]
  • The soul will be returned to rest in its body.
  • Then:

فتأتيه الملائكة فيقولون من ربك قال فيقول الله فيقولون ما دينك فيقول الإسلام فيقولون ما هذا الرجل الذي خرج فيكم قال فيقول رسول الله قال فيقولون وما يدريك قال فيقول قرأت كتاب الله فآمنت به وصدقت قال فينادي مناد من السماء أن صدق فأفرشوه من الجنة وألبسوه من الجنة وأروه منزله من الجنة قال ويمد له في قبره ويأتيه روح الجنة وريحها قال فيفعل ذلك بهم ويمثل له رجل حسن الوجه حسن الثياب طيب الريح فيقول أبشر بالذي يسرك هذا يومك الذي كنت توعد فيقول من أنت فوجهك وجه يبشر بالخير قال فيقول أنا عملك الصالح قال فهو يقول رب أقم الساعة كي أرجع إلى أهلي ومالي ثم قرأ يثبت الله الذين آمنوا بالقول الثابت في الحياة الدنيا وفي الآخرة

Angels will come and ask the righteous soul a number of questions and it will reply: “…‘My Lord is Allah. They will ask him: What is your religion? He will reply: My religion is Islam. They will ask him: What is your opinion about the man who was sent on a mission among you? He will reply: He is the Apostle of Allah (SAW). They will ask: Who made you aware of this? He will reply: I read Allah’s Book, believed in it, and considered it true; which is verified by Allah’s words: “Allah’s Book, believed in it, and considered it true, which is verified by Allah’s words: “Allah establishes those who believe with the word that stands firm in this world and the next.”[14] [The agreed version reads]: “…‘Then a crier will call from Heaven: ‘My servant has spoken the truth, so spread a bed for him from Paradise, clothe him from Paradise, and open a door for him into Paradise. So some of its air and perfume will come to him, and a space will be made for him as far as the eye can see…”[15]

  • A sweet-smelling fragrance will be felt.
  • A beautiful-faced, beautifully robed and fragranced apparition will reveal itself as the good deeds of a person with good news of Paradise.
  • The soul will desire the Last Hour.
  • As for the iniquitous soul, the narrations states:

وأما الفاجر فإذا كان في قبل من الآخرة وانقطاع من الدنيا أتاه ملك الموت فيقعد عند رأسه وينزل الملائكة سود الوجوه معهم المسوح فيقعدون منه مد البصر فيقول ملك الموت أخرجي أيتها النفس الخبيثة إلى سخط من الله وغضب قال فتفرق في جسده فينقطع معها العروق والعصب كما يستخرج الصوف المبلول بالسفود ذي الشعب قال فيقومون إليه فلا يدعونه في يده طرفة عين فيصعدون بها إلى السماء فلا يمرون على جند من الملائكة إلا قالوا ما هذه الروح الخبيثة قال فيقولون فلان بأقبح أسمائه قال فإذا انتهى به إلى السماء غلقت دونه أبواب السماوات قال ويقال أكتبوا كتابه في سجين قال ثم يقال أعيدوا عبدي إلى الأرض فإني وعدتهم أني منها خلقتهم وفيها أعيدهم ومنها أخرجهم تارة أخرى قال فيرمي بروحه حتى تقع في جسده قال ثم قرأ { ومن يشرك بالله فكأنما خر من السماء فتخطفه الطير أو تهوي به الريح في مكان سحيق }

  • The Angel of Death will sit by his head.
  • Dark and black-faced Angels will descend and will sit as far as the eye can see.
  • The Angel of Death will command the soul to come out of the body and go to the wrath and punishment of its Lord.
  • The soul will exit the body like a wet ball of cotton is dragged through a thorn bush.
  • Angels will ascend with the soul and condemn the soul and humiliate it with the most despicable and despised names.
  • The doors of the heavens will be closed.
  • The deeds will be recorded in a register called “al-sijjin”.[16]
  • The soul will be thrown down back into its body.
  • Then:

قال فتأتيه الملائكة فيقولون من ربك قال فيقول لا أدري فينادي مناد من السماء أن قد كذب فأفرشوه من النار وألبسوه من النار وأروه منزله من النار قال فيضيق عليه قبره حتى تختلف فيه أضلاعه قال ويأتيه ريحها وحرها قال فيفعل به ذلك ويمثل له رجل قبيح الوجه قبيح الثياب منتن الريح فيقول أبشر بالذي يسؤك هذا يومك الذي كنت توعد قال فيقول من أنت فوجهك الوجه يبشر بالشر قال فيقول أنا عملك الخبيث قال وهو يقول رب لا تقم الساعة

In answer to the questions, the iniquitous soul will reply: “…Alas, alas! I do not know. They will ask him: What is your religion? He will reply: Alas, alas! I do not know. They will ask: Who was the man who was sent on a mission among you? He will reply: Alas, alas! I do not know. Then a crier will call from Heaven: He has lied, so spread a bed for him from Hell, clothe him from Hell, and open for him a door into Hell. Then some of its heat and pestilential wind will come to him, and his grave will be compressed, so that his ribs will be crushed together.”[17]

  • A stench and heat will be felt.
  • A dark-faced, filthy robed and stench-filled apparition will reveal itself as the bad deeds of that person will news of torment to come.
  • The iniquitous soul will not desire the Last Hour to arrive.
 

Thus:

  • Death is real.
  • Death is agonising.
  • Believers will be given intermediary tranquillity before being raised up.
  • Disbelievers/hypocrites will be given pain and torment before being raised up.
  • Questioning in the grave by Munkar and Nakir.
  • Squeezing and tightening of the grave by the Angels.
  • Honouring of the righteous souls by Allah.
  • Humiliation of the iniquitous souls by Allah.

 

 

Peace and blessings upon Our Master Muhammad,

His Family, Companions and all those who follow them

Until the Last Day.

 

S. Z. C.

2009

 


[1] al-Ghazzali, Ihya’ `Ulum al-Din, 4:428.

[2] Ibn Abi’l-Dunya, Kitab al-Mawt with a hasan isnad according to al-`Iraqi, al-Mughni `an al-Asfar fi’l-Asfar, 4:429 although mursal. Cf. al-Zabidi, Ithaf al-Sadat al-Muttaqin, 10:260 and al-Suyuti’s Sharh al-Sudur, p.31.

[3] Abu Nu`aym, Hilyat al-Awliya’, 8:201.

[4] Ibn Abi’l-Dunya, Kitab al-Mawt with a hasan isnad according to al-`Iraqi, al-Mughni `an al-Asfar fi’l-Asfar, 4:429 although mursal. Cf. al-Zabidi, Ithaf al-Sadat al-Muttaqin, 10:260 and al-Suyuti’s Sharh al-Sudur, p.31.

[5] al-Ghazzali, Ihya’ `Ulum al-Din, 4:430-431.

[6] al-Ghazzali, Ihya’ `Ulum al-Din, 4:431.

[7] Ibn Abi’l-Dunya, Kitab al-Mawt as per al-Zabidi, Ithaf al-Sadat al-Muttaqin, 10:266.

[8] Abu Nu`aym, Hilyat al-Awliya’, 6:93.

[9] al-Ghazzali, Ihya’ `Ulum al-Din, 5:252 (= al-`Iraqi, al-Mughni `an al-Asfar fi’l-Asfar); al-Haythami, Majma` al-Zawa’id, 10:350.

[10] al-Ghazzali, Ihya’ `Ulum al-Din, 4:476.

[11] Ibn Hibban, Sahih as in al-Haythami’s Mawarid al-Zaman, p.197. See also al-`Iraqi, al-Mughni `an al-Asfar fi’l-Asfar, 4:481-482.

[12] Ibn Abi `Asim, Kitab al-Sunna (#864) and Ibn Hibban, Sahih as in al-Haythami’s Mawarid al-Zaman, p.197.

[13] For which see Tafsir Ibn Kathir: Juz’ 30 (Part 30), ed. M. S. Abdul-Rahman, pp.80-82.

[14] al-Hakim, al-Mustadrak, 1:37-38 and al-`Iraqi, al-Mughni `an al-Asfar fi’l-Asfar, 4:477-478.

[15] al-Hakim, al-Mustadrak, 1:37-38 and al-`Iraqi, al-Mughni `an al-Asfar fi’l-Asfar, 4:477-478.

[16] Tafsir Ibn Kathir: Juz’ 30 (Part 30), ed. M. S. Abdul-Rahman, pp.77-78.

[17] See al-Hakim, al-Mustadrak, 1:37-38 and al-`Iraqi, al-Mughni `an al-Asfar fi’l-Asfar, 4:477-478.

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