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The Journey of the SOUL

Chapter 5 : 

Experiences of the Soul after Death

The new world of Barzakh begins when the person’s 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 (sallallahu alaihe wa-sallam)  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?." 

(Soorah Al-Waqiah v 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." 

(Surah Al Mu’minun v 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 (sallallaahu alaihe wa-sallam) to the funeral of a man of the Ansar and came to the grave. It had not yet been dug, so Allah’s Messenger (sallallaahu alaihe wa-sallam) 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 Allah’s Messenger.’ They ask, ‘What is your [source of] knowledge?’ and he replies, ‘I have read Allah’s 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. (Allah’s Messenger (sallallaahu alaihe wa-sallam) 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 (sallallaahu alaihe wa-sallam) 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 infidel’s, 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 (sallallaahu alaihe wa-sallam) used to recite the following du’aa 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 polytheist 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.” 

(Saheeh Muslim)


Chapter 6 : 

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 believer’s deeds is placed in a high place in heaven called Illiyyin and the sinner’s record is thrown into the lowest earth known as Sijjin.

"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).” 

(Soorah Al-Mutaffifin v 7-9, 18-21)

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'aan 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.” 

(Surah 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.” 

(Surah 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 sinner’s 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.

 


Chapter 7 : 

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'aan. 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." 

(Surah Ibrahim v 27)

The first stage of the Hereafter is the time of Barzakh, the period between death and resurrection. The Prophet (sallallahu alaihe wa-sallam), 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'aan. Our reply is that the punishment of the grave is mentioned in a number of Qur'aanic 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 Pharaoh’s people to enter the most severe torment.” 

(Surah 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.” 

(Surah Nuh v 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 Nuh’s 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".

 (Surah Al Tawba v 101)

Abdullah bin Abbas explained in his tafseer of this verse that the disbelievers and hypocrites will 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 truth." 

(Surah Al An’am v 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.” 

(Surah Al Anfal v 50-51)

“Then how will it be when the angels will take their souls at death, beating their faces and their backs?” 

(Surah Muhammad v 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'aan. 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." 

(Surah Ya Sin v 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 joy.

“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". 

(Surah Al Nahl v 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."

(Surah Al Imran v 169-170)

The life of the martyrs is not like the life on earth. The Messenger of Allah (sallallahu alaihe wa-sallam) 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 questioning.” 

(Transmitted by Muslim)

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