State of the Soul After Passage through the Gate (continued)

  • Abu Hurairah narrated from the Messenger of Allah (about Nakir and Munkir, who question the soul in its grave and test its faith):

“When the dead of one of you is buried, two dark and blue angels will come to him, one is called Munkir, and the other is called Nakir. They will ask him, ‘What did you say about this man (Muhammad)?’ He will reply, ‘[I say] what he used to say (about himself), that he is the Allah’s servant and Messenger: I bear witness that there is no true deity except Allah, and that Muhammad is His servant and Messenger.’

They will say, ‘We know that you used to say that’; and his grave will be made larger for him to seventy forearms in length and will be filled with light for him.

He will be told, ‘Sleep,’ but he will reply, ‘Let me go back to my family in order that I may tell them.’ They will say ‘Sleep like the bridegroom who is awakened by the dearest of his family, until Allah resurrects him from that sleep.’

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However, if he (the deceased) was a hypocrite, [instead] his answer will be, ‘I do not know! I heard people saying something, so I used to repeat what they were saying.’

They will say, ‘We know that you used to say that.’  The earth will be commanded, ‘Come closer all around him,’ and it will close in around him until his ribs crowd across each other. He will remain in this torment, until Allah resurrects him from his sleep.”

(Sahih Al-Tirmidhi,

In sum, a non-believer will be subjected to continuous punishment as the hadith says: “He will continue to be punished in it.”

  • Abu Hurairah narrated from the MessengerSAW (regarding the protection in the grave):

“By Him Who owns my life! The dead person hears the sound of your [footwear] when you depart and leave him. If he is a believer, the alâh (prayer) will stand by his head, zakah to his right, and sawm (fasting) by his left; the righteous deeds —such as charity, keeping relation with kith and kin, and acts of kindness to people— will stand by his feet.

He will be approached from his head, and the alâh `will declare, ‘No entrance [of Munkir] from my side.’ He will be approached from his right, and zakah will declare, ‘No entrance [of Munkir] from my side.’ He will be approached from his left, and the sawm (fasting) will declare, ‘No entrance [of Munkir] from my side.” He will be approached from his feet, and the acts of righteousness will declare, ‘No entrance [of Munkir] from our side.’

He will be commanded to sit up, and he will sit up while the sun appears to him just like when it is about to set. He will be told, ‘Tell us about what we are about to ask you.’ He will say, ‘Leave me until I pray.’ He will be told, ‘You will pray, but first tell us what we want to know.’ He will ask, ‘What are your questions?’ He will be told, ‘This man who was sent among you, what do you say about him, and what is your testimony about him?’ He will ask, ‘Muhammad?’ He will be answered in the affirmative and he will reply, ‘I bear witness that he is the Messenger of Allah and that he has brought us the proof from our Lord. We believed in him.’

He will be told, ‘This is the way you lived and died and, Allah willing, you will be resurrected on it.’ His grave will be made wider for him seventy forearms length, and it will be filled with light. A door will also be opened for him to Paradise. He will be told, ‘Look at what Allah has prepared for you in it!’ He will increase in joy and delight, and then his soul will be placed together with the pure souls, inside green birds eating from the trees of Paradise. [At the same time,] the body will be returned to its origin, dust. (quoted from Tafseer Ibn Kathir Vol. 5 [abridged], pages 342-350)

Death heralds in a different form of test, and it begins with the interrogations in the grave. The subject of this test is primarily the faith of man. The articles of faith deal with believing in the Unseen, based on the Words of AllahSWT and the teachings of the ProphetsSAW.

In death, the memory of worldly affairs will be replaced by glimpses [back to them], but memories regarding spiritual matters become vivid. A non-believer will be unclear or will have no answer to the angels’ questions, just as they used to believe and practice in their worldly lives. A believer, on the other hand, and with Allah’s Permission, will answer the questions correctly and confidently. That is because his faith was based on the Words of AllahSWT and his practice was based on the Sunnah of the ProphetSAW. Accordingly, AllahSWT will keep him firm on his faith:

Allah keeps firm those who believe —through the unshakably true word— in worldly life and in the Hereafter. And Allah sends astray the wrongdoers. And Allah does what He wills. [Sûrah Al-Ibrâhîm, 14:27]

The souls of believing and disbelieving persons  will experience contrasting treatment, starting with the onset of the stupor of death.  That treatment is indicative of the quality of their eternal life—the intensity of pain and difficulty of death, and the manner of extraction and reception of the soul.  These vary according to the person’s level of faith:

The ones whom the angels take in death, [being] good and pure, [the angels] will say [to them], “Peace be upon you. Enter Paradise for what you used to do. [Sûrah Al-Naḥl, 16:32]

…And if you could but see: When the wrongdoers are in the overwhelming pangs of death, the angels extend their hands, [saying], “Discharge your souls! Today you will be awarded the punishment of [extreme] humiliation for what you used to say against Allah other than the truth and [in that] you used to scorn His verses in arrogance. [Sûrah Al- Anâm, 6:93]

The Minor Qiyamah

To recapitulate, in death, the soul is taken away by angels, and the recorded book of his/her deeds  is preserved either in ‘illiyyun (‘Heaven’) or in sijjîn (‘Hell’). Once the burial is complete, the soul is returned to the grave to join the body and the true reality about one’s faith is established through interrogation by the angels.

Due to the return of the soul to the newly dead body, and the subsequent interrogation in the grave, this period of time is referred to as the ‘minor Qiyâmah’ – the minor resurrection. What is confirmed or denied at this stage, is what heralds the outcome of the ‘major Qiyâmah.’

After the interrogation, the believer is given the good news of Paradise, and will be given a glimpse of his position there. Out of joy, he will ask Allah to hasten the Hour, but then he will be asked to go to sleep, until the Day of Resurrection, when he will be awakened from sleep like a bridegroom awaiting a joyous occasion. The disbeliever, on hearing the bad news of Hell, will request Allah not to establish the Hour, but to send him back to life again, so that he will be able do righteous deeds. His request will be denied, and at that point, the grave will squeeze him to the extent that his ribs will cross [each other], and he will scream in agony. The appeal to return to the life of this world is denied, because AllahSWT knows that man would simply repeat what he had done in the first life, which was full of warning and opportunities. Even the most stupendous miracles, according to a person’s own standards, would not have convinced him otherwise. If all the creations of the spiritual world were brought before him, he would not have believed, because he – out of his own choice and free will – refused the knowledge [of the unseen world] and faith [in God]:

And even if We were to send down to them the angels [with the message] and [even if] the dead were to speak to them [of it] and [even if] We were to gather together every [created] thing in front of them, they would not believe unless Allah should will them to. But most of them, [of that], are ignorant. [Sûrah Al-Anâm, 6:111]

[For such is the state of the disbelievers], until, when death comes to one of them, he says, “My Lord, send me back, that I might do righteousness in that which I left behind.” By no means! It is only a word he is saying; and behind them is a barrier [the gate to Barzakh] until the Day they are resurrected. [Sûrah Al-Mu’minûn, 23: 99-100]

From this point on, the soul and the body separate: the body decays, finally crumbling into dust. The good soul joins the company of other pure souls in Paradise, while the evil soul joins the company of other sinful souls. The period of time passed in this state —until the general Resurrection takes place—  is known as Barzakh, which literally means a partition, a bar or a barrier: it is a dormant state for the soul.

To be continued in Part 6…

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Mohammed Siraj Uddin

Mohammed S. Uddin graduated from medical school in 1968 and completed his training in internal medicine and gastroenterology in New York. He taught in medical school and practiced gastroenterology for nearly four decades. He is board certified in Internal Medicine and Gastroenterology. He is a fellow of the Americal College of Gastroenterology and the American College of Physicians.Full BIO

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