Life in Barzakh (the period between death and resurrection)
Fatwa No: 10565

  • Fatwa Date:24-4-2011 - Jumaadaa Al-Oula 21, 1432
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Question

Please provide a detailed account of life in Barzakh.

Answer

All perfect praise be to Allaah, the Lord of the worlds. I testify that there is none worthy of worship except Allaah, and that Muhammad, sallallaahu ‘alayhi wa sallam, is His Slave and Messenger.

 

The  life of Barzakh begins with the taking of the soul by angels and their ascent with it, and with entering a grave where man faces severe conditions and suffering. These events include questioning by the angels, which determines the fate of the man and whether his grave will be spacious, if he is righteous, or will burn up and close in on him if he is a wrongdoer. The man’s place in Hell or in Paradise will be also displayed to him so that the righteous will be glad and the wrongdoer will be grieved, and those who experience pleasure and those who experience torture will remain in this state until the Day of Resurrection.

All of this is indicated by Sharee‘ah (Islamic law) texts, including the long Hadeeth (narration) on the authority of Al-Baraa’ ibn ‘Aazib  may  Allaah  be  pleased  with  him. This Hadeeth comprehensively describes the conditions of the dead when their souls are taken and while they are in their graves.

A part of this Hadeeth states that the Companions went out with the Prophet, sallallaahu ‘alayhi wa sallam, during the funeral of a man from Al-Ansaar, until they arrived at the grave, but the place of burial was not yet dug.

The Messenger of Allaah, sallallaahu ‘alayhi wa sallam, sat down, and the Companions sat around him in tranquility and silence. In the hand of the Messenger of Allaah, sallallaahu ‘alayhi wa sallam, was a stick with which he was poking the ground. He raised his head and asked the Companions to seek refuge with Allaah The Almighty from the torment of the grave two or three times. Then he explained that angels descend to the dying believer, their faces as bright as the sun, and they have with them a shroud and scent from Paradise, and they sit near him. Then the Angel of Death  may  Allaah  exalt  his  mention comes and sits at his head and says, "O you virtuous soul; come out to forgiveness and pleasure from your Lord." The soul comes out as easily as a drop of water from a jug and he will take it, not leaving it in his hand for longer than the blink of an eye, until they (he and the other angels) have placed it in the shroud and scent. From this a nice scent will arise, like that of the sweetest smelling musk on the face of the earth. They will then ascend with it but not pass by any group of angels, except that they will say, ‘What is this good and sweet-smelling soul?’ Then they shall tell those angels, “(he is) so and so, son of so and so," and they will mention him using the best names by which he was called in the worldly life.

This remains the case until they reach the lowest heaven, then they shall ask permission to enter, which will be granted. In every heaven the closest angels to Allaah The Almighty will go with the soul until they reach the next heaven, and this will continue until they (the angels that took the funeral from earth) reach the seventh heaven, then Allaah The Exalted Says (what means): "Write the book of my servant in ‘Illiyyeen (a high place in the seventh heaven where the souls of Prophets, righteous people and martyrs are) and return him to the earth, for I have created them from it, and into it I shall return them, and from it I shall resurrect them." Thus, his soul will be returned to his body and two angels will come, make him sit and ask him, "Who is your Lord?" He will reply, "My Lord is Allaah." Then they shall ask him, "What is your religion?" He shall answer, "My religion is Islam." Then they will ask him, "Who is that man who was sent to you?" He will reply, "He is the Messenger of Allaah, sallallaahu ‘alayhi wa sallam." Then they shall ask him, "From where do you know that?" He will reply, "I read the Book of Allaah, believed in it and accepted it." Then a caller will call from the sky, "My slave has spoken the truth, so spread out for him from Paradise and clothe him from Paradise and open a door for him to Paradise," so its goodness and scent will reach him, then his grave will be expanded for him as far as he can see.

Then a man will come to him with a handsome face, nice clothes and a sweet scent. He will say to him “I bring you glad tidings of that which will make you happy [Rejoice with the pleasure of Allaah]. This is the day that you were promised.” The believer will say, "Who are you? For your face is the face of someone who comes with good news." He shall reply, "I am your good deeds." Thereafter the believer will say, "My Lord, bring the Hereafter so that I might return to my family and wealth."

On the other hand, when angels descend to a dying disbeliever, their faces are dark and they have with them a coarse woolen fabric (sackcloth) to use as a shroud. They sit near the person and the angel of death comes and sits by his head, and says, "O wicked soul, come out to anger and fury from your Lord.” Then his soul spreads throughout his body, and when pulled out, is like an iron with teeth that is pulled from a wet piece of wool. No sooner does the Angel of Death takes it than the other angels take it and put it in the rotten shrouds of coarse wool, and it gives off a bad smell, as foul and offensive as the most foul-smelling, rotting corpse found on earth. They ascend with it and whenever they pass by a group of angels they say “What is this wicked soul?” They reply, "He is so and so, the son of so and so," using the very worst of names that he was ever called during his time on earth. Then, when he is brought to the lowest heaven, a request is made that its gate be opened for him, but the request is denied. Then the Messenger of Allaah, sallallaahu ‘alayhi wa sallam, recited the Saying of Allaah the Almighty (which means): {Indeed, those who deny Our verses and are arrogant toward them - the gates of Heaven will not be opened for them, nor will they enter Paradise until a camel enters into the eye of a needle.} [Quran 7:40]. 

Allaah the Almighty will say, “Write down his record among the people of Hell in Sijjeen (the lowest earth),” and his soul will be violently cast down. Then the Prophet, sallallaahu ‘alayhi wa sallam, recited the saying of Allaah the Almighty (which means): {And he who associates with Allaah - it is as though he had fallen from the sky and was snatched by the birds or the wind carried him down into a remote place.} [Quran 22:31].

Then his soul will be returned into his body and two angels will come to him and make him sit and ask him, "Who is your Lord?" He shall reply, " I do not know."

"What is your religion?" He shall answer, "I do not know."

"Who is this man who was sent to you?" He will reply, "I do not know.”

Then a caller will call from the sky, "My slave has spoken falsely, so spread out for him from Hell and open a door for him to Hell," so its heat will come onto him, then his grave will be made narrow and constricted so that his ribs are intertwined. Then a man with an ugly face, wearing ugly garments, and giving off an offensive odor will come to him. He will say to him, “I bring you tidings of that which will harm you. This is the day that you were promised.” Then the disbeliever will say, "Who are you? For your face is the face of someone who comes with evil."  He shall reply, "I am your evil deeds." The disbeliever will respond, "O My Lord, do not bring the Hour." [Ahmad] [Al-Qurtubi: Saheeh]

[Parts of it by Al-Bukhari, Muslim, Abu Daawood, An-Nasaa’i, At-Tirmithi and Ibn Maajah]

On the authority of Anas  may  Allaah  be  pleased  with  him the Prophet, sallallaahu ‘alayhi wa sallam, explained that when a slave of Allaah The Almighty is put in his grave and his companions leave and he can hear the sound of their footsteps, two angels will come to him and make him sit and ask, "What did you say about this man (i.e. Muhammad, sallallaahu ‘alayhi wa sallam)?” The faithful believer will say, "I testify that he is the Slave of Allaah and His Messenger.” They will say to him, "Look at your place in Hell, Allaah has given you a place in Paradise instead of it.” So he will see both places. (Qataadah  may  Allaah  be  pleased  with  him mentioned that they were informed that his grave would be made spacious. Then Qataadah went back to the narration of Anas  may  Allaah  be  pleased  with  him who said that a hypocrite or a non-believer will be asked, "What did you use to say about this man (i.e. Muhammad, sallallahu ‘alayhi wa sallam)?" He will reply, "I do not know, but I used to say what the people used to say." They (the angels) will wish him evil, then he will be hit with iron hammers and he will give a cry that everything near him will hear, except the Jinn and human beings. [Al-Bukhari and Muslim].

Muslim added to the narration of Qataadah  may  Allaah  be  pleased  with  him that they were informed that the believer’s grave would be made spacious for him -- 70 cubits -- and that it would be filled with blessings until the Day of Resurrection. [Muslim].

Another Hadeeth (narration) on the authority of ‘Aaishah  may  Allaah  be  pleased  with  her states that the Prophet, sallallaahu ‘alayhi wa sallam, explained that the grave presses the dead, and no one escapes from this press. If anyone had escaped from it, it would have been Sa‘d ibn Mu‘aath  may  Allaah  be  pleased  with  him. [Ahmad].

On the authority of Ibn ‘Umar  may  Allaah  be  pleased  with  him the Prophet, sallallaahu ‘alayhi wasallam, stated that Sa‘d ibn Mu‘aath, the man for whose death the throne of Allaah the Almighty moved in happiness for the coming of his soul, for whom the gates of heaven were opened, and whose funeral was attended by 70 thousand angels, was pressed by the grave once, after which the grave became spacious again. [Ahmad and An-Nasaa'i].

These Hadeeths prove that the questioning of the two angels and the bliss and torment of the grave are numerous.

The life in Barzakh differs from the life in the Hereafter and the worldly life in many respects, the most important of which is that the soul relates to the body in a specific way. That is to say, although it departs from the body when it is taken by angels, it does not become totally detached from the body, rather it returns to it sometimes, such as when it is returned for questioning by the angels, and when the person returns the greetings of a visitor who sends peace upon him.  This kind of returning of the soul is specific and does not mean that the body is alive before resurrection.

During life in Barzakh, the dead recognize the (living) people  who visit them, and can hear their speech, according to the predominant opinion of scholars. Imaam Ibn Al-Qayyim  may  Allaah  have  mercy  upon  him clarified this and stated that the righteous predecessors agreed upon it. In fact there are numerous reports about them that indicate a dead person feels the visit of the living and is pleased with it.

Al-Qurtubi and Ibn Al-Qayyim  may  Allaah  have  mercy  upon  them explained in detail the stages of life in Barzakh and compiled valuable relevant material. However, the reality of this matter remains known only to Allaah The Almighty and a Muslim must believe and submit.

Allaah Knows best.

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