Beliefs about the life hereafter
Fatwa No: 87991

  • Fatwa Date:15-8-2004 - Jumaadaa Al-Aakhir 29, 1425
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I want to ask some questions:
1- I would really like to know what happens to Muslims after they die.
2- I know that Muslims believe in Heaven (Paradise). But do they believe in Hell?
3- When a person dies, how do we know if that person went to Heaven (Paradise) or Hell? Does everybody go to Heaven? What will send a person to Hell after he (or she) dies?
4- If a child dies, do Muslims believe the child will automatically go to Heaven or is there a condition?


Praise be to Allah, the Lord of the Worlds; and may His blessings and peace be upon our Prophet Muhammad and upon all his Family and Companions.

When a person dies he passes through two major stages. The condition of a Muslim differs from that of the Kafir in these stages. The first stage is the life of the Barzakh (the interval between one's death and resurrection).This stage starts with the death of the person and ends with the Blowing of the Trumpet on the Day of Resurrection.

The second stage is The Day of Judgement; it starts with the Blowing of the Trumpet and ends with the admission of the people of paradise to paradise and the throwing of the people of hell fire in Hellfire.

With regard to the life of the Barzakh, we inform the questioner of the following authentic Hadith in which the Prophet (Sallallaahu Alayhi wa Sallam) explained what happens to a Muslim and a Kafir, during that stage.

Al-Bara Ibn Azib, (may Allah be pleased with him), narrated that the Prophet (Sallallahu Alaihi wa Sallam) said: "When a believing slave comes close to the Hereafter and nearer to the end of the present life (i.e. at a state of last breath), angels descend to him; their faces are shining as if the sun is on them; they have a shroud from the shrouds of the Paradise and scent for embalmment from the scents of Paradise. They sit far from him at a distance where they can see him. Then the Angel of Death comes nearer to him till he sits near his head and addresses him: 'O good soul! Come out to Divine pardon and consent.  The soul of the believer comes out flowing as a drop of water runs out from the mouth of a water skin. The angels would not leave it for a blink of an eye until they put it in that shroud from the shrouds of the Paradise and scent for embalmment from the scents of Paradise. A smell like the best smell of Musk ever on this Earth would come out of it, so they ascend it to the heavens. Every time they pass through a group of angels, they ask them, whose is this good soul? They would respond: it is such and such person. They would mention his good names by which he is called in this worldly life, until they reach the first Heaven. They ask the guardians (of the Heaven) to open the doors for them to pass through and the doors will be opened for them. They pass all the heavens one by one receiving a welcome till they reach the seventh Heaven.  Then Allah Commands them to Register the Book of His servant in Iliyyeen (I.e. the seventh Heaven where the souls of Believers are) and commands that soul to be put back to Earth. Allah then says'' I created them (humans) from it (Earth), and I will put them back to it, and from it again I will resurrect them.''  So his soul is put back in its body, and then two angels come to him, make him sit up and ask him: Who is your Lord? He replies ''My Lord is Allah''. Then he is asked'' And what is your religion?''. He replies "My religion is Islam." He is asked again: "Who was that person who was sent to you?" He answers: "He is the Prophet of Allah (Sallallahu Alaihi Wa Sallam)." Lastly, he is asked: "And what did you do?" He answers: "I read the Book of Allah, and I believed in it."

After that Allah says: "My Servant has spoken the truth, so spread a bed for him in Paradise, clothe him from Paradise and open a door for him from 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. A good looking man in a decent dress and good perfume will come to him. So the deceased asks him: Who are you? He replies: ''I am your good deeds.''

The deceased then asks Allah: ''O Allah, establish The Day of the Hour so that I will return back to my family and to my property.''

This entire Hadith is reported by Ahmed, Abu Dawud, Ibn Khuzaimah, and others, but the part that describes what we have mentioned only what happens to a Muslim at the time of death and in the grave.

The second phase is the Day of Judgement. It begins with the blowing of the trumpet and each soul will be put back into its body. Then the Day of Judgement that Allah informed us about in his books and informed the prophets about, will start. The dead will be resurrected from their graves and will rise towards the Lord of the Creation (Allah) like spread locusts, barefooted, naked and uncircumcised. The Sun shall come nearer to people's heads so as they will be encircled by their sweat according to their misdeeds. The balance (scales) will be set up. Those who have a good balance of good deeds will achieve success (and enter Paradise - by Allah's Favor) and the others, whose balance will be light, will be the losers (will enter Hell-Fire).

Then the books of deeds will be distributed. Some will receive their books with their right hand, and these are the successful ones, while others will receive theirs with the left hand and behind their back, and these are the losers.

So, Allah will hold all mankind accountable. The Muslims will enter paradise and the Kuffar (non-Muslims) will enter hellfire. Some Muslims will also be punished by Allah because of sins that they had committed, like adultery and/or fornication, drinking alcohol and other similar sins. Ultimately, Allah will take them out of hellfire and admit them to paradise. As regards the kuffar, they are the people of hellfire which was prepared by Allah for them. Allah says in the verse: {But if you do not- and you will never be able to-then fear the Fire, whose fuel is men and stones, prepared for the disbelievers.}[2:24]. Allah also says: {Indeed, those who disbelieve-never will their wealth or their children avail them against Allah at all. And it is they who are fuel for the Fire}[3:10].

The people will pass over the Sirat (a bridge) on their way to paradise. The Sirat is a bridge above hellfire thinner than a hair and sharper than a knife. So people will pass over it in a manner according to their actions. Some will pass over it like (at the speed of) a wink of an eye, and some like a lightening, and some will pass it at the speed of the wind, and some others running, walking, crawling, and there are those who will fall in the hellfire. (May Allah save us from it).

After crossing the Sirat, people will be at a place between paradise and hellfire. And it is only the Muslims who would have crossed it. Each person will take revenge on whoever had wronged him. When they become purified (would have taken their rights from those who wronged them), only then, would they be permitted to enter paradise. The first person to enter paradise would be Mohammad, (Sallallahu Alaihi wa Sallam), and the first nation that would enter paradise is the Ummah (nation) of the Prophet (Sallallahu Alaihi wa Sallam), who believed in him. 

This Day (the Day of Judgment) equals 50,000 years for a Kafir. As for a Muslim, this Day will be just like the period of praying an obligatory prayer that he used to perform in the worldly life. This is briefly what will happen to a Muslim after death, without mentioning the evidences.

As regards the second question, which is whether the Muslim believes in hell-fire, the matter is yes. Muslims believe in the hell-fire and believe that Allah has prepared it for the Kuffar (non-Muslims) who disbelieved in Him and His prophets. Allah says: {fear the Fire (Hell) whose fuel is men and stones, prepared for the disbelievers.}[2:24].

Allah further says: {Verily, those who disbelieve, neither their properties nor their offspring will avail them whatsoever against Allâh; and it is they who will be fuel of the Fire.}[3:10].

With regard to the third question, the Muslims' belief is that they do not rule that a specific person is from the people of paradise except those whom the Prophet (Sallallahu Alaihi wa Sallam) informed us about (that they are among the people of paradise). However, they wish paradise for Muslims who believed in Allah and His Prophet (Sallallahu Alaihi wa Sallam) and obeyed Him. And they supplicate for them (to be admitted into the paradise), especially a person who died while doing a good act, like the one who died saying 'La Ilaha Illa Allah' (none has the right to be worshipped but Allah), Muhammad Rasool Allah (Muhammad is the Messenger of Allah), and the one who died as a Martyr in the path of Allah, or died when doing a good deed. Not all people will enter paradise, only those who believe in Allah and His prophets and their message.

The Prophet (Sallallahu Alaihi wa Sallam) ordered Bilal to call out to the people: "No one will enter paradise except a Muslim soul." [Reported by Al-Bukhari and Muslim]

With regard to the sins that cause a person to enter hell-fire they are of two kinds:

1.     A Sin that necessitate eternal hell-fire and forbids a person from paradise, which is the disbelief in Allah or His Prophet. Whoever, does not believe in Allah, or whoever associates a partner to Him, Allah has forbidden Paradise for him, and hell-fire is obligatory for him. Allah says: {Verily, whosoever sets up partners in worship with Allâh, then Allâh has forbidden Paradise for him, and the Fire will be his abode. And for the Zâlimûn (polytheists and wrong­doers) there are no helpers.}[5:72].

2.     Sins that Allah has not forgiven. But if a Mu'min enters hell-fire, he/she will not abide therein eternally, even if they commit sins, like drinking alcohol, adultery and /or fornication, and so on. So if he /she is punished because of those sins, he/she will be taken out of hell-fire and admitted to paradise because of his/her belief in the Oneness of Allah.

As regards the children, if their parents are Muslims they will enter paradise, as the Prophet (Sallallahu Alaihi wa Sallam) said: "The children of Muslims are on a mountain in paradise under the guardianship of Ibrahim and Sarah, may Allah's Peace and Mercy be on them, until they push them to their parents on the Day of Judgment." [Reported by Ibn Abi Shaibah and others]

The Prophet (Sallallahu Alaihi wa Sallam) also said: "The offspring of Muslims are in the paradise taken care of by the Ibrahim, Alaihi Assalam." [Reported by Ahmed and others]

Al-Nawawi, may Allah have mercy on him, said: "The trustworthy Muslim scholars agreed in a consensus that the deceased Muslim children are in paradise."

The children of non-Muslims will be also in paradise Insha Allah, as the Prophet (Sallallahu Alaihi wa Sallam) informed us that every new-born child is born on Fitrah (natural disposition of the belief in one God) and that he saw them with Ibrahim "And some Muslims asked: and the children of non-Muslims", he said "And the children of non-Muslims."

The Prophet (Sallallahu Alaihi wa Sallam) also said: "The children of non-Muslims are the servants of the people of paradise," [Reported by Abu Dawud Al-Tayalisi, narrated by Anas, and Albani classified it as an authentic Hadith] and Al-Nawawi, (may Allah have mercy on him,) said: "The correct opinion is that of the researchers that the children of non-Muslims are from the people of paradise."

Allah knows best.

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