The Islamic Perspective of Life after Death

No Comments | August 2014

Death is usually considered a ghastly concept; still there are some brave people who embrace it so gallantly that one just marvels. This article considers life after death from an Islamic perspective. It begins with the various types of death according to thanatology [the study of the medical, psychological, and sociological aspects of death and the ways in which people deal with it], then casts a glance at death in different world religions so that a comparison can be drawn. Then the article moves on to a study of the Islamic perspective of what happens when one dies, the status of the soul, heaven and hell and whether communication with the dead is possible according to Islamic teachings. The article also provides a glimpse into the various Islamic rituals and practices relating to the dead body, burial and the grave.

©hxdbzxy - Shutterstock.com

©hxdbzxy – Shutterstock.com

Types of Death According to Thanatology

According to Thanatology there are various types of death which include:

1. Somatic or Clinical Death: The extinction of personality as a whole due to the irreversible loss of function and independence of three vital systems; i.e. the respiratory system, the CNS (central nervous system) and the CVS (cardiovascular system). It involves organs as a whole. Life ceases in the body but persists in its component parts, viz. tissues and cells.[1]

2. Molecular Death: The progressive disintegration of body tissues, which signifies death of component parts of body/organs and is completed within 3 to 4 hours after the Somatic death. It depends upon time proportionate to the ability to resist hypoxia (lack of oxygen), e.g.:
Nervous tissue – only a few seconds
Muscular tissue – 3 hours
Cornea – 6 hours
Skin – 12 hours[2]

3. Brain Death: The irreversible cessation of all brain functions. In some instances, special reference is made to brain-stem death. Brain stem death is where a person no longer has any activity in their brain stem, and has permanently lost the potential for consciousness and the capacity to breathe but may still have some spinal cord function.[3]

‘The Encyclopaedia Britannica’ (under Death) has defined death as ‘the permanent cessation of the vital functions in the bodies of animals and plants.’[4]

According to the ‘Encyclopaedia of Religion and Ethics’, biological death is ‘The cessation of an organism. There is no confusion in using the same word for the end of the individual as such, and for the apparently irreversible process, which leads to the end.’[5]

A Glance at the Concept of Death in World Religions

Judaism

Let us now consider how different religions perceive death. As for the life in the hereafter, the Old Testament is not rich in detail. It states:

‘And many of them that sleep in the dust of the earth shall awake, some to everlasting life, and some to shame and everlasting contempt.’[6]

Again, in Ezekiel 37:4-6 we have:

“O ye dry bones, hear the word of the Lord. Thus saith the Lord God unto these bones; Behold, I will cause breath to enter into you and ye shall live: and I will lay sinews upon you, and will bring up flesh upon you, and cover you with skin, and put breath in you and ye shall live, and ye shall know that I am the Lord.”[7]

About Hell, ‘The Jewish Encyclopaedia’ with reference to the Erobian Talmud says, ‘The fire of Gehenna (Hell) does not touch the Jewish sinners because they confess their sins before the gates of hell and return to God.’ Referring to Berkat the Talmud states, ‘Heretics and Roman oppressors go to Gehenna, and the same fate awaits the Persians, the oppressors of the Babylonian Jews.’[8]

As for the modern Jews, Sale states:

“It is a received opinion among the Jews at present, that no person (from among the Jews) be he ever so wicked, or of whatever sect, shall not remain in Hell above eleven months or at the most a year, except Dathan, Abiram, and atheists (from among the Jews) who will be tormented there to all eternity.”[9]

Abiram and Dathan rose against Moses and were destroyed by God.[10]

In ‘Derech Eretz Zuta’, one among fifteen tractates which although compiled later than the rest of the Talmud and are usually included in printed editions, we find that some Biblical figures like Enoch, Elijah and Hiram escaped death altogether and went directly to reside in Paradise.[11]

Christianity

Christianity maintains that ‘As by one man sin entered into the world, and death by sin, and so death passed upon all men, for that all have sinned’.[12]

In the Urdu book, ‘Qamusul Kitab’, we read: ‘We should admit that death came due to Adam’s sin, and its punishment resulted in both types of death, i.e. physical and spiritual death’. Again, it says: ‘Physical death is the proper sign of the spiritual death which is a must due to sin.’[13]

Buddhism

Regarding death Buddha said, ‘Short, O monk, is the life of men,’ ‘Life, indeed, ends in death’. Death is only the beginning of a new existence for the punishment of sin: death and punishment are synonymous.[14]

About transmigration of the soul we thus read:

“Theoretically Buddhism teaches neither the existence of the soul nor its transmigration, but insists on revolution, or ‘stream’ of existence. In its practical influence on popular mind, however, this doctrine amounted to much the same as any other doctrine of transmigration […] In this vast ocean of renewed births there are innumerable streams of existences, conditioned by their respective deeds and retributions, flowing uninterruptedly not only in the continuity of the individual being but also in the solidarity of a group of existences.”[15]

Hindusim

In Hinduism, a dead body is considered a symbol of impurity, hence minimal physical contact is maintained. The body is bathed by purified water and then dressed in new clothes. Further, a few drops of the Holy Ganges water may be put into the mouth of the deceased, so that the soul may attain liberation. Also, a few leaves of the herb basil – which is considered holy, are placed on the right side of the dead body. Thereafter, the close relatives of the deceased person carry the stretcher on their shoulders to the cremation ground.

There is no permanent Heaven or Hell in Hinduism. The soul enters into a rebirth cycle. Reborns can become an animal, a human or a divinity. This reincarnation continues until the final release is gained.[16]

Zoroastrianism

In Zoroastrianism (Parsee), when a person is on his deathbed, two Parsee priests make the dying person confess his sins.

The dead body is bathed and covered with a clean white but worn out suit of cotton, which must be destroyed and never used again after having served this purpose.

 

A man bearing a vase containing fire, followed by the relatives and friends, the corpse, the priests and additional members of the deceased family, leads the funeral procession en route to the tower, the place for the disposal of the body. At the gates of the tower, the bier is set down, the face is uncovered to allow the procession to pay their last respects to the deceased. The body is then carried into the tower and placed on beds of stone with the head facing southward. The clothes of the corpse are removed, leaving it naked. The men then come out to leave the deceased to be devoured by the vultures already waiting there. Within one or two hours, the body is reduced to a mere skeleton.[17]

Concept of Death in Islam

According to Islam, all are destined to die and the soul with permanently separate from the body. © blvdone | shutterstock.com

According to Islam, all are destined to die and the soul with permanently separate from the body.
© blvdone | shutterstock.com

According to Islam, all creatures are destined to die. Death means the permanent separation of the soul from the body. The Holy Qur’an declares thus:

“Allah takes away the souls of men at the time of their death, and of those also that are not yet dead, during their sleep. And then He withholds those against which He has decreed death, and sends back others till an appointed term. In that, surely, are signs for a people who reflect.”[18]

This shows that the soul has its own entity. A living person has both a body and a soul. At the time of death, the soul departs from the body never to re-enter it. The body becomes obsolete after death and is buried.

We will later discuss what happens to the soul after death, let us first establish wherefrom it comes into the body. It should be clarified that each and every thing is the creation of God, and so is the soul. ‘It is an essence which is distilled from the body in the course of a long process during the period of gestation.’[19]

God says in the Holy Qur’an: ‘What! Did you think that We had created you without purpose, and that you would not be brought back to Us? Exalted be Allah, the True King.’[20]

This leaves no ambiguity that man has been created for a purpose. He is not simply destroyed after living a few score years. So it follows that, the soul must live on after death to achieve a greater purpose.

The Soul After Death – Barzakh – The Intermediary State

Now, what happens to the soul after a person’s death? The Holy Qur’an says:

“Woe unto man: How ungrateful he is! Does he not consider, from what thing did God create him, then in due course He causes him to die and assigns a grave to him, then when he pleases, He will raise him up again.”[21]

This reveals that Allah assigns a grave to every person who dies. This is not the grave dug out by men to bury the corpse, for not every corpse is buried; some are cremated some are devoured by nature’s scavengers and some drown in rivers and seas. The place where the soul dwells after death is termed as ‘Barzakh’ (barrier) in the Holy Qur’an:

“Until, when death comes to one of them, he says entreating repeatedly, ‘My Lord, send me back that I may do righteous deeds in the life that I have left behind.’ That cannot be! It is only a word that he utters. And behind him is Barzakh [a barrier] until the day they will be raised again.”[22]

Immediately after departing this physical world, the soul is invested with a new body. This body is a representation of the person’s actions, good or bad, in his earthly life. The Holy Qur’an says: ‘On the day when some faces shall be white, and some faces shall be black.’[23] Naturally, the evildoers will be having dark bodies and the righteous ones, bright.

© Steve Allen | Dreamstime.com

© Steve Allen | Dreamstime.com

The Holy Founder of the Ahmadiyya Jama‘at, Hazrat Mirza Ghulam Ahmadas, says in this context:

“I have often had experience in a complete state of wakefulness of meeting some persons who had died, and I saw the bodies of some evildoers and misguided ones were so dark as if they had been made of smoke.”[24]

This state of ‘Barzakh’ or ‘grave’ is an intermediate state representative of the imminent rewards or punishments of Heaven and Hell, which await the soul. The Holy Qur’an teaches:

“As for those whose faces shall be black, it will be said to them: ‘Did you disbelieve after believing? Taste, then, the punishment because you disbelieved. And as for those whose faces will be white, they will be in the mercy of Allah, therein shall they abide.”[25]

After the battle of Badr, God made the souls of the dead enemy soldiers hear the words of the Holy Prophet Muhammadsa in Barzakh (the intermediary state). Photo: Mountains of Hejaz, the region where the Battle of Badr took place. This is not the exact location but the general and vast region, where Badr is located.

After the battle of Badr, God made the souls of the dead enemy soldiers hear the words of the Holy Prophet Muhammadsa in Barzakh (the intermediary state). Photo: Mountains of Hejaz, the region where the Battle of Badr took place. This is not the exact location but the general and vast region, where Badr is located.

It is clear that a person immediately begins experiencing his punishment or reward post-death, from the following:

“Those whom the angels cause to die while they are wronging their souls, will offer submission, pleading, ‘We used not to do any evil’. It will be said to them, ‘Nay, surely, Allah knows well what you used to do. So enter the gates of Hell to abide therein. Evil indeed is the abode of the arrogant.’”[26]

Those whom the angels cause to die while they are pure, they say to them, ‘Peace be unto you. Enter Heaven because of what you used to do’.[27]

The Holy Prophetsa also teaches the same:

‘The grave is one of the gardens of Paradise or one of the pits of Fire.’[28]

After the state of ‘tomb’, ‘grave’ or ‘Barzakh’, comes the state of resurrection of the body. This may resemble the birth of a child, whilst the first stage of Barzakh resembles that of gestation. Now, the soul invested with a new body, is able to perceive full knowledge of the Lord, and the soul now fully experiences its recompense, whilst in the state of Barzakh it only partly experienced this.

According to the Founder of the Ahmadiyya Muslim Community, a holy person maintains a connection with the grave and this material world for a few days after death. However the soul still immediately reaches its destination at death and does not remain in the body. Photo: General photo of the Bahishti Maqbara, Ahmadiyya Muslim Community Graveyard in Rabwah, Pakistan.

According to the Founder of the Ahmadiyya Muslim Community, a holy person maintains a connection with the grave and this material world for a few days after death. However the soul still immediately reaches its destination at death and does not remain in the body. Photo: General photo of the Bahishti Maqbara, Ahmadiyya Muslim Community Graveyard in Rabwah, Pakistan.

In both the states – Barzakh and Resurrection – all the spiritual conditions of a person in this life will be manifested physically. The Holy Qur’an reveals:

‘Whoso is blind in this world shall be blind in the hereafter, and even more astray from the way.’[29]

This means that those who are spiritually blind in this world, will be physically blind in the next. Having acted like a blindman, unable to see, for example, the heavenly truths, so they will become physically blind in the hereafter. The reason for this is that the body in the hereafter will evolve as a reflection of a person’s actions in this world. As the soul shares the torments and comforts of the body, so in the hereafter the punishments and rewards incurred by man will be felt both physically and spiritually.

From this it becomes manifest that the punishment is in fact a direct result of the evil deeds of a person, not something imposed forcibly by God. The Holy Qur’an is unequivocal about it: ‘Read thy book. Sufficient is thy own soul this day as reckoner against thee.’[30]

Purpose of Hell

In fact, Hell can be likened to a hospital wherein the diseased persons shall enter for treatment, thus any afflictions during a process of treatment is quite natural. It is interesting to learn that a person of normal good health – the inmate of Paradise – who enters into this hospital (Hell) to visit a friend, will remain unharmed therein. The Holy Qur’an elucidates concerning this subject:

“A speaker from among them will say, ‘I had an intimate companion who used to say, ‘Art thou, indeed, among those who believe the resurrection to be true when we are dead and have become dust and broken bones, shall we, indeed, be requited?’ The speaker will then ask those around him, ‘Will you have a look and find out about him?’ Then he will see him in midst of the Fire.”[31]

So the ‘Fire’ by which this sick person is being treated will not harm at all the visitor who goes straight into Hell to see his friend.

It should be borne in mind that all the ‘punishments’ mentioned in the scriptures are but different modes of treatment. For example, the dwellers of hell will be given cactus to eat.[32] We know that cactus is an effective remedy for several diseases including syphilis.[33]

Again, ‘They will taste therein neither coolness nor drink, save boiling water and a stinking liquid, intensely cold — a meet requital.’[34] The Arabic word used for ‘a stinking liquid’ is Ghassaq which also means pus (Lisan). It is known that vaccines are prepared from pus. As these people used to coldly dismiss the prophets of God, so as ‘a meet requital’ and as a cure they will be made to drink extremely cold water. And because they did not listen to the words of God due to being hot-tempered, so they will be treated with hot water. As they were firebrands against the prophets, so they will be treated by ‘Fire’ in Hell. We know that fire is also used for cauterization, a medical treatment to cure wounds.

It should be apparent now why Hell is something very important for those sick persons that require treatment therein to be cured so that they may live a normal, healthy, blissful life in Heaven. According to the Islamic concept of Heaven and Hell, after being cured they will be ‘discharged’ from this hospital. The Holy Prophetsa said, ‘Indeed there will come upon Hell a time when there will be none in it, and this will be after they had lived therein for ages.’[35] The Holy Qur’an also teaches that Hell will not be everlasting: ‘Surely, Hell lies in ambush, a resort for the rebellious, who will tarry therein for ages.’[36]

As their diseases are deep-rooted, so a very lengthy period of time will be needed to completely cure them. Until this occurs, they would remain unfit to live in Heaven, just as a chronically sick person requires confinement to his bed in hospital until he recovers.

The purpose of man’s creation as declared by the Holy Qur’an is: ‘I have not created the jinn and the men but that they may worship Me’.[37] The word used for ‘worship’ in the verse is ‘Ya‘budun’, which means to do ‘Ibadah’. In Arabic ‘Ibadah’ means to undergo a rigorous discipline so as to be able to manifest in oneself God’s attributes to a certain extent. So, the purpose of man’s creation is very noble and spiritual.

Hence, Hell cannot be everlasting. It must one day cease to exist. Its occupants after being cured will go to live their normal, healthy lives in Paradise. There they will continue to acquire greater degrees of closeness to God Almighty and will manifest His attributes more and more. As God’s attributes are limitless, so Paradise will be everlasting.

A misunderstanding prevails among certain people who think that there will be nothing to do in Paradise, save eating, drinking and indulging. According to the Islamic point of view, a life without action is simply purposeless. True happiness lies in action and progress. The Holy Qur’an reveals:

‘There light will run before them and on their right hands. They will say, “Our Lord, perfect our light for us and forgive us, surely Thou hast power over all things.”’[38]

It means that the inmates of Paradise will be constantly preoccupied with catching the light running before them and will continue progressing spiritually. So, as compared to our actions in the life here on Earth, we will make greater efforts in the hereafter. Every moment we will be progressing, as we enhance our divine knowledge. However, this perpetual effort in the hereafter will not cause fatigue at all:

“And they will say, ‘All praise belongs to Allah who has removed all grief from us. Surely, our Lord is Most Forgiving, Most Appreciating, Who has, out of His bounty, settled us in the Abode of Eternity, where no toil will touch us, nor any sense of weariness affect us therein.’”[39]

According to the Holy Qur’an, the greatest blessing of Paradise is the pleasure of God:

“Allah has promised to believers, men and women, Gardens underneath which rivers flow, wherein they will abide, and delightful dwelling-places in Gardens of Eternity. And the pleasure of Allah is the greatest of all. That is the supreme triumph.”[40]

The Reality of the Fair Maidens of Paradise

Let us now consider the ‘houris’ (chaste maidens) in Paradise. The Holy Qur’an says, ‘And We shall give them as companions fair maidens having large black eyes.’[41] And, ‘Therein also be chaste maidens restraining their glances, whom neither men nor jinn will have touched before them.’[42]

These are the chaste, righteous women who are their own wives. Their spiritual beauty will be manifested in physical beauty as well. If somebody goes to Hell and his or her spouse goes to Heaven, then he or she will become the spouse of someone in Paradise who will be closer to him or her spiritually, through marriage. It is evident that a person going to hell will become incompatible with one going to paradise. But only God Alone knows who will be paired with who in the hereafter.

It seems necessary to admit that we lack the faculty of perceiving the exact nature of the life in the hereafter, while we are in this material world which has its own limitations. So, this explanation is but to give a general idea of life after death in terms of our present life. The Holy Qur’an is quite explicit in this concern. It states:

‘And no soul knows what joy of the eyes is kept hidden from them, as a reward for the good they used to do.’[43]

The Holy Prophetsa has said about the blessings of Paradise, ‘No eye has seen them, nor has any ear heard of them, nor can human mind conceive of them’.[44] The same is true about the punishments of Hell.

Is Communication With the Dead Possible?

At this juncture it seems relevant to answer this important question: Is it possible for us to have communication with those who have died? The answer is in the affirmative, but it depends solely upon the Will of God. Sometimes He does allow His servants to have communication with those in the hereafter, and this is done in the form of Kashf (vision). This is why others present at that moment do not hear such conversations.

Once, the Holy Founderas of the Ahmadiyya Jama‘at stopped some five or six miles away from Hoshiarpur, during a journey en route to Qadian. He alighted from the ox-driven two-wheeled carriage saying, ‘This is a nice shady place, let us have a stop here for a while.’ There was a tomb of some Muslim saint at that place. He went to the tomb. The narrator, Hazrat Abdullah Sanorira says:

“I followed behind him, while Sheikh Hamid Ali and Fateh Khan remained by the carriage. His Holiness went inside the tomb and raised his hands in prayer. He prayed for a while and returned and addressed me saying, ‘When I raised my hands for prayer, the inmate of the grave came out of the grave and sat in front of me respectfully. If you were not with me, I would have talked to him as well. He had a slightly dark complexion and large eyes.’ Then he said, ‘Look around, if there is some caretaker of the tomb, so that we may inquire from him about him.’ So, Huzur asked the caretaker, who said, ‘I personally have not seen him, for he died about a hundred years ago, but I have heard from my father or grandfather that he was a big saint in this area.’ When asked about his features, he said, ‘He had a slightly dark complexion and large eyes.’”[45]

Again, in Hadith of Muslim, ‘Kitabul Jannati wa sifati Na’maiha wa ahliha’, it is narrated by Hazrat Anas bin Malikra that after the Battle of Badr the Holy Prophetsa went to the dead infidels and said, ‘O so-and-so son of so-and-so, have you found to be true what God and his Prophetsa promised you? Indeed, I have found to be true what God promised me.’ At this, Haḍrat Umarra said, ‘O Prophet of God, how can you talk to bodies which have no souls?’ He said, ‘You do not hear better what I am saying to them than they do, only they can’t respond.’

This means that God made their souls hear those words in Barzakh.

Let it be clear that the claims of the so-called spiritualists that departed souls can communicate with living persons through some medium, are simply deceptive. The following illustration will suffice to convey the truth.

In 1924, when Hazrat Mirza Bashir-Ud-Din Mahmud Ahmadra, Khalifatul Masih II, Second worldwide Head of the Ahmadiyya Muslim Community, toured Europe, he visited a spiritualistic association or club on appointment. The spiritualist asked His Holiness whose spirit he wanted to call. ‘I would like the Holy Prophet Muhammad’ssa soul to come’, he replied. After a while the spiritualist told him that the required soul was there. Thereupon His Holiness said, ‘O Prophet of Allah, recite Surah Fatihah.’ The reply – through the medium (the spiritualist) – was predictably, ‘I don’t know’.[46]

Is it at all possible that the Prophet Muhammadsa did not know Surah Fatihah, the Qur’anic chapter he had taught people throughout his life, which even young Muslim children memorise?

The living can communicate with souls in kashf (vision). This is a God-given gift and is not earned by worldly efforts.

Now, a few words about the soul’s connection with its body in the grave, from the Islamic perspective. The Holy Prophetsa said, ‘There is no Prophet but he remains in the grave (after death) for forty days.’[47]

The Founder of the Ahmadiyya Muslim Communityas elaborating this, states:

“This indicates that a person, be he a holy one, maintains a connection with the grave and this material world for a few days (after death) – some on account of longing for serving religion and others due to different reasons. Then this concern becomes feeble (and ceases) as if the deceased leaves the grave; otherwise, the soul immediately after death, without any delay, goes to heaven and stays there at its spiritual station.”[48]

As the soul had been dwelling in the material body for several years, so after death it remembers it and maintains a connection with it for some time. This does not suggest that the soul remains in the body of the deceased for that period. Not at all. For, at death, it immediately reaches its destination in heaven. With the passage of time, this connection weakens and ultimately ceases to exist. It is like the link of a person with his native land who emigrates to some distant country forever. He continues remembering his native land for a certain period of time, then slowly this attachment diminishes and no longer exists.

The holy person may meet certain deceased ones in Kashf only. Kashf is a very refined and advanced form of a dream. A dream is seen in sleep and the Kashf is seen whilst awake. When you see somebody in a dream, it does not mean that the person actually comes to you. Likewise, in Kashf you meet the deceased while his soul remains in its place in heaven.

Islamic Rituals and Practices at the Time of Death

In Islam, Surah Yasin (Chapter 36 of the Holy Qur’an) is recited near to a dying person to comfort him. Photo: Surah Yasin of the Qur’an shown here. © Adem Demir | shutterstock.com

In Islam, Surah Yasin (Chapter 36 of the Holy Qur’an) is recited near to
a dying person to comfort him.
Photo: Surah Yasin of the Qur’an shown here. © Adem Demir | shutterstock.com

When a person is about to die, Surah Yasin (36th chapter of the Holy Qur’an) is recited near him, because in this chapter death and the hereafter have been mentioned in a way that would comfort the dying person. Takbir and Kalima Shahadah are also recited in a low tone. When the person dies, those who are there and those who hear the news afterwards should say, ‘Surely, to Allah we belong and to Him shall we return.’ This expresses a firm conviction in the hereafter. The eyes of the deceased are closed. By tying a band of cloth around the chin and head, the mouth is closed. There should be no wailing and lamentations. Patience should be maintained.

While washing the dead body, first those parts are washed which are washed in during the ablutions for daily prayers. Then the right side of the body is washed, followed by the left side. The private parts should remain covered by a piece of cloth. Men should wash the male deceased, and women, the females. Of course, a husband may wash his deceased wife and vice versa. It is narrated that Hazrat Alira washed his wife Hazrat Fatimah’sra dead body.[49] Hazrat Abu Bakrra was washed by his wife Asma’ and his son Abdul Rahman to comply with his will.[50]

For the shroud, a white cloth is recommended. Shroud for the male is a sheet for the upper part of the body, a sheet for the lower part, and a third large sheet to cover the entire body. For the female, in addition to these three pieces of cloth, two more are added, one for the chest and one for head. After this preparation, the body is carried on a bier to the place of the funeral prayer. The body of the deceased is placed in a position so that the right side of the body is towards the direction of the Ka’bah.

Those present arrange themselves in rows. Let it be clear that it is not mandatory that the rows should be in odd number, as the Holy Prophetsa once led a funeral prayer and he arranged the attendants in two rows.[51] The Imam stands ahead of the rows in the middle, the dead body being in front of him.

 

The funeral prayer has three parts. The Imam says ‘Allahu Akbar’ aloud (‘God is the Greatest’) while raising his hands up to the ears or shoulders, and returning them to the chest, right hand over the left. He then recites Thana silently followed by Surah Fatihah. The followers do the same behind the Imam. Then the Imam again says ‘Allahu Akbar’ aloud to begin the second part in which the blessings of Allah are invoked on the Holy Prophetsa. Then ‘Allahu Akbar’ is said aloud for the third part of the prayer. At this point the following funeral prayer is recited silently:

“O Allah, forgive those of us who are living and those of us who are deceased and those of us who are present and those of us who are absent and our young ones and our old ones and our males and our females. O Allah, those of us whom Thou keepest alive, keep them alive in Islam, and whom Thou causest to die, cause them to die in faith. O Allah, deprive us not of the benefits relating to the deceased and put us not in trial after him.”

The Imam then says ‘Allahu Akbar’ and turns his face right and left, saying ‘Assalamu alikum wa Rahmatullah’ each time.

If the deceased is a child, the following prayer is added:

‘O Allah, make him/her for us a forerunner, a predecessor and a treasure and a reward and a pleader whose pleading is accepted.’

Now, the bier is carried to the cemetery, preferably on men’s shoulders; a vehicle may also be used. The body is lowered into the grave and the procession recite: ‘In the name of Allah’ in accordance with the way of the Prophet of Allahsa. After the burial, a brief, silent congregational prayer is offered with raised hands. Then the mourners leave the cemetery saying, ‘Peace be upon you, and we, God willing, will certainly join you.’[52]

The words of the funeral prayer include the entire international Muslim Community – living and deceased, those present at the funeral prayer and absent, young and old, male and female. This depicts a universal Islamic brotherhood.

Sometimes, some interests and benefits, spiritual or otherwise, are connected with the deceased, so the believers pray that the Community or the individual may not be deprived of their benefits even after the departure of the deceased. And sometimes the death of a person proves to be a setback for some individual or the Community, so the funeral prayer includes supplications to God that the death of the deceased may not become a source of trial for others.

Let it be clear that when a Muslim stands by a grave and prays for the deceased, it does not mean that the deceased hears the words of the prayer. Prayer is addressed to God, and He is the All Hearing. Of course, if God so wills, He may let the deceased’s soul hear. The Holy Qur’an is quite clear about this point. It says:

‘Nor alike are the living and the dead. Surely, Allah causes him to hear whom He pleases; and thou canst not make those hear who are in graves.’[53]

In a nutshell, the soul after departing the body is like a good or bad ‘seed’, according to one’s good or bad actions in this life, which develops in the state of Barzakh or ‘grave’ into a body with a very fine soul which is evolved within this body. Then, a complete person emerges from this state into the state of Resurrection, which is like ‘taking birth’. Naturally, this body will be healthy or diseased in accordance with the good or bad actions of a person’s in this life. This draws our attention towards always doing good deeds and shunning bad ones so as to be healthy in the next life and to go straight to Heaven and avoid being treated in the ‘hospital’ of hell. The heavenly life is eternal, death will die its own death there. Of course, after an exceedingly long period of time, which may be termed as ‘eternal’, this state may cease to exist if God so Wills.

Malik Jamil R. Rafiq is the Principal of Jamia Ahmadiyya (Ahmadiyya Institute of Theology) in Rabwah, Pakistan.

 

Endnotes
1.   Dr Shahbaz Ahmad, Forensic Medicine and Toxicology, 71.

2. Ibid.

3.   Edward Morgan MD, Clinical Anaesthesiology, 809.

4.  Encyclopaedia Britannica, 1951 Edition, Volume 7.

5. “Life after Death”, Encyclopaedia of Religion and Ethics.

6. Daniel 12:2.

7. Ezekiel 37:4-6.

8. “Gehenna”, The Jewish Encyclopaedia.

9. Wherry, Vol. 1, (79; ch. 2).

10. Numbers (ch. 16).

11. Encyclopaedia of Religion and Ethics.

12. Romans 5:12.

13. F.S Khairullah, Qamusul Kitab’ (Lahore: Masihi Isha’at Khana, 1997), 970.

14. “Death and Disposal of the Dead”, Encyclopaedia of Religion and Ethics.

15. “Transmigration – Buddhist”, Encyclopaedia of Religion and Ethics.

16. Kent A. Jacabsen, Three functions of Hell in Hindu Traditions.

17. Encyclopaedia of Religion and Ethics.

18. Holy Qur’an, Al-Zumar, Verse 43.

19. Ahmadiyyat or the True Islam, 205.

20. Holy Qur’an, Al-Mu’minun, Verses 116-117.

21. Holy Qur’an, ‘Abasa, Verses 18-23.

22. Holy Qur’an, Al-Mu’minun, Verses 100-101.

23. Holy Qur’an, Al Imran, Verse 107.

24. The Philosophy of the Teachings of Islam, p. 97.

25. Holy Qur’an, Al Imran, Verses 107-108.

26. Holy Qur’an, Al Nahl, Verses 29-30.

27. Holy Qur’an, Al Nahl, Verse 33.

28. “Tirmidhi”, Kitab sifatil Qiyamah.

29. Holy Qur’an, Bani Isra’il, Verse 73.

30. Holy Qur’an, Bani Isra’il, Verse 15.

31. Holy Qur’an, Al Saffat, Verses 52-56.

32. Holy Qur’an, Al Waqi‘ah, Verse 53.

33. Hakeem Muzaffar Husain A’wan, “Thohar”, Kitabul Mufradat, (Lahore, Hyderabad, Karachi: Sheikh Gulam Ali & Sons Ltd.).

34. Holy Qur’an, Al Naba’, Verses 25-27.

35. “Surah Hud”, Ma‘alimut Tanzil, Vol. 2, Verse 109.

36.   Holy Qur’an, Al-Naba’, Verses 22-24.

37. Holy Qur’an, Al Dhariyat, Verse 57.

38. Holy Qur’an, Al Tahrim, Verse 9.

39. Holy Qur’an, Al Fatir, Verses 35-36.

40. Holy Qur’an, Al Taubah, Verse 72.

41. Holy Qur’an, Al Dukhan, Verse 55.

42. Holy Qur’an, Al Rahman, Verse 57.

43. Holy Qur’an, Al Sajdah, Verse 18.

44. “Bukhari”, Kitab Bad’il Khalq.

45. Tarikhe Ahmadiyyat, Vol. 1, 276.

46.   Hazrat Mirza Tahir Ahmadra, Darsul Quran, 23 Ramadan, March 6, 1994.

47. Kanzul ‘Ummal, Kitabul Fadail, Albabuth Thani.

48. Izalah Auham, Ruhani Khaza’in, vol. 3, p. 227 (footnote).

49. Abu ‘Umar Yusuf, Alisti‘ab, Bab Al Nisa wa kunahunna, bab: Alfa, (Beirut: Kutub Al-Islamiyyah).

50. Muhammad Rada, Al Khulafa’ Al Rashidun (Al Kitab Al ‘Arabi).

51. Hadith of Muslim, Kitabul Janaiz, Bab Fit-Takbir ‘alal-janazah.

52. Salat (Islamabad: Islam International publications Ltd.).

53. Holy Qur’an, Al Fatir, Verse 23.

 

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