Praise be to Allah (The Glorified and Exalted). Al-Barzakh is the interval between death and the Day of Resurrection. We know about this stage from the hadith and verses of the Qur’an. The deceased person in Al-Barzakh can be likened to one who is sleeping. The one who is asleep may be dreaming, and thereby seeing, hearing, traveling, and experiencing various emotions whilst asleep, yet to onlookers the person asleep is simply laying still in bed. Similarly, Al-Barzakh is an interval that exists among the portents of the unseen world, which we, the living, cannot comprehend with our eyes or our ears. Departure of the Soul: When a person dies, the Angel of Death and his helpers take the soul from the body of the deceased. The soul leaves the body from the mouth. As it travels through the throat, the dying person will hear a rattling sound as the soul makes its exit. The person’s eyesight will then fixedly stare at the soul as it ascends with the angels. This event is mentioned in the following hadith: Narrated Abu Hurayrah (may Allah be pleased with him): Allah’s Messenger (peace and blessings be upon him) as saying, “Did you not see when the man died and his eyes were fixedly open?” He (Abu Hurayrah) said, ‘Yes.’ He (the Holy Prophet) said, “It is due to the fact that when (the soul leaves the body) his eyesight follows the soul.” [Muslim: Book 4: Hadith 2005] Fate of the Muslim: The souls are of two types: those that are punished and those that are blessed. The Muslims who are saved will have their souls in a state of bliss. The following hadith mentions this reality: Narrated from Abu Hurayrah: The Prophet (peace and blessings of Allah be upon him) said, “When the Believer is dying, the angels of mercy come to him with white silk and say, ‘Come out content and with the pleasure of Allah upon you, to the mercy of Allah, fragrance and a Lord Who is not angry.’ So it comes out like the best fragrance of musk. They pass him from one to another until they bring him to the gate of Heaven, where they say, ‘How good is this fragrance that has come to you from the Earth!’ Then the souls of the Believers [who have already died] come to him [the newly arrived soul] and they rejoice more over him than any one of you rejoices when his absent loved one comes to him. They ask him, ‘What happened to So and so, what happened to So and so?’…” [Narrated by al-Nasaa’i, 1833; classed as authentic by al-Albaani in al-Silsilah al-Saheehah, 2758] Shaykh al-Islam Ibn Taymiyah said, “Does his soul meet with the souls of his family and relatives? According to the hadith narrated from Abu Ayub al-Ansaari and others of the salaf, and narrated by Abu Hatim in al-Saheeh from the Prophet (peace and blessings of Allah be upon him), “When his soul is taken up it is met by the souls who ask him about the living and they say to one another, ‘Let him rest.’ And they say, ‘What happened to so and so?’ And he says, ‘He did a righteous deed.’ They say, ‘What happened to so and so?’ and he says, ‘Has he not come to you?’ They say, ‘No.’ They say, ‘He was taken to the Pit (of Hell).’”” With regard to where the souls settle, that depends on their status before Allah. For the one who is among those who are in Nearness to Allah, his status will be higher. This includes the martyrs who are higher in status than the Believers of the Right Hand. The one who is higher may descend to the one who is lower, but the one who is lower cannot ascend to the one who is higher. They will gather when Allah Wills, as they used to gather in this world, despite their differences in status, and they will visit one another. Some souls of the Believers may enter Paradise, and taste some of its delights, as an honor from Allah. This is mentioned in the following hadith: The Prophet (peace and blessings of Allah be upon him) said: “The soul of the Believer is a bird hanging in the trees [i.e. moving about and eating] of Paradise, until Allah restores it to its body on the day when He resurrects him.” [Narrated by Malik in al-Muwatta’ (1/240); classed as authentic by Ibn ‘Abd al-Barr in al-Istidhkaar (2/614)] The souls of the martyrs will take their place in Heaven, in the position “Nearest to Allah.” This is mentioned in the following hadith: Masruq said: We asked Abdullah about the Qur’anic verse: “Think not of those who are slain in Allah’s way as dead. Nay, they are alive, finding their sustenance in the presence of their Lord” [3:169]. He said: We asked the meaning of the verse (from the Holy Prophet) who said, “The souls, of the martyrs live in the bodies of green birds who have their nests in chandeliers hung from the throne of the Almighty. They eat the fruits of Paradise from wherever they like and then nestle in these chandeliers. Once their Lord cast a glance at them and said: Do ye want anything? They said: What more shall we desire? We eat the fruit of Paradise from wherever we like. Their Lord asked them the same question thrice. When they saw that they will continue to be asked and not left (without answering the question) they said: O Lord, we wish that Thou mayest return our souls to our bodies so that we may be slain in Thy way once again. When He (Allah) saw that they had no need, they were left (to their joy in Heaven).” [Muslim: Book 20: Hadith 4651] Concerning the Believers record of deeds, it is mentioned in the Qur’an that the book of deeds of the righteous Believer will be recorded in ‘Illiyun: “…Verily the record of the Righteous is (preserved) in ‘Illiyun” [83:18] Trial in the Grave: There are two reckonings in the Afterlife, the first reckoning is that which occurs in the grave and the second is on the Day of Judgment. After the souls are initially recovered from the bodies, they will be placed back into the dead person, while they are resting in their grave. Shaykh al-Islam Ibn Taymiyah (may Allah have mercy on him) said, “The view of the salaf (earliest generations) of this Ummah and its Imams is that the torment or blessing (of the grave) happens to the soul of the deceased and his body. After it departs from the body, the soul continues to be blessed or punished, and it is also connected to the body from time to time, so that the blessing or torment befalls the body as well as the soul” [al-Ikhtiyaaraat al-Fiqhiyyah, p. 94]. It is incumbent on every Muslim to be buried. With regard to those who die by drowning, burning, or are eaten by wild animals, their souls will have their share of torment or blessing, and that will come to their bodies on land, in the waters, or in the bellies of the wild animals, as much as Allah Wills. Yet, most of the blessing or torment will come to their souls which remain. For example, non-Muslims who refuse to bury their body will still face the trial after death because the body can be in any condition and the trial will still come upon the individual. Allah may even reproduce the body of the dead. A man from among the Children of Israel, before Islam, had his body cremated and the ashes spread over the waters, yet Allah placed the man’s body together in one piece: Narrated Rabi bin Hirash: …Hudhaifa further said, “I also heard him [the Prophet] saying, ‘Once there was a man on his death-bed, who, losing every hope of surviving said to his family: When I die, gather for me a large heap of wood and make a fire (to burn me). When the fire eats my meat and reaches my bones, and when the bones burn, take and crush them into powder and wait for a windy day to throw it [i.e. the ashes] over the sea. They did so, but Allah collected his particles and asked him: Why did you do so? He replied: For fear of You [Allah]. So Allah forgave him.’” ‘Uqba bin ‘Amr said, ‘I heard him saying that the Israeli used to dig the grave of the dead (to steal their shrouds).’ [Bukhari: Book 4: Volume 56: Hadith 659] Fate of the Muslim: When a Believer dies, he will be buried into the ground, and thereafter face the trial in the grave by the two angels, Munkar and Nakeer. They will begin by asking the following three questions: “Who is your Lord?,” “What is your religion?,” “Who is your Prophet?.” The Believer will say, “My Lord is Allah,” “Islam is my religion,” and “Muhammad (peace and blessings be upon him) is my Prophet.” After these questions, the interrogation will then proceed as mentioned below, and if the deceased is blessed the following will occur to him, as stated in the two hadith: Narrated Abu Sa’eed al-Khudri said: I attended a funeral with the Messenger of Allah (peace and blessings of Allah be upon him). The Messenger of Allah (peace and blessings of Allah be upon him) said, “O people, this Ummah [Muslim nation] will be tested in their graves. When a man is buried and his friends leave him, an angel with a hammer [i.e. an iron mallet] in his hand comes and sits by him and asks, ‘What do you say about this man [Muhammad]?’ If he is a Believer, he says, ‘I bear witness that there is no god but Allah and that Muhammad is His slave and Messenger.’ He says, ‘You have spoken the truth.’ Then a door to Hell is opened for him and he says, ‘This would have been your place if you had disbelieved in your Lord, but because you believed, this is your place.’ Then a door to Paradise is opened for him and he wants to go there, but the angel says to him, ‘Calm down,’ and his grave is made wide and spacious for him…’” [Ahmad no. 10577; classed as authentic by al-Albaani in his commentary on Kitaab al-Sunnah by Ibn Abi ‘Aasim, 865] The following will also occur to the blessed when they die and are placed in their graves: Narrated from al-Bara’ ibn ‘Aazib (may Allah be pleased with him): The Prophet (peace and blessings of Allah be upon him) said, “When the believing slave is about to depart this world and enter the Hereafter, there come down to him from Heaven angels with white faces like the sun, and they sit around him as far as the eye can see. They bring with them shrouds from Paradise and perfumes from Paradise…” until he said, describing the state of the Believer in the grave: “Then a voice calls out from Heaven, ‘My slave has spoken the truth, so prepare for him a bed from Paradise and clothe him from Paradise, and open for him a gate to Paradise.’ Then there comes to him some of its fragrance, and his grave is made wide, as far as he can see. Then there comes to him a man with a handsome face and handsome clothes, and a good fragrance, who says, ‘Receive the glad tidings that will bring you joy this day.’ He says, ‘Who are you? Your face is a face which brings glad tidings.’ He says, ‘I am your righteous deeds.’ He says, ‘O Lord, hasten the Hour so that I may return to my family and my wealth.’” [Narrated by Ahmad (4/362); classed as authentic by al-Albaani in Ahkaam al-Janaa’iz (156)] Punishment in the Grave: After the interrogation, the sinners, whom Allah desires, will be punished in their graves. This includes: fornicators, adulterers, those who consume usury, thieves, backbiters, murderers, those who dishonor others, etc. The degree of punishment will differ according to the sins. Considering, the fact that many people may fall into these and numerous other categories, most of the inhabitants of the graves will be punished and those who succeed will be very few. For a Muslim, the punishment of the grave serves as a means of purification, so it will be easier for them on the Day of Judgment. One aspect of the bounty of Allah towards this Ummah [Muslim Brotherhood] is that He has created means of expiation for sins, before people are brought to account on the Day of Judgment. Therefore the Muslim may escape entering Hell, if all issues are settled before he is brought to account before his Lord. This is mentioned in the following statement by Shaykh Ibn Taymiyah (may Allah have mercy on him): Shaykh al-Islam Ibn Taymiyah (may Allah have mercy on him) mentioned ten things which will bring about expiation, one of which is the torment in the grave. He said, “Whatever befalls the believer in this world, in Al-Barzakh and during the Day of Resurrection of pain which is a torment, Allah will cause that to expiate for his sins. It was reported in al-Saheehayn that the Prophet (peace and blessings of Allah be upon him) said, ‘Nothing befalls the Believer of disease, affliction, grief or harm, even a thorn which pricks him, but Allah will cause it to expiate for his sins’” [Majmoo’ al-Fataawaa, 24/375]. Haani’ the freed slave of ‘Uthman ibn ‘Affaan (may Allah be pleased with him) said: When ‘Uthman ibn ‘Affaan stood by a grave he would weep until his beard became wet. It was said to him, “You remember Paradise and Hell and you do not weep, but you weep because of this?” He said, “The Messenger of Allah (peace and blessings of Allah be upon him) said, ‘The grave is the first of the stages of the Hereafter; whoever is saved from it, whatever comes afterwards will be easier for him, but if he is not saved from it, what comes afterwards will be worse for him.’” And the Messenger of Allah (peace and blessings of Allah be upon him) said, ‘I have never seen any scene, but the grave is more frightening than it.’ [classed as authentic by al-Tirmidhi no. 2308; classed as hasan by al-Albaani in Saheeh al-Tirmidhi] The outside of the grave may be soil and carved stones, whilst inside it is disaster and calamity, boiling with grief and sorrow. The punishments vary according to the sins committed and some of them are mentioned in the following hadith: Narrated that Samurah ibn Jundub (may Allah be pleased with him) said: The Messenger of Allah (peace and blessings of Allah be upon him) often used to ask his companions, ‘Did any one of you see a dream?’ So dreams would be described to him by those whom Allah Willed should speak. One morning, the Prophet (peace and blessings of Allah be upon him) said, “Last night, two people came to me (in a dream), and woke me up and said, ‘Let’s go!’ I set out with them, and we came across a man who was lying down, with another man standing over him, holding a big rock. He threw the rock at the man’s head, smashing it. The rock rolled away, and the one who had thrown it followed it, and picked it up. By the time he came back to the man, his head had been restored to its former state. Then he (the one who had thrown the rock) did the same as he had done before. I said to my two companions, ‘Subhaan Allah [Glory to Allah]!’ Who are these two persons?’ They said, ‘Move on!’ So we went on, and came to a man who was lying flat on his back, with another man standing over him, holding an iron hook. He put the hook in the man’s mouth and tore off that side of his face to the back (of his neck), and he tore his nose and his eye from front to back in a similar manner. Then he turned to the other side of the man’s face and did likewise. No sooner had he finished the second side but the first side was restored to its former state, then he went back and did the same thing again. I said to my two companions, ‘Subhaan Allaah!’ Who are these two persons?’ They said, ‘Move on!’ So we went on, and came to something like a tannoor (a kind of oven, lined with clay, usually used for baking bread). – I think the Prophet (peace and blessings of Allah be upon him) said, in that oven there was much noise and voices. The Prophet (peace and blessings of Allah be upon him) added, ‘We looked into it and saw naked men and women. A flame of fire was reaching them from underneath, and when it reached them, they cried out loudly.’ I asked them, ‘Who are these?’ They said to me, ‘Move on!’ So we went on and came to a river – I think he said, red like blood. -‘In the river there was a man swimming, and on the bank there was a man who had gathered many stones. Whilst the swimmer was swimming, the man who had gathered the stones approached him. The swimmer opened his mouth and the man on the bank threw a stone into it, then the swimmer carried on swimming. Each time he came back, he opened his mouth again, and the man on the bank threw another stone into his mouth. I said to my two companions, ‘Who are these two persons?’ They said, ‘Move on, move on!’ We went on and came to a man who had the most repulsive appearance imaginable. Beside him there was a fire, which he was kindling, and he was running around it. I asked my companions, ‘Who is this man?’ They said, ‘Move on, move on!’ So we went on until we reached a garden of deep green dense vegetation, with all kinds of spring colors. In the midst of this garden was a very tall man, whose head I could hardly see because of his great height. Around him there were children, a great number, such as I have never seen. I said to my companions, ‘who is this man, and who are these children?’ They said, ‘Move on, move on!’ So we went on, until we came to a huge garden, bigger and better than any I have ever seen. My two companions said to me, ‘Go up.’ So we went up into it, until we reached a city built of gold and silver bricks. We went to the gate and asked for it to be opened. It was opened and we entered the city, where we found men with one side of their bodies more handsome than the most handsome person you have ever seen, and the other side uglier than the ugliest person you have ever seen. My two companions ordered those men to throw themselves into the river. There was a river flowing through the city, and its water was pure white. The men went and threw themselves in the river, and came out with the ugliness in their bodies gone, and they were in the best shape. (My two companions) said to me, ‘This is the Paradise of Adn (the Garden of Eden), and that is your place.’ I looked up and saw a palace like a white cloud. They said to me, ‘That is your place.’ I said to them, ‘May Allah bless you both, let me enter it.’ They said, ‘For now you will not enter it, but you shall enter it (one day).’ I said to them, I have seen many wonders this night. What do all these things mean that I have seen?’ They said, ‘We will tell you. The first man you came across, whose head was being smashed with the rock, is the man who studies the Qur’an then he neither recites it nor acts upon it, and he goes to sleep, neglecting the obligatory prayers. The man you came across whose mouth, nose and ears were being torn from front to back, is the man who goes out of his house in the morning and tells a lie that is so serious that it spreads all over the world. The naked men and women whom you saw in a structure that resembled an oven are the adulterers and adulteresses. The man you saw swimming in the river with rocks being thrown into his mouth is the one who consumed riba (usury). The ugly-looking man whom you saw kindling a fire and walking around it was Malik, the keeper of Hell. The tall man whom you saw in the garden was Ibrahim, and the children around him were the children who died (young) in a state of fitrah (natural state of mankind, i.e. Islam).’ – Some of the Muslims asked, ‘O Messenger of Allah, what about the children of the mushrikeen [polytheists and non-Muslims]?’ He said, ‘And the children of the mushrikeen too [i.e. the children before reaching puberty are kept in Heaven until Judgment Day]’ – ‘As for the men who were half handsome and half ugly, they were people who had mixed a good deed with another deed that was bad, but Allah forgave them.’” [Muslim no. 6525] In the mentioned hadith, four punishments that occur in Al-Barzakh were stated. The other punishments include: furnishings from Hell are prepared for the unbeliever, he is clothed with fire, a door to Hell is opened for him, persons are hung from hooks, his grave is made narrow and constricted, he is struck with an iron mallet (which if a mountain were to be struck with, it would turn to dust), and he is given the tidings of torment in the Hereafter. These torments are part of the unseen world, of which only Allah has the full knowledge. The following verse of the Qur’an also alludes to the torment in Al-Barzakh, using the people of Fir’aun as the example, but it could also refer to other sinners and unbelievers: “The Fire, they are exposed to it, morning and afternoon. And on the Day when the Hour will be established (it will be said to the angels): ‘Cause Fir’aun’s (Pharaoh’s) people to enter the severest torment [i.e. Hell]!’” [40:46] And Allah (The Glorified and Exalted) Knows Best.