The Soul: Ar-Rooh and An-Nafs

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The Arabic words rooh and nafs may both be translated as "soul" and to some extent interchangeable.
The one who investigates what will happen to man after he dies has to give some thought to the soul which will be blessed or punished after death: what is it? Does it have a shape that may be known? Is it a part of the body, or something other than the body? If it is something separate, then where in body does it reside? Is it created? Is there one soul in the body, or many? Do souls die, and how? Where do they dwell in Al-Barzakh? Do souls know anything of what is happening in this world when they end up in al-Barzakh?

Ibn Taymiyyah (rahimahullaah) said:

"The soul which is controlling the body and which leaves it at the time of death is the rooh which was breathed into it. It is the nafs which departs at the time of death."

(Risaalat al-'Aql war-Rooh, Majmoo' ar-Rasaa'il al-Muneeriyyah, 2/36; see Sharh al-'Aqeedah at-Tahaawiyyah, 445)

Those who differentiate between the rooh and the nafs, and regard them as two separate things, are mistaken. Whoever ponders the texts that we have quoted will realise that the nafs is that which is seized by the angels and taken up to the heavens, then brought back to the body, questioned, then blessed or tormented. It is also the rooh which, when it is brought forth from the body, is followed by the eyes, as is stated in the ahaadeeth.

This created entity, the existence of which means life and the loss of which means death, is called both the rooh and the nafs. This does not mean that the words rooh and nafs may not be applied to other things. Ibn Taymiyyah said:

"The words rooh and nafs both carry a number of meanings. Rooh may refer to the air that leaves and enters the body, or the air that leaves the chambers of the heart through the valve that leads to the veins. This is what the doctors call rooh.

(Ibn Taymiyyah lived in the 13-14th Century CE. His comments here reflect the medical knowledge and practice of his time.) (Translator)

These meanings refer to something other than the rooh which departs from the body at the point of death, which is the nafs. The word nafs may also refer to a thing itself (nafs ash-shay' = the same thing), or its essence, or it may refer to the blood that exists in living beings, as in the saying of the fuqaha'; 'That which has flowing blood (nafs) and that which does not.' These two meanings of the word nafs do not refer to the rooh.

(op. cit., 2/39)

The word rooh is also used to refer to Jibreel (aalayhis-salaam):

Which the trustworthy Rooh (Jibreel (Gabriel) has brought down.

(Qur'aan 26: 193)

And it is used to refer to the Qur'aan:

And thus We have sent to you (O' Muhammad) Rooh (a revelation, and a mercy) of Our Command...

(Qur'aan 42: 52)

The commentator on At-Tahaawiyyah noted how the words rooh and nafs are used to refer to these subtle entities which Allaah has created:

"Usually the word nafs is used when the rooh is still connected to the body, but when it is referred to in isolation from the body, it is usually called rooh."

(Sharh al-'Aqeedah at-Tahaawiyyah, p. 444)

Ibn Taymiyyah said concerning this matter:

"But it is called nafs with regard to its control over the body, and it is called rooh with regard to its subtle nature. Hence the wind is also called rooh, and the Prophet :saw: said:

'The wind is from the rooh of Allaah,'

(Narrated by Bukhaaree in al-Adab al-Mufrad, and by Abu Dawood and al-Haakim)

i.e. the rooh created by Allaah.

(Risaalat al-'Aql war-Rooh, Majmoo'at ar-Rasaa'il al-Muneeriyyah, 2/37)


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Does the Soul Have a Shape that may be Understood?

Because the soul is created from a substance that has no comparison in the existing physical universe, we cannot come to know its qualities. Allaah has told us that it ascends and descends, hears, sees and speaks, etc., but these characteristics differ from the physical characteristics which are known. So the way it decends, ascends, hears, sees, stands and sits are different from the things which we know and understand. The Messenger :saw: has told us that the rooh will be taken up to the highest heavens and then returned to the grave in an instand. And he has told us that it will be blessed or tormented in the grave; undoubtedly this blessing will be different from that which we know and understand.


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The Soul is Separate from the Body

"A group of the scholars of kalaam and followers of bid'ah and innovations, from among the Jahamiyyah and Mu'tazilah, narrated that the rooh is part of the body, or one of its attributes. For example, some of them said that it is the breath or air that moves in the body. Others said that it is the life, or the mood, or the body itself."

(Majmoo' Fataawa Shaykh al-Islam Ibn Taymiyyah, 3/31; Risaalat al-'Aql war-Rooh by Ibn Taymiyyah, see Majmoo'at ar-Rasaa'il al-Muneeriyaah, 2/21)

"The waffling philosophers admit that the nafs remains when it has departed from the body, but they describe it with false attributes. They claim that when it leaves the body, it becomes 'reason', and in their view reason is something that is separate from matter and all that has to do with matter. In their view, matter means the body, and reason is an independent entity which cannot be described as moving or stationary, and which does not change at all from one situation to another.

(Majmoo'at ar-Rasaa'il al-Muneeriyyah, Risaalat al-'Aql war-Rooh, 2/21)

Both of these groups were very confused in what they said about the rooh. Many of the scholars of kalaam and followers of reprehensible bid'ah, who said that the rooh is the life, or mood, or the body itself, also denied the torment of the grave and said that there is no rooh which is blessed or tormented after death in al-Barzakh. Thus, they rejected the texts which prove that.

The philosophers who claimed that when the soul leaves the body it becomes reason said:

"When it leaves the body, it does not change. It is not subject to any alteration with regard to knowledge or imagination, hearing or seeing, will, joy or happiness, or anything else that is subject to change. In their view, it remains in one state for eternity, as they also claim is the case for reason and the nafs.

(op. cit., 2/22)

One group of philosophers ascribed to it attributes which belong to the One Who, as they say, is existing necessarily (i.e., Allaah), but what they say are things that can only be attributed to that which cannot exist. They said that the rooh is neither inside nor outside the body, neither distinct from it nor integrated with it; it is neither moving nor stationary; it neither ascends nor descends; it is neither physical nor metaphorical.

(Majmoo' al-Fataawa Shaykh al-Islam, 3/31)

The reason why both these groups made this mistake is that they relied on their reason and the standards that they applied to research of a matter of the unseen. The first group denied that the soul exists independently of the body, which is a denial of the mutawaatir texts and a rejection of a well established matter of Islaam. The waffling philosophers and those who followed their path blindly affirmed that the soul exists indepedently of the body, but "because this rooh is not of the same essence as the body and it is not formed of the same element or a combination of different elements, it is of another essence which is different from these physical elements.

(op. cit., 3/32)

It was difficult for them to define or describe it, and their phrases and expressions failed to define it. But Allaah, the Exalted, guided those who responded to Him and His Messenger, and believed in what He told them. They knew that "the rooh is an entity which is different in essence to this physical body; it is a sublime entity of light which is lightweight, alive and moving. It penetrates deeply into all parts of the body and flows in it like water in the roses or oil in the olives or fire in the coals. So long as this physical body is fit to interact with this subtle entity, this subtle entity remains interconnected with this physical body and gives it the ability to feel, move and want. When this physical body becomes unfit, because of sickness etc., it is no longer able to be influenced by this subtle entity, then the rooh departs from the body and goes to join the world of the souls.
(This is Ibn al-Qayyim's definition of the rooh as given in his book ar-Rooh. This is quoted from and attributed to him by as-Safaareeni in Lawaami' al-Anwaar al-Bahiyyah, 2/29. It is quoted verbatim by the commentator of at-Tahaawiyyah but without attributing it to its source. See Sharh at-Tahaawiyyah, p. 433. After giving this definition, Ibn al-Qayyim said:

"This is the correct view on this matter; any other view is not correct and all other opinions on this matter are false. This is what is indicated by the Qur'aan and Sunnah, the consensus of the Salaf and the evidence of reason and common sense. He quoted 15 examples of evidence (daleel) and proved that the opinions of Ibn Seena, Ibn Hazm and their like about the soul were false.)
Throughout this book we have quoted a great deal of evidence which proves that the soul is something which is independent of the body, such as the verses of the Qur'aan:

It is Allaah Who takes away the souls at the time of their death, and those that die not during their sleep. He keeps those (souls) for which He has ordained death...

(Qur'aan 39: 42)

And if you could see when the angels take away the souls of those who disbelieve (at death); they smite their faces and their backs...

(Qur'aan 8: 50)

...the angels are stretching forth their hands (saying): 'Deliver your souls!'

(Qur'aan 6: 93)

Nay, when (the soul) reaches to the collarbone (i.e. up to the throat in its exit). And it will be said: 'Who can cure him (and save him from death)?' And he (the dying person) will conclude that it was (the time) of parting (death); And one leg will be joined with another leg (shrouded). The drive will be on that Day to your Lord (Allaah)!

(Qur'aan 75: 26-30)

Then why do you not (intervene) when (the soul of a dying person) reaches the throat? And you at the moment are looking on.

(Qur'aan 56: 83-84)

That which is taken by the angels, reaches to the throat and the collarbone, and is driven, must necessarily be something which is other than the body.

And we have quoted the ahaadeeth in which the Messenger of Allaah :saw: tells how the Angel of Death seizes the soul, and the angels put that soul in a shroud from Paradise or from Hell, according to whether that person has been good or evil; they take it on a journey up to the heavens, where the gates of heaven are opened if it was a righteous soul, and are closed against it if it was evil; then it is returned to the body, is questione and then blessed or tormented. The souls of the martyrs are in the corps of green birds, and the souls of the believers are birds perching in the trees of Paradise. When the soul is taken, the eyes follow it... and other texts which, when taken as a whole, offer definitive proof that the soul or rooh is something other than the body, and that it remains after it has departed from the body.


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The Seat of the Rooh in the Body

The rooh flows through every part of man's body. Ibn Taymiyyah said:

"The rooh does not reside in any particular part of the body, rather it flows throughout the body just like the life which is the characteristic of the entire body. If life is dependent on the rooh, then when the rooh is in the body it is alive, and when the soul departs, life is over."

(Risaalah al-'Aql war-Rooh, Majmoo'at ar-Rasaa'il al-Muneeriyyah, 2/47)


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The Rooh is Created

Some of the philosophers were of the view that the soul is not created, but instead it is (from) eternity and exists from eternity, although it is not part of the Divine essence. What they say about the rooh is the same as what they say about reason and the angels. They claimed that whoever followed the philosophers' view, no matter what religion they followed, said that the souls were angels.

Another group of heretics and misguided people from this ummah, from among the scholars of kalaam, Sufis and followers of innovation said that the rooh was part of the essence of Allaah. These people, as Ibn Tayimiyyah says, are are more evil in what they say than the first group. They divided man into two halves - half divine, i.e. the rooh, and half human, i.e., the body; half lord and half slave.

(Majmoo' Fataawa Shaykh al-Islam, 4/222)

The truth, from which no one should diverge, is that the rooh is something which is created and has a beginning. This is indicated by a number of things:


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(1) Ijmaa' (scholarly consensus):

Shaykh al-Islam Ibn Taymiyyah says:

"The human soul is created, according to the consensus of the ummah, its Imaams and all the Ahl as-Sunnah. Many of the scholars of the Muslims narrated in their books that there is scholarly consensus that the rooh is a created entity, such as Muhammad ibn Nasr al-Marwazi, the famous Imaam, who was the most knowledgeable of his time about issues in which there was scholarly consensus or dispute, or one of the most knowledgeable.

Abu Muhammad ibn Qutaybah said in Kitaab al-Luqat, when he discussed the creation of the soul: the people (i.e., scholars) are unanimously agreed that Allaah is the Creator of the body and the Orginator of the soul.

Abu Ishaaq ibn Shaaqilaa said, commenting on this issue: the rooh is one of the created things. Several groups of the greatest scholars and shaykhs discussed this matter, and they refuted those who claim that it is not created.

Al-Haafiz Abu 'Abdullah ibn Mandah wrote a lengthy book about that, called ar-Rooh wan-Nafs, which which he quoted a large number of ahaadeeth and reports. He was preceded by Imaam Muhammad ibn Nasr al-Marwazi and others, and by Shaykh Abu Ya'qoob al-Kharraaz, Abu Ya'qoob an-Nahrjoori, al-Qaadi Abu Ya'laa, and others. This is stated by the greatest Imaams, who severely denounced those who said that concerning 'Eesa Ibn Maryam (i.e., that his soul was not created) and denounced even more severely those who said that concerning anyone else, as is mentioned by Ahmad in his book, ar-Radd 'ala az-Zanaadiqah wal-Jahamiyyah.

(Majmoo' Fataawa Shaykh al-Islam, 4/216)


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(2) The Qur'aan and Sunnah

There is a great deal of evidence in the Qur'aan and Sunnah to indicate that the soul is created. For example, Allaah (subhaanahu wa ta'aala) says:

...Allaah is the Creator of all things...

(Qur'aan 13: 16; 39: 62)

The commentator on at-Tahaawiyyah said, after quoting this verse as evidence,

"This is general in meaning, and is not specific in any sense."

(Sharh at-Tahaawiyyah, p. 442)

And Allaah says,

Has there not been over man a period of time, when he was not a thing worth mentioning?

(Qur'aan 76: 1)

And Allaah (the Almighty, All-Powerful) said to Zakariya:

...Certainly I have created you before, when you had been nothing!

(Qur'aan 19: 9)

Insaan (man) is a word that refers to the body of man and his soul; when Allaah spoke to Zakariya, He was referring to his body and his soul. Ibn Taymiyyah said:

"Insaan (man) is an expression which refers to both the body and the soul together; indeed, it applies more to the soul than to the body. The body is only a vehicle for the soul, as Abu ad-Dardaa' said,

'My body is my vehicle. If I treat it gently, it will convey me and if I do not treat it gently, it will not convey me.'

It is narrated by Ibn Mandah and others that Ibn 'Abbaas said,

'The dispute among created beings on the Day of Judgement will continue until the soul and the body dispute. The soul will say to the body,

"You did evil things,"

- and the body will say to the soul,

"You told me to do that"

Then Allaah will send an angel to judge between them. He will say,

"You two are like a paralysed man and a blind man who entered a garden. The paralysed man saw fruits hanging there and said to the blind man,

'I can see fruit but I cannot reach it.'

The blind man said,

'I can reach it but I cannot see it.'

The paralysed man said,

'Come and life me up so that I can pick it.'

So he lifted him up so that he could pick it; he carried him and he told him where he wanted him to go so that he could pick the fruit."

The angel will say,

"So which of them should be punished?"

They will say,

"Both of them."

He will say,

"The same applies to you two.'"

(Majmoo' Fataawa Shaykh al-Islam, 4/222)


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If the soul were not something that is created and subjugated, it would not have affirmed the Lordship of Allaah. Allaah said to the souls when He took the covenant from His slaves when they had been created and before they were conceived,

"Am I not your Lord?"

They said,

"Indeed You are."

This is what Allaah (subhaanahu wa ta'aala) says in the aayah:

And (remember) when your Lord brought forth from the Children of Adam, from their loins, their seed (or from Adam's loin his offspring) and made them testify as to themselves (saying): 'Am I not your Lord?' Thet said: 'Yes!'...

(Qur'aan 7: 172)

So long as He is their Lord, then they are subjugated and created.

If the soul were not create, then it would not enter Hell or be punished, it would not be kept away from Allaah, it would not dwell in the body, it would not be an entity that may be described, it would not be brought to account or punished, it would not worship or fear Allaah, it would not have hope. And the souls of the believers would not be shining whilst the souls of the kuffaar are as black as coal.

(Point were cited as evidence by Abu Sa'eed al-Kharraaz, one of the greatest Shaykhs and aaimmah, who was a contemporary of al-Junayd as quoted from him by Shaykh al-Islam ibn Taymiyyah. See Majmoo' al-Fataawa, 4/220)


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The Specious Arguments of those who Claim that the Soul is not Created

Those who say that the soul is not created quote as evidence verses such as the following:

They ask you concerning the Spirit (of inspiration). Say: ‘The Spirit (comes) by command of my Lord (min amri Rabbi)...

(Qur’aan 17: 85 – Yusuf ‘Ali’s translation)

The response to this may be made by noting the following:

That the rooh referred to here is not the human rooh; rather it is the name of an angel, as Allaah (subhaanahu wa ta’aala) says elsewhere:

The Day that Ar-Rooh (Jibreel (Gabriel) or another angel) and the angels will stand forth in rows...

(Qur’aan 78: 38)

The angels and the Rooh (Jibreel (Gabriel)) ascend to Him...

(Qur’aan 70: 4)

Therein descend the angels and the Rooh (Jibreel (Gabriel)) by Allaah’s permission...

(Qur’aan 97: 4)

This is the well known interpretation of these verses among the Imaams of the Salaf.

If we say that what is meant here is the human rooh – as was the view of a group of Imaams of the salaf concerning this verse – this still does not indicate that the rooh is not created or that it is part of the essence of Allaah as it may be said that this piece of cloth is part of this garment. Rather what is meant is that it is attributed to Allaah because it was formed by His command, or because it came into being by His word. The word amr in the Qur’aan sometimes means the infinitive, sometimes the object i.e, what is commanded or instructed, as when Allaah says:

The Event (amr (the Hour or the punishment of disbelievers and polytheists or the Islaamic laws or commandments) ordained by Allaah will come to pass, so seek not to hasten it...

(Qur’aan 16: 1)

i.e., what is commanded by Allaah (subhaanahu wa ta’aala). It may also be noted that the word min (lit. from) in the phrase – is one of the things, the knowledge of which is only with my Lord (min amri Rabbi – lit. from the matter or command of my Lord – refers to the beginning of something or the starting-point. It is known that the word min is sometimes used to refer to the origin or type of a thing (‘one of the things’), as when people say ‘baab min hadeed (a gate of iron)’, or it may be used to refer to a starting point, ‘kharajtu min Makkah (I set out from Makkah).’ So the phrase ‘min amri Rabbi’ does not mean that the rooh is part of the command (amr) or is of the same essence, rather it refers to the starting-point because it was formed by His command (amr) and was created by Him. This is the meaning of the answer given by Imaam Ahmad concerning the phrase ‘a rooh created by Him (rooh minhu, lit. from Him)’ (describing ‘Eesa (Jesus), when he said: “When Allaah, the Exalted, said, ‘A rooh created by Him’, He means created by His command. This is like the aayah:

And has subjected to you all that is in the heavens and all that is in the earth; it is all as a favour and kindness from Him (minhu)...

(Qur’aan 45: 13)

And a similar phrase is to be found in the aayah:

And whatever of blessings and good things you have, it is from Allaah (min Allaah)...

(Qur’aan 16: 53)

The things that are subjected to man and the blessings are from Allaah, but they are not part of His essence; rather they come from Him. So we cannot say that the phrase describing ‘Eesa (Jesus), “roohun minhu” means that he is a part of His essence.

(For more detail on this topic, see Majmoo’ Fataawa Shaykh al-Islaam, 4/226-235)

The second specious argument: Allaah (the Exalted, All-Powerful) said concerning Adam:

...and breathed into him (Adam) the soul which I created for him (min roohi lit. from My soul)...

(Qur’aan 15: 29)

And He said concerning ‘Eesa (Jesus):

...We breathed into (the sleeves of) her (shirt or garment) through Our Rooh – (Jibreel (Gabriel) (min roohina lit. from Our soul)...

(Qur’aan 21: 91)

They said, Allaah (subhaanahu wa ta’aala) mentioned the rooh in a genitive construction (idaafah) relating to Himself. This specious argument was addressed by the commentator on at-Tahaawiyyah who said: “It should be noted that the use of the genitive construction with reference to Allaah may be one of two types. If it mentions attributes that cannot exist by themselves, such as knowledge, power, speech, hearing or seeing, this is ascribing an attribute to One Who bears that attribute. So His knowledge, speech, power and life are attributes which belong to Him. The same is true of His Face and Hand, may He be glorified.

The second type is when distinct entities are mentioned in a genitive construction referring to Allaah, such as His House, she-camel, Messenger and rooh, as in the verses:

...That is the she-camel of Allaah! (Do not harm it) and bar it not from having its drink!

(Qur’aan 91: 13)

Blessed be He Who sent down the criterion (of right and wrong, i.e. this Qur’aan) to His slave...

(Qur’aan 25: 1)

...and sanctify My House for those who circumambulate it.

(Qur’aan 22: 26)

In these verses, created things are mentioned in a genitive construction referring to their Creator, but here the construction implies being singled out and honoured.”

(Sharh at-Tahaawiyyah, p. 442. See Risaalat at-Rooh, Majmoo’at ar-Rasaa’il al-Muneeriyyah. 2/38)



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Different Kinds of Nafs

Allaah (subhaanahu wa ta’aala) tells us that there are three different kinds of nafs:

The nafs which is inclined to evil (the tempting self):

Verily, the (human) self (nafs) in inclined to evil, except when my Lord bestows His Mercy (upon whom He wills)...

(Qur’aan 12: 53)

The nafs which is self-reproaching (conscience):

And I swear by the self-reproaching person (nafs) (a believer).

(Qur’aan 75: 2)

And the nafs which is in (complete) rest and satisfaction (the soul of a believer):

(It will be said to the pious – believers of Islaamic Monotheism): ‘O’ (you) the one (nafs) in (complete) rest and satisfaction! Come back to your Lord, well-pleased (yourself) and well-pleasing (unto Him)! Enter you then among My (honoured) slaves. And enter you My Paradise!’

(Qur’aan 89: 27-30)

This does not mean that each person has three souls; what it means is that these are attributes and conditions that may apply to one soul. If a soul is controlled by its whims and desires so that it commits sin and is disobedient, then it is the soul that is inclined to evil. The self-reproaching soul is that which sins then repents. It is called self-reproaching because it blames the person for his sin, and because it wavers between doing good and evil. And the soul in (complete) rest and satisfaction is the soul which loves and desires goodness and good deeds, and it hates and detests evil and evil deeds, and that has become its nature, habit and characteristic.

(See Risaalat al-‘Aql war-Rooh by Ibn Taymiyyah, Majmoo’at ar-Rasaa’il al-Muneeriyyah, 2/41)

The commentator on at-Tahaawiyyah said, after mentioning the different kinds of nafs:

“In fact they are one nafs which has different attributes. It is inclined to evil, but if it is influenced by faith, it becomes self-reproaching, so it may commit sin but then it blames itself and alternates between doing and not doing. If faith becomes strong, it becomes the soul in (complete) rest and satisfaction.”

(Sharh at-Tahaawiyyah, p. 445)


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Do Souls Die?

Ibn Taymiyyah says:

“Souls are no doubt created, but they do not cease to exist. Their death occurs when they are separated from the body, and at the second Trumpte-blast the souls will return to the bodies.”

(Majmoo’ al-Fataawa, 4/279)

The commentator on at-Tahaawiyyah also discussed this matter, and said:

“The people differed as to whether the soul dies or not. One group said, it dies because it is a nafs, and every nafs will taste death... If the angels will die, then it is more appropriate that the human soul will die too. Others said that the souls will not die, because they were created to abide forever; what dies is the body. They said, this is proven by the ahaadeeth which indicate that the souls will be blessed or tormented after they depart (from the bodies), until Allaah returns them to their bodies.

The correct view is to say that the death of the nafs is when it is separated from its body and departs from it. If this is what is meant by its death, then it will taste death. But if it is meant that it will cease to exist altogether, then it does not die in this sense, rather it will abide after it has been created, either in bliss or in torment... Allaah tells us that the people of Paradise

...will never taste death therein except the first death (of this world)...

(Qur’aan 44: 56)

And that is the death which means the separation of the soul from the body.”

(Sharh at-Tahaawiyyah, p. 446)


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The Abode of the Rooh in al-Barzakh

In al-Barzakh, people’s souls will be at different levels. We have studied the texts which were narrated concerning that, and discovered that they may be divided into the following categories:

The souls of the Prophets

These will be in the bet dwelling places in the highest part of ‘Illiyyeen (the Highest Places), with the highest companions. ‘Aa’ishah heart the Messenger :saw:, in the last moments of his life, saying,

“O Allaah, (with) the Highest Companions.”

(Bukhaaree, Kitaab ar-Riqaaq, Baab man ahabba Liqaa’ Allaah; Fath al-Baari 11/357)


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The souls of the Martyrs

They are alive with their Lord, and they have provision. Allaah (subhaanahu wa ta’aala) says:

Think not of those as dead who are killed in the way of Allaah. Nay, they are alive, with their Lord, and they have provision.

(Qur’aan 3: 169)

Masrooq asked ‘Abdullaah bin Mas’ood about this aayah, and he said,

“We asked about that, and he said,

‘Their souls are in the crops of green birds which have lamps hanging from the Throne. They roam in Paradise wherever they wish, then they come back to those lamps.’”

This is narrated by Muslim in his Saheeh.

(Mishkaat al-Masaabeeh, 2/351)

This is the case of the souls of the martyrs, not for all of the martyrs, because some of them may be detained from entering Paradise by debts that they have left behind. It is narrated by al-Musnad from ‘Abdullaah ibn Jahsh that a man came to the Prophet :saw: and said:

“O Messenger of Allaah, what will I have if I am killed for the sake of Allaah?”

He said,


When he went away, he said,

‘Except debt’ – Jibreel (Gabriel) whispered to me just now.”

(Shaykh Naasir-ud-Din al-Albaanee said in his commentary on Sharh at-Tahaawiyyah, p. 445, it is saheeh.)


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The Souls of the righteous believers

These (souls) will be birds perching in the trees of Paradise. According to the hadeeth narrated by ‘Abd ar-Rahmaan ibn Ka’b ibn Maalik (radhiyAllaahu anh), the Prophet :saw: said:

“The soul of the Muslim is a bird perching in the trees of Paradise, until Allaah returns it to his body on the Day of Resurrection.”

This is narrated by Ahmad.

(Narrated by Shaykh Naasir-ud-Din al-Albaanee in Silsilat al-Ahaadeeth as-Saheehah, 2/370, hadith no. 995. He said: it is saheeh according to the conditions of the two shaykhs (Bukharee and Muslim). Also narrated by Ibn Maajah in his Sunan. Maalik in al-Muw’atta’ and Nasaa’i with the wording, “The souls of the believers are in the crops of green birds, perching in the trees of Paradise.”)

The difference between the souls of the believers and the souls of the martyrs is that the souls of the martyrs are in the crops of green birds which wander about in the gardens of Paradise and return to lamps hanging from the Throne, whereas the souls of the believers are inside birds which hang from the fruits of Paradise but they do not wander around in it. The idea that the souls of the believers are birds which perch in the trees of Paradise does not contradict the other hadith which is narrated by Abu Hurayrah from the Messenger :saw:, in which it says that the angels seize the soul of the believing slave and take it up to the heavens, and the angels say,

“How good is the soul which you have brought from the earth.”

Then they bring it to meet the souls of the believers, and they rejoice over it more than anyone of you does when an absent loved one returns.

They ask him,

“What happened to so and so? What happened to so and so?”

But they (the angels) say,

“Leave him alone, for he was facing the distress of the world.”

He says,

“But he died, did he not come to meet you?”

Then they say.

“He has gone to his home in al-Haawiyah (the pit of Hell).”

(Nasaa’i, Kitaab al-Janaa’iz, Baab ma yalqa al-Mu’min min al-Karaamah ‘inda Khurooj nafsihi, 4/8)

So the soul of the believer meets the souls of other believers in Paradise.


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The souls of the sinners

We have quoted above the texts which describe the torment that the sinners will face. For example, those who told lies which spread far and wide will be tormented by means of iron hooks which will be inserted into the corners of their mouths, then their faces will be torn to the back of their necks. Those who slept and neglected the obligatory prayers will have their heads smashed with rocks. Men and women who committed adultery will be tormented in a hole which resembles a kind of oven which is narrow at the top and wide at the bottom, under which fire is kindled. Those who consumed ribaa will be swimming in a river of blood, on the bank of which will be one who throws stones into their mouths.

(The hadith is narrated by Bukhaaree in his Saheeh)


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The souls of the kuffaar

According to the hadith of Abu Hurayrah (radhiyAllaahu anh) narrated by Nasaa’i, after describing the believer when he reaches his abode in Paradise, he mentions the state of the kaafir and what happens to him at the moment of death. After his soul is taken,

“There emanates from it the foulest stench until he is brought to the gates of the earth, and they say,

‘How foul is this stench,’ until they bring him to meet the souls of other kuffaar.”

(Nasaa’i, Kitaab al-Janaa’iz, Baab ma yalqa al-mu’min min al-Karaamah ‘inda khurooj nafsihi, 4/8)


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Problems and Answers

It may be said: you have quoted texts which indicate that the souls will be restored to the bodies, then it may be asked, after that the believer will be blessed and the kaafir tormented, so how can you that the souls of the believers will be in Paradise and the souls of the kuffaar in Hell?

Ibn Hazm tried to describe as da’eef (weak) the ahaadeeth which mention the return of the soul to the body in the grave, but these ahaadeeth are not weak. The hadith of Zaadaan from al-Baraa’ which Ibn Hazm described as da’eef is a saheeh hadith.

There are many saheeh mutawaatir ahaadeeth which indicate that the soul will be returned to the body, as Ibn Taymiyyah said.

(Majmoo’ al-Fataawa, 5/446)

Reconciling the ahaadeeth, Ibn Taymiyyah said,

“Even though the souls of the belivers are in Paradise, they may be returned to their bodies, just as they may be in their bodies but they ascend to the heavens when a person is asleep. These are general ahaadeeth which state that they are in Paradise, as was noted by Ahmad and other scholars, and they quoted as evidence the general ahaadeeth and the ahaadeeth which speak specifically about sleep, and others.”

(op. cit., 5/447)

Then he mentioned some of these ahaadeeth which we have quoted above, and he quoted the hadith of Abu Hurayrah which was narrated by Ibn Hibbaan and others, in which it is mentioned that the believer, after being questioned, will be shown his place in Paradise, and the place in Hell which would have been his if he has been a kaafir. He said,

“Then his grave will be expanded for him by seventy cubits and will be illuminated for him, and his body will be put back as it was. His soul will be placed in nasm at-teeb, which is a bird that perches in the trees of Paradise.”

According to another version,

“They are birds which perch in the trees of Paradise.”

According to another version,

“Then his body will be put back as it was.”

(Majmoo’ al-Fataawa, 5/448)

So the soul, as is indicated by the hadith, will return to the body after its journey to the heavens, then it will be questioned, then it will become a bird which perches in the trees of Paradise, until all people are resurrected. Even though it is in Paraidse, it will still be connected in some way to the body, as is the case when a person is asleep, when his soul wanders about in the kingdoms of heaven and earth, although it is still connected to the body. This understanding is based on knowing that the soul is different from the body and from what is known of the creation of this world.

Ibn Taymiyyah (rahimahullaah) said, after mentioning that the abode of believing souls is Paradise,

“At the same time, they are connected to the bodies whenever Allaah wills, and at that instant they are like the angels who descend to the earth, or like the rays of light which shine on the earth, or like the sleeper who awakes suddenly.”

(Ibid, 24/365)


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Does the Torment in Al-Barzakh Affect the Soul, the Body or Both?

The view of Ahl as-Sunnah wal-Jamaa’ah is that the soul is distinct from the body but is connected to it. Shaykh al-Islam Ibn Taymiyyah said:

“The torment and the blessing happen to both the soul and the body, according to the consensus of Ahl as-Sunnah wal-Jamaa’ah. The soul is blessed or tormented separately from the body, and is tormented in connection with the body, and the body is connected to it. So the blessing and torment happen to them both together in this situation, and it happens to the soul separately from the body.”

(Majmoo’ Fataawa Shaykh al-Islam Ibn Tayimiyyah, 4/262,282)


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Does a Person Know Anything About What is Happening in this World After He Dies?

It is narrated in the saheeh ahaadeeth that the deceased can hear the sound of his companions’ footsteps after they have put him in his grave. It is narrated from Anas ibn Maalik that the Messenger of Allaah :saw: said:

“When a person is placed in his grave and his companions depart from him, he surely hears the sound of their footsteps.”

(Muslim, Kitaab al-Jannah, Baab ‘ard maq’ad al-mayit fil-Jannah aw an-Naar ‘alayhi, 4/2203, hadith no. 2874)

Three days after the battle of Badr, the Messenger :saw: stood over the mushrikeen who had been killed at the battle and addressed some of them by name. He said,

“O’ Abu Jahl ibn Hishaam, O’ Umayyah ibn Khalaf, O’ ‘Utbah ibn Rabee’ah, O’ Shaybah ibn Rabee’ah, have you not found what your Lord promised to be true? For I have found what my Lord promised me to be true.”

Umar ibn al-Khattab said:

‘O’ Messneger of Allaah, how could they hear, how could they respond, when they are rotting corpses?”

He said,

“By the One in Whose hand is my soul, you do not hear what I say any better than they do, but they cannot reply.”

Then he commanded that they be dragged away and thrown into the well of Badr.

(Bukharee in Kitaab al-Janaa’iz, Baab ma jaa’ fi ‘adhaab al-qabr. Also in Kitaab al-Jannah, Baab ‘ard maq’ad al-mayit fil-Jannah aw an-Naar ‘alayhi. 4/2200, hadith no. 2870. Also Abu Dawood and Nasaa’i; see Jaami’ al-Usool. 11/180)

Ibn Taymiyyah quoted a number of ahaadeeth which indicate that the dead can hear, then he said:

“These and similar texts show that the dead can hear the speech of the living in general, but it does not mean that they can hear them all time. They may hear at some times and not at others, as is the case with the living, who sometimes hears what is being to him, and sometimes he does not hear it for some reason.”

(Majmoo’ al-Fataawa, 5/364)

Ibn Taymiyyah dealt with the issue raised by the one who said,

“Allaah has stated that the dead do not hear, when He said, Verily, you cannot make the dead to hear...

(Qur’aan 27: 80) how can you claim that the dead can hear?”

Ibn Taymiyyah said:

“That is the hearing of comprehension, which does not lead to reward or punishment; it is not the hearing referred to in the aayah: Verily, you cannot make the dead to hear...

(Qur’aan 27: 80)

What is meant in this aayah (verse) is the hearing of acceptance, when one hears and obeys. Allaah likened the kaafir to the dead who does not respond to the one who calls him, and to the animals who hear the voice but do not understand the meaning. Although the dead can hear the speech and understand the meaning, they cannot respond to the one who is calling them and they cannot heed the commands or prohibitions, so they do not benefit from them. Similarly, the kaafir does not benefit from the commands and prohibitions, even though he hears what is said and understands the meanings. As Allaah (subhaanahu wa ta’aala) says:

Had Allaah known of any good in them. He would indeed have made them listen...

(Qur’aan 8: 23)

(Majmoo’ al-Fataawa, 5/364)

There are also texts which indicate that the dead speaks along with hearing. The Munkar and Nakeer question the deceased, and the believer is helped to answer correctly, whilst the kaafir and hypocrite are prevented from giving the right answers. The dead may also speak at other times apart from the questioning of Munkar and Nakeer. All of that is different from speech as it is known to the people of the world, for what is questioned and what responds is the soul. It is the soul which answers, sits up and is blessed or tormented, although it is connected in some way to the body. We have mentioned above that some people have heard the speech of the dead, and that the Messenger :saw: used to hear that a great deal.

Overall Reference: The Minor Resurrection, Volume 5 by Umar al-Ashqaar

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