All of us have dealt with death at some point of time in our lives. Whether it’s a family member, friend or even strangers, death results in a separation – separation from us, and separation from dunya. For believers, death is just a temporary separation from our loved ones.
In Islam, Allah SWT repeatedly mentions how the dead will be brought back to life on the Day of Judgment, and how the believers who were steadfast in dunya, will be reunited with their loved ones in the Hereafter and enjoy the endless pleasures of Paradise.
Death is something which most, if not all of us, fear. It’s the fear of not knowing when we will die, how we will die, and what happens to the person after they die that makes it a very difficult topic to discuss. When we have to deal with the loss of a loved one, this feeling of separation and the yearning to never be able to see our loved ones in this life is very distressing and painful. However, knowing what happens when the person dies will help us be aware and more prepared to face death.
So how does death occur? What happens to us when we die? What happens to our souls? Read on to find out.
When Will We Die?
Allah says that each one of us will face death: “Every soul shall have a taste of death: and only on the Day of Judgment shall you be paid your full recompense.” (Quran 3:185)
But when will we die? This is something that belongs to the world of unseen, and only Allah knows when we will take our last breath. However, did you know that your time span was written even before you entered this world?
In your mother’s womb, an angel is appointed with the task of writing when you will die even before you enter this world. [Bukhari]
How will we Die?
For a believer:
When a Muslim is about to die, angels with white faces (shining bright like the sun) will descend from heavens. They will bring a shroud and perfume from Paradise and sit with the person as far as his/her eyes can see. Then, the angel of death will come and sit by the person’s head and say, “Oh pure soul, come to the forgiveness and pleasure of Allah”.
The soul of the believer will then come out like a drop of water that flows from a cup. His soul will be extracted from his body in a gentle and easy manner. The soul will then be immediately covered and perfumed with the shroud that was brought by the angels from Paradise. The soul will have the best fragrance of musk that can ever exist.
It is then taken up to the heavens, and in each heaven, the angels will ask, “Who is this pure soul?” and the angels will reply,” It is so and so, the son of so and so” using the best names that are known to earth. When the soul reaches the seventh heaven, Allah will say, “Record the book of My slave in ‘Illiyoon and take him back to earth, for I created them from it, and I shall return them to it, then I shall take them out from it again.”
His soul will be brought back to earth and it will wait till the body is washed, shrouded and prayed upon. When the person is buried, the soul will be returned to its body and the deceased will be made to sit up.
The person will then be questioned in the grave by two angels named Munkar and Nakeer. They will ask, ‘Who is your Lord?’ He will reply, ‘My Lord is Allah.’
‘What is your religion?’ He will reply, ‘My religion is Islam.’
‘Who is this man who was sent among you?’ He will reply, ‘The Messenger of Allah.’ Then a voice will declare, ‘My slave has spoken the truth, so spread out carpets from the Garden for him and open a gate of the Garden for him!’.
His grave will be made spacious for him, as far as his eyes can see. Then, a man with beautiful garments and a fragrant scent will come to him and say,
‘Rejoice in what delights you for this is the day which you were promised.’ He will ask, ‘Who are you? Yours is a face which presages good.’ He will reply, ‘I am your good deeds.’ Then, he will say, ‘O Lord, let the Last Hour come soon so that I may rejoin my family and my property!’
For a disbeliever:
As for a disbeliever, death is an extremely torturous moment. Scary looking angels with black faces will come down carrying a rough hair-cloth and sit around him in throngs stretching as far as the eye can see. The Angel of Death will sit at his head and say, ‘Foul soul, come out to the wrath and anger of Allah!’
His soul will divide up in his body and will be dragged out like a skewer is pulled out of wet wool. The angels will then wrap it in the rough haircloth. A stench will come out of it like the worst stench of a corpse on the face of the earth.
Then, they will ascend, and upon entering each level of heaven, the angels will ask, “Who is this evil soul?’ and they reply, ‘It is So and so the son of So and so’ – using the worst names by which he was known on earth. Then, they will bring the soul to the lowest heaven, and ask for it to be opened, but it will not open for him.
The Messenger of Allah (peace and blessings of Allah be upon him) recited (interpretation of the meaning): “… For them the gates of heaven will not be opened, and they will not enter Paradise until the camel goes through the eye of the needle” [al-A’raaf 7:40]. Then he said, “Then Allah, may He be glorified and exalted, says: ‘Record the book of My slave in Sijjeen (the lowest Hell) in the lowest earth. Then his soul will be thrown down.”
After his body is buried, his soul will be returned to his body and two angels (Munkar and Nakeer) will come and say to him, ‘Who is your Lord?’ He will reply, ‘Alas, alas, I do not know!’ Then a voice will say, ‘My slave has lied, so spread out carpets from the Fire for him and open a gate of the Fire for him!’
Then a hot blast from it will come to him, his grave will be made so narrow for him that his ribs will press together.
A man with a hideous face and clothing and a foul odour will come to him and say, ‘Grieve on account of what has brought you disgrace for this is the day which you were promised.’ He will ask, ‘Who are you? Yours is a face which presages evil.’ He will reply, ‘I am your bad deeds.’ Then the person will say, ‘O Lord, do not let the Last Hour come!’”
Signs of a Good End
There are several Hadeeth that give some signs that indicate a good end for the dying person. They are:
- Declaring the Shahādah
- Dying with sweat on the forehead. The sweat appears as a result of the hardship of death or as a consequence of the shyness the servant experiences when realising he is about to meet his Lord while having committed so many sins.
- Dying on the night of Jumuʿah
- Dying from plague, abdominal illness, drowning, collapse of a building, pleurisy, fire or tuberculosis
- A woman who dies during pregnancy or childbirth
- Dying while defending one’s property, one’s family, one’s religion or in self-defence
- Dying while doing a good deed
- Getting killed by an oppressive ruler
- Getting murdered
Signs of a Bad End
- Dying in disbelief or while committing shirk
- Dying while committing sin
- Refusing to say the Shahādah at the time of death
- Blame of the righteous Muslims
- Addiction to alcohol
- Ill-treatment of parents
- Having no Ghayrah (sense of honor) for the family
- Dying without repenting from major sins
However, it is important to note that the aforementioned points are not definite proofs but merely indicators of a good or bad death. Ultimately, all knowledge belongs to Allah alone.
Death is not the end of the road for us Muslims. Rather, it is only a temporary stop before we reach our final destination. Each one of us is born to die. Therefore, preparing for this moment by living in the present and doing good deeds that please Allah is vital in helping us lead successful lives. Let us strive hard to hasten towards goodness, and stay away from deeds that displease Allah. Let Allah SWT make the last of our deeds the best deeds and call us back to Him when He is pleased with us, Ameen.