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Death in Islam is the termination of worldly life and the beginning of afterlife. Death is seen as the separation of soul from body, and its transfer from this world to the afterlife.[1][2] Thus, it is the continuation of life in another form. Death is seen as a painful experience in Islam.

Islamic tradition discusses elaborately, almost in graphic detail, as to what exactly happens before, during, and after the death. The angel of death (Arabic: Malak al-Maut) appears to the dying to take out their souls. The sinners' souls are extracted in a most painful way while the righteous are treated easily. After the burial, two angels – Munkar and Nakir – come to question the dead in order to test their faith. The righteous believers answer correctly and live in peace and comfort while the sinners and disbelievers fail and punishments ensue. The time period or stage between death and the end of the world[3] is called the life of barzakh. Suicide, euthanasia, and unjust murder as means of death are all prohibited in Islam, and are considered major sins.[4][5]



Death is a significant event in Islamic life and theology. It is seen not as the termination of life, rather the continuation of life in another form. In Islamic belief, God has made this worldly life as a test and a preparation ground for the afterlife; and with death, this worldly life comes to an end.[6] The soul is then wrapped in a dirty cloth which emits bad smell. Carrying the soul, the angels head towards the heaven. On the way, other angels inquire about this wicked soul. They are told that this is the soul of that and that sinner person. The angels then arrive at the upper heaven, but its doors are not opened for the evil soul. Consequently, the soul is then thrown in hell or underworld, where it is punished until the Day of Judgment.[7]

On the other hand, when a righteous believer dies, bright-faced angels from heaven descends with divine perfume and shroud. Then the angel of death comes, and tells the soul to come out to the pleasure and mercy of God. The soul is then extracted as easily as water comes out from the pitcher. The soul is then wrapped in the perfumed shroud and is taken up to the seventh heaven where God declares: 'write down his name in 'Illiyin' and take him back to earth. I created him from earth, and I will raise him second time from this very earth.' The soul is then pushed back into the body and is interrogated by two angels called Munkar and Nakir. He succeeds in answering the questions, and is blessed with heavenly rewards.[8][9]

Muhammad is reported as saying that 'When the ruh (soul) is taken out, the eyesight follows it' (Sahih Muslim)."[10]

Hardship during deathEdit

Islamic tradition narrates that death is a painful event. When the soul is extracted from the body, every dying person undergoes a painful experience.[11][12] It is narrated in Sahih al-Bukhari that at the time of death, Islamic prophet Muhammad dipped his hands in water and was wiped his face with them saying, "There is no god but Allah; indeed death has its pangs."[13]

Barzakh and graveEdit

In Islamic belief, souls may either rest in Barzakh during the time period between this worldly life and the final the resurrection on the Day of Judgment or immediately pass into paradise or hell after the questioning of the deathangels Munkar and Nakir. Barzakh, also resembles the Christian idea of limbo, that contains the souls, which go neither to heaven or to hell and remain in the grave.[14]It is said that the martyrs – persons who die on the way of God – always skip Barzakh and the trial of the deathangels and go to paradise directly.[15] The time between death and the Resurrection, the soul resides in a world of symbols, ideas and essential characters of action someone commited in his life.[16]

Since dead bodies are deposited in the grave, tradition and other sources have tended to use the word 'grave' to refer to the life of Barzakh. Thus, grave is used synonymously for Barzakh.[17] Muslims believe that each person is interrogated in the grave by two angels appointed by God. After the burial, the two angels, called Munkar and Nakir, come to question the dead in order to test their faith. The righteous believers answer correctly and live in peace and comfort while the sinners and disbelievers fail and punishments ensue.[18][19]

In the life of Barzakh, the souls of the sinners and disbelievers are kept and punished in a place called Sijjin which is said to be located at the lowest level of the earth (or underworld).[20] The books containing the full records of their deeds are also kept here. On the other hand, the souls of the righteous believers are kept in a place called Illiyin. Their books of deeds are also kept here. According to some account, Illiyin is located above the seventh sky.[20]

In the QuranEdit

The Quran at its several places discusses the issue of death. Death is inevitable. No matter how much people try to escape death, it will reach everyone (50:19). Again, those who deny resurrection and afterlife, and thus challenge God, the Quran challenges them by saying that why these people then do not put back the soul which has reached the throat (of the dying person) and is about to escape the body? (56:83–84). It also says that when death approaches the sinners and disbelievers, and they sense the upcoming chastisement, they pray to God to go back to life to do some good deeds; but this will never be granted (23:99–100). Probably the most-frequently quoted verse of the Quran about death is: "Every soul shall taste death, and only on the Day of Judgment will you be paid your full recompense." At another place, the Quran urges mankind: "And die not except in a state of Islam" (3:102) because "Truly, the religion in the sight of Allah is Islam" (3:19). Other verses related with this issue are: "He (Allah) who created death and life, so that He may test you as to which of you is better in deeds. And He is the All-Mighty, the Most-Forgiving" (67:2); "Certainly, they see it (resurrection) as distant, but We see it as near" (70:6–7).


Islam, as with other Abrahamic religions, views suicide as one of the greatest sins and utterly detrimental to one's spiritual journey. The Islamic view is that life and death are given by God. Life is sacred, and a gift from God; and it is only God, and not the human beings, who has the right to take it back. Thus willful taking of one's own life is considered a major sin in Islam.[4][5][21] Committing suicide to save oneself from suffering is discouraged.[5] Islam teaches that in the face of hardship, one should not directly pray for death. Instead, one should say: "Oh Allah! Let me live as long as life is good for me, and let me die if death is good for me."[5] Euthanasia is considered one form of suicide and has the same ruling as that of suicide.[5][22] Unjust killing of any human being is one of the most heinous and the cardinal sins in Islam.[23]


Ākhirah (Arabic: الآخرة) is an Islamic term referring to the afterlife. It is repeatedly referenced in chapters of the Quran concerning the Last Judgment, an important part of Islamic eschatology. Traditionally, it is considered to be one of the six main beliefs of Muslims. According to the Islamic beliefs, God will play the role of the qadi, weighing the deeds of each individual. He will decide whether that person's ʾākhirah lies in Jahannam (Hell) or Jannah (Heaven) on the basis of the weight of either good or bad deeds in comparison with one another.

See alsoEdit


  1. ^ Buturovic, Amila (2016). Carved in Stone, Etched in Memory. Routledge,. p. 34. ISBN 978-1-317-16957-4. Retrieved 7 Nov 2016. 
  2. ^ Maariful Quran by Muhammad Shafi Usmani. English translation by Maulana Ahmed Khalil Aziz. Vol 8; p. 534. (Sura 67, verse 2). Karachi.
  3. ^ Arshad Khan Islam, Muslims, and America: Understanding the Basis of Their Conflict Algora Publishing 2003 ISBN 978-0-875-86243-9 page 151
  4. ^ a b Lester, D (2006). "Suicide and Islam". Archives of Suicide Research. 10 (1): 77–97. doi:10.1080/13811110500318489. PMID 16287698. 
  5. ^ a b c d e Oliver Leaman, ed. (2006). The Qur'an: An Encyclopedia. Routledge. pp. 177–8. ISBN 978-0-415-32639-1. 
  6. ^ Matt Stefon, ed. (2010). Islamic Beliefs and Practices. New York: Britannica Educational Publishing. pp. 83–85. ISBN 978-1-61530-060-0. 
  7. ^ Ashiq Ilahi Bulandshahri (1994). What Happens After Death. New Delhi: Adam Publishers & Distributors. pp. 11–12. 
  8. ^ Cite error: The named reference Stefon-83 was invoked but never defined (see the help page).
  9. ^ Ashiq Ilahi Bulandshahri (1994). What Happens After Death. New Delhi: Adam Publishers & Distributors. pp. 9–10. 
  10. ^ Oliver Leaman, ed. (2006). The Qur'an: An Encyclopedia. p. 171. 
  11. ^ Amila Buturovic Carved in Stone, Etched in Memory: Death, Tombstones and Commemoration in Bosnian Islam Since C.1500 Routledge 2016 ISBN 978-1-317-16957-4 page 34
  12. ^ Oliver Leaman, ed. (2006). The Qur'an: An Encyclopedia. p. 171. 
  13. ^ Oliver Leaman, ed. (2006). The Qur'an: An Encyclopedia. p. 171. 
  14. ^ Christian Lange Paradise and Hell in Islamic Traditions Cambridge University Press 2015 ISBN 978-0-521-50637-3 Seite 123
  15. ^ Juan E. Campo (ed.). Encyclopedia of Islam. p. 186. 
  16. ^ Reynold A. Nicholson Studies in Islamic Mysticism Routledge 2003 ISBN 978-1-135-79893-2 page 101
  17. ^ Ashiq Ilahi Bulandshahri (1994). What Happens After Death. p. 2. 
  18. ^ name=Stefon-83/
  19. ^ Nigosian, S. A. (2004). Islam: Its History, Teaching, and Practices. pp. 123–4. ISBN 0-253-21627-3. 
  20. ^ a b Maariful Quran (exegesis of the Quran) by Muhammad Shafi Usmani. Karachi. Chapter 83.
  21. ^ Juan E. Campo (ed.). Encyclopedia of Islam. p. 641. 
  22. ^ Juan E. Campo (ed.). Encyclopedia of Islam. p. 642. 
  23. ^ Maariful Quran (exegesis of the Quran) by Muhammad Shafi Usmani. Karachi. Chapter 17, verse 33.