The Soul’s journey after death
THE BLISS OF THE INTERSPACE BETWEEN
THE TWO WORLDS
“O soul at peace, return unto your Lord, well pleased and well- pleasing! Enter among My slaves! Enter My Garden!” (al-Fajr 27-30)
‘The Grave’…the Grave is a word that inspires fear. We are pained when it is mentioned. We are not aware of the delight it can contain. Indeed, the bliss of the Grave is better than any delight that this world can offer. The Messenger, blessings and peace be upon him, said, ?When the believer is near to death, angels of mercy come to him. When his soul is taken, they place it in a piece of white silk and bear it to the gate of Heaven. They say, “We have never smelled a sweeter fragrance than this!” His soul is asked, “How is so-and-so? How is so- and-so?” It will be said, “Let him rest. He has just come from the suffering of the world!”‘
The Grave or the Interspace is the third stage of human existence. The first is the domain of the mother’s womb with all the constriction and the three darknesses it contains. The second is the domain of this world in which we grow up, which we are familiar with and from which we acquire good and evil and the means to happiness or misery. The third is the domain of the Interspace which is wider and vaster than the domain in which we now live – the domain of this world. The fourth and final stage is the Everlasting Domain which comprises the Garden and the Fire. There is no domain after it for it is the Domain of Eternity.
What we are at present concerned with is the third stage, the domain of the interspace between the worlds. It is the first of the stages of the Next World. In it the souls are divided into two groups: one group is punished and imprisoned, distracted by its punishment from everything else – such as visiting or meeting each other. The other group is in bliss, and it is this second group that we are concerned with here.
The liberated souls of those who are in bliss visit each other and discuss what happened in the world they have left and the people of that world. Every soul keeps company with, those of his friends who acted in a similar way to him. Many people have had dreams showing this. One such dream was recorded by Salih b. Bashir who said, ?I saw ?Ata’ as-Sulami in a dream after he died and said to him, “May Allah have mercy on you! You suffered for a long time in this world!” He replied, “By Allah, that has been followed by long-lasting joy and unending delight:” I asked, “What is your station?” He replied, “With those whom Allah has blessed among the prophets, the sincere, the martyrs and the righteous.”‘
Allah the Great says, “Whoever obeys Allah and the Messenger, they are with those whom Allah has blessed, the prophets, the sincere, the martyrs, and the righteous. Very excellent companions they are!” (an-Nisaa 69)
The souls who are in bliss enjoy this state from the moment of death. We have already made that clear in great detail and corroborated it with a sound hadith. When the believer is dying, the angels come to him and speak to him and he speaks to them without the people present being aware of this. The soul yearns to meet its Lord and leaves the body with ease. Then the angels bear it to the heavens and a sweet fragrance diffuses from it which is perceived by all the angels and the pure, liberated souls in the heavens. They ask each other about this sweet fragrance. His relatives and dearest friends who were with him in the world hasten to him. They advance before him to the next world, crowding round him and asking him for news of the world and those who are in it. Then the angels take the soul up from heaven to heaven and every angel in every heaven he passes through prays for blessings on him. He is delighted by the sweetest and most beautiful good tidings. Then the soul comes to a standstill before the Almighty King, may His majesty be exalted! He says to the soul, ?Welcome to this good soul and to the body which it left.’ When the Lord, the Mighty and Majestic, makes something welcome, then everything welcomes it and every constriction departs from it. Then He says, ?Show him his place in the Garden and display before him the honour and blessing I have prepared for him.’ Then the angels take him back down to the earth so that he can see his body being washed and they carry on a conversation although the living cannot hear it.
The angels pray for the soul of the believer in the heavens just as people pray over his body on the earth. Finally, the body is buried and the soul returns to between the body and the shroud. This return does not imply the same connection that the soul had to the body in this world. It is not even the same connection which it had in the sleeping state nor the connection which it has when it is in its resting place. This return is a special return for the questioning as we have already clarified.
Then, as we have already mentioned, the two angels, Munkar and Nakir, come down and question him. After that a door onto the Fire is opened for him and he is told, “Look! This would have been your place in the Fire if you had rebelled against Allah and Allah had exchanged your place in the Garden for it.” Then that door is locked and another door onto the Garden is opened and he sees his place there. This door will remain open until the Day of Rising. Some of the sweetness and fragrance of the Garden reaches him and his grave is made spacious. He sleeps in peace just as if he were in one of the meadows of the Garden.
This spaciousness, light and greenery in which the believer remains from the time of his death until the Day of Rising is not the same as we know in our world. If a living person were to open a grave, he would not find any expanse, light or greenness there. He would not find an open door through which he could see the Garden. He does not see bliss or torment. It is only the dead person who is aware of these things and sees them. Allah, through His wisdom, has the power to veil this from the living.
The proof that this is so is shown by the fact that there are other creatures like the jinn who live with us on the earth. They converse in raised voices among us but we do not see or hear them. There were angels who fought with the believers [at Badr] and struck down the unbelievers and shouted at them, but the Muslims did not see or hear them. Jibril came to the Messenger, blessings and peace be upon him, in the midst of the people and they did not see or hear him.
When a man is near death, the angel stretches out his hand to the soul and seizes it, speaks to it and then it comes out. A light like the sun’s ray and a sweet fragrance come out to the soul. Then it ascends amid rows of angels, but those who are there cannot see or smell this. He is questioned, punished, beaten, and wails and cries out. All this happens while he is lying dead and his family are around him, but they neither hear nor see it. The sleeper dreams and enjoys his dream or is tormented by it, while someone awake at his side is not able to perceive what is going on at all.
Allah – glory be to Him and may He be exalted! – has given inanimate objects awareness and perception by which they glorify their Lord. The stones fall down out of fear of Him. The mountains and trees prostrate. The pebbles, water and plants glorify Him. All this is going on but we are not aware of it. Allah the Great said, “There is nothing which does not glorify His praise, but you do not understand their glorification.” [al-Israa 44] The Companions heard the food that was being eaten glorifying Allah. That was because the Companions had a transparency of heart that does not now exist among us. All these things are part of our world and yet we are in complete ignorance of them. It is not too much of an extrapolation to extend this to our being unaware of the things of the Next World.
An illustration of the bliss of the interspace between the two worlds is found in the words of the Messenger of Allah, may Allah bless him and grant him peace, regarding martyrdom. He said,
“The martyr receives six good things from Allah: He forgives him as soon as his blood is spilled and shows him his place in the Garden, He protects him from the punishment of the grave, He gives him security from the Greatest Terror, He places on his head a crown of dignity, a single ruby of which is more valuable than this world and all that it contains, He marries him to seventy-two dark-eyed houris, and He intercedes for seventy of his relatives.”
He also said,
“When any of your brothers is struck down (in battle), Allah puts their souls in the crops of green birds which go to the rivers of the Garden, eat its fruits and shelter in golden lamps in the shade of the Throne. When they have experienced the sweetness of their food and drink and their excellent reception, they say, “If only our brothers knew what Allah has done for us they would never abandon jihad nor talk about profane war instead.” Allah, the Mighty and Majestic says, “I will relay this to them from you.”‘
Then Allah the Great revealed to His Messenger, may Allah bless him and grant him peace, ?Do not reckon those killed in the way of Allah as dead. They are alive with their Lard, provided for.’ (Al Imran (3):169)