By: Shaykh Abu Bilal Mustafa al-Kanadi
Mysteries of the Soul – Expounded
© 1994 Abul-Qasim Publishing House
Allaah takes souls at the time of their death and [the souls] of those that do not die during their sleep. He retains those souls for which He has ordained death, whereas He releases the rest for an appointed term. [39:42]
Ibnul-Qayyim identifies over 90 supporting statements from the Quran, the Sunnah and sayings of the companions, which altogether give a complete picture of the nature of the human soul and the conditions which surround it.
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If you could see when the worngdoers taste the pangs of death and the angels stretch their hands out, [saying], ‘Deliver up your souls. This day you will be awarded a degrading punishment.’ [6:93]
Here it is stated that death is painful for the disbelievers. Although they are ordered to surrender their souls to the angels, they are unwilling; therefore, the soul must be forced out as it does not wish to meet its punishment. [Qurtubi]
According to hadeeth: The Angel of Death… [says], ‘O you foul soul, come out to the anger and wrath of your Lord.’ The soul inside the disbeliever’s body is overcome by terrible fear [and does not want to deliver itself up], whereupon the Angel of Death violently pulls it out like multi-pronged skewers being yanked out of wet wool – tearing with them the ateries and nerves.
Umm Salamah (radhiAllaahu ‘anha) reported: Allaah’s messenger (sallallaahu ‘alaihi wa sallam) entered upon Abu Salamah [i.e., his corpse], whose eyes were wide open. The prophet closed the lids and then said, ‘When the ruh is taken out, the eyesight follows it [i.e., watches it ascend].’ [Muslim & Ahmed]
The Angel of Death comes to the [dying] believer, sits at his head and says, ‘O you good soul, come out and receive your Lord’s forgiveness and pleasure.’ Then the soul flows out effortlessly just as water flows from the mouth of a waterskin.
Abu Hurairah (radhiAllaahu ‘anhu) narrated that the messenger of Allaah (sallallaahu ‘alaihi wa sallam) said: When the soul of a believer comes out [of its body], two angels receive it and rise with it towards the heavens, whereupon the inhabitants of the heavens say, “A good soul has come from the earth. Allaah has blessed you and the body which you used to occupy.” [Muslim]
The nafs and the ruh:
The correct view, as maintained by the vast majority of Muslim theologians and endorsed by the scholars of ahl-us-Sunnah, is that the terms nafs and ruh are interchangeable. However, the term nafs is usually applied when the soul is inside the body, and the word ruh is used when the soul is aprt from the body. However, each one has clearly distinct and restricted applications in certain contexts. E.g., nafs may represent self as in 24:61, or revelation as in 42:52, or Jibreel as in 26:192-193, or in an even more restricted sense e.g., spirit of faith as in 58:22.
Hadeeths which prove that both are the same thing:
Umm Salamah (radhiAllaahu ‘anha) reported that the messenger of Allaah (sallallaahu ‘alaihi wa sallam) said: When the ruh is taken out, the eyesight follows it.
Abu Hurairah (radhiAllaahu ‘anhu) reported that the messenger of Allaah (sallallaahu ‘alaihi wa sallam) said: Do you not see that when a person dies his gaze is fixed intently; that occurs when his eyesight follows his nafs [as it comes out] [Both in Muslim & Qurtubi’s at-Tadhkirah] Also see Siddeeq Hasan Khan’s Fath-ul-Bayaan.
The experience of death: Every soul will taste death [3:185]
Hardships and agonies:
And the agony of death comes, in truth; that is what you wished to avoid. [50:19] In this verse the phrase “sakratul mawt” is used to indicate the swoon of death. This verse implies that every dying person must experience some pain and torment. [See al-Alusi’s Ruh-ul-Ma’ani and Qurtubi’s tafseer]
Aishah (radhiAllaahu ‘anha) related: [On the occasion of his approaching death], Allaah’s messenger (sallallaahu ‘alaihi wa sallam) had a small vessel of water placed before him. He began to dip his hands in the water,a nd wiping his face with them. He said: There is none worthy of worship except Allaah. Indeed death brings with it agonies! Then he raised his hand up and kept repeating, ‘In the most exalted company’ until his soul was taken and his hand fell limp. [Bukhari]
Aishah (radhiAllaahu ‘anha) reported: Truly, I saw the messenger of Allaah when death approached him. He had a container with some water in it into which he dipped his hand and then wiped his face. Then he said: O Allaah help me to overcome the agonies of death.
Appearance of Satan:
Hadeeth: Verily Satan comes to you at all circumstances and affairs of your life, even at the time of eating. [Muslim]
Al-Qurtubi mentions that a great number of pious and dependable scholars are known to have witnessed the presence of Satan at death. He relates that he heard one of his own respected teachers, Imam Abul-‘Abbaas Ahmad bin ‘Umar al-Qurtubi, say, “I visited the brother of our teacher, shaikh Abu Jafar Muhammad al-Qurtubi at Cordova and found him near death. It was said to him, ‘Repeat Laa ilaaha illallaah,’, to which he replied, ‘No! No!’ When he came to, we mentioned what had occurred. He said, ‘Tow devils came to me , one on my left and the other on my right. One of them said, “Die as a Jew, for verily it is the best of religions,” while the other said, “Die as a Christian, for truly it is the best of religions.” So I answered them saying, “No! No! How dare you say such a thing to me!”
Repentance before death:
Hadeeth: When any of you completes the last tashahhud of his prayer, let him seek refuge in Allaah from four things, saying, ‘O Allaah, verily I seek refuge in you from the punishment of the Hellfire and the torment of the grave; from the fitnah of life and of death; and from the evil fitnah of the false messiah.[Muslim, Nasai & others]
Allaah accepts the repentance of the servant so long as his spirit has not arrived at his throat. [Tirmidhi, al-Haakim, Ibn Hibbaan]
Their faith was of no use to themonce they saw Our doom. [40:85]
Forgiveness is not for those who continue to do evil deeds up until when death comes to one of them [and] he says, ‘Truly, I repent now!’ [4:18]