Islamic view of death

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] Suicide, Euthanasia, and unjust murder as means of death are all prohibited in Islam, and are considered major sins.[3][4]


Death is a significant event is 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.[5] Thus, every person has only one chance to prepare themselves for the life to come where God will resurrect and judge every individual and will entitle them to rewards or punishment, based on their good or bad deeds.[5][6] And death is seen as the gateway to and beginning of the afterlife. In Islamic belief, death is predetermined by God, and the exact time of a person's death is known only to God. Muslims expect that their last word in this world would be their profession of faith (which reads "I testify that there is no god but Allah, and Muhammad is the messenger of Allah"). That's why, those near a dying man encourage him to pronounce these words.[7] Sometimes, it is whispered into the ear of the dying.

Islamic account of death

Islamic tradition discusses elaborately, almost in graphic detail, as to what exactly happens before, during, and after the death. Malak al-Maut, often called Azrael, is the angel of death assigned by God for taking out or extracting the soul of the dying. When the time of any sinner's or a disbeliever's death comes, the angels of punishment arrive and take position in front of him. Then, Malak al-Maut arrives and tells the soul to come out to the wrath of God. Being terrified, the soul desperately tries to hide itself in the body. Thereupon, Malak al-Maut starts beating the soul and extracts it from the body in a most painful way. The painful process of taking out a sinner's soul has been compared with "the dragging of an iron skewer through moist wool, tearing the veins and sinews."[8] The soul is then wrapped in a dirty cloth which emits bad smell. Carrying the soul, the angels head towards the sky. 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 sky, but its doors are not opened for the evil soul. Consequently, the soul is then thrown in lowest stage of the earth called 'Sijjin' where it is punished until the Day of Judgment.[9]

On the other hand, when a righteous believer dies, bright-faced angels from heaven descends with divine perfume and shroud. Then the Malak al-Maut comes, and tells the soul to come out to the pleasure and mercy to 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][10]

Muhammad is reported as saying that 'When the ruh (soul) is taken out, the eyesight follows it' (Sahih Muslim).[11]

Hardship during death

Islamic tradition narrates that death is a painful event. When the soul is extracted out of the body, every dying person undergoes a painful experience.[1][11] It is narrated in authentic hadith collection that at the time of death, Islamic prophet Muhammad was dipping his hands in water and was wiping his face with them saying "There is no god but Allah; indeed death has its pangs."[11]

Barzakh and grave

Main articles: Barzakh and Munkar and Nakir

In Islamic belief, Barzakh is the time period between this worldly life and the resurrection. It is the intermediate stage that starts after death and lasts until the resurrection on the Day of Judgment. It is said that the martyrs – persons who die on the way of God – are able to escape Barzakh and go the paradise directly.[12]

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.[13] Muslims believe that each person is interrogated in the grave by two terrifying 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.[8][14]

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.[15] 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.[15]

In the Quran

The Quran at its several places discusses the issue of death. Death brings with it pain and agony, and 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.[3][4][16] Committing suicide to save oneself from suffering is discouraged.[4] It is reported that a wounded Muslim soldier in the battlefield killed himself because of his suffering, upon which Muhammad commented that he would not be allowed into Paradise. Islam teaches that in the face of hardship, one should not directly pray for death. Instead, one should say: "Oh God! Let me live as long as life is good for me, and let me die if death is good for me."[4] Euthanasia is considered one form of suicide and has the same ruling as that of suicide.[4][17] Unjust killing of any human being is one of the most heinous and the cardinal sins in Islam.[18]


Main article: Akhirah

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 also


  1. 1 2 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. 1 2 Lester, D (2006). "Suicide and Islam". Archives of Suicide Research. 10 (1): 77–97. doi:10.1080/13811110500318489. PMID 16287698.
  4. 1 2 3 4 5 Oliver Leaman, ed. (2006). The Qur'an: An Encyclopedia. Routledge. pp. 177–8. ISBN 978-0-415-32639-1.
  5. 1 2 Oliver Leaman, ed. (2006). The Qur'an: An Encyclopedia. Routledge. p. 27. ISBN 978-0-415-32639-1.
  6. Juan E. Campo, ed. (2009). Encyclopedia of Islam. Facts on File. p. 185. ISBN 978-0-8160-5454-1.
  7. Buturovic, Amila. Carved in Stone, Etched in Memory: Death, Tombstones and Commemoration in Bosnian Islam Since C.1500. p. 35.
  8. 1 2 3 Matt Stefon, ed. (2010). Islamic Beliefs and Practices. New York: Britannica Educational Publishing. pp. 83–85. ISBN 978-1-61530-060-0.
  9. Ashiq Ilahi Bulandshahri (1994). What Happens After Death (PDF). New Delhi: Adam Publishers & Distributors. pp. 11–12.
  10. Ashiq Ilahi Bulandshahri (1994). What Happens After Death. New Delhi: Adam Publishers & Distributors. pp. 9–10.
  11. 1 2 3 Oliver Leaman, ed. (2006). The Qur'an: An Encyclopedia. p. 171.
  12. Juan E. Campo (ed.). Encyclopedia of Islam. p. 186.
  13. Ashiq Ilahi Bulandshahri (1994). What Happens After Death. p. 2.
  14. Nigosian, S. A. (2004). Islam: Its History, Teaching, and Practices. pp. 123–4. ISBN 0-253-21627-3.
  15. 1 2 Maariful Quran (exegesis of the Quran) by Muhammad Shafi Usmani. Karachi. Chapter 83.
  16. Juan E. Campo (ed.). Encyclopedia of Islam. p. 641.
  17. Juan E. Campo (ed.). Encyclopedia of Islam. p. 642.
  18. Maariful Quran (exegesis of the Quran) by Muhammad Shafi Usmani. Karachi. Chapter 17, verse 33.
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