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Related Categories: 'Aqeedah, Death

Souls of the Dead Meeting with People Who are Awake

12th November 2014
It is a common concept among some people and cultures that the souls of the dead can and do come back to the earth and converse with the living (who are awake). In order to assess the validity of such a claim it is essential to explore the various literature relating to this issue. From the sources available, research can only lead to a conclusion that it is neither possible nor proven that the souls of the dead return to the world of the living, meet with them, converse and so on. This conclusion is based on the texts of the divinely revealed law, and the following evidence from the Qur'aan and the Sunnah clearly affirms such a stand.

Evidence from the Qur'aan Against Return

There are a number of Qur'aanic verses whose texts unequivocally prove that the souls of the dead do not return to the earth. For the sake of brevity only two are quoted, the first as follows:

"[The disbelievers persist in their rejection of the truth of the Resurrection] [1] Until, when death comes to one of them, he says: 'My Lord! Send me back [to life] so that I may work in righteousness regarding things left behind.' But no" It is only a word he says; and behind them is a barrier untul the day they are raised up." (Sooratul-Mu'minoon, 23:99-100)

In these verses Allaah describes the condition of the disbelieving polytheists who reject the existence of the Resurrection and who say:

"If we become dust and bones, are we to be resurrected?! We and our forefathers before us have been promised this already. Such is nothing but fables of the ancients!" (Sooratul-Mu'minoon, 23:82-83)

But when death comes upon one of them he realises his misguidance and error; when he sees the Angel of Death approaching to seize his soul he wishes he could return to life to rectify his rejection of the truth and perform works of piety. But the reply is an emphatic "No!" His petitioning for a return to earth is not going to be answered. [2]

The fact that he cannot return to the earth is finalised by the statement that a barrier (barzakh) has been erected behind him and thus he cannot return to any other existence in the world. [3]

The word "barzakh" is used here to indicate a veil, barrier or partition between two things. [4]

According to Qur'aanic commentators, the barzakh is the barrier between death and any return to worldly existence. This has also been related by Mujaahid رحمه الله, [5] one of the dependable scholars of tafseer. The great commentator and companion, Ibn 'Abbaas رضي الله عنهما, defines it as a hijaab (a partition or veil). Ad-Dahhaak رحمه الله, another taabi'ee scholar of tafseer, says that the barzakh is the stage between this world and the Hereafter. [6]

In his tafseer, al-Qurtubi رحمه الله concludes his exposition of these various interpretations, stating, "The barzakh is a barrier between two things. It is the stage between this world and the other world - from the time of death until the Resurrection. Thus, whoever dies enters the barzakh." [7]

There are no contradictions among the various explanations by these scholars; rather, they all point to one undeniable fact: the soul, having been separated from its earthly body, enters into a realm behind which there is a barrier prohibiting any return. Some may argue that the above-mentioned verses refer to only the stubborn rejectors of truth, such as the polytheists and other disbelievers who deny the Resurrection and Judgement. On that assumption, Muslims and those from other faiths and philosphies who believe in the Resurrection are not indicated by these Qur'aanic verses. However, although these verses specifically refer to the polytheists of Makkah (who denied the possibility of the resurrection of the soul), in includes all souls of the dead, regardless of who they are. This is affirmed by the second Qur'aanic text which follows:

"Oh you who have believed, do not let your wealth and children distract you from the remembrance[8] of Allaah. Those of you who do so are the losers. And spend in charity something from that which We have provided you before death comes to one of you, whereupon he says,'My Lord, if only You would grant me respite for a while, so I could give alms and be among the righteous.' But Allaah will never grant reprieve to any soul when its appointed time has come. And Allaah is aware of all that you do." (Sooratul-Munaafiqoon, 63:9-11)

In these verses Allaah, the Blessed and Exalted, warns the believers not to be diverted from their duties and obligations to their Creator due to being engrossed in their wealth and offspring. Furthermore, they are encouraged to give charity from the sustenance which has been provided by their gracious Lord. It is emphasised that they must do this before death comes, at which time one will wish to be granted another term of life - if only just a little while - in order to perform righteous deeds. Ibn 'Abbaas رضي الله عنهما, denying that return is refused only to disbelievers, recited these verses which indicate the deceased believer's soul requesting a return to the world in order to do works of righteousness. [9]

Evidence from the Sunnah Against Return

There are a number of texts from the Sunnah which further support the contention that even the pious and most righteous believers' souls cannot return to the earth. One example is sufficient to prove the point. As it is well known, the souls of Muslim martyrs (Shuhadaa') are freed upon death to roam in Paradise to partake of some of its pleasures in a limited fashion. The following hadeeth relates that the martyr desires to return to the world but cannot:

The Prophet صلى الله عليه وسلم said, "No servant who has good in store for him with Allaah and dies ever wants to return to the earth - even if he were to have the whole world and everything that is in it - except for the martyr. And that is due to what he sees in the nobility of martyrdom. Verily, he would like to return back to the earth in order to be martyred another time." [10]

The preceding texts of both the Qur'aan and the Sunnah clearly illustrate that the souls of the dead do not come back to the earth to visit relatives or friends, neither in the form of a spirit or an apparition, [11] nor in their previous bodies [12] or in any other person's body. [13] [14]


[1] This phrase is understood; these verses continue a line of argumentation begun in the proceding verses.

[2] See Imaam al-Qurtubi's رحمه الله al-Jaami'u li Ahkaam al-Qur'aan, vol. 12, p. 150.

[3] This is a clear refutation of the false claims of certain philosophers and proponents of various religions which adhere to a belief in the

transmigration of souls or in reincarnation.

[4] See Imaam al-Isfahaani's رحمه الله Mu'jam Mufradaat Alfaadh al-Qur'aan, p. 41 and Imaam Ibn al-Atheer's an-Nihaayah fee Ghareeb al-Hadeeth,

vol. 1, p. 118.

[5] A taabi'ee.

[6] See al-Jaami'u li Ahkaam al-Qur'aan, vol. 12, p. 150.

[7] Ibid.

[8] Indicates all duties towards Allaah, such as prayer, fasting, charity, etc.

[9] See al-Jaami'u li Ahkaam al-Qur'aan, vol. 18, pp. 130-131.

[10] Recorded by Imaam Muslim رحمه الله and Imaam at-Tirmidhi رحمه الله.

[11] Such as a glowing form resembling a human.

[12] Because they are subject to decay and decomposition.

[13] Such as is alleged by Buddhists or philosophers who say that a transmigration of souls occurs. Others claim that the deceased person's soul may enter a

live person's body and use it as a medium with which to communicate with the living.

[14] Abu Bilal Mustafa al-Kanadi رحمه الله: Mysteries of the Soul Expounded

posted by Seifeddine-M on 12th November 2014 - 0 comments


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