Life After Death
There are various definitions of and different concepts about Death as held by different personalities, religion as well as others. Some may say Death is the end; while others say `Death is a means to enter the permanent phase of life'.

"To the ignorant, death means the end of life, while in reality it is but the evening leading to the dawn of Eternal life."

According to an English Scholar :
"Death is a slave to other means of expiration. For instance one cannot achieve Death unless he meets some accident, has illness -maybe heart failure, poisoning, a fall, etc."
There is no escape from death.

Death is a word dread by most of the people, but little do they realise, that everything which comes into existence from nothing, has to perish, decay or die one day. This is the law of nature. However hard one may try, the science may reach its zenith, there is no escape from death.

The Holy Qur'an emphatically declares:
"Whenever you will be, death will overtake you, even if you are in (strong and) lofty towers". (an Nisa, 4:78)

"Every one on it will perish. But will remain for ever the Face of the Lord, the Glorious and Gracious."

"Every soul must taste death, (and we test you by evil and good by way of trial; and to us you shall be brought back)."
How does death come?

At the approach of death, when the eyes, ears and tongue cease to function, the person concerned sees (in spiritual vision) three things which claim to be friends:
  1. One of them says, "I will remain with you till your death." (That friend his worldly wealth and assets).

  2. "I will accompany you till the door of your grave." (And this is his children).

  3. But one friend says. "I am with you forever, in life as well as death." (these are his deeds of this world)
When time comes for a man to die, Allah sends two angels:

MUSHKIYAH - One who makes him generous, and
MUNSIYYAH - One who makes him forget.

i.e. MUSHKIYAH: makes him generous with his family wealth
      MUNSIYYAH: makes him forget all worldly affairs.

Also two other angels visit the dying man:

RAQUEEB - Comes to deliver the record of good deeds, and,
ATEED - Comes to deliver the record of bad deeds.

When these angels have done their job, the Angel of Death (Malakul Maut / Isra'il) arrives and tells him not to worry (especially if he has good record of his deeds):

"By Allah, I am kinder to you then your father. Now open your eyes and look."

Then the dying person's spiritual eyes are opened.

Then he hears the following call (present in the Holy Qur'an);
"O soul that are at rest! Return to your lord, well pleased with Him, well-pleasing Him. So enter among my servants and enter into my gardens." (al Fajr, 89:27-30)
At that time the believers only wish is to die as soon as possible so that he may reach that caller. Thus, the believer leaves this world without any sorrow and without any care. And Allah gives him death when he himself desires death above all things, so that he may reach the Messenger of Allah.

Barzakh literally means "Barrier". It has been used for the period between Death and the Day of Resurrection (ie the day when all human beings will be brought back to life). During Barzakh, one's correct belief and good deeds alone will assist him in having a peaceful time.

Imam Ja'far as-Sadiq (A) has said:
"We will intercede (ask for forgiveness) on your behalf on the Day of Judgement, but, by Allah, I am worried about you for the period when you would be in Barzakh"
Sinners will be punished during this period. The Holy Qur'an confirms the period of Barzakh saying,
"......And before them is a barrier until the day they are raised."(al Mu'minoon, 23:100)
The Groups In Barzakh:

There are 3 groups in Barzakh:
  1. The true perfect believers

    This group of people are perfect in their Faith and virtuous in their deeds. They lived a blameless life, and if there was some mistake or sin, their worldly troubles like, illness, poverty, death of near and dear ones, troublesome neighbours, and/or agony at the time of Death were sufficient to be counted as payment for the sins they committed.

    Allah knows that they deserve reward; but since the Day of Judgement has not yet come, they cannot be sent to Paradise. By the rule of the law they should be left without any reward till they are resurrected; but by the Mercy of Allah, they are questioned about their beliefs and on giving correct answers, they enter a state of Bliss, which gives them the satisfaction of knowing that their future is secure. They find pleasure and happiness in their grave and wait eagerly for the Day of Resurrection.

  2. The confirmed unbelievers and hypocrites

    These are the people whose lives were devoid of good deeds, or if there were any good deeds performed, the worldly blessings of health, wealth, good family and friends, prestige and power, etc and/or the ease at the time of death were sufficient rewards.

    Allah knows that there place is in Hell; but He does not send them there before the Day of Judgement. So, to give a fore-taste of their punishment, they are questioned about their beliefs, and when they do not give correct answers, their graves are turned into cells of punishment; and they wish that Qiyamah would not come at all.

    The reward or punishment of Barzakh is different from that of Paradise or Hell. The reward or punishment of Barzakh is for the Soul only. It is for this reason that we do not see anyone being rewarded or punished in the grave. In the tradition of Ma'sumeen (A) it has been compared to happy dreams or nightmares.

  3. Neither perfect believers nor confirmed believers

    These are the children, the insane, those who for some reason or another could not differentiate the right path from the wrong path, those who were so far out of the Islamic Environment that they were not aware of the truth of Islam, those who did not know about Islam but yet were not enemies of Islam, those whose religious beliefs were not based upon logical understanding but just followed what their families were following, those non-believers who love the Holy Prophet (S) and the Ahlul Bayt (A) without knowing that they were the True Guides sent by Allah.

    Such people will not be subjected to the questioning and squeezing in the grave. They will left in a state like deep slumber, and Allah will decide about them on the Day of Judgement. Till then, there is neither reward nor punishment for them.
After these main groups, there still remains a group in between. This group is of those believers who had committed so many sins that could not be wiped out by the worldly troubles and agony of death. If Allah decides that such a believer should come on the Day of Judgement clean from all blemishes and free from all sins, then He may put him under punishment during Barzakh. It is this punishment which has been referred to in the Hadith by Imam Ja'far as-Sadiq (A):
"We will intercede on your behalf on the day of judgement but, by Allah, I am worried about you whilst you would be in Barzakh."
On the other hand, if Allah decides to leave this case in suspense till Qiyamah, then it will fall under the 3rd group.

All these things depend upon the justice and mercy of Allah. We have not been told enough to know all the details about all the groups. It is about the 1st, 2nd and last group of people who will be punished in Barzakh, that the Holy prophet (S) has said:

"When one dies, his Qiyamah starts."

Questioning In The Grave
According to traditions, after one has been buried and those who came to bury him go away (it is said that 40 steps away from the grave is sufficient), two angels come into the grave. One is called Munkar, the other Nakir. The soul is caused to re-enter the body for questioning. Then the person (now alive again) is asked :

"Who is your Rabb (Lord)? Who is your Prophet? What is your Religion? What is your Book? What is your Qiblah? Who are your Imams?

Talqeen prepares the dead person to answer all these questions. Since it teaches the dead-body the correct answer to the questions which are to be asked.

Whoever would answer the questions correctly would get comfort and mercy in his grave and the garden of bliss in the Akhirat; and whoever would not answer correctly, for him would be the fare of boiling water in his grave and Hell in the next world.

Questioning in the grave includes questions about Salaat, Zakaat, Haj, Fasting and the love for Ahlul-Bait (A). If he is a believer and answers correctly, the angels tell him to sleep peacefully, and a door is opened into his grave from the paradise; he sees his place in the paradise, then his soul is taken out of the body and is placed in the neighbourhood of the 14 Ma'sumeen (A).

After the questioning in the grave by Munkar and Nakir the angels, Mubashir and Bashir, come to congratulate the believers if they have answered successfully.

Again the love for Imam Ali (A) helps during the questioning. Our Holy Prophet (S) told Imam Ali (A):

"Those who love you will be glad in three places:

  1. At the time of death. (Because you will be there visiting them)
  2. At the questioning in the grave (As you will be teaching them the correct replies)
  3. At the time of coming before Allah (and you will be there introducing them)."
If he is not a believer, and does not answer correctly, then the angels punish him with and a door is opened from the hell into his grave.

After the questioning in the grave, the soul of a believer is sent to Wadius Salaam (the Valley of Peace); and that of an unbeliever to Wadiul Barhut (the Valley of Turmoil/Trouble). The Valley of peace is said to be in Najaf, where the soul of the believers remain in peace waiting for the Day of Judgement; and the Valley of trouble is said to be in Yemen, where the souls of the hypocrites and unbelievers remain in turmoil, afraid of the approaching of the Day of Resurrection.

Squeezing In The Grave (Fishare Qabr):

Imam Ja'far as Sadiq (A) has said:

"Whoever is subject to the questioning in the grave, is also squeezed by the grave therein, and the one who is exempted from questioning, is exempted from the squeeze also."

For some believers the squeeze will be like two friend embracing each other. For some sinful believers, the squeezing will be severe enough to fracture the ribs. For non-believers, the squeezing will be worst.

The squeezing is not dependent upon the corpse being buried in the earth. In the words of Imam (A.S.): "The lord of the earth is also the lord of the atmosphere."

And the corpse would be squeezed, if it deserved it, no matter in what condition or place it happens to be.

Once a companion of Imam Ali ar Ridha (A) asked him as to what he had to say about those dead ones who, though liable to be subjected to the squeeze in the grave, could not actually be buried in the ground. Imam (A) replied:

"If by virtue of their deeds they are entitled to punishment in the grave, they will receive it, no matter where they lie dead, or in whatever form they happen to be in. Their soul will receive the same painful treatment as the body receives through this severe embrace of the grave."

Raj'at - Qiyamate Sughra
Prior to the total resurrection, the Final Day of Judgement or Reckoning, there will be a period of Raj'at or Qiyamate Sughra i.e. Partial resurrection wherein the Holy Prophet (S) and the Ahle Bait (A), a group of people perfect in faith and belief, and a group of extremely wicked people will be brought to life again. This will take place during the period when the expected and the awaited Imam Mahdi (A), the twelfth and the last successor of the Holy Prophet (S) will appear on this earth.

Imam Ja'far as Sadiq (A) says:

"He who does not believe in our Raj'at (return) is not from us."

Thus belief in Raj'at is an article of faith.

Islam demands a Muslim to essentially believe in the return of every thing to the Lord for the Final Judgement of every soul with regard to its faith and actions. There are repeated declarations in the Holy Qur'an, informing man of this Day and warning him to be on guard in this life on earth, against the Requital which is sure and certain to take place. It is the conviction about this fact that would keep man, on the right path, duly guarded against his accountability. It is natural that when an individual is not mindful of his or her accountability, nothing would stop him or her, to commit any sin or crime and with the sense of one's accountability one would never dare to exceed the limits, and would always remain guarded.

A Muslim should and must believe in Qiyamah and live such a clean life which would help him to pass the Divine Judgement easily and earn the life eternal of the heavenly bliss. The fifth principle of the faith is the belief in Qiyamah. The faith in this principle is compulsory.

Every human being is individually accountable for each one's faith and deeds. The Holy Qur'an declares:

"And for all according to what they did; and that He may fully recompense their deeds, "and they shall not be done any injustice." (al Ahqaf, 46:19)

After death, all human beings will be resurrected to be rewarded and punished according to each individual's earnings of virtue and vice in this life. "The present life is only a season for cultivation or effort, and the life after death will be the period of harvest or the result. This life, is for creating causes for effects in the hereafter. As one sows now, so then shall be reap.

First And Second Trumpets

The sound of the trumpet will be the first stage of the Day of Judgement. Allah has mentioned it in many ayats of the Holy Qur'an. An example of such an ayat :
" And theTrumpet shall be blown, then shall swoon (die) whoever is in heavens and whoever is in the earth,. Then the (Trumpet) shall be blown again and lo! they shall stand up awaiting (they shall wake up again)."
So the trumpet will be blown twice. When it will be blown for the first time, people (and every living thing) will die. After it is blown for the second time, everyone will wake up and indeed it will be the Day of Judgement.

Imam Zainul Abedeen (A) was asked : "How much time will pass between the two blowings of the trumpet ? He said : "As much as Allah would please." Then he was asked : "Then please tell me, O Son of the Messenger of Allah, how the trumpet will be blown ?"

The Imam (A) said :

"So far as the first blowing is concerned, verily Allah will command angel Israfil, who will come towards the earth, and with him will be a Trumpet; and the Trumpet will have one mouth-piece and two tubes; and the space between the two tubes will be like that between the sky and earth.

"When the angels will see Israfil descend twards the earth with his Trumpet, they will say, 'Verily, Allah has ordered the inhabitants of earth to die, and the inhabitants of heaven to die.'

"Then Israfil will blow the trumpet once; and the voice will come out of that side which is towards the earth and all living beings on the earth will die; and then the voice will come out from the side which is towards the heaven, and all living things in the heavens will die.

"Then Allah will say to Israfil : 'O Israfil, die.' And he will die too. And they will remain like this as long as Allah would wish."
The Imam (A) continues :

"Then Allah will create a loud voice which will be heard throughout the earth and the heaven : 'Whose is the Kingdom this day ?'. No one will give any answer (as there will be none alive); then He will answer Himself creating a loud voice: 'It is Of Allah, the One, the Subduer (Holy Qur'an 40:16); I subdued all the creatures and gave them death; verily, I am Allah, there is no God except I alone, there is no partner for me and I made the creatures by my power and I made them die by My will; and I shall resurrect them by my Power.

"Then Allah (whenever he decides) will cause the second blowing of the Trumpet; the voice will come out from the side which is towards the heavens; inhabitants there will become alive and will stand as before, and the same wil happen to the people of the earth. People will now be gathered for reckoning (giving accounts of their good and bad deeds). It is indeed the Day - the Day of Judgement or Qiyamah.