What Happens to the Soul After Death?

Answered by Ustadha Sulma Badrudduja

Question: What happens to the soul after death? Will it be in the grave along with the body? I read that souls are present at the grave on Thursday night until Saturday. If this is the case, where are the souls on other days of the week?

Answer: Wa alaikum assalam wa rahmatullahi wa barakatuh,

I hope this reaches you in the best of states.

Imam al-Qurtubī mentions in his exhaustive work regarding what happens after death, al-Tadhkira fī Ahwāl al-Mawtā wa Umūr al-Ākhira, that the souls (arwāh) of Believers will meet one other in the skies (tatalāqā fil-samā’). This is similar to what Ibn al-Qayyim al-Jawziyya mentions in Kitab al-Rūh about the souls of the deceased meeting one another, visiting one another, and making dhikr with one another. He mentions that this is specific to the souls of the believers because they are in a state of blessing, free to roam (muna`ama, mursala), as opposed to the souls of the disbelievers, who are tormented and restricted (mu`adhdhaba, mahbūsa). Imam Ibn al-Qayyim continues,

“Each soul will be with its companions who are at the same [level of] good deeds, and the soul of our Prophet Muhammad (may Allah bless him and grant him peace) is with the Highest Companion [Allah, Most High]. Allah says, ‘Whoever obeys Allah and the Messenger, they are amongst those whom Allah has blessed, of the Prophets, those of great faith, the martyrs, and the righteous. What excellent companions are they!’ [Quran 4:69] The togetherness [mentioned in this verse] holds for this abode, the Intermediary Realm (barzakh), and the Abode of Recompense [i.e. the afterlife]. A person is with whom he loves in all three of these abodes.”

A rank unique to martyrs is that their souls will enjoy the gardens of Paradise even before the Day of Resurrection. Evidence for this is the hadith narrated by Muslim:

“Indeed the souls of the martyrs are in the hearts of green birds, and they have lanterns hanging from the throne of Allah. They roam around in Paradise wherever they wish and then they return to their lanterns. Their Lord casts a glance at them and asks, “Do you desire anything?” They say, “What can we desire for when we roam around in Paradise wherever we wish?” He asks them this three times. When they realize that they will not cease to be questioned, they say, “O Lord! We wish that You return our souls to our bodies in order that we be killed in Your Path again.” When it is realized that they have no want, they will be left [to their joy].”


Though some scholars have said that the souls of believers other than martyrs may enjoy the same blessing of being in Paradise, Imam al-Qurtubī held that this is not the stronger position, as indicated by the specific mention of martyrs in the previous hadith. The generality of the following hadith also indicates that believers who are not martyrs will not enjoy this unique blessing:

“When one of you dies, his resting place is shown to him morning and evening, if he is from the people of Paradise, then [his place will be] from the people of Paradise, and if he is from the people of the Fire, then [his place will be] from the people of Fire, and it will be said, ‘this is your resting place until Allah resurrects you on the Day of Judgment.’” [al-Bukhārī, Muslim].

Imam al-Qurtubī mentions as a weak opinion that the souls visit their graves on every Friday, and that is why visiting graves on the eve of Friday and on Friday is recommended. It is mentioned in the commentary of `Umdat al-Sālik that the sprit’s connection with the grave is never severed, and it is stronger from `Asr on Thursday until sunrise on Saturday, which is why people often visit graves on Thursday afternoon and Friday. [Shaykh Nuh Keller, Reliance of the Traveler]

Allah knows best, and we pray to Him to save our bodies and souls from the torment of the grave and to grant us the company of the Prophets and righteous believers.


Checked & Approved by Faraz Rabbani

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