Description of Paradise

Ibn al-Qayyim said, in regards to the description of the Paradise and the delights that it contains:

“And if you ask about its ground and its soil, then it is of musk and saffron.

And if you ask about its roof, then it is the Throne of the Most Merciful.

And if you ask about its rocks, then they are pearls and jewels.

And if you ask about its buildings, then they are made of bricks of gold and silver.

And if you ask about its trees, then it does not contain a single tree except that its trunk is made of gold and silver.

And if you ask about its fruits, then they are softer than butter and sweeter than honey.

And if you ask about its leaves, then they are softer than the softest cloth.

And if you ask about its rivers, then there are rivers of milk who’s taste does not change, and rivers of wine that is delicious to those who drink it, and rivers of honey that is pure, and rivers of water that is fresh.

And if you ask about their food, then it is fruits from whatever they will choose, and the meat of whatever birds they desire.

And if you ask about their drink, then it is Tasneem, ginger, and Kaafoor.

And if you ask about their drinking cups, then they are crystal-clear and made of gold and silver.

And if you ask about its shade, then a fast rider would ride in the shade of one of its trees for a hundred years and not escape it.

And if you ask about its vastness, then the lowest of its people would have within his kingdom and walls and palaces and gardens the distance that would be travelled in a thousand years.

And if you ask about its tents and encampments, then one tent is like a concealed pearl that is sixty miles long.

And if you ask about its towers, then they are rooms above rooms in buildings that have rivers running underneath them.

And if you ask about how far it reaches into the sky, then look at the shining star that is visible, as well as those that are far in the heavens that the eyesight cannot possibly reach.

And if you ask about the clothing of its inhabitants, then they are of silk and gold.

And if you ask about its beds, then its blankets are of the finest silk laid out in the highest of its levels.

And if you ask about the faces of its inhabitants and their beauty, then they are like the image of the Moon.

And if you ask about their age, then they are young ones of 33 years in the image of Adam, the father of humanity.

And if you ask about what they will be hearing, then it is the singing of their wives from among the Hoor al-‘Ayn, and better than that are the voices of the Angels and the Prophets, and better than that is the Speech of the Lord of the Worlds.

And if you ask about their servants, then they are young boys of everlasting youth who resemble scattered pearls.

And if you ask about their brides and wives, then they are young and full-breasted and have had the liquid of youth flow through their limbs; the Sun runs along the beauty of her face if she shows it, light shines from between her teeth if she smiles; if you meet her love, then say whatever you want regarding the joining of two lights; he sees his face in the roundness of her cheek as if he is looking into a polished mirror, and he sees the brightness from behind her muscles and bones; if she were to be unleashed upon the World, she would fill what is between the Heavens and the Earth with a beautiful wind, and the mouths of the creation would glorifiy, praise, and exclaim greatness, and everything between the East and the West would be adorned for her, and every eye would be shut from everthing but her, and the light of the Sun would be outshone just as the light of the Sun outshines the light of the stars, and everyone on the face of the Earth would believe in the Ever-Living, the One who Sustains and Protects all the exists.

And the covering on her head is better than the World and all that is in it, and she does not increase with age except in beauty; free from an umbilical cord, childbirth and menses, and pure of mucous, saliva, urine and other filthy things; her youth never fades, her clothing is never worn out, no garment can be created that matches her beauty, and no one who is with her can ever become bored; her attention is restricted to her husband, so she desires none but him, just as his attention is restricted to her so she is the sole object of his desire, and he is with her in utmost safety and security, as none has touched her before of either humans or Jinn.

And if you ask about the Day of Increase (in reward) and the visit of the all-Mighty, all-Wise, and the sight of His Face – free from any resemblance or likeness to anything – as you see the Sun in the middle of the day and the full Moon on a cloudless night, then listen on the day that the caller will call: ‘O People of Paradise! Your Lord – Blessed and Exalted – requests you to visit Him, so come to visit Him!’ So they will say: ‘We hear and obey!’

Until, when they finally reach the wide valley where they will all meet – and none of them will turn down the request of the caller – the Lord – Blessed and Exalted – will order His Chair to be brought there. Then, pulpits of light will emerge, as well as pulpits of pearls, gemstone, gold, and silver. The lowest of them in rank will sit on sheets of musk, and will not see what those who are on the chairs above them are given. When they are comfortable where they are sitting and are secure in their places, and the caller calls: ‘O People of Paradise! You have an appointment with Allaah in which He wishes to reward you!’ So they will say: ‘And what is that reward? Has He not already made our faces bright, made our scales heavy, entered us into Paradise, and pushed us away from the Fire?’

And when they are like that, all of a sudden a light shines that encompasses all of Paradise. So, they raise their heads, and, behold: the Compeller – Exalted is He, and Holy are His Names – has come to them from above them and majestified them and said: ‘O People of Paradise! Peace be upon you!’ So, this greeting will not be responded to with anything better than: ‘O Allaah! You are Peace, and from You is Peace! Blessed are You, O possessor of Majesty and Honor!’ So the Lord – Blessed and Exalted – will laugh to them and say: ‘O People of Paradise! Where are those who used to obey Me without having ever seen Me? This is the Day of Increase!’

So, they will all give the same response: ‘We are pleased, so be pleased with us!’ So, He will say: ‘O People of Paradise! If I were not pleased with you, I would not have made you inhabitants of My Paradise! So, ask of Me!’ So, they will all give the same response: ‘Show us your Face so that we may look at it!’ So, the Lord – Mighty and Majestic – will remove his covering and will majestify them and will cover them with His Light, which, if Allaah – the Exalted – had not Willed not to burn them, would have burned them.

And there will not remain a single person in this gathering except that his Lord – the Exalted – will speak to him and say: ‘Do you remember the day that you did this and that?’ and He will remind him of some of his bad deeds in the Worldy life, so he will say: ‘O Lord! Will you not forgive me?’ So, He will say: ‘Of course! You have not reached this position of yours (in Paradise) except by my forgiveness.’

So, how sweet is this speech to the ears, and how cooled are the righteous eyes by the glance at His Noble Face in the Afterlife…

{Some faces that Day will be shining and radiant, looking at their Lord…} (al-Qiyaamah:22-3)

From One World to Another

An Abridgement of Ibn Al-Qayyim’s Kitabar-Ruh

“Why, but when the soul reaches the throat of tke dying and at that moment you are watching – and We are nearer to him than you, but you do not see Us.”(1)

 

When someone dies, the Angel of Death comes to take his soul, no matter where he is. The dying person sees him, hears him, and speaks to him, but not with his eyes, his ears, or his tongue. How then? I do not know exactly. All I do know is that when he begins to move to another world, he sees, hears, and speaks, by some means which, we, the living, do not perceive. Many instances of this have been recorded:

Ibn Abi’d-Dunya mentions that on the day ‘Umar b. ‘Abdul-‘Aziz died, he said to those with him, ‘Sit with me.’ When they sat down next to him, he said, ‘I am the one You commanded and I failed you. You forbade me and I rebelled.’ He said this three times. Then he said,’But there is no god but Allah.’ Then he lifted his head and stared. They said you are looking very intently, Amir al-Muminin.’ He replied, ‘I see a presence which is neither man nor jinn.’ Then he died.

Fadala b. Dinar said, ‘I was with Muhammad b. Wasr when he was very near to death. He began to say, “Welcome to my Lord’s angels! There is no strength nor power except by Allah!” I smelled the sweetest fragrance that I had ever smelled. Then his eyes glazed over and he died.’

Why do I need to look so far into the past, to the days of the first Muslims? I myself was present at the moment of someone’s death in our own time. I was with my grandmother when she was dying. It was at the time of the Dawn Prayer. She was in pain and gasping for breath, moaning from the intensity of the pain but in spite of that, she kept repeating with great joy, ‘Allah! Death is sweet and saying the shahada over and over for several minutes. Then it was all over. This is where our job, those of us who are still alive, begins.

After the soul is taken, if it is a pure soul and has relatives in the Next World who are people of the Garden, they come to meet the soul with yearning and great joy. They ask it about the condition of those who are still alive in this world.

The angels then bear the soul from one heaven to the next until it comes into the presence of Allah, glory be to Him and may He be exalted! Then it returns and sees the washing of the body, its shrouding, and the funeral procession. It says either, Take me forward! Take me forwarff or ‘Where are you taking me?’ The people there cannot hear this.

When the corpse has been placed in the grave, the soul inserts itself between the body and the shroud so that the questioning can take place. Then the soul hears the receding footfall of the last of the people who followed the funeral and the earth is levelled over him. The earth, however, does not prevent the angels from reaching him. Even if a stone had been hollowed out for him and he had been placed into it and the opening sealed over with lead, it still would not stop the angels from reaching him. These dense substances cannot. prevent the passage of souls. They do not even stop thefinn. Allah -glory be to Him! – made stone and earth the same for the angels as air is for birds.

The Grave expands and stretches for the soul, and as a result for the body as well. The body is in a grave of the narrowest dimensions and yet it expands, because of the soul, as far as the eye can see.

For details and confirmation of what I have said I will quote a sound hadith of the Messenger of Allah, may Allah bless him and grant him peace. He said,

‘When the believer is about to depart from this world and go forward into the Next World, angels with faces as bright as the sun descend from the heavens and sit around him in throngs stretching as far as the eye can see. Then the Angel of Death comes and sits at his head and says, “Good soul, come out to forgiveness and pleasure from Allah!” Then his soul emerges like a drop of water flows from a water-skin and the angel takes hold of it. When he has grasped it, the other angels do not leave it in his hand even for the twinkling ofan eye. They take it and place it in a perfumed shroud and a fragrance issues from it like the sweetest scent of musk found on the face on the earth.

‘Then they bear it upwards and whenever they take it past a company of angels, they ask, “Who is this good soul?” and the angels with the soul reply, “So-and-so the son of so-and-so,” using the best names by which people used to call him in this world. They bring him to the lowest heaven and ask for the gate to be opened for him. It is opened for him and angels who are near Allah from each of the heavens accompany hin-rto the subsequent heaven until he reaches to the heaven where Allah the Great is. Allah, the Mighty and Majestic, says, ‘Register the book of My slave in ‘Illiyun and take him back to earth. I created them from it and I return them to it and I will bring them forth from it again.”

‘His soul is then returned to his body and two angels come to him. They make him sit up and say to him, “Who is your Lord?” He replies, “My Lord is Allah.” They ask him, “What is your religion?” He replies, “My religion is Islam.” They ask him, “Who is this man who was sent among you?” He replies, “The Messenger of Allah.” They ask him, “How did you come to know these things?” He replies, “I read the Book of Allah, believed it, and declared it to be true.” Then a Voice from on high declares, “My slave has spoken the truth, so spread out carpets from the Garden for him and open a gate of the Garden for him!” Then some of its fragrance and perfume comes to him, his grave is expanded for him as far as the eye can see, and a man with beautiful garments and a fragrant scent comes to him and says, “Rejoice in what delights you for this is the day which you were promised.” He asks, “Who are you? Yours is a face which presages good.” He replies, “I am your good actions.” Then he says, “0 Lord, let the Last Hour come soon so that I may rejoin my family and my property!”

‘When an unbeliever is about to depart from this world and go forward into the Next World, angels with black faces descend from the heavens carrying rough hair- cloth and sit around him in throngs stretching as far as the eye can see. Then the Angel of Death comes and sits at his head and says, “Foul soul, come out to the wrath and anger of Allah! “Then his soul divides up in his body and it is dragged out like a skewer is pulled out of wet wool. Then the angel takes hold of it. When he has grasped it, the other angels do not leave it in his hand even for the twinkling of an eye. They take it and wrap it in the rough hair-cloth and a stench comes out of it like the worst stench of a corpse on the face of the earth.

‘Then they take it up and whenever they take it past a company of angels, they ask, “Who is this foul soul?” and the angels with the soul reply, “So-and-so the son of so-and-so,” using the worst names by which people used to call him in this world. They bring him to the lowest heaven and ask for the gate to be opened for him. It does not get opened.’

The Messenger of Allah, may Allah bless him and grant him peace, then recited, “The gates of heaven will not be opened to them nor will they enter the Garden until the camel passes through the eye of the needle.” (2)

‘Then Allah, the Mighty and Majestic, will say, “Register his book in Sijjin in the lowest earth.” Then his soul is flung down.’

The Prophet then recited, ‘Whoever associates anything with Allah, it is as though he has fallen from heaven and the birds snatch him away or the wind sweeps him headlong into a place far away.’(3)

‘Then his soul is returned to his body and two angels come and say to him, “Who is your Lord?” He replies, “Alas, alas, I do not know!” Then a voice calls from on high, “My slave has lied, so spread out carpets from the Fire for him and open a gate of the Fire for him!”Then a hot blast from it comes to him, his grave is made so narrow for him that his ribs are pressed together, and a man with a hideous face and clothing and a foul odour comes to him and says, “Grieve on account of what has brought you disgrace for this is the day which you were promised.” He asks, “Who are you? Yours is a face which presages evil.” He replies, “I am your bad actions.” Then he says, “0 Lord, do not let the Last Hour come!”

Allah the Exalted says in His Mighty Book regarding the words used by the two angels who question the dead person in the grave, “Allah confirm those who believe with thefirm word, in the life of this world and in the Next World. Allah leads astray the wrongdoers, and Allah does whatever He will.” (4)

1 Al-Waqi’a (56):83-85 2 Al-A’raf (7):40

3 Al-Hajj (22):31

4 Ibrahim (14):27

 

 

The Meaning and Truth of Death

An Abridgement of Ibn Al-Qayyim’s Kitabar-Ruh

“Every soul will taste death.” (1)

What is death? Is it total annihilation? Or is it simply the severing of the soul from the body? When the soul is separated from the body, what happens to each of them? What happens to man himself, the owner of this transient body and eternal soul? Does, his consciousness come to an end when his body dies? Or does his awareness continue to live on in his eternal soul? Do the dead feel enjoyment and pain the way the living do? Can the awareness of a living man whose soul is locked in his body compare with the awareness of a dead man whose soul has been released from his body?

Naturally the answer to this last question is, No! The living are aware and the dead are aware. But there is a difference and there is no way to compare them. Death is not pure annihilation. It is merely movement from one world to another. When the dead man feels the bliss or punishment of the grave, it does not mean that he is alive in his grave, needing food, clothes and so on. Nor does it mean that his soul permeates all the parts of his body as it did when he was in this world. The soul returns to the body again in a way which is not the same as in this world so that the dead man can be questioned and tested in the grave.

We can get some idea of this by likening death to sleep which is the ‘lesser death’, even though there is ot course a natural disparity between the two. In sleep, a man’s soul comes out though his nostrils and travels until it comes into the presence of the Lord of the Throne. If the sleeper is in a state of purity, his soul prostrates before its Creator. Then it may encounter the world of dreams or meet with the souls of people who have died, but what it is in fact faced with is a page of Allah’s knowledge of the Unseen containing the good or evii He has decreed for this particular human being. If the sleeper is truthful, generous, and pure, and someone who does not concern himself with stupid things during the time he is awake, then when his soul returns to him it conveys to his heart the truth of what Allah, the Great and Majestic, has let him see. When this happens, it is called a ‘truthful dream.’ In sleep, the soul can also move freely about the world and meet with the souls of people who are still alive and gain knowledge from them. Some of what it learns is true and some false. The false part is the normal dream or the chatter of the soul.

If the sleeper is a liar and likes what is false, his soul still rises to heaven during sleep, moves freely about the world, meets with other souls and learns true information about the Unseen. However while the soul is returning to the body, it meets Shaytan in mid-air and he mixes the true with the false like he does when a person is awake. Then when he wakes up, the person is confused and muddled about what Allah the Mighty and Majestic has let him see and consequently does not understand it, only remembering what Shaytan showed him. Those are confused dreams.

In confirmation of these things, we will mention what Allah the Great has said in the sura, az-Zumar, “Allah takes the souls at the time of their death, and that which has not died, in its sleep. He withholds that against which He has decreed death, but looses the other until a stated term.” (2)

In the sleeping state, the soul does not completely leave the body as it does in the case of death, but remains inside the body not leaving it to move freely through the heavens. We can liken it to a ray or a thread whose end remains connected to the body. The ray of this soul stretches out to the heavens and then returns again to the body when the sleeper wakes up. It is like the rays of the sun. The orb of the sun is in the heaven but its rays are on the earth. The two cases are not exactly the same, but it is a way of making the meaning clearer.

In the case of death, the body remains in the ground while the soul is in the interspace between the two worlds. An ‘interspace’ is something which separates two things: heaven and earth, or this world and the Next World. In other words, it is the period between death and resurrection. The bliss or punishment of the Interspace is not the same as the bliss and punishment of the Next World. It is something that happens between this world and the Next World. Despite the fact that the soul is in the interspace between the two worlds and the body is inside the earth, the two are still connected. Consequently, the bliss or punishment happens to both of them.

We have likened this condition to the sleeping state, but naturally there is a distinction. In sleep, the soul subsists fundamentally in the body. It emerges as something like a ray to the heavens so that the sleeper has a dream in which he feels either happy or miserable. He experiences either bliss or punishment in his sleep.

In death, the soul subsists fundamentally in the Interspace not in the body. When Allah the Great desires bliss or punishment for the soul, He connects it to the body. It is in Heaven, but at the same time it looks at and is connected to the body in the ground. The soul is diffused in more than one place at the same time. The proof of this is that the Messenger, peace and blessings be upon him, saw Musa, peace and blessing be upon him, on the night of the Night Journey standing in prayer in his grave and he also saw him in the sixth and seventh heavens.

In spite of that, bliss or punishment happen at times to both body and soul simultaneously. At other times, it happens only to the scul. The dead person can lose awareness for a time but then the bliss or punistiment continues. That is dependent on the will of Allah the Great and dependent on a man’s own actions.

One of the people of earlier times thought that if his body were burned to ashes and then some of the ashes were cast into the sea and some onto dry land on a very windy day, he would be saved from the punishment of the grave. He therefore told his children to do that. However Allah commanded the sea to collect together the ashes that had been thrown into it and the land to do likewise and then said, ‘Get up!’ and the man found himself standing before Allah. Allah questioned him, asking ‘What made you do what you did?’ He replied,’I feared You, my Lord, but You are the one who knows best.’ Because of that Allah forgave him.

Doing that could not eliminate the punishment and the bliss of the Grave which affect those parts which no longer exist. If a righteous man were to be buried in a fiery furnace, his portion of bliss would still reach his soul and body and Allah would make the fire cool and peaceful for him. For the wrongdoer, the cool air becomes fire and hot wind. The elements and the matter of the universe obey their Lord, Originator and Creator. He makes them behave in whateverl, way He wills. None of them are able to do anything except ii what He wills. Everything obeys His will in humble submLesion to His decree.

1 Al Imran (2): 185 2 Az-Zumar (39):42