Does The Spirit Die, Or Does Death Come to The Body Alone?
People have differed on this. Some say, “The spirit dies and tastes death because it is a soul, and ‘every soul is a taster of death (Quran iii, 182, xxi,36, xxix,57 ).’” They say “The proofs indicate that only God remains. He said, ‘Everyone who is upon it is vanishing, and the face of your lord remains, possessor of majesty and honor (Quran Iv,26).’ And he said, ‘Everything perishes except this face (Quran Iv,26).’ And he said, ‘ Everything perishes except his face (Quran xxviii,88).’”
They said, ” If angels die, then human souls are all the more likely to die.” They said, “He said concerning the people of the Fire, They said, ‘Our Lord, Thou hast killed us twice and hast brought us to life twice (Quran xl, 11).’ The first death is this seen one, which is the body’s; and the other one is the spirit’s.”
Others said, “Spirits doe not die; for they are created for survival, and only bodies. die.” They said, “Those traditions point to this which indicate the bliss and punishment of the spirits after the separation, until God returns them to their bodies. If spirits died, bliss and punishment would be cut off from them. He said, ‘Do not consider those who have been killed in the way of God dead, but alive with their Lord, sustained, rejoicing in what God brought them of His favor, and being glad for those who have not reached them of those who come after them (Quran iii,163,164).’ This is stated along with decisive proof that their spirits have separated from their bodies and have tasted death.
The true statement is that one should say, “The death of souls is their separation from their bodies, and their going out from them” So if there is meant by their death this measure, then they are “tasters of death;” But if there is meant that they become non-existent and vanish and become pure non-existence, they do not die in this sense, but rather remain after their creation in bliss (p.53) or in punishment, as will appear if God wills, after this, and as the test(of the Quran or the traditions) plainly states, that they are like that until God returns them to their bodies.
Ahmad Ibn al-Husain al-Kindi put into poetry this difference of opinion in his statement :”People quarrel until there is no agreement among them -Except upon grief, and there are disagreements about grief for it is said, “The soul of man is safe and sound.’ And it is said, ‘It shares with the body of man in perishing.’”
If it should be asked, ” at the blast on the trumpet, do spirits remain alive as they are, or die, then come to life?” one answers, “He said, “There is a blowing on the trumpet and a swooning of those in the heavens and those on the earth, except whom God wills (Quran xxxix,68).’: God has excepted some of those in the heavens and some of those on the earth from this swooning. It is said, ” They are the martyrs. “This is the statement of Abu Hurayrah and Ibn Abbas, and Said Ibn Jubayr.
And it is said, “They are Gibril and Mikail and Israfil and the angel of death. This is the statement of Muqatil and others. And it is said, “They are those of the nymphs of Paradise who are in the Garden and those who are in the Fire and its storehouse, of the people of punishment.” Abu Ishad Ibn Shaqala of our school said it, and the Imam Ahmad has made a definite statement that the nymphs of Paradise and the youths do not die at the blast on the trumpet: “He gave information that the people of the Garden ‘do not taste death in it, except the first death (Quran xliv,56).’” This is a proof-text that they do not die other than that first death, for if they died a second time there would be two deaths. As for the statement of the people of Fire, “Our Lord, Thou hast killed us twice, and hast brought us to life twice (Quran xl,ll).” A commentary on this verse is the verse which is Surat al-Baqarah, which is His statement, “How do you disbelieve in God, when you are dead? For He gave your life, then He causes you to die, then He restores you to life (Quran ii,26).” They were dead when they were seed in the (p.54) loins of their fathers and in the wombs of their mothers. Then He brought them to life after that, then He caused them to die, then He restores them to life on the Day of Resurrection. There is not in that causing their spirits to die before the Day of Resurrection, for otherwise there would be three deaths.
As for the fainting of the spirits at the blast on the trumpet, it is not necessary to infer from it their death. In the sound tradition, “People faint on the Day of Resurrection and I am the first who recovers, but behold Musa is grasping the support of the throne. I do not know whether he awoke before me or at the same time in the swooning on the day of al-Tur” (See Quran lii,45) . This is the swooning in the Standing (Mawqif) of the Resurrection, when God comes to the division of the judgement and the earth is illuminated with His light. At that time the creatures, all of them, swoon. God said, “Abandon them until they meet their day on which they swoon (Quran Lii,45).” If this swooning were a death, then it would be another death.
A company of the excellent (Muslims) have drawn attention to this. Abu Abd Allah al-Qurtubi said, “The obvious meaning of this tradition is that this is a swooning, a fainting which is one the Day of Resurrection (Qimayah), not the swooning of death resulting from the blast of the trumpet.” He said, “our Shaykh, Ahmad Ibn Amr said, ‘The obvious meaning of the tradition of the Prophet indicates that this swooning is only after the second blast, the blast of the Resurrection (Bath), and the text of the Quran necessitates that this exception is only after the blast of the swooning.’” When this was (stated) one of the learned men said, “It is possible that Musa is one of the Prophets who did not die, and this is preposterous.”
Al-Qadi Iyad said, “It is possible that the meaning of this swooning is fear after the Resurrection, when the heaven and the earth are split asunder.’” He said, “The traditions and the stories amount to little.” Abu ‘l-Abbas al-Qurtubi refuted him saying . “His statement in the sound tradition opposes this, that he, when he comes out from his grave meets Musa grasping the support of (p.55) the throne.” He said, “This is at the time of the blast of fear only.” Abu Abdullah said, “Our Shaykh, Ahmad Ibn Amr, said ‘The consideration not pure non-existence, but only a transition from one state to another. There points to that the fact that the martyrs, after their violent end and their death, are ‘alive with their Lord, sustained, rejoicing, glad (see Quran iii,163).’ This is an attribute of those living in the world. Since this was true of the martyrs, the prophets are more worthy and more suitable in regard to that; in addition the fact that it is valid on the Prophet’s authority that the earth does not consume the bodies of the prophets; and that he met with the prophets on the Night Journey (Quran xvii, 1) in Jerusalem and in the heavens , especially with Musa. And he has given information that no Muslim greets him without God returning his spirit to him, so that he may return the greeting to him, etc., with other arguments from the whole of which a decision may be obtained to the effect that the death of the prophets may be inferred only to the extent that they are absent from us where we do not overtake them, although they are in existence, alive. That is like the state among the angles, for they are alive, in existence, although we do not see them . If it is confessed that they are alive, then when the blast of the swooning is blown on the trumpet everyone in the heavens and in the earth swoons, except whom God wills. As for the swooning of other than the prophets, it means death. As for the swooning of the prophets, the clearest inference is that it is a fainting. When the blast of the Resurrection (Ba`th) is blown on the trumpet, whoever has died is made alive, and whoever has fainted recovers. Therefore he said in the tradition admittedly sound., ‘I am the first who recovers.’ So our Prophets is the first who leaves his grave before all men, except Musa. There results in it uncertainty whether he rises before him from his fainting, or remains in the state in which he was before the blast of the swooning, (p.56) awake, because he was reckoned with in the swooning of the day of al-Tur. This is a great favor to Musa ; but it is not necessary from some one merit of his to infer his superiority over our Prophet absolutely, because a particular does not necessitate a universal.
Abu Abd Allah al-Qurtubi said, “The application of the tradition to the swooning of creation on the Day of Resurrection is no difficulty. But if it is applied to the swooning of death at the time of the blast on the trumpet, then the mention of the Day of Resurrection means is: When the blast of Resurrection is blown on the trumpet, I am the first to raise his head, but behold, Musa is grasping one of the supports of the throne. I do not know whether he recovered before me or at the same time, in the swooning of al-Tur.” I said, “Giving the tradition this meaning is not sound, because the Prophets questions whether Musa recovered before him, or did not swoon, rather at the same time, in the swooning of al-Tur.” So the meaning is, “I do not know whether he swooned or did not swoon.” He said in the tradition, “I am the first recovers.” This indicates that the Prophet ( swoons with those who swoon, and that the question results in whether Musa swooned and recovered from his swoon before him, or whether he did not swoon. Where the thing meant by it the first swooning, which is the swooning of death, then he would necessarily imply that his death occurred, and he would have questioned whether Musa died or did not die. This is preposterous from many aspects, for he knew that it was a swooning of fear and not a swooning of death’; and then the verse does not indicate that all the spirits die at the first blast. Truly it indicates that the death of the creatures is at the first blast, and every one who has not tasted death before it tastes it at that time . But as for those who have tasted death, or those on whom death has not been decreed, the verse does not indicate that they die a second death. And God knows best.
If it is asked, “How do you deal with his statement (p.57) in the tradition, “People swoon on the Day of Resurrection and I am the first from whom the earth splits open, and I find Musa grasping the support of the throne”? one replies, “There is no doubt that this version occurred in this form, and questions have arisen from it. But the narrator came upon a tradition, and combined the two versions. This and the two traditions occur as follows. One of them is “People swoon on the Day of Resurrection, and I am the first who recovers.” The second is like this: “I am the first from whom the earth splits open on the day of Resurrection.” So in Al-Tirmidhi and others from the tradition of Abu Sid al-Khurdri, who said: “The Messenger of God said, ‘I am lord of the children of Adam on the Day of Resurrection, and there is no boasting. In may hand is the flag of praise, and there is no boasting. There is no prophet on that day, Adam or anyone else, who is not under my banner; and I am the first from whom the earth splits open and there is no boasting.’” Al-Tirmidhi said, “This is a tradition which is beautiful and sound.” ? The narrated interpolated this tradition in the other one. And our Shaykh, Abu ‘l-Hajjaj al-hafiz used to say that.
If it is asked, “What do you do with his statement, ‘I do not know whether he recovered before me, or whether he was one of those whom God excepted’, when those whom God excepted are excepted only from the swooning of the blast, not from the swooning of the Day of Resurrection, as God said: ‘A blast was blown upon the trumpet, and those in the heavens and those on the earth swooned, except those whom God willed (Quran xxxiv.68),’ and the exception did not occur from the swoon of the creatures on the Day of Resurrection’? it is replied, “This (and God knows best) is not preserved, but it is a supposition on the part of some of the narrators. The thing preserved is what the sound narrative concur in from his statement, ‘I do not know whether he recovered before me or at the same time in the swooning of al-Tur.’” Some of the narrators are of the opinion that this swooning is the swooning of the blast, and that Musa enters among those whom He expected from it. This opinion does not fit in with the tenor (p.58) of the tradition absolutely. For the recovery then is the recovery of the Resurrection; so how could he say, “I do not known whether he rose before me or at the same time, in the swooning of al-Tur’? Consider it; this is contrary to the swooning in which the creatures swoon on the Day of Resurrection when God comes for the decision of the judging between the creatures, and reveals Himself to them, for they swoon al together. As for Musa, if he had not swooned with them, he would have been reckoned with by his swooning on the day his Lord appeared to the mountain, and he made it plain (an allusion to Quran vii.l39). The swooning of this appearance was made a substitute for the swooning of the creatures of the appearance of the Lord on the Day of Resurrection. Consider this great meaning; were there nothing in the answer but the disclosure of this tradition and its importance, it would be worth trying. And to God belong praise and favor, and in Him is help.
Peace and Blessings upon the Prophet, his Family, and his Companions
© 2012 As-Sunnah Foundation of America