Ibn al-Qayyim on Life in the Grave

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.

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