Harun Yahya - Death, Resurrection, Hell - DEATH
Death, Resurrection, Hell

Say: 'Death, from which you are fleeing, will certainly catch up with you.
Then you will be returned to the Knower of the Unseen and the
Visible and He will inform you about what you did.'
(Surat al-Jumu'ah: 8)


The Actual Death And What Is Observed About Death

The Death of the Soul (The Actual Death)

Have you ever thought about how you will die, what death looks like and what will happen at the moment of death?

So far, nobody has appeared who died and was raised again and who could share his actual experiences and feelings about death. This being the case, it is, technically, impossible to gather information regarding what death is like and what one feels at the moment of death.

God, the One Who bestows life upon man and takes it back in due course, informs us in the Qur'an about how death actually occurs. Thus, the Qur'an is the only source from which we can learn about how death really occurs and what someone who dies actually experiences and feels.

Death, as referred in the Qur'an, is quite unlike the "medical death" people observe from outside.

Primarily, certain verses acquaint us with events as seen by the dying person himself, which can never be perceived by others. This is related in the Surat al-Waqi'ah:

Why then, when death reaches his throat and you are at that moment looking on- We are nearer him than you, but you cannot see. (Surat al-Waqi'ah: 83-85)

Unlike the disbelievers' death, that of the believers is blissful:

...the angels reclaim the souls of the just, saying: (to believers) 'Peace be upon you! Enter the Garden as a reward for your labours.' (Surat an-Nahl: 32)

These verses disclose a very important and unchanging fact about death: at the moment of death, what the dying person goes through and what those nearby observe are dissimilar experiences. For instance, a person who spent his entire life as an unyielding disbeliever may be perceived to experience a "peaceful death" from outside. However, the soul, in a totally different dimension now, tastes death in a very painful way. Alternatively, the soul of a believer, despite seemingly suffering great pain, leaves his body "in a virtuous state".

In brief, the "medical death of the body" and the death of the soul, which is referred to in the Qur'an, are totally different events.

Being unaware of this truth with which the Qur'an acquaints us, disbelievers, who assume death to be an eternal and peaceful sleep, also seek ways to make the moment of death painless and comfortable. The consequences of such a misconception are clearly to be seen in the examples of those who commit suicide by taking pills, inhaling natural gas or resorting to a painless form of death to escape a painful disease.

As mentioned earlier, the death "tasted" by disbelievers is a great source of torment for them, while it turns out to be bliss for believers. The Qur'an gives a detailed account of the difficulty the disbelievers undergo while their souls are taken away, because of the way angels deal with the soul of a disbeliever at the moment of death:

How will it be when the angels take them in death, beating their faces and their backs? That is because they followed what angers God and hated what is pleasing to Him. So He made their actions come to nothing. (Surah Muhammad: 27-28)

In the Qur'an there is also reference to the "throes of death," which are actually the result of the angels giving the news of eternal torment at the moment of death:

...If you could only see the wrongdoers in the throes of death when the angels are stretching out their hands, saying, 'Yield up your souls. Today you will be repaid with the punishment of humiliation for saying something other than the truth about God, and being arrogant about His Signs.' (Surat al-An'am: 93)

If only you could see when the angels take back those who were disbelievers when they died, beating their faces and their backs: 'Taste the punishment of the Burning! That is for what you did. God does not wrong His slaves.' (Surat al-Anfal: 50-51)

As the verses make it clear, just the death of a disbeliever is an entire period of agony in itself. While people surrounding him see a seemingly untroubled death in his bed, a great spiritual and physical torment begins for him. The angels of death take his soul, inflicting pain and humiliation on him. In the Qur'an, the angels who take the souls of disbelievers are described as: "those who pluck out harshly". (Surat an-Nazi'at: 1)

The last phase of how the soul is taken away is explained as follows:

No indeed! When it (the soul) reaches the gullet and he hears the words, 'Who can heal him now?' he knows it is indeed the final parting. (Surat al-Qiyamah: 26-28)

At this moment, the disbeliever faces the truth he denied all throughout his life. With death, he will start to suffer the consequences of his great guilt, his denial. Angels "beating their backs" and "plucking (the soul) out harshly" are only the beginning and a minor indication of the grief awaiting him.

On the contrary, death for the believer is the beginning of eternal happiness and bliss. Unlike that of the disbeliever who suffers bitterly, the soul of the believer is "drawn out gently" (Surat an-Nazi'at: 2) with the angels saying: "Peace be upon you! Enter the Garden as a reward for your labours." (Surat an-Nahl: 32) This is similar to the state of sleep. In sleep, the soul gently slips into another dimension, as the following verse indicates:

God takes back people's selves when their death arrives and those who have not yet died, while they are asleep. He keeps hold of those whose death has been decreed and sends the others back for a specified term... (Surat az-Zumar: 42)

This is the ultimate truth about death. Externally, people witness only the medical death: a body gradually losing its corporeal functions. Those watching from the outside a person on the brink of death see neither his face and back being beaten, nor his soul reaching the gullet. Only the soul of the person concerned experiences these feelings and sees these images. However, the actual death is "tasted" in all of its aspects by the person dying in a dimension unfamiliar to those witnessing death from the outside. In other words, what is experienced during the course of death is a "change in dimension."

We can outline the facts revealed in the verses we have analysed so far as follows: be it a believer or a disbeliever, the death of a person is neither delayed nor hastened for even an hour. Wherever human beings may be, death overtakes them, if their time has come. In the process of experiencing death, they individually receive quite different treatments, although this is externally undiscernible.


The Death of the Believer

- Being aware that death is inevitable, the believer prepares himself for death all throughout his life and ultimately passes on.

- Angels of death greet him and give him the glad tidings of paradise.

- Angels take the soul of a believer gently.

- The believer feels the need to give the glad tidings to other believers in the world that God's promise is assured and that there is neither fear nor sorrow for believers. Yet, this is not allowed.


The Death of Disbeliever

- He meets the death he has always avoided all throughout his life.

- He suffers from intense fits of shaking during the course of death.

- Angels extend their hands to him and give him the tidings of the degrading punishment of the Burning.

- Angels take him in death, beating his face and back.

- The soul is taken with a great inner pain.

- The soul is taken as it reaches the gullet and at that moment there remains no one to heal him.

- The soul is taken with difficulty while he is indulging in denial.

- At the moment of death, no expression of his faith or repentance is allowed.

There are also lessons to be drawn from the "medical death" people witness from outside. The way medical death reduces the human body to insignificance makes one see certain very important facts. Therefore, the "medical death" and the grave, awaiting each one of us, also deserve mention and contemplation.


The Death of the Body (As Witnessed from Outside)

At the moment of death, as the soul leaves the dimension the human being lives in, it leaves behind the lifeless body. As in the case of living beings changing their skins, it leaves behind the outer casing and proceeds towards its real life.

However, the story of the "casing" which remains here in this world is important, especially for those who attach more importance to the body in this life than it actually deserves...

Have you ever thought in detail about what would befall this "casing" when one dies?

One day you will die. Maybe in a way you have never expected. While going to the grocery to buy bread, a car will hit you. Or, a fatal disease will bring your life to an end. Or, simply, your heart will stop beating for no reason at all.

So, you will begin tasting death.

From then on, you will have no relation with your body whatsoever. That body, you assumed to be "yourself" all your life, will turn into an ordinary heap of flesh. With your death, your body will be carried by other people. There will be people around weeping and mourning. Then that body will be carried to the morgue, where it will remain for a night. The next day, the burial operations will start. The lifeless body, now very rigid, will be washed all over with cold water. Meanwhile, the traces of death will start to appear and some parts of the body will turn purple.

Then, the body will be wrapped in a shroud and put in a wooden coffin. The hearse will be ready to take the coffin. Proceeding towards the graveyard, life will be as always on the streets. Seeing that a hearse is passing by, some people will show respect, but the majority will go on with their daily tasks. At the graveyard, the coffin will be carried by those who love you or by those who seem to love you. Most probably, there will again be people around weeping and mourning. Then, people will arrive at the inescapable destination: the grave. On the marble stone, your name will be inscribed...Your corpse will be taken out of the coffin and placed in the pit. Prayers will be said for you. Finally, people with shovels will start to cover your body with soil. Soil will also be thrown into the shroud. It will fill your mouth, throat, eyes and nose. Then the soil will gradually cover your shroud. Soon, the funeral will be over and people will leave the grave. Then, the graveyard will return to its deep silence. Those attending the funeral will go on with their everyday lives and for your buried body, life will no longer be meaningful. A beautiful house, a pretty person, a breathtaking landscape will mean nothing. Your body will never meet a friend again. From then on, the only certainty for the body will be the soil and the worms and bacteria inhabiting it.

Have you Ever Thought About What Your Body will Look Like After Death?

With burial, your body will undergo a rapid process of decay, caused by internal and external factors.

Soon after you are placed in the grave, the bacteria and insects proliferating in the corpse due to the absence of oxygen will start to function. The gases released from these organisms will inflate the body, starting from the abdomen, altering its shape and appearance. Bloody froth will issue from the mouth and nose due to the pressure of gases on the diaphragm. As corruption proceeds, body hair, nails, soles, and palms will fall off. Accompanying this outer alteration in the body, internal organs such as lungs, heart and liver will also decay. In the meantime, the most horrible scene takes place in the abdomen, where the skin can no longer bear the pressure of gases and suddenly bursts, spreading an unendurable disgusting smell. Starting from the skull, muscles will became detached from their particular places. Skin and soft tissues will completely disintegrate. The brain will decay and start looking like clay. This process will go on until the whole body is reduced to a skeleton.

Your body, you think to be yourself, will thus disappear in a terrible and disgusting manner. While those you leave behind carry out the customary rituals, worms, insects and bacteria in the soil will eat the body away.

If you die by an accident and are not buried, then the consequences will be even more tragic. Your body will be worm-eaten, just like a piece of meat left at room temperature for a long time. By the time the worms have eaten the last bit of flesh, your body will have become a skeleton.

This is the way, a human being's life, created in "the best of forms", comes to the most horrible end possible.


It is surely by the Will of God that the body ceases to exist in such a drastic way. That it does so actually carries a very important inner message in itself. The terrible end awaiting man should make him acknowledge that he is not a body himself, but a soul "encased" within a body. In other words, man has to acknowledge that he has an existence beyond his body. Such a striking end, with its many lessons, is made ready for man so that he may understand that he is not mere "flesh and bones".

Man should look at this body to which he attaches importance, as if he would stay in this temporary world forever, and should contemplate the end of it-its death. For it will decay under the soil, become worm-eaten and finally turn into a skeleton.


The Temporary Life Of This World

Have you ever thought why does man need to devote so much time and effort to keeping his body clean? Why does an unclean body, a foul-smelling mouth, greasy skin or hair seem so unbecoming? Why does man sweat and why is the odour accompanying sweat so disturbing?

Unlike man, plants have extremely pleasant odours. A rose or a carnation never stinks, despite the fact that it grows in soil and remains in an environment of dust and dirt. However, man can hardly achieve such a permanent fragrance, no matter how much he cares for his body.

Have you ever thought why man is created with so many weaknesses? Why God created flowers with beautiful fragrances but made the human body prone to produce an unpleasant scent?

The weaknesses of man are not limited to body odours: he gets tired and hungry, feels weak, gets injured, becomes nauseated, sick...

All these may seem to be ordinary to man, yet it has a deceiving aspect. It could well be that a bad odour never came from the body. Likewise, one might never suffer from a headache or fall sick. All these weaknesses of man happen not by "coincidence" but are created by God on purpose. God assigned man a particular goal and intentionally made him weak.

Such a strategy serves two purposes: first, to make man realise that he is a weak being, a "servant" of God. Being perfect is an attribute of God. His servants, on the other hand, are infinitely frail and thus inherently in need of their Creator. This is explained in the Qur'an as follows:

Mankind! you are the poor in need of God, whereas God is the Rich Beyond Need, the Praiseworthy. If He wills He can dispense with you and bring about a new creation. That is not difficult for God. (Surat al-Fatir: 15-17)

Weaknesses of the human body continuously remind man of his weaknesses. Man may consider himself to be a superior and perfect being. Yet, the fact that he needs to go to the restroom everyday and what he experiences there make him recognise his true self.

The second purpose these weaknesses serve is to remind man of the temporary nature of this life. That is because these weaknesses are peculiar to the body in this world. In the Hereafter, the Companions of the Garden will be endowed with a perfect body. The poor, imperfect and weak body in this world is not the actual body of the believer but a temporary mould he remains in for a certain period.

That is why, in this world perfect beauty is never attainable. The most physically attractive, perfect and beautiful person also goes to restroom, sweats, has bad breath in the mornings and now and then suffers from acne. One needs to involve oneself in endless routines to keep clean and fresh. Some people have pretty faces but lack shapely bodies. There are also cases in which just the contrary is true. Some have beautiful eyes but a big nose. There are countless such examples. A person with outwardly perfect looks might be suffering from a serious disease.

Over and above this, even the most perfect-looking person ultimately grows old and dies. In an unexpected traffic accident, his body might be irremediably injured. It is not only the human body which is imperfect, flawed and temporary in this world. All flowers fade, the most delicious food decays and goes bad. All these are peculiar to this world. The short life in this world granted to us as well as this body are temporary favours bestowed by God. An eternal life and a perfect creation are possible only in the Hereafter. As the Qur'an puts it:

Whatever you have been given is only the enjoyment of the life of the world. What is with God is better and longer lasting for those who have faith and trust in their Lord. (Surat ash-Shura: 36)

In another verse the real essence of the world is explained as follows:

Know that the life of the world is merely a game and a diversion, ostentation and a cause of boasting among yourselves, and a quest to outdo one another in wealth and children. It is like the plants which flourish after rain: this delights the cultivators, but then they wither and you see them turning yellow, and then they become broken stubble. In the Hereafter a terrible punishment awaits you but also forgiveness from God and His good pleasure. The life of the world is nothing but the enjoyment of delusion. (Surat al-Hadid: 20)

In brief, in this world, God, as a sign of His infinite might and knowledge, creates many beautiful and wonderful things as well as many flawed things. Permanence and excellence are against the laws of this world. Nothing the human mind can imagine, including advanced technology, will ever change this law of God. This is so that people may strive to attain the Hereafter and show due respect and gratefulness to God. It is also so that people may realise that the actual place of these favours is not this temporary world, but the eternal abode prepared for believers. In the Qur'an, this is alluded to as follows:

Yet still you prefer the life of the world when the Hereafter is better and longer lasting. (Surat al-A'la: 16-17)

Another verse says: "The abode of the Hereafter-that is truly Life if they only knew." (Surat al-Ankabut: 64) There is a very thin border between this world, which is a temporary abode, and our "actual life", the Hereafter. Death is the instrument which raises this curtain. By death, man will break off all his relations with his body and this world; he will start his eternal life with his newly created body.

Since the real life is the one beginning with death, the real "laws of nature " are those pertaining to the Hereafter. Flaws, imperfections and impermanence are the laws of this world, yet they are not real and unchanging laws. The real laws are formulated on the principles of infiniteness, excellence and immortality. In other words, what is normal is a non-fading flower, a never-ageing man, a never-decaying fruit. The actual laws entail the instant realisation of every wish of man or the removal of pain and diseases, or even sweating or feeling cold. However, temporary laws are in effect in this temporary life, while the actual laws are binding upon the next life. All the imperfections and flaws we come across in this world exist through the deliberate distortion of the actual laws.

The abode of the actual laws, namely the Hereafter, is not far away, as is assumed. God can end the life of man at any moment He wills it and makes him pass to the Hereafter. This transition will occur in a very short period; in the blink of an eye. This is similar to waking up from a dream. A Qur'anic verse describes the brevity of this world as follows:

He will say, 'How many years did you tarry on the earth?' They will say, 'We tarried there for a day or part of a day. Ask those able to count!' He will say, 'You only tarried there for a little while if you did but know! Did you suppose that We created you for amusement and that you would not return to Us?' (Surat al-Mu'minun: 112-115)

When death comes, dreams come to an end and man starts his actual life. Man, who remained on earth for a period as short as "the blink of an eye" comes into the presence of God to give an account of his deeds in this world. If he has kept death in his mind all throughout his life and lived to attain God's approval, he will be saved. In the Qur'an, the words of "those who are given their Books in their right hands" are quoted as follows:

As for him who is given his Book in his right hand, he will say, 'Here, come and read my Book! I counted on meeting my Reckoning.' (Surat al-Haqqah: 19-20)


The Situation Of Those In This World And The Hereafter Who Do Not Take Lessons From Death

The majority of people have an inadequate conception of death. "Death is the moment life ends" is one of these. Take one step further, however and one will comprehend that death is the moment the next life starts. This ill-informed outlook makes disbelievers compress everything they want into the very short time of this life. That is why, those who do not come to realise the truth of the Hereafter want to make the most of this life without giving it a second thought. Not making a distinction between right and wrong, they seek to satisfy all their tastes in this world. This stance is essentially based upon the notion that death will put an end to all the joys and pleasures of this world. Believing that they still have long years ahead of them, they chase after long-term plans. They consider themselves to be very intelligent while they think believers, who have an unshakeable faith in God and the Hereafter and thus prepare themselves for it, are unwise. This is one of the most classical methods employed by Satan to deceive man. God draws our attention to this "deceptive method" in the following verse:

Those who have turned back to unbelief after God's guidance has been revealed to them, are seduced by Satan who has filled them with false hopes. (Surah Muhammad: 25)

He makes promises to them and fills them with false hopes. But what Satan promises them is nothing but delusion. (Surat an-Nisa': 120)

Amassing fortune in this world as if life would last forever, disbelievers perceive life as a competition. All throughout their lives, they take pride in possessions and children. This pride gives them a sense of artificial superiority, which causes them to drift completely away from the thought of the Hereafter. However, the following verses disclose where they are destined for because of this great delusion:

Do they imagine that, in the wealth and children We give to them, We are hastening to them with good things? No indeed, but they have no awareness! (Surat al-Mu'minun: 55-56)

Do not let their wealth and children impress you. Through them God merely wants to punish them during their life in the world and for them to expire while they are unbelievers. (Surat at-Tawbah: 55)

God gives man many warnings and messages to make him ponder upon death and the Hereafter. In one verse, God draws attention to the trials given as a warning to man:

Do they not see that they are tried once or twice in every year? But still they do not turn back. They do not pay heed. (Surat at-Tawbah: 126)

Indeed, the majority of people encounter various trials, so that they may frequently ask for forgiveness and take heed. These may take place very rarely, once or twice in a year, as mentioned in the verse. Alternatively, they may be small, daily troubles. Man witnesses accidents, deaths or injuries. Newspapers abound in stories of death and obituaries. In the face of such events, man should remember that calamities can at any time befall him and at any moment his testing period may end. Such an awareness makes one sincerely turn to God, seek refuge in Him and ask for forgiveness from Him.

The lessons believers draw from the adversity they encounter are abiding. Yet, the same events have a totally different impact on disbelievers. Being terrified by the thought of death, disbelievers turn their backs on the reality of death or simply try to forget it. In doing this, they seek relief. However, this deceptive method only does them harm. That is because God "reprieves them till a predetermined time" and this period, contrary to what they think, works against them. (Surat an-Nahl: 61) In another Qur'anic verse, it says:

Those who are disbelievers should not imagine that the extra time We grant to them is for their good. We only allow them more time so they will increase their evil-doing. They will have a humiliating punishment. (Surah Al 'Imran: 178)

A heedless person, who does not take a lesson even when death befalls someone very close to him, becomes very sincere towards his Creator, when he himself encounters death. This psychology is related in the Qur'an as follows:

It is He Who guides them on both land and sea so that, when some of them are in a boat, running before a fair wind, rejoicing at it, and then a violent squall comes upon them and the waves come at them from every side and they realise there is no way of escape, they call on God, making their religion sincerely His: 'If You rescue us from this, we will truly be among the thankful.' (Surah Yunus: 22)

However upon deliverance, these people return to their initial heedless state. Forgetting their promise, they display a low and false attitude and, while doing this, never feel the slightest pangs of conscience. Yet, this falsity will be evidence against them on the Day of Judgement:

But then, when He does rescue them, they become rebellious in the land without any right to do so. Mankind, your rebelliousness is only against yourselves. Take your enjoyment in the life of the world and then you will return to Us and We will inform you about what you did. (Surah Yunus: 23)

Desperately, man re-attempts to do the same at the moment of death. Yet, the time predetermined for him is already over:

If only you could see the evil-doers hanging their heads in shame before their Lord: 'Our Lord, we have seen and we have heard, so send us back again and we will act rightly. Truly, we are now firm believers.' ...(It will be said to them): 'So taste this. Because you forgot the meeting of this Day, We have forgotten you too. Taste the eternal punishment for your misdeeds.' (Surat as-Sajdah: 12-14)

The same unyielding efforts will continue also in hell:

There they will cry out: 'Our Lord! take us out! We will act rightly, differently from the way we used to act!' 'Did We not let you live long enough for anyone who was going to pay heed to pay heed? And did not the warner come to you? Taste this then! There is no helper for the wrongdoers. (Surat al-Fatir: 37)

These hopeless strivings in the Hereafter and the painful end are surely the results of man's scant acknowledgement of the actual purpose of his existence on earth and of his value. One who has no faith does not take lessons from the happenings around him, does not listen to the warnings sent by God, feigns ignorance of the voice of his conscience or flouts it, and sees death as an unlikely event for himself. He complies with the wishes of the wicked side of his soul rather than seeking God's pleasure. All these eventually pave the way for death to seize him suddenly and make him fall into the desperate situation depicted in the above verses. Thus, before death comes upon one, one should wake up from the deep sleep of heedlessness, since the moment of death is too late for such a recovery:

Give from what We have provided for you before death comes to one of you and he says, 'My Lord, if only you would give me a little more time so that I can give alms and be one of the righteous!' But God will not give anyone more time, once their time has come. God is aware of what you do. (Surat al-Munafiqun: 10-11)

A person of intelligence should constantly dwell upon death rather than keep avoiding the thought of it. Only thus can he act in compliance with God's will and prevent the wicked side of his soul and Satan from deceiving him with this fleeting life. Indeed, making the life of this world one's only goal is the greatest danger for people. Our Prophet (pbuh) also reminded the believers of this with his supplication "let not worldly affairs be our greatest care of all that we know about." (Narrated by Abdullah ibn Umar, Al-Tirmidhi, 783)


Getting Prepared for Death

This world is a place where man is being trained. God charged man with many responsibilities in this world and informed him about the limits He has set for him. Provided that man observes these limits, complies with His orders and avoids prohibited acts, he will attain personal maturity and a better state of wisdom and awareness. With such attributes, a believer shows inexhaustible patience no matter what befalls him; he turns only to God and seeks help only from Him. These are the ways to revere God and to feel an inner submission to and an unbounded faith in Him. Realising the actual worth of favours bestowed by God, he expresses a deeper gratefulness to God and feels closer to Him. Consequently, he becomes an ideal believer endowed with the superior attributes of wisdom and morality. Furthermore, he becomes the type of person deserving to attain paradise, a place of perfection. But if man receives no education in the realities of the world, he fails to evince excellence of behaviour and, even when best situated from the material point of view, remains prone to all forms of failures.

Indeed, the Prophet Adam was sent to the earth to receive due training and was put to the test purposefully devised by God to prepare him for his eternal life. In the end, he became a distinguished person of superior morality and character highly praised in the Qur'an.

Man continues to be tested by countless events befalling him; his success in dealing with them earns him rewards in his eternal life, while his failure earns him punishment. Nobody knows when his period of testing will be over. In the words of the Qur'an, "the term of every life is fixed." (Surah Al 'Imran: 145) This term can sometimes be long, but can also sometimes be short. The truth is, however, that even the period we regard as being long rarely extends beyond 7 or 8 decades.

That is why, rather than engage in making long-term plans, man has to be guided by the Qur'an and live by its principles, knowing that he will give an account of all his deeds in the Hereafter. Otherwise, failure to prepare oneself for the eternal life, missing the one and only opportunity granted for this purpose, and deserving hell for all eternity will be a painful situation indeed. It should never be forgotten that, the only destination of someone who is deprived of paradise forever is nowhere else but hell. That is why, every moment spent in vain in this world is a great loss and a giant step taken towards an atrocious end.

Since this is so, this fact should take precedence over everything else in this world. Just as we prepare ourselves for the possible situations which we will confront in the course of our lives, we need to devote similar and even greater efforts, to becoming prepared for the next life. That is because the one who will die will be us. We will experience everything which will happen after death all alone. Therefore, this subject directly concerns "us", in other words, "ourselves". To those seeking eternal salvation, God commands the following:

You who have faith! Have fear of God and let each self look to what it has sent forward for tomorrow. Have fear of God. God is aware of what you do. Do not be like those who have forgotten God, so that He has made them forget themselves. Such people are evil-doers. (Surat al-Hashr: 18-19)