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Soul-taking

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From Death to Resurection
کلمة الاسترجاع.jpg

Soul-taking or Qabḍ al-rūḥ (Arabic: قَبْض الروح) is to take away human lives at the time of death. This is carried out by Azrael ('Izra'il) and his representatives at the command of God. According to Islamic sources, people's souls are taken in different ways; for example, the souls of prophets (a) are taken after their own permissions, the souls of believers are taken by angels of mercy in an easy way, and the souls of unbelievers are taken with tortures and punishments.

Some hadiths have recommended the recitation of the Qur'an 36 and the Qur'an 37 as well as moving the muhtadar (the person who is about to die) to the place in which he or she used to say prayers in order for his or her soul to be taken easily.

The Notion

Taking the soul is to separate one's soul from the body.[1] It is referred to in the Qur'an as "tawaffi" (taking or grasping).[2] When it is time for someone to die, Azrael and his representatives will take the person's soul at the command of God.[3] According to religious sources, a human soul is taken gradually.[4] When the soul is leaving the body, the person's legs and hands weaken at first, and the last part of the body that stops working is the throat.[5]

According to a hadith from Imam 'Ali (a), at the time of death, the tongue will fail to talk. Then the death begins to spread to the rest of the body; the ears will stop working, so the person will not be able to talk and will not hear anything. The eyes will move around. The person sees the faces of the surrounding people and the movements of their lips, but he or she does not hear their voices. After a while, the death spreads to the eyes and then the life will go out of the body.[6]

How the Soul is Taken

According to hadiths, the soul is taken gradually and painfully. Believers also feel the fears and hardships of death, though people's souls are taken in different ways. The death of prophets (a) and believers take place in an easier way than that of unbelievers.[7]

Prophets

According to Shiite hadiths, the souls of prophets are taken very easily upon their permissions.[8] There are stories in this regard. For example, at the time of the Prophet Muhammad's (s) death, Azrael went to his house and asked for the permission to enter the house and take his soul. In this event, Azrael had a conversation with Fatima (a).[9] About the prophet Abraham (a), it is said that Azrael went to him to take his soul. Abraham told him: "does God like his friend (that is, Abraham) to die?" Azrael went and then returned with God's message: "is Abraham sad that he would meet his friend?" As soon as Abraham heard this, he died.[10] According to some hadiths, Azrael took Solomon's soul while he relied on his cane in his palace.[11] There are also stories about Moses (a) and Noah (a) being asked for permission by Azrael before their death.[12]

Believers

According to Sura al-Nahl, the souls of believers are taken by the angels of mercy with ease, and they are given the news of going to the heaven.[13] According to a hadith from the Prophet (s), when a believer is about to die, shining angels with heavenly outfits sit around him or her, and then the Angel of Death (Azrael) tells him or her, "O the pure soul! Come out to your Lord". Then his or her soul is taken just like water coming out of the waterskin.[14] According to some hadiths, when believers are about to die, they become impatient, but then the Prophet (s) and Ahl al-Bayt (a) go to them whereby they find peace and comfort.[15]

Unbelievers

According to Islamic sources, the soul of an unbeliever is taken with suffering and excruciating pains.[16] According to Quranic verses, the souls of unbelievers are taken with hardship and torture, while they are surrounded and beaten by angels of death from back and forth.[17] There is a hadith from the Prophet (s) to the effect that when an unbeliever is about to dies, black-faced angels sit around him or her with anger, and then the Angel of Death goes to him or her, separating his or her soul from the body just like a comb separating trashes from the wool.[18]

Soul-Takers

There are many verses in the Qur'an concerning the taking of the soul.[19] In some verses, the taking of the soul is attributed to God,[20] in others to the Angel of Death,[21] and in still others to a group of angels.[22] According to Quranic exegetes, the verses are not contradictory because God is the ultimate cause and agent of soul-taking but the act is immediately accomplished by Azrael or other angels who are Azrael's representatives.[23]

According to some sources, Azrael has many representatives and helpers, thus death is sometimes attributed to a group of angels.[24] These angels are referred to as "Nazi'at", "Sabihat", "Nashitat" and "Sabiqat" each of whom undertakes the task of taking the souls of a certain group of beings.[25] For example, "Nazi'at" are assigned the task of taking the souls of unbelievers with hardship and torture, and "Nashitat" are assigned the task of taking the souls of believers with mercy and comfort.[26] A few scholars maintain that when a person is about to die, the same angels who were in charge of recording his or her actions will take his or her soul.[27]

Mitigating the Taking of the Soul

Some hadiths have recommended that for a believer to make his or her soul be taken easily, he or she should be moved to the place where he or she used to say prayers.[28] Other hadiths have recommended the recitation of Sura Saffat and Sura Yasin.[29]

Notes

  1. Dihkhudā, Farhang-i lughat, Under the world «روح».
  2. Qurʾān, 39:42; 32:11; 6:61.
  3. Ṭihrānī, Maʿād shināsī, vol. 1, p. 212.
  4. Makārim Shīrāzī, Payām-i Qurʾān, vol. 5, p. 345.
  5. Makārim Shīrāzī, Tafsīr-i nimuna, vol. 23, p. 279.
  6. Nahj al-balāgha, Sermon 107; Riyshahrī, Mizān al-ḥikma, vol. 11, p. 124.
  7. Makārim Shīrāzī, Payām-i Qurʾān, vol. 5, p. 345.
  8. Āshtīyānī & Dirāyatī, Majmuʿa-yi rasāʾil, vol. 2, p. 150.
  9. Majlisī, Biḥār al-anwār, vol. 22, p. 527-528.
  10. Āshtīyānī & Dirāyatī, Majmuʿa-yi rasāʾil, vol. 2, p. 149.
  11. Riyshahrī, Mizān al-ḥikma, vol. 11, p. 475.
  12. Fayḍ al-Kāshānī, ʿIlm al-yaqīn, vol. 2, p. 150.
  13. Qurʾān, 16:32.
  14. Ṭabāṭabāyī, al-Mīzān, vol. 8, p. 170.
  15. Riyshahrī, Mizān al-ḥikma, vol. 11, p. 130.
  16. Rustamī & Āl-i Buya, Sayrī dār asrār-i firishtigān, p. 453.
  17. Qurʾān, 6:93; 8:50.
  18. Rustamī & Āl-i Buya, Sayrī dār asrār-i firishtigān, p. 453.
  19. Qurʾān, 39:42; 32:11; 6:63; 4:97.
  20. Qurʾān, 39:42.
  21. Qurʾān, 32:11.
  22. Qurʾān, 6:63; 4:97.
  23. Ṭabāṭabāyī, al-Mīzān, vol. 17, p. 418.
  24. Ālūsī, Rawḥ al-maʿānī, vol. 30, p. 23.
  25. Ālūsī, Rawḥ al-maʿānī, vol. 30, p. 23.
  26. Ālūsī, Rawḥ al-maʿānī, vol. 30, p. 23.
  27. Makārim Shīrāzī, Payām-i Imām, p. 61.
  28. Najafī, Jawāhir al-kalām, vol. 4, p. 17-18.
  29. Karakī, Jāmiʿ al-maqāṣid, vol. 1, p. 353.

References

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