COMPARISON BETWEEN THE CHRISTIAN AND MUSLIM VIEWS OF DEATH

Islamic Beliefs

1. Face to face with death

Muslims call the angel of death “Ezrael” (عزرایل). In the minds of Muslims he is merciless and of terrible appearance when he comes to people. He removes the spirit of a person by starting at the toes and working his way up the body until he finally draws the whole spirit out through the mouth at the moment of death. “And the stupor of death comes in truth. ‘This was the thing which thou wast trying to escape!”‘ (S50:19).

“By the (angels) who tear out (the souls of the wicked) with violence; by those who gently draw out (the souls of the blessed)” (S79:1 -2).

Azrael, the angel of death in the Jewish and Islamic religions

The Hadith books explain what happens to Muslims in the hour of death, in the grave, at the day of resurrection, in paradise and in hell, defining who will enter each. Mohammed’s nephew said that Allah’s Messenger told of this sickness and pain. It is like the mail of death being delivered at the appointed hour for each man by the angel of death. This angel said “O son of Adam do you expect to receive mail delivered again and again? I am the (final) mail. There is none after this. By your choice, lord, I am taking the man’s spirit.” When the man’s family start to cry for him the angel of death will come and say, “For whom are you crying and for whom are you shouting? I am not stealing his years or his food but Allah has called him and he must listen to Allah whether he likes it or not. Go, cry for yourselves because I will come for you too and terminate your lives.”

2. How people perceive death

According to Abu Shah Jaber Ibn Zayed, a long time ago the angel of death would visit people to take their souls without pain or suffering. However the people started to resent the angel of death and commenced complaining about him and calling him bad names. The angel did not like this and went to Allah to complain about it. Allah then commanded the angel of death to go and take the spirit of people with pain and suffering to draw attention away from the angel of death. People then thought that they died as a result of sickness, accident or whatever and forgot about the angel of death (“Look to the Resurrection Day” Ibn Aby Al Dunya).

3. Why the angels of Allah touch and sniff people’s bodies before they die

In the Book of Hadith (Al Trmezy), Aby Kalabah said, “My nephew, who was a reprobate, was sick one day and I didn’t visit him at that time. Then I said to myself, ‘This is my nephew, I must go to him.'” When he was with his nephew two black angels came down from heaven through the roof talking to each other. Both were carrying hammers. The one said to the other;” Go and see what you can find out about this man.’ When the angel came to the man he sniffed his head, his stomach and his feet. He then returned to the other angel and said, “When I sniffed his head I could find nothing of the Quran, when I sniffed his stomach I could find no evidence of fasting and when I sniffed his feet I found he never walked one step to the mosque.”

4. The angel of death looks each day at the houses of the people

Mohammed’s nephew’s son, Al Hasan, said, “Every day the angel of death will come to someone’s house and look a few times. When he finds one of the occupants whose time is up, he takes his spirit. The person’s family, when they find he has died, will begin to mourn the death. The angel will stand in the doorway blocking it and proclaiming to everyone inside, ‘You can weep and mourn, but Allah has commanded this. Rather weep and mourn for yourselves for I will also come for you.'”

5. How funeral preparations are made

The deceased is washed and wrapped in white cloth and placed in a coffin. The coffin is then moved to the mosque for prayers and from there taken to the grave for burial. But what happens on the way? In the book of Al Bukary the prophet Mohammed said that when the body of a good person is carried in a coffin he will cry out, ‘Take me quickly to the grave.” However if the person was not good he will plead, “Take me back! I don’t want to go to the grave.” Mohammed explained that these cries were heard by everyone except people, for if people heard them they would die (Bukary, vol. 1, p. 228).

Mohammed also said that when a good man went to the grave he should go quickly to be with Allah, but if a bad person was going to the grave this should also be done quickly so that something bad could be disposed of.

In the Hadith, Aby Saed Al Kedry said; “A group of women came to Mohammed and said, ‘Please set aside a day for us’. Mohammed met with them and gave them a sermon. He said, ‘Every lady who loses three sons in a holy war (jihad) will have a wall built between her and hell to protect her.’ One asked, ‘What if only two sons should die like this?’ He replied, ‘The same would also apply to her”‘ (Al Bukari, vol. 1, p. 217).

6. Post death interlude in the grave: judgment

Once a Muslim funeral party arrives at the gravesite, the deceased is laid in the grave. Then everybody present returns back to their homes. Following this Allah will come down to the grave and start interviewing the person who is now in the grave. “My slave, your people have left you and gone back home leaving only you and me. Should they try to sit with you, they will find they cannot help you. It is now between you and me, and I am immortal.”

After that Allah will leave the Muslim person in the grave to await the two judgment angels called Naker and Nakier. The prophet Mohammed said to the Muslim slave that when his people placed him in the grave and left him to return to their houses, he would only hear the sound of their departing shoes.

Then the angels of judgment in the grave would come to him, make him sit up, and question him. “What do you say about Islam’s prophet Mohammed?” Should he confess that Mohammed is Allah’s messenger, the angels will say to him: “Look at the place prepared in the fire for you. Allah has changed that to another place in paradise.”

“Mohammed pointed out how this man had seen both the place prepared in hell and in paradise. However, if the person in the grave answered the angels, “I don’t know,” the angels would then tell him that as he does not know he may no longer talk. They will then start to hit him with hammers between his ears and all of Allah’s creation will hear him crying except the people (Hadith Ibn Abas Bukary, vol. l,p. 231). After that the angels will cover the coffin with soil and command ninety-nine seven-headed snakes to commence biting the person until judgment day.

7. Grave inhabitant visitations

In the Hadith, Kays Ibn Kabisah said that Islam’s prophet Mohammed had said that Muslims were not permitted to talk to non-Muslims in the grave. But when asked by his friends whether Muslims could talk to each other he said, ‘Yes,’ and confirmed that they could also visit each other (see Ibn Haban).

8. The daily invitation of the grave

Abu Horayrah said he went one day with Muslim’s prophet to a funeral and Mohammed sat close to a grave and said, “Every day this grave calls people with a loud sound, ‘O son of Adam how you forget that I am a dark and bad place and the house of worms. Although I am a small place, I will be large for those for whom Allah has determined I should be large.'” Mohammed said that the grave is a small place for hell or a small place for paradise (Hadith; Bukary and Muslim).

9. The angel who throws the soil

As the people leave the funeral site of the Muslim, an angel will come, take a handful of soil and throw it in the faces of the departing mourners. He will say to them, “Go back to your lives. Go buy and sell things and forget about the one who died and death.”

10. After-death destination unknown

One of Mohammed’s friends Gaber Ibn Zyad was close to death and was asked by his friend if there was anything he could do for him. He answered that he would like to meet with the son of Mohammed’s daughter, Al Hasan. When he arrived Jaber said to him ‘O my brother this is the time of death and I don’t know to where I am going; whether to paradise or to hell’ (see Masnad Al Ferdos).

11. Punishment in the grave

All Muslims must believe that there is punishment in the grave for without this basic belief they will be open to falling away from the faith. Should one doubt this truth of Islam he or she will be given three days to repent, failing which, a judgment against him or her on this count requires that he or she be put to death

12. Punishments associated with using the toilet and gossip

Anyone who does not perform the washing ritual after using the toilet or who bad-mouths another, is liable to receive punishment in the grave.

Mohammed’s nephew Abu Allah Ibn Abas said, “The Muslim prophet Mohammed walked by two Muslim graves and he said, ‘The two Muslims here in these graves are living under punishment in the grave. They have not received this for big sins but for small sins. The first one did not wash himself when he had finished using the toilet and the second one gossiped about people.’ Then the prophet Mohammed walked over to a tree and cut something from it which he placed in their graves. ‘Maybe this will help them,’ he said.”

13. Punishment for all Jews in the grave

In the Hadith, Mohammed’s friend Abu Ayob Al Ansary said, “One day, Islam’s prophet Mohammed left his house and, hearing a sound, he said, ‘That is the sound of the Jews. Allah is punishing them now in their graves'” (Bukary, vol. 6, p. 239).

14.  Punishment in the grave if a Muslim’s family mourn his death

In the Hadith, Mohammed, Islam’s prophet, said, “A Muslim person will live under punishment in the grave if his people cry for him when he dies” (Bukary 6, p. 222).

15. A Muslim’s life in the grave

According to the Rod Al Ryahin book, one day a Muslim man asked Allah to show him how Muslims live in the grave. He said, “I saw Resurrection Day. The graves were open and I saw some people sleeping, some just sitting, some smiling and still others crying. I asked Allah, ‘Why, my God, didn’t you make them all the same and all happy?’ After that I heard a voice from the graves saying ‘O man, this is life in the grave andthe people you saw crying were the sinners'” (Ahmed and Abu Dawod – also Hadith).

People leave their coffins in the grave to walk the streets. Matraf Ibn Al Shoker reported, “One day when I was walking in the square I saw some people without clothes. I greeted them but they did not reply. I stopped and heard them say amongst themselves, ‘This is Matraf Ibn Al Shoker.’ I said, ‘It is funny that you know me and my father and yet you do not return my greeting!’ They replied, ‘We are dead so we cannot return your greeting. ‘But I have seen you without clothes,’ I said. The people answered, ‘Yes, because our coffin clothes are finished and we cannot find others.’ I asked them, ‘So why are you standing here?’ The people answered, ‘There are more than seventy people in each grave. We cannot find any place.’ Then I asked, ‘Is it not wrong for you, men and women, to stand together naked?’ They replied, ‘Death has caused us to lose our minds'” (Sonan Aby Dawod an Ahmed).

The Hadith records a story of a sad Muslim youth who approached the Muslim leader Abdul Malik Ibn Marwan. Abdul Malik asked him ‘What is making you so sad?’ The youth replied, T am sad because of my sins for I have stolen people’s coffin clothes from their graves.’

Abdul Malik asked him, “What have you seen in the graves?” The Muslim youth answered, “One day I opened a grave and found a man who was being punished and tortured. I heard a voice saying ‘This man did not go to pray in the mosque.’ On another day I opened a grave and found that this man had been changed into a pig. The voices told me, “This man used to drink alcohol.’ On yet another day I opened a grave and found a man living in fire. The voices told me that his punishment was because he used to play chess.”

16. Those who have died and cry in the grave are hit with steel hammers

Mohammed’s friend Al Baraa In Aazeb said, “The prophet Mohammed told us that when a non-Muslim dies and is questioned about the Quran and replies, ‘Hah, hah I don’t know’ then a voice from heaven will call, ‘This man is a liar!’ Then they will make him a bed of fire and cover him with garments of fire. Then a black angel, who is both deaf and blind, and thus impervious to cries for mercy, will be sent to beat him with a steel hammer” (Ahmed and Abu Dawod, see also Hadith).

Christian Beliefs

1. Facing death

There is no angel of death in Christian teaching and for a bom again believer death holds no terrors. “Where, O death is your victory? Where, O death is your sting?” (1 Corinthians 15:55).

2. Changed at death

The Christian believes that all believers will be changed instantly when they die. What was corruptible will become incorruptible; what was mortal will become immortal and death will be swallowed up in victory. The sting of death is sin and the power thereof is the law. Why is death not be feared? Because God has given victory over it through Jesus (1 Corinthians 15:51-57).

In the letter to the Thessalonians, Paul tells us that we should not be in the dark about what will happen when we die. He tells us not to grieve as do men without hope. This is because, just as God raised Jesus from the dead, those who believe will also be raised from the dead and go to be with Him (1 Thessalonians4:13-16).

Those raised fall into two classes of people: those who are believers in Jesus Christ as Savior and will live, and those who have rejected Him and will be condemned (John 5:28). The Scripture also says we will die once (physically) and then will be judged (Hebrews 9:27). Psalm 23:4 and Psalm 16:10 proclaim that even though we face death we fear no evil because God is with us.

We are told we can rest secure, as God will not abandon us to the grave. Through fear of death the Devil holds the power of death over people (Hebrews 2:14-15). Wicked people dread death (Proverbs 10:24). By dying and then being brought back to life at His resurrection, Jesus has defeated the Devil.

Psalm 49:10-14 relates that all men, no matter what their station in life, will one day lie in the grave. Death will claim every person, but the Lord will save the believer.

What happens to the person who dies? The body disintegrates and returns literally to its material components. The soul (mind) and spirit leave the body at the moment of death and go on existing, either with the Lord in everlasting life or apart from Him in everlasting damnation.

There are in Christianity no literal episodes of encounters in the grave with either God or the angels. There is no punishment in the grave, no mobility for grave dwellers and no mourning in the grave by those who have died.

In short, there is no “life type” activity in the grave. Those who have departed this life are not normally encountered by the living. God has specifically prohibited His people from making contact with the departed. People are forbidden to consult or call up the dead through mediums or spiritists (Leviticus 20:27).

“We were therefore buried with Him through baptism into death in order that just as Christ was raised from the dead through the glory of the Father, we too may live a new life” (Romans 6:4). This means that, as we died to sin, we are now alive to God (Romans 6:11).

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