The afterlife and deathan islamic perspective

An Islamic perspective

Authored by: David Oualaalou

The Routledge Handbook of Death and the Afterlife

Print publication date:  June  2018
Online publication date:  June  2018

Print ISBN: 9781138682160
eBook ISBN: 9781315545349
Adobe ISBN:


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This chapter explores Islamic traditions and beliefs concerning death, funeral rituals, and the afterlife. The afterlife serves as an important doctrine in Islamic thought. The belief in paradise and hell not only motivates one’s quest to prepare for death through performing good deeds in life, but also shapes the funerary rituals that have grown around the burial process. Islamic tradition holds that death is perceived as a journey through a separate dimension of existence. That existence starts at the grave where the deceased undergoes her or his first test that determines their afterlife fate of either an afterlife in paradise or in the hellfire. It is widely held in Islamic tradition that the grave represents not only the first stage where one’s faith is tested, but also can serve as a punishment, a judgment, and a dreamless sleep. To an outsider who is not familiar with the Muslim tradition, these different images evoke confusion and do not adhere to a particular set of conformity. Yet, Muslims around the world understand that the deceased must and will go through all these phases in the grave to determine his or her postmortem fate. From an Islamic perspective, these different descriptions of postmortem experience (punishment, sleep, test) don’t represent diversity of thought within the Muslim world, rather they contribute to a coherent belief in which the deceased, once tested, is bound for paradise or hell. In the following pages, I present different descriptions of what the grave means in the Muslim tradition so that readers may acquire a better understanding of the significance Muslims place on the afterlife and burial process.

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