In Sufism the Barzakh or Alam-e-Araf is not only where the human soul resides after death but it is also a place that the soul can visit during sleep and meditation. Ibn e Arabi defines Barzakh as the intermediate realm or “isthmus”. It is between the World of Corporeal Bodies and the World of Spirits, and is a means of contact between the two worlds. Without it, there would be no contact between the two and both would cease to exist. It is described as simple and luminous, like the World of Spirits, but also able to take on many different forms just like the World of Corporeal Bodies can. In broader terms Barzakh, “is anything that separates two things”. It has been described as the dream world in which the dreamer is in both life and death.
Barzakh is an Arabic word that literally means ‘barrier’, ‘separation’ or ‘hindrance’. The World of Barzakh (Aalam-e-Barzakh) designates a phase happening between death and resurrection. The word ‘grave’ in its widest sense also refers to the Barzakh because this is the period intervening between this world and the next, therefore a world itself. After death and before Resurrection, all the human beings and Jins will have to live in the world of Barzakh as per their ranking. Barzakh is much larger than this earth. It is a place where some will live with comfort while others will confront hardships.
It is the popular belief of the Muslim faith that every person will lead a fixed lifespan on earth. The fixed life can neither be increased nor decreased. When the time of a person’s fixed lifespan completes, Hazrat Izra’eel in Arabic or Azrael in some Jewish traditions (the angel of death) appears and removes his soul. The person observes the presence of Angles to his left and right, for as far as his eyes can see. This is the time when the reality of Islam becomes more obvious than the brightness of the sun to every person. After the angel of death, Hazrat Izraeel captures the soul of a person, his phase of Barzakh starts.
It is the faith of Muslims that even after death; the soul is somehow linked to the body of man. Even after leaving the body, the soul experiences and feels everything that is inflicted on the body, just as it takes place during worldly life. Just as the body experiences five senses on earth, so too the soul has its own sensations, through which it feels happiness or sadness. The soul of a person continues to have such sensation in the World of Barzakh.
What does happen to the soul of a person in the World of Barzakh?
After death and according to one’s ranking based on piety and taqwa, the souls of the believers reside in different places of the World of Barzakh. The souls of some believers reside on their graves, while some reside near the well of Zamzam, some reside between the skies and the earth, some reside in the first sky, some reside in the second sky and so forth, right up to the seventh sky, while some reside even higher than the skies. No matter where the soul may be, it remains connected to its body. It recognizes and observes those who come to its grave. It even hears their words. The power of seeing by the soul is not only restricted to near the grave. (Bahare Shariat, vol. 1, p.101)
It is narrated in a hadith that “When a Muslim passes away, his path is cleared. He may go anywhere he desires”.
Some popular beliefs about the happenings after death, with reference to Bahare Shariat of Allama Sadrush Sharia Amjad Ali Qadri, are as follows;
It is an act of kufr to believe that soul enters another boy after death, be it that of another human or animal, which is known as ‘Tanasukh’ or ‘Awagawan’ i.e. re-incarnation.
It is the popular belief of Muslims that death refers to the separation of the soul from the body. It does not mean that the soul dies. Hence it is misguidance to believe that the soul is totally obliterated.