Can man feel that he will die just before his death? Will Azrail be visible to him?

The Answer

Dear Brother / Sister,

When man dies, he hardly recognizes the people around him or does not recognize them at all. The reason for this is thought to be the weakening of his mental power, but it is not. Some things that living people cannot and will not understand become clear to him and his existence is drawn into himself. The facial expressions that are seen in a person who is about to die and that cannot be understood by the people around and the words heard from him are related to this deep state. That is, they are related to the things that he sees but the people around him do not see.   

According to what Ibn Abid-Dunya (d. 327/938) writes, Abu Jafar Muhammad b. Ali (d. 117/ 735), who was one of the most famous fiqh scholars of Tabiun (the generation that came after the Companions), said man would be shown his good and bad deeds and that man would turn toward his good deeds and close his eyes to his bad deeds at the time of death. The following is stated in the chapter of al-Qiyama: "That Day will Man be told (all) that he put forward, and all that he put back."1 Suyuti (d. 911/1505) writes that Hasan al-Basri (d. 110/728) states the following related to the interpretation of the verse above: "At the time of death, the hafaza angels of man come and show him whatever he did, good and bad. When he sees a good deed, he looks at it happily, stares at it and his face brightens. When he sees a bad deed, however, lowers his gaze, does not want to look at it and grimaces."2

The Messenger of Allah (pbuh) visited a Companion from Ansar who was in his deathbed and asked him what he saw. He said two things were prepared for him and that one of them was white and the other was black. When the Messenger of Allah (pbuh) asked him which one was closer to him, he said the black one was closer and asked the Messenger of Allah (pbuh) to pray for him. Thereupon, the Prophet (pbuh) prayed for him and the man said the black thing moved away3; this proves that man’s deeds are shown to him when he is about to die. For, the black thing that the man saw was his bad deeds and the white thing was his good deeds.  

The following is stated in the chapter of al-Ahzab: "Their salutation on the Day they meet Him will be ‘Peace!’; and He has prepared for them a generous Reward."4 Bara' Ibn Azib states the following about that verse: "The salutation mentioned in the verse is the salutation given by the angel of death to the believer when he removes his spirit; the angel of death will not remove his spirit until he ensures him with his salutation that there is no penalty for him."5 When the angel of death comes to remove man’s spirit, he greets him; then, he is shown his position in the hereafter. Man will understand his state in the hereafter at that moment. It is narrated that Hz. Ali said, "It is haram for man to leave this world before he knows where he will go."6

According to a hadith reported from Jabir b. Abdillah (d. 74/693), a Bedouin asked the Prophet (pbuh) about the verse " For them are glad tidings, in the life of the present and in the Hereafter"7 in the chapter of Yunus, he said what is meant by the glad tiding in the hereafter is the glad tiding given to him at the time of his death.8

The Prophet (pbuh) said in the hadith reported by Hz. Aisha (d. 57/676) that everybody would be shown his rank at the time of death, that a believer would love to meet Allah and that an unbeliever would not like it. The Prophet (pbuh) said, "If a person wants to meet Allah, Allah will want to meet him; if a person dislikes to meet Allah, Allah will dislike to meet him." Hz. Aisha said, "O Messenger of Allah! None of us likes death." He said, "It is not in that sense. It is at the time of death. When a believer is given the glad tiding of Allah's mercy, consent and Paradise at the time of death, he wants to meet Allah and Allah will want to meet him. When an unbeliever is given the bad news of Allah’s penalty and wrath, he does not like to meet Allah and Allah does not like to meet him."9 In another hadith reported by Hz. Aisha, the Prophet (pbuh) said, "The spirit of a prophet is not removed until he sees his place in Paradise." That the Prophet’s last word is "ar-Rafiq al-A'la" 10 proves that his place in Paradise was shown to him.

There are clear signs in the Quran about the grace, glad tiding and penalty man will face at the time of death. It will be based on the deeds he did, good and bad, in his worldly life. "(There is for him) Rest and Satisfaction, and a Garden of Delights. And if he be of the Companions of the Right Hand."11 It is stated in the verse above that ease will be at the time of death. "And if he be of those who treat (Truth) as Falsehood, who go wrong, For him is Entertainment with Boiling Water..."12 The penalty mentioned in the verse above is at the time of death and hellfire awaits him.13 The following is stated in the chapter of  Fussilat: "In the case of those who say, "Our Lord is Allah", and, further, stand straight and steadfast, the angels descend on them (from time to time): "Fear ye not!" (they suggest), "Nor grieve! but receive the Glad Tidings of the Garden (of Bliss), the which ye were promised." 14 Mujahid, (d. 100/718), one of the tafsir scholars of Tabiun, states that what is informed in the verse above is related to the time of death.15 There are also tafsir scholars who say that the glad tiding mentioned in the verse is in three places: at the time of death, in the grave and on the Day of Resurrection. 16

They are all evidences that the believers who are good and who are people of salvation will be welcomed by the angels with mercy and glad tidings at the time of death.

It is stated in the chapter of al-Muminun that unbelievers and the believers who did not fulfill their duties fully will be given the bad news of penalty at the time of death and that they will want to return to the world when they see their places.17

Thus, when a person sees his place at the time of death and starts to feel pleasure or pain, his reward or penalty starts.18 The door of repentance is closed after that moment and belief is not accepted when he sees his place. 19 For, the value of belief is due to believing in the unseen (ghayb). When the Quran praises believers, it describes them as "those who believe in ghayb" 20. Belief after seeing the penalty in the hereafter is not accepted because it is not regarded as belief in ghayb. As a matter of fact, Pharaoh wanted to believe in his last moment when he was about to be drowned but it was not accepted by Allah. 21 It is stated clearly in the chapter of al-Ghafir (al-Mumin) that the belief of those after seeing the penalty will be of no use.22

Footnotes:

1) al-Qiyama, 75/13.
2) Suyuti, Sharhus-Sudur, v. 33 a, Nr.7253; v.170 a, Nr. 7371/3.
3) ibid.
4) al-Ahzab, 33/44.
5) Hasan al-Idwi, ibid, p. 17.
6) Suyuti, ibid, v. 35 b; 171 b.
7) Yunus, 10/64.
8) Suyuti, ibid, v. 35 b; 171 b..
9)  Bukhari, Sahih, Riqaq, 41, c. VII, s. 191; Ibn Majah, Sunan, Zuhd, 31, Vol. II., p. 1425; Tirmidhi, Sunan, Janaiz, 67, Vol. II, p. 247, (Translation) Tirmidhi said about this hadith: "hasan-sahih".
10) Bukhari, Sahih, Riqaq, 41, Vol. VII, p. 192.
11) al-Waqi’a, 56/88-89.
12) al-Waqi’a, 56/92-93.
13) Suyuti, ibid, v. 34 b; v. 171 a.
14) Fussilat, 41/30.
15) Mujahid b. Jabr, Tafsiru Mujahid, Vol. II, p. 571, Pakistan, no date.
16) Suyuti, ibid, v. 35 b; v. 172 a
17) al-Mu'minun, 23/99-100: (In Falsehood will they be) Until, when death comes to one of them, he says: ‘O my Lord! Send me back (to life),- In order that I may work righteousness in the things I neglected.’..."
18) see an-Nisa, 4/97; al-Anfal, 8/50; an-Nahl, 16/32; Abdulkarim al-Khatib. Allah wal-Insan, p. 460, Beirut, 1975.
19) ar-Razi, Muhammad b. Abi Bakr, al-Hidayae, Sarhu Amali) v. 69 a, Konya Yusufağa Library, Nr. 7048; Sha'rani, ibid, p. 16
20) al-Baqara, 2/3
21) Yunus, 10/90-92.
22)  al-Mu'min 40/84-85: "But when they saw Our Punishment, they said: ‘We believe in Allah,- the one Allah - and we reject the partners we used to join with Him.’ But their professing the Faith when they (actually) saw Our Punishment was not going to profit them. (Such has been) Allah´s Way of dealing with His Servants (from the most ancient times). And even thus did the Rejecters of Allah perish (utterly)."

(Kabir Hayatı, Prof. Dr. Süleyman Toprak)

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