|CHAPTER -III- INTERMEDIATE PERIOD (BARZAKH)|
The state of the body in Barzakh
One of the dreaded stages of the Hereafter is ‘Barzakh’. ‘Barzakh’ literally means a curtain or a separator which lies between two things and does not allow them to meet each other. For example, sweet water and bitter water both flow side by side, but Almighty Allah has set between them a barrier so they do not intermingle. As Allah says in the Qur'an, “He has made the two seas to flow freely (so that) they meet together, Between them is a barrier which they cannot pass”. (Surah-ar-Rahmah : 19-20). But Barzakh in this context means that Allah has placed a curtain between this world and the hereafter. Imam Ja'far-as-Sadiq (A.S.) says, “By Allah! I fear a lot for your state in Barzakh”. The narrator asked Imam (A.S.) as to what was Barzakh? Imam Sadiq (A.S.) replied that, It is a period starting from death till Qayamat. (Biharul Anwar)
“And before them is a barrier (Barzakh) until the day they are raised”. (Surah-al-Mo'menoon : 100)
The period of Barzakh and the body
Barzakh is also called a corporeal or a non-material world (Alame Misali) because some what it seems like this world, but it's nature and matter is totally different. After we die the other world seems quite vast when compared to this world, seems quite vast when compared to this world, and this world can be compared to the womb of the mother. In the same manner the body of a human in Barzakh will be the likeness of the one in this world. It means that in Barzakh the physical components of a man will be the same as in this world, but will be independent of matter. In fact it will be more pleasant and lighter (Lateef) than air, and will be transparent.
Imam Ja'far-as-Sadiq (A.S.) says, “If you look at the corpareal / imaginal body (Badane Misali, in Barzakh), you will say that it the same one (as in this world).
If one looks at one's dead father in a dream, he will surely say that his appearence and bodily components were the same as when he was alive. But the reality is that his body and matter lie buried in the grave.
The eyes remain the same but devoid of the shortage of sight which may necessitate the wearing of spectacles. The other bodily parts also do not become exhausted or weak, the teeth do not fall off, and a believer rejoices in eternal youth, while a non-believer suffers the impediments of old age, which act as Allah's chatisement.
Philosophers & thinkers compare this body (in Barzakh) to the image in a mirror, but with two differences: (1) The Corporeal Body (Badane Misali) is firm & free, and independent of the mirror, and (2) It is intelligent, wise, and understanding as against the image in the mirror. It can also be compared to a dream in which we travel from one place to another in the twinkle of an eye. In Barzakh the body consumes variety of food and drinks, and hears the music, the likeness of which can not be found in this world. The spirit (Rooh) also rejoices in the pleasures along with the corporeal body. In fact the food and drinks of that world are more tasty and free from material dirt and uncleanliness as stated in traditions (Ahadees).
One thing gets converted to another according to the wish of the believer. Plums turn into grapes, and grapes into any other fruit, as will be discussed in the incident of Hazrat Hamza (A.S.)
Difficulty of Impression and Effects
In the state of Barzakh the intellect of the corporeal body is very strong. The pleasures which we derive in this world are nothing as compared to those in that stage. Because the reality lies there whereas here is the likeness of it. If a ‘Hoorie’ looks towards this world and lifts up the veil an inch off her face, the light of the sun would seem nothing in front of the light emanating from her glowing face. And the eyes would turn blind, hence complete beauty lies there. “Surely We have made whatever is on the earth an embellishment for it, so that we may try them (as to) which of them is the best in deeds”. Surah-al-Kahf:7.
Allamah Naraqi relates in ‘Khazaen’ : In the days of my youth in Isfahan, one day I accompanied my respected father and companions to a friend's place on the day of ‘Naoroz’ to meet him. The friend lived near a cemetary. To relieve ourselves of fatigue, and also with the intention of getting reward, we stopped by the graveyard to recite ‘fateha’ for the departed mo'meneen. One of our friends who was humorous turned towards a grave and said, “O occupant of the grave! will you accept us as your guests today on this day of Idd”? Back came the reply, “Sure, next week on tuesday you all will be my guests”. We were horrified and concluded that only some days of our lives were left. We started performing good deeds and rectifying the bad ones.
We also started writing our wills. The day of tuesday dawned but none of us died. We met together went to the cemetary. One of us went forward and called to the grave, “O occupant of the grave! Please do as you had promised”, and back came the reply, “Welcome”. Suddenly we realized that the curtains of the hidden were lifted off our eyes, and we saw a green and beautiful garden in which were flowing streams of cool and pleasant water. The gardens were laden with colourful fruits, and beautiful birds were praising Allah on the trees. We reached a mansion in the midst of the garden. When he saw us he got up to welcome. Different types of fruits and sweets were served, the likeness of which cannot be imagined nor described.
We ate to our full, but were still not satiated, and wished to eat more. After finishing the meals we sat for sometime, then we got up to ask the person's permission to leave. He bade us farewell and came to leave us till the door. My father asked him as to who he was, and why did Allah bestow His blessings on him so that he had got the capacity to feed the whole mankind, and also asked him as to what the place was. The man replied that, “I am a native of your town, a butcher by profession, and the reason for these blessings to be bestowed on me are: (1) I never weighed less at the time of sale, and (2) I always recited the Prayers (Namaz) on time all throughotu my life. As soon as the voice of ‘Takbeer’ reached my ears, I left my work and proceeded for Namaz in the Mosque. Hence I am offered this position here.
Last week when you requested me for a feast, I had not obtained permission for it, while this week I have got the permission and hence invited you”. Then we individually asked him our ages and he answered. I asked him my age and he said that I would live for another fifteen years. Then he wished us farewell, and we reached the same place in the cemetary. (Ma'ad)
The pleasures in Barzakh are not perishable
One of the peculiarities of ‘Barzakh’ is that it is eternal and permanent. None of the things of this world are immortal. Youth is overshadowed by the darkness of old-age. Till the time the morsel of food remains in the mouth, a person derives pleasure and taste, and then it disappeares. Flowers turn dry after a period, and hence nothing remains eternal. But Barzakh and it's pleasures are eternal because it is not made up of matter or elements like other things and hence does not cease to exist.
This can be explained by a narrative in ‘Darus Salaam’, where in Shaikh Mahmood Naraqi quotes from Shaikh Mahdi Naraqi. He says that: During my days in Najaf, there poke a severe famine. I left my house leaving behind my children who were crying with hunger and thirst so as to search something for them. I passed through ‘Wadi-us-Salaam’, and entered there in with the intention of reciting ‘Fateha’ for the departed souls, and this act would pacify me and make me forget my sorrow. I saw some people the graveyard with a bier, and they requested me to join them in the funeral. Being an act of great reward I accompanied them. They carried the bier and suddenly we entered into a vast garden.
They took the bier in a huge and beatiful place there in, which had all the emenities of luxury. I entered through the door and saw a handsome youth wearing splendid attires seated on a golden throne. As soon as he saw me, he addressed me by my name and saluted me. He signalled me to go near him and I replied in the negative. He said “I am the same person whose funeraly you are attending. I am a native of so and so town and the people you saw in my funeral were the blessed Angels, who pought me from my town to this Paradise for the Intermediate (Barzakh) period”. When I heard these words from the lips of the person, I forgot my sorrow and started adoring the beauties of the garden. When I came out of the garden, I saw some other places, and when I observed carefully I saw my departed parents and relatives standing at the doors. When they saw me, they invited me to enter in. I entered there in and they invited me for food, which was very delicious. While eating I suddenly remembered my wife and children who were dying of hunger and thirst and my face turned pale. My (father) undrstood and said, “O my son Mahdi! What is the reason for your sorrow”? I replied, “O father! While was eating, I suddenly remembered that my wife and children are dying of hunger at home, and that made me sad”.
He pointed towards a stock of rice and told me to take as much as I desired. I spread out my cloak and filled it to the full. And as soon as I got up, I found myself standing in the same place in ‘Wadi-us-Salaam, with my cloak filled with rice. I hurried towards my house and we ate to our full. Quite some time passed, but the stock never got over. One day my wife asked me as to where I got it from. She forced me to tell her, and I had to narrate the whole incident to her. She got up in excitement to take some rice from it so as to eat it, but it had disappeared.
Hence it can be concluded from this incident that the pleasures of Barzakh are eternal and not perishable.
On the other hand if we hear the voices of those who are being punished in Barzakh, we shall forget the sorrows of this world.
It is narrated in the third volume of ‘Biharul-Anwar’ that the Holy Prophet (S.A.W.S) said: Before the Proclaimation of Prophethood, once when I was grazing the cattle, I suddenly saw that the cattle stopped grazing and looked frightened. I wondered as to what was the reason for such a change, because nothing unusual happened at that time. When Jipa'eel came with the Revelation (Wahy) I asked him the reason for such a change. Jipa'eel answered, “O Prophet of Allah! When the people who are being punished in Barzakh scream with anguish & pain, their voices are not heard by human-beings and geniis, but animals can hear it and hence become tense. There are many incidents to support this.
It is written in ‘Darus Salaam’ that the great Scholar Allamah Sayyed Hashim Husain Bahrani says: In Najaf there lived a shopkeeper who counseled and adviced people daily at his shop after Namaze Zohr. At that moment his shop would be full of people who gathered to hear the guidance.
One day an Indian prince came to settle in Najaf, and planed to proceed on a journey. He came to the shopkeeper to keep his ornaments and valuables as a trust with him, because he thought the shopkeeper to be a trust-worthy believer. After some days when he returned back from the journey, he went to the shop-keeper to take back the things entrusted to him. The shop-keeper totally denied having taken the valuables from him. The prince was dejected and went to the Shrine of The Commander of the faithful Ali (A.S.) and called out, “O Ali! I left my motherland and came and settled here near your grave, and entrusted my wealth to the shop-keeper believing him to be a trust-worthy person. But alas, now he denies having my wealth and I have no witness to prove my claim except you”. In the night he dreamt that Hazrat Ali (A.S.) came and told him to go in the morning to the gate of the city. And when the gate opens, the first person to enter there in would help him acquire his lost wealth. He got up the next morning and went to the city-gate.
The first person to enter the gate was an old and feeble man, who looked virtuous and was carrying a load of wood on his head. He entered the city and sat down to sell the wood so as to earn some thing for his family. The prince felt ashamed to ask for his help and returned to the Shrine. He again dreamt the same, and the next day again went to the city-gate and saw the old man and returned back. When on the third night he dreamt the same, in the morning he went to the gate and finding the old man related the whole incident to him. The man thought for a moment and told the prince to come to the shop-keeper's place after (midday prayer) Namaze Zohr, and he would get his wealth back if Allah desires. After the Namaz people as usual gathered at the shop and the shop-keeper got up to advice. Suddenly the old man got up and requested the shop-keeper to let him say something, to which he agreed.
The old man said, “O people! I am so and so, the son of so and so, and I am worried about the Rights of people (Haqqun Naas)/ Praise be to Allah! For I have no lust for the wealth of this world, and am a conented man and passing my days in solitude. I would like to narrate to you an incident of my life and warn you about the wrath of Allah, and the punishment of Hell, and the hardships of Qayamat. Once i was in great debt and hence borrowed ten ‘Qiraat’ (equal to 21 dinars) from a jew and promised him to pay half a ‘Qiraat’ daily. I fulfilled my promise for ten days. On the eleventh day the jew was not to be found anywhere. I inquired about his whereabouts and was told that he had migrated to Baghdad. After some days I dreamt that Qayamat had dawned, and I was being pought for reckoning alongwith others. After giving my account, I was sent towards Paradise. While passing on the Poole Serat, I suddenly saw the jew appearing from the raging fire below and he stopped my way.
He asked me to return him back the five ‘Qiraats’ which I owed him. I told him that I had no intention of usurping his money, and that I had searched for him, but he was nowhere to be found. He said that he would not permit me to go any further until I return his trust back to him. I said that I did not have anything at that moment, to which he replied that in that case I should allow him to place his finger on my chest.
I agreed to it. As soon as he placed his fingers on my chest, I felt intense pain, and I woke up from my sleep. I saw that there was a wound on my chest, which is not yet cured, and is still fresh. Whatever treatment I do is of no avail”. Saying this the old man opened his shirt buttons and showed the wound to the people. When the people saw the wound, they started weeping and wailing and asked repentence from Allah. The shop-keeper who was also hearing this was very much effected and regretted his sin. He called the Indian prince and returned him his wealth, and apologized sincerely for his sin. (Ma'ad)
The effect of the spirit (Rooh) on the body and it's relation with The grave
The spirit receives reward or punishment (as the case may be) in the grave. But due to it's long relation with the body, the body also feels pain and is effected. Those people who say that it is of no use to visit the graves, for the spirit (Rooh) of the believer is not present there but is in wadi-us-Salaam, this is not true. The answer to this ignorant talk is the tradition (Hadees) of Imam Ja'far-as-Sadiq (A.S.) who says that Verily the Spirit (Rooh) of the believer is in Wadi-us-salaam, but it surely keeps an eye on what is happening in the grave. It also looks at the people who have come to visit his grave. Imam (A.S.) compares the spirit to the sun. Even though the sun is not on the earth but is on the sky, the entire earth is illuminated by it's light, in the same manner the spirit is in ‘Wadi-us-Salaam’ but it keeps contact with the body.
The great Traditionist Sayyed Ne'matullah Jazaeri narrates an incident in his book “Anware No'maniyah” that once Shah Isma'il Safawi came to Karbala. He heard the people denying and doubting the faithfulness of Hurr bin Yazid-ar-Riyahi (one of the companions of Imam Husain, who was martyred in Karbala). He gave the order to dig the grave of Hurr.
When the grave of Hurr was opened, people saw the corpse of Hurr lying afresh. A kerchief was tied on his forehead, regarding which it is related, that on the day of ‘Ashoora’ (the tenth of Moharram), Imam Husain (A.S.) himself had tied a kerchief on the bleeding forehead of Hurr. Shah Isma'il ordered that the kerchief should be removed and given to him so as to be kept in his shroud. As soon as the kerchief was removed, blood started oozing from the forehead of Hurr, hence it was teid back. Shah Isma'il ordered another kerchief to be tied instead of it. When this was done the blood ceased to stop flowing. The Shah was helpless and ordered the kerchief to remain at it's original place. He then acknowledged the faithfulness and high honour of Hurr. Then he ordered a Shrine to be erected on the grave.
In the same manner Shaikh Kulaini and Shaikh Sadooq (two great Shi'ah Ulamas)'s graves were opened, and their bodies were found fresh therein as if sleeping in peace. The Henna applied on the hands of Shaikh Sadooq also remained intact even after so much time. The signs of life were visible from his body.
On the other hand, when the spirits of the non-believers are being punished, their bodies are also effected. When Bani abbas gained victory over Bani Abbas qained victory over Bani Ummayah and entered Damascus, they started exhuming their graves. When the grave of Yazid ibne Mu'awiyah was opened, only a lump of mud was found instead of his body. When a person was being buried in a graveyard in the city of Qum, a flame of fire erupted from his grave which destroyed all it's surroundings. In Pakistan too many incidents have taken place which are written in newspapers. (Ma'ad).
The Valley of Peace (Wadi-us-Salam)
Aquestion may arise in the minds of people as to where does such a vast event of Barzakh take place. A human's intellect is beyond it's understanding. In traditions (Ahadees) this universe is compared to the mother's womb, and the state of Barzakh to the expansive world outside it. If a child in the mother's womb is informed about a vast and expansive world outside, it will be difficult for it to grasp it. In the same manner human intellect cannot understand the state of the expansive Barzakh. As is said in the Holy Qur'an: “So no soul knows what is hidden for them of that which will refresh the eyes”. (Surah-as-Sajdah: 17)
Whatever as come down to us from the Holy Aimmah (A.S.) has to be relied upon. It is related in traditions that whenever a believer (Mo'min) dies anywhere in the east or the west, his spirit is taken to the Valley of Peace (Wadi-us-Salaam) in Najaf near the grave of the Commander of the faithful Ali (A.S.). In another tradition Najaf is described as an assembling place for the high-honoured and blessed Angels (Malaeka). And if the dead man is a believer in the Holy Aimmah (A.S.), and is buried in Najaf, he rejoices abundant bliss. While if a sinful person is buried in Najaf and his spirit is being punished in ‘Wadi-e-Barhoot’, his spirit strengthens it's union with the body and hence is relieved of the punishment, as has been related in earlier incidents. (Ma'ad).