What does Islam teach?

Islamic Beliefs about Death

Even more than with other major religions, we are in shifting territory when we try to pin down Islamic beliefs. What we present here is a kind of Highest Common Factor among a wide penumbra of beliefs and practices that vary from country to country, from denomination to denomination (principally but not exclusively Sunni and Shia), from one reading of the Koran to another.

That said, most Muslims would agree that the objective of the Good Life is to follow and obey the precepts of Allah. They would accept that they will be held accountable for their actions on earth, and if found wanting, they will be punished in the hereafter. They would also agree that Allah is not unreasonable in that he will not test them beyond their capacity to resist. Any failings then are not due to excessive temptation but to their own moral weakness.

This makes death the more solemn; for it is entry to the waiting chamber (Barzakh) where they wait for the day of judgement. While they wait, the angel of death, Azrail, attends them and takes them to two angels who question them about their life on earth. If they pass this examination they are left in Barzakh to await the final Judgement; if they fail they are sent to a place of utter torment, “the punishment of the grave.”. On the day of Judgement they can look forward to translation to the “gardens of pleasure”, the reward for living religiously,asking Allah for forgiveness and practising good works.

Our reading of the Islamic view - at least on this compressed account - is very transactional; do right by your understanding of the demands of Allah and you will go to the gardens of pleasure; do wrong and you will be punished.

We would welcome further thoughts on this from Muslim believers.