Contents > Chapter 6: Back from the Barzakh > Can the soul of a dead person come back briefly to life and communicate with the living?


Can the soul of a dead person come back briefly to life and communicate with the living?[1]

Many Sufis believe that souls of the dead can and do come back to earth and converse with the living (who are awake). In order to assess the validity of such a claim, it is essential to explore the various references to this issue found in the Qur’aan, the Sunnah and books of Qur’aanic Tafseer.


The Theory of the Soul’s return opposes the Qur’aan and the Sunnah

A number of Qur’aanic verses explicitly indicate that souls of the dead do not come back to the world. When death comes to a disbeliever, who rejects the truth of Resurrection, he realizes his misguidance and error, and requests, “‘My Lord, send me back (to life), so that I may work in righteousness regarding things left behind’. But no! It is but a word that he speaks and behind them is a Barzakh (a barrier) until the Day when they will be resurrected.”[2] [3] This verse is a clear proof against the theory of the soul’s return. The word used in this verse is ‘Barzakh’ literally meaning a veil, barrier or partition between two things.[4] Commentators of the Qur’aan like, Mujahid (a Tabi’e) explains Barzakh in this verse to mean, ‘a barrier between the existing world and death’. Another scholar of Tafseer, adh-Dhahhak (a Tabi’e) described Barzakh as ‘the stage between this world and the Hereafter.’[5] Ibn Abbas (radhi allahu anhu) defined it as Hijab, (a partition of veil). Also, al-Qurtubi writes in his Tafseer, ‘there are no contradictions among the various explanations by these scholars; rather they all point to one undeniable fact; the souls having been separated from its earthly body, enters into a realm behind which, there is a barrier prohibiting any return.”[6]


Someone might argue that this verse refers to disbelievers - The following verse refers to believers. Allah says, “O you who believe! Let not your properties or your children divert you from the remembrance (obligations and duties) of Allah. And whosoever does that, then they are the losers. And spend (in charity) of that with which We have provided you, before death comes to one of you and he says: “My Lord! If only You would give me respite for a little while (i.e. return to the worldly life), then I should have given Sadaqah (charity) of my wealth and be among the righteous. And Allah grants respite to none when his appointed time (death) comes. And Allah is All-Aware of what you do.”[7]


In this verse, Allah rejects the request of the dying person even before his soul is seized. Thus, the question of the soul’s return does not arise, once death has occurred to him and he has entered the realm of Barzakh. In addition, the Messenger of Allah (sallallahu alaihi wa-sallam) said: “No servant who has good in store for him with Allah and dies ever wants to return to the earth - even if he were to have the whole world and everything that is in it - except for the martyr. That is due to what he sees in the nobility of martyrdom. Verily, he would like to return back to the earth in order to be martyred another time.”[8]


He (sallallahu alaihi wa-sallam) also said about the martyrs, “The souls of the martyrs live in the bodies of green birds who have their nests in chandeliers hung from the Throne of the Almighty… Once, their Lord cast a glance at them and said: “Do you want anything?” They said: “What more can we desire? We eat the fruit of Paradise wherever we like.” Their Lord asked them the same question thrice. When they saw that they would be continued to be asked and not left (without answering the question), they said: “O Lord, we wish that You may return our souls to our bodies so that we may be slain in Your cause once again. When He (Allah) saw that they had no need, they were left (to their joy in Heaven).”[9]

Thus, a complete study of the Qur’aan and the Sunnah concludes that it is neither possible, nor proven that souls of the dead return to the world of the living, meet with people or converse with them.

[1] These points have been taken from the book, Myteries of the Soul Expounded by Abu Bilal Mustafa al-Kanadi.

[2] See al-Qurtubi’s al-Jami’u li Ahkam al-Quran, vol.12, p.150.

[3] Soorah al-Mu’minun (23): 99-100.

[4] See al-Isfahani’s Mu’jam Mufradat Alfadh al-Quran, p.41 and Ibn al-Atheer’s an-Nihayah fee Ghareeb al-Haeeith, vol.1,p.118.

[5] See al-Qurtubi’s Tafseer, vol.12, p.150.

[6] See al-Qurtubi’s Tafseer, vol.12, p.150.

[7] Soorah al-Munafiqun (63): 9-11.

[8] Sunan at-Tirmidhee no.1710. Authenticated by Shaikh al-Albanee in Saheeh Sunan at-Tirmidhee no.1341.

[9] Saheeh Muslim no.4651, Sunan at-Tirmidhee no.1631 and others.