According to Islam, what happens exactly to a person when his time ends on earth?

I want to focus on the moment of death itself not what happens afterwards. As far as I know the angel of death comes to a person who is supposed to die and removes his soul from his body.

Can someone put further details to this process?

Can the dying person see things from the after life? Can he see the angel of death? Can he communicate with him, other angles or the devil?

Is it true that the soul is removed from the feet then moving upward? Does that mean that the feet die before the rest of the body and therefore it can be a sign that a person is dying if he can't move his feet? (I know it sound silly, but someone told me this and I want to confirm it)

First let me comment that the dying instant is not really an instant of time, it MAY be felt as a very long period of time by the person being dying, but not always as it depends on the person being dying. In this period of time many things may happen among them being punishments (not talking about after death, but death itself). Then we have some pre-death and after-death happenings that Satan coming to people belong to the pre-death list of happenings. This answer to your question cannot be very short unless we only address some points that may encourage you for more research on the issue:

About some wrongdoers (not for everyone) at their death:

وَلَوْ تَرَىٰ إِذْ يَتَوَفَّى الَّذِينَ كَفَرُوا ۙ الْمَلَائِكَةُ يَضْرِبُونَ وُجُوهَهُمْ وَأَدْبَارَهُمْ وَذُوقُوا عَذَابَ الْحَرِيقِ

If thou couldst see, when the angels take the souls of the Unbelievers (at death), (How) they smite their faces and their backs, (saying): "Taste the penalty of the blazing Fire-[Al-Anfal, 50]

فَكَيْفَ إِذَا تَوَفَّتْهُمُ الْمَلَائِكَةُ يَضْرِبُونَ وُجُوهَهُمْ وَأَدْبَارَهُمْ ﴿٢٧﴾ ذَٰلِكَ بِأَنَّهُمُ اتَّبَعُوا مَا أَسْخَطَ اللَّـهَ وَكَرِهُوا رِضْوَانَهُ فَأَحْبَطَ أَعْمَالَهُمْ

But how (will it be) when the angels take their souls at death, and smite their faces and their backs? / This because they followed that which called forth the Wrath of Allah, and they hated Allah's good pleasure; so He made their deeds of no effect. [Muhammad, 27,28]

So you see there is not necessarily one angel of death. Particularly the holiness Izra`eel will receive the soul of the prophets and some highest believers and his army will do the job for the others. Also see the verse that says anyone who commits and/or is pleased with others committing bisexual sins will die on the torture of the tribe of Lut, peace be upon him:

فَلَمَّا جَاءَ أَمْرُنَا جَعَلْنَا عَالِيَهَا سَافِلَهَا وَأَمْطَرْنَا عَلَيْهَا حِجَارَةً مِّن سِجِّيلٍ مَّنضُودٍ / مُّسَوَّمَةً عِندَ رَبِّكَ ۖ وَمَا هِيَ مِنَ الظَّالِمِينَ بِبَعِيدٍ

When Our Decree issued, We turned (the cities) upside down, and rained down on them brimstones hard as baked clay, spread, layer on layer,- / Marked as from thy Lord: Nor are they ever far from those who do wrong! [Hud, 82,83]

According to a Hadeeth from imam Sadiq peace be upon him, this torture will come to them at their death so others will not understand this.

A short narration from Allah is in Surah Al-Waqi`ah

فَلَوْلَا إِذَا بَلَغَتِ الْحُلْقُومَ ﴿٨٣﴾ وَأَنتُمْ حِينَئِذٍ تَنظُرُونَ ﴿٨٤﴾ وَنَحْنُ أَقْرَبُ إِلَيْهِ مِنكُمْ وَلَـٰكِن لَّا تُبْصِرُونَ ﴿٨٥﴾ فَلَوْلَا إِن كُنتُمْ غَيْرَ مَدِينِينَ ﴿٨٦﴾ تَرْجِعُونَهَا إِن كُنتُمْ صَادِقِينَ ﴿٨٧﴾ فَأَمَّا إِن كَانَ مِنَ الْمُقَرَّبِينَ ﴿٨٨﴾ فَرَوْحٌ وَرَيْحَانٌ وَجَنَّتُ نَعِيمٍ ﴿٨٩﴾ وَأَمَّا إِن كَانَ مِنْ أَصْحَابِ الْيَمِينِ ﴿٩٠﴾ فَسَلَامٌ لَّكَ مِنْ أَصْحَابِ الْيَمِينِ ﴿٩١﴾ وَأَمَّا إِن كَانَ مِنَ الْمُكَذِّبِينَ الضَّالِّينَ ﴿٩٢﴾ فَنُزُلٌ مِّنْ حَمِيمٍ ﴿٩٣﴾ وَتَصْلِيَةُ جَحِيمٍ

Then why do ye not (intervene) when (the soul of the dying man) reaches the throat,- (83) And ye the while (sit) looking on,- (84) But We are nearer to him than ye, and yet see not,- (85) Then why do ye not,- If you are exempt from (future) account,- (86) Call back the soul, if ye are true (in the claim of independence)? (87) Thus, then, if he be of those Nearest to Allah, (88) (There is for him) Rest and Satisfaction, and a Garden of Delights. (89) And if he be of the Companions of the Right Hand, (90) (For him is the salutation), "Peace be unto thee", from the Companions of the Right Hand. (91) And if he be of those who treat (Truth) as Falsehood, who go wrong, (92) For him is Entertainment with Boiling Water. (93) And burning in Hell-Fire.

which explicitly says about the life reaching the throat of the person while dying. To understand this you may need some pre explanations. In quran e.g. we have heart and chest, and even we are told the heart that is placed in the chest, but yet concepts other than simply the limbs of our body are intended. The names are similar because they are not intrinsically different, but not exactly the same as well. Studing about this and how Allah will conduct the Rise for the judgment day you will understand why throat is probably a final place for having soul, and for that you will always require some understanding about the connection between soul and body, also the brain and body. This much may suffice for here.

About Satan coming the person almost dying is a fact that we are warned of it, so there is a famous Dua that we are told to read so that we will remain safe of his greatest trick at those difficult times.

Note that Death is anyway one of the 3 difficult instant of life of any human, and it is clear from Ahadeeth explaining why Jesus peace be upon him said while was in his cradle:

وَالسَّلَامُ عَلَيَّ يَوْمَ وُلِدتُّ وَيَوْمَ أَمُوتُ وَيَوْمَ أُبْعَثُ حَيًّا

"So peace is on me the day I was born, the day that I die, and the day that I shall be raised up to life (again)"! [Maryam, 33]

Also it is true that people can see many things from the after death world, which is nothing but a deeper truth of Dunya, like Pharaoh saw the holiness Jibr`aeel while he was still alive:

وَجَاوَزْنَا بِبَنِي إِسْرَائِيلَ الْبَحْرَ فَأَتْبَعَهُمْ فِرْعَوْنُ وَجُنُودُهُ بَغْيًا وَعَدْوًا ۖ حَتَّىٰ إِذَا أَدْرَكَهُ الْغَرَقُ قَالَ آمَنتُ أَنَّهُ لَا إِلَـٰهَ إِلَّا الَّذِي آمَنَتْ بِهِ بَنُو إِسْرَائِيلَ وَأَنَا مِنَ الْمُسْلِمِينَ ﴿٩٠﴾ آلْآنَ وَقَدْ عَصَيْتَ قَبْلُ وَكُنتَ مِنَ الْمُفْسِدِينَ

We took the Children of Israel across the sea: Pharaoh and his hosts followed them in insolence and spite. At length, when overwhelmed with the flood, he said: "I believe that there is no god except Him Whom the Children of Israel believe in: I am of those who submit (to Allah in Islam)." (90) (It was said to him): "Ah now!- But a little while before, wast thou in rebellion!- and thou didst mischief (and violence)! [Yunus, 90,91]

Note that repent is accepted before the soul is completely extracted from the body but this is not for those who are receiving torture of Allah, so pharaoh's repent was not accepted and it has some other evidences in Quran.

Finally, according to Shia Ahadeeth no one, Muslim or non-Muslim, will die unless he will see the holy prophet and his brother Imam Ali peace be upon them next to him/her. But this need further explanations, specially for those living before the time of the holy prophet and Imam Ali peace be upon him.

Anyway, this is not a very simple issue, you will need to research a lot, and you will need to learn a lot of perhaps new concepts that can make some Ahadeeth meaningful.

At the time of death, the angel of death is dispatched to retrieve the soul from the person (al-An`am:61). The form these angels take depends on the state of belief of the person. The people around him see the effects of these things happening, but not the events themselves. The angels either give him good news of what is to come or bad news.

Death is accompanied by something called the sakarat of death, or the stupor of death and it is painful. The person loses the faculty of rationality at this point. The hadith of Bara'a b. `Azib (ra) (in Abu Dawud, Ahmad) indicates that the soul of the disbeliever leaves the body reluctantly, like an iron skewer passing through him. Surat al-Qiyamah:26 indicates that the soul leaves from the throat/collarbone area. Some people can describe what is happening to them at this moment. `Amr b. al-As (ra) said that it felt as if he was lying in a box, his breathing was constricted, and there was a thorn bring pulled through him from the feet up to the top of his head. Shaytan appears to the person and tries one last time to get them to disbelieve.

The soul then leaves the body and continues on its journey. See the hadith of Bara'a b. `Azib (ra) for more details.

Source: The Minor Resurrection by Umar Sulaiman al-Ashqar.

It really depends on the circumstances but generically speaking, the person who is dying can see the angels who claim the soul. Once they witness the event, they cannot communicate with the world since they have already begun the transition to the afterlife. From what I have read (Allah knows best) an entire troop of angels arrive, by some accounts it is in the hundreds, very similar to a police sting operation where a criminal is caught by complete surprise (if the dying person is a non-believer).

A true story in my family, only Allah (swt) knows the truth of this matter and reasons behind it; a female relative of age who was on her death bed in the final throes and surrounded by family members in the room. In her final moment, she raised herself and pointed toward the door as if there was somebody standing there and repeated ‘Voh..voh..” which is an Urdu expression where you are trying to bring attention to something, as if saying, “Look…look…”

It could have been hallucinations or she may have seen something like the angels arriving to take her soul. There are a few lectures on YouTube by Muslim doctors who have witnessed many people dying and describe their last words. In one sermon (may Allah swt save us), doctor described how only a small number of people out of every hundred recited kalimah before dying. Most would be talking trash or words nobody could understand (which is the confusion of the mind), some would ask for a milkshake or repeat a favorite song etc.

The taking of the soul starts at the feet and is pressed up the body, like a toothpaste tube when you are emptying it. It collects in the chest before being pulled out from the throat area; painful for the unfortunate and a soothing process for the pious. Medically, it is proven that during the time of death, the sensation begins to erode starting at the feet. The last thing to remain is the hearing. The soul is re-united with the body at the time of being lowered into the grave, as the Prophet (pbuh) advised to be gentle with the deceased body when lowering it into the grave, because they can feel everything. May Allah (swt) save us from the uncertainty and the fear.

I ask Allah (swt) to forgive me for any mistakes on my part and any ignorance in my knowledge on the matter.

  • Good answer - you can make it better by citing sources to back up what you say (apart from the lectures). – Ansari Feb 18 '14 at 22:26

protected by Community Apr 18 '16 at 21:13

Thank you for your interest in this question. Because it has attracted low-quality or spam answers that had to be removed, posting an answer now requires 10 reputation on this site (the association bonus does not count).

Would you like to answer one of these unanswered questions instead?