Thursday, January 29, 2009

Sleep is a Minor Death

Browsing through Imam al-Jibaly's wonderful book while doing some research, I read something that turned out to be an epiphany for me.

I'll admit something: before reading what I am about to quote below, I had a little bit of anxiety about death. I love Allah (swt) and want to be in Jannah. I am careful about my actions everyday because I know that my choices in this life will definitely affect what happens to me in the Hereafter.

We are told that "every soul will taste death" and we all know it's going to happen.

But I admit that sometimes the Shaytan whispers to me.

What I read liberated me from my little fears. Alhamdulillah. I am no longer afraid of death.


Because I have experienced "minor death" and at times it has been very pleasant!

Iman al-Jibaly writes:

"During sleep, our souls depart from our bodies in an obscure manner. The soul of every sleeping person is held by Allah, and He then releases it when it is time to wake up."

Allah takes the souls at the time of their (owners') death, and (He also takes) those that (their owners) have not died yet - during their sleep. Then He keeps those for which He has decreed death and releases the others for a specified term. Indeed, in this are signs for those who reflect. (39:42)

Dear Readers: I remember learning this early on when I re-verted to Islam. But what I never knew (and if you know this, bear with me, don't laugh!) is:

Ibn Uthaymin (ra) said:
"When a person goes to sleep, Allah (swt) takes away his sould in a form of minor death during which the soul goes to wherever Allah (swt) wills." (Sharhu Riyadh is-Salihin, no. 841)

A minor death! We "come back" from the dead! Again and again!

Imam al-Jibaly comments:

"During the 'minor death', a soul gets to meet other souls of both living and dead people ... "

(How many times have you dreamed of a dear deceased relative or someone living?)

After Khuzaymah Bin Thabit (ra) told the Prophet (saw) that he had a dream in which he was prostrating upon the Prophet's (saw) forehead, the Prophet (saw) said:

"Indeed, a soul surely meets another soul (during sleep). (Ahmad and others)

Imam al-Jibaly says, "Seeing specific individuals during sleep normally means that Allah (swt) has created their resemblance in the dreamer's mind. However, there are times when the dreamer's soul actually meets other souls of living or dead people. It's interaction with these souls may remain imprinted in the dreamer's mind after awakening. There is no indication that the other souls would remember the encounter, especially because the Prophet (saw) did not indicate remembering encountering Khuzaymah's soul. The encounter of souls is an obscure matter of ghayb, and cannot be subjected to our worldly standards ... a person's soul travels very fast so as to meet other souls, angels, etc. Even if he sleeps for just a brief moment, his soul is taken and then returned to his body during that moment."


He also said, "We learned that Allah (swt) sends the soul during sleep on a mysterious journey that involves amazing visions and encounters. As for the souls whose terms in this life has not yet ended, Allah (swt) sends them back into their bodies - which is demonstrated by awakening. These released souls may then remember and relate some of what they experienced during their journey - dreams."


The other night, I had a dream where my soul went on an amazing journey dear readers. My soul went to Mecca! I remembers pieces of my dream, but I clearly remember being with a bunch of other Muslims on top of one of the surrounding hills of Mecca. Someone said to me, "Look! It's over there!" I looked down but all I could see was a valley. But I knew "it" was there. In my dream, I knew that it was the Kabah that someone was trying to show me. I was so excited in the dream. And then I woke up. I didn't see it that dream.

But, Insha Allah, next time ...

I leave you with a dua that the Prophet (saw) taught us to say before we sleep:

"With Your Name, my Lord, I lay down my side, and by You (i.e., Allah's (swt) permission and help) I raise it. If You hold my soul (by death), show it mercy, and if You release it (i.e., keep it alive) then protect it as you protect your righteous servants." (al-Bukhari, Muslim)

Ameen! Ameen!


Anonymous said...

Salaams dear,

Subhan'Allah...this was very helpful & thought-provoking. I'd never heard that perspective on sleep being a "minor death" before. That definitely eases some fears I had.


Oday Al-Hasan - عدي الحسن said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Yasemin said...


This was yet another great and unique post. I've never seen anything else written on the subject. Even I was less afraid after reading.

Oday Al-Hasan - عدي الحسن said...

As Salam Alaikum Sister Safiyyah, Ma Sha Allah you have an interesting blog. I always find it interesting to speak to reverts, how and what made them embracing Islam. Could you kindly, point out what are the major differences between Jewish faiths and Islam starting from God?
Look forward to hear from you
Oday Al-Baghdady

Safiyyah said...

As Salaamu Alaikum Everyone and thanks for stopping by.

@ Oday Al-Baghdady: Masha Allah! I think your questions requires a separate post! I shall work on it, Insha Allah. I stopped briefly by your blog. It looks fascinating, Masha Allah. I will come by later, Insha Allah.

. said...

Salam Safiyyah,

What a post! The minor death, I haven't heard that term in a while. How quickly one forgets. This brings to mind Anwar Alwaki's lecture series, I can't remember if it the Hereafter series or another one where he goes into detail about the journey of the soul hmm... I need to break out the materials and do some serious reflection!

Safiyyah said...

Salaams Muslim 007:

Nice to see you!

I don't know of that series, but Imam al-Jibaly provides a fabulous description of this journey in "Life in al-Barzakh"

Insha Allah I will make a post from that journey, soon!

Anonymous said...
This comment has been removed by a blog administrator.