What happens after someone dies? For this reason we need to examine the Hadith (traditions) to shed additional light on the matter. The event of death is something every human being will experience according to Islam. On the Day of Judgment, people will be paid full recompense. The experience for the faithful Muslim is different than the non-Muslim.
185. Every soul will taste of death. And ye will be paid on the Day of Resurrection only that which ye have fairly earned. Whoso is removed from the Fire and is made to enter Paradise, he indeed is triumphant. The life of this world is but comfort of illusion. Surah 3;185 (Pickthall)
The exact process of death is not clear, but the events at death are peppered throughout the Quran. First, the soul of a dying person comes to his throat,
“Why, then, when (the soul) cometh up to the throat (of the dying) Surah 56:83”.
This is then followed by the angels, who come and remove the soul from the body. The soul of the non-Muslim is violently removed; angels smite the soul in the process.
when the wrong doers reach the pangs of death and the angels stretch their hands out, saying: Deliver up your souls.
If thou couldst see how the anguish receive those who disbelieve, smiting their faces and their backs and (saying): Taste the punishment of burning!
According to the Hadith, what happens to a believer (Muslim) and a non-Muslim is vastly different.
Geisler summarizes these events,
“The soul of the faithful person, which is easily removed from the body, is clothed in a heavenly and sweet smelling garment by radiant and smiling angels. The soul is taken through the seven heavens, entering the presence of God who then orders the angels to return the soul to its earthly body until the day of judgment. On the other hand, the soul of the unbelieving person is removed from its body with a great deal of struggle. The angel of death clothes the soul with a foul smelling garment. The angel responsible for the wicked soul also tries to take the soul through the various levels of heaven but he gates of heaven are not opened to them (7:40), and the soul is then returned to the body”
All these events take place while the body is being washed, demonstrating how quick the above events take place.
1. Life in the Grave (Barzakh)
According to Islam, life continues in the grave after the body is buried. Life in the grave is known as Barzakh. According to Islamic tradition, while in the grave, two angels question the newly dead. Their names are Munkar and Nakir. They ask the person three questions:
1. Who is your God?
2. Who is your prophet?
3. What is your faith?
If the person answers correctly -- Allah, Islam and Muhammad -- the angels will make the grave more comfortable. They open a window where the view and orders of paradise can be enjoyed. For those who do not answer correctly, a window to hell will be opened, their grave will narrow, their ribs are crushed as they feel the heat and hot winds of hell. This will continue while the person awaits judgment. Only those who die in Jihad will go directly to Paradise.
Torment in the grave is clearly taught in Islam, especially in the traditions of the prophet. In the Bukhari we read the following.
Narrated Anas bin Malik:Allah's Apostle said, "When (Allah's) slave is put in his grave and his companions return and he even hears their footsteps, two angels come to him and make him sit and ask, 'What did you use to say about this man (i.e. Muhammad)?' The faithful Believer will say, 'I testify that he is Allah's slave and His Apostle.' Then they will say to him, 'Look at your place in the Hell Fire; Allah has given you a place in Paradise instead of it.' So he will see both his places." (Qatada said, "We were informed that his grave would be made spacious." Then Qatada went back to the narration of Anas who said;) Whereas a hypocrite or a non-believer will be asked, "What did you use to say about this man." He will reply, "I do not know; but I used to say what the people used to say." So they will say to him, "Neither did you know nor did you take the guidance (by reciting the Quran)." Then he will be hit with iron hammers once, that he will send such a cry as everything near to him will hear, except Jinns and human beings. (See Hadith No. 422). Volume 2, Book 23, number 456 Bukhari
Aisha, Mohammad’s favorite wife, relates Mohammad’s comments about punishment in the grave. She states how Mohammad feared punishment in grave and prayed that he would be kept from it.
Narrated Masruq: 'Aisha said that a Jewess came to her and mentioned the punishment in the grave, saying to her, "May Allah protect you from the punishment of the grave." 'Aisha then asked Allah's Apostle about the punishment of the grave. He said, "Yes, (there is) punishment in the grave." 'Aisha added, "After that I never saw Allah's Apostle but seeking refuge with Allah from the punishment in the grave in every prayer he prayed." Volume 2, Book 23, Number 454:Bukhari
There is, however, an exception for the believer who dies in Jihad. He goes directly to Paradise, foregoing life in the grave, as others who die. He is guaranteed by Allah to go right to Paradise.
Narrated Abu Huraira: Allah's Apostle said, "Allah guarantees him who strives in His Cause and whose motivation for going out is nothing but Jihad in His Cause and belief in His Word, that He will admit him into Paradise (if martyred) or bring him back to his dwelling place, whence he has come out, with what he gains of reward and booty." Volume 4, Book 53, Number 352: Bukhari
Regarding the rest of the believers (Muslims) there is speculation. The Quran does not go into detail about life after death. According to Al-Ghazzali, a famous Muslim theologian, the condition of the believer can vary between four categories. Some will wander the earth; some God allows to slumber; martyrs are flown up to heaven after a few months in the grave; and the prophets can choose to remain on earth or go to heaven. All of this continues until the Final Hour, when history is concluded.