?Can the Dead Return to this World
بسم اﷲ الرحمن الرحيم
As indicated in one of my earlier entries this month, I am going to initiate a series of articles on my blog concerning the subject of the return of the dead to this world. At the outset I want to make it clear to the reader that, based on my deep research into this subject, taking into account the teachings of the Holy Qur’an and the authentic Hadith (traditions of the Prophet peace be upon him and his family), I have come to the inescapable conclusion that one of the principle ideas of Islam is that the souls of the dead cannot ever return to this world.
In this first article I simply want to present the reader with the foundational verses of the Holy Qur’an. This will be a rather elementary/cursory exercise, but its purpose is to set the groundwork so we can tackle the issue even further with a firm footing. Allah Most High says:
وَ حَرٰمٌ عَلٰی قَرۡیَۃٍ اَہۡلَکۡنٰہَاۤ اَنَّہُمۡ لَا یَرۡجِعُوۡنَ۞
It is forbidden for [the people of] a town which We have destroyed that they should return. (Surah 21:95)
In another passage, Allah Most High says:
حَتّٰۤی اِذَا جَآءَ اَحَدَہُمُ الۡمَوۡتُ قَالَ رَبِّ ارۡجِعُوۡنِ۞
لَعَلِّیۡۤ اَعۡمَلُ صَالِحًا فِیۡمَا تَرَکۡتُ کَلَّا ؕ اِنَّہَا کَلِمَۃٌ ہُوَ قَآئِلُہَا ؕ وَ مِنۡ وَّرَآئِہِمۡ بَرۡزَخٌ اِلٰی یَوۡمِ یُبۡعَثُوۡنَ
Until when comes unto one of them Death, he says: “O my Lord, send me back...so that I may perform deeds of piety in that [world] I left behind.” But no! It is simply a word he says. And before them is a barrier until the Day they are raised up. (Surah 23:99-100)
*This important passage of the Holy Quran makes it quite plain that the souls of the deceased are forever prevented from returning back to this world. Allah says that there is a Barzakh (partition or barrier) which cannot be encroached upon that separates the souls of the dead from this world. It will not come to an end until the Day of Resurrection when the dead are brought back to life at the time of the end of this world [Dunya]. Until then, it is absolutely impossible and inconceivable that the souls of the dead be brought back to life in this world.
Elsewhere in the Holy Quran, Allah says:
اَللّٰہُ یَتَوَفَّی الۡاَنۡفُسَ حِیۡنَ مَوۡتِہَا وَ الَّتِیۡ لَمۡ تَمُتۡ فِیۡ مَنَامِہَا ۚ فَیُمۡسِکُ الَّتِیۡ قَضٰی عَلَیۡہَا الۡمَوۡتَ وَ یُرۡسِلُ الۡاُخۡرٰۤی اِلٰۤی اَجَلٍ مُّسَمًّی ؕ اِنَّ فِیۡ ذٰلِکَ لَاٰیٰتٍ لِّقَوۡمٍ یَّتَفَکَّرُوۡنَ
Allah takes the souls at the time of their death, and those that die not during their sleep. So He withholds those [souls] upon whom death has been decreed, and sends back the others until a term appointed. Verily, in that are Signs for a people who reflect. (Surah 39:42)
This verse reveals the fact that the souls of the dead are being withheld unlike the souls of those that sleep. The obvious meaning is that the souls of the dead are withheld by Allah from returning to this world, whereas the souls of those that are sleeping are returned when they awaken from their slumber. This is a clear delineation between death and sleep. Whereas a person sleeps, on average for a few hours in the night, his soul is taken up by Allah but then returned to his body when he awakens. However, when death is decreed for someone, Allah withholds his souls from returning to this world. If the soul of someone taken by Allah returns to this world, by definition it means that person was not dead but in another state such as sleep, coma, or temporary unconciousness.These are the three fundamental Ayaat Muhkamaat (fundamental verses with no ambiguous meaning) that establish the Islamic principle that the souls of the dead cannot return to this world ever.Apart from these verses of the Holy Quran, there is a Hadith Qudsi regarding the martyrs:
حَدَّثَنَا يَحْيَى بْنُ حَبِيبِ بْنِ عَرَبِيٍّ ، حَدَّثَنَا مُوسَى بْنُ إِبْرَاهِيمَ بْنِ كَثِيرٍ الْأَنْصَارِيُّ ، قَال : سَمِعْتُ طَلْحَةَ بْنَ خِرَاشٍ ، قَال : سَمِعْتُ جَابِرَ بْنَ عَبْدِ اللَّهِ ، يَقُولُ : لَقِيَنِي رَسُولُ اللَّهِ صَلَّى اللَّهُ عَلَيْهِ وَسَلَّمَ ، فَقَالَ لِي : " يَا جَابِرُ ، مَا لِي أَرَاكَ مُنْكَسِرًا ؟ قُلْتُ : يَا رَسُولَ اللَّهِ ، اسْتُشْهِدَ أَبِي ، قُتِلَ يَوْمَ أُحُدٍ وَتَرَكَ عِيَالًا وَدَيْنًا ، قَالَ : أَفَلَا أُبَشِّرُكَ بِمَا لَقِيَ اللَّهُ بِهِ أَبَاكَ ؟ قَالَ : قُلْتُ : بَلَى يَا رَسُولَ اللَّهِ ، قَالَ : مَا كَلَّمَ اللَّهُ أَحَدًا قَطُّ إِلَّا مِنْ وَرَاءِ حِجَابٍ ، وَأَحْيَا أَبَاكَ فَكَلَّمَهُ كِفَاحًا ، فَقَالَ : يَا عَبْدِي ، تَمَنَّ عَلَيَّ أُعْطِكَ ، قَالَ : يَا رَبِّ ، تُحْيِينِي فَأُقْتَلَ فِيكَ ثَانِيَةً ، قَالَ الرَّبُّ عَزَّ وَجَلَّ : إِنَّهُ قَدْ سَبَقَ مِنِّي أَنَّهُمْ إِلَيْهَا لَا يُرْجَعُونَ ، قَالَ : وَأُنْزِلَتْ هَذِهِ الْآيَةُ وَلا تَحْسَبَنَّ الَّذِينَ قُتِلُوا فِي سَبِيلِ اللَّهِ أَمْوَاتًا
Translation: Musã bin Ibrahim bin Kathir Al-Ansãri narrated: "I heard Talhah bin Khirãsh say: 'I heard Jãbir bin 'Adullãh saying: "The Messenger of Allah (Sallallahu alayhi wasallam) met me and said to me: '0 Jãbir! Why do I see you upset?' I said: '0 Messenger of Allah! My father was martyred [on the Day of Ubud] leaving family and debt behind." "He (Sallallahu alayhi wasallam) said: 'Shall I give you news of what your father met Allah with?" He said: "But of course 0 Messenger of Allah!' He said: 'Allah does not speak to anyone except from behind a veil, but He brought your father to speak to Him directly. He said: "[0 My slave!] Do you wish that I give You anything?' He said: '0 Lord! Give me life so that I may fight for You a second time.' So the Lord [Blessed and Most High] said: 'It has been decreed by Me That they shall not return."' He said: "So this Ayah was revealed: Think not of those as dead who are killed in the way of Allah." (Tirmidhi; Hadith 3010)
The Hadith Qudsi leaves no room for any misconception that the life enjoyed by the martyrs is a spiritual life in the blissful gardens of Jannah which is another, parallel world or dimension. The martyrs are not living in this world [Dunya]. Furthermore, when Allah asks the martyrs what they wish for, they will ask Allah to allow them to return to this world so that they can be martyred a second time and taste its sweetness once more (due to the immense reward associated with martyrdom). However, Allah will politely decline this request of the martyrs because He has already decreed, an inalterable divine law in operation, that their souls can never return to this world.
In summary, these are the fundamental proofs from the Quran and Sunnah that the souls of the dead cannot return to this world. To believe otherwise is bordering on rejection of the divinely-revealed Texts to say the least.