بسم الله الرحمن الرحيم
والصلاة والسلام على أشرف الأبياء والمرسلين
نبينا محمد وعلى اهل بيته الطيّبين الطاهرين المظلومين
In the 83rd Sura or chapter of the holy Qur’an, two places are mentioned:
كَلَّا إِنَّ كِتَابَ الْفُجَّارِ لَفِي سِجِّينٍ ﴿٧﴾ وَمَا أَدْرَاكَ مَا سِجِّينٌ ﴿٨﴾ كِتَابٌ مَّرْقُومٌ ﴿٩﴾
Nay! Indeed, the record of the wicked is surely in Sijjin. And what can make you know what is Sijjin? An inscribed book.
كَلَّا إِنَّ كِتَابَ الْأَبْرَارِ لَفِي عِلِّيِّينَ ﴿١٨﴾ وَمَا أَدْرَاكَ مَا عِلِّيُّونَ ﴿١٩﴾ كِتَابٌ مَّرْقُومٌ ﴿٢٠﴾
Nay! Indeed the record of the righteous is surely in Illiyyin. And what can make you know what is Illiyyun? An inscribed book.
Concerning the reality of Sijjin, the beloved Prophet Muhammad (sall Allahu alayhi wasallam) is reported to have said:
إِنَّ نَسَمَةَ الْمُؤْمِنِ لَتَسْرَحُ فِي الْجَنَّةِ حَيْثُ شَاءَتْ ، وَإِنَّ نَسَمَةَ الْكَافِرِ فِي سِجِّينٍ
“Verily, the soul of the believer moves about freely in Paradise wherever it wishes, while the soul of the disbeliever is in Sijjin.”
Shaykh Mustafa b. al-Adwi declared the Hadith authentic (Musnad Abd b. Hamid v.2 p.411 #1569):
Both the context derived from this narration and the etymology of the word Sijjin reinforce the view that it is a place. The word Sijjin comes from the root s-j-n which bears the connotation of “prison, imprisonment, confinement, detention. Philologists who derive the Qur’anic word sijjin from this root suggest ‘containment’ as the semantic link between the two” (Arabic-English Dictionary of Qur’anic Usage p.423)
According to a weak narration, Abi Hurayra (radi Allahu anh) narrated from the Prophet (sall Allahu alayhi wasallam) that:
سِجِّينٌ جُبٌّ فِي جَهَنَّمَ مَفْتُوحٌ
“Sijjin is an open well in Gehinnom” (Tafsir Ibn Jarir)
According to another Hadith, narrated via the companion al-Baraa b. Azib (radi Allahu anh), the Prophet (sall Allahu alayhi wasallam) said concerning the impure soul of the wicked disbeliever that Allah will command for it:
فَيَقُولُ اللَّهُ : اكْتُبُوا كِتَابَهُ فِي أَسْفَلِ الأَرْضِ ، فِي سِجِّينٍ فِي الأَرْضِ السُّفْلَى
Allah will say: “Write his book in the depth of the Earth, in Sijjin in the lowest Earth.” (Musnad Ahmad b. Hanbal)
Concerning the reality of Illiyyin, its etymology suggests a connotation of being an elevated place. The eminent companion and exegete, sayyidina Ibn Abbas (radi Allahu anhuma), stated that Illiyyin is Paradise (Tafsir Ibn Jarir). Likewise other companions and their students, the likes of Zayd b. Haritha, Ka’b, al-Dhahhak, Qatada and Mujahid (radi Allahu anhum) all considered Illiyyin an elevated place in Heaven, such as the Seventh Heaven or a place to the right side of the Throne (ibid).
According to a narration, Abi Sa’id al-Khudri (radi Allahu anh) narrated that the Apostle of Allah (sall Allahu alayhi wasallam) said:
مَنْ تَوَاضَعَ لِلَّهِ دَرَجَةً يَرْفَعْهُ اللَّهُ دَرَجَةً ، حَتَّى يَجْعَلَهُ فِي أَعْلَى عِلِّيِّينَ
“Whoever humbles himself a degree for Allah, Allah shall raise him a degree, until He places him in Illiyyin.” (Sahih Ibn Hibban)
Yet another Hadith via Abi Sa’id al-Khudri (radi Allahu anh) in which the Prophet (sall Allahu alayhi wasallam) reportedly said:
إِنَّ الرَّجُلَ مِنْ أَهْلِ عِلِّيِّينَ لَيُشْرِفُ عَلَى أَهْلِ الْجَنَّةِ فَتُضِيءُ الْجَنَّةُ لِوَجْهِهِ كَأَنَّهَا كَوْكَبٌ دُرِّيٌّ
“Verily, a man from the people of Illiyyin will look downwards at the people of Paradise and Paradise will be glittering as if it were a brilliant star.” (Sunan Abi Dawud #3987)
The narrator mentioned that Abi Bakr and Umar (radi Allahu anhuma) are from among the people of Illiyyin.
To conclude, these and many other narrations establish the fact that both Illiyyin and Sijjin are places wherein the souls of the righteous and the wicked are placed respectively. Those who believe that the the Prophets and other righteous people are living in their graves or in this world should re-examine their mistaken idea in light of this.