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Barzakh (Arabic: برزخ [1]) is an Arabic word meaning "obstacle", "hindrance", "separation",[2] or "barrier".[3] In Islam, it denotes a place separating the living from the hereafter or a phase/"stage" between an individual's death and their resurrection in "the Hereafter".[4][5][6][7][8][9] It is also considered as a place where souls rest until the day of judgement. It bears resemblance to the Intermediate state in Christianity.

Some scholars believe that good Muslims will have a heavenly experience during this time, and sinners will experience suffering;[6][9][10] while some Shia scholars believe the experience will not be like the physical pain or pleasure of the temporal world.[8]

Scholars have different definitions of Barzakh. According to Ghazali, Barzakh may be the place for those who go neither to hell nor to heaven.[11] According to Ibn Hazm, Barzakh is also the place for unborn souls, which are elsewhere described as residing in the lowest of the seven heavens, where an angel blows them into the wombs of women.[12]


The Arabic word is borrowed from an Iranian language, either Parthian or Middle Persian.[13] It is said to originate from the Parthain compound word *bwrz-ʾxw (/⁠burz-axw⁠/, “height, unsurmountable passage, Lit. high world”), from Parthian bwrz (/⁠burz⁠/, “high”) + ʾxw (/⁠axw⁠/, “world”).[13] However, both burz and axw are also found in Middle Persian and are thought to have been borrowings from Parthain, in which the former word (i.e. burz) had a figurative meaning of 'exalted, lofty' and is also found in Arabic with the same meaning.[13] The Middle Persian denominative verb burzīdan ‘to praise, honour’ is also derived from burz.[13] Burz is also found in New Persian texts like the Shahnameh.[14] Axw also occurs in compounded formations, e.g. Manichaean Middle Persian rwšn’xw ‘world of light’ and Parthian dwj-’xw ‘hell’ (also borrowed into NP duzax).[13] It is said that the word was borrowed into Arabic from Persian, despite being originally Parthain.[13]

Quran and hadith[edit]

Mentioned only three times in the Quran, and just once specifically as the barrier between the corporeal and ethereal, Barzakh is portrayed as a place in which, after death, the spirit is separated from the body – freed to contemplate the wrongdoing of its former life. Despite the gain of recognizance, it cannot utilize action.[15][16][17] The other two occurrences refer to Barzakh as an impenetrable barrier between fresh and salt water.[18][19] While fresh and salt water may intermingle, an ocean remains distinct from a river.

In hadith, Ibn al-Qayyim cites that, albeit not mentioned in the Quran, souls in Al-Barzakh would be grouped with others matching in purity or impurity.[20]

Significance of body and soul separation[edit]

In Islam, the soul and the body are independent of each other. This is significant in Barzakh, because only a person's soul goes to Barzakh and not their physical body.[21] Since one's soul is divorced from their body in Barzakh, the belief is that no progress or improvements to one's past life can be made.[21] If a person experienced a life of sin and worldly pleasures, one cannot try to perform good deeds in order to reach Jannah. Whatever one does in his or her lifetime is final and cannot be changed or altered in Barzakh. However, there is belief that the fire which represents the own bad deeds can already be seen in Barzakh, and that the spiritual pain caused by this can lead to purification of the soul.[22]


In mainstream Sunni and Shia Islam, Barzakh has been defined as "an intermediary stage between this life and another life in the Hereafter";[6] "an interval or a break between individual death and resurrection";[7] "The Stage Between this World and the Hereafter";[8] the period between a person's death and his resurrection on the Day of Resurrection.[9] Based in least in part on the verse "Before them is a Partition till the Day they are raised up." (Q.23:100)[6] Some scholars believe that good Muslims will have a heavenly experience during this time, and sinners will experience suffering;[6][9][10] while some Shia scholars believe there is no experience of physical pain or pleasure in Barzakh.[8]

Mainstream scholarly discourse[edit]

Some Muslim scholars stress the importance of Barzakh, while others simply ignore it.

  • Modern Muslim thinkers de-emphasize Barzakh, and focus instead on a person's individual life and the Day of Judgment. In this view, the state of Barzakh is simply looked past and skipped once a person dies.[23]
  • Muslim scholars who do believe in Barzakh still have varying interpretations of this intermediate state based on different traditions. Some traditions suggest that a person's deeds in their life will affect their experience in Barzakh. In these traditions, the state known as "Azaabul-Qabr," will be one where a person is punished for his or her deeds in their past life.[24] While those in a second state known as "Tan'eemu Ahlit-Taa'ah Fil Qabr," will receive the blessings and bounties of Allah because of his or her faith and good deeds.[24]
  • Al-Ghazālī states, "After the First Blast, all created beings shall abide for forty (it is unknown if it is a year or month or etc.) in the Intermediate Realm barzakh. Then shall God quicken Seraphiel, and command him to deliver the Second Blast, as He has said (Exalted is He!): Then shall it be blown again, and lo! they stand, beholding : they shall be on their feet, watching the Resurrection."[25]
  • Al-Zamakhshari explains Barzakh to mean hā'il, "an obstacle." His adaptation of the meaning of the word coincides with mentions of Barzakh in Quran 25:53.
  • Abdullah Yusuf Ali referred to a Barzakh state as a "quiescent state." The soul lies in a resting state until Yawm al-Qiyāmah.


In Sufism the Barzakh or Alam-e-Araf is not only where the soul resides after death, but also a place it can visit during sleep and meditation.[26]

Ibn 'Arabi defines Barzakh as the intermediate realm or "isthmus". It is between the World of Corporeal Bodies and the World of Spirits, and is a means of contact between the two worlds. Without it, there would be no contact between the two and both would cease to exist. It is described as simple and luminous, like the World of Spirits, but also able to take on many different forms just like the World of Corporeal Bodies can. In broader terms Barzakh, “is anything that separates two things”. It has been described as the dream world in which the dreamer is in both life and death.[27]

Barzakh can also refer to a person. Chronologically between Jesus and Mohammad is the contested Prophet Khalid. Ibn 'Arabi considers this man to be a “Barzakh” or the Perfect Human Being. Chittick explains that the Perfect Human acts as the Barzakh or "isthmus" between God and the world.[28] Ibn 'Arabi's story of Prophet Khalid is a story of Perfect Human being.

Khalid's story is of a Prophet whose message never emerged because before he died, he told his sons to open his tomb forty days after his death to receive the message of Barzakh. The sons, however, feared they would be looked down upon for opening their dead father's tomb, therefore they decided not to exhume their father. Thus, his message was never shared. An Ottoman scholar explained that for Khalid to give the knowledge of Barzakh he would have to travel through the different worlds and then return, but because he was not exhumed, his message was never heard. Ibn 'Arabi explains that because this mission ended in failure, it does not conflict with The Prophet Mohammed’s statement: “I am nearest of men to Jesus son of Mary, for there is no prophet between him and me."[27]


The idea of Barzakh in Shia is significant though in a perspective and manner different from Sufism. The Prophet and Shia Imams, particularly the 6th Imam – Imam Jafar As-Sadiq, have explained through various hadiths the treatment, condition, processes, and other intricate details regarding the passage of Barzakh.[29] In Shia theology, there are seven checkpoints in Barzakh.[30] The first being kindness/trust/wilayah. Second is salaat. Third is zakaat/khums. Fourth is fasting. Fifth is hajj. Sixth is cleanliness. Seventh is rights. It is believed that the terms and conditions to understand Barzakh are limited in scope and full comprehension because it is Shia's belief that it is incomprehensible, to a certain degree, until one actually reaches the realm beyond our physical world. A common analogy used is that of a baby in the womb. Just as the baby cannot possibly begin to understand the vast outside world until they experience it for themselves, we cannot hope to understand what Barzakh entails until we transition there ourselves. Though despite this obstacle, the Shia Imams, as cited through various sayings, have explained Barzakh to a significant degree as compared to other sects within[31] Islam.

Contemporary interpretations and uses[edit]

The term has also found its way into more contemporary, non-religious sectors of life. At least three bands have adopted the name Barzakh, including an Indonesian Jakarta black metal band, a Tunisian oriental metal band and Naqash Ali Shawkat band. Additionally, Barzakh was used as the title of a 2011 documentary following citizens of a war-torn Chechen community searching for a lost friend who they believe may have transitioned from our physical world to the realm of Barzakh.[32]

Comparison of Other-wordly places in Christianity and Islam

Barzakh and Christian intermediate state[edit]

According to the belief of some Christians, intermediate state is an middle area after physical death. This is a temporary place, similar to Barzakh.[33] Because they have this in common, some believe that they are the same idea or concept.[34] Barzakh is actually closer to the idea of intermediate state than other similar concepts. In this place, people await their final judgment in Christianity, much like some definitions of Barzakh in Islam. The Quranic idea of aʿrāf (“the heights”) is closer to that of Christian purgatory, not intermediate state. Aʿrāf is also thought of as a place where souls go whose good and bad deeds are too evenly matched to go directly to Paradise or the Fire.[33]

See also[edit]


  1. ^ Richard G. Hovannisian; Georges Sabagh, eds. (1998). Lisan al-Arab dictionary. Cambridge University Press. p. 49. ISBN 9780521591850.
  2. ^ The Encyclopedia of Islam. 1960. pp. 1071–1072.
  3. ^ Ali, Abdullah Yusuf. The Qu'ran. Elmhurst, NY. Sur 23: 99-100: Tahrike Tarsile Qu'ran, Inc.{{cite book}}: CS1 maint: location (link)
  4. ^ Jane Dammen McAuliffe Encyclopaedia of the Qurʾān Volume 1 Georgetown University, Washington DC p. 205
  5. ^ Sayyid Moustafa Al-Qazwini Discovering Islam Lulu Press 2014 ISBN 978-1-312-63111-3
  6. ^ a b c d e Al-`Ali, Hamid. "What Is Al-Barzakh?". About Islam. Retrieved 18 April 2022.
  7. ^ a b Siddiqui, Ahdur Rasheed (2015). "Barzakh". Qur'anic Keywords: A Reference Guide. Leicestershire, UK: Islamic Foundation. p. 31. ISBN 9780860376767. Retrieved 18 April 2022.
  8. ^ a b c d Abdul Husayn Dastghaib Shirazi (23 January 2013). "Barzakh (Purgatory) - The Stage Between this World and the Hereafter". The HereAfter (Ma'ad). Retrieved 18 April 2022.
  9. ^ a b c d "What Is al-Barzakh? 11110". Islam Question and Answer. 10 January 2000. Retrieved 18 April 2022.
  10. ^ a b Ibn Adam, Faraz. "What happens to the souls in barzakh?". Dar ul-Iftaa. Retrieved 18 April 2022. Checked and Approved by, Mufti Husain Kadodia.
  11. ^ Islam and Rationality: The Impact of al-Ghazālī. Papers Collected on His 900th Anniversary, Band 1 ISBN 978-9-004-29095-2 page 100
  12. ^ Jane Dammen McAuliffe Encyclopaedia of the Qurʾān Volume 1 Georgetown University, Washington DC p. 206
  13. ^ a b c d e f Cheung, Johnny (2016-06-06), On the (Middle) Iranian borrowings in Qur'ānic (and pre-Islamic) Arabic, pp. 4–5, retrieved 2024-05-06
  14. ^ "برز". موسسهٔ لغت‌نامهٔ دهخدا و مرکز بین‌المللی آموزش زبان فارسی (in Persian). Retrieved 2024-05-06.
  15. ^ "Surah Al-Mu'minoon Verse 100 | 23:100 المؤمنون - Quran O". Retrieved 2021-05-28.
  16. ^ "Surah Al-Mu'minoon Verse 99 | 23:99 المؤمنون - Quran O". Retrieved 2021-05-28.
  17. ^ Ali, Abdullah Yusuf. The Qur'an. Elmhurst, NY. Sur 23: 99-100: Tahrike Tarsile Qur'an, Inc.{{cite book}}: CS1 maint: location (link)
  18. ^ Ali, Abdullah Yusuf. The Qur'an. Elmhurst, NY. Sur 25: 53: Tahrike Tarsile Qur'an, Inc.{{cite book}}: CS1 maint: location (link)
  19. ^ Ali, Abdullah Yusuf. The Qur'an. Elmhurst, NY. Sur 55: 19-20: Tahrike Tarsile Qur'an, Inc.{{cite book}}: CS1 maint: location (link)
  20. ^ al-Qayyim, Ibn. "Section 63. Burial". Fiqh-us Sunnah.[permanent dead link]
  21. ^ a b Khan, Sir Muhammad (December 2011). "The Philosophy of the Teachings of Islam- Part12". The Review of Religions.
  22. ^ "Feuer". Retrieved 2020-01-03.
  23. ^ al-Barzakh. {{cite book}}: |work= ignored (help)
  24. ^ a b Islam, Maulana. "Al Barzakh – The Realm After Death in Islam". Retrieved June 24, 2008.
  25. ^ Ghazali, Al- (1989). The Remembrance of Death and the Afterlife. The Islamic Text Society. p. 176.
  26. ^ Prognostication in the Medieval World: A Handbook. Deutschland, De Gruyter, 2020. p. 415
  27. ^ a b Ibn Al-Arabi, Muhyiddin (2006). Angela Jaffray (ed.). The Universal Tree and The Four Birds. Anqa Publishing. pp. 29n, 50n, 59, 64–8, 73, 75–8, 82, 102.
  28. ^ Chittick, William C. (1979). "The Perfect Man as the Prototype of the Self in the Sufism of Jāmi". Studia Islamica (49). Maisonneuve & Larose: 135–157. doi:10.2307/1595320. JSTOR 1595320.
  29. ^ Ayatullah Shaheed Sayyid Abdul Husain Dastghaib. "Barzakh is the Veil of this World". Archived from the original on 31 December 2013. Retrieved 7 December 2012.
  30. ^ Shirazie, Ayatullah Sayyid Abdul Husayn Dastghaib (23 January 2013). "The Hereafter". Ansariyan Publications. Retrieved 26 January 2015.
  31. ^ Qummi, Sheikh Abbas. "MANAZELUL AKHERAH" (PDF). Madinatul Ilm Islamic Centre. Retrieved 26 January 2015.
  32. ^ "Barzakh". IMDb. Retrieved 7 December 2012.
  33. ^ a b behind paywallSmith, Jane I. "Afterlife: An Overview". Encyclopedia of Religion. GaleGroup Online. Retrieved 5 December 2012.
  34. ^ Qader, Nasrin (Fall 2002). "Fictional Testimonies or Testimonial Fictions: Moussa Ould Ebnou's Barzakh". Research in African Literatures. 33 (3): 14–31. doi:10.1353/ral.2002.0088. S2CID 201753022. Retrieved 28 November 2012.


Further reading[edit]