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BARZAKH

Encyclopaedia of Ismailism by Mumtaz Ali Tajddin

The state between death and resurrection is called barzakh, which literally means a thing that intervenes between two things, isthmus or an obstacle or a hindrance. A. Jeffery suggests that it is a loan word of Persian, farsakh or parasang means a measure of land that fits the description of a physical barrier. The word barzakh occurs thrice in the Koran (23:100, 25:53, 55:20). It is used (25:53 and 55:20) in the sense, where a barrier between two seas is spoken of as barzakh. As signifying the state between death and resurrection, it occurs in the following verses: "Until when death overtakes one of them, he says: Send me back, my Lord, send me back, haply I may do good in what I have left. By no means! It is a mere word that he speaks, and before them is barzakh until the day when they are raised" (23:99-100).

This invervening state is also known by the name of qabr, which means grave, but has also been used in the wider sense of the state which follows death. Thus, the three states, death, the grave and resurrection, are spoken of, where the grave undoubtedly stands for barzakh: "Then He causes him to die, then assigns to him a grave (aqbara-hu); then when He pleases, He will rise him to life again" (80:21-22). And the raising to life on the day of resurrection is spoken of as the raising of those who are in their graves, as in 100:9 and 22:7, where all people are meant, whether actually buried or not. The state of qabr is therefore the same state as that of barzakh, the state in which every soul is placed after death, and before the resurrection. Mujahid (d. 104/722) in his Tafsir (Cairo, 1989, p. 488) also describes the barzakh as "the grave that separates us from the hereafter." William C. Chittick also writes in Imaginal Worlds (London, 2001, p. 98) that, "Typically, the barzakh is identified with what the Prophet most often called the "grave" where all sorts of events take place after death and before the resurrection."


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