What is the Barzakh (purgatory)?


Can you please briefly explain what the Barzakh (purgatory) is?


The term Barzakh (1) literally means a barrier between two things. In Islamic terminology, it is meant for a world between Here and the Hereafter.

Since the world of Barzakh is still beyond the knowledge of man (2), all what we know is from the Quran and the Ahadith. In general, Barzakh is an intermediate world in which all souls will live until the Great Day of Judgment occurs. The righteous souls will be temporarily rewarded, as the souls of criminals will be temporarily punished.

According to some traditions the souls will be clothed with a body similar to the worldly body of the person in this world. Imam Sadiq (a.s) said to Yunus: “When Allah collects the soul of a believer, He will accommodate his soul to a body like his worldly body. Then they eat and drink and when a visitor sees them he recognises them in their worldly image.”

(1): The term purgatory is not the translation of the Islamic term ‘Barzakh’. For in Roman Catholicism, Purgatory (from the Latin purgare, “to cleanse”) is the place or state after death where those who have died in a state of grace but not free from imperfection, expiate their remaining sins before entering the visible presence of God and the saints; the damned, on the other hand, go directly to hell. This doctrine was rejected by leaders of the Reformation who taught that people are freed from sin through faith in Jesus Christ and go straight to heaven. The Orthodox church also rejects the theology of Purgatory, although it encourages prayers for the dead in some undefined intermediate state. – Arendzen, John Peter, Purgatory and Heaven (1960).

(2): Many people of different backgrounds are reported to have had a vision about a world after death. This is called Near Death Experience.

Answered by: Sheikh Mansour Leghaei