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Last Updated: 2009/12/28
Summary of question
Is the day of resurrection, structurally physical or a spiritual?
Do humans in heaven posses the same bodies they've had in this world or do they enter heaven with their souls?
Concise answer

Even though logical reasoning proves the existence of a world other than the one we live in, the power of reason cannot reveal whether it is a spiritual or physical world, and in the case of it being physical, will the body be materialistic or mithali? Thus some theologians believe in resurrection to be solely physical and so entirely deny the soul playing any role there, as opposed to philosophers, especially from the Masha school of thought where they perceive that resurrection is a spiritual matter and say that the soul is an eternal entity for it for it is free of all materialistic limitations, and even after the dying of the body, it will never perish.

But most philosophers, mystics and Shiite theologians, such as Sheikh Al-Mofid, Sheikh Al-Tusi, Khajeh Nasir and others believe in both the soul and body being present and say that the soul will return to the body on the Day of Judgment, making resurrection physical.

Detailed Answer

What is for sure is that resurrection, as is with the belief of God, is a common notion to the followers of all religions and faiths[1], thus whomever believes in a wise creator –regardless of whether he follows a particular religion or not – will, as a result of listening to the voice of the conscience and intuitive understanding, accept this common idea (resurrection) although there may be a difference of opinion amongst people regarding the details, such as whether the day of resurrection is physical or spiritual? And if it were to be physical, are we given the same body we've had in this world or one with a more delicate structure known as the mithali and barzakhi one?

In brief, we will mention the different views there are and finally state the popular vote[2]:

1. Some theologians believe that resurrection is merely physical and has nothing to do with the soul.

2. Some philosophers especially from the Masha'  school of thought conceive resurrection to be merely spiritual and say: After death, all entanglements between the soul and the body are removed, and since the soul itself is an immaterial entity it is as a result, immortal, so even after separating from the body it will not die. However, the reality behind this theory is that these philosophers were compelled to believe in spiritual resurrection due to the fact that they were unable to introduce a rational explanation for physical resurrection.

3. Most philosophers, mystics and Shiite theologians, such as Sheikh Al-Mofid, Sheikh Al-Tusi, Khajeh Nasir, etc., believe in a combination of both and say: on the day of resurrection the soul will return to the body, making resurrection physical, meaning that the body is accompanied by the soul, rather than it being alone .The followers of this theory are divided into two groups:

A. Some believe that on resurrection the soul will return to a materialistic body which adheres to the laws of nature and chemistry.

B. The other group perceives that in the other world the soul will enter a more delicate and swift body referred to as the mithali body which does not consist of material substance, but has volume and shape. In one way this body is very similar to the body we currently posses to the extent that whomever sees it thinks it is the same person and body that lived in this world, but at the same time, it is dissimilar because it is without material substance and therefore free of all nature-related and chemical laws; something similar to the bodies we see when dreaming.

Even though logical reasoning proves the existence of a world other than the one we live in, the power of reason cannot reveal whether it is a spiritual or physical world, and in the case of it being physical, whether the body will be materialistic or mithali? Thus the great philosopher Bu Ali Sina states: “It must be said that a part of resurrection has been mentioned through religion and there is no way of proving it (by logic and reason) except by accepting what the prophet (pbuh) has said regarding it. We must certainly accept the statements religion has made describing the details on physical resurrection, offered to us by the prophet, for he is the most reliable means to finding the truth.”[3]

Therefore it is necessary to refer to the Quran and hadiths in order to acquire precise knowledge regarding physical resurrection.

Quran and physical resurrection

The Quran clearly verifies that resurrection is not solely spiritual, but rather both physical and spiritual. The Quran also verifies that the physical body in which the soul returns to is the same materialistic body we posses in this world. A lot of verses bring us to this conclusion as of which a few will be mentioned:

1. A number of verses address those who deny the revival of the bones of our bodies; such as: "He will give life to them Who created them for the first time!"[4], "Does man (a disbeliever) think that We shall not assemble his bones? Yes, We are Able to put together in perfect order the tips of his fingers."[5]

2. Some verses verify that man will arise from his grave to be judged; they say: "Knows he not that when the contents of the graves are brought out and poured forth (all mankind is resurrected)."[6] and "And the Trumpet will be blown (i.e. the second blowing) and behold! From the graves they will come out quickly to their Lord".[7]

3. The Quran also reminds us of the possibility of physical resurrection in the hereafter by making reference to it in this world, such as the amazing story of Uzair (A.S.)[8] and Ibrahim (A.S.), when asking God about how they were going to be resurrected.[9] By considering how the Quran mentions stories about reviving the dead (from physical death), like the story of Uzair (A.S.) and the companions of the cave (Ashab Al-Kahf) and moreover reminds us of how we were initially created, we can deduce that resurrection is totally possible with our physical body.

We can draw the same conclusion from Imam Ali's sayings in the Nahjul-Balaghah. Concerning physical resurrection, he says: "Be wary, for this thin layer of skin cannot bear the heat of fire, so have mercy on yourselves…".[10] Or where he says: "Allah (swt) will take them out from the corners of the graves…they hasten towards His command and run towards the place fixed for their final return…".[11] He also states in another sermon: “He will take out everyone who is in it [the earth], will refresh them after they had been worn out and collect them after they had been separated.”[12]

4. Another reason to why resurrection must be physical is that various blessings that have been promised to righteous people such as fruits[13], bird meat[14], marriage with hurul-’in[15], and …., are hard to be pictured without physicality factoring in.

Conclusion: With respect to the Quran and hadiths, most of the theologians, philosophers, and scholars, believe that resurrection is physical.

For further information on this topic, you can refer to Question 125 (site: 2404).

[1] For further information regarding this matter, you can refer to Question 1916 (website: 1917), Material resurrection according to the people of the book.

[2] Ahmad ibn Muhammad Al-Huseini Ardekani and Abdullah Nourani, Mulla Sadra, Mabda’ va Ma’and, pp. 433-436; Jafar Subhani, Elahiyyat va Ma’arefe Eslami, pp. 290-297.

[3] Abu Ali Sina, Elahiyyate Shifa, Ayatullah Hasan Hasanzadeh Amoli, article 9, pg. 460.

[4] Yasin:79 “قُلْ یُحْییهَا الَّذی أَنْشَأَها أَوَّلَ مَرَّةٍ وَ هُوَ بِکُلِّ خَلْقٍ عَلیم

[5] Qiyamah:3-4 “أَ یَحْسَبُ الْإِنْسانُ أَلَّنْ نَجْمَعَ عِظامَهُ * بَلى‏ قادِرینَ عَلى‏ أَنْ نُسَوِّیَ بَنانَه

[6] Adiyat:9 “أَفَلا یَعْلَمُ إِذا بُعْثِرَ ما فِی الْقُبُور

[7] Yasin:51 “وَ نُفِخَ فِی الصُّورِ فَإِذا هُمْ مِنَ الْأَجْداثِ إِلى‏ رَبِّهِمْ یَنْسِلُون

[8] Baqarah:259 “أَوْ کَالَّذی مَرَّ عَلى‏ قَرْیَةٍ وَ هِیَ خاوِیَةٌ عَلى‏ عُرُوشِها قالَ أَنَّى یُحْیی‏ هذِهِ اللَّهُ بَعْدَ مَوْتِها فَأَماتَهُ اللَّهُ مِائَةَ عامٍ ثُمَّ بَعَثَهُ قالَ کَمْ لَبِثْتَ قالَ لَبِثْتُ یَوْماً أَوْ بَعْضَ یَوْمٍ قالَ بَلْ لَبِثْتَ مِائَةَ عامٍ فَانْظُرْ إِلى‏ طَعامِکَ وَ شَرابِکَ لَمْ یَتَسَنَّهْ وَ انْظُرْ إِلى‏ حِمارِکَ وَ لِنَجْعَلَکَ آیَةً لِلنَّاسِ وَ انْظُرْ إِلَى الْعِظامِ کَیْفَ نُنْشِزُها ثُمَّ نَکْسُوها لَحْماً فَلَمَّا تَبَیَّنَ لَهُ قالَ أَعْلَمُ أَنَّ اللَّهَ عَلى‏ کُلِّ شَیْ‏ءٍ قَدیر

[9] Baqarah:260 “”وَ إِذْ قالَ إِبْراهیمُ رَبِّ أَرِنی‏ کَیْفَ تُحْیِ الْمَوْتى‏ قالَ أَ وَ لَمْ تُؤْمِنْ قالَ بَلى‏ وَ لکِنْ لِیَطْمَئِنَّ قَلْبی‏ قالَ فَخُذْ أَرْبَعَةً مِنَ الطَّیْرِ فَصُرْهُنَّ إِلَیْکَ ثُمَّ اجْعَلْ عَلى‏ کُلِّ جَبَلٍ مِنْهُنَّ جُزْءاً ثُمَّ ادْعُهُنَّ یَأْتینَکَ سَعْیاً وَ اعْلَمْ أَنَّ اللَّهَ عَزیزٌ حَکیم

[10] AbdulHamid Ma’adkhah, Khorshide bi Ghurube Nahjul-Balaghah, sermon 182, pg. 218.

[11] Ibid, sermon 82, pg. 80.

[12] Ibid, sermon 108, pg. 125.

[13] Mursalat:42, Mu’minun:19, Saffat:42, Dukhan:55, etc.

[14] Waqi’ah:21, Tur:22 etc.

[15] Rahman:72, Waqi’ah:22 etc.

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