Munkar and Nakir

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This illustration from Walters manuscript W.659 depicts the angels Munkir and Nakir, who are charged with questioning the deceased people.

Munkar and Nakir (Arabic: منكر ونكير) (English translation: "The Denied and The Denier") in Islamic eschatology, are angels who test the faith of the dead in their graves.[1]

Description[edit]

These angels are described as having solid black eyes, having a shoulder span measured in miles.[citation needed] Al-Suyuti described from Hadith recorded Al-Hakim al-Nishapuri and from Sunan Abu Dawood Munkar and Nakir carrying hammers "so large, that [they] cannot be moved even if whole of mankind unite to lift [them]".[2] From another Hadiths, al-Suyuti quoted from Ibn Abi al-Dunya, Al-Bayhaqi, and Musnad al-Bazzar that when Munkar and Nakir spoke, tongues of fire come from their mouths. If one answers their questions incorrectly, one is beaten every day, other than Friday, until Allah (God) gives permission for the beating to stop.[2] Al-Suyuti also mentioned from the hadith Munkar and Nakir digging out to reach the dead person location using their teeth, and their hair reaching their feet.[2]

Questionings in the grave[edit]

Muslims believe that after a person dies, his soul passes through a stage called barzakh, where it exists in the grave. The questioning will begin when the funeral and burial is over. Nakir and Munkar prop the deceased soul upright in the grave and ask three questions:

  1. Who is your Lord?
  2. What is your religion?
  3. Who is your prophet?

A righteous believer will respond correctly, saying that their Lord is Allah, that Muhammad is their prophet and that their religion is Islam. If the deceased answers correctly, the time spent awaiting the resurrection is pleasant and may enter heaven. Those who do not answer as described above are chastised until the day of judgment.[3][4] There is belief that the fire of hell can already be seen in Barzakh, and that the spiritual pain caused by this can lead to purification of the soul.[5]

Shia theologian al-Mufid reports that the angels ask about ones imam is. The correct answer appears to be the Quran.[6]: 199 

Muslims believe that a person will correctly answer the questions not by remembering the answers before death but by their iman (faith) and deeds such as salat (prayer) and shahadah (the Islamic profession of faith).

History and origins[edit]

Munkar and Nakir bear some similarity to Zoroastrian divinities. Some of these, such as Mithra, Sraosha and Rashnu have a role in the judgement of souls. Rashnu is described as a figure who holds a set of scales, like some angels of the grave. E.G. Brown has suggested that a continuity exists between Rashnu and Munkar and Nakir.[7] Sebastian Günther also points out it. He writes that "the image and function of Munkar and Nakīr carries certain echoes of the Zoroastrian concept of the angels Srōsh (“Obedience”) and Ātar (“Fire”)".[8] A mythical figure in Mandaean religion, Abathur Muzania is similar to Rashnu. He has the same position in the world of the dead and he holds a set of scales. Muzania means scales (mizan) in Aramaic.[9]

According to recent research, it is hypothesized that Munkar and Nakir were derived from astrological figures that originally associated with the Mesopotamian astral god Nergal.[10][self-published source]This is based on idea that the Mesopotamian god Nergal has almost the same characteristics as Munkar and Nakir. First of all, Assyrian nakru which means 'enemy', was an epithet of Nergal. The Assyrian nakru, like the names Munkar and Nakir, comes from the same root, that is, it comes from the proto-Semitic NKR which derived some negative terms.[11] Some scholars use a different spelling; nakuru.[12] which is almost the same as Nakir. Moreover, Nergal is a lord of the Underworld and the grave (Assyrian qabru: grave). Like Munkar and Nakir, he has a terrifying voice that can cause panic among men and gods. He holds a shining mace and his breath can burn his enemies. Because he is related to fire most scholars suggest that he was originally a sun god. Furthermore, he is identified with the celestial twins (Gemini) in the Babylonian astral mythology which forms a direct link to Munkar and Nakir.[13]

There is no reference to Munkar and Nakir in the Quran. Their names are first mentioned by Tirmidhi in the hadith tradition. Tirmidhi is known to have visited Iraq.[relevant?] This suggests that the names of Munkar and Nakir are introduced to Islamic beliefs during an early stage in the Islamization of Mesopotamia (or Iraq). The Mesopotamians still believed in the sun god Shamash, as well as Nergal and several other Babylonian gods at the time Islam was introduced.[14][15][self-published source]Thus, Nergal the god of the Underworld who is symbolized by the planet Mars, is a possible prototype for Munkar and Nakir. Astrologically, Munkar and Nakir share more clues in their Martian characteristics which connect them to Nergal.[13]

In stark contrast, scholar A. J. Wensinck found the association of Munkar and Nakir to the root NKR to be unlikely.[16][17] Similarly, scholar John MacDonald believes the names of the two angels have not been satisfactorily explained, although given that they are in the passive form, they may be understood as "unknown" or "disguised", much in the same way how angels visit graves in disguise in Judaism.[18] Rabbinic literature offers many traditions about punishing angels, chastising the dead.[19]

See also[edit]

References[edit]

  1. ^ "Britannica Concise Encyclopedia, Entry: Munkar and Nakir".
  2. ^ a b c Al-Suyuti (2012). Fizarrahman Zainal, Mohammad; Mustajab, Nadrah (eds.). Ziarah Ke Alam Barzakh [pilgrimage to the realm of Barzah(afterlife)] (hardcover) (Death -- Religious aspects -- Islam -- Early works to 1800, Religion / Islam / Theology, Death -- Early works to 1800 -- Religious aspects -- Islam, Islamic eschatology) (in Indonesian). Translated by Muhammad Abdul Ghoffar E.M. Inteam Publishing. pp. 200–201. ISBN 9789670326160. Retrieved 6 March 2022. The second hadith were commented by Al-Suyuti that the transmission ends in Umar ibn al-Khattab and the narrators were trustworthy
  3. ^ Christian Lange Paradise and Hell in Islamic Traditions Cambridge University Press 2015 ISBN 978-0-521-50637-3 Seite 123
  4. ^ "Islam - rituals, world, body, funeral, life, customs, beliefs, time, person". www.deathreference.com.
  5. ^ "Feuer".
  6. ^ Lange, Christian (2016). Paradise and Hell in Islamic Traditions. Cambridge United Kingdom: Cambridge University Press. ISBN 978-0-521-50637-3.
  7. ^ Browne, Edward Granville (September 12, 1893). "A year amongst the Persians; impressions as to the life, character, and thought of the people of Persia, received during twelve month's residence in that country in the years 1887-8". London, Black – via Internet Archive.
  8. ^ Guenther, Sebastian. "The Work of Heavenly Agents According to Muslim Eschatology". The Intermediate Worlds of Angels: Islamic Representations of Celestial Beings in Transcultural Contexts – via www.academia.edu.
  9. ^ "THE MANDAEANS OF IRAQ AND IRAN" – via Internet Archive.
  10. ^ Aksoy, Gürdal. "Mezopotamyalı Tanrı Nergal'den Zerdüşti Kutsiyetlere Münker ile Nekir'in Garip Maceraları (On the Astrological Background and the Cultural Origins of An Islamic Belief: The Strange Adventures of Munkar and Nakir from the Mesopotamian god Nergal to the Zoroastrian Divinities)" – via www.academia.edu. {{cite journal}}: Cite journal requires |journal= (help)
  11. ^ There is another opinion by Wensinck and Burge on this issue, although it lacks any analysis. Burge, S. R. (2010). Angels in Islam: a commentary with selected translations of Jalāl al-Dīn al-Suyūṭī’s Al-Ḥabā’ik fī akhbār almalā’ik (The Arrangement of the Traditions about Angels), pg. 89 "The origin of the names is not at all clear, although some have suggested that both the names are related to the base root NKR, but Wensinck felt this was unlikely." However, according to Sebastian Günther, their names can be translated as “Reprehensible” and “Reproachful” (or “The Denied” and “The Denier”). Sebastian Günther, p. 326
  12. ^ Snijders, C. J. (September 12, 1949). "Beginselen der astrologie : handleiding bij de A-cursus van het Nederlands Astrologisch Genootschap". Amsterdam : Becht – via Internet Archive.
  13. ^ a b Aksoy, On the Astrological Background and the Cultural Origins of An Islamic Belief: The Strange Adventures of Munkar and Nakir from the Mesopotamian god Nergal to the Zoroastrian Divinities
  14. ^ Al-Khamis, Ulrike. "The Iconography of Early Islamic Lusterware from Mesopotamia: New Considerations". Muqarnas – via www.academia.edu.
  15. ^ Aksoy, Gürdal. "Helenistik ve Enohçu Yahudilik Bağlamında Kehf Suresi; Musa, Hızır ve Zülkarneyn (Bir Revizyon)-ANA METİN/Surat al-Kahf in the Context of the Hellenistic and Enochic Judaism; Moses, Khidr and Dhu'l-Qarnayn (A Revision)-THE MAIN TEXT" – via www.academia.edu. {{cite journal}}: Cite journal requires |journal= (help)
  16. ^ Burge, S. R. (2010). Angels in Islam: a commentary with selected translations of Jalāl al-Dīn al-Suyūṭī’s Al-Ḥabā’ik fī akhbār almalā’ik (The Arrangement of the Traditions about Angels), pg. 89 "The origin of the names is not at all clear, although some have suggested that both the names are related to the base root NKR, but Wensinck felt this was unlikely."
  17. ^ Wensinck, A. J. (1993). "MUNKAR wa-NAKIR". The encyclopaedia of Islam. Gibb, Hamilton Alexander Rosskeen; Bearman, Peri J. Leiden: Brill. p. 577. ISBN 90 04 09419 9.
  18. ^ MacDonald, John (1965). "The Twilight of the Dead". Islamic Studies. 4: 55–102.
  19. ^ Eichler, Paul Arno, 1889 Die Dschinn, Teufel und Engel in Koran [microform] p. 105-106 (German)