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]


There is no reference to Munkar and Nakir in the Quran. Their names are first mentioned by Tirmidhi in the hadith tradition.[2] However, the Quran alludes to them.[2]

"And if you could but see when the angels take the souls of those who disbelieved... They are striking their faces and their backs and [saying], "Taste the punishment of the Burning Fire."

— Saheeh International

And if you could but see when the wrongdoers are in the overwhelming pangs of death while the angels extend their hands,1 [saying], "Discharge your souls! Today you will be awarded the punishment of [extreme] humiliation for what you used to say against Allāh other than the truth and [that] you were, toward His verses, being arrogant.

— Saheeh International


These angels are described as having solid black eyes, having a shoulder span measured in miles.[citation needed] 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 God (Allah) gives permission for the beating to stop.[3] Al-Suyuti also mentioned from the hadith about Munkar and Nakir digging out to reach the dead person location using their teeth, and their hair reaching their feet.[3] Similar description also come from Ibn Abi al-Dunya and Al-Bayhaqi, from Mursal Hadith, with the addition that both Munkar and Nakir each will carry a bludgeon which weight wont be able to be lifted by entire strength of the whole people of the denizens of Mina.[4][5] Meanwhile, 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]".[3]

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 Islam is their religion, and that Muhammad is their prophet. If the deceased answers correctly, the time spent awaiting the resurrection is pleasant and they may enter heaven. Those who do not answer as described above are chastised until the day of judgment.[6][7] 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.[8]

Shia theologian al-Mufid reports that the angels ask about ones iman is. The correct answer appears to be the Quran.[9]: 199 

The questioning of the grave is part of the Islamic Creed according to Ash'ari.[10]

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).

Cultural interpretations[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.[11] 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”)".[12] 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.[13]

According to a recent research, it is hypothesized that Munkar and Nakir were derived from astrological figures that originally associated with the Mesopotamian astral god Nergal.[14][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.[15] Some scholars use a different spelling; nakuru.[16] 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.[17]

The Mesopotamians still believed in the sun god Shamash, as well as Nergal and several other Babylonian gods at the time Islam was introduced.[18][19][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.[17]

In stark contrast, scholar A. J. Wensinck found the association of Munkar and Nakir to the root NKR to be unlikely.[20][21] 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.[22] Rabbinic literature offers many traditions about punishing angels, chastising the dead.[23]

See also[edit]


  1. ^ "Britannica Concise Encyclopedia, Entry: Munkar and Nakir".
  2. ^ a b Wensinck, A.J. and Tritton, A.S., “ʿAd̲hāb al-Ḳabr”, in: Encyclopaedia of Islam, Second Edition, Edited by: P. Bearman, Th. Bianquis, C.E. Bosworth, E. van Donzel, W.P. Heinrichs. Consulted online on 4 December 2023 doi:10.1163/1573-3912_islam_SIM_0301 First published online: 2012 First print edition: ISBN 9789004161214, 1960-2007
  3. ^ 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
  4. ^ Muhammad Salih Al-Munajjid (2005). "ما صح من الأحاديث في وصف منكر ونكير". Islamqa (in Arabic). Retrieved 2 August 2023.
  5. ^ عبد الحكيم، منصور (2008). الحياة الاخرة بعد الموت رحلة الانسان الى العالم الاخر (in Arabic). دار الكتاب العربي،. p. 130. ISBN 9789773764296. Retrieved 2 August 2023. قال عمر : وأنا على ما أنا عليه اليوم ؟ قال : وأنت على ما أنت عليه اليوم . قال : إذا أكفيكهما إن شاء الله فقد روى من طرق ضعيفة . قال العراقي في تخريج الإحياء : « أخرجه ابن أبي الدنيا في كتاب القبور هكذا مرسلا ورجاله ثقات . قال البيهقي في
  6. ^ Christian Lange Paradise and Hell in Islamic Traditions Cambridge University Press 2015 ISBN 978-0-521-50637-3 Seite 123
  7. ^ "Islam - rituals, world, body, funeral, life, customs, beliefs, time, person".
  8. ^ "Feuer".
  9. ^ Lange, Christian (2016). Paradise and Hell in Islamic Traditions. Cambridge United Kingdom: Cambridge University Press. ISBN 978-0-521-50637-3.
  10. ^ Guillaume, A. (1954). Richard J. McCarthy: The Theology of al-Ash‘arī. 28, 275, 109 pp. Beyrouth: Imprimerie Catholique, 1953. Bulletin of the School of Oriental and African Studies, 16(3), 609-609. doi:10.1017/S0041977X00086985 p. 250
  11. ^ 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.
  12. ^ 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
  13. ^ "THE MANDAEANS OF IRAQ AND IRAN" – via Internet Archive.
  14. ^ 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 {{cite journal}}: Cite journal requires |journal= (help)
  15. ^ 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
  16. ^ Snijders, C. J. (September 12, 1949). "Beginselen der astrologie : handleiding bij de A-cursus van het Nederlands Astrologisch Genootschap". Amsterdam : Becht – via Internet Archive.
  17. ^ 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
  18. ^ Al-Khamis, Ulrike. "The Iconography of Early Islamic Lusterware from Mesopotamia: New Considerations". Muqarnas – via
  19. ^ 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 {{cite journal}}: Cite journal requires |journal= (help)
  20. ^ 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."
  21. ^ 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.
  22. ^ MacDonald, John (1965). "The Twilight of the Dead". Islamic Studies. 4: 55–102.
  23. ^ Eichler, Paul Arno, 1889 Die Dschinn, Teufel und Engel in Koran [microform] p. 105-106 (German)