Both Judaism and Islam teach that at night while we sleep our souls return to their Source, back to Allah. We hope to explain what that means to both faiths in this article.
Sleep is related to death
Each morning every one of us is faced with the same challenge, do we roll over and go back to sleep or jump out of bed to face the day. The Jewish Code of Law recommends we rise with the strength of a lion to serve our Creator. But what is it we are rising from? Why is the snooze button on our alarm clock so tempting?
Talmud Berakot 57b
Sleep is a taste* of death
Buyuk Hadis Kulliyatı -5, p.414/10125
The Prophet (pbuh) was asked, “Do people of Heaven sleep?” He answered: “Sleep is the brother of death. People of Heaven do not sleep”
To the western mind death seems cold and final, but in Jewish and Islamic thought this is not so – both teach that the soul is an eternal entity separate from the body. During our lifetime the two are unified, but with the expiration of the body the soul transcends the material world to enter the spiritual realm.
Souls ascend to Allah during sleep
Midrash Rabba, Deuteronomy 5:15
…when they sleep their souls ascend to Him… in the morning He restores one’s soul to everyone.
And it is He who takes your souls by night and knows what you have committed by day. Then He revives you therein that a specified term may be fulfilled. Then to Him will be your return; then He will inform you about what you used to do.
All souls can be traced back to Adam ha’rishon, the first man. The Quran and Torah explain how the Creator blew a soul into man which forever connected him to the divine Source. When we sleep the soul escapes our body and returns to its Maker.
What happens to the soul
Bereishis Rabah, 14:11
R. Bisni, R. Aha, and R. Johanan in R. Meir’s name said: The soul fills the body, and when man sleeps it ascends and draws life for him from above
It is here that the two faiths diverge, in Jewish thought the neshama (soul) leaves the body with the onset of sleep and connects to its Source where it is spiritually “recharged”. When it returns to its vessel in this world, the body, we awaken, spiritually rejuvenated.
Al-Tiwal by Al-Tabarani no. 238, and similar with Al-Hakim 1:37, and Abu Dawud.
This is that the soul ascends into the heavens and Allah says, “Return my servant to the earth, for verily, I have created them from it, I return them into it, and from it I will bring them out at another time.” This has been reported in the lengthy Hadith of Al-Bara’
Islam suggests that sleep is a time of din (judgement), with the onset of sleep Allah collects the soul to examine whether the individual merits life or death. Should it be decreed their time, Allah retains the rooh (soul) and the body expires.
Prayers upon awakening
I offer thanks before you, living and eternal King, for You have mercifully restored my soul within me; Your faithfulness is great.
Praise is to Allah Who gives us life after He has caused us to die [sleep] and to Him is the return.
Upon awakening the first conscious moments of pious Jews and Muslims are spent thanking Allah for the gift of life. This is done through the recital of the respective prayer above. With these words we thank the Creator for returning our soul and granting us the opportunity to further serve His will in this world.