Salam (Peace) Dylan,
Thank you for contacting About Islam with your question.
I really appreciate this quest for knowledge, and I pray to God that you reach the goal of learning and guidance that leads one to perfect happiness in this life and in the afterlife.
Some Knowledge Only Known By Allah
People came inquiring to Prophet Muhammad (peace be upon him-PBUH) in order to understand the nature of the soul.
The Prophet could tell them no definite answer, as the nature of the soul is something beyond human perception and limitations.
Thereupon, Allah revealed verses from the Quran that solved the problem by telling them in clear terms that the soul is something from God; it is known only to Him as much as it is created and placed in the human body by Him.
This teaches us a lesson.
We are human beings and part of our humanness is to confess that we are limited.
Being limited, we are always in need of the unlimited source of power that is Allah, the Merciful and the Powerful.
Prophets Are Given Special Blessings
Prophet Muhammad tells us that whenever someone greets him, Allah will give him back his soul so that he is able to reply to the greeting of that person.
This may be counted as one of the merits and privileges given to Prophet Muhammad as a prophet.
Being a prophet, he may be given some privileges that are not granted to normal people.
These privileges do not make him something other than a human being; rather, they just refer to how much Allah honors and loves him.
An example is the hadith in which Prophet Muhammad (PBUH) tells us that:
Allah has prohibited the earth to devour the dead bodies of prophets (narrated in Abu Dawud).
This is another privilege since Allah will honor a person who sends blessings and peace to the Prophet by allowing the Prophet (PBUH) himself to reply.
How Does The Prophet Return Our Greetings?
But the mechanism of how that happens is only known to Almighty Allah.
None of us can delve into the matter and tell you, yes it happens in this way or the other way.
What concerns us as limited human beings is the fact that someone who greets the Prophet and blesses him will not only be rewarded for his deed; rather, he will be granted a bonus of being replied to by the Prophet himself.
This encourages people so much in this regard and makes them never stop sending blessings on the Prophet, bearing in mind that they are going to be answered by the Prophet himself.
To give you an illustration of this: suppose you have written a thank-you letter to the prime minister of your country or the head of state.
You do not expect a reply. Or, maybe you expect a reply by an employee who is normally responsible for receiving such letters and answering them.
But what would happen if you received a letter from the prime minister himself, telling you that he has received your thank-you letter?
I believe you would feel very happy to know that the prime minister had taken some time out of his very busy schedule to express his appreciation and gratitude to you for your letter.
The very fact that the prime minister is doing that himself without assigning one of his employees to do it is really great.
This shows the psychological effect on the person knowing that the Prophet personally will be greeting them in return.
Again, we assert that no one can tell what happens to the soul and no one should delve into the mechanism of how this happens.
What we should do is learn and benefit from the hadith in our day-to-day life by getting more reward, drawing closer to Allah, increasing in love for our Prophet, and following his example.
The Two Deaths
Regarding the verse of Surat Az-Zumar to which you referred, one translation of it reads:
Allah receives (men’s) souls at the time of their death, and that (soul) which dies not (yet) in its sleep. He keeps that (soul) for which He has ordained death and dismisses the rest till an appointed term. Lo herein truly are portents for people who take thought. (Quran 39:42)
The verse refers to two types of death.
One of them is called the temporary death, which is sleeping every day when a person rests and his soul departs from his body temporarily and is taken by Almighty Allah.
The other is the permanent death when a person passes away, departing totally from this life.
The lesson we can take from this verse is to get ready for permanent death since Almighty Allah shows us that we die temporarily every day as an indication that we will die completely one day.
Another lesson is that a person should reckon his deeds and see how good he was during the day.
A person should bear in mind when he goes to bed that it is very possible that he will witness no more days.
With regards to your question about the Mahdi, please check the link provided below for more information.
I hope this answers your question. Thank you and stay in touch.
(From AboutIslam’s archives)