I heard that when someone dies their soul stays around for 40 days. I would like to know if this is true and what happens to the soul after death.
Wa Alaikum as Salaam,
The soul does not stay around for 40 days. Instead, it remains in the stage of Barzakh after being taken by the angels and carried to Allah.
The Holy Quran tells us that after death, one goes in the stage of barzakh, and remains in that stage until the day of Resurrection. In this regard, the Holy Quran states:
Surah Al Muminoon (23) verses 99, 100:-
“Until, when death comes to one of them, he says, “My Lord, send me back
That I might do righteousness in that which I left behind.” No! It is only a word he is saying; and behind them is a barrier until the Day they are resurrected”.
The following hadith also gives an explanation regarding what happens to the soul after death:
Abu Huraira (Allah be pleased with him) reported the Holy Prophet (peace and blessings of Allah be upon him) to have said, “Angels visit a dying person. When a man is righteous they (angels) say, “Come out, 0 pure soul. You were in a pure body. Come out as praiseworthy. And be happy with (divine) mercy and fragrance and the Lord who is not angry.” They continue to utter these words till it comes out and then they ascend with it to the heaven and (the gate of the heaven) is opened. Then it is said, “Who is this (man)?’ Upon which (the angels) say, “(He is) so and so.” Then it is said, “Welcome to the pure soul; it was in the pure body. Enter as praiseworthy and be happy with the (Divine) mercy and fragrance (of Paradise) and the Lord who is not angry” these words are continuously said to it (soul) till it reaches to the heaven in which Allah, the Mighty and Glorious exists. And when the man is evil, (the angels) say, “Come out, 0 wicked soul. You were in the wicked body. Come out censured and he happy with hot water and purulent matter, and other things like them. This is continuously said to it till it comes out and then it ascends to the heaven but (gate of heaven) is not opened for it. It is said, “Who is this (man)?” It will be said’ So and so. It will be said, ‘No welcome to the wicked soul that was in the wicked body. Go back censured for the gates of the heaven will not be opened for you’. Then it is released from the heaven and then it goes back into the grave.
From this tradition and others, as well as the Quranic verses, it is evident that after death, the soul is returned to the body in the grave and remains in the stage of barzakh until the day of Resurrection. This is the correct belief in accordance to the creed of the Ahlus Sunnah wal Jamaat (Sunni Muslim).
And Allah knows best,
Mufti Waseem Khan