Editor's Note: Before continuing with this article, make sure you have read the previous articles in this series, which explain what happens after death, the journey through Barzakh, the Day of Judgment, and accounting for the rights of Allah, the rights of people, and the Ahlul Bayt's right to intercession.
Siraat in Arabic means a way or a road; according to traditions, it is a bridge or road which passes from the top of Hell. In a Hadith it is stated that Pul-e-Siraat is a bridge thinner than a hair, sharper than a sword and hotter than fire. In the Hereafter, true believers will pass over it quickly, some will find some difficulty crossing it but will eventually find relief, and others will slip and fall down in the pits of Hell. Shaikh Abbas Qummi mentions in Manazelul Akhera that the likeness of Pul-e-Siraat is of "The Right Path" (Siraat al-Mustaqim) of this world – the path of our Ahlul Bayt (peace be upon them); in Sura Fatiha, Siraat al-Mustaqim refers to both these paths: the path of the Ahlul Bayt and Pul-e-Siraat.
Not a single person will be able to escape from walking over this bridge – neither the people of Paradise, nor the people of Hell. Allah says in the Qur'an: "And there is not one of you but shall come to it, this is an unavoidable decree of your Lord. And we will deliver those who guarded (against evil), and we will leave the unjust therein on their knees." (19:71-72) Narrated from the Holy Prophet (peace be upon him and his progeny), this bridge contains seven Passes (Aqabat). There will be stations in each Pass and each station will be 70 Farsakh (1 Farsakh = 5.5 km) long, and 70,000 Angels will be posted at each Pass.
Those who safely pass through all seven Passes will arrive at the Abode of Permanence (Dar al-Baqa), where they will live an everlasting life without any troubles. They will reside in the neighborhood of Allah with the Prophets and the Imams (peace be upon them all), the martyrs and the righteous ones from among His slaves. However, if a person is stopped at a Pass, and neither a good deed of his nor the Mercy of Allah reaches him, he will stumble in his step and be hurled down in the fire of Hell. (E'teqadat al-Imamiyah)
First Pass: Kindness, Trust and Love of the Ahlul Bayt
The first station here is of maintaining womb relations (Silat al-Rahm): it is the first place we will be halted on this bridge. The person who in this world is not merciful towards his parents and relatives will have a short life, will not prosper, will be halted on the first station on Pul-e-Siraat in the Hereafter and no mercy will be shown towards him. Allah warns us in the Holy Qur'an: "And be careful of your duty to Allah, by whom you demand one of another (your rights), and to the ties of relationship" (4:1). Indeed, it is a virtue that has been repeatedly emphasized to us through numerous traditions, as it is one that achieves the pleasure of Allah, averts many adversities and increases one's Rizq (sustenance) and lifespan. Visiting our relatives when they fall sick, helping them when they are in need, fulfilling their wants and visiting them on important days such as Eid all fall under Silat al-Rahm.
The second station on this Pass is of trust (Amanah) – whether it is the wealth or item that someone has entrusted you with, or the secret you have been entrusted to protect. Similarly, if something has been borrowed and not returned before the given period of time, it will be deemed a violation of trust. It has been narrated that none of a person's deeds will be of any help to him when he walks over Pul-e-Siraat if he has committed a breach of trust or severed relations with his relatives; he will fall flat into the pits of Hell.
The third station is the love of the Ahlul Bayt (Wilayah). Many traditions have been quoted in both Shia and Sunni books to explain that Wilayah means the Love of Imam Ali (peace be upon him). Allama Huwainee and Tabari, both great scholars of the Ahlul Sunnah, quote the Holy Prophet as saying: "O Ali! Whoever denies your love will be stopped (from going further) over Pul-e-Siraat." The love of Ali is surely the key to pass easily over this frightful bridge.
Second Pass: Prayers (Salat)
On this Pass, a person will be stopped and questioned regarding the five daily prayers, the Prayer of Signs (Salat al-Ayaat), and one's elapsed (Qada) prayers. Allah says in the Qur'an: "Woe to the praying ones who are unmindful of their prayers" (107:4- 5). The ones who do not offer their prayers die thirsty, and will also arise thirsty from the grave.
In his last will, Imam Sadiq (peace be upon him) said the intercession of our Ahlul Bayt can never and will never reach those who underestimate the value of prayer. While one may think this Hadith relates to those who regularly neglect offering their daily prayers, Ayatollah Dastaghaib Shirazi explains that this Hadith is in reference to those of us who do not give Salat its due importance – for example, offering the Fajr prayer just before sunrise or the Dhuhr prayers around sunset time.
"O you who believe! Save yourselves and your families from a fire whose fuel is men and stones." (66:6) We are thus commanded to not only protect ourselves with these religious obligations, but also warn our relatives and friends of the wrath of Allah by enjoining to them the good (Amr bil Ma'ruf) and by forbidding evil (Nahi anil Munkar).
Third Pass: Khums and Zakaat
The one who neglected to pay the Zakaat or Khums due on him, even if it amounted to 1 dollar, will certainly be halted at this Pass. The Holy Prophet says that on the Day of Judgment, the person who did not pay Zakaat will have a python called Aqra (whose hairs have fallen off his body due to the intense poison in it) wound around his neck. And narrations show that even harsher than the questioning of Zakaat will be the questioning of Khums.
As said in the Qur'an, "On the day when it shall be heated in the fire of Hell, then their foreheads and their sides and their backs shall be branded with it; this is what you hoarded up for yourselves, therefore taste what you hoarded." (9:35)
Imam Sadiq says that on the Day of Judgment, one of the most difficult times will be when the rightful recipients of Khums will catch hold of the end of the shirt of the one who did not pay it, asking for their right from them on this Pass, and not allowing him to move further along the bridge until he returns it. This situation will become even more difficult when the Interceders (the Ahlul Bayt) themselves will ask for their own rights (Khums) from the people.
Fourth Pass: Fasting
On the fourth pass, people will be questioned regarding their obligatory fasts. The Holy Prophet has said: "For the one who fasts, there are two good tidings for him: one at the time of breaking the fast (Iftar), while the second when he shall meet his Lord – either at the time of death or when crossing Pul-e-Siraat. He will pass over the bridge easily and enter the presence of his Lord."
Fifth Pass: Hajj
Hajj becomes obligatory on a person during his lifetime yet he does not perform it, he will be stopped at this Pass. During death it will be said unto him, "You have died the death of a Jew or a Christian; you are not associated with Islam." Imam Ali has said: "By Allah, by Allah, keep the House of your Lord in mind. Do not disregard it as long as you remain alive, because surely if it is ignored, then He shall not look towards you with His Mercy."(Bihar al-Anwar)
Sixth Pass: Cleanliness
Cleanliness (Taharah) is a part of faith. Those who do not take care of cleanliness and purification – especially those men and women who do not perform the ceremonial bath (Ghusl Janabat) correctly or on its prescribed time – will be stopped at this Pass. Women should take care about the performance of other baths (Ghusl Haiz, Nifaas, and Iztihaza), learn the rules of Fiqh regarding them and not be negligent about them. It is related that a person who does not keep himself away from impurities will also greatly suffer the squeeze in his grave.
Seventh Pass: Rights (Madhalim)
This Pass is also called Aqba Adl (Valley of Justice) and Aqba Haqq al-Naas (Valley of People's Rights). The Holy Qur'an says about this Pass: "Most surely your Lord is watching." (89:14) Shaikh Abbas Qummi states: "In interpretation of this verse, it is said that some people will be passing over Pul-e-Siraat in a manner that they will be clasping it by their hands. Others will be walking in a manner that one leg of theirs will be slipping and they will be taking help of their second leg, while the Angels will be standing on both sides. People will be falling into the fire of Hell like bats falling on the ground. The person who is fortunate to receive the mercy and blessings of Allah will pass over the bridge easily and will say, 'All praise be to Allah, for verily He has completed my good deeds with His mercy and blessings and increased my reward. I thank Him that He, with His Beneficence and Kindness, gave me freedom when I had lost all hope.'
"If a person has troubled someone with no fault of his, he will be imprisoned for five hundred years on this Pass, to the extent that his bones will break. If a person has usurped another's wealth, he will be imprisoned for forty years on this Pass before being thrown into the fire of Hell. It is narrated in traditions that in exchange for one usurped dirham, seven thousand accepted prayers of the usurper will be given to the person whose dirham he acquired."
A Strange Story
Ayatollah Dastghaib Shirazi narrates a story that is mentioned in Anwaar-ul-Maziyyah by Syed Gayasuddin Najafi, a Shia jurisprudent and scholar: In our village situated near Hilla there lived a man named Muhammad bin Abi Azeenah. He was the trustee of a mosque. He used to attend that Masjid as a daily routine. One day when he did not come to the mosque, we inquired about him. We came to know that he was ill. We wondered very much because on the very previous day, we had seen him hale and healthy. When we went to see him, we found him burnt from head to feet. He would faint, then become conscious and again faint. In one such interval, I asked him what had happened to him. He replied, "Last night in my dream I was shown Siraat and then I was ordered to walk over it. So I proceeded, and in the beginning, the ground under my feet was leveled. Then I found that it has become thin. Initially, it was soft but later on it turned very sharp. I was putting my steps very slowly, balancing myself to escape falling down. Dark flames of fire from beneath were leaping upwards. I saw many people drop down like leaves in the fall (autumn). Once I felt that there was nothing except a hair-like rope under my feet. Then suddenly the fire dragged me to it and I fell down; the more I tried to come up the more I was going down. As soon as I realized that I was about to be finished, I was suddenly inspired and I called out "O Ali ibn Abi Talib! O Amir al-Mu'mineen! Help me my master." At that moment I saw a person standing on the edge of the valley. I recognized him to be no other than my Master, Ali. I called out to him, and he commanded me to extend my hand. I did so, and he pulled me out of the blazing fire. The Hazrat passed his holy hand over my body from my knee to femur. I suddenly woke up from my dream and found that my whole body was burnt, except my thighs where my master had laid his hands."
This person remained bedridden for three months, weeping and complaining. Various medicines were given by a number of doctors before he became healthy after three months when fresh flesh began to appear on his body.
Without a doubt, there is only one security, and that is to cling to the Wilayah of our Ahlul Bayt. Imam Ridha (peace be upon him) has promised that he himself will rescue the visitors of his shrine at three different places on the Day of Judgment, one of which will be on the bridge of Siraat when he will guide them.