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Soul Movie Discussion Guide — Part 1: The Blessing of Knowing about the Afterlife

Soul Movie Discussion Guide — Part 1: The Blessing of Knowing about the Afterlife
If you’re looking to “jazz” up your family movie night with meaningful reflections and teachable moments, the Disney Pixar Soul (2020), has the potential to do just that. Refer to this synopsis for a recap of the movie to help you understand the character references and movie plots with this article. *Please note that the topics and themes in the movie may not be suitable for children younger than 10, and so this article is not intended for discussions with younger children. 

The genius of Soul is its ability to bring up abstract and spiritual concepts in simplified ways that can be easily consumed and used for discussion. Conversations like these can help foster maturity, critical thinking, and love for the deen (religion) for both teens and tweens alike.

Although many of the concepts or representations offered in Soul may not be in complete alignment with our Islamic tradition, the movie can still serve as a tool to discuss and reflect on topics like death, life’s purpose, community, and gratitude. Our inclination may be to run from the different entertainment sources that our youth are using nowadays. However, taking the time to analyze, assess, and reflect on entertainment allows us to model for our children (or mentees!) that we should not be passive consumers. Using Islamic tradition as our moral compass, the new fad, song, movie— or TikTok challenge, for that matter— will not be emulated or enjoyed because it is “in” or cool, but because we have critically thought it to be worthwhile.

In an attempt to jumpstart your discussions, we have written this Movie Guide, a 4-part series, in which we present some common themes, along with reflections and discussion questions. The series covers the following themes:

Theme 1: The Blessing of Knowing about the Afterlife 

In the movie, there are depictions of death and what happens to the soul beyond death. Alhamdulilah (Praise be to God) for the beauty of Islam because it does not leave us to question or wonder what will happen at the time of death and beyond. We can compare how the movie depicts this process to what our Islamic Tradition teaches us, and the strong emotions associated with such an important event in the soul’s journey to God.
What the movie shows:
  • Death is a conveyor belt that takes you to a bright light.
  • Angels are bumbling bumpkins that “mess up the death count” or make mistakes
  • Imaginative labels like “The Great Before” and “The Great Beyond”
What Islam teaches us:
  • Detailed account of how our souls are taken from our bodies, the soul’s journey to the grave, and how we will be held accountable.
  • The role of Angels. They never disobey Allah’s commands and do as they are ordained [66:6].
  • The names Allah (SWT) has blessed us with in the Qur’an: The Day of Reckoning, Day of No Doubt, Day of Eternal Life, Day of Truth, and many more.
Pondering the intensity of the afterlife. While the movie may make light of the afterlife and what it may entail, many of the Islamic terms describing death nudge us to ponder its intensity.

  • The Prophet Muhammad (PBUH) said, “Remember the destroyer of pleasures.” When asked what that was, he replied, “Death. Whenever one of Allah’s servants remembers this when he is wealthy, this world is constricted for him. Whenever he remembers it in hardship, it is expanded for him.” (Sunan al-Tirmidhī 2307)
  • We should not shy away from talking about death, as Ibn Umar reported: A man said, “Which of the believers is the wisest?” The Prophet (PBUH) said, “Those who remember death often and have best prepared for it with good deeds; those are the wisest.” (Sunan Ibn Mājah 4259)
  • When we open up the conversation for our families to freely discuss their feelings about death and God’s description of the afterlife, we give ourselves the opportunity to mature and grow in wisdom in our daily actions.

Death is not the end. While Joe Gardener scrambles to escape his fate, death is depicted as the end of his journey. Contrary to this belief, we do not see death as an end, but the beginning.

  • We understand that life on this Earth is a temporary home. It is referred to in the Qur’an as “hayat adunya” or “the lower life.” We know that there is an everlasting life that we should strive for.
  • We cannot escape death, but as the Prophet (PBUH) said, “Prepare yourselves for death before it comes to you.” Allah (SWT) names The Last Day as Yawmun la Maradda Lah, or The Day Which No One Can Avert.
  • As the Prophet (PBUH) teaches us, we must live in this life as a traveler (Bukhari: 6416), and focus on what’s important. We can encourage this shift in perspective with our children.
Look at this beautiful exchange between the Prophet (PBUH) and his companions. 
He (PBUH) said, “Whoever loves to meet Allah, Allah loves to meet him, and whoever hates to meet Allah, Allah hates to meet him.” 

It was said to him, “O Messenger of Allah, does hating to meet Allah mean hating to meet death? For all of us hate death.” 

He said, “No. Rather that is only at the moment of death. But if he is given the glad tidings of the mercy and forgiveness of Allah, he loves to meet Allah and Allah loves to meet him; and if he is given the tidings of the punishment of Allah, he hates to meet Allah and Allah hates to meet him.” 

Bukhari: 6026

Based on these ideas, here are some questions to consider for your family or group discussions: 
  • What do you think about Soul’s depiction of the afterlife? How does it compare to our Islamic tradition?
  • How do you feel about dying and death?
  • How do you imagine the grave or the afterlife to be? What do you worry about most? What are you most looking forward to?
  • Discuss how we can live in this life as a traveler. What are you doing to prepare for the true life to come?
Let’s have these honest, vulnerable discussions with our children so that we may grow together in our connectedness to The Most High.

In part 2 of this series, we will be discussing what it means to live in the present and make most of the journey.

Blog Author:

Duaa Haggag

Duaa Haggag, LPC is a Community Educator with The Family & Youth Institute. She holds a Master’s degree in counseling, with a dual certificate in school and community counseling. She currently works in private practice as a child, adolescent, and family therapist at Silent Sunlight Counseling. Her interests include group, play, and art therapy.

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Zakat eligibility of The FYI

The Family & Youth Institute, or The FYI, is a well-known Muslim organization in the United States. It works to promote mental health and wellness by strengthening and empowering individuals, families, and communities through research and education. It has been working for many years to bring Islamic perspectives to understanding and promoting mental health in our communities.

It is dedicated to serving and supporting Muslims – safeguarding our deen, our families, and our future generations. Therefore, the work of The FYI comes in the category of ‘fi sabeelillah’ or the Path of Allah, within the eight categories where Zakat money can be used.

Zakah expenditures are only for the poor and for the needy and for those employed for it and for bringing hearts together [for Islam] and for freeing captives [or slaves] and for those in debt and for the cause of Allah, and for the [stranded] traveler – an obligation [imposed] by Allah, And Allah, is Knowing and Wise.”
(Al-Tawbah 9:60)

According to scholars who widen the meaning of fee sabeelillah to include any activities that promote Islamic growth, The FYI is indeed eligible to receive part of the Zakat funds for its programs and services. I urge Muslims in America to support this organization through their donations, general charity, and through their Zakat. I ask Allah swt to strengthen and guide The FYI to continue its good work in supporting Muslims.

Shaikh Ali Suleiman Ali, PhD

About Shaikh Ali

Sh. Ali Suleiman Ali was born in Ghana where he spent his childhood studying with various Muslim scholars. He then moved to Saudi Arabia and enrolled in the Islamic University of Madina.  He graduated with a degree in both Arabic and Islamic Studies. Dr. Ali went on to complete his Ph.D. in Islamic Studies at the University of Michigan, Ann Arbor.

Sh. Ali serves on the Advisory Council of The Family & Youth Institute. He is the Senior Imam and Director of the Muslim Community of Western Suburbs in Canton, Michigan. Additionally, he serves as the Director of Muslim Family Services in Detroit and is a council member of the Fiqh Council of North America (FCNA). He is also a member of the North American Imams Federation (NAIF) and the Association of Muslim Jurists of America (AMJA).