Wednesday, August 11, 2010

Part.1 DEATH IS NOT THE END OF JOURNEY - Islamic Perspective in Brief.

8.. From the Layman’s Desk: DEATH IS NOT THE END OF JOURNEY

       In the name of Allah, Most Beneficent, Most      Merciful.

Islam views death merely as a stage in human existence. Human beings never die, but taste death. As the person does not cease to exist in sleep, likewise the person does not cease to exist in death. “Sleep is the brother of death.” Just as the person gets up after sleep, in the same way he will be revived on the day of Resurrection (“punar uTThan” in Hindi) . However, we are not discussing the stage of Resurrection; nor are we discussing the Soul ‘s (or Spirit) origin, nature and the essence – both which are the subjects by themselves. We intend to discuss the Grave World, which is also called as Aalam-e-Barzakh. “Barzakh” literally means ‘Partition,’ ‘Screen,’ or ‘Veil’. Since the five basic attributes of human beings, namely Life, Seeing, Hearing, Speech, Knowledge as well as Power and Intention actually belong to the soul, these faculties remain intact in the Alam-e-Barzakh, and it is in this sense it is said that life does not end with death! When we talk of life after death we don’t mean that the dead body comes to life in the grave. The life after death is unrelated to dead bodies.


When the person is on the verge of death, his relatives and friends encourage him to recite and declare his or her faith. It is mentioned in Surah An’am of the Holy Qur’an: Then when death comes to one of you, Our messengers take him, and they do not fail in their task. Then they are returned to Allah, their Master, the Real. Jurisdiction belongs to Him alone and He is the Swiftest of Reckoners (6:61-62).

Now let’s see how Allah’s messengers, i.e. the angels, deal with the souls of a believer and a disbeliever:

The angels of mercy with faces shining bright like the sun descend from the heavens and sit  as far as the eye can see.  The Angel of Death comes and tells  the soul of the believer to “come out to your Lord’s forgiveness and pleasure” and then the soul comes out of the body like the water that flows out of the mouth of the water- skin. Then there are details about how the soul is taken up right to the Seventh Heaven by the angels, and the other angels asking about the name of this “wonderful soul”. His record is placed in ‘Illiyun’ i.e. “a written record witnessed by those who are brought near to Allah” (Qur’an: 83:19-21).

As for the disbeliever, it is mentioned in Surah al-Mu’minun of the Holy Qur’an that when death comes to the disbeliever, he wishes to return to the world to do right things: “Until when death comes to one of them, he says: 'O my Lord! Send me back (to life), in order that I may work righteousness in the things I neglected!' 'By no means! It is but a word he says.' Before them is a Partition until the Day they are raised up." (23:99-100). To such soul, angels with black faces descend from the heaven and sit as far as the eye can see.  The Angel of  Death comes to the soul and says: ‘O you foul soul, come out to the anger and wrath of your Lord.” Since the soul is terribly afraid and does not want to deliver itself, the Angel of Death pulls it out violently. The doors of the heaven are opened up for the former; while the doors of the heaven are closed to the latter: “The gates of the heavens will not be opened for them, nor will they enter the Garden of Paradise until a camel goes through the eye of the needle” (Qur’an 7:40). The other angels want to know who “this ugly soul” is when the soul is given the worst possible names. His record is placed in “Sijjeen” i.e. the record which contains the deeds of the devils and disbelievers. Sijjeen is also the place deep down the seventh earth.


It is to be noted that in both the above cases, the angels are told to take the soul back to its body: “Return him to the earth, for verily I have promised mankind that having created them from the earth, I will return them to it. And I will make them come out of it yet another time.”(Qur’an 20:55). Then the soul is returned to the earth.


After physical death, Muslims are never cremated but are are always buried. There is the ritual washing of the body and draping it with a shroud. The arms and legs are straightened and the mouth and eyes are shut.
When preparations are being made for the funeral, the soul watches its body being bathed and shrouded and is also offended by the wailing of its relatives.  In his Commentary on the hadith compilation of Sahih Muslim, Imam Nawawi says, "The dead feel pain and are offended by the loud cry of their relatives." Muhammad ibn Jarir at-Tabari [d. Baghdad, 310 A.H. (923)] said so, too. Qadi 'Iyad al-Maliki (rah) [d. Morocco, 544 A.H. (1150)] said that this was the best interpretation and noted that Rasulullah (sallal laahu alaihi wasallam) prevented a woman from crying loudly over her son's death. "Oh Muslims! Do not offend your brothers in graves by crying loudly," he ordered. This hadith ash-Sharif shows that the dead hear and are offended and feel pain for their relatives' crying.


Muslims gather and say the prayers for the departed. Then the bier is lifted on four shoulders and the funeral procession leaves for the burial grounds.

In a prophetic tradition,  recorded in Sahih Bukhari, Abu Sa’id al-Khudri narrated: Narrated Abu Sa'id Al-Khudri : Allah's Apostle said, "When the funeral is ready (for its burial) and the people lift it on their shoulders, then if the deceased is a righteous person he says, 'Take me ahead,' and if he is not a righteous one then he says, 'Woe to it (me)! Where are you taking it (me)?' And his voice is audible to everything except human beings; and if they heard it they would fall down unconscious . " (Vol.2/Book 23/No.462)

At the burial grounds, a grave  is dug and the body is lowered right at the bottom. The face is turned right in the direction of Makkah from wherever the grave is geographically located. A ceiling is attached to the grave usually in the form of wooden planks. Thereafter , everyone gives a handful of dust and the grave is soon covered with the dust that rises as a small mound or up to at least a span’s level above the ground level. The location is marked by a stone.

Abu Hurairah (Allah be pleased with him) is reported to have said that once he, in the company of the Holy Prophet (sallal laahu alaihi wassallam) , joined a funeral party. When the Holy Prophet (peace and blessings of Allah be upon him) reached the graveyard, he went to a grave and told that there was not a single day that the grave did not make the clear announcement. "O, the Offspring of Adam ! You have forgotten me, I am a place of solitude, I am an abode of loneliness, I am a lodging of wilderness, I am a dwelling place of worms and I am much straitened provided the Almighty expands me in the case of a person whom He holds in esteem. After that the Holy Prophet (sallal laahu alaihi wassallam) said: The grave is either one out of the gardens of Paradise or one of the pits of Hell.

No doubt, grave is the abode of the body after death. The Messenger of Allah (sallal laahu alaihi wassallam) said: “Verily the grave is the first step in the stages of the Hereafter; if one finds salvation (at this stage) the succeeding (stages) become easy for him, and if he does not find salvation in it, what follows this stage is very hard upon him.” (Tirmidhi/Ibn Majah)

It is mentioned in the hadith compilations of both Imam Bukhari and Imam Muslim as under:

“When one of you dies, his resting place is shown to him morning and evening, if he is from the people of Paradise, then [his place will be] from the people of Paradise, and if he is from the people of the Fire, then [his place will be] from the people of Fire, and it will be said, ‘this is your resting place until Allah resurrects you on the Day of Judgment.’”

As ibn Qayyim states, it does not mean that the soul, as a whole, is always inside the grave. It is to that part of the soul that is connected to the grave that the abode of Paradise or Fire is shown.


The Prophet (sallal laahu alayhi wasallam) once mentioned the tormentor of the grave, and Umar ® asked: “Will our faculties be restored to us, Oh Messenger of Allah?” He (sallal laahu alayhi wasallam) said: “Yes, just as they are now”. The Prophet (sallal laahu alayhi wasallam) said: “When a person is laid in his grave and his companions leave his graveside, he will hear their footsteps going away” (Bukhari).

Anas bin Malik ®) reported that Allah's Messenger (sallal laahu alaihi wassallam) said: ‘After the deceased is placed in his grave and his companions turn to leave, he hears the shuffling of their feet as they walk away. Then there comes to him the two angels.’ (Part of Hadith) (Bukhari and Muslim)

Thereafter, Munkar and Nakeer who have voices like the thunder and eyes that flash like lightning, and fangs that could tear the earth asunder make their appearance in the grave. They make the deceased sit up and begin their interrogation: Who is your Lord? What is your religion? What do you have to say about this person? (when the beloved Prophet sallal laahu alaihi wassallam is in front of him). The believer will respectively answer: Allah is my Lord; Islam is my religion; He is the Messenger of Allah (sallal laahu alaihi wassallam). A voice will call from the heaven, 'My slave has spoken the truth, so furnish his grave from Paradise and clothe him from Paradise, and open for him a gate from Paradise". Some of the scent of Paradise will reach the believer and his grave will be widened as far as the eye can see. His good deeds come in the form of a man with wonderful face, beautiful clothing and splendid fragrance. Furnishings of Paradise are spread for him, while he himself is clothed in the dress of Paradise. A window to the Paradise is opened for him in the grave so that fresh air and fragrance engulfs him. On seeing the glimpse of Paradise, the deceased prays for hastening of the Hour. He is then told to rest in peace. According to an authentic prophetic tradition which is classified as “Agreed Upon” the Prophet (sallal laahu alaihi wasallam) also said: then he (the believer) will be told: “Look at your place in hell fire, which Allah has exchanged for a place in paradise. So he will look at them both. Then his grave will be widened for him to a distance of seventy cubits, and it will be filled with greenery until the Day of Resurrection”.

As for the disbeliever, he is unable to answer the questions of Munkar and Nakeer. A window to the Fire is opened to him and a searing hot wind engulfs him in the grave which becomes strait, crushing his rib-cage. An ugly person with ugly clothes and a foul stench appears before him representing his evil deeds and gives him evil tidings. He is beaten with an iron rod by the one who is deaf, dumb and blind, who is assigned for him. He strikes the deceased with such force that he reduces him to dust. Allah returns the deceased to his normal form to be struck again the second time. His shriek is heard by all creation except mankind and Jinn. Fire is let loose and beddings of fire are spread for him and he cries: Lord do not establish the Hour!


Various prophetic traditions have come down to us as to how the deceased inside the grave may be assisted by the living to cope up with the interrogations of Munkar-Nakeer:

Since the interrogations of a deceased person begin directly after burial, whenever the Prophet (sallal laahu alaihi wassallam) would bury someone he would stand at the grave site and tell the people: "Ask Allah to forgive your brother and give him strength, for he is being questioned right now." (Abu Da'ud and Tirmidhi)

Scholars point out that when the Holy Prophet (sallal laahu alaihi wassallam)’s aunt, Safiya ® died, he (s) stated these words after the burial: “O Aunt! Say my Prophet is Muhammed who is my nephew.” E vidently, the Holy Prophet (sallal laahu alaihi wassallam) knew what Safiya ® was being asked inside the grave.

Abu Umama said: “When I die, do with me as the Prophet (sallal laahu alaihi wassallam) ordered us, saying, ‘When one of your brothers dies and you have smoothed over the earth upon his grave, let one of you stand at the head of the grave and say, “O So and so Son of So and so” for he will hear, though he cannot reply.” (Related by Imam Al-Tabarani in al-Mu’jam Al-Saghir and Ibn Hajar Al-Asqalani in Talkhis al-habir fi takhrij ahadith al-Rafi’i al-kabir).

Ibn Qayyim commented on this in Kitab ar-Ruh: Since old times till today the tradition of people addressing the deceased has been going on at their graves, this proves that the deceased hears us and also takes heed, if not then the (Talqeen) would have been worthless.

Hearing this (Talqeen) the Munkir and Nakeer move aside and say to themselves that they should return as there is no need to stand near this person because he has been reminded of (all necessary) things and Allah and his Apostle (sallal laahu alaihi wassallam) are enough as proof over him.

No doubt then, the presence of his or her righteous companions will be a great comfort and reward for the deceased believer. It was reported that 'Amr Ibn al'As said: "When you bury me, stay around my grave for the time it would take to sacrifice a camel and distribute its meat, so that I may be comforted by your presence, until I see how I will answer the messengers of my Lord".


Here, it may well be understood that the general idea of decomposition of the dead bodies do not apply to the Martyrs and other notable exceptions that are above the rank of the Martyrs, namely, the Prophets, the Truthful or the Awliya-Allah whose isthmus life is stronger than that of the Martyrs and who are also alive in body and soul. In fact, Allah has forbidden the earth to consume the bodies of the prophets who perform the ‘salaat’ and are nourished.

Punishment is given not just to the soul but the body as well, since unbelief and sins are committed by them both, and punishment of the soul alone is not compatible with the Divine wisdom. Though the body may have deteriorated in the grave, it exists in Allah’s knowledge.

According to Imam Ahmed and Imam Muslim, the Holy Prophet (sallal laahu alaihi wassallam) stated: “This Ummah will be tried in their graves. If it were not for the fear that you might not bury your dead, I would ask Allah to make you hear what I hear.” In other words, sinful or disobedient Muslims will be meted punishments in their graves till the time of Resurrection and the Day of Judgment.

Punishment of the grave may be for something major and even for something minor sins of omissions and commissions. These include (but are not limited to) the liars, calumniators, deposers of false evidence, drunkards, fornicators, sodomites, thieves, murderers, tyrants, those who devour usury and the property of their brethren and orphans. It may even include such minor omission as not helping the indigent, and failing to carry out neighbourly duties. The Holy Prophet (sallal laahu alaihi wassallam) said, "Most of the punishment in the grave is because of failing to clean oneself properly after urinating". What this means is, that even a careless attitude of not cleaning oneself properly invites punishment to the believers in Barzakh. What would be the punishment be for major sins! Though we know not whether the grave awaiting us is the pit of fire or the garden of Paradise, yet how much we indulge in the pleasures of the world !

Whenever Uthman ® stood next to a grave, he used to weep until his beard became wet. He was asked, “You mention Paradise and do not weep, but you weep at this sight. ” He said, “The Messenger of Allah (salall ahu alaihi wa sallam) said: “The grave is the first in the stages of the Hereafter. If one is saved from it, what is afterwards is even easier. If one is not saved from it, what comes after that is even harder.” [Az-Zuhd p.189. Hasan hadith collected by Tirmidhi, Baihaqi, Hakim.]

Once Umar bin Abdul Aziz, who is considered as the fifth Rightly-Guided Caliph on account of his piety and justice, went to visit a graveyard along with Maimum bin Mihran. At the graveyard, he began to weep. Addressing Maimun, he said: “O Abu Ayyub! These are the graves of my paternal lineage from Banu Umayyah.   As I see their graves now, it appears as if  they never participated with the dwellers of the world in their pleasures and (enjoyment-filled) lives. Do you not see how they are inextricably beset by trials? The insects are feeding off of their carcass..,” Umar then went on weeping until he fainted. When he regained consciousness, he said, “Let us go, for by Allah, I do not know of anyone who is more blessed than he who comes to these graves, yet is saved from the punishment of Allah!”

Some people do witness the punishment in the grave such as the Pharaoh’s folk: “The Fire; they are exposed to it morning and evening; and on the day when the Hour upriseth (it is said): Cause Pharaoh's folk to enter the most awful doom.” (al-Quran 40:46)

Abu Jahal (who has also been called as the Pharaoh of the nation) was one of the uncles of the Holy Prophet (sallal laahu alaihi wassallam) and an arch enemy of Islam who brought an army against the Holy Prophet (sallal laahu alaihi wassallam) but was finally slain by a small band of Muslims in the Battle of Badar. Islamic scholars point out that according to Ibn Qayyim al-Jauziya in Kitab ar-Ruh, Imam as-Sayuti in Sharh as-Sudur, and ibn Rajab Hanbali in Ahwal al-Qubur: "A person said in the presence of the Messenger of Allah (sallal laahu alaihi wassallam) 'I saw someone come out from the earth. A man struck him with a stick and he disappeared into the ground, and this was repeated whenever he rose from the earth.' The Messenger of Allah (sallal laahu alaihi wassallam) remarked, 'It was Abu Jahl that you saw. He will be tortured like that until the Resurrection.'

We read in Majmo’a al-Fatawa, Volume 5 page 526:

وَقَدْ يُرَى خَارِجًا مِنْ قَبْرِهِ وَالْعَذَابُ عَلَيْهِ وَمَلَائِكَةُ الْعَذَابِ مُوَكَّلَةٌ بِهِ فَيَتَحَرَّكُ بَدَنُهُ وَيَمْشِي وَيَخْرُجُ مِنْ قَبْرِهِ وَقَدْ سَمِعَ غَيْرُ وَاحِدٍ أَصْوَاتَ الْمُعَذَّبِينَ فِي قُبُورِهِمْ وَقَدْ شُوهِدَ مَنْ يَخْرُجُ مِنْ قَبْرِهِ وَهُوَ مُعَذَّبٌ
‘He (the deceased person) could be seen rising from his grave with the signs of torture on him and the angels of torture holding him, his body was moving and walking and coming out from his grave. More than one person heard the voices of the torture in their graves, and have witnessed the (dead) rising grave with signs of torture on them.’

The punishment in the grave and suffering in Hell cannot be understood unless we believe in the existence of our bodies after death, and the proof of the soul’s return to the body is definitely mentioned in our religious books and we should believe in them. If one accepts Resurrection, one has to believe in the punishment of the grave and Hell. According to a hadith which I read in Sahih Muslim, al-Bara b. Azib reported Allah’s Apostle (sallal laahu alaihi wassallam)saying that the verse: “Allah keeps steadfast those who believe with firm word in this world and the Hereafter” was revealed in connection with the torment of the grave.

In a narration by Hadrat Bilal bin Sa'ad ® he said that when a believer is buried in the grave, he is welcomed by it and called as a dear one and it is widened for him, while in the case of the non-believer, the grave reminds him that while he was on her back he was discourteous to her and now when he is under her, he will face her wrath. Saying so she presses so hard that ribs of one side pass through those on the other side. (Baihaqi)

It may be mentioned here, that some might think that punishment or rewards can be given only to persons who are buried in the graves and not otherwise. The rules of Barzakh applies also to those who are cremated, cast adrift a river or sea, as also to those who have been devoured by beasts of prey such as lions or scavengers such as vultures and crows. Such souls too retain cognizance. Besides, Allah the Almighty can easily assemble the scattered particles or elements to inflict punishment. Ibn Taimiyya states: "Each person who dies deserving a certain amount of torment will surely get his recompense, whether he is entombed, eaten by beasts of prey, burned to ashes and scattered by the winds, crucified or drowned and lost at sea. Whatever should happen to that person's body and soul in the grave will happen anyway, including beating, the reversing of ribs, and so on."

There is a long hadith of how a sinful person who wanted to escape from Allah’s punishment advised his sons that after his death they should burn his body and scatter half the dust over the sea and half in the air. When the man died the sons heeded his advice. Thereafter Allah commanded the sea to assemble all the particles that it contained. The sea did that. Similarly, in obedience to the Allah’s command, the air assembled all the parts that it contained. Allah gathered together all the particles and restored him to life and asked him why he had made such a will. He submitted that he had done so for fear of Him and He was the best Knower. Allah forgave him. Allah forgives those who fear Him.

It is important to note that the real reward or punishment will be given on the Day of Judgment after due reckoning. Every soul shall have a taste of death: and only on the Day of Judgement shall you be paid your full recompense." (Quran 3:185). According to Islamic scholars, the sinners and those who are insincere to their faith will be punished according to the gravity of their sins of omissions and commissions. However, if those who are dear to Allah such as the Holy Prophet (sallal laahu alaihi wassallam), the other prophets (a.s.) Awliya-kiraam and the pious, pray for them or intercede for them, and if Allah accepts such intercession, they might find relief from the punishments.

Ibn Abbas narrated: The Prophet once passed by two graves and said, "They (the deceased persons in those graves) are being tortured not for a great thing to avoid." And then added, "Yes, (they are being punished for a big sin), for one of them used to go about with calumnies while the other never saved himself from being soiled with his urine." (Ibn Abbas added): Then he took a green leaf of a date-palm) and split it into two pieces and fixed one piece on each grave and said, "May their punishment be abated till these (two pieces) get dry." ( Bukhari, Vol.2, Book 23, Number 460)

Such hadith also figures in Sahih Muslim in the Book of al-Zuhd wa al-Raqaiq.

However those who will receive the bounties and the mercy of Allah will truly be in the gardens of bliss. Although it is apparent that the best protection against punishment in the grave is to carry the truth belief in Allah and avoid the major sins. There are specific things that are mentioned in the Ahadith that protect a person from the punishment of the grave. These things are as follows: Martyrdom on the battlefield (At-Tirmidhi), standing guard in the way of Allah (Muslim), death caused by abdomen disease (At-Tirmidhi), reciting Suratul Mulk (Al-Hakim), Dying on Friday (Ahmed and At-Tirmidhi).

In passing it may be stated that only the Mutazila and the Kharjites don’t believe in the punishment of the grave.

To Continue Insha Allah....

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