Q. Can you please tell me about the grave?
A. Anas reported that the Apostle of Allah said, “Verily a servant, when he is placed in the grave and his companions depart from him to the extent that he hears the knocking of their shoes, two angels come to him, sit and then ask, ‘What did you say about this man, Muhammad?’ As for a believer, he will answer, ‘I bear witness that he is the servant of Allah and His Messenger.’ It will be said to him, ‘Look at your place in Hell which Allah has changed for you, for a place in Paradise.’ Then he will see both places together. As for a hypocrite and an infidel, he will be questioned, ‘What did you say about this man?’ He will reply, ‘I don’t know, I used to say what the people said.’ It will be said to him, ‘You have neither known, nor have you read.’ He will then be given a blow with a hot iron rod which will cause him to scream to such an extent that it will be heard by everyone who is close to him except men and Jinn.” (Bukhari, Muslim).
This hadith informs us of the conditions which exist in the grave. One of the essential beliefs of Islam is the belief of the life in the grave. We believe that after being placed in the grave, a person either lives a life of punishment or one of enjoyment. Hence the question arises: What does grave mean?
Grave literally means the burial place of a corpse, especially a hole dug in the ground. Technically, however, it refers to a state where the soul meets the body, and after being one, it tastes the punishment or enjoys the pleasures which Allah has placed for him. It is in this context the Prophet said, “The grave is either a garden of Paradise or a pit of Hell.”
Life in the grave is a fact and has been borne out by the Quraan and Hadith. The Quraan says, “Then He causes him to die, then assigns to him a grave, then when He pleases, He will raise him to life again”. (80:21)
In a tradition reported by Baraa Ibn Aazib the Prophet (S.A) said, “A Muslim, when questioned in the grave, shall bear witness that there is no God but Allah and Muhammad is the Messenger of Allah”. This is because of the saying of Allah, “Allah makes those firm (in faith) who believe in the confirmed word, in this life and the hereafter”. (Quraan 14:27). And in another tradition the Prophet (S.A) said, “Verily the grave is the first stage of the stages of the next world”. (Tirmizi)
It can either be the beginning of happiness or it can be the beginning of torture. A virtuous man will live in a state of happiness in his grave as if he is in a dream. As the Quraan says, “Upon being awakened they will say, “O Woe to us! Who has raised us from our sleeping place?” (Quraan 36:52). The sinner will also live likewise, but he will be in the midst of torture and punishment.
Other traditions of the Prophet (S.A) give us more information about the life in the grave. Baraa Ibn Aazib reported that the Messenger of Allah said, “Two angels will come to him, who will make him sit and will ask, ‘Who is your Lord?’ He will say, ‘Allah is my Lord’. They will ask him, ‘What is your religion?’ He will say, My religion is Islam’. They will ask, ‘Who is this man that was sent to you?’ He will reply, ‘He is the Apostle of Allah’. They will ask, ‘What has informed you?’ He will say, ‘I read the Book of Allah and brought faith therein and testified. This is, therefore, the saying of Allah. Allah makes those firm in faith who believe in the confirmed word’. A proclaimer will proclaim from the heavens, ‘Verily my servant has spoken the truth, spread for him a place in Paradise and open for him a door towards Paradise’. Then it will be opened. Its air and fragrance will come to him and it will be extended for him to the distance of his sight”.
As for an unbeliever, the Prophet (S.A) mentioned his death and said, “His soul will be returned to his body and two angels will come to him. They will make him sit and will ask, ‘Who is your Lord?’ He will say, ‘O! O! I don’t know’. They will ask, ‘What is your religion?’ He will say, ‘O! O! I don’t know’. They will ask, ‘Who is this man who has been sent to you?’ He will say, ‘O! O! I don’t know’. Then a proclaimer from heaven will proclaim, ‘Verily he has spoken falsehood so spread for him a bed of fire, and dress him with the dress of fire, and open for him a door towards the fire’. Then its heat and hot wind will come to him and his grave will become narrow for him till his two sides are exchanged.
Then he will be entrusted to a blind and deaf angel with an iron rod. If a mountain would have been beaten therewith, it would have turned into dust. The angel will then beat him with such a beating that whatever is between east and west will hear it, except men and jinn. He will be turned into dust and again the soul will be returned to him”. (Ahmad, Abu Dawood)
This punishment and enjoyment, though sometimes unintelligible to us, are really true. There is no other alternative except to believe in them, whether they can be understood or not. Aisha reported that a Jewish woman came to her and narrated about the punishment of the grave. She (the Jewish woman) said to her, “May Allah protect you from the punishment of the grave. Aisha then asked the Prophet (S.A) about the punishment of the grave. The Prophet (S.A) replied, “Yes the punishment of the grave is true”. I did not see the Prophet (S.A) perform a Salaah afterwards except that he sought refuge in Allah from the punishment of the grave”. (Bukhari, Muslim)
From these verses and traditions, it can be concluded that life in the grave is a fact. Punishment or enjoyment is experienced by the dweller of the grave and soon he will be raised from the grave to render his account to Allah.
And Allah knows best.
Mufti Waseem Khan
This answer was collected from DarulUloomTT.net, which is operated under the supervision of Mufti Waseem Khan from Darul Uloom Trinidad and Tobago.