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Life of the martyrs and prophets after death

Answered according to Hanafi Fiqh by DarulUloomTT.net

Q. I would like to know the tafseer on surah 3:169 Insha allah….

“Think not of those as dead who are killed in the way of Allah. Nay, they are alive, with their Lord, and they have provision”.

If the martyrs are alive, what form are they in? Is it then safe to think that our beloved prophet (peace and blessings of ALLAH swt be upon him) and all other prophets are also alive and not dead as in the way we see it?

There are scholars who are of the opinion that he (Prophet Muhammad, PBUH) is alive and amongst some of us and that he communicates with those people who are at a higher level of spirituality. If this is indeed correct, how does one achieve this kind of spirituality? Will the prophet (pbuh) also be present in the grave when the believers are being questioned by the angels?


A. The life which is given to the martyrs is a totally different type of life which cannot be compared to our earthly life. This special type of life has been given to them on account of the great status of martyrdom and is known only to Allah. It is wrong for us to consider this life as being just like the life of the others who are still alive on the face of the earth.

The belief of the Ahlus Sunnah wal Jamaah regarding the martyrs who have been mentioned in the verse (Surah 3: 169) is that they have tasted of death, their souls have been taken away by Allah and they have been buried as others have been buried. They are no longer on the face of the earth, and they are not amongst us anymore.

However, due to the fact that they have given their lives for the sake of Allah and have been killed in this process, Allah Has not equated them with the normal death that comes to others.

It is for this reason, Allah Has stated, ‘Think not of those as dead who are killed in the way of Allah’. This negation of ‘death’ in this respect, is not ‘literal’, in fact, death takes place, but on account of the great status of the martyrs, Allah has mentioned,’ Think not of them as being dead’. It is for this reason, we will find that upon the martyrdom of a person who was killed in the path of Allah, an announcement will be made to the effect that states, ‘such and such person has died’. After this, an official Janaza (funeral pray) will take place and then the deceased will be buried in the cemetery. Obviously, a Janaza will not be performed for the living person, nor will he be buried (while still being alive) in the cemetery.

It therefore becomes clear that the ‘life’ which is mentioned about martyrs in the verse is not like the ‘life’ of living people on the face of the earth. Such people have actually died and are no longer among the living. However, the great status given to them by Allah, and the bliss, enjoyment and provisions they receive from Allah in their state of Barzakh is far different and superior to others. Hence, Allah Has described their state in the words which have been mentioned in the verse of the Holy Quran.

Regarding the explanation of the verse, the great commentator Imam Qurtubi writes, ‘The life which is given to the martyrs is a special life that is totally different from all the other believers who possess life in Barzakh. The Quran says about the martyrs that ‘they receive provisions from their lord’. This means that as soon as they are placed in Barzakh, they begin to get sustenance from Jannat. Seeing that only ‘living people’ are nourished with provisions and sustenance and these martyrs are receiving sustenance and provisions from Jannat, they are regarded as being alive because their state is of a far superior degree than others who will have a type of life in Barzakh. (Tafseer Al Qurtubi Sura Al Imran verse 169).

With respect to the nature of this special life, this is known to Allah Alone, no one besides Him possess this knowledge. However, based on the authentic traditions it is evident that after being buried, the earth does not eat the bodies of the martyrs. (That is, their bodies do not rot nor become decomposed). (Tafseer Al Qurtubi). This also shows that the ‘life’ given to the martyrs is totally different from that which is given to other dead bodies.

With respect to what form they are in, the Prophet (SAS) has mentioned about this in the following tradition:

It has been narrated on the authority of Masruq who said: We asked Abdullah bin Masood (R.A) about the Quranic verse: (Think not of those who are slain in Allah’s way as dead. Nay, they are alive, finding their sustenance in the presence of their lord….){Chap. 3 Verse 169}. He said: We asked the meaning of the verse(from the Holy Prophet{S.A}) who said: The souls of the martyrs live in the bodies of green birds who have their nests in chandeliers hung from the throne of the Almighty. They eat the fruits of Paradise from wherever they like and then nestle in these chandeliers. Once their lord cast a glance at them and said: Do you want anything? They said: what more shall we desire? We eat the fruit of Paradise from wherever we like. Their lord asked them the same question thrice. When they saw that they will continue to be asked and not left (without answering the question), they said : O lord, we wish that Thou mayest return our souls to our bodies so that we may be slain in Thy way once again. When He (Allah) saw that they had no need, they were left (to their joy in heaven). ( Sahih Al Muslim Chapter 33 Hadith No. 1887 ‘The Souls of the martyrs are in paradise’).

With regards to the state of our beloved Prophet (SAS) as well as the other prophets, our belief as Sunni Muslims is that the prophets are alive in their respective graves, and our Prophet (SAS) is also alive in his grave. This type of life however, is a special one which Allah Has honoured them with, and it is a totally different from the life of the living ones on the face of the earth. Regarding this, Ibn Majah and Abu Nu’aim have narrated from Aws bin Aws Ath Thaqafi that the Prophet (SAS) said, ‘From among the most virtuous of your days is the day of Juma. So ask Allah to send blessings upon me abundantly on that day. (i.e. send ‘Salaah’ (darood) upon me abundantly on that day). For your ‘Salaah’(darood) is presented to me. (Upon this) the Sahabahs (companions) said ‘O Messenger of Allah, how will our ‘Salaah’(darood) be presented ‘to you when your body would have been decayed?’ He (the Prophet SAS) said, ‘Certainly Allah Has made it haram (unlawful) upon ‘the earth to consume the bodies of the prophets’. (Al Khasa’is Al Kubra by Allama Jalaludeen Suyuti vol.2 pg.489 (print Al Mataba Al Haqaniya Peshawar, Pakistan).

The Prophet (SAS) is certainly alive in his grave, however, no scholar from among the scholars of the Ahlus Sunnah wal Jamaah has propagated, or holds such a belief that the Prophet (SAS) is alive amongst us and that he communicates with people who at a higher level of spirituality. The Sahabahs are the greatest of this Ummah in knowledge and piety, yet, no one from among them ever made such a claim. The great scholars of Ihsan, Sulook (Tasawuf) have lived in the early era, however, none of them made such a claim.

The scholars of the Ahl Sunnah wal Jamaah have also stated that to believe that the Prophet (SAS) visits gatherings and meets people is shirk. (Ahsanul Fatawa- by the great Jurist and grand Mufti of Pakistan Maulana Mufti Rasheed Ahmad, vol.1pg. 383 (print H.M Saeed Co. Karachi).

(I have given the references of many of the great scholars in subsequent fatawas on the same topic. You can look at these on our webpage www.darululoomtt.org and www.darululoomtt.net ).

With respect to the Prophet (SAS) being present in the grave when one is being questioned, we are not aware of any such explanation. With respect to the question in the grave regarding the Prophet (SAS), some scholars have written that, when asked about this, the questioned one in the grave would immediately know that he is being asked about the final prophet who came on the face of the earth. Some scholars have stated that the angels will give a brief description of the Prophet (SAS), upon which the questioned person will know that he is being asked about the Prophet Muhammad (SAS). (Al Khair Al Jaari Commentary of Sahih Al Bukhari vol.1 pg. 92 (printed Taleefat Ashrafia Multan, Pakistan).

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.

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