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The Ordeal of the Grave and its Blessings

A Muslim believes that death represents a transition from this material world to an after-life. He also believes in the ordeal of the grave as explained by the Apostle of God (sallAllahu ‘alayhi wa sallam), that:

« إِنَّ العَبْدَ إِذَا وُضِعَ فِي قَبْرِهِ وَتَوَلَّى عَنْهُ أَصْحَابُهُ، وَإِنَّهُ لَيَسْمَعُ قَرْعَ نِعَالِهِمْ، أَتَاهُ مَلَكَانِ فَيُقْعِدَانِهِ، فَيَقُولاَنِ: مَا كُنْتَ تَقُولُ فِي هَذَا الرَّجُلِ لِمُحَمَّدٍ صَلَّى اللهُ عَلَيْهِ وَسَلَّمَ، فَأَمَّا المُؤْمِنُ، فَيَقُولُ: أَشْهَدُ أَنَّهُ عَبْدُ اللَّهِ وَرَسُولُهُ، فَيُقَالُ لَهُ: انْظُرْ إِلَى مَقْعَدِكَ مِنَ النَّارِ قَدْ أَبْدَلَكَ اللَّهُ بِهِ مَقْعَدًا مِنَ الجَنَّةِ، فَيَرَاهُمَا جَمِيعًا »

(Translation of meaning) When a dead man is laid down in his grave he will be interrogated by two angels about his God, about his religion and about his prophet.  If, he is a believer, he will say my God is Allah, my religion is Islam and Muhammad is my prophet. On the contrary, if the dead man is a doubter and non-believer, he will say I do not know anything. I said what I heard others saying. Then, he will be beaten and tortured. As narrated by Hadrat Qatadah (RadhiAllahu Anhu) from Hadrat Anas (RadhiAllahu Anhu), the Messenger of Allah (sallAllahu ‘alayhi wa sallam) said:

« وَأَمَّا المُنَافِقُ وَالكَافِرُ فَيُقَالُ لَهُ: مَا كُنْتَ تَقُولُ فِي هَذَا الرَّجُلِ؟ فَيَقُولُ: لاَ أَدْرِي كُنْتُ أَقُولُ مَا يَقُولُ النَّاسُ، فَيُقَالُ: لاَ دَرَيْتَ وَلاَ تَلَيْتَ، وَيُضْرَبُ بِمَطَارِقَ مِنْ حَدِيدٍ ضَرْبَةً، فَيَصِيحُ صَيْحَةً يَسْمَعُهَا مَنْ يَلِيهِ غَيْرَ الثَّقَلَيْنِ » (البخاري)

“When a slave [of Allah] is laid down in his grave and his companions leave him and he hears the thumping of their shoes, two angels come to him who make him sit up and ask him: What did you say about this man [Muhammad]? If he is a believer he will say: I testify that he is the slave of Allah and His messenger. Then he will be told: Look at your seat in the hell. Allah has substituted it by a seat for you in the Garden. Then he will be shown both together. Hadrat Qatadah (RadhiAllahu Anhu) added that thereafter his grave is widened.  Thereafter, he narrated the remaining part of the narrative given by Hadrat Anas (RadhiAllahu Anhu): But if he were a hypocrite or a disbeliever he will be asked: What did you say about this man? He will say I do not know. I said what the other people said. Then he will be told: You did not try to know or to find out, nor did you recite the holy Quran. Then he will be stricken with an iron hammer and his cries will be heard by all except the mankind and the jinn. (Al-Bukhari).

A Muslim is also convinced that it is Allah who will keep him steadfast in the interrogation of the grave, as he was steadfast in compliance with the ordinances of God in the worldly life. Hadrat Baraa Bin Azib (RadhiAllahu Anhu) has narrated that:

” {يُثَبِّتُ اللهُ الَّذِينَ آمَنُوا بِالْقَوْلِ الثَّابِتِ} [إبراهيم: 27] ” قَالَ: ” نَزَلَتْ فِي عَذَابِ الْقَبْرِ، فَيُقَالُ لَهُ: مَنْ رَبُّكَ؟ فَيَقُولُ: رَبِّيَ اللهُ، وَنَبِيِّي مُحَمَّدٌ صَلَّى اللهُ عَلَيْهِ وَسَلَّمَ، فَذَلِكَ قَوْلُهُ عَزَّ وَجَلَّ: {يُثَبِّتُ اللهُ الَّذِينَ آمَنُوا بِالْقَوْلِ الثَّابِتِ فِي الْحَيَاةِ الدُّنْيَا، وَفِي الْآخِرَةِ} [إبراهيم: 27] ” مسلم.

(Translation of meaning) The Messenger of Allah (sallAllahu ‘alayhi wa sallam) said: The Ayat in the holy Quran يُثَبِّتُ اللَّهُ الَّذِينَ آمَنُوا بِالْقَوْلِ الثَّابِتِ  “Allah will keep steadfast those who believe by a steadfast word” is about the ordeal in the grave when the dead man will be asked who is your Creator then he will say my Creator is Allah and Muhammad is my leader and guide. The same is meant by this Ayat of Surah Ibrahim: {يُثَبِّتُ اللهُ الَّذِينَ آمَنُوا بِالْقَوْلِ الثَّابِتِ فِي الْحَيَاةِ الدُّنْيَا، وَفِي الْآخِرَةِ }  “Allah keeps steadfast those who believe by the steadfast word in the material world as well as in the Akhirah.” A Muslim also believes in this affirmation of the Messenger of Allah (sallAllahu ‘alayhi wa sallam) that a dead man lives either in the comforts of the Garden or in the  travails of the Hell in his grave till the Day of Judgment.  The after-death ordeal has also been mentioned in the holy Quran in these words:

وَلَوْ تَرَى إِذْ الظَّالِمُونَ فِي غَمَرَاتِ الْمَوْتِ وَالْمَلائِكَةُ بَاسِطُوا أَيْدِيهِمْ أَخْرِجُوا أَنفُسَكُمْ الْيَوْمَ تُجْزَوْنَ عَذَابَ الْهُونِ بِمَا كُنتُمْ تَقُولُونَ عَلَى اللَّهِ غَيْرَ الْحَقِّ وَكُنتُمْ عَنْ آيَاتِهِ تَسْتَكْبِرُونَ (93) (الأنعام: 93)

(Translation of meaning) [“And you would see when the oppressors are through the spasms of death and the angels approaching them with their spread hands [to strike at them]. Give up your souls. Today you will be compensated with the ignominious torture for what falsehood you had been telling against Allah and you were falsifying his tokens” (Al-An’am: 93)].

Interpreting this Ayat Hadrat Ibn Abbas (RadhiAllahu Anhu) said that this will happen at the time of death pangs and that “Bast” means that the angels will strike at the faces and backs.

Likewise, another tradition relating to the ordeal of the grave is narrated by Hadrat Zaid Bin Thabit (RadhiAllahu Anhu). He narrates that:

بَيْنَمَا النَّبِيُّ صَلَّى اللهُ عَلَيْهِ وَسَلَّمَ فِي حَائِطٍ لِبَنِي النَّجَّارِ، عَلَى بَغْلَةٍ لَهُ وَنَحْنُ مَعَهُ، إِذْ حَادَتْ بِهِ فَكَادَتْ تُلْقِيهِ، وَإِذَا أَقْبُرٌ سِتَّةٌ أَوْ خَمْسَةٌ أَوْ أَرْبَعَةٌ – قَالَ: كَذَا كَانَ يَقُولُ الْجُرَيْرِيُّ – فَقَالَ: «مَنْ يَعْرِفُ أَصْحَابَ هَذِهِ الْأَقْبُرِ؟» فَقَالَ رَجُلٌ: أَنَا، قَالَ: فَمَتَى مَاتَ هَؤُلَاءِ؟ ” قَالَ: مَاتُوا فِي الْإِشْرَاكِ، فَقَالَ: «إِنَّ هَذِهِ الْأُمَّةَ تُبْتَلَى فِي قُبُورِهَا، فَلَوْلَا أَنْ لَا تَدَافَنُوا، لَدَعَوْتُ اللهَ أَنْ يُسْمِعَكُمْ مِنْ عَذَابِ الْقَبْرِ الَّذِي أَسْمَعُ مِنْهُ» ثُمَّ أَقْبَلَ عَلَيْنَا بِوَجْهِهِ، فَقَالَ: «تَعَوَّذُوا بِاللهِ مِنْ عَذَابِ النَّارِ» قَالُوا: نَعُوذُ بِاللهِ مِنْ عَذَابِ النَّارِ، فَقَالَ: «تَعَوَّذُوا بِاللهِ مِنْ عَذَابِ الْقَبْرِ» قَالُوا: نَعُوذُ بِاللهِ مِنْ عَذَابِ الْقَبْرِ، قَالَ: «تَعَوَّذُوا بِاللهِ مِنَ الْفِتَنِ، مَا ظَهَرَ مِنْهَا وَمَا بَطَنَ» قَالُوا: نَعُوذُ بِاللهِ مِنَ الْفِتَنِ مَا ظَهَرَ مِنْهَا وَمَا بَطَنَ، قَالَ: «تَعَوَّذُوا بِاللهِ مِنْ فِتْنَةِ الدَّجَّالِ» قَالُوا: نَعُوذُ بِاللهِ مِنْ فِتْنَةِ الدَّجَّال (مسلم).

(Translation of meaning) “While the Messenger of Allah (sallAllahu ‘alayhi wa sallam) along with us was passing through an enclosure of Bani Najjar on a pony it became panicky and it was about to throw him. Then he spotted the graves of six or five or four persons. The Messenger of Allah (sallAllahu ‘alayhi wa sallam) asked: Who knows the people of these graves? One man said I do. Then the Prophet (sallAllahu ‘alayhi wa sallam) asked when did these people die? He said they died in the era of paganism. Then the Prophet (sallAllahu ‘alayhi wa sallam) said: verily, these people are undergoing torture in their graves.  Had not you been burying the dead and had not I been apprehensive of your getting terrified I would have prayed to Allah to give you too the ability to hear the happenings in the grave as I do hear. Then he turned his face towards us and said: Seek refuge in Allah from the torture of fire. They said: We seek refuge in Allah from the torture of fire. Then he said: Seek refuge from Allah from the ordeal of grave. They said: We seek refuge in Allah from the ordeal of grave. Then he said: Seek refuge in Allah from the temptations [fitan] whether apparent or hidden. They said: We seek refuge in Allah from temptations whether apparent or hidden. Then he said: Seek refuge in Allah from the temptation [fitnah] of Dajjal. They said: We seek refuge in Allah from the temptation of Dajjal.

Hadrat Ibn Abbas (RadhiAllahu Anhu) has narrated that once the Messenger of Allah (sallAllahu ‘alayhi wa sallam) passing by two graves. He said these two are undergoing an ordeal though not for any major offence. One of them was used to backbiting and the other did not purify himself after urination (Muslim). The Messenger of Allah (sallAllahu ‘alayhi wa sallam) said:

« إِنَّ أَحَدَكُمْ إِذَا مَاتَ عُرِضَ عَلَيْهِ مَقْعَدُهُ بِالْغَدَاةِ وَالْعَشِيِّ، إِنْ كَانَ مِنْ أَهْلِ الْجَنَّةِ فَمِنْ أَهْلِ الْجَنَّةِ، وَإِنْ كَانَ مِنْ أَهْلِ النَّارِ فَمِنْ أَهْلِ النَّارِ، يُقَالُ: هَذَا مَقْعَدُكَ، حَتَّى يَبْعَثَكَ اللهُ إِلَيْهِ يَوْمَ الْقِيَامَةِ » (متفق عليه).

(Translation of meaning) When any one of you dies, he is shown his resort every day morning and evening.  If he is a man of the Garden, he is shown his resort in the Garden and if, he is a man of Hell he is shown his resort in the Hell. He is told that till the Last Day when you will be resurrected this is your resort (Al-Bukhari & Muslim).

The believer and the disbeliever will be treated differently in their graves. The believer will remain in comforts till the Day of resurrection and the disbeliever shall remain in painful trouble till the Day of resurrection. The believer shall wish the Last Day to arrive at the earliest so that, he could enjoy the eternal bliss of the Garden while the disbeliever shall be overwhelmed and terrified by the impending torture of the Hell and so, he would desire that the Day of Resurrection should never arrive. Thus, we should adhere to the way of doing good deeds to avoid the ordeal of the grave. We should always fear our Allah and try to sublimate and beautify our lives by doing right deeds.

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