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Interrogation in the Grave

The A to Z of Death

Part 5

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Interrogation in the Grave

Like death, the questioning of the grave is unavoidable. Everyone who has passed away is actually alive in the grave but the true nature of this life is beyond the realm of human comprehension, and while in that grave, each and every person will be interrogated about his faith. No one will be able to abscond. For the transgressor and the disbeliever, it will be a testing, traumatic experience about which the Prophet (sall Allāhu ʿalayhi wa sallam) said,

“It has been revealed to me that you will be tried in the grave; in severity, it will resemble the trial of al-Masīḥ al-Dajjāl.”[1]

The interrogation of the grave is something terrifying to behold, “[In this world], I have not seen a sight more harrowing than the grave”[2] and our Messenger (sall Allāhu ʿalayhi wa sallam) was so apprehensive of it and what comes after that one time, he stood by the side of a grave as a burial was happening, weeping and counselled his Companions,

“My brothers! Prepare yourself for this day!”[3] After burying the deceased, he would say, “Ask for forgiveness and firmness for your brother, because he is now being questioned.”[4]

“The grave is the first stage of the Hereafter. If a person succeeds there, what comes after will be easier; but if he fails, what comes after will be much harder.”[5] Success and failure will be determined entirely by the faith of a person and what they did during their life. In order for us to know how to pass this most important of tests, we first need to know what questions will be asked. Once we know what they are, we can determine what steps need to be taken, what preparation needs to done, in order to succeed.

Our narrative begins at the point when the soul is returned to the body in the grave and the deceased hears the footsteps of the mourners as they leave.[6]

Some people will be visited by two angels; stern, dark skinned with blue eyes,[7] voices like thunder and eyes like lightning-bolts: Munkar and Nakīr.[8] Others will be visited by just one of them.[9] They will make him sit up and sit up he will, rubbing his eyes. The sun will appear in front of him, red and dim as if just setting.[10] If he was a true believer, his prayers will be positioned at his head, his zakāh on his right side, his fasting on his left and the remainder of his good deeds, specifically charity, joining ties of kinship, good treatment of other people, by his legs. Punishment will approach him from each of these directions and each of those deeds will state, “You have no means of access here.”[11] The angels will begin to question him but he will say, “Give me some time to pray.” They will say, “You can do so later, first answer.”[12]

Despite their alarming appearance, the believer will neither be terrified nor overwhelmed.[13] The angels will ask different people different sets of questions, but all will revolve around belief in the Messenger (sall Allāhu ʿalayhi wa sallam) and following him:

“It is about me that you will be tested and about me that you will be interrogated.”[14]

“What did you say about this man, Muḥammad (sall Allāhu ʿalayhi wa sallam)?” The believer will reply, “I bear witness that he is Allāh’s servant and Messenger.”[15]

“What do you know of this man?” The believer will reply, “Muḥammad, Allāh’s Messenger, he came to us with guidance and clear proofs. We answered him, believed in him and followed him.”[16]

“What did you say about this man?” He will reply, “Allāh’s servant and Messenger, I bear witness that there is none worthy of worship save Allāh and Muḥammad is his servant and Messenger.”[17]

“What were you on?” He will reply, “Islām.” He will be asked, “Who is this man?” He will reply, “Muḥammad, Allāh’s Messenger (sall Allāhu ʿalayhi wa sallam). He came to us with guidance and clear proof and we believed in him.” He will be asked, “Have you seen Allāh?” He will reply, “None can see Allāh.”[18]

“Who is your Lord?” He will reply, “My Lord is Allāh, my Prophet is Muḥammad.”[19]

“What did you worship?” If Allāh guided him, he will reply, “I worshipped Allāh.” He will be asked, “What did you say about this man?” He will reply, “He is Allāh’s servant and Messenger.”[20]

“Who is your Lord?” He will reply, “My Lord is Allāh.” They will ask, “What is your religion?” He will reply, “My religion is Islām.” They will ask, “Who is this man that was sent to you?” He will reply, “He is Allāh’s Messenger.” They will ask, “How do you know?” He will reply, “I read Allāh’s Book, had faith in it and believed it.”’[21]

Once the believer has responded, the angels will say, ‘We knew you would say this,’[22] and a voice will then proclaim,

“My servant has spoken truthfully, prepare his bed from Paradise, open a door to Paradise for him and clothe him in the garments of Paradise.”’[23]

Through that opening, he will look on at its beauty and splendour. A gateway to the Fire will also open before him and he will see it, one part consuming the other and will be told, “Look at what Allāh saved you from, this would have been your abode had you disobeyed Him.”[24] Both sights will increase his joy.[25]

His grave will expand, stretching out as far as he can see,[26] becoming a green, fertile garden,[27] and it will be lit up like on a night when the moon is full.[28] [29] He will ask permission to go to his family to tell them the great news, but will be told to rest and given the glad tidings,[30]

“You spent your days in certainty, you died in a state of certainty, and in a state of certainty will you be resurrected by Allāh’s permission.”[31]

A man with a comely face, nice garments and a pleasant odour will come to him and say,

“Rejoice, you have tidings that will delight you: rejoice in good pleasure from Allāh and gardens of eternal bliss. This is your day which you have been promised.”

He will ask, “Who are you, your face is beautiful and bodes well?” He will reply, “I am your good deeds, by Allāh I always knew you to be quick to do good deeds, slow to do bad deeds, may Allāh give you the best reward.” He will then supplicate,

“My Lord, quicken on the last hour!”[32]

He will then fall asleep, sleeping the sweetest sleep imaginable until resurrected and, while like this, his soul will be placed in the body of a bird which eats from the trees of Paradise.[33] [34] It is concerning this that Allāh’s Messenger (sall Allāhu ʿalayhi wa sallam) said,

“The soul of a believer is a bird that eats from the trees of Paradise until it is restored to his body on the Day of Rising.”[35]

The two Angels will also come to the disbeliever and make him sit up, and sit up he will, terrified and overwhelmed.[36] They will ask him, ‘“Who is your Lord?” He will reply, “Ah! Ah! I don’t know.” They will ask, “What is your religion?” He will reply, “Ah! Ah! I don’t know” They will ask, “Who is this man that was sent to you?” He will be unable to recall his name and will be told that his name is Muḥammad (sall Allāhu ʿalayhi wa sallam), and he will reply, “Ah! Ah! I don’t know.”[37] He will be told, “You did not know, neither did you follow those who did.”[38]

The same will be asked of the hypocrite, the person beset with doubt. However, in answer to the questions, he will say, “I don’t know, I just said what other people were saying.”[39] They will say, ‘We knew you would say this,’[40] and he will be told, “You did not know, neither did you follow those who did.”[41] He will then be warned,

“In doubt did you spend your days, in doubt did you die, and upon doubt will you be resurrected by Allāh’s will.’[42]

A voice will proclaim,

“My servant has lied, prepare his bed from Hell for him, open a door to Hell for him and clothe him in the garments of Hell.”

He will then suffer its intense heat and inhale its poisonous fumes, [43] and look on at the Fire. An opening to Paradise will also open before him and he will behold it in all its splendour and be told, “This would have been your place had you only obeyed Allāh. Allāh replaced this with that!” There will be no limit to the depth of his anguish and despair.[44]

His grave will constrict and compress around him so much that his ribs interlock,[45] and a man with an ugly face, coarse garments and an offensive odour will come to him and say, “I  have news that will distress you for this is your day which you have been promised.” He will ask, “Who are you, your face is revolting and forebodes evil?’ He will reply,

“I am your evil deeds, by Allāh, I always found you slow to do good deeds and quick to do evil deeds, may Allāh reward you with evil.”

He will then cry out,

“My Lord, do not bring the last hour!”[46]

A blind and deaf person will come to him carrying an iron hammer; were he to hit a mountain with it, he would pulverise it.[47] All of mankind, together would be unable to carry it, let alone prevent it striking its target.[48] He will strike the disbeliever with that rod, crushing him and turning him to dust and everything between the east and the west will hear it strike, except for man and jinn.[49] Then his body will be returned as it was and he will strike him again causing him to scream in agony, the sound of which is heard by everything except man and jinn.[50]

He will be set upon by seventy serpents, each having seven heads which will proceed to maul him,[51] then he will be rendered deaf, dumb and blind.[52]

Both the disbeliever and the hypocrite will be punished until Allāh resurrects them.[53]

Points of Benefit

  1. Everyone will be interrogated in the grave about their faith
  2. The importance of prayer which is positioned by the head
  3. The importance of zakāh and fasting
  4. Good deeds in general cannot be ignored, specifically charity, joining ties of kinship and good treatment of other people
  5. All of these protect a person from the punishment of the grave
  6. The importance of helping other people
  7. The importance of not just doing good deeds, but hastening to do them
  8. The danger of being slow, lazy and procrastinating
  9. The observant believer is so concerned about his prayer that as soon as he is woken by the angels, that is the first thing that comes to his mind
  10. Allāh protects the observant believer from experiencing the terror of the grave
  11. The trial revolves around the Messenger of Allāh (sall Allāhu ʿalayhi wa sallam): did we follow him, believe in him, read the scripture that was revealed at his hands, and follow the religion he brought?
  12. The importance of learning about the Messenger (sall Allāhu ʿalayhi wa sallam)
  13. The importance of following the Messenger (sall Allāhu ʿalayhi wa sallam) and loving him
  14. The importance of having strength of faith and certainty in Islām
  15. Following up this certainty with action
  16. The importance of knowledge
  17. If we do not know, turn to those who do
  18. The importance of reading the Qur’ān
  19. The danger of hypocrisy
  20. The danger of being beset with doubt and dying on doubt
  21. The importance of being truthful
  22. The severity of lying about faith
  23. The observant believer will be in a state of bliss in the grave
  24. The disbeliever and hypocrite will be punished in the grave
  25. Both will be shown their final places
  26. Good deeds will be a source of comfort and evil deeds will be a source of anguish.
  27. Man must strive for Paradise and do his utmost to avoid Hell
  28. Success lies in attaining Allāh’s good pleasure

Source: www.islam21c.com

Notes:

[1] Bukhārī #86-7087 and Muslim #905 from Asmāʾ bint Abī Bakr

[2] Ibn Mājah #4267 from ʿUthmān

[3] Ibn Mājah #4195 on the authority of al-Barāʾā

[4] Abū Dāwūd #3221, Bazzār #445 from ʿUthmān

[5] Ibn Mājah #4267 from ʿUthmān

[6] Abū Dāwūd #3212-4753, ibn Mājah #4269 on the authority of al-Barāʾā

[7] Tirmidhī #1071, Ibn Ḥibbān #780 from Abū Hurayrah

[8] ʿAbdu’l-Razzāq #6738

[9] As indicated by some narrations such as Abū Dawūd #4751. Some scholars reconciled the narrations that mention two angels and one angel by saying that all people will be visited by two angels, however some will be interrogated by both and some by one. cf. Qurtubī, Tadhkirah 1:357

[10] Ibn Mājah #4272, ibn Ḥibbān #3116 from Jābir. Ibn Ḥibbān #3113 from Abū Hurayrah

[11] Ibn Hibbān #3113 from Abū Hurayrah

[12] Ibn Mājah #4272, ibn Ḥibbān #3116 from Jābir. Ibn Ḥibbān #3113 from Abū Hurayrah

[13] Aḥmad 6:140, ibn Mājah #4268 from Abū Hurayrah

[14] Aḥmad 6:140 from ʿĀʾishah

[15] Bukhārī #1338 and Muslim #2870 from Anas

[16] Bukhārī #86-7087 and Muslim #905 from Asmāʾ bint Abī Bakr

[17] Tirmidhī #1071 and Ibn Ḥibbān #780

[18] Aḥmad 6:140 and ibn Mājah #4268

[19] Muslim #2871

[20] Abū Dāwūd #3231

[21] Abū Dāwūd #3212-4753, ibn Mājah #4269

[22] Tirmidhī #1071 and Ibn Ḥibbān #780

[23] Abū Dāwūd #4743 from al-Barāʾa

[24] Aḥmad 6:140 and ibn Mājah #4268

[25] Ibn Hibbān #3113 from Abū Hurayrah

[26] Bukhārī #1338 and Muslim #2870 from Anas. Muslim #2870 and Tirmidhī #1071 mentions that it will become the size of seventy cubits by seventy cubits.

[27] Ibn Hibbān #3122

[28] Tirmidhī #1071

[29] Ibn Hibbān #3122 from Abū Hurayrah

[30] Abū Dāwūd #3231, Aḥmad 2:233

[31] Aḥmad 6:140, 6:353 and ibn Mājah #4268

[32] Abū Dāwūd, Aḥmad 4:287-288-295-296, Ḥākim 1:37, Ṭayālisī #753

[33] Saʿīd b. Manṣūr from Abū Saʿīd

[34] Ibn Ḥibbān #3113, ʿAbdu’l-Razzāq #6703 from Abū Hurayrah. Haythamī 3:51 said the isnād was ḥasan.

[35] Ibn Mājah #1449-4271

[36] Aḥmad 6:140 and ibn Mājah #4268

[37] Abū Dāwūd #3212-4753 ibn Mājah #4269

[38] Bukhārī #1338 and Muslim #2870 from Anas. Another reading or version has, “You did not know, neither did you recite [the Qurʾān].”

[39] Bukhārī #1338 and Muslim #2870 from Anas

[40] Tirmidhī #1071 and Ibn Ḥibbān #780

[41] Bukhārī #1338 and Muslim #2870 from Anas. Another reading or version has, “You did not know, neither did you recite [the Qurʾān].”

[42] Aḥmad 6:140 and ibn Mājah #4268

[43] Abū Dāwūd #3212-4753 ibn Mājah #4269

[44] Ibn Ḥibbān #3113

[45] Abū Dāwūd #3212-4753 ibn Mājah #4269

[46] Abū Dāwūd, Aḥmad 4:287-288-295-296, Ḥākim 1:37, Ṭayālisī #753

[47] Abū Dāwūd #3212-4753

[48] Ibn Mandah

[49] Abū Dāwūd, Ṭabarānī. al-Ṣaghīr 1:178

[50] Aḥmad 4:287

[51] Ibn Ḥibbān #3122 from Abū Hurayrah. Ṭabarānī, al-Awsaṭ records a ḥadīth that he will be set on by scorpions and serpents but this is not authentic.

[52] Ṭabarānī. al-Ṣaghīr 1:178 on the authority of al-Barāʾā

[53] Tirmidhī #1071 and Ibn Ḥibbān #780

About Shaikh Abu Rumaysah Refi Shafi

Ustadh Abu Rumaysah Refi Shaafi was born and brought up in High Wycombe. He studies with Shaykh Haitham Al-Haddad and Shaykh Abu AbdiRahman Al-Libee. He graduated from Imperial College from the faculty of Computer Sciences. He is currently a Java Programmer Manager. He is the chairman for the WISE (Wycombe Islamic Society). He is very active in his local community especially with his Masjid and working with youth via Islamic Scouts He has translated a number of books such as The criterion between the friends of Allah and the friends of shaytan, The relief from distress (the dua of Yunus Alayhisalam, both by Ibn Taymiyyah and many others. He has also written an explanation of Surah Al-Faatiha called ‘The spiritual cure.’ He currently gives weekly circles in High Wycombe and Watford. He is also a Lecturer for MRDF.

10 comments

  1. Thank u sir for this excellent article. It just reminded me that life truely starts after death. I pray ALMIGHTY ALLAH makes our answering in the grave easy.

  2. Allahu akbar! an amazing and chilling reminder of how short our stay in the dunya is and how tough the questioning in the grave will be. May Allah protect us from the trials of the grave and raise us as his favored slaves on yaum al qiyamah ameen.

  3. Please remove the side social media links. They block the text and its a beautiful story. It’s enough at the top and bottom.

  4. Sumna Tahqique

    Jazakallahu khayr! This article is such a wake up call! Though I have a question.
    Regarding the disbeliever/transgressor, it says:
    “His grave will constrict and compress around him so much that his ribs interlock.”
    But isn’t it true that the grave will embrace in this manner every human, good or bad, as even Sa’d Bin Mu’adh (may Allah be pleased with him) was not spared of it?

  5. Jizak Allah

  6. Jazak allahu khair for your effort

  7. Slave of Allah

    Jazak Allah khair brother for this lovely article.

    With much negative news regarding muslims lately it is easy to feel overwhelmed with what lies ahead for muslims now and in the future. However when reminded of the experiences of life after death these worldly issues fade away and things are put into perspective which help keeps the focus on what we really need to do. I usually avoid reading too much about the punishments of the grave and hereafter as it freaks me out to the state of panic and inaction. However I liked the way this article is presented balancing the fear-inducing part with practical steps that show how we can take steps to try and avoid being in such a tormented position. The ‘ points of benefits’ is especially useful and has given me something to start work, insha Allah.
    Thanks again and I pray you will be amongst those who find the grave to be a place of comfort and joy, Ameen.

  8. Dua for protection of the grave:
    O Allah, I seek refuge in You from the punishment of the grave, 
    and from the punishment of Hell-fire, 
    and from the trials of life and death, 
    and from the evil of the trial of the False Messiah.

    اللَّهُمَّ إِنِّي أَعُوذُ بِكَ مِنْ عَذَابِ الْقَبْرِ، وَمِنْ عَذَابِ جَهَنَّمَ، وَمِنْ فِتْنَةِ الْمَحْيَا وَالْمَمَاتِ، وَمِنْ شَرِّ فِتْنَةِ الْمَسِيحِ الدَّجَّالِ

    Allaahumma ‘innee ‘a’oothu bika min ‘athaabil-qabri, 

    wa min ‘athaabi jahannama, 

    wa min fitnatil-mahyaa walmamaati,

     wa min sharri fitnatil-maseehid-dajjaal.

    Al-Bukhari 2/102, Muslim 1/412

  9. Nusrat Shaikh.

    MaashAllah tabarakAllah! An excellent and succinct piece of writing. Jzk khair.

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