Can a dead person contact with the actual world? Can they see the people who visit their graves?

Details of the Question
Can a dead person contact with the actual world? Can they see the people who visit their graves? Life in the (grave) intermediate realm…
The Answer

Dear Brother / Sister,

Since bodies generally decay and turn into earth and spirits are immortal, the life after death, which is also called the “spiritual world”, is one of the unknown issues. The ones who are alive and those who emigrated to the intermediate realm are in different worlds. Those who are in the intermediate realm have a way of life peculiar to this place; they feel the taste, the sorrow, relaxation and joy. However, those who are still in the material world do not know through their actual senses about the life of the spirit after the body and how a person feels there and what kind of things they are to confront. We only can learn about this subject from our Prophet (pbuh), who is acknowledged about divine realities.

We learn from the hadiths of the Prophet (pbuh) that the spirits of believers meet each other in the intermediate realm. Besides, it is reported that the dead are informed about those who are alive and can see who visit their graves. They may know who send prayers and moral gifts for them. Since the spirits of believers are among blessings and their spirits are free, they may freely wander. However, the spirits of disbelievers and spirits of believers whose sins are a lot are busy with being punished.

It may be possible that the spirits of the dead visit the house where the Qur’an is recited. Yet, it is difficult to say this for each dead person.

Spirits of the dead meeting each other in the intermediate realm:

There are two types of spirits in the intermediate realm: Those who are in blessings and those who are being punished. According to Ibnu’l Qayyim’s explanation, the spirits that are punished do not have the chance to meet each other. They are some kind of prisoners. On the other hand, free spirits, in other words, spirits that are in blessings, meet and visit each other. They discuss the things that happened and that will happen in the world. Each spirit meets the friends who are in the same level as they are in actual deeds. The spirit of the Prophet (pbuh) is in ar-Rafiqu’l A’la ( the highest rank).

In the Surah an-Nisa, the following is stated “Whoever obeys God and the Messenger (as they must be obeyed), then those are (and in the Hereafter will be, in Paradise) in the company of those whom God has favored (with the perfect guidance) – the Prophets, and the truthful ones (loyal to God's cause and truthful in whatever they do and say), and the witnesses (those who see the hidden Divine truths and testify thereto with their lives), and the righteous ones (in all their deeds and sayings, and dedicated to setting everything right). How excellent they are for companions!” (the Qur’an, An-Nisa, 4:69) and this company is in three places: in the world, in the intermediate realm and in the hereafter. In each of these three places, people are with those whom they love. (2)

In this verse, it is informed that spirits will meet each other in the intermediate realm because, there is an event that is reported as the reason why this verse was sent: One of the Honored Companions became sad and cried because he thought after death, the rank of the Prophet (pbuh) would be higher than theirs and they would be separated from the Prophet (pbuh). When the Prophet asked him why he was sad, he replied : “We cannot help ourselves but be always by your side in this world, O the Apostle of God! We will not be able to see you after death, for your rank will be higher than ours. How can I help myself, being separated from you?”. Over this event, this verse was sent (3) and it has been reported that those who love God and His Prophet (pbuh) will be with him in the intermediate realm and in the hereafter.

God informs us in the surah Aal-i ‘Imran that “those killed in God's cause are not dead and rather, they are alive; with their Lord they have their sustenance”, and “rejoicing in what God has granted them out of His bounty, and joyful in the glad tidings for those left behind who have not yet joined them, that (in the event of martyrdom) they will have no fear, nor will they grieve.” / the Qur’an, Aal-i ‘Imran, 3:169-170) (4) These verse also stand as a proof that spirits in the intermediate realm meet each other because, as the phrase “yastabshirun” in the verse means “they want glad tidings to be given”, it also means “they become joyful and give the glad tidings to each other” (5). Since they give glad tidings to each other, they must be meeting and talking with each other.

Abu Hurayra reported that the Apostle of God (pbuh) said : “ It is for sure that the people of Paradise meet each other there (in Paradise). (6). It is reported that the spirits of the believers will be in Paradise in the intermediate realm. Thus, it is possible that by the people of Paradise in this hadith, those who are in Paradise in the intermediate realm is meant. This following hadith narrated by Ummu Hani, daughter to Abu Talib, affirms this way of interpretation of the hadith: Ummu Hani asked the Prophet (pbuh) such a question one day: “Will we be able to see and meet each other after we are dead?”. The Prophet (pbuh) replied: “ The spirit becomes a bird which feeds on the fruit of Paradise. On the Resurrection day, each spirit penetrates into their own body” (7). It is clear that the spirits of the believers meet each other in Paradise.

In a report by Ibn Abi’d-Dunya, when the Prophet (pbuh) was asked “ Do the dead know each other?”, he replied “ I swear by Allah in whose hand my soul is that they know each other just like birds know each other on the top of the trees”. (8) This question was asked by the mother of Bishr b. Bara b. Ma’rur from the Honored Companions and when she learnt that the dead knew and met each other, she immediately went to a person from Bani Salama, who was about to die and she sent her greetings to her son by means of this person. (9)  In another report of the hadith, those who will know and meet each other in Paradise like birds, are stated to be “good spirits”. 

When Bilal b. Rabah from the Honored Companions was about to pass away, his wife began to sigh and groan. Bilal began to say “What a great joy, what a great happiness! I will be with Muhammad (pbuh) and with his companions.” (10) Here Bilal gives the good news that he will meet the Apostle of God (pbuh) and his companions in the intermediate realm and they will be together just like in the world.(11) and with his word, he reminds his wife that she should not be sad but in deed she should be happy with that.

In a hadith which Bayhaqi reported from the narration of Ibn Abbas, it is informed that the spirit of a believer who gives good answers to the questioning in the grave will be in the company of other believers. (12)

Also, in the report of Bayhaqi from Ali b. Abi Talib in “Shu’abu’l Iman”, Ali (may Allah be pleased with him) said: “There were two believers and two disbelievers who were friends.  One of the believers passed away. When he was given the glad tidings that he would go to Paradise, he remembered his friend and saying “ O Allah, my friend always ordered me to be obedient to You and to Your Prophet (pbuh) and he advised me the good and kept me away from the evil…”, he prayed to Allah that his friend would not deviate after him and he would also be given the blessing he was offered. Later, when the latter friend passed away, their spirits met and said to each other : “ What a nice brother, what a nice company and what a nice friend”.

When one of the disbelievers died and informed he was going to be punished, he remembered his friend and said : “ God, my friend always suggested me to rebel against You and Your Prophet (pbuh) and asked me to commit the evil deeds, not the good ones. God, keep him away from the right path, so that he might be punished as I am and You will be angry at him as You are at me.” Then, the latter died and when their spirits met, they said to each other: “What an evil brother and what a bad companion”. (13) These all shows that good and bad spirits meet each other in the intermediate realm.  

In the hadith, which is reported from Abu Qatada and Jabir and is about making the shrouds nicely for the dead people, there is this sentence “ It is for sure that they visit each other in their graves”, in the version of this hadith reported from Suyuti and Bayhaqi. (14)

After reporting the hadith from Abu Qatada in “Shu’abu’l-Iman” (54/673), Bayhaqi stated that this hadith which was about those who were killed in God’s cause informed they had their sustenance and this hadith was in conformity with the 169th and 170th verses of the Surah Aal-i ‘Imran in the Qur’an. (15)

Another evidence which proves that spirits meet each other in the intermediate realm is the hadith which informs that the spirit of a believer that is ascended to the heavens after death is welcomed by the angels and they will ask him about those in the world. In the hadith reported from Abu Ayyub al-Ansari, the Prophet (pbuh) stated: “When the spirit of the believer is ascended to the heavens, it is welcomed by the angels.” (17) Just like a person who brings glad tidings is welcome in the world. Meanwhile the angels that bring the spirit of the person who has just died say:

-Let him rest for a while because he was in a great trouble.

-If he says “ It was already dead before me”,

-they say “Inna Lillah wa inna Inna Ilayhi Raji’un (we belong to Allah and we will turn to him), it has gone to Hawiya (Hell), its eternal place to stay. How bad it is there and what an evil educator it is”. (18)

Regarding this issue, Abdullah b. Mubarak is also reported to have said : “ The people in the grave expect news. When a dead person arrives there, they ask him questions like “what did this or that person do?” When he says for a person who is asked about : “ He is dead. Did he not meet you?”, they reply : “ Inna Lillah wa Inna Ilayhi Raji’un” and they add : He went to a different way than ours.” (19)

Sa’id b. Al-Musayyad from Tabiin (d. 94/712) said : “ When a person dies, he is welcomed by his child ( that died before him) like a person who returns home from a military expedition.” (20) This hadith, which informs that the dead meet each other in the intermediate realm and receive the news from those who have just died and joined them there, and similar news are supported by the information that the people in the grave are informed about the actions and deeds of their children, grandchildren and close relatives and they become happy because of the news of the good deeds and actions their relatives commit and they also become upset about the news they receive about the evil deeds their relatives commit.

The people in the grave are informed about the actions and deeds of their relatives and friends they have left behind and they become happy due to good deeds and become upset by the bad deeds they commit. (21) Mujahid is reported to have said : “ A person is given the glad tidings of his child’s good deeds after himself.” (22)

Sa’id b. Jubayr (d. 95/714) is reported to have stated : “ It is for sure that the dead people are informed about the people who are alive. There is nobody whose relative(s) passed away and who is left uninformed about the relatives he leaves behind. If the news they receive is good, they become happy and if it is not, they become upset.” (23) Abu’d Darda (d. 32/652), from the Honored Companions, used to pray like this : “O Allah, I take refuge in you from a deed which may make my dead relatives feel ashamed of” (24)

Abdullah b. Mubarak reports that Abu Ayyub al-Ansari said : “ The deeds of the people who are alive are reported to the dead. If they receive good news, they become happy and share the glad tidings but if they receive bad news, they pray “ O, Allah keep him away from it”. ( 25)

As can be understood from the dead people asking for news from a person who has recently died, we cannot say that the dead people receive the news about the people alive on their own – except for the ones Allah wills. For this reason, we learn that they are informed by those who have just arrived and joined them. Their receiving news from the new-comers proves that they meet and talk to each other.

The spirits of the dead meet and talk to each other in the intermediate realm. Is it possible that those who are not dead yet and alive can meet and talk to those who are in the intermediate realm? And is there some kind of contact of the dead with those who are alive? Let us now deal with it:

Meeting of those who are alive with those who are in the intermediate realm:

The meeting of those who are alive with those who are in the intermediate realm is two types : while awake and while asleep.

The most outstanding example and the proof of its probability are the hadiths which inform us about the Prophet’s (pbuh) meeting the spirits of some Prophets on Miraj and teach us about visit to graves.

Allah indicates in the Qur’an addressing to Muhammad (pbuh): “And ask (their true followers about) those of Our Messengers whom We sent before you: did We ever enable deities to be worshipped apart from the All-Merciful?” (26) While some interpreters of the Qur’an claimed this action of asking was only peculiar to Isra and the night of Miraj (27), some others interpreted this as Allah made Muhammad (pbuh) able to talk with previous prophets. In this second viewpoint, recording the absolute word in the verse as Isra and Miraj would be an incorrect interpretation. And it is right to understand the verse as it is and the Prophet (pbuh) was given this permission whenever he needed.(28)

Muhammad’s (pbuh) meeting with other prophets while he was still alive is something possible to happen. And it is of no difficulty for Allah to do this. This happened when Allah made him meet them and in the night of Miraj, Muhammad (pbuh) met the spirits of the Prophets at Al-Masjid al-Aqsa while he was awake. Later, some reports prove that he met some of them in the heavens. (29)

Also, in an another hadith narrated by Umar (may Allah be pleased with him), the Prophet (pbuh) reported that Moses (pbuh) prayed to Allah to let him talk to Adam (pbuh) and Allah let Moses (pbuh) meet and talk to Adam (pbuh), when he was still alive and awake.(30)

Some other prophets’ meeting the people in the intermediate realm when they were alive and awake only took place when Allah allowed them and on this issue, there are many reports about some saints that met the Prophet (pbuh) and some great religious personalities. (31)

On the visit to the grave, the name “zair” attributed to visitor and “mazur” to the visited is a proof that the visited is aware of the presence of the visitor. It is because if the visited is not aware of the presence of the visitor, this is not called mazur = the visited. Besides, when the Prophet (pbuh) taught the manners of visiting the graves, he taught the graves should be greeted; which shows their contact with the people alive. (32)

Those who are alive meeting the people in the intermediate realm while they are asleep, is divine dreams, which are a part of prophecy, according to Ibnu’l Qayyim’s report; and they represent Knowledge. (33) Erzurumlu Ibrahim Hakki says : “ Seeing the dead in good or bad situations in the dream is knowing the exact situation they are in. This is to show the situation of the dead or to make stay awake.” (34), He pointed out that seeing the dead in the dreams are of real dreams.

These meetings and the visions through dreams and karamahs are proofs not for common people but for the person who see them. However, we just mention about them in order to show its possibility.

The meeting of those who are alive with those who are in the intermediate realm takes place due to either one of their wish and as Allah’s favor upon their asking Allah for this meeting due to some purposes. We can exemplify the wish of those who are alive for this kind of meeting as to see the Prophet (pbuh) – as the wish of all of us and which happened to many believers – in the dream or our wish to see our relatives who departed to the other world.

Ibnu’l Qayyim says: “Meeting the dead in the dreams, exchanging news with them, their giving some information like, there is a treasure there or there is this over that place or this will happen like that or you will come to us at that particular time and this kind of information turning out true represent the reality of such meeting.” (35)

According to the narrations, Sa’b b. Jassama and Awf b. Malik from the Honored Companions became brothers and promised each other to keep in touch after death. After a while, Sa’b died. Awf saw Sa’b come to him as if he was alive in his dream and he asked Sa’b about how the questioning went. He replied it was going well for then and thanked Allah. Meanwhile, Awf asked Sa’b the reason why there was a black spot on his chest. He replied he borrowed ten dirhams from a Jewish person and saying the place where the money was, he asked that money to be returned to that man. Also, he reported that his cat was dead and his daughter was going to die soon and these all turn out to come into reality. When the morning broke and Awf went to his friend’s house, he saw the money was in the place where it was informed to be and he took it to return to the Jewish man. He asked the Jewish man if his friend borrowed money from him and the Jewish man confirmed by also giving the exact quantity of the money. Understanding that what he saw in his dream was real and complying with the will of his friend, Awf gave the money to the Jewish man. (36)

1- Nisa, 4/69.
2- Ibnu'l-Qayyim, p. 17; Suyuti, Bushra'1-Kaib, v. 147 b; Hasan al-'Idwi, p. 74; Rodosizade, Ahval-i Alem-i Berzah, elyazma, İst. Süleymaniye Küt. v. 19 a.
3-Ibnu'lQayyim, ibid, p. 17; Ibn Keathir, Tafsir, v. I, p. 522; Rodosizade, ibidi v. 19 b.
4-See Aal-i Imran, 3/169-170.
5-Mu'jamu'l-Wasit, v. I, p. 57; Atay Kardeşler. Arapça Türkçe Büyük Lügat, v. I. p. 128; Ibnu'l-Qayyim, ibid, p. 18.
6- A. b. Hanbal, Musnad. v. II, p. 335.
7- A. b. Hanbal. Musnad. v. VI, p. 425; A Sirajuddin, ibid, p. 106-107.
8- Suyuti, B. al-Kaib, v. 144 b.
9- A. Sirajuddin, ibid p. 107; Ibnu'l-Qayyim, ibid, p. 19.
10- Suyuti, B. al-Kaib, v. 148 b.
11- Abdullah Sirajuddin, ibid p. 107.
12- See Suyuti, Sharhu's-Sudur. v. 53 a.
13- Suyuti, Sharhu's-Sudur, v. 38 b; v. 173 b.
14- Suyuti, Bushra'1-Kaib, v. 147 b; Suyati, Sharhu Sunani'n-Nasai, v. IV, p. 34; Hasan al-'Idwi, ibid, p. 73; Abdullah Sirajuddin
15- Suyuti S.Sunan'n-Nasai, v. W, p. 34; H. al-'Idwi, ibid, p.73.
16- For the hadith on Miraj, see Bukhari. Sahih, Salat, l, v. I. p. 91-92; Muslim, Sahih, Iman, 74. v. I, p. 148; A. b. Hanbal. Musnad, v. V. p. 143; Ibn Kathir, al-Bidaya wa'n-Nihaya, v. I, p. 97, Beirut, 1977.
17- In the hadith reported by Abu Hurayra in Ibn Hibban Sahih, the following is stated: "When it is taken to the place where the spirits of the believers are, they become happy as if they have found someone who was lost." see Abdullah Sirajuddin, ibid, p. 106
18- see Nasai, Cenâiz, 9, c. IV, s. 8-9; Suyuti, S. Sudur, v. 37 a; B. al-Kaib, v. 144 b; Ibnu'l-Qayyim, a.g. e, s. 20; Rodosîzâde, ibid, v, 26a; A Siracuddin, ibid. s. 106.
19- Ibnu'l-Qayyim, ibid. s. 19: Birgivî, R. FÎ Ah. Etfâlİ'l-Müslimin, s. 85; Birgivî bu konuyu işledikten sonra, vasiyyet etmeden ölenlerin berzahta konuşamayacaklarım ve berzah ehlinin sorularına cevap veremeyeceklerini ilave eder. (bkz. ibid, s. 85.)
20- Ibnu'l-Qayyim, ibid, s. 19; Rodosizade, ibid. v. 25 a.
21- Rodosizade, ibid. v. 7 b.
22- Ibnu'l-Qayyim, ibid, p. 12.
23- Hasan al-'Idwi, ibid, p. 16, Egypt, 1316.
24- ibid.
25- Ibnu'l-Qayyim, ibid, p. 7; Rodosizade, ibid, v, 8 b.
26- az-Zukhruf, 43/45. '
27- see Ibn Kathir, Tafsir, a. IV, p. 129.
28- see Abdullah Sirajuddin, ibid, p. 109-110.
29- For hadtihs regarding the issue, see Bukhari, Sahih, Salat, l, v. I, p. 91-92; Anbiya, 5, v. IV, p. 106-107; Muslim.Sahih.lman, 74, v.I,p.l48; Fadail,42,v.IV,p.l845; Nasai, Sunan, Qiyamu'1-Layl, 15, v. m,ps. 215; A. b. Hanbal, Musnad, v. ffl, p. 120, 248; v. V. p. 59,143.
30- Abu Dawud, Sunan, Sunnah, 17, v. W, p. 226.
31- see Abdullah Sirajuddin, ibid, p. 110-113.
32- Ibnu'l-Qayyim, ibid, p. 8; Rodosizade, ibid, v. 8 b; Wujudi, Muhammad b. Abdulaziz, Ahvâl-i Alem-i Berzah, v. 9 a, elyazma, ist. Süleymaniye.Küt. Halef Ef. Böl. Nr. 237.
33- Ibnu'l-Qayyim, ibid, p. 29; Rodosizade, ibid, v. 39 b.
34- Erzurumlu ibrahim Hakkı, Mârifetname, v. I, p. 60.
35- Rodosizade, ibid
36- Rodosizade, ibid.

Kaynak: Prof. Dr. Süleyman Toprak, Kabir Hayatı, p. 247-258

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