How will the grave punishment of the dead people whose corpses are not found be? Does the soul suffer the punishment of grave?

Details of the Question

How will the grave punishment of the dead people whose corpses are not found be? Does the soul suffer the punishment of grave?

The Answer

Dear Brother / Sister,

Every human will definitely experience the life of grave, whether s/he is buried underground after death, stays deep down the sea having been drowned, or is eaten by a predator, or thrown as ash into air after being cremated... As the torment of the grave and questioning address the spirit, even if the corpse of the deceased is not in the grave, s/he will experience the questioning and- if s/he deserves-the torment of the grave. Even if corpses are buried underground, they rot after some time. Therefore, the life of the grave, questioning, reward or punishment (of the grave-life) should not be attributed only to the corpse buried underground.

After man dies, his spirit goes to the realm of barzakh. The person in the realm of barzakh opens his eyes when the angels start to ask him questions. That is, questioning in the grave starts when a person dies. Even if the dead body is put into the grave late, the human spirit enters the realm of barzakh and is questioned without any connection with the body.

As a matter of fact, though there are some differences, it is stated in various narrations having the same meaning that as soon as the spirit of a believer is removed, it will be given to the angels of mercy, who will elevate it and that the spirits of unbelievers and bad people will be given to the angels of torture and that the doors of the sky will not be opened for them. Meanwhile, the spirit is conscious and it knows that the worldly life ended and that it left the body. (see Ghazzali, Durratu'l-Fakhira. v. 311 b; Abdullah Sirajuddin., al-Iman bi Awalimi'l-Akhira, p. 47, Aleppo, 1977)

Death is the phenomenon of the spirit's leaving the body. It is body that dies, not spirit. Human is essentially spirit. Body is its home or garment. One's existence is not harmed through change of garment or through getting ripped off or exterminated. Our Lord, who makes us wear this body in this world's life, and who thus accommodates us in this universe, separates our spirit from that garment when He makes us emigrate from this world.

Death is not extermination. It is the door to a better world. A seed underground apparently dies, rots and becomes eradicated, but in reality, it enters a better life, from the life of a seed to a life of a tree.

Similarly, a person who dies goes under the earth apparently and rots, but in reality, s/he finds a more beautiful life in the intermediate realm and the realm of the grave.

Body and spirit are like a light-bulb and electricity. When the bulb is broken, electricity does not die out; it continues to exist. Even if we do not see it, we are sure that electricity is still existent. Likewise, when human dies, the spirit leaves the body but it continues to exist. Allah ensures the spirit's life in the realm of grave by making it wear a more appropriate and beautiful garment.

Thus, the prophet (pbuh) informs us about the existence of the life of grave life in detail by saying;

“The grave is either a garden of the gardens of Paradise, or a pit of the pits of Hell.” (Tirmidhi, Qiyamah, 26)

When man is put into the grave after he dies, two angels called Munkar and Nakir  go to him and ask him, "Who is your Lord? Who is your Prophet? What is your religion?" People with belief and good deeds answer these questions correctly. Doors of Paradise are opened to those people and Paradise is shown to them. While believers live in boons, without any problems and peacefully, unbelievers and hypocrites (munafiqs) will be tortured in grave. (see az-Zabidi, Tajrid Sarih, trnsl. Kamil Miras, Ankara 1985, IV/496 ff)

There are certain verses of Qur'an and hadiths which denote the presence of torment and of blessing in the grave. In a verse, the following is stated:

“In front of the Fire will they be brought, morning and evening: and (the Sentence will be) on the Day that Judgment will be established: "Cast ye the People of Pharaoh into the severest Penalty!” (Surah al-Mumin, 40/46)

According to that verse, there is torment before the Doomsday, too; in other words, in the grave. The Prophet explained that the verse:

"Allah keeps firm those who believe by the true, firm word in the life of this world and in the Hereafter.” (Abraham, 14/17)

was revealed about the blessing of grave. (Bukhari, Tafsir, Surah: 14).

There are many hadiths about the punishment of grave mentioned in books of hadith. Some of them are as follows:

While the Prophet, peace and blessings upon him, was passing by a cemetery, he saw that two dead people in two graves were suffering torment for some petty things. One of the dead people in those two graves committed talebearing in the world and the other did not avoid urine (not paying attention to avoiding urine drops while urinating). Thereupon, Allah's Messenger, peace and blessings upon him, took a green branch, split it into two, and planted them each on the two graves. The Companions asked why he did so:

The Prophet replied: “As long as those two branches do not dry, the torment those two suffer is hoped to be alleviated.(Bukhari Janaiz, 82; Muslim, Iman, 34; Abu Davud, Taharah, 26)

In another hadith, the Prophet says:

When the deceased is put to grave, two dark blue angels, one named Munkar, the other Naker, come, and they say to the dead:

What do you say about Muhammad (PBUH)?And s/he answers: He is the slave and Messenger of Allah. I witness that there is no god but Allah, and Muhammad is His slave and Messenger.”  Thereupon, the angels say: We already knew you would say so.” Then they widen his/her grave seventy yards. And then this person's grave is enlightened. Then the angels say to the deceased: Lie and sleep! S/he says: Go to my family and inform them of my situation.”  The angels say: Continue sleeping till the Day of Resurrection, just like the person who is in his/her wedding night and who is waken only by the person who s/he likes most.”

If the dead is a hypocrite, the angels say to him/her: “What do you say about Muhammad (PBUH)?” And the hypocrite answers: “I had heard people say some things about Muhammad, and I talked like them. I know nothing else.”  The angels say to him/her: “We already knew you would say so.” And then the earth is addressed: Pressure this person as much as you can! And the earth starts to pressure. It pressures to such an extent that that person feels as if his/her bones entangled each other. That torment continues till the Day of Resurrection.(Tirmidhi Janaiz 70)

In the Qur'an, the following is stated about the grave life of the martyrs:

“Think not of those who are slain in Allah's way as dead. Nay they live finding their sustenance in the presence of their Lord.” (Aal-i ‘Imran, 3:169),

“And say not of those who are slain in the way of Allah: "They are dead." Nay, they are living, though ye perceive (it) not.” (al-Baqara: 2/154).

The view that the torment will be suffered by both the spirit and the body is more preferable.However, it will not be the body which is put to earth that will be tormented, but the new luminous body, which is suitable for the realm of grave and which the spirit wears after leaving its worldly body. Some people from Ahl- as-Sunnah(mainstream Islamic sect) said, "Just as the essence of rose penetrates the rose, so too the spirit is an ore which penetrates the body." (Aliyyu'l-Qari, Explanation of Fiqh al-Akbar, trans. Y. Vehbi Yavuz, Istanbul 1979, p. 259).

The following is stated in a verse:

“Say: "The Spirit (cometh) by command of my Lord of knowledge it is only a little that is communicated to you (O men!)” (al-‘Isra, 17/85).

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