Is there penalty in the grave? What are the verses in the Quran related to penalty in the grave? If there is penalty in the grave, will it be for the body or the spirit? Is penalty in the grave contrary to Allah’s mercy?

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.

When man is put into the grave after death, two angels named Munkar and Nakir come to him/her and ask: “Who is your Lord? Who is your Prophet? What is your religion?” Those who have belief and good deeds answer those questions correctly. The gates of Paradise are opened to such dead people who answer the questions correctly and they are shown Paradise. Unbelievers and hypocrites cannot answer those questions correctly. And the gates of Hell are opened to them and the torment therein is shown to them. While believers will live without anxiety and with peace and blessings in the grave, unbelievers and hypocrites will suffer torment. (see az-Zabidi, Tajridi Sarih, trans. Kamil Miras, Ankara 1985, IV 496 ff)

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

“The Fire: they are exposed to it morning and evening; and when the Last Hour comes in (and the Judgment is established, it is ordered): "Admit the clan of the Pharaoh into the severest punishment. " (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, 14/27) was revealed about the blessing of grave. (Bukhari, Tafsir, Surah: 14).

There are many hadiths 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 Namima (tale-bearing) and the other did not avoid urine (not pay attention to avoiding urine drops while urinating) when they were alive. Thereupon Allah's Messenger, peace and blessings upon him, took a green branch, split it into two, and planted them each in the two graves. The Companions asked him 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)

The Prophet states the following in another hadith:

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

In another hadith, the Prophet says:

“When the deceased is put to grave, two dark blue angels, one named Munkar, the other Nakir, 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 him 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:

"Do not think at all of those killed in Allah's cause as dead. Rather, they are alive; with their Lord they have their sustenance." (Surah al-‘Imran, 3/169),

"And say not of those who are killed in Allah's cause: "They are dead. " Rather they are alive, but you are not aware.” (Surah al-Baqarah, 2/154).

As for the issue whether penalty in the grave will be for the body or the spirit:

Death is not extermination. It is the door of 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 apparently goes under the earth, rots, but in reality s/he finds a more beautiful life in the intermediate realm (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, but continues to exist. Even if we do not see it, we are sure that electricity is still existent.

Likewise, when human dies, spirit leaves the body. But it continues to exist. Allah ensures the spirit's life in the intermediate realm by making it wear a more appropriate and beautiful garment.

For this reason, the Prophet said:

“Grave is either a garden from gardens of Heaven or a pit from the pits of Hell.” Thus, he informed us about the existence of life in grave and how it would be.

If a faithful person dies of an incurable disease, s/he is considered a martyr. This kind of martyrs are called spiritual martyrs. And martyrs wander freely in the world of grave. They are unaware that they are dead. They think they are still alive. They only know that they are leading a more gorgeous life. The Prophet said:

“Martyrs do not feel the agony of death.” (see Tirmidhi, Jihad, 6; Nasai, Jihad, 35; Ibn Majah, Jihad, 16; Darimi, Jihad, 7)

It is stated in the Quran that martyrs are not dead. That is to say they are unaware that they have died. For instance, think of two men. They are in a very beautiful garden together in a dream. One of them knows that it is a dream. Yet the other one is unaware that it is a dream. Which one enjoys it the most? Of course the one who does not know that it is a dream. The one who knows it is a dream thinks that if he wakes up, all the joy will get lost. However, the other one feels the joy truly and fully.

Similarly, the ordinary dead do not feel the joy to the full as they are aware that they are dead. Nevertheless, martyrs feel it to the full as they are unaware that they are dead.

Souls of those who die as believers and who are not subject to punishment in grave wander freely. For this reason, they can travel to many places. They can be in many places at the same time. It is possible for them to wander around and amongst us. Even, Hazrat Hamza, the lord of the martyrs, helped a lot of people and still there are people whom he helps.

Human beings, who come into the wombs of their mothers from the world of souls, are born into the world there. They meet here. Similarly, people in world are born into the otherworld through death and they wander there. Just as we bid farewell to people who go to the otherworld from this world, so are there ones in the otherworld, who welcome the ones who leave this world for the otherworld. Inshaallah, our beloved ones, especially the Prophet, will welcome us there; as long as we are true slaves to Allah here.

Just as we welcome a new born child here, so too will our friends welcome us, inshaallah when we go to the other world on condition that we believe in Allah and obey Him and His apostles and die as a believer.

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