We take refuge in Allah from the evil of the dead and the living (death and life) when we pray Allah. What is the meaning of “the evil of dead” here? Can the dead harm us?

Details of the Question
We take refuge in Allah from the evil of the dead and the living (death and life) when we pray Allah. What is the meaning of “the evil of dead” here? Can the dead harm us?
The Answer

Dear Brother / Sister,

The prayers (duas) about the issue are "from the mischief of death and life".

Ibn Abbas narrates:

"The Messenger of Allah (pbuh) said the following prayer:

‘Allahumma inni audhu bika min adhabi jahannam wa audhu bika min adhabi'l qabri wa audhu bika min fitnati'd-Dajjal wa audhu bika min fitnati'l-mahya wa'l-mamat.’

‘(O Allah! I take refuge in You from the torture of Hell;I take refuge in You from the torture of grave; I take refuge in You from the mischief of Dajjal (Antichrist); I take refuge in You from the mischief of life and death.)’”[Abu Dawud, Salat 184, (984)]

The hadith informs us about the torture of grave by mentioning avoiding the torture of grave; thus, it shows that the group of Mutazila, who denies it, is wrong. In fact, the torture of grave is not definite based on this hadith only; there are many other narrations in the degree of spiritual tawatur regarding the issue.  

What is meant by the mischief of mahya (life) –according to Ibn Daqiqul-Id- is all of the worldly mischief and tests that happen to a person: tests based on lust, ignorance, etc. The most serious of these tests is the one during the time of death; for, it will seal man’s life with belief or unbelief.   

What is meant by the mischief of mamat (death) is stated to be the mischief at the time of death. Although it takes place during life, it is attributed to this because it is near death. Besides, it is an important mischief; therefore, it is normal to attract attention to it. It is stated by the scholars that the mischief of grave is aimed by it.

It is definite that those who die will be subject to mischief in their graves; many hadiths state this. We should state that when it is said that the mischief in the grave is meant by the mischief of death, it is necessary to understand the word mischief (fitnah) as “torture”. Fitnah is used in various senses like torture, test, burning, misguiding, doing evil, causing trouble, madness, polytheism, discord, chaos, weakness of belief, unbelief, rebellion and opposition in verses and hadiths.

There are some scholars who say, what is meant by "mischief of life" is being subject to impatience and what is meant by mischief of death is being confused by the questions of munkar and nakir and being unable to answer them.

Hz. Anas narrates:  

"Hz. Prophet (pbuh) took refuge as follows:

"O Allah! I take refuge in You from weakness, laziness, old age at the level of decrepitude, and stinginess. I also take refuge in You from the grave of torture. I take refuge in You from the mischief of life and death." [Bukhari, Da'awat 38, 40, 42, Jihad 25; Muslim, Dhikr 52, (2706); Tirmidhi, Da'awat 71, (3480, 3481); Abu Dawud, Salat 367, (1540, 1541); Huruf 1, (3972); Nasai, Istiadha 6, (8, 257, 258).]

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