What is the source of the hadith ‘Your prayers and deeds will be embodied in the grave’?

The Details of the Question

- What does the embodiment of worship mean?
- Did the Prophet (peace be upon him) say in one of his hadiths that prayer (salah) would be embodied in the life in the grave and that if a person performed his prayers wrongly, those prayers would appear in front of him in the form of an imperfect and paralyzed person, and that this person would spend his life in the barzakh together with that paralyzed friend?
- If there is such a narration, how should we understand it?

The Answer

Dear Brother / Sister,

The following is stated in a narration:

"When a person enters the grave, his good deeds such as prayer and fasting surround him. When the angels (Nakir and Munkar) come, his prayer defends him from one side and his fasting from the other side. Finally, the angels make him sit and ask who the Prophet Muhammad is. He tells that them that he is the true prophet…” (see Ibn Hanbal, 6/352; Kanzul-Ummal, h.no: 42506)

- Hafiz Haythami states that this narration of Ibn Hanbal is sound. (see Majmauz-Zawaid, h. no:4268)

- Hakim Tirmidhi includes the following hadith narration from Abdurrahman b. Samura named in his book called "Nawadirul-Usul": Various good deeds of a person such as prayer, fasting, dhikr, hajj, and umrah defend him and they are a means of salvation for him in the grave, in the Gathering Place, in the hands of zabanis, in Mizan and on Sirat Bridge. Ibn Kathir includes that narration in his tafsir book. (see Nawadirul-Usul, 3/235-236; Ibn Kathir, the interpretation of verse 17 of the chapter of Ibrahim (14/27))

- The following was narrated as the statement of Thabit al-Banani: "When a believing slave is put in the grave, his good deeds surround him and they defend him." (Abu Nuaym, al-Hilya, 2/325)

 “When a believer comes out of the grave, his deed becomes embodied before him in a beautiful way. The believer says to him, “Who are you? By Allah, I see you as a beautiful and honest person." He says: “I am your deed.” Then, it becomes a light for him and a guide toward Paradise. On the other hand, when an unbeliever comes out of his grave, his deed becomes embodied in a bad way and as bad news. The unbeliever says to him, “Who are you? By Allah, I see you as a bad person." He says: “I am your deed.” Then he takes the unbeliever and throws him into the fire.” (Kanzul Ummal, h.no: 38963)

- Embodiment of deed means that it is represented in the form of a living person and takes shape. Allah creates spiritual beings and living beings out of sound, electricity and other similar materials; similarly, there is no rational or religious drawback to creating living forms from deeds for a temporary period of time - so that they can testify for or against their doers.

The following statement by Badiuzzaman Said Nursi shows the existence of different materials in living beings:

“This infinite space and the majestic heavens with their constellations and stars are full of animate beings, conscious beings, and beings with spirits. The Illustrious Shari’a of Muhammad (Peace and blessings be upon him) and the Qur’an of Miraculous Exposition call these beings, who are created from fire, light, and even from electricity, and from other subtle flowing matter, ‘The angels, the jinn, and spirit beings’ (see Sözler, p. 508)

A hadith narration regarding the issue and its explanation are as follows:

Man is buried in the grave together with his deeds.

قَالَ رَسُولُ اللَّه صلى الله عليه و سلم اِنَّ عَمَلَ اْلاِنْسَانِ يُدْفَنُ مَعَهُ فِى قَبْرِهِ ، فَاِنْ كَانَ اْلعَمَلُ كَرِيمًا اَكْرَمَ صَاحِبَهُ ، وَ اِنْ كَانَ لَئِيمًا اَسْلَمَهُ ، وَ اِنْ كَانَ عَمَلاً صَالِحًا آنَسَ صَاحِبَهُ وَ بَشَّرَهُ وَ وَسَّعَ عَلَيْهِ قَبْرَهُ وَ نَوَّرَهُ وَ حَمَاهُ مِنَ الشَّدَائِدِ وَ اْلاَهْوَالِ وَ اْلعَذَابِ وَ الَوَبَالِ ، وَ اِنْ كَانَ عَمَلاً سَيِّئًا فَزَّعَ صَاحِبَهُ وَ رَوَّعَهُ وَ اَظْلَمَ عَلَيْهِ قَبْرَهُ وَ ضَيَّقَهُ وَ عَذَّبَهُ وَ خَلَّى بَيْنَهُ وَ بَيْنَ الشَّدَائِدِ وَ اْلاَهْوَالِ وَ اْلعَذَابِ وَ الَوَبَالِ

The Messenger of Allah (pbuh) stated the following: "Deeds of man are buried in the grave together with him. If his deeds are good, they offer treats to their owner; if they are bad, they lead him to punishment. Good deeds become companions of their owner; they give him glad tidings and expand his grave and enlighten it; and they protect him from violence, terror, penalty and sins. Bad deeds frighten and intimidate their owner; they darken the grave and narrow it; they torment him; they lead him to trouble, penalty and sins." (Ruhul-Bayan, 3/69)

The hadith above informs us that man is buried with his deeds and warns us not to be buried with our sins. Let us listen to the warning of the hadith now:

قَالَ رَسُولُ اللَّه صلى الله عليه و سلم The Messenger of Allah (pbuh) stated the following: اِنَّ عَمَلَ اْلاِنْسَانِ Doubtlessly, the deed of man …That is, what he does in the world, يُدْفَنُ مَعَهُ فِى قَبْرِهِ is buried in the grave together with him... It means, soil is thrown not only on man but also his deeds; man is buried together with his deeds.

فَاِنْ كَانَ اْلعَمَلُ كَرِيمًا If his deeds are good,… That is, if he obeys Allah’s commands and prohibitions, if he performs prayers and gives zakah, performs hajj and worship, to sum up, if he leads a life based on the Quran and the sunnah, اَكْرَمَ صَاحِبَهُ they offer treats to their owner… they offer treats to their owner and do him favors.

وَ اِنْ كَانَ لَئِيمًا If his deeds are bad,… That is, if he does not have the ethics of the Quran and the Prophet Muhammad (pbuh), if he abandons prayers and does not give zakah, if he does not obey Allah’s commands and prohibitions, to sum up, if he leads a life away from obedience to Allah, اَسْلَمَهُ they lead him to punishment… they lead him to punishment and torment him.

وَ اِنْ كَانَ عَمَلاً صَالِحًا If his deeds are good… آنَسَ صَاحِبَهُ they become companions of their owner… One of the many problems of the grave is loneliness and desolation. All the friends who come to the grave leave the person alone in the grave; nobody can become his friend there; even his beloved ones leave him; man enters the grave alone. However, he has a friend who does not abandon him and becomes his companion: his deed. His deeds are with him; they become his friends; they save him from the loneliness of the grave. Yes, God Almighty embodies a person’s deed in the grave, turns it into a body and makes it a friend. This friendship is its first favor to its owner.

وَ بَشَّرَهُ They give him glad tidings… This is the second favor of good deeds: giving glad tidings. For, man wonders about his end in the grave and worries about how Allah will treat them. Just then, his good deeds give him the glad tidings of Paradise, the glad tidings of divine forgiveness, the glad tidings of eternal happiness and the other blessings he will attain.

وَ وَسَّعَ عَلَيْهِ قَبْرَهُ They expand his grave …Yes, the narrowness of the grave is a problem and trouble just like loneliness and worrying about one’s end. Good deeds save their owner from this trouble, and widen the grave for him as far as the eye can see; they make the narrow grave like a garden of Paradise.

وَ نَوَّرَهُ They enlighten the grave… They save their owner from the darkness of the grave. They enlighten the dark grave for him virtually like a lamp, maybe like the sun. They save their owner from that darkness.

وَ حَمَاهُ مِنَ الشَّدَائِدِ وَ اْلاَهْوَالِ وَ اْلعَذَابِ وَ الَوَبَالِ And they protect him from violence, terror, penalty and sins …In addition, good deeds protect their owner from all trouble, horror, torment that can be imagined. They virtually become a castle for their owner. No torment or trouble can hit their owner by going beyond the bastions of that castle. They virtually become a shield for their owner; no horror can penetrate that shield and touch their owner.

What a blessing it is to find a companion in the grave, to be given glad tidings by him, the grave to be expanded and enlightened by him, and to be protected from all violence, horror and torment by him. What a great treat and bestowal! Happy are the owners of righteous deeds! Happy are those who obey Allah in the world!

What will be the end of those who do not obey Allah in the world and those who enter the grave with bad deeds?

وَ اِنْ كَانَ عَمَلاً سَيِّئًا If his deeds are bad… In other words, if he leads a life in the world without knowing Allah and ends his life with disobedience, فَزَّعَ صَاحِبَهُ his deeds will frighten him… Yes, while righteous deeds become friends with their owner, bad deeds frighten the owner. How does a deed to frighten its owner? What kind of a scene is it when a person who opens his eyes in the grave encounters his deeds that will frighten him? Can we imagine man’s regret and fear at that moment? What would he not give to get out of that grave at that moment? What else does a bad deed do to its owner?

وَ رَوَّعَهُ They frighten him… Yes, good deeds give glad tidings to their owner but bad deeds frighten the owner and mention the torment that will happen to him. They give the bad news of Hell, inform him that a terrible torment awaits him and states that divine wrath will hit him… O Lord! What a scene is it to be frightened by one’s own deeds and threatened with hell! They do not only frighten;

وَ اَظْلَمَ عَلَيْهِ قَبْرَهُ  they also darken the grave… Yes, while good deeds illuminate the grave for their owner, bad deeds darken the grave for their owner. I wonder what happens when the grave, which is already pitch black, is also darkened by bad deeds. How can man endure the horror of this darkness?

وَ ضَيَّقَهُ They narrow the grave… They squeeze the grave until the bones of the person clamp together, and finally the ribs clamp together… O Lord! What a horrible thing it is! What a strange state it is! When the walls of the grave collapse on us, who else but you can save us? Who else but you can help us? Who else but you can save us from the company of our bad deeds?

وَ عَذَّبَهُ They torment him… وَ خَلَّى بَيْنَهُ وَ بَيْنَ الشَّدَائِدِ وَ اْلاَهْوَالِ وَ اْلعَذَابِ وَ الَوَبَالِ they lead him to trouble, penalty and sins … Bad deeds lead their owner to all kinds of difficulties, trouble and torments that we know and do not know that we can imagine and cannot imagine; they even torment their owner themselves.

I wonder if the people who make friends with bad deeds in the world think about what their end will be like. I wonder if they are not at all afraid of this news given by the Prophet (pbuh) and if they do not lose their sleep and feel disturbed. Will they still not give up the companionship of evil deed?

O Lord! Grant us the friendship of good deeds in the world so that they will be our companions in the grave, give us glad tidings, illuminate and expand our graves and protect us from all kinds of trouble and horror! O Lord! Protect us from the friendship of bad deeds in this world so that they will not be our companions in the grave. Do not allow them to frighten us, to intimidate us, to darken the grave, to squeeze us, to punish us, and to lead us to all kinds of torment, violence and hardship. Amin, Amin, Amin!

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