Life in the Grave and appointed time of death

Life in the Grave and Al-Qiyaamah al-Sughra, often referred to as the minor resurrection, is essentially the event of death. Every person goes through this “resurrection” when they leave this world. It happens at a predestined moment.

Both Bukhari and Muslim have documented a narration from ‘Aa’ishah. In it, she recounts that Bedouin men asked the Prophet Muhammad (ﷺ) about the Hour. The Prophet would then gaze at the youngest among them and remark, ‘If this man lives, he will not reach old age until your hour comes.’

Ibn Katheer, a reputable Islamic scholar, explained that the Prophet’s statement implied the conclusion of their generation. It meant their transition into the Hereafter. The idea conveyed is that when an individual passes away, it is considered as having entered the Hereafter.

Life in the grave after death in islam (Al-Barzakh)

Al-Barzakh comes from Arabic. It means a barrier or separation between two entities. Allah, in the (Qur’an 25:53), articulates:

“And He has set a barrier [barzakh] between them.”

In Islamic jurisprudence (shari’ah), Barzakh signifies the intermediate period. It spans from one’s demise until the Day of Resurrection. Allah, in the (Qur’an 23:100), mentions:

“And behind them is barzakh [a barrier] until the Day when they will be resurrected.”

This conveys the concept of a distinctive phase between earthly life. It is the awaited resurrection. It is elucidated in Islamic teachings.

Al-Mawt (Death)

In the realm of existence, life and death are contrasting forces. They’re like light and darkness or cold and heat. The Arabic language describe these concepts through their opposites. Al-Hayaat (life) is defined as the opposite of Al-Mawt (death). Al-Hayy (alive) stands in opposition to mawt (dead).

On the other hand, the definition of death is provided as “Al-Mawt (death) is the opposite of al-Hayaat (life).” The core meaning of mawt in Arabic conveys stillness. It suggests that anything that comes to a standstill is considered dead. This understanding is reflected in everyday expressions. For example, when its embers fade, we say, “the fire has died.” When it ceases to blow, we say, “the wind has died.”

Al-Mawt, or death, is characterized by the absence of the soul. If we consider the root meaning of al-Mawt in Arabic as stillness. Then al-Hayaat, or life, finds its root in movement. In Lisaan al-‘Arab, it is said that al-Hayy (living, alive) encompasses everything that speaks and utters.

For plants, al-}Jayy denotes what is fresh and growing. The commencement of human life occurs when the soul is infused into the fetus in the mother’s womb. Death is described as the separation of the soul from the body. It marks a transition from one realm to another.

Appointed time for death

The concept of an appointed time for death is emphasized in Islamic teachings. The (Surah Az-Zumar – 42) clarifies that Allah takes away the souls at the time of their death. This can happen during sleep or while awake.

It underscores that every person’s life span is predetermined. No one can alter the appointed time set by Allah. Numerous Quranic verses affirm this inevitability. They remind believers that death will overtake them wherever they may be.

Islamic scholars distinguish between greater death and lesser death. Sleep is considered a lesser death, like death itself. Waking from sleep is seen as a form of resurrection. The (Quran 6:60) mentions:

“It is He, Who takes your souls by night [when you are asleep]. He has knowledge of all that you have done by day. Then He wakes you up again. Sleep is a state where souls are temporarily taken. If Allah wills, He returns the soul to the person upon waking.

The Angels of Death Arrive

When it’s time for a person to leave this world, Allah sends special angels called the Angels of Death. These angels take away the soul, which controls the body’s movements. Allah, the Supreme, has guardians (angels) watching over us all the time.

When death is near, these angels, including the Angel of Death and his helpers, take the soul away. They do not neglect their duty (Surah Al-An’am – 61).

For believers, the Angels of Death come in a beautiful form, bringing a shroud from Jannah (Paradise) and pleasant scents. They sit peacefully. The Angel of Death invites the good soul to come out. It’s for Allah’s forgiveness and pleasure. The soul leaves the body gently.

On the other hand, for those who don’t believe or act wrongly, the Angels of Death appear in a frightening way. They have black faces and bring harsh materials from Hell. The Angel of Death invites the evil soul to come out to face Allah’s anger and wrath. The soul is then pulled out with difficulty, like a sharp tool through wet wool.

The Stupor of Death

When the moment of death arrives, everyone experiences a kind of stupor or intoxication. Allah describes it in the (Surah Qaf – 19) as the “stupor of death.”

˹Ultimately,˺ with the throes of death will come the truth. 1  This is what you were trying to escape!

This stupor is like a state where a person loses their mind due to the distress and hardship of death.

The Prophet Muhammad (ﷺ) also felt this stupor during his final illness. He expressed the difficulty of death by saying, “Indeed death has stupors.” His wife ‘Aa’ishah described his pain as the most severe she had ever seen.

Prophets were given the choice at the time of death

When it was time for the Prophets to leave this world, Allah showed them the wonderful reward waiting for them in the afterlife. Then, Allah gave them the option to either stay in this world or move to the incredible place He had prepared for them.

Every messenger, including our Prophet Muhammad (ﷺ), chose the everlasting blessings of the afterlife. This choice was given to our Messenger too, and he made his decision.

Terrors of the Grave

The Messenger of Allah say, “The grave is the first stage of the Hereafter. If one passes through it safely, what follows will be easier; if not, what follows will be harder.” Additionally, the Prophet Muhammad (ﷺ) said, “I have never seen a more terrifying scene than the grave.””

This wisdom teaches us that what follows the grave will be easier for those who pass through it safely. When believers witness the delights prepared for them in their graves, they eagerly wish for the Hour to come. They yearn to reunite with family and wealth.

But, disbelievers and evildoers plead for the Hour not to arrive. They face intense torment and fear the even worse, terrifying future. This lesson underscores the importance of a safe passage through the grave. It determines the ease or difficulty of what comes next in the Hereafter.

The Darkness of the Grave

During the time of the Prophet Muhammad (ﷺ), a woman who used to clean the mosque passed away. When the Prophet noticed her absence, he inquired and learned about her passing. Instead of disturbing him during the night, they buried her silently.

However, upon hearing this, the Prophet Muhammad (ﷺ) asked his companions to guide him to her grave. He went there, prayed for her, and then shared a profound insight. He said, “These graves are naturally dark. But Allah brightens them for their occupants through my prayers.”

The squeeze of the Grave

When someone is buried, they are squeezed in the grave. This happens to everyone, no matter who they are. Sa’d ibn Mu’aadh was a righteous person. When he died, some extraordinary things happened. The Throne shook, the gates of heaven opened, and seventy thousand angels attended his funeral.

The Prophet Muhammad (ﷺ) said that even Sa’d ibn Mu’aadh, who was very righteous, was squeezed in the grave. These teachings tell us that everyone will be squeezed in the grave.

Even children are not exempt from this. The Prophet Muhammad (ﷺ) specifically said that a child could have been saved from this, but they are not.

The grave’s trial: Angels’ Inquiries

When a person is laid to rest in their grave, two angels, Al-Munkar and An-Nakeer, approach them in a formidable form. The Prophet Muhammad (ﷺ) described this scenario. He emphasized that it is the last trial the believer faces.

The angels ask about their beliefs, questioning, “Who is your Lord? What is your religion? Who is your Prophet?” The sincere believer confidently responds. They affirm their faith in Allah, Islam, and the Prophet Muhammad. A heavenly voice then announces the truth of the believer’s words.

In contrast, the disbeliever or evildoer faces a harsh interrogation. Their inability to answer prompts stern reproof from the angels. They cannot recall basic information about their beliefs. This leads to a declaration that their beliefs are false.

Allah makes the believers steadfast with the firm Word ˹of faith˺ 1  in this worldly life and the Hereafter. And Allah leaves the wrongdoers to stray. For Allah does what He wills. (Surah Ibrahim 27).

The Prophet Muhammad (ﷺ) initially did not know about the grave’s trial. Later, Allah revealed this knowledge to him. Aa’ishah, the Prophet’s wife, shared an incident. In the incident, a Jewish woman posed a question about the grave’s testing.

The Prophet received revelation about the threatening trial. This led him to seek refuge from the torment of the grave.

Grave of a believer

Al-Baraa’ ibn ‘Aazib told this story. The Prophet Muhammad (ﷺ) taught about what happens to believers and disbelievers when they die. When angels ask the believer questions and they answer correctly, a voice from heaven confirms that they are telling the truth.

The voice also announces that they will receive rewards from Allah. The believer then smells the wonderful scent of Jannah and their grave gets bigger, like it’s welcoming them. A person with a happy face, nice clothes, and a pleasant smell appears. They tell the believer that they will be eternally happy and that Allah is pleased with them. Doors to Jannah open and the believer knows that Allah will keep His promise.

Grave of a disbeliever

If a disbeliever or someone who did bad things gives unsatisfactory answers, a voice from heaven says they are lying. Things from Hell come close, bringing heat and hot winds. The grave gets smaller and their ribs get stuck together.

A scary figure with an ugly face, scary clothes, and a terrible smell comes out and tells the person bad news and reminds them of what’s going to happen to them. Doors to Hell open and the grave looks like Hell. The person screams in pain and wishes for the Day of Judgment to be delayed.

What did the Prophet Muhammad (ﷺ) say about graves?

The Prophet Muhammad (ﷺ) spoke about life in the grave. He talked about the time between death and resurrection, called Barzakh. From a believer’s point of view, the Prophet explained what happens when a righteous person dies. Angels come to ask them questions in the grave. If the believer answers well, their grave gets bigger, and they get comfort and blessings. A lovely visitor representing their good deeds appears, and they get a glimpse of the joys of Paradise.

Do read a detailed guide on Barzakh and the life of our forefathers.

Author

  • Arish Husain

    Assalam Alaikum beautiful people! someone who loves Prophet Muhammad and his family a lot. I like finding new ways to teach important stuff, so everyone can understand what Allah wants from us and His plans. We learn to listen for whispers from Allah, understand big plans, get ready for whatever Allah has for us, and try our best. I hope Allah's blessings guide us on this special journey.Allah hu Akbar!

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