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Thursday, May 21, 2020

Punishment of the grave and benefiting the dead by good actions

This is a disagreed point by some groups against Ahl Sunnah wa al-Jammah. So this article is meant to prove that there is punishment in the grave and that the living and the dead can benefit each other. Some Wahabis/selefis and Mutazilites disagree with this point and this is what we want to clarify.

Punishment in the grave

ٱلنَّارُ يُعْرَضُونَ عَلَيْهَا غُدُوّاً وَعَشِيّاً وَيَوْمَ تَقُومُ ٱلسَّاعَةُ أَدْخِلُوۤاْ آلَ فِرْعَوْنَ أَشَدَّ ٱلْعَذَابِ

"The fire is shown to them in the morning and evening, and when the hour is established they will join the people of Pharaoh in the most severe torment." (Quran: Ghafir 40:46)

Imam Abu Laith al-Samarqandi (may Allah show him mercy) said,

ٱلنَّارُ يُعْرَضُونَ عَلَيْهَا } قال ابن عباس يعني تعرض أرواحهم على النار { غُدُوّاً وَعَشِيّاً } هكذا قال قتادة ومجاهد، وقال مقاتل: تعرض روح كل كافر على منازلهم من النار كل يوم مرتين،

"The fire is shown to them," Ibn 'Abbas said their souls are shown the fire, "Morning and evening," Qatadah and Mujahid thus agree. Muqatil said, "The souls of every disbeliever are shown their places in the fire, twice a day."

Punishment of the grave is a disagreed point and this is one ayah that proves this beyond any doubt, because it is a clear ayah of the Quran. The opposite meaning/mafhum al-Mukhalifah is the righteous will be shown paradise twice a day.

أَلْهَاكُمُ ٱلتَّكَّاثُرُ حَتَّىٰ زُرْتُمُ ٱلْمَقَابِرَ

"Worldly rivalry increases until you visit the graves." Quran 102:1-2

The competing for the world is great between people and it continues without stopping unless you visit the grave. What is the purpose of visiting graves? If it is just the end of one is life then there is no reason to fear it because billions have died before you. The reason to fear it because you do not know what will happen in there. Will you be punished or blessed? This ayah is another proof for life after death.

The Prophet (may Allah bestow peace and blessings upon him) said,

السَّلَامُ عَلَيْكُمْ دَارَ قَوْمٍ مُؤْمِنِينَ، وَإِنَّا إِنْ شَاءَ اللهُ بِكُمْ لَاحِقُونَ

"Peace be with you all, abode of the believing folk, we will join you when Allah wills." Muslim

This hadith and the ayahs are proof that the dead are alive but not in way we can understand. Their bodies and souls feel pain of the punishment of hell. If you saw a sleeping individual, you might think he is dead because they are still but they could be wondering in great palaces without you knowing it. Thus is the punishment of the grave we only see the corpse and we cannot tell exactly what is going on.

The Messenger of Allah (may Allah bestow peace and blessings upon him) said,

 القبر إما روضة من رياض الجنة أو حفر من حفر النار

"The grave is either one of the gardens of paradise or one of the pits of hell." (Tirmidhi)

This hadith explains that the grave can be one of two things depending on his faith. Either a pit of hell for a disbeliever or a garden of paradise for the believer. Another meaning is that they can experience the breeze of paradise or the stench of hell from their grave.

Uthman ibn Affan [may Allah be pleased with him] stopped at a grave and wept until his beard got wet, someone asked, "Are you remembering paradise or hell? Do not cry if you cry for this?" He said, "The Messenger of Allah (may Allah bestow peace and blessings upon him) said,

كَانَ عُثْمَانُ بْنُ عَفَّانَ إِذَا وَقَفَ عَلَى قَبْرٍ يَبْكِي حَتَّى يَبُلَّ لِحْيَتَهُ ، فَقِيلَ لَهُ : تَذْكُرُ الْجَنَّةَ وَالنَّارَ ، وَلَا تَبْكِي، وَتَبْكِي مِنْ هَذَا ؟ قَالَ : إِنَّ رَسُولَ اللَّهِ صَلَّى اللهُ عَلَيْهِ وَسَلَّمَ، قَالَ: ( إِنَّ الْقَبْرَ أَوَّلُ مَنَازِلِ الْآخِرَةِ ، فَإِنْ نَجَا مِنْهُ ، فَمَا بَعْدَهُ أَيْسَرُ مِنْهُ ، وَإِنْ لَمْ يَنْجُ مِنْهُ ، فَمَا بَعْدَهُ أَشَدُّ مِنْهُ)

"Truly the grave is the first of the stations of the afterlife. Whoever is successful there has everything afterwards easier than it. If he is not successful there then everything afterwards is more severe."  Ibn Majah, al-Tirmidhi and Imam Ahmad

The noble companion wept until his beard got wet means he wept a lot and imagine yourself, how much one would have to weep for their beard to drip with tears? The grave is the first of the station of the afterlife, then there is resurrection, the standing awaiting judgement, the scales of our deeds and the traverse over hell, and if we succeed then its paradise. The disbeliever falls at each stage until he reaches hell. The hadith indicates that there is a test in the grave and that is by the angels of the grave munkar, nakir and mankur. They will ask us about our religion, our faith and which prophet we followed.

The Messenger of Allah (may Allah bestow peace and blessings upon him) said,

قَالَ رَسُولُ اللَّهِ صَلَّى اللهُ عَلَيْهِ وَسَلَّمَ : مَا رَأَيْتُ مَنْظَرًا قَطُّ إِلَّا وَالْقَبْرُ أَفْظَعُ مِنْهُ

صححه الحاكم ، ووافقه الذهبي ، وحسنه الألباني في صحيح الترمذي

"I have not seen a sight ever except that the grave is more detestable than it." Al-Hakim, agreed by al-Dhahabi and declared hasan by al-Bani from al-Tirmidhi.

This further illustrates that point that people are punished in their grave for sins that they have committed in this life that they did not repent from. The Prophet (may Allah bestow peace and blessings be upon him) was shown people being punished in their graves so he could warn his Ummah to avoid sins.

Masruq narrated that Aisha (may Allah be pleased with her) said that a Jewish woman came to her and mentioned the punishment in the grave, saying to her, "May Allah protect you from the punishment of the grave." 'Aisha [may Allah be pleased with her] then asked The Messenger of Allah [may Allah bestow peace and blessings upon him] about the punishment of the grave. He said, "Yes, [there is] punishment in the grave." 'Aisha added, "After that I never saw the Messenger of Allah but seeking refuge with Allah from the punishment in the grave in every prayer he performed." Bukhari V2, Book 23, No 454.

Jabir (may Allah be pleased with him) states that the Messenger of Allah (peace and blessings of Allah be upon him) said, “When a believer is placed into his grave; two angels come and scold him; then awake him as you would a sleeper then they will ask, “Who is your Lord? What is your religion? Who is your prophet?” He will answer, “My Lord is Allah, my religion is Islam and Muhammad is my Prophet.” Narrated by Ibn Abi ‘Asim in As-Sunna 766 and Al-Bayhaqi in proof of the punishment of the grave 237.

These are the questions that are asked in the grave.

This hadith proves again that there is punishment in the grave. Imam Al-Ghazali (may Allah show him mercy) said in Ihya Ulum al-Din in the book of principles of belief, "It is well known that the Messenger of Allah (may Allah bestow peace and blessings upon him) and the righteous predecessors sought refuge from punishment in the grave." They sought refuge with Allah from punishment in the grave.

Sheikh Tahir Salah Al-Jaza’ari (may Allah show him mercy) said in Jawhara Al-Kalamiyyah/Jewels of theology, "Q. What do we believe about the questions in the grave then reward or punishment?

A. We believe that the deceased, when placed into the grave, will have their souls restored to their bodies so they can understand someone speaking and are able to reply. Then two angels will come and ask questions: about his Lord, his Prophet and the Religion which he followed and the obligations that Allah (the Exalted) ordered them to perform. If the deceased is from those who believed and did righteous works; they will answer the questions with the support of Allah (the Exalted) exceptionally; without fearing them or coercion.  Then Allah will uncover their sight and will open a door of paradise to them and they will enjoy a great blessing; it will be said to him, “This is reward for what for whoever, in the world, followed the straight path. If the deceased is a disbeliever or hypocrite; shocked, they will not know what answers to give so they will be punished straight away with the severest punishment. Allah (the Exalted) will unveil their eyesight and a door of the hellfire will open for him; and various different punishments and pain will be displayed to them. Then they will say to him, “This is recompense for your disbelief in the Master and for following your base passions.”

This proves that there is punishment in the grave and that it is mass transmitted/mutawtir. I used to think it was mutawair in meaning because the hadiths were not mass transmitted but the meanings congregated over many hadiths. However, we found two ayahs that give us further indication that cannot be denied as it is mass transmitted in meaning and narration. As the Quran is mass transmitted in itself.

We benefit the dead by

Imam Al-Ghazanwi (may Allah show him mercy) in his commentary of Aquida Al-Tahawi said, "The living benefit the deceased by charity and any good action."

He said, "There is benefit for dead people in the supplication and alms-giving of the living.

وفي دعاء الأحياء وصدقاتهم منفعة للأموات‏

[They benefit by] supplication is in the word of the Exalted, "Those who came after them say: Forgive us our Lord and our brothers who preceded us in faith." 

This is a praiseworthy [action] for them [to seek forgiveness for the dead]. If there was no supplication seeking forgiveness that benefits the dead it would not be praiseworthy. The [Janazah] prayer is necessary [upon a community] to be performed on the deceased and nothing is in except the thana and supplication, "O Allah forgive our living and dead."  If here was no benefit for prayer over the deceased then it would not be necessary to do it! Then why would the Shariah command us to do something without benefit? Answer is in his (may peace and blessings of Allah be upon him) words, "Give charity for your deceased."  If it did not have benefit then why would he order it?

The whole Muslim nation performs prayers over the recently deceased this is called the Janazah/funeral prayer; if this prayer did not benefit the deceased then why do we perform it? It has to benefit the deceased or else we would not do it! The prayer over the deceased is: “O’ Allah forgive; our living, our dead, those present, those absent, our young, our elders, men and women. O’ Allah if you are to give us life then make it upon Islam and whoever passes away then make us die upon faith.” (Islamic way of worship by M.I.H. Pirzada p.153) 

Also consider the Quranic passage, 

وَٱلَّذِينَ جَآءُوا مِن بَعْدِهِمْ يَقُولُونَ رَبَّنَا ٱغْفِرْ لَنَا وَلإِخْوَانِنَا ٱلَّذِينَ سَبَقُونَا بِٱلإِيمَانِ

“They say, ‘Our Lord, forgive our brothers who have preceded us, by faith.” (Quran: 59:10) This supplication is requesting those who have passed away to be forgiven. Is this not about the living benefiting the dead? These are the manners how the living help the dead. Who do we mean those who died upon faith before us? We mean all believers who have passed on previously: the Prophets/Messengers, the Awliya, the Muslims, those who truly believed in the Prophet of their time, the companions, the scholars and all the normal believers. We benefit from the faith they taught us and we seek forgiveness for them and they benefit by that.

The Prophet (peace and blessings of Allah be upon him) said, 

أقرءوا يس على موتاكم
“Recite Yasin for your deceased.” (Abu Dawood and Ibn Majah Abu Dawood does not consider this a weak hadith see Al-Adhkar Imam Nawawi p.120). Why recite Ya sin if it does not benefit the dead? How would it benefit the dead? By removing the punishment after death and making it easier for them to leave this world. Imam al-Nawawi (may Allah show him mercy) said, "The scholars of hadith, the jurists and so on say it is permissible and desired action in virtue, warning and fear [to act upon] weak hadith, as long as they are not fabricated." Kitab al-Adhkar. Imam al-Nawawi has a chapter on benefiting the deceased in the aforementioned book.

How the dead benefit the living

As for the dead helping the living, a cursory look into the Quranic chapter the Cave/al-Kahf reveals a short story about the Prophet Musa/Moses and Khidr (upon them both peace). Khidr repairs a wall that was damaged after some orphans refuse to be hospitable to them. Once the wall is repaired they find some treasure that one of their righteous forefathers left. Ibn Abbas (may Allah be pleased with him) states that it was his seven ancestor who buried the treasure there and so this explains how the dead help the living.   

Imam al-Qurtabi (may Allah show him mercy) said in his Quranic commentary, 

وَلَوْ أَنَّهُمْ إِذ ظَّلَمُوۤاْ أَنْفُسَهُمْ جَآءُوكَ } روى أبو صادق عن عليّ قال: قدِم علينا أعرابيّ بعدما دفّنا رسول الله صلى الله عليه وسلم بثلاثة أيام، فرمى بنفسه على قبر رسول صلى الله عليه وسلم، وحَثَا على رأسه من ترابه فقال: قلتَ يا رسول الله فسمعنا قولك، وَوَعَيْتَ عن الله فوعينا عنك، وكان فيما أنزل الله عليك { وَلَوْ أَنَّهُمْ إِذ ظَّلَمُوۤاْ أَنْفُسَهُمْ } الآية، وقد ظلمتُ نفسي وجئتك تستغفر لي. فنودي من القبر أنه قد غفر لك. ومعنى { لَوَجَدُواْ ٱللَّهَ تَوَّاباً رَّحِيماً } أي قابلا لتوبتهم، وهما مفعولان لا غير

"If they came to you after they had wronged themselves," it was reported by Abu Sadaq from Ali that he said, "A Bedouin came to us after the Messenger of Allah (may Allah bestow peace and blessings upon him) was buried three days previously. He threw himself on the grave of the Messenger of Allah (may Allah bestow peace and blessings upon him) and placed his head in the soil and said, " O Messenger of Allah, hear our words, you are heedful about Allah so be heedful to us. Allah has revealed this about you, "If they came to you after they wronged themselves..." We have wronged ourselves; we come to you, asking you to seek forgiveness for me." There was voice heard from the grave, "You are forgiven." The meaning of, "Allah would merciful to them and accept their repentance." He will accept their repentance."

This is proof of asking someone to pray for you, going to graves of the Prophets and asking those to intercede for you.

النبي صلى الله عليه وسلم قال : (مَا مِنْ مُسْلِمٍ يَغْرِسُ غَرْسًا ، أَوْ يَزْرَعُ زَرْعًا ، فَيَأْكُلُ مِنْهُ طَيْرٌ أَوْ إِنْسَانٌ أَوْ بَهِيمَةٌ ، إِلاَّ كَانَ لَهُ بِهِ صَدَقَةٌ) رواه البخاري (2320) ومسلم (1553)

The Prophet (may Allah bestow peace and blessings upon him) said, "No Muslim plants a tree or plants vegetation that birds, animals or cattle partake from except that he has a reward." Bukhari and Muslim.

This hadith gives us further evidence about the dead benefiting the living. There are olive trees that were planted in the time of the Romans that still give olives in Palestine. If a Muslim planted a tree with a sincere intention then whatever benefits from that tree is recorded as charity for him. Even though he might have died many years ago. 

Reading the books of scholars and awliyah brings benefit especially if it done at the hands of learned teacher. Only someone without a brain would deny it!


How the living benefit the dead

We stated previously how someone reciting Surah Ya sin helps those dying and those deceased and there are other things one can do.

ابْنُ عَبَّاسٍ أَنَّ سَعْدَ بْنَ عُبَادَةَ رَضِيَ اللَّهُ عَنْهُمْ أَخَا بَنِي سَاعِدَةَ تُوُفِّيَتْ أُمُّهُ وَهُوَ غَائِبٌ عَنْهَا فَأَتَى النَّبِيَّ صَلَّى اللَّهُ عَلَيْهِ وَسَلَّمَ فَقَالَ يَا رَسُولَ اللَّهِ إِنَّ أُمِّي تُوُفِّيَتْ وَأَنَا غَائِبٌ عَنْهَا فَهَلْ يَنْفَعُهَا شَيْءٌ إِنْ تَصَدَّقْتُ بِهِ عَنْهَا قَالَ نَعَمْ قَالَ فَإِنِّي أُشْهِدُكَ أَنَّ حَائِطِيَ الْمِخْرَافَ صَدَقَةٌ عَلَيْهَا

Ibn 'Abbas [may Allah be pleased with him] reports from Sa'ad ibn Ubadah (may Allah be pleased with them), "A brother from the tribe of Sa'idah mother died and he was absent, then he came to the Prophet (may Allah bestow peace and blessings upon him) and asked, "My mother passed away and I was not present. Is there something that I can do to benefit her, if I give charity on her behalf?" He said, "Yes." He said, "Testify that walls of the garden are charity for her." Bukhari

The companion's mother passed away and he was not present but he wanted to do something for her. This also indicates that his mother was also Muslim. The Prophet (may Allah bestow peace and blessings upon him) affirmed that she can benefit from the charity of her child. He made walls for garden meaning the garden itself was charity for her and it was called this because it was protected from sheep grazing in it, according to Ibn Hajar (may Allah show him mercy). For this simple act his deceased mother gained rewards.

عَنْ أَبِي هُرَيْرَةَ أَنَّ رَجُلًا قَالَ لِلنَّبِيِّ صَلَّى اللَّهُ عَلَيْهِ وَسَلَّمَ إِنَّ أَبِي مَاتَ وَتَرَكَ مَالًا وَلَمْ يُوصِ فَهَلْ يُكَفِّرُ عَنْهُ أَنْ أَتَصَدَّقَ عَنْهُ قَالَ نَعَمْ

Abu Hurayrah [may Allah be pleased with him] reports that a man said to the Prophet (may Allah bestow peace and blessings upon him), "My father died and did not make a will. Does it remove [sins] for him if I give charity?" He said, "Yes."

Muslim and ibn Majah

This hadith has the words yukafiru 'anhu which means the wiping away in reference to sins. Therefore, the companion is asking will the charity he gives wipe away the sins of his father and the answer was yes. A righteous child can benefit a parent even though he is not righteous himself! If the deceased had left instructions in his will then those instructions should be adhered.

عن أبي هريرة أن رسول الله صلى الله عليه وسلم قال إذا مات الإنسان انقطع عنه عمله إلا من ثلاثة إلا من صدقة جارية أو علم ينتفع به أو ولد صالح يدعو له

Abu Hurayrah [may Allah be pleased with him] reports that the Messenger of Allah (may Allah bestow peace and blessings upon him) said, "When humanity dies all his actions are cut off except continuous charity, beneficial knowledge and a righteous child that prays for them." Muslim

This is the famous hadith about this subject and it gives us three categories in which the deceased benefit. Continuous charity is that item in which people benefit from like a masjid, madrasa, trees, houses and so forth. The individual is rewarded for each time the item is used. 

Beneficial knowledge which is knowledge man uses to help others. The wealth of Sunni books are abundant however many do not read books. Those that do have a link that goes back to the roots of Islam. 
A child who prays for their parents is something wonderful. We often see children who are disobedient to their parents and they might not ever think of praying for them.

عن عائشة  رضي الله عنها أن رسول الله صلى الله عليه وسلم قال : (( من مات وعليه صيام صام عنه وليه ))

 رواه البخاري (1955), ومسلم (1147), وأبو داوود (2400

Aishah (may Allah be pleased with her) reports that the Messenger of Allah (may Allah bestow peace and blessings upon him) said, "Whoever dies and has not fasted then his wali can fast for him." Bukhari, Muslim and Abu Dawood

This hadith also proves that when a person misses fasts then they have to made up. However if the wali cannot fast then they give two meals to the poor, per fast. The wali could fast but most agree that they feed the poor. The wali in this context is the main inheritor. The inheritor benefits the dead by fasting for them.

قال ابن حجر : ( ويلتحق بالحج كل حق ثابت في ذمته من كفارة أو نذر أو زكاة وغير ذلك ) فتح الباري (4/65)

Ibn Hajar al-Asqalani (may Allah show him mercy) said, "He joins the Hajj with every proven right in his protectorate from expiation, oath, zakat and so forth." Fath al-Bari 4/65.

The person who attains wealth after someone has died has to pay off any expiation or oath and this is the best thing for the deceased, even though he should have done it! Zakat too should be calculated and given. As for prayer then cannot be calculated because there is nothing from the early community to calculate about the value of prayer. There is with fasting and zakah but not the prayer.

لقوله صلى الله عليه وسلم: استغفروا لأخيكم واسألوا له التثبيت فإنه الآن يسأل

رواه أبو داوود (3221), والحاكم (1/370) بسند حسن

He (may Allah bestow peace and blessings upon him) said, "Seek forgiveness for your brothers and ask for them to be firm because they are being questioned now."

Abu Dawood and al-Hakim

When someone is buried then the living seek forgiveness for the dead when they are being questioned and beyond. Therefore, we seek forgiveness for the deceased and this is how the living benefit the deceased.

Speech of the scholars

Al-Suyuti (may Allah show him mercy) said in Sharh al-Sadurr, "There is some differences of opinion about whether the recitation of the Quran arrives to the deceased. The majority of the Imams and the Salaf agree that it does arrive [benefit them]."

Imam Al-Shafi (may Allah  show him mercy) was asked about recitation at a grave. He said, "there is no harm in it." Meaning that it is permitted.

Imam Kamal ibn Humam (may Allah show him mercy) said in Fath al-Qadir, "Whoever does a rightous action for someone [can] benefit them by Allah. This reached us by mass transmission." Meaning that benefiting the dead by any good action is tested and well known to have worked.

Al-Badr al-'Ayni (may Allah show him mercy) confirms this in the commentary of Kanz. This is also confirmed in Al-Darr Al-Mukhtar by Imam Al-Musuli (may Allah show him mercy). 

Imam Qarafi and Shaykh Abu Zayd al-fasi both confirm this (may Allah show them mercy).

These are names no sane person can ignore!


We have seen throughout this post that the dead benefit the living and the living benefit the dead. We have also proven that there is punishment in the grave. We hope this benefits all those who read it and realise that there is so much about our religion that we have yet to learn, including me!

Abu Hanifah (may Allah show him mercy) said in his Wassiya:

و الحادي عشر نقر بأن عذاب القبر كائن لا محالة و سؤال منكر و نكير حق لورود الأحاديث

"[Point eleven:] the punishment of the grave is occurs and by all means. The questioning of Munkar and Nakir is true because of many reports."

He was the first to write about this as a part of belief and every Sunni book of belief has this point as part of their text.

The following are not punished in the graves: Prophets and Messengers, Awliya, martyrs, children below maturity and reciters of Surah Mulk (daily).

The best way to avoid punishment in the grave is make sure no one has a right that you have not fulfilled and you have settled all monetary and accounts with everyone. You have asked forgiveness for those who you have wronged and so on. However most of all die with Islam as your faith.

If you have deceased relatives and want to do something for them then you can do anything like digging a well, supporting a student of knowledge, doing hajj on their behalf, give charity and so on. There is nothing wrong with gathering to make dua for your deceased relative as long as you do not re-live the pain. You have to move on and that is what they would have wanted too. This tradition of donating works is called Itar al-Tawab which is similar to donating the reward and it is a praiseworthy thing to do. If you have no money then read the Quran and donate the reward to them. 

Bulgarian translation click here

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