Then every soul shall know what it sent before it and what it left behind.
Oh Man! What has deceived you concerning your Generous Lord Who created you, proportioned you, and balanced you? In whatever form He willed has He assembled you.
No! But you deny the Recompense. And indeed, [appointed] over you are guardians, noble and recording. They know whatever you do.
- Chapter of the Cleaving, the Qur'an
The LORD brings death and makes alive; He brings down to the grave and raises up.
- Samuel 2:6
According to sacred knowledge unveiled through the Divine Informers, who are sent through ages to communicate knowledge from the unseen, when the children of Adam dies, his or her soul departs and is placed in his grave which is the first stage of the Hereafter.
It is informed by the Seal of Prophets that when we die or pass away from this world, after burial, as we transit from this visible reality to the invisible reality, we face few questions by invisible beings which many tradition name as ‘angels’. Angels are agents of God’s command or it can be said that the angels are God’s command personified to carry our Divine Will. Grave is a symbol of the buffer area, is the doorway or intermediate area from this world to the next.
Just as every passage has doorways which connect one area to the next, grave is such a doorway and just as ever doorway has guardians who guard the way, similarly there are appointed angles who ask questions.
Three questions are known to be asked and these questions are symbols or signs pointing to the realities we lived while living on earth. Those who’s life has reflection of the answers of those three questions will be able to give answer, and upon giving the answer, they shall be given glimpses of the Garden of the next world and they shall be made to rest in peace until the Day of Judgment, until Maha-Pralaya, until Qiyamat or Day of Resurrection of all souls. Those who will fail to give answer will fail because while they lived in this world, they lived while covering up truths concerning greater realities and hence would not be able to answer since these realities were missing from their life. So they shall be given glimpses of the God’s wrath manifested as Fire and the torment of Hell shall be set loose for them even in the grave and it shall continue until the Day of Judgment.
There will be 3 Questions which shall be asked at our grave.
1) Who is your Rabb?
Rabb means Lord, the Highest. There is a saying, “your heart is where your treasure is”. In order to find out what you assign or think as the most valuable, all you have to do is to look down at your heart and find out what is it that your Heart is mostly occupied with.
When we give something much value, we tend to say that we ‘worship’ that thing / object. This become our “ilah”. If a person is by custom, by family is a Muslim, but all his awaking moments are gone by the thought of “how to make more and more money”, “how to increase his money,” “how to make more profit” – even when he is dreaming he thinks of money, think of his business etc. then you can easily say that he has turned his money into his “ilah”, the object of veneration, the object which he worship because it is only that object which occupies his heart, day and night. In this case, it is his money which has become his lord, his god because that thing is what he worships.
In the grave it shall be asked “Who is your Rabb” and it will be the soul which shall answer according to the truth lived during the lifetime. It is a realm where mind stops (hence also it is very difficult for the mind even to read or accept anything from such reality) and only spirit or the soul is active. Thus the answer to the questions does not come from mind or intellect but comes directly from the spirit. Thus to answer the question, “Who is your Lord” one has to have reflection in life as to whom the Head, the Heart and the Soul bows down to, give reverence to, obey to the Commands to, refrain from the Divine Prohibitions to – all of these are signs of accepting the Highest as the Lord, not just intellectually thinking about God or assumption like beliefs which are full of conjecture that doesn’t penetrate the Heart.
Only those truth which penetrates the Heart will have actions issuing from the limbs, will have Hearts acting in adoring the Lord or one wakes up at the deep recess of the night to remember the Highest. To answer the question “Who is your Lord” one has to live a life where the rights of the Lord are given to the Lord. And rights of the Lord are to acknowledge Him, to witness Him, to obey what He commanded us to do and to refrain from what He forbade us to do.
May our Heart be occupied by the remembrance of the One, may our Heart be filled with the Sweet remembrance of the Lord.
The summary of the acknowledgement and witnessing of the Lord is in the statement, “Ashhadun la ilaha illa Allah.”
I bear witness that there is none worthy of lordship except One God.
Or, I bear witness that there is none worthy of worship except Allah.
Or. I bear witness that there is no divinity except the Divine.
2) What was your Deen or on what religion you were?
This is the second question to be asked at the grave.
Contrary to popular misconception Religion is not what we believe or what we thought we believe, or what we think about that we believe, religion or Deen is what we do. That which we inherit by name from our parents or forefathers are not religion either, they are mere names and customs.
If Deen is total lifestyle, what it really means, if I look at your lifestyle and whatever we find in your lifestyle, that for you is your Deen or Religion.
If we go back to the essence, from the first man Adam, there has only been One Religion, that is the Religion of Loving Surrender to the Divine Will. Every religion is about Surrender. If a life is lived in that surrender, then one can answer the question saying that my religion was the religion of Surrender.
On the contrary if one lived a life of heedlessness, life full of misconception and misunderstanding about what Religion really meant for man, then the soul will be unable to answer the question.
3) Who is this man? or Who is this man who was sent among you?
The final question of the three archetypal question is about recognition of the Messenger of Truth. Unless one recognize the Messenger, one cannot accept the Message.
While the first two questions are about acknowledging where there is an element of knowing, the last question is about recognizing, about witnessing. It is recognizing the Messenger of Truth, the Grand Master of the Deen or Path of Truth.
There were many who lived in the age of Christ but rejected him and the message even when he was midst of them. There were many who lived in the age of Muhammad but rejected him and the message that he brought. This very phenomena is also carried through in every age. The Way of God never changes. So the very tendency through which someone rejected Christ even after seeing him, hearing him and being near him, those who reject him in other age, in our time, also reject from the same blindness of heart. Same applies to Prophet Muhammad.
"Therefore I say to you, any sin and blasphemy shall be forgiven men, but blasphemy against the Spirit of Truth shall not be forgiven" (Saying of Christ, Gospel according to Matthew 12:31).
We are warned against this tendency within us which fail to recognize the Spirit, for Spirit is independent of space, time and form. Thus those who failed to see who really Christ was in the time of Christ and those who fail to recognize him even today are suffering from the same blindness. The people of Mecca who reject Muhammad during his life-time and those who fail to recognize him today are also suffering from the same blindness of Heart.
The third question is a testimonial for whether we have recognized the Messenger, the Master. That is why in many traditions it is said that the Messenger will be shown in the post-death intermediate realm and would be asked, "Who is this man who was sent among you?"
For those who claimed to be Muslims, it will be the Prophet Muhammad who will be shown to them and asked. But people will not recognize him for they have no idea who he was and is, what his customs were and is. Some misleading Muslims follow blindly few dry religious text which are divorced from the reality of the Messenger of God, which only convey a very fragmented and incomplete picture of him while neglecting his prime characteristics such as mercy, gentleness, meekness, compassion, loving-kindness, concern for the oppressed and marginal, love, intelligence, devotion, surrender and humbleness.
If such qualities are not exercised within, a pseudo Jew will fail to recognize Moses, a pseudo Christian will fail to recognize Jesus Christ, so will a pseudo Muslim will fail to recognize Muhammad Mustafa. In the very grave as the intellect cannot make up answers, it will only come if that reality is lived, so those who claim to be a Jew but divorce the very commandments that Moses brought, have failed to exercise what is demanded in the Torah will not be able to recognize the Leader of their community. Similarly those who claim to be a follower of Jesus Christ (hence Christians) but have failed to exercise Christ qualities such as dependence on God, prayerfulness, exceeding loving-kindness, protesting evil and speaking against lies, forgiveness – even if Christ was standing in front of them they will pass by and will not recognize him.
In the same manner, those who claim to be from the Ummat (community) of Muhammad will not be recognize Rasulullah, the soul will fail to reply to the answer “Who is he?” if we never acknowledged what the real Sunnah (way of the Rasul) is, what it means to be a Muhammadan, his loving-kindness, his being mercy to all beings, his truthfulness, trust, leadership, excellence in every aspect of management of affairs both worldly and heavenly – then it will be futile for them to imagine that they will be able to recognize Prophet Muhammad.
In order to answer the archetypal questions at the grave, one must live a life according to the truth of the answers for those questions.
My Lord is Elohim, Alaha, Allah, God who is One, Brahma Ekmobadwitiyam
My Religion is Loving-Surrender, the Religion of all the Divine Messengers beginning from the first man, Adam to David, Moses, Jesus and Muhammad.
This man is the Leader, the Liege-lord of my Religion, he is Sayyidina Muhammad or for one who dies on other Divine Revelations and if they are shown the Teacher of his religion, it would be that person’s identity through which he was known among humanity. For this we need to recognize the Deeper and True Sunnah of the Messenger and practice the Real Sunnah of Prophet Muhammad.
May Allah grant us the capacity of our Heart to recognize our Beloved Master in this very world and walk in his footstep. May Allah grant us the vision of his luminous face in this very life. Ameen.
O Allah please convey our humble salutation to our Master Muhammad and send Your deep Peace upon his noble soul.
Referential Reading from the Islamic Tradition:
The Divine Informer, peace and blessings upon him, said 'When a person is buried and after the people go away, two angels approach the deceased and ask three questions, a) Who is your Lord? b) What is your religion? and c) Who is he?
A believer will answer all three questions and he will be honored with the clothing of Paradise. The window of Paradise will be opened for him and he will enjoy the sight of the Archetype Garden.
On the contrary, a disbeliever will express regret at not being able to answer the questions. Upon that, an angel who is blind and deaf is appointed to punish him. Blind so that the angel does not see the punishment and feel mercy and deaf so that the punishment is not heard. The hammer used to punish a disbeliever is so heavy that it can reduce a mountain to dust. The disbeliever screams with pain and every creation can hear him besides human and Jinns. (Narrated in Mishkat)
The Divine Messenger has said, 'The grave is a garden of paradise or a pit of hell.' (Mishkat)
He also said, 'It has been revealed to me that the trial in the grave is similar to the trial of the Anti-Christ (Dajjaal).' (Tirmidhi)
Rasulullah said, 'If you are made to listen to the punishment in the grave, you will stop burying your deceased.' (Tirmidhi)
Rasulullah advised, 'Seek protection from the punishment of the grave.' (Tirmidhi)
Uthman ibn Affan said, "The grave is the first of the stages of the Hereafter; whoever is saved from it, whatever comes afterwards will be easier for him, but if he is not saved from it, what comes afterwards will be worse for him."
It was narrated from ‘Aa’ishah that the Prophet (peace and blessings of Allah be upon him) used to say,
"Allaahumma inni a’oodhu bika min al-kasali wa’l-haram wa’l-maghram wa’l-ma’tham. Allaahumma inni a’oodhu bika min ‘adhaab al-naar wa fitnat il-naar, wa fitnat il-qabri, wa ‘adhaab il-qabri, wa sharri fitnat il-ghina wa sharri fitnat il-faqair wa min sharri fitnat il-maseeh il-Dajjaal. Allaahumma ighsil khataayaaya bi ma’ al-thalji wa’l-baradi wa naqqi qalbi min al-khataaya kama yunaqqa al-thawb al-abyad min al-danas, wa baa’id bayni wa bayna khataayaaya kama baa’adta bayna al-mashriqi wa’l-maghrib."
O Allah! I seek refuge with You from laziness and old age, and from debts and sins; from the torment of the Fire and from the tribulation of the Fire, and from the tribulation of the grave and the torment of the grave, and from the evil of the tribulation of wealth, and from the evil of the tribulation of poverty, and from the evil of the tribulation of the Dajjaal (Antichrist). O Allah! Wash away my sins with the water of snow and hail, and cleanse my heart from sin as a white garment is cleansed from filth, and put a great distance between me and my sins, as great as the distance You have made between the East and the West. (Narrated in al-Bukhaari, 6014).
It was narrated that al-Bara’ (may Allah be pleased with him) said: We went out with the Messenger of Allah for the funeral of a man from among the Ansaar. We came to the grave and when (the deceased) was placed in the land, the Messenger sat down and we sat around him, as if there were birds on our heads (i.e., very quiet and still). In his hand he had a stick with which he was scratching the ground.
Then he raised his head and said, “Seek refuge with Allah from the torment of the grave”, two or three times. Then he said, “When the believing slave is about to depart this world and enter the Hereafter, there come down to him from heaven angels with white faces like the sun, and they sit around him as far as the eye can see. They bring with them shrouds from Paradise and perfumes from Paradise.
Then the Angel of Death comes and sits by his head, and he says,
‘O good soul, come forth to forgiveness from Allah and His pleasure.’
Then it comes out easily like a drop of water from the the mouth of a water skin. When he seizes it, they do not leave it in his hand for an instant before they take it and put it in that shroud with that perfume, and there comes from it a fragrance like the finest musk on the face of the earth.
Then they ascend and they do not pass by any group of angels but they say, ‘Who is this good soul?’ and they say, ‘It is So and so the son of So and so, calling him by the best names by which he was known in this world, until they reach the lowest heaven.
They ask for it to be opened to them and it is opened, and (the soul) is welcomed and accompanied to the next heaven by those who are closest to Allah, until they reach the seventh heaven.
Then Allah says: ‘Record the book of My slave in ‘Illiyoon in the seventh heaven, and return him to the earth, for from it I created them, to it I will return them and from it I will bring them forth once again.’
So his soul is returned to his body and there come to him two angels who make him sit up and they say to him,
Angel : ‘Who is your Lord?’
Person says : ‘Allah.’
Angel : ‘What is your religion?’
Person says : ‘My religion is Islam.’
Angel : ‘Who is this man who was sent among you?’
Person says : ‘He is the Messenger of Allah (peace and blessings of Allaah be upon him).’
Angel : ‘What did you do?’
Person says : ‘I read the Book of Allah and I believed in it.’
Then a voice calls out from heaven,
‘My slave has spoken the truth, so prepare for him a bed from Paradise and clothe him from Paradise, and open for him a gate to Paradise.’Then there comes to him some of its fragrance, and his final resting place is spiritually made spacious, as far as he can see.
Then there comes to him a man with a handsome face and handsome clothes, and a good fragrance, who says, ‘Receive the glad tidings that will bring you joy this day.’ He says, ‘Who are you? Your face is a face which brings glad tidings.’
He says, ‘I am your righteous deeds.’ He says, ‘O Lord, hasten the Hour so that I may return to my family and my wealth.’
But when the disbelieving slave is about to depart this world and enter the Hereafter, there come down to him from heaven angels with black faces, bringing sackcloth, and they sit around him as far as the eye can see.
Then the Angel of Death comes and sits by his head, and he says,
‘O evil soul, come forth to the wrath of Allah and His anger.’
Then his soul disperses inside his body, then comes out cutting the veins and nerves, like a skewer passing through wet wool. When he seizes it, they do not leave it in his hand for an instant before they take it and put it in that sackcloth, and there comes from it a stench like the foulest stench of a dead body on the face of the earth.
Then they ascend and they do not pass by any group of angels but they say, ‘Who is this evil soul?’ and they say, ‘It is So and so the son of So and so, calling him by the worst names by which he was known in this world, until they reach the lowest heaven. They ask for it to be opened to them and it is not opened.”
Then the Messenger of Allaah (peace and blessings of Allah be upon him) recited (interpretation of the meaning):
“for them the gates of heaven will not be opened, and they will not enter Paradise until the camel goes through the eye of the needle” [al-A’raaf 7:40]
He said: “Then Allah says, ‘Record the book of My slave in Sijjeen in the lowest earth, and return him to the earth, for from it I created them, to it I will return them and from it I will bring them forth once again.’ So his soul is cast down.”
Then the Messenger of Allah recited the verse (interpretation of the meaning):
“and whoever assigns partners to Allah, it is as if he had fallen from the sky, and the birds had snatched him, or the wind had thrown him to a far off place” [al-Hajj 22:31]
He said: “Then his soul is returned to his body, and there come to him two angels who make him sit up and they say to him, ‘Who is your Lord?’ He says, ‘Oh, oh, I don’t know.’ They say, ‘What is your religion?’ He says, ‘Oh, oh, I don’t know.’ Then a voice calls out from heaven, ‘Prepare for him a bed from Hell and clothe him from Hell, and open for him a gate to Hell.’ Then there comes to him some of its heat and hot winds, and his grave is constricted and compresses him until his ribs interlock. Then there comes to him a man with an ugly face and ugly clothes, and a foul stench, who says, ‘Receive the bad news, this is the day that you were promised.’ He says, ‘Who are you? Your face is a face which forebodes evil.’ He says, ‘I am your evil deeds.’ He says, ‘O Lord, do not let the Hour come, do not let the Hour come.’”
Narrated by Abu Dawood, 4753; Ahmad, 18063 – this version was narrated by him. Classed as saheeh by al-Albaani in Saheeh al-Jaami’, 1676.
Allah knows the Best and every finality of matters rests with Him.
* Dr. Tahir al Qadri on Question in Grave (media:Youtube video, language: Urdu)
* What will happen in grave ?
* Q&A on Punishment in the Grave