How Can We Protect Ourselves from the Punishment of the Grave?
'Race to forgiveness from your Lord, and a Garden whose breadth is like the breadth of the heaven and the earth.' (al-Hadid 21)
Outwardly the Grave is stillness while inwardly it is either punishment or bliss. The intelligent man is the one who protects himself against the evil of this punishment before it is too late. Such a man knows with certainty that sooner or later his day will come, and that this moment is known only to the Almighty Creator. It might come without warning. When it comes a man leaves behind all the wealth he has amassed and moves to another world. Only there will he feel regret, but regret then will not do him any good. In that place, only good actions are of any use. They alone will be useful currency on that critical day. Only with them will he be able to purchase a magnificent mansion in the Garden with all the luxuries and blessings it contains, an everlasting mansion, not one which disappears as things do in this world.
The intelligent man is the one who acts for this world as if he were going to live forever and acts for the Next World as if he were going to die tomorrow. To confirm what I have said, I will recall a dream of the Messenger, remembering that all the dreams of the prophets are true. He had a dream in which he saw one of the muslims. The Angel of Death came to take his soul but his correct behaviour towards his parents came and drove the Angel of Death away from him. He saw another of the Muslims surrounded by shaytans. Then his remembrance of Allah came and made the shaytans fly from him. Then he saw a third muslim surrounded by the angels of punishment. His prayer came and rescued him from their hands. The tongue of a fourth muslim was lolling out from thirst and whenever he approached a pool of water, he was stopped and driven away. Then his fasting of Ramadan came and gave him water to drink. He saw another man and the prophets sitting in circles. Everytime the muslim approached one of the circles, he was stopped and driven away. His ghusl for janaba came, took hold of his hand, and sat him down in the circle. Another muslim had darkness in front of him, behind him, on his right, on his left and above him. He was completely lost in it. Then his hajj and `umra came and led him out of the darkness into the light. Another muslim was being pursued by flames and sparks of fire. His sadaqa formed a veil between him and the fire and shaded his head. Another muslim was speaking to a group of believers who would not speak to him. His upholding of kinship came and told the group of believers that he had maintained ties of kinship and ordered them to speak to him. Then the believers spoke to him and shook hands with him. Another muslim was surrounded by the Zabaniyya (angels of Jahannam). His commanding the right and forbidding the wrong came and rescued him from them and put him among the angels of mercy. Another muslim was kneeling with a veil between him and Allah. His good character came, took his hand and Allah let him enter His presence. Another muslim had received his book in his left hand. His fear of Allah came and took his hook and placed it in his right hand. The scales of another muslim were light in the balance. Those of his children who had died young came and made the scales level. Another muslim was standing on the brink of Jahannam. His hope in Allah came and rescue him from it, and he withdrew from it. Another muslim had fallen into the Fire. The tears that he had wept out of fear of Allah came and rescued him from it. Another muslim was standing on the Sirat trembling like a leaf in a strong wind. His good opinion of Allah came and his terror was allayed and he was able to go on. Another muslim was crawling on the Sirat, sometimes creeping and sometimes just clinging on. His prayer came and put him on his feet and rescued him. Another muslim reached the gates of the Garden but they were locked against him. His testimony that there is no god but Allah came and opened the gates for him and let him into the Garden.
The Prophet also said regarding the sura, al-Mulk,
"This sura has thirty ayats which intercede for anyone who knows them until they receive forgiveness, "Blessed be He in whose hand is the Kingdom." (al-Mulk 1)
Among the dreams of the early muslims is one related by Yazid b. Nu'ama who said, `A girl died in the al-Jarif plague. Her father met her in a dream after her death and asked her to tell him about the Next World. She replied, "My father, this is a big subject you have raised. We know but cannot act. You can act but do not know. By Allah, one or two acts of glorification and one or two rak'ats of the prayer in the book of my actions are preferable to me than the world and all it contains."
The Grave has an embrace from which neither believer or unbeliever can escape. Afterwards, the believer is relieved of its pressure while the unbeliever remains in punishment. The Messenger of Allah, may Allah bless him and grant him peace, said,
'The Grave has a pressure and if anyone were to be saved from it, it would be Sa'd b. Mu'adh.'
The wisdom of the pressure and embrace of the Grave is in what Ibn Abi'd-Dunya related from Muhammad at-Taymi. He said that the people say that the earth is their mother. They were created from it and they were away from it for a long time. Then when they return to it, it embraces them as a mother embraces her child when it has been away for a long time and then returns to her. Whoever obeyed Allah is embraced with compassion and tenderness. Whoever disobeyed Allah is embraced with harshness because the earth is angry with him for the sake of its Lord.
When `Abdul-`Aziz b. Sulayman al-`Abid died, one of his companions saw him in a dream wearing a green garment with a crown of pearls on his head. He asked him how he was and what the experience of the taste of death was like and what things were like where he was. He replied, `Do not ask about the intensity of the grief and sorrow of death! However, Allah's mercy concealed all our faults and we encountered nothing but His bounty.'
The Prophet, peace and blessings be upon him, said,
'Allah has forbidden the earth to consume the bodies of the prophets.'
He also said,
'No-one prays for peace on me without Allah addressing my soul so that I return the greeting to him.'
He also said,
'Whenever any man visits the grave of his brother and sits with him, he is keeping company with him until he gets up to go.'
He taught his community to say when they visit people's graves,
'Peace be upon you, people who dwell here, both believers and Muslims. If Allah wills, we will join you. May Allah have mercy on those who have gone ahead and those who have stayed behind. We ask Allah for well-being for both you and us.'