Punishment of the Grave
"If you could only see when the wrongdoers are in the agonies of death, and the angels are stretching out their hands, `Bring out your souls! Today you will be repaid with the punishment of humiliation." (al-In'aam 93)
The Grave is unknown territory. Outwardly it is quiet, but inwardly it contains secrets and terrors which an ordinary man cannot perceive. They can only be perceived by someone who has been given a high degree of belief and inner sight.
It is a strange fact that animals are able to hear the punishment in the Grave while human beings as a general rule cannot. The Prophet, may Allah bless him and grant him peace, said, `They are punished and the animals hear it.'
Thabit al-Bunani said regarding this, `Once I was walking among the graves and I heard a voice behind me, saying, "Thabit! Do not be deceived by their stillness. How many people in them are suffering!" I turned around, but did not see anyone.'
Al-Hasan passed a graveyard and said, 'What a host of people are here! How silent they are! How many there are among them who are suffering!'
We have already made it clear in the previous section that a dead person is either in a state of bliss or punishment, from the moment they die until the moment the two angels question them. We reached the point where a door onto the Garden is opened for the unbeliever and he is told to look at what his place would have been in the Garden if he had obeyed Allah. Then it is locked arid another door is opened and he is told to look at his place in the Fire. It stays open and the blast of hot air from it continues to reach him until the Day of Rising. Then the earth presses in on him and he is crushed to the point that his ribs split apart. Then various forms of punishment rain down on him according to the type of wrong actions he committed.
Many statements have come down to us showing us the reality of the punishment of the Grave, or what we might also call the punishment of the interspace between the two worlds. The Prophet, may Allah bless him and grant him peace, said,
'I passed Badr and saw a man come out of the ground. Another man hit him with a stick until he vanished back into the earth. Then that happened again.'
The Messenger of Allah, may Allah bless him and grant him peace, went on to say,
'That was Abu Jahl b. Hisham who will be punished in that way until the Day of Rising.'
One of the early Muslims said,
'We passed by a certain watering-place on the way to Basra. We heard the braying of a donkey and asked the people there what the braying was. They replied that it was one of the men who used to be with them whose mother had asked him for something and he had told her to bray like a donkey. Since his death, this braying had been heard every night from his grave.'
`Amr b. Dinar said, The sister of one of the men of Madina died and he buried her. When he came back from the burial, he remembered that he had left something in the grave. He asked one of his companions to help him. His companion related that they had dug up the grave and found what they were looking for. Then the man said, "Let us dig further and find out what has happened to my sister." He lifted up one of the stones covering the burial cavity and found the grave filled with fire. He replaced it and filled in the grave again. Then he returned to his mother and asked, "What was my sister really like?" She replied, "Why do you ask about her when she is dead?" He said, "Tell me." She said, "She used to delay the prayer and she also used to go to our neighbours' doors, put her ear to them and then tell other people what they said!"'
There are also the hadiths of the Messenger, may Allah bless him and grant him peace, about the Night Journey which contain descriptions of the many types of punishment he saw in the interspace between the two worlds. We will give a summary of them here.
There are those who are driven like cattle and forced to eat herbage more bitter than aloes and the bitter fruit of zaqqum and driven on to the hot stones of Jahannam because they did not purify their property by paying zakat. There are those who have to eat foul putrid meat because they fornicated. There are those whose lips are cut with iron scissors because they rose to speak and address people during times of civil strife. Some of them have bellies as big as houses and whenever one of them gets up, he is knocked down and says, "O Allah, do not let the Hour come!" They are in the path of the people of Pharaoh who come and trample them while they can do nothing but scream. These are people who devoured usury.
Some of them are screaming with their mouths gaping open while they devour hot coals which come out of their anuses. These are people who consumed the property of orphans. Some of them cut pieces from their own sides and eat their own flesh. They are the slanderers and those about whom the Prophet, peace and blessings be upon him, said,
We saw people cutting flesh from their sides and eating it. It was said, "As you used to consume the flesh of your brother!" I asked, "Who are they?" and I was told, "Those of your community who slandered."'
Some of them have brass nails with which they scratch their faces and chests. They are those who were backbiters and maligned people's honour.
Part of the hadith of the Night Journey is...
"Some people were cracking open their heads with a stone. Every time they did this, their heads were restored to what they were like in the first place. This went on and on without stopping. I said, "Jibril, who are they?" Jibril replied, "They are people who turned away from the prayer."'
One of the Prophet's dreams - and the dreams of the Prophets are true and a part of revelation which gets right to the heart of the matter - was related as follows. He said,
`Last night, I saw two men who came to me and took me by the hand and brought me to the Holy Land. I could see one man sitting and another man standing holding an iron hook which he stuck into the side of the sitting man's mouth so that it carne out at the back of his neck. Then he did the same to the other side. After his mouth had healed itself and gone back to normal, he did. the same thing all over again. I asked what this was and they told me to go on.
`We went on until we came to a man lying on his back. Another man was standing at his head with a stone or a rock with which he smashed it. When he hit the head, the stone rolled away and he went to recover it. He did not get back to the man until his head had mended and returned to normal, then he smashed it again. I asked what this was and they told me to go on.
`We came to a hole like a furnace which was narrow at the top and wide at the bottom. There was a fire burning under it and there were naked men and women in it. The flames leapt up to them from underneath. When the fire came near, they rose up until they almost came out. When it abated, they went back into it again. I asked what this was and they told me to go on.
We went on until we came to a river of blood with a man standing in it. On the bank of the river there was a man with some stones in front of him. The man in the river came forward and when he was about to get out, the man threw a stone at him and he went back to where he had been before. Every time he went to come out, the man threw a stone at him and he went back to where he had been before, I asked what this was and they told me to go on.
We went on until we came to a green garden with an enormous tree in it, under which there was an old man and some children. Near the tree there was a man kindling a fire in front of him. They took me up the tree and into a house more beautiful than any I had ever seen. There were old men and youths in it. Theo they took me up and brought me into another house hich was even more beautiful. I said to my companions, "You have been with me for the whole night, so now tell me about what I have seen."
`They replied, "Certainly! The man you saw whose mouth was being pierced was the originator of a lie, which spread from him to all parts of the earth. He will suffer like that until the Day of Rising. The one whose head was being smashed was a man who had learned the Qur'an but had spent his nights asleep and did not act according to it during the daytime. He will suffer like that until the Day of Rising. The people in the hole were fornicators. The man you saw in the river devoured usury. The old man at the foot of the tree was Ibrahim and the children around him were mankind's children. The one kindling the fire was Malik, the Guardian of the Fire. The first house was that of the ordinary believers and this house is the house of the martyrs. I am Abril and this is Mikail.'
`He lifted his head and I did likewise. I saw a castle like a cloud and they told me that it was my dwelling. I asked them to let me enter my dwelling. They replied that my life was not yet completed, but that when my life had come to an end, I would enter my dwelling."'
The Prophet, may Allah bless him and grant him peace, said regarding seeking refuge from the punishment of the Interspace or the Grave,
When any of you finishes the final tashahhud, he should seek refuge with Allah from four things: from the punishment of Jahannam, the punishment of the Grave, the trials of the living and the dead, and the trials of the Dajjal.'
All of this shows that the punishment of the Grave is true beyond any doubt. We will add what Allah says about the two punishments - the punishment of the Interspace and the punishment of the Day of Rising:
`... the fire, to which they will be exposed morning and evening, and on the day when the Hour comes, `Admit the people of Pharaoh to the most severe punishment!' (ghafir 46) and also 'Whoever turns away from My remembrance will have a life of narrowness and We shall gather him blind on the Day of Rising.' (Taha 124)