Questions abound about what happens after death. Muslims, however, have answers to these questions. Islam tells us what we can expect when we have finally made our exit from this world; we are also given ample guidance as to how we may best prepare ourselves and earn the rewards of Paradise in the Hereafter. In trying to understand life in the grave according to the Quran and Sunnah, we will attempt to provide answers to the following questions:
What happens when death comes?
When death comes Allah hesitates to take the soul of a Believer. This is based on the saying of the Prophet that Allah- the most high said: “I do not hesitate about anything as much as I hesitate about [seizing] the soul of My faithful servant: he hates death and I hate hurting him” (reported by Albukhari).
As for the Kafir he will seek to return to the world. The Quran says:
ﭽ ﮨ ﮩ ﮪ ﮫ ﮬ ﮭ ﮮ ﮯ ﮰ ﮱ ﯓ ﯔ ﯕ ﯖﯗ ﯘﯙ ﯚ ﯛ ﯜ ﯝﯞ ﯟ ﯠ ﯡ ﯢ ﯣ ﯤ ﯥ ﭼ
Meaning: “[For such is the state of the disbelievers], until, when death comes to one of them, he says, "My Lord, send me back. That I might do righteousness in that which I left behind." No! It is only a word he is saying; and behind them is a barrier until the Day they are resurrected.” (Q23:V99-100).
The Angel of Death will sit at the head of the dying person, he will inform the believer of Allah’s forgiveness and pleasure, and informs the Kafir of Allah’s wrath and anger.
What happens after the soul is taken?
The soul of the believer comes out easily; the Kafir is punished by the difficulty with which his soul comes out.
The soul of the believer comes out with a scent like the finest musk, and the soul of the Kafir comes out with a stench like the foulest rotten meat.
The believer’s soul comes out whilst he is praising Allah (SWT).The Prophet-peace be upon him-said: “The believer’s soul comes out from inside him, whilst he is praising Allah”.
When the soul is taken, the eyes follow it- because the Prophet said: “When the soul is taken, the eyes follow it”. (reported by Muslim). Anas bin Malik reported that the Prophet-peace be upon him said: “when a person is placed in his grave he hears the footsteps of his companions when they leave him” (Abu Dawud).
Mental faculties will be restored to the dead in the grave. Abdullah Ibn ’Umar narrated that: The Messenger of Allah mentioned the tormentor of the grave, and ’Umar asked: “Will our mental faculties be restored to us, O Messenger of Allah?” The Messenger of Allah (SAAS) said: “Yes, just as they are now”.
The questioning of the deceased person begins immediately after the burial, because whenever he buried someone, the Prophet would stand at the graveside and tell the people: “Ask Allah to forgive your brother and give him strength, for he is being questioned right now”
Aisha narrated that the Prophet said: A Jewish woman came and asked for food at my doorstep, saying: “Feed me. May Allah protect you from the Fitnah of the Dajjal and the Fitnah of the punishment of the grave” [’A’ishah] said: I kept her talking until the Messenger of Allah came, then I asked him: “0 Messenger of Allah, what is this Jewish woman saying?” I said: “She says: May Allah protect you from the Fitnah of the Dajjal and the Fitnah of the punishment of the grave. ’A’ishah said: Then the Messenger of Allah (may the blessings and peace of Allah be upon him) stood up and raised his hands [in supplication], seeking refuge with Allah from the Fitnah of the Dajjal and the Fitnah of the punishment of the grave. Then he said: «As for the Fitnah of the Dajjal, there has never been a Prophet who did not warn his people against him, but I will tell you something which no Prophet has warned his people about before: he (the Dajjal) is one-eyed, and Allah is not one-eyed: written between his eyes is [the word] Kafir, which every believer will read. As for the Fitnah of the grave, [the deceased] will be tested concerning me and asked about me. If he was a righteous man, he will be sat up in his grave, without fear or terror, then he will be asked: “What did you used to say about Islam? Who was this man who was among you?” He will say: “Muhammad the Messenger of Allah, who brought the clear signs from Allah, so we believed him”.
“A hole will be opened for him, through which he will see the Hell-fire, parts of it consuming others. He will be told: ’Look at that which Allah has saved you from’. Then a hole will be opened through which he will see Paradise, with all its luxuries. He will be told: This is your place in it’. He will be told: ’You had strong faith, you died with strong faith, and you will be resurrected with strong faith, in sha’ Allah’”.
“If he was a bad man, he will be sat up in his grave, full of fear and terror, and he will be asked: “What did you use to say?” He will say: “I heard the people saying such-and-such, so I said likewise’. A hole will be opened for him, through which he will see Paradise with all its luxuries, and he will be told: ’Look at that which Allah has taken away from you’. Then a hole will be opened for him, through which he will see Hell-fire, parts of it consuming others. He will be told: “This is your place in it. You used to doubt, you died doubting and you will be resurrected doubting, in sha’ Allah’. Then he will be punished” (reported by Bukhari)
What does life in the grave looks like?
The grave of the Believer will be widened as far as the eye can see, and the grave of the Kafir will be constricted. The good deeds will come in the form of a handsome, well-dressed, finely-perfumed man, who will bring glad tidings. The bad deeds will come in the form of a scruffily-dressed, stinking man who will bring disturbing news. The people of heaven will welcome the good soul, and there will be glad tidings for it. There will be no welcome for the evil soul, and only bad tidings for it. When the soul joins the souls of other believers, it enjoys respite from the grief of this world.
Abu Hurayrah –may Allah be pleased with him- narrated from the Prophet-peace be upon him- that: “When the believer is taken (by death), angels of mercy come to him with white silk, and say: ‘Come out to the spirit of Allah. So (the soul) comes out, like the best scent of musk. Then the angels pass the soul to one another, smelling it, until they bring it to the (first) heaven. They say: What is this good scent which has come from the earth? In every heaven, the same question is asked, until they bring him to join the souls of the believers. They are more overjoyed to welcome him than the family of one who has been absent, when he comes home. They ask him: What happened to so-and-so? They [i.e. the angels who have brought him] say: ‘Leave him to rest, for he has been suffering in the world’. He says: ‘He died, didn’t he come to you?’ They [the angels] say: ‘He has gone to a place where he will have his home in a (bottomless) Pit”. (reported by bukhari)
The individual in the grave will be shown his place in Paradise or Hell continuously. Allah says:
ﭽ ﮞ ﮟ ﮠ ﮡ ﮢﮣ ﮤ ﮥ ﮦ ﮧ ﮨ ﮩ ﮪ ﮫ ﮬ ﭼ
Meaning: “The Fire, they are exposed to it morning and evening. And the Day the Hour appears [it will be said], "Make the people of Pharaoh enter the severest punishment.” (Q40:V46)
Ibn ’Umar-may Allah be pleased with him- narrated that the Messenger of Allah-peace be upon him- said:
”When any of you dies, he is shown his place morning and evening. If he is one of the people of Paradise, then he is one of them, and if he is one of the people of Hell, then he is one of them. He is told: ‘This is your place until Allah raises you on the Day of Resurrection”.(reported bukhari).