Grave (Qabr) is the first step of the ultimate journey of a man after death. Death is a natural phenomenon that will be tasted by every living thing. The Qur’an states: “Every soul shall have the taste of death, and only on the Day of Judgment shall you be fully paid your wages. Only he who is saved far from the Fire and admitted to the Garden will have succeeded. For the life of this world is but goods and chattels of deception.” (Surah Ali-‘Imran, 3:185). Death is not the end of our life but it closes the chapter of the worldly life only. It is a way of departure for a journey of ultimate life. Therefore, in Islam, death is called the gate of life.
Consequently, in Islam, the grave is considered a threshold between this life and the hereafter because to reach the final destination of our life after death, there are three significant steps— (i) al-‘Alam al-Barjakh (in Grave), (ii) Resurrection and Judgement and (iii) finally, Jannat or Jahannam.
Immediately after death, the life of al-‘Alam al-Barjakh (Grave) starts with some formalities. Two popular angles come to a dead person and ask three questions— (i) man rabbuka (who is your Rabb)? (ii) ma dinuka (what is your Din)? and (iii) man nabiuuka (who is your Prophet)? Depending upon these questions’ answer, a dead person’s place will be selected either in illiyin or in sizzin till the day of resurrection after Quyamah. In Islam, “Illiyin“ refers to the highest level of Paradise and is reserved for the righteous and pious individuals who lived a virtuous life and devoted themselves to the worship of Allah in this worldly life. Moreover, “Sizzin“ refers to the lowest level of Hell and is reserved for the wicked and sinful individuals who lived a life of evil and disobedience. However, it should be kept in our mind that both of them will taste either Jannat or Jahannam in al-‘alam al-barjakh which is the intermediate state between life and the hereafter because Jannah and Jahannam will finally be confirmed on the Day of Judgement. It is believed that a person’s soul remains in the grave until the Day of Judgment. This belief is based on various ayat from the Qur’an and the teachings of Prophet Muhammad (PBUH).
Now the question can be raised by anyone is it possible to answer all those questions in the grave if anyone memorises them properly before death? The answer is no. It depends upon the action one acts in the worldly life. Additionally, the condition of the grave is believed to be a reflection of a person’s spiritual state, and it is said that the soul of the deceased either experiences comfort or torment based on their actions in life.
Moreover, the importance of the grave in Islam is reflected in the fact that it is one of the few things that a person takes with them after death. A person’s deeds and actions in this life determine their fate in the hereafter, and the grave is the first step towards that ultimate judgment.
Another question can be raised how long a dead person will be there in the grave? Generally, the time will be between the death of a person and the day of resurrection. None of us but Allah know the exact duration.
Additionally, another good question is, will it be equal time for everyone although we are not dying at the same time? Yes, the duration of al-‘alam al-barjakh will be the same for everyone. It will be the same for the first dead person Habil; son of Adam (a.) and the person who will die as the last one, because the time in that world will not be like what we observe in this world.
The Qur’an mentions the importance of the grave in several ayat. For example, “And verily, the Hereafter, it is a meeting for which one is required to be prepared” (Surah Al-Muminun, 23:15). This verse emphasises the significance of the grave as a place of accountability, where a person’s deeds will be judged. Another ayat states that “And the Trumpet will be blown, and all who are in the heavens and all who are on the earth will swoon away, except him whom Allah wills. Then it will be blown again, then they will stand up awaiting. And the earth will shine with the light of its Lord, and the Book will be placed, and the prophets and the witnesses will be brought, and judgment will be passed among them with justice, and they will not be wronged.” (Surah Al-Zumar, 39:68-69).
Muslims are encouraged to reflect on the condition of their own graves and to prepare for the hereafter by living a virtuous life and seeking Allah’s forgiveness. Muslims are also encouraged to visit the graves of their loved ones and to make supplications for them. It would also help them to recall that this is the destination of us. Thus, we should be more careful about our thoughts and actions.
It should also be kept in our mind that we cannot bring anything to the grave except our ‘amal’ (actions). However, three things can help us to send the reward to us even after death. Narrated by Abu Huraira (R.) that Prophet Muhammad (PBUH) said: “When a person dies, their deeds come to an end except for three things: ongoing charity, the knowledge that benefits others, and a righteous child who prays for them.” (Bukhari and Muslim)
To conclude, it can be said that the people will be really in need after death. As there will not be any chance to come back again to this world and do righteous things, we need to do it now in every day and every moment. We really pray for enjoying a situation that is mentioned in the Qur’an— “And the angels will bring [the news] to those who believed and did good, that they will have [in Paradise] what they pleased with [from] their Lord. And that is what is the great attainment.” (Surah Yasin, 36:58) May Allah help us to do so and make our situation in the grave easy and comfortable!
The writer is a scholar in Islamic studies and researcher on Islamic views on contemporary issues. Email: [email protected]