AẔĀBU ʾL-QABR (عذاب القبر)- “The punishment of the grave.” That all persons, whether believers or not, undergo some punishment in their graves, is a fundamental article of the Muslim belief. These punishments are described in the following Ḥadīs̤ on the authority of Abū Hurairah:—
“The Prophet of God said, When a corpse is placed in its grave, two black angels come to it, with blue eyes. The name of the one is Munkar and of the other Nakīr, and they interrogate the dead person concerning the Prophet of God. If he be a Muslim, he will bear witness to the Unity of God and the mission of Muḥammad. The angels will then say, ‘We knew thou wouldst say so’; and the grave will then expand seventy times seventy yards in length, and seventy times seventy in breadth. A light will then be given for the grave, and it will be said, ‘Sleep.’ Then the dead person will say, ‘Shall I return to my brethren and inform them of this?’ Then the angels will say, ‘Sleep like the bridegroom, till God shall raise thee up from the grave on the Day of Resurrection.’ But if the corpse be that of an unbeliever (Jew or Christaian), it will be asked, ‘What sayest thou about the Prophet?’ and he will reply, ‘I know him not.’ And then the angels will say, ‘We knew thou wouldst say so.’ Then the ground will be ordered to close in upon him, and it will break his sides, and turn his right side to his left, and he will suffer perpetual punishment till God raise him therefrom.” In another tradition, recorded by ʿAnas, it is said, “The wicked will be struck with a rod (mit̤raqah), and they will roar out, and their cries will be heard by all animals that may be near the grave excepting man and the genii.” (Mishkāt, book i., c. v.).
All Muḥammadan doctors of the orthodox schools (whether we apply the term orthodox to Sunnī or Shīʿah) believe in the literal interpretation of these punishments in the grave, which are said to take place as soon as the funeral party has left the grave-yard. A perusal of the various traditions on the subject must convince any unprejudiced mind that Muḥammad intended to teach a literal interpretation of his sayings on this subject. It is related that on one occasion, when the Prophet was riding through a grave-yard, his mule, hearing the groans of the dead, tried to throw his master. On that occasion, Muḥammad said, “If I were not afraid that you would leave off burying, I would ask God to give you the power of hearing what I hear.” Shaik͟h ʿAbdu ʾl-Ḥaqq, in his commentary on the Mishkāt, says, “The accounts which are here given of the punishment of the grave, are undoubtedly true, and they are not either imaginary or figurative.”
Photo courtesy – Rev Subrata Mullick of CNI