When is a deceased person who has to undergo a post-mortem examination questioned by the angels of the grave?

post mortem

Question:

When is a deceased person who has to undergo a post-mortem examination questioned by the angels of the grave?

Answer:

In the Name of Allah, the Most Gracious, the Most Merciful.

As-salāmu ‘alaykum wa-rahmatullāhi wa-barakātuh.

The questioning in the grave is from the beliefs of the Ahl al-Sunnah wa al-Jamā’ah. Imam al-Ṭaḥāwī raḥimahullah states in his renowned work on Islamic Doctrine titled al-‘Aqīdah al-Ṭaḥāwiyyah:

“We believe in the punishment in the grave for those who deserve it, and in the questioning in the grave by Munkar and Nakir about one’s Lord, one’s religion and one’s prophet, as has come down in the hadiths from the Messenger of Allah, may Allah bless him and grant him peace, and in reports from the Companions, may Allah be pleased with them all.”[1]

The Prophet ﷺ described the nature of the interrogation in the grave in a lengthy report narrated by Sayyiduna al-Barā’ raḍhiallahu anhu.  He narrates:

“We went out with the Prophet ﷺ for the funeral of a man from among the Ansar. We came to the grave and when (the deceased) was placed in the grave, the Prophet ﷺ sat down and we sat around him, as if there were birds on our head. In his hand he had a stick with which he was scratching the ground. Then he raised his head and said,

“Seek refuge with Allah from the torment of the grave”, two or three times. Then he said,

“When the believing slave is about to depart this world and enter the Hereafter, there come down to him from heaven angels with white faces like the sun, and they sit around him as far as the eye can see. They bring with them shrouds from Paradise and perfumes from Paradise. Then the Angel of Death comes and sits by his head, and he says,

‘O good soul, come forth to forgiveness from Allah and His pleasure.’ Then it comes out easily like a drop of water from the mouth of a water skin. When he seizes it, they do not leave it in his hand for an instant before they take it and put it in that shroud with that perfume, and there comes from it a fragrance like the finest musk on the face of the earth. Then they ascend and they do not pass by any group of angels but they say, ‘Who is this good soul?’ and they say, ‘It is So and so the son of So and so, calling him by the best names by which he was known in this world, until they reach the lowest heaven. They ask for it to be opened to them and it is opened, and (the soul) is welcomed and accompanied to the next heaven by those who are closest to Allah, until they reach the seventh heaven. Then Allah says: ‘Record the book of My slave in ‘Illiyoon in the seventh heaven, and return him to the earth, for from it I created them, to it I will return them and from it I will bring them forth once again.’

So his soul is returned to his body and there come to him two angels who make him sit up and they say to him, ‘Who is your Lord?’ He says, ‘Allah.’ They say, ‘What is your religion?’ He says, ‘My religion is Islam.’ They say, ‘Who is this man who was sent among you?’ He says, ‘He is the Prophet ﷺ.’ They say, ‘What did you do?’ He says, ‘I read the Book of Allah and I believed in it.’ Then a voice calls out from heaven, ‘My slave has spoken the truth, so prepare for him a bed from Paradise and clothe him from Paradise, and open for him a gate to Paradise.’ Then there comes to him some of its fragrance, and his grave is made wide, as far as he can see. Then there comes to him a man with a handsome face and handsome clothes, and a good fragrance, who says, ‘Receive the glad tidings that will bring you joy this day.’ He says, ‘Who are you? Your face is a face which brings glad tidings.’ He says, ‘I am your righteous deeds.’ He says, ‘O Lord, hasten the Hour so that I may return to my family and my wealth.’ But when the disbelieving slave is about to depart this world and enter the Hereafter, there come down to him from heaven angels with black faces, bringing sackcloth, and they sit around him as far as the eye can see. Then the Angel of Death comes and sits by his head, and he says, ‘O evil soul, come forth to the wrath of Allah and His anger.’ Then his soul disperses inside his body, then comes out cutting the veins and nerves, like a skewer passing through wet wool. When he seizes it, they do not leave it in his hand for an instant before they take it and put it in that sackcloth, and there comes from it a stench like the foulest stench of a dead body on the face of the earth. Then they ascend and they do not pass by any group of angels but they say, ‘Who is this evil soul?’ and they say, ‘It is So and so the son of So and so, calling him by the worst names by which he was known in this world, until they reach the lowest heaven. They ask for it to be opened to them and it is not opened.” Then the Prophet ﷺ recited (interpretation of the meaning): 

“For them the gates of heaven will not be opened, and they will not enter Paradise until the camel goes through the eye of the needle” [al-A’raaf 7:40] 

He said: “Then Allah says, ‘Record the book of My slave in Sijjeen in the lowest earth, and return him to the earth, for from it I created them, to it I will return them and from it I will bring them forth once again.’ So his soul is cast down.”  Then the Prophet ﷺ recited the verse (interpretation of the meaning): 

“And whoever assigns partners to Allah, it is as if he had fallen from the sky, and the birds had snatched him, or the wind had thrown him to a far off place” [al-Hajj 22:31] 

He said: “Then his soul is returned to his body, and there come to him two angels who make him sit up and they say to him, ‘Who is your Lord?’ He says, ‘Oh, oh, I don’t know.’ They say, ‘What is your religion?’ He says, ‘Oh, oh, I don’t know.’ Then a voice calls out from heaven, ‘Prepare for him a bed from Hell and clothe him from Hell, and open for him a gate to Hell.’ Then there comes to him some of its heat and hot winds, and his grave is constricted and compresses him until his ribs interlock. Then there comes to him a man with an ugly face and ugly clothes, and a foul stench, who says, ‘Receive the bad news, this is the day that you were promised.’ He says, ‘Who are you? Your face is a face which forebodes evil.’ He says, ‘I am your evil deeds.’ He says, ‘O Lord, do not let the Hour come, do not let the Hour come.’” (Musnad Aḥmad)[2]

By default, all humans will be questioned in the grave regardless if they passed away as Muslims or not.  However, the questioning of a Muslim in the grave will be to honour him and manifest his Imān, whereas, the questioning of those who died without Imān will be to disgrace them and manifest their Kufr.[3] 

Based on different narrations, the Ahl al-Sunnah have enumerated those who will not be questioned in the grave.  They involve the Prophets, the martyrs, those who died in a plague, those who die from a stomach illness, those who pass away on Jumu`ah, those who recite Surah al-Mulk every night and the students of knowledge[4].  Conversely, children will be questioned in the grave but an angel will dictate the answers to the children.[5]

With respect to when the questioning occurs, the famous Ḥanafī jurist Imām Muḥammad al-Bazzāzī raḥimahullah states his renowned Fatwa work ‘al-Fatāwā al-Bazzāziyyah’:

“The questioning will take place wherever the deceased permanently settles, to the extent, if a person is devoured by a predator, the questioning takes place in the stomach of the predator.  Thus, if a person is preserved in a coffin/box for a number days in order to be transferred to another location, he will not be questioned until he is buried.”[6]

Imām al-Ṭaḥṭāwī raḥimahullah further adds:

“The questioning in the grave takes place in the final physical worldly abode for the corpse.” In another place he writes:

“The most common opinion on when the questioning takes place is when the deceased is finally buried…Questioning is assured even if it occurs in the stomach of a predator or on the seabed (in the event of somebody drowning)”[7]

Mullā `Alī al-Qārī raḥimahullah answers a common objection as to why the ‘Aḥādīth only mention questioning in the physical grave in a graveyard; He states that the graves have been specified in the ‘Aḥādith as because they are the customary place where a person ends up.  He further argues that the word ‘Qabr’ translated commonly as the grave/pit in a graveyard need not refer to the actual pit, rather, a person’s Qabr is his final physical abode in the world wherever it may be.[8]

Therefore, it is clear from the above that a person is not questioned until their body reaches its final and permanent physical abode in the world, wherever that maybe.  Thus, a person who has to undergo a post-mortem will not be questioned until their body is buried in the ground even if that takes a number of weeks. 

And Allah Ta’ālā Alone Knows Best

Mufti Faraz Adam al-Mahmudi,
www.darulfiqh.com

 

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[1]   وَبِعَذَابِ الْقَبْرِ لِمَنْ كَانَ لَهُ أَهْلًا وَسُؤَالِ منكر ونكير فِي قَبْرِهِ عَنْ رَبِّهِ وَدِينِهِ وَنَبِيِّهِ عَلَى مَا جَاءَتْ بِهِ الْأَخْبَارُ عَنْ رَسُولِ اللَّهِ صَلَّى اللَّهُ عَلَيْهِ وَسَلَّم َ وعن الصحابة رضوان الله عليهم

[2]  عَنِ الْبَرَاءِ بْنِ عَازِبٍ، قَالَ: خَرَجْنَا مَعَ النَّبِيِّ صَلَّى اللهُ عَلَيْهِ وَسَلَّمَ، فِي جِنَازَةِ رَجُلٍ مِنَ الْأَنْصَارِ، فَانْتَهَيْنَا إِلَى الْقَبْرِ، وَلَمَّا يُلْحَدْ، فَجَلَسَ رَسُولُ اللهِ صَلَّى اللهُ عَلَيْهِ وَسَلَّمَ، وَجَلَسْنَا حَوْلَهُ، كَأَنَّ عَلَى رُءُوسِنَا الطَّيْرَ، وَفِي يَدِهِ عُودٌ يَنْكُتُ فِي الْأَرْضِ، فَرَفَعَ رَأْسَهُ، فَقَالَ: ” اسْتَعِيذُوا بِاللهِ مِنْ عَذَابِ الْقَبْرِ مَرَّتَيْنِ، أَوْ ثَلَاثًا، “، ثُمَّ قَالَ: ” إِنَّ الْعَبْدَ الْمُؤْمِنَ إِذَا كَانَ فِي انْقِطَاعٍ مِنَ الدُّنْيَا وَإِقْبَالٍ مِنَ الْآخِرَةِ، نَزَلَ إِلَيْهِ مَلَائِكَةٌ مِنَ السَّمَاءِ بِيضُ الْوُجُوهِ، كَأَنَّ وُجُوهَهُمُ الشَّمْسُ، مَعَهُمْ كَفَنٌ مِنْ أَكْفَانِ الْجَنَّةِ، وَحَنُوطٌ مِنْ حَنُوطِ الْجَنَّةِ، حَتَّى يَجْلِسُوا مِنْهُ مَدَّ الْبَصَرِ، ثُمَّ يَجِيءُ مَلَكُ الْمَوْتِ، عَلَيْهِ السَّلَامُ، حَتَّى يَجْلِسَ عِنْدَ رَأْسِهِ، فَيَقُولُ: أَيَّتُهَا النَّفْسُ الطَّيِّبَةُ، (1) اخْرُجِي إِلَى مَغْفِرَةٍ مِنَ اللهِ وَرِضْوَانٍ “. قَالَ: ” فَتَخْرُجُ تَسِيلُ كَمَا تَسِيلُ الْقَطْرَةُ مِنْ فِي السِّقَاءِ، فَيَأْخُذُهَا، فَإِذَا أَخَذَهَا لَمْ يَدَعُوهَا فِي يَدِهِ طَرْفَةَ عَيْنٍ حَتَّى يَأْخُذُوهَا، فَيَجْعَلُوهَا فِي ذَلِكَ الْكَفَنِ، وَفِي ذَلِكَ الْحَنُوطِ، وَيَخْرُجُ مِنْهَا كَأَطْيَبِ نَفْحَةِ مِسْكٍ وُجِدَتْ عَلَى وَجْهِ الْأَرْضِ ” قَالَ: ” فَيَصْعَدُونَ بِهَا، فَلَا يَمُرُّونَ، يَعْنِي بِهَا، عَلَى مَلَإٍ مِنَ الْمَلَائِكَةِ، إِلَّا قَالُوا: مَا هَذَا الرُّوحُ الطَّيِّبُ؟ فَيَقُولُونَ: فُلَانُ بْنُ فُلَانٍ، بِأَحْسَنِ أَسْمَائِهِ الَّتِي كَانُوا يُسَمُّونَهُ بِهَا فِي الدُّنْيَا، حَتَّى يَنْتَهُوا بِهَا إِلَى السَّمَاءِ الدُّنْيَا، فَيَسْتَفْتِحُونَ لَهُ، فَيُفْتَحُ لَهُمْ فَيُشَيِّعُهُ مِنْ كُلِّ سَمَاءٍ مُقَرَّبُوهَا إِلَى السَّمَاءِ الَّتِي تَلِيهَا، حَتَّى يُنْتَهَى بِهِ إِلَى السَّمَاءِ السَّابِعَةِ، فَيَقُولُ اللهُ عَزَّ وَجَلَّ: اكْتُبُوا كِتَابَ عَبْدِي فِي عِلِّيِّينَ، وَأَعِيدُوهُ إِلَى الْأَرْضِ، فَإِنِّي مِنْهَا خَلَقْتُهُمْ، وَفِيهَا أُعِيدُهُمْ، وَمِنْهَا أُخْرِجُهُمْ تَارَةً أُخْرَى “. قَالَ: ” فَتُعَادُ رُوحُهُ فِي جَسَدِهِ، فَيَأْتِيهِ مَلَكَانِ، فَيُجْلِسَانِهِ، فَيَقُولَانِ لَهُ: مَنْ رَبُّكَ؟ فَيَقُولُ: رَبِّيَ اللهُ، فَيَقُولَانِ لَهُ: مَا دِينُكَ؟ فَيَقُولُ: دِينِيَ الْإِسْلَامُ، فَيَقُولَانِ لَهُ: مَا هَذَا الرَّجُلُ الَّذِي بُعِثَ فِيكُمْ؟ فَيَقُولُ: هُوَ رَسُولُ اللهِ صَلَّى اللهُ عَلَيْهِ وَسَلَّمَ، فَيَقُولَانِ لَهُ: وَمَا عِلْمُكَ؟ فَيَقُولُ: قَرَأْتُ كِتَابَ اللهِ، فَآمَنْتُ بِهِ وَصَدَّقْتُ، فَيُنَادِي مُنَادٍ فِي (1) السَّمَاءِ: أَنْ صَدَقَ عَبْدِي، فَأَفْرِشُوهُ مِنَ الْجَنَّةِ، وَأَلْبِسُوهُ مِنَ الْجَنَّةِ، وَافْتَحُوا لَهُ بَابًا إِلَى الْجَنَّةِ “. قَالَ: ” فَيَأْتِيهِ مِنْ رَوْحِهَا، وَطِيبِهَا، وَيُفْسَحُ لَهُ فِي قَبْرِهِ مَدَّ بَصَرِهِ “. قَالَ: ” وَيَأْتِيهِ رَجُلٌ حَسَنُ الْوَجْهِ، حَسَنُ الثِّيَابِ، طَيِّبُ الرِّيحِ، فَيَقُولُ: أَبْشِرْ بِالَّذِي يَسُرُّكَ، هَذَا يَوْمُكَ الَّذِي كُنْتَ تُوعَدُ، فَيَقُولُ لَهُ: مَنْ أَنْتَ؟ فَوَجْهُكَ الْوَجْهُ يَجِيءُ (2) بِالْخَيْرِ، فَيَقُولُ: أَنَا عَمَلُكَ الصَّالِحُ، فَيَقُولُ: رَبِّ أَقِمِ السَّاعَةَ حَتَّى أَرْجِعَ إِلَى أَهْلِي، وَمَالِي “. قَالَ: ” وَإِنَّ الْعَبْدَ الْكَافِرَ إِذَا كَانَ فِي انْقِطَاعٍ مِنَ الدُّنْيَا وَإِقْبَالٍ مِنَ الْآخِرَةِ، نَزَلَ إِلَيْهِ مِنَ السَّمَاءِ مَلَائِكَةٌ سُودُ الْوُجُوهِ، مَعَهُمُ الْمُسُوحُ، فَيَجْلِسُونَ مِنْهُ مَدَّ الْبَصَرِ، ثُمَّ يَجِيءُ مَلَكُ الْمَوْتِ، حَتَّى يَجْلِسَ عِنْدَ رَأْسِهِ، فَيَقُولُ: أَيَّتُهَا النَّفْسُ الْخَبِيثَةُ، اخْرُجِي إِلَى سَخَطٍ مِنَ اللهِ وَغَضَبٍ “. قَالَ: ” فَتُفَرَّقُ فِي جَسَدِهِ، فَيَنْتَزِعُهَا كَمَا يُنْتَزَعُ السَّفُّودُ مِنَ الصُّوفِ الْمَبْلُولِ، فَيَأْخُذُهَا، فَإِذَا أَخَذَهَا لَمْ يَدَعُوهَا فِي يَدِهِ طَرْفَةَ عَيْنٍ حَتَّى يَجْعَلُوهَا فِي تِلْكَ الْمُسُوحِ، وَيَخْرُجُ مِنْهَا كَأَنْتَنِ رِيحِ جِيفَةٍ وُجِدَتْ عَلَى وَجْهِ الْأَرْضِ، فَيَصْعَدُونَ بِهَا، فَلَا يَمُرُّونَ بِهَا عَلَى مَلَأٍ مِنَ الْمَلَائِكَةِ، إِلَّا قَالُوا: مَا هَذَا الرُّوحُ الْخَبِيثُ؟ فَيَقُولُونَ: فُلَانُ بْنُ فُلَانٍ بِأَقْبَحِ أَسْمَائِهِ الَّتِي كَانَ يُسَمَّى بِهَا فِي الدُّنْيَا، حَتَّى يُنْتَهَى بِهِ إِلَى السَّمَاءِ الدُّنْيَا، فَيُسْتَفْتَحُ لَهُ، فَلَا يُفْتَحُ لَهُ “، ثُمَّ قَرَأَ رَسُولُ اللهِ صَلَّى اللهُ عَلَيْهِ وَسَلَّمَ: {لَا تُفَتَّحُ لَهُمْ أَبْوَابُ السَّمَاءِ وَلَا يَدْخُلُونَ الْجَنَّةَ حَتَّى يَلِجَ الْجَمَلُ فِي سَمِّ الْخِيَاطِ} [الأعراف: 40] فَيَقُولُ اللهُ عَزَّ وَجَلَّ: ” اكْتُبُوا كِتَابَهُ فِي سِجِّينٍ فِي الْأَرْضِ السُّفْلَى، فَتُطْرَحُ رُوحُهُ طَرْحًا “. ثُمَّ قَرَأَ: {وَمَنْ يُشْرِكْ بِاللهِ، فَكَأَنَّمَا خَرَّ مِنَ السَّمَاءِ فَتَخْطَفُهُ الطَّيْرُ أَوْ تَهْوِي بِهِ الرِّيحُ فِي مَكَانٍ سَحِيقٍ} [الحج: 31] ” فَتُعَادُ رُوحُهُ فِي جَسَدِهِ، وَيَأْتِيهِ مَلَكَانِ، فَيُجْلِسَانِهِ، فَيَقُولَانِ لَهُ: مَنْ رَبُّكَ؟ فَيَقُولُ: هَاهْ هَاهْ لَا أَدْرِي، فَيَقُولَانِ لَهُ: مَا دِينُكَ؟ فَيَقُولُ: هَاهْ هَاهْ لَا أَدْرِي، فَيَقُولَانِ لَهُ: مَا هَذَا الرَّجُلُ الَّذِي بُعِثَ فِيكُمْ؟ فَيَقُولُ: هَاهْ هَاهْ لَا أَدْرِي، فَيُنَادِي مُنَادٍ مِنَ السَّمَاءِ أَنْ كَذَبَ، فَافْرِشُوا (1) لَهُ مِنَ النَّارِ، وَافْتَحُوا لَهُ بَابًا إِلَى النَّارِ، فَيَأْتِيهِ مِنْ حَرِّهَا، وَسَمُومِهَا، وَيُضَيَّقُ عَلَيْهِ قَبْرُهُ حَتَّى تَخْتَلِفَ فِيهِ أَضْلَاعُهُ، وَيَأْتِيهِ رَجُلٌ قَبِيحُ الْوَجْهِ، قَبِيحُ الثِّيَابِ، مُنْتِنُ الرِّيحِ، فَيَقُولُ: أَبْشِرْ بِالَّذِي يَسُوءُكَ، هَذَا يَوْمُكَ الَّذِي كُنْتَ تُوعَدُ، فَيَقُولُ: مَنْ أَنْتَ؟ فَوَجْهُكَ الْوَجْهُ يَجِيءُ (1) بِالشَّرِّ، فَيَقُولُ: أَنَا عَمَلُكَ الْخَبِيثُ، فَيَقُولُ: رَبِّ لَا تُقِمِ السَّاعَةَ ” (مسند أحمد)

[3]  وَلَا شَكَّ أَنَّ ذَلِكَ إعْلَاءُ الشَّأْنِ وَسَبَبُ الْمُبَاهَاةِ عَلَى الْأَقْرَانِ وَهَذَا فِي حَقِّ الْمُسْلِمِ فَأَمَّا فِي حَقِّ الْكَافِرِ فَالسُّؤَالُ لِلْإِلْزَامِ وَالتَّخْجِيلِ لَا لِلْإِكْرَامِ وَالتَّبْجِيلِ (كشف الأسرار شرح أصول البزدوي)

[4]  واستثنى بعض أكابر أهل السنة جماعة فلا يسألون منهم المقتول في معركة الكفار والمرابط والمطعون ومن مات في زمن الطاعون والمبطون والمجنون وأهل الفترة والميت ليلة الجمعة ويومها والقارىء كل ليلة سورة الملك وطالب العلم (حاشية الطحطاوي ج 2 ص 268 ط دار قباء)

[5]  والحق أنه يسأل كل أحد بلسانه كما قاله اللقاني واختلف في سؤال الأنبياء عليهم السلام والأطفال ورجح عدمه في الأول دون الثاني لكن يلقنه الملك فيقول له من ربك ثم يقول له قل الله ربي وهكذا الخ وقيل يلهمه الله تعالى فيجيب كما ألهم عيسى عليه السلام في المهد وحكمة السؤال إظهار شرف المؤمن وخذلان الكافر (حاشية الطحطاوي ج 2 ص 268 ط دار قباء)

[6]  السؤال فيما يستقر فيه الميت حتى لو أكله سبع فالسؤال في بطنه فإن جعل في تابوت أياماً لنقله إلى مكان آخر لا يسأل ما لم يدفن (الفتاوى البزازية ج 1 ص 72 ط دار الكتب)

[7]  والسؤال بعد الدفن في محل لا يخرج منه أبدا إلا لضرورة وعليه فلو وضع في قبر للدوام ثم تحول إليه الماء فنقل للضرورة يكون السؤال في الأول فلو جعل في تابوت أو موضع آخر لينقل لم يسأل فيه كذا في الخلاصة والبزازية والأشهر أنه حين يدفن وقيل في بيته تنطبق عليه الأرض كالقبر ولا بد منه ولو في بطن سبع أو قعر بحر (حاشية الطحطاوي ج 2 ص 268 ط دار قباء)

[8]   (إِذَا سُئِلَ فِي الْقَبْرِ) : التَّخْصِيصُ لِلْعَادَةِ أَوْ كُلُّ مَوْضِعٍ فِيهِ مَقَرُّهُ فَهُوَ قَبْرُهُ، وَالْمَسْئُولُ عَنْهُ مَحْذُوفٌ أَيْ: سُئِلَ عَنْ رَبِّهِ وَدِينِهِ وَنَبِيِّهِ لِمَا ثَبَتَ فِي الْأَحَادِيثِ الْأُخَرِ (مرقاة المفاتيح ج 1 ص 203 ط دار الفكر، بيروت – لبنان 2002)

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