Fiqh As-Sunnah

Burial is a Collective Obligation:
There is a consensus that burying a dead body and covering it is a collective obligation (fard kifayah). If some Muslims bury the dead body, it would absolve the rest of them from this obligation. Allah, the Almighty, says: "Have We not caused the earth to hold within itself the living and the dead?" Qur'an 77.25-26

The majority of scholars are of the opinion that it is permissible to bury the dead anytime during the day or night. The Prophet, peace be upon him, buried at night a man, who used to remember Allah aloud during the night. Similarly 'Ali buried Fatimah at night. Abu Bakr, 'Uthman, 'Aishah, and Ibn Mas'ud were buried during the night as well. Ibn ' Abbas reported: "The Prophet, peace be upon him, went into a grave one night and was given a lamp. Then he lifted the body from the side toward the qiblah, saying: "May Allah be merciful to you. You used to cry a lot and often recited the Qur'an." After this the Prophet, peace be upon him, said four takbirs."(Reported by Tirmidhi, who considers it a sound hadith) Tirmidhi said: "Most scholars consider the burial of the dead at night permissible, provided the rights of the deceased are not neglected. The same applies to offering a funeral prayer for the deceased. The Prophet, peace be upon him, commanded his followers not to bury the deceased at night if it is feared that any of his rights might be neglected. Night time burial in such a case is disliked.

One day the Prophet, peace be upon him, delivered a sermon and mentioned one of his companions who had died and had been wrapped in a short shroud and buried during the night. The Prophet, peace be upon him, expressed his disapproval of burying someone at night unless one is compelled to do so. (Muslim) Jabir reported that the Prophet, peace be upon him, said: "Do not bury your dead during the night unless you are compelled to do so." (Ibn Majah)

Burial at Sunrise, at Midday, or at Sunset:
There is a consensus that a body may be buried during any of these three times whenever there is danger of it decomposing otherwise. If there is no such danger, its burial during these times is still permissible, according to the majority of scholars, provided that it is not done so on purpose, as reported by Ahmad, Muslim, and the compilers of Sunan on the authority of 'Uqbah who said: "The Prophet, peace be upon him, forbade us from offering prayer or burying our dead at three times: at sunrise, until the sun rises high in the sky; at noon, when the sun is above one's head until it declines a little; and when the sun begins to go down until it sets." The Hanbali school holds that in light of the above hadith burial during these times is undesirable without exception.

Digging a Deep Grave is Desirable:
The purpose of burial is to hide the body in a pit in order to prevent its stench from fouling the atmosphere, and to save it from being eaten by various beasts and birds. If these conditions are met and this purpose is served, then one has carried out one's responsibility . It is encouraged, however, to make the depth of the grave equal to the height of an average man. This is based on a hadith reported by Nasa'i and Tirmidhi (who considers it a sound hadith) from Hisham ibn 'Amer who said: "We complained to the Prophet, peace be upon him, on the day of the battle of Uhud, saying: 'O Allah's Messenger! Digging a separate grave for every body is a very hard job.' The Prophet, peace be upon him, said: 'Dig, dig deeper, dig well, and bury two or three bodies in each grave.' The Companions asked him: 'Who should be put in the graves first?' The Prophet, peace be upon him, said: 'Put those most learned in the Qur'an first.' My father, the narrator added, was the third of the three who were put in one grave." Ibn Abi Shaibah and Ibn Al-Mundhir reported that 'Umar said: "Dig a grave deep enough for a man's height and make it broader." According to Abu Hanifah and Ahmad the grave should be deep enough for half of the average height of a man, but if dug deeper, it is better.

A Lahd is Better than an Ordinary Grave:
Lahd is a crevice on the side of a grave facing the qiblah, which is covered with unburnt bricks like a house with a roof. A regular grave, on the other hand, is a pit dug in the ground, with the body placed in it and then sealed off with unburnt bricks and covered to form a ceiling. Either of these two methods is permissible, but the first one--lahd--is preferable in the light of a hadith reported by Ahmad and Ibn Majah on the authority of Anas who said: "When the Prophet, peace be upon him, died, there were two grave diggers. One usually dug the lahd and the other a regular tomb-like grave. The Companions said: 'Let us seek guidance from our Lord.' Then they asked each of them to dig a grave, and decided the grave of the one who finished first be chosen for the burial of the Prophet's remains. The one who dug the lahd finished first, so they buried the remains of the Prophet, peace be upon him, in a lahd." This hadith shows that both forms are permissible. The fact that the lahd is preferable is indicated by a tradition transmitted by Ahmad and the Compilers of the Sunan on the authority of Ibn 'Abbas who reported: "The Prophet, peace be upon him, said: 'Lahd is for us, and digging a pit (i.e., a regular grave) for others."'

Placing a Body in the Grave:
It is sunnah to place a body in the grave with its feet first, if this is possible and can be done easily. This is based on a hadith reported by Abu Daw'ud, Ibn Abi Shaibah, and Al-Baihaqi that Abdallah ibn Zaid placed a body with its feet first in the grave and said, "This is sunnah." If this is not easy, then a body could be placed in the grave in any manner possible. Ibn Hazm said: "A body may be placed in the grave in any manner possible, from the direction of the qihlah, or from a direction opposite to it, with its head first, or with its feet first, for there is no explicit instruction regarding this in the texts."

Placing the Body Facing the Qiblah, Praying for the Deceased, and Loosening the Shroud:
The practice of the learned ones has been to place the body on its right side facing the qiblah. The person placing the body in the grave should say: "In the Name of Allah, and in accordance with the tradition of Allah's Messenger, peace be upon him. " Then he should loosen the shroud. Ibn ' Umar reported that when a body was placed in the grave, the Prophet, peace be upon him, used to say: Bismillah wa 'ala sunnat rasulillah. "In the name of Allah, and in accordance with the tradition of Allah's Messenger or the practice of Allah's Messenger." (Reported by Ahmad, Abu Daw'ud, Tirmidhi, Ibn Majab and Nasa'i, who transmitted it both as a mauquf hadith (its chain of transmitters stopping at a Companion), and as a musnad (uninterruptedly from the Prophet himself)).

Placing Clothes in the Grave is Disliked:
The majority of jurists dislike the idea of placing a garment, a pillow, or the like for the deceased in the grave. Ibn Hazm, however, sees nothing wrong in placing a piece of garment under the body in the grave, in light of a hadith reported by Muslim from Ibn 'Abbas who said: "A red piece of cloth was placed in the grave of the Prophet, peace be upon him." Ibn Hazm says apparently it was Allah's Will to permit them to do so, because His Prophet, the innocent and guiltless, and others who practiced it were, according to the consensus, indeed the best of men, and none of them ever objected to it."

The scholars consider it desirable, however, for the head of the deceased to be placed on a brick, a stone, or on the ground with his right cheek on a brick or some other similar thing, and with his shroud removed from his face so that his left cheek is open to the soil. 'Umar advised his heirs: "After having placed my body in the grave, leave my cheek open to the soil." Similarly Ad-Dahak in his will gave instructions that his shroud should be untied and his cheek exposed. It is preferred if something, some bricks or stones or soil, is placed to support the body so as not to leave it flat on its back. Abu Hanifah, Malik, and Ahmad hold that a piece of cloth may be spread over a female body, but not over a male body, when lowering it into the grave. The Shafi'i school, however, is of the opinion that doing so is desirable for both male and female.

Throwing Three Handfuls of Soil over the Grave:
It is desirable to encourage those attending the burial to throw three handfuls of soil over the grave from the head of the body. This is based on a hadith by Ibn Majah which says: "The Prophet, peace be upon him, once offered a funeral prayer and then went to the deceased's grave and threw three handfuls of soil from near the deceased's head." Abu Hanifah, Ash-Shafi'i, and Ahmad hold that when throwing the first handful one should say, "Of this (i.e. the earth) We created you," and on the second one should say, "And to it shall We cause you to return," and on the third handful one should say, "And of it We shall cause you to be resurrected a second time." This is based on a hadith that the Prophet, peace be upon him, said this when his daughter Umm al-Kulthum was laid in her grave. Ahmad said: "Nothing is required to be said while throwing handfuls of soil over the grave because this is a weak hadith.

Praying for the Deceased After its Burial:
After the burial, it is desirable to pray for forgiveness of the deceased and acceptance (of his conduct by Allah), because at this time he is being questioned about his life. It is reported by 'Uthman: "After burial the Prophet, peace be upon him, would stand by the grave of the deceased and say: "Seek forgiveness for your brother and pray for his acceptance, because he is now being questioned about it." (This hadith is reported by Abu Daw'ud and al-Hakim, who considers it a sound hadith. Al-Bazzar says: "This is the only report from the Prophet (peace be upon him) on this subject.) Ruzain reported: "After the deceased was buried 'Ali used to pray: 'O Allah! This is Your servant, who is now a guest of Yours, and You are the best host. Forgive him, and expand the entrance into heaven for him." Ibn 'Umar liked to recite the first and the last few verses of Surah AlBaqarah by the grave after the burial was over. (Reported by Al-Baihaqi with a sound chain of narrators.)

Prompting the Deceased After the Burial:
Ash-Shafi'i and some other scholars prefer that a deceased (A deceased if he or she is an adult, but not in the case of a child) be "prompted" after the burial. This is based on a report by Sa' id ibn Mansur from Rashid ibn Sa'd and Damarah ibn Habib and Hakim ibn 'Umair. They said: "After the grave is leveled and the people leave, one should stand by the grave and say three times to the deceased: 'O so-and-so, say: "There is no god but Allah, I bear witness that there is no god but Allah",' 'O so-and-so, say: "Allah is my Lord, Islam is my din, and Muhammad is my prophet." ' And then one should leave the site." This is reported, without any comment, by Al-Hafiz in his book Al-Talkhis. At-Tabarani reported that Abu Amamah said: "When one of your brethren passes away and you have leveled the ground over his grave, you should stand by the grave's head and say: 'O so-and-so, son of so-and-so,' for the deceased will hear him, but he cannot respond. Then he should say 'O so-and-so, and son of so-and-so, whereby the deceased will sit up in his grave. Then he should say: 'O so-and-so, son of so-and-so, at which the deceased says: "Guide me, may Allah be merciful to you,' but you cannot hear him. Then he should say to the deceased: 'Remember the faith with which you left this world, and remember to bear witness that there is no god but Allah and Muhammad is His servant and Messenger, and remember that you have accepted Allah as your Lord, Islam as your religion, Muhammad as your Prophet and the Qur'an as your guide. ' At this Munkar and Nakir (the two angels appointed to question the people in the graves) will hold each other's hand and say: 'Let us go! Why should we sit for a person who has been taught this."' A man asked: "O Allah's Messenger! What if one did not know the name of the deceased's mother?" The Prophet, peace be upon him, replied: "In such a case, one should call him by his first mother, Eve, and say: 'O so and so, O son of Eve).'' (Al-Hafiz in his book Al Talkhis said that the chain of narrators of this hadith is sound. Ad-Diaya' in his Al-Ahkam has also described it as a sound hadith. There is in its chain of narrators one called 'Asim ibn Abdullah who is a weak narrator.) Haithami refers to this hadith and says there are some narrators in its chain whom he did not know as trustworthy.

An-Nawawi said: "The above hadith, even if it is a weak one, would be considered a source of reference. The scholars of hadith and others agree that in matters such as virtue, exhortation to good, and waming against evil, even the weak hadith are admissible. The above hadith is, however, supported by other evidence including the hadith in which the Prophet, peace be upon him, is reported to have asked his Companions, 'pray that he be supported.' Another is the hadith about the will made by 'Amr ibn Al-'As. Both of these hadith are sound. The people of Syria still act on this, when the occasion arises, until this very day."

Both the Maliki school, according to general report, and the Hanbali school consider prompting the deceased reprehensible. Al-Athram said: "I asked (Imam) Ahmad ibn Hanbal: 'This is what they do when the deceased is buried. A man stands by the graveside and says: "O so and so and son of so and so (his mother's name").' Ahmad said: 'I have never seen anyone doing this except the Syrians when Abu Al-Mughirah died."' He transmitted something about the subject from Abu Bakr ibn Abi Maryam according to which their elders said that they used to do it. Isma'il ibn 'Ayyash related the hadith reported by Abu Amamah.

The Sunnah Concerning Graveyards:
The sunnah is to raise the grave at least one hand above the ground so it is known that it is a grave. It is forbidden to raise it more than that. This is based on a narrative reported by Muslim and others from Harun that Thamamah ibn Shufayy told him: "Once we were with Fadalah bin 'Ubayd in the Roman land of Brudis. One of our companions died and upon burying him we were ordered by Fudalah ibn 'Ubayd to level his grave. Then Fudalah said: 'I heard Allah's Messenger, peace be upon him, ordering people to level the graves of the deceased." It is reported from Abul al-Hayaj al-Asadi who said 'Ali bin Abu Talib told me: "Should I not instruct you to do as the Messenger of Allah, peace be upon him, instructed me? Do not leave a statue standing without removing it. Do not leave a grave raised without leveling it."

Tirmidhi said: "Some scholars act upon this opinion. They disapprove of raising the grave more than necessary to indicate that it is a grave, and so people will not step or sit on it." Muslim governors used to destroy cemetery structures not permitted by the law, in accordance with the authentic sunnah. Ash-Shafi'i said: "I prefer that the soil used for a grave be no more than that dug for that grave. I like to see a grave raised above the ground the length of a hand or so. I prefer not to erect a structure over a grave or to whitewash it, for indeed this resembles decoration and vanity, and death is not the time for either of these things. I have never seen the graves of the Muhajirin or Ansar plastered. I have seen the Muslim authorities destroying structures in graveyards, and I have not seen any jurists object to this."

Ash-Shawkani said: "It is apparent that raising graves more than what is legally permitted is forbidden. The followers of Ahmad, a group of the followers of Ash-Shafi'i, and Malik are of this opinion. An opinion that raised graves are not prohibited because this practice occurred during the time of the first and later generations without disapproval, which is the position of Imam Yahya and Mahdi in al-Ghayth, is not correct. This argument is based only on their silence about the practice, and silence is not proof when a matter rests on mere assumption, for prohibition of raising graves is presumptive."

Included in the discussion of raising the grave are dome buildings, shrines built on graves, and erecting mosques around graves.The Prophet, peace be upon him, cursed those who did that. The practice of erecting buildings around graves and beautifying them causes corruption, which Islam seeks to eliminate.

Part of such a corruption is exaggerating the importance of graves, in accordance with the superstitious belief of the ignorant, similar to the belief of non-believers in their idols, that these monuments can bring benefit or prevent harm. Thus they travel to these graves for fulfillment of their needs or achievement of their goals. They ask those in the graves what believers should ask only of their Lord. They ride horses to them, touch them, and seek their aid. In general, they do exactly what the pre-Islamic people used to do with their idols.

Despite this disgraceful, reprehensible evil and hideous disbelief, how many people dare to take a stand for the cause of Allah, or evince any uneasiness for the defense of the true din? Where are the scholars and students, and the rulers, the ministers, and the kings, who are obliged to teach the truth? Various reports reaching us leave little doubt that many of these grave adorers, in fact most of them, when confronted and asked under oath to reject such idolatry would readily take a solemn oath falsely by Allah. But if you then ask them, "(Swear) by your spiritual leader and your saint, so-and-so," they will ponder, apologize, refuse, and confess the truth. This is one of the clearest proofs that their polytheism is indeed worse than that of the Christians and others who say: "Allah, the Exalted, is the second of two or the third of three."

O scholars of Islam! O kings of Islam! What calamity to Islam is worse than disbelief? What tribulation for this religion is worse than worshipping others than Allah? What misfortune for Muslims can equal this misfortune? Is there any more serious abomination than this open polytheism? You might be heard if you called the living, But there is no life in him whom you call; Had there been a fire in which you blew, there would have been light; but you blew in the sand.

The scholars have issued clear legal verdicts concerning the destruction of mosques and domes built in cemeteries. Ibn Hajar said in his az-Zawajir: (This is a collection of legal verdicts, pubhshed when king Al-Zahir decided to destroy all the buildings in the graveyards. Coeval Islamic scholars collectively supported him saying to do so was incumbent upon the ruler.) "We should not hesitate to destroy mosques and domes built over graves. These are worse than the mosque of adDirar, because these things are erected in disobedience to the Messenger of Allah, peace be upon him. The Prophet, peace be upon him, has forbidden this and has ordered the destruction of raised graves. Every lamp or lantern placed over a grave must be removed. It is not correct to stop at a grave or make a vow at it.

Making Humps over Graves and Flattening Them:
Jurists agree that it is permissible either to make a little hump over the grave or to flatten it. At-Tabari said: "I dislike it for a grave to be prepared in any way other than these two: it should be either leveled with the ground or raised with a hump over it, but no higher than one hand, as is the common practice among Muslims. Leveling the grave differs from flattening it completely. Jurists differ concerning which of these two methods is best. Al-Qadi 'Iyad has reported from the major scholars that it is best to make a hump over the grave because Sufyan an-Nammar told him that he had seen the grave of the Prophet, peace be upon him, with a hump over it." (Bukhari) This is the opinion of Abu Hanifah, Malik, Ahmad, al-Mazani, and many scholars of the Shafi'i school. Ash-Shafi'i's opinion, however, is that because of the order of the Prophet, peace be upon him, leveling is best.

Placing a Distinguishing Mark on a Grave:
It is permissible to place a mark, such as a stone or a piece of wood, over a grave so that it can be recognized. This is based on a hadith reported by Ibn Majah from Anas that the Prophet, peace be upon him, "placed a rock over 'Uthman ibn Maz'eun's grave so that it could be recognized." In az-Zawa'id it is stated that its chain of narrators is sound. Abu Daw'ud reported it in the hadith of al-Muttalib ibn Abi Wada'ah which has the following words: "He carried a rock and placed it by the headside of the grave and said, 'I want to mark my brother's grave and then bury beside it whoever else of my family dies."' This hadith indicates that it is preferable for relatives of the deceased to be buried in adjacent spots because it makes it easier for those who visit their graves to pray for them.

Taking Off Shoes in Cemeteries:
Most scholars are of the opinion that it is permissible to wear shoes in a cemetery. Jarir ibn Hazim said: "I saw al-Hasan and Ibn Sirin walking with their shoes on in a cemetery." Anas reported: "The Prophet, peace be upon him, said: 'When a servant of Allah is put into a grave and his companions leave, he can hear the sound of their sandals'.'' (Reported by Bukhari, Muslim. Abu Daw'ud, and Nasa'i) The scholars deduce from this hadith that it is permissible to walk in a cemetery with one's shoes on since the only way the dead would hear the sound of their sandals is when they were wearing them.

Ahmad disliked, however, wearing dyed shoes (Sibtiyah (Arabic), a type of shoes dyed with pods of a species of sant tree) in graveyards. This is based on a report by Abu Daw'ud, Nasa'i, and Ibn Majah from Bushair, the freed slave of the Prophet, peace be upon him, who said: "Once the Prophet, peace be upon him, noticed a man wearing shoes while walking in the cemetery. He said to him: 'O you who are wearing the sihtiyyah (shoes). Woe to you. Take off your sibtivyah shoes.' When the man recognized the Messenger of Allah, peace be upon him, he took them off and threw them away."

Al-Khattabi said: "The order of the Prophet, peace be upon him, may indicate that he disliked this because of the people involved in them. The sibtiyvah shoes were wom by privileged people given to luxury. The Prophet, peace be upon him, liked those visiting the graveyards to be humble and unpretentious. Ahmad holds that wearing shoes is disliked only when done without any valid excuse. If there is a genuine reason for wearing shoes, such as, thoms or impurities, then one may keep one's shoes on.

The Prohibition against Covering Graves:
Covering graves or tombs is not permissible, because this involves unnecessary expense for an invalid cause, and may mislead the common man. 'Aishah reported: "The Prophet, peace be Up('ll him, left on a raid. I covered the door with a piece of cloth. The Prophet, peace be upon him, noticed the cloth when he retumed. He pulled at it until he tore it. Then he said: 'Allah did not order us to cover stones and clay'.'' (Reported by Bukhari and Muslim)

Building Mosques or Placing Lights on Graves:
There are many sound and clear hadith conceming the unlawfulness of building mosques over graves or putting lights on them. Abu Hurairah reported: "The Prophet, peace be upon him, said: 'May Allah destroy the Jews, because they used the graves of their prophets as places of worship.'' (Bukhari and Muslim)

Ibn 'Abbas reported: "The Messenger of Allah, peace be upon him, cursed the women who visit graves and those who build mosques and place lights on them.'' (Reported by Ahmad and other compilers of the Sunan except Ibn Majah. Tirmidhi considers it a sound hadith) Abdullah Al-Bujali said: "I heard Allah's Messenger, peace be upon him, five nights before his death, saying: 'I declare myself innocent before Allah of having an intimate friend from among you. Indeed, Allah, the Mighty and the Majestic, has taken me as an intimate friend just as he took Ibrahim as His intimate friend. Had I to take an intimate friend from among you, I would have taken Abu Bakr as my intimate friend. Before you there was a group who tumed the graves of their prophets and their righteous ones into mosques. Do not tum graves into mosques. I forbid you to do that'.'' (Muslim)

Abu Hurairah narrated: "The Prophet, peace be upon him, said: 'May Allah curse Jews and Christians for they turned the graves of their Prophets into places of worship'.'' (Muslim Bukhari and Muslim) 'Aishah reported: "Umm Habibah and Umm Salamah mentioned to Allah's Messenger, peace be upon him, a church in which they saw drawings while in Abyssinia, whereupon he said: 'Those people used to build a place of worship over the grave of a righteous man among them when he died and make such drawings in it.These will be the worst of people in the sight of Allah on the Day of Resurrection.'' (Bukhari and Muslim)

The author of Al-Mughni said: "It is not permissible to build mosques around graves because of the statement of the Prophet, peace be upon him, 'May Allah curse the women who visit graves and those who build mosques and place lights over them.''' (Reported by Abu Daw'ud and Nasa'i) If it were permissible, the Prophet, peace be upon him, would not have cursed those who did it. Moreover, this practice wastes money and encourages adoration of graves similar in spirit to the adoration of idols. Because of this report it is not pemmissible to build mosques over graves. Besides, the Prophet, peace be upon him, said, "May Allah curse the Jews who tumed the graves of their prophets into places of worship," in order to wam others against pursuing a similar course. (Muslim and Bukhari)

'Aishah said: "The only reason the grave of Allah's Messenger, peace be upon him, was not made prominent was to stop people from tuming it into a mosque." Designating certain graves as places of prayers is similar to adoring idols and seeking their pleasure. The worship of idols started with the adoration of the dead, making images of them, touching them, and offering prayers at their graves. (The commentator on this said: "It points to what Bukhari narrated from Ibn Abbas conceming the reason why the people of Noah worshipped idols. They were known as Wadd, Sawa', Yaghuth, Ya'uq, and Nasr. These were pious people of whom they made images in order to remember them after their death and imitate them. Due to the lack of knowledge that became prevalent among the people, Satan made it appear beautiful to worship their images and likenesses, and to honor them, wipe over them, and approach them. Wiping them is passing one's hand over them to invoke their blessing and intercession. The same was done to the graves of nghteous people. This practice was initiated by idolaters, and then passed on to Jews and Christians and then to Muslims. Such objects are equivalent to idols.")

Slaughtering Animals on the Graves:
The Prophet, peace be upon him, forbade the slaughtering of animals at graves, which was practiced in the Days of Ignorance out of arrogance and self conceit in order to flaunt one's wealth. Anas reported: "The Prophet, peace be upon him, said: 'There is no slaughtering (of animals on graves) in Islam.'' (Abu Daw'ud) Abdul Razzaq said: "They used to slaughter a cow or a sheep by the grave."

Al-Khattabi said: "During the Days of Ignorance the people used to slaughter camels by the graves of generous people. They used to say: 'We would like him to be rewarded for his deeds. He used to slaughter them when he was alive and feed them to his guests. We slaughter these camels at his grave to feed the lions and birds, so that he may continue feeding others even after his death as he used to do while he was alive'." A poet said: I slaughtered my she-camel at the grave of my king, with a bright sharp sword, meticulously cleaned by polishers, on the grave of someone, who, had I died before him, would have willingly slaughtered his mounts by my grave.

They believed in resurrection after death. Some people believed that if a camel was slaughtered by the grave of a person, he would be restored to life mounted on it on the Day of Resurrection, whereas otherwise at his resurrection, having no mount, he would have to walk on foot.

Prohibition of Sitting, Leaning, and Walking on Graves:
It is not permissible to sit on a grave, or lean on it, or walk over it. This is based on a hadith reported by 'Amr bin Hazm who said: "The Prophet, peace be upon him, saw me leaning on a grave, so he said: 'Do not harm the dweller in this grave or do not harm him.''' (Reported by Ahmad, who considers its chain of narrators as sound) Abu Hurairah reported: "The Prophet, peace be upon him, said: 'It is better for you to sit on a glowing coal that burns through your clothes to your skin than to sit on a grave.'' (Reported by Ahmad, Muslim, Abu Daw'ud, Nasa'i, and Ibn Majah) In the opinion of Ibn Hazm this statement amounts to an outright prohibition because of the warning contained in it. He said this is the opinion of a group of the early Muslims of whom Abu Hurairah is one.

The majority of scholars hold that such an act is merely disapproved. An-Nawawi said: "Ash-Shafi'i (See Al-Shafi'i's work Al-Umm) and the companions mentioned in various narrations disapprove of sitting on a grave, holding it to be makruh tahrimi, (Makruh is divided into makruh tahrimi "that which is nearly unlawful without it being actually so," and makruh tanzihi "that which approaches the lawful.") a term well-known to jurists.The majority of scholars including An-Nakha'i, Al-Laith, Ahmad, and Daw 'ud hold this view.They also disapprove of reclining or leaning on a grave."

Ibn 'Umar, Abu Hanifah, and Malik are of the opinion that it is permissible to sit on a grave. Malik said: "We think that prohibition of sitting and leaning on graves means prohibition of using them to answer the call of nature.'' (Al-Muwatta) He cited a weak hadith in this regard. Ahmad considers the interpretation of Malik weak and said: "This is not an argument." An-Nawawi said that this interpretation is weak or false. Likewise, Ibn Hazm regards it invalid for a number of reasons. This difference of opinion concerns sitting on graves. However, there is agreement among the jurists, however, that sitting on the graves to answer the call of nature is unlawful. The jurists also agree on the permissibility of walking over graves if necessary, when for instance, there is no other way of reaching the grave of one's dear one.

Prohibition of Whitewashing or Writing on a Grave:
Jabir reported: "The Prophet, peace be upon him, forbade the whitewashing of a grave, sitting on it, or erecting any structure on it." (Reported by Ahmad, Muslim, Nasa'i, Abu Daw'ud, and Tirmidhi who said that it is a sound hadith) Tirmidhi reported this hadith with this wording: "The Prophet, peace be upon him, forbade the whitewashing of graves, writing on them, building on them, or stepping on them." Nasa'i, reported it in these words: "The Prophet, peace be upon, forbade building over a grave, adding anything to it, white washing it, or writing on it."

The majority of scholars interpret this prohibition as an expression of disapproval, while Ibn Hazm takes it to mean that the act is unlawful. The wisdom behind it is that a grave is not made to last forever, but is sure to disintegrate with the passage of time. whitewashing graves is decorating them with the beauty of this world for which the dead have no need. Others think that its wisdom lies in the fact that whitewashing is done by burning gypsum (brimstone): This view is supported by a narration of Zaid bin Arqam who said to a person who wanted to build something over his son ' s grave and whitewash it: "You are wrong and have done a useless thing. Nothing touched by fire should be brought near the grave." There is nothing wrong, however, in daubing it with clay. Tirmidhi said: "Some scholars, including Al-Hasan alBasri, hold it permissible to coat the graves with clay." Ash-Shafi'i is also of the same view and sees no harm in giving the graves a coating of clay.

Ja'far bin Muhammad reported from his father: "The grave of the Prophet, peace be upon him, was raised one hand from the ground and was coated with red clay and some gravel." This was narrated by Abu Bakr An-Najjad, but AlHafiz did not comment on this in his ai-Talkhis.

The scholars also disapprove of building graves with bricks or wood or burying the dead with a coffin unless the burial ground was wet or soft. If it is wet or soft, then it is permissible to use bricks and the like and to place the body in a coffin. It is reported from Mughirah that Ibrahim said: "The scholars preferred bricks of clay and straw, but disliked clay bricks; they preferred bamboo and disliked wood." Concerning the hadith prohibiting writing on graves, it apparently includes writing the name of the deceased or any other thing on the grave. AlHakim commented on this hadith and said: "Though its chain of narrators is sound, in practice, however, it was not followed." Many Muslims from the East and the West do write on the graves. This is a practice that was passed on from one generation to the next. Adh-Dhahabi said: "This hadith is an innovated one, and no prohibition is genuinely reported."

The Hanbali school holds that inscription on graves is prohibited, whether it is a portion of the Qur'an or the name of the deceased." The Shafi'i school agrees with this ruling, but they also hold: "If the grave is of a scholar or a righteous man, it is preferable to write his name on it to make it known." The Maliki school holds that writing any portion of the Qur'an is not permissible, but writing the name and date of death of the deceased is disliked (makruh) .

The Hanafi school disapproves of writing anything on the grave and considers it unlawful, except when it is feared that any trace of the grave might disappear. Ibn Hazm said: "It is not disapproved if the name of the deceased was engraved on a rock."

It is forbidden in a hadith "to add more soil than what was taken out when digging the grave." Al-Baihaqi has dealt with this under a separate chapter entitled, "No adding of soil to the grave in excess of what is taken therefrom."

Ash-Shawkani said that: "Adding apparently here means adding more soil than what was taken out while digging the grave." Some interpreted the addition to a grave as making a grave over another one. Ash-Shafi'i preferred, however, the first interpretation, saying that it was preferable not to add more soil than what was taken out while digging the grave which is preferred lest the grave be raised high. So long as the additional soil does not raise the grave higher than the ground, there is nothing wrong with it.

Burying More than One Body in One Grave:
From the example of early generations, we learn that one body is to be buried in a grave. It is disliked if more than one body is buried in a grave, unless there is a large number of corpses, and there is a scarcity of graves, and it is impossible to bury them separately. In such a case, it is permissible to bury more than one body in a grave. This is based on a hadith reported by Ahmad and Tirmidhi, who said, "The Ansar came to the Prophet, peace be upon him, on the day of the Battle of Uhud, saying: 'O Allah's Messenger! We are afflicted with physical injury and we are tired, what do you command us to do?' The Prophet, peace be upon him, said: 'Dig it, enlarge it, and deepen it, then place two or three men in one grave.' They asked: 'Whom should we put in first?' He said: 'The one who knows the most Qur'an'." Tirmidhi stated that it is a sound hadith. 'Abd-ur Razzaq reported from Wathilah ibn al-Asqa' with a sound chain of narrators that, "a man and a woman were buried together in the same grave. The man would be placed first, and then the woman behind him."

Burial at Sea:
The author of al-Mughni said: "If a person died while in a ship on the sea, then, according to Ahmad, they should wait a day or two to find a place to bury him, unless they are afraid that the corpse would decay. If they cannot find a place (on land) to bury him, then the deceased should be washed, shrouded, a funeral prayer offered for him, then tied with a heavy weight, it be thrown into the water." This is the opinion of 'Ata and Al-Hasan. Al-Hasan said, "He is to be put in a basket and then thrown into the sea." Ash-Shafi'i said: "The body should be placed on two boards and let into the sea so that the boards might take it ashore, where some people might find it and bury it. But if one throws it into the sea, one would not be committing any sin."

The latter, i.e. burial at sea, is preferable, because it serves the purpose of covering the body which is comparable to burying him. Tying it between two boards is apt to expose it and cause it to be disfigured and mutilated. It might be thrown on the shore, mutilated and naked, or it might fall into the hands of pagans. That is why we believe the second course mentioned above is to be preferred.

Placing Branches of Palm on a Grave:
It is not lawful to put a branch of a palm or flowers on a grave. The contrary is suggested by the following hadith reported by Bukhari and others from Ibn 'Abbas: "The Prophet, peace be upon him, passed by two graves and said, 'Those two are being punished for a minor matter. The first did not clean himself carefully after urinating. The second one used to spread lies.' Then the Prophet, peace be upon him, asked for a fresh branch of a palm tree, broke it into two parts, and then placed a part on each of them, saying, 'I hope that this will reduce their punishment for as long as the branch remains fresh.' Al-Khattabi is of the opinion, however, that "This placing of a branch of a palm on the graves, while saying, "I hope that this will reduce their punishment for as long as it remains fresh," is a blessed effect of the Prophet, peace be upon him, and of his supplication to Allah to lighten their punishment."According to Al-Khattabi, "He hoped, as it were, that the two would be relieved of their punishment so long as the palm branch remained fresh. This, however, does not have anything to do with the freshness or dryness of the palm branch or its role in lightening the punishment as such. Though the masses in many of the Muslim countries place branches of palm over the graves of their relatives, this practice has no basis or merit in the light of Islamic teachings."

Al-Khattabi's opinion as reported above is correct. The Companions of the Prophet, may Allah be pleased with them, were familiar with this and practiced it. Bukhari reported that, "There is no evidence to show that anyone of them ever put a branch of a palm or a bunch of flowers on graves, except on the grave of Buraidah al-Asalmi, who had instructed his heirs in his will that two branches of palm be placed on his grave.'' (Bukhari) The idea that such a practice was lawful, and yet was unknown to all the Companions, except Buraidah, is not plausible. Al-Hafiz said in Al-Fath: "Apparently Buraidah took the hadith in its general import and did not regard it as specifically related to those two men." Ibn Rashid said: "It is apparent from Bukhari's commentary that it was specifically done by the Prophet, peace be upon him, for those two men. He also quoted a statement of Tbn 'Umar, who, when he noticed a tent was set up over 'Abd ur Rahman's grave, said: 'Take it away; the only thing that can shade him is his deeds'." Ibn Umar's statement shows that he realized that placing anything over a grave does not benefit the deceased, except his own good deeds.

If a pregnant woman dies and the trustworthy physicians are sure that the fetus is alive, then it must be taken out of her womb by a caesarian operation.

A non-Muslim Woman who Dies while Carrying a Child by a Muslim is to be Buried in a Separate Grave:
Al-Baihaqi reported from Wathilah bin al-Asqa' that he buried a Christian woman bearing the child of a Muslim in a cemetery that belonged to neither Muslims nor Christians. Ahmad supports this opinion because he says that the woman being a disbeliever, cannot be buried in a cemetery of Muslims, for they would suffer because of her punishment, nor can she be buried in a Christian cemetery because her fetus, which is a Muslim, would suffer by their punishment.

The Preference of being Buried in Cemeteries:
Ibn Qudamah said: "A burial in a cemetery is better for a servant of Allah than being buried in home, for this is less harmful to survivors in his family, is more like the dwellings of the hereafter, and is more suitable a place for making supplications for forgiveness and mercy for the dead. The Companions, their Successors, and those after them buried their dead in the deserts in cemeteries.

Some people may ask: "Why then were the Prophet, peace be upon him, and his two Companions buried in his home?" In answer to this we would refer to the statement of 'Aishah in which she said: "This was done lest the grave of the Prophet be turned into a mosque.'' (Bukhari) The Prophet, peace be upon him, buried his Companions in the cemetery of "al-Baqi' in Madinah and surely his action is more preferable than someone else's action. The Companions of the Prophet regarded his burial arrangements as a special case for him because, as reported in a tradition "the Prophets are buried at the place they die," and because burying him at his home distinguished his grave from those of others, and protected it from being exposed to great numbers of people, he was buried at home. When asked about a man who had instructed in his will that he be buried in his house, Ahmad said: "He should be buried with Muslims in their cemetery."

The Prohibition Against Talking Ill of the Dead:
It is not permissible to talk ill of the deceased Muslims or to mention their evil deeds. This is based on Bukhari's report from 'Aishah that the Prophet, peace be upon him, said: "Do not speak ill of the dead; they have seen the result of (the deeds) that they forwarded before them." Abu Daw'ud and Tirmidhi have transmitted, but with a weak chain of narrators, from Ibn ' Umar a similar hadith that the Prophet, peace be upon him, said, "Mention the good deeds of your dead and cover their evil deeds." As for those Muslims who openly do evil or indulge in illicit innovation, it is permissible to mention their evil deeds if some public good so requires and and as a warning to others in order to discourage anyone who might otherwise follow their bad example. If no such benefit is to be gained, then it is not permissible to mention anything evil about the deceased. Bukhari and Muslim reported that Anas said: "A funeral procession passed by and the people praised the deceased. The Prophet, peace be upon him, exclaimed, 'It is decided.' Then another funeral procession passed by and the people said some bad things about the deceased. The Prophet, peace be upon him, remarked, 'It is decided.' 'Umar asked: 'What is decided?' The Prophet, peace be upon him, answered, 'The one whom you praised is entitled to Paradise, and the one whom you described as bad is entitled to the Hell Fire. You are Allah's witnesses on earth'."

Cursing the dead disbelievers is permissible, because Allah, the Exalted, says: "Curses by the tongue of David and of Jesus, the son of Mary, were pronounced on those among the Children of Israel who rejected faith.'' Qur'an 5.78 Similarly we read in the Qur'an: "Perish the hands of the Father of Flame!'' Qur'an 111.1 Pharaoh and others like him have also been cursed in the Qur'an, besides the great curse of Allah about which we read: "Behold! the curse of Allah is on those who do wrong. Qur'an 11.18

Reciting the Qur'an by the Graveside:
The jurists differ concerning the legality of reciting the Qur'an by the graveside. Ash-Shafi'i and Muhammad bin Al-Hasan consider it desirable, because by it, the deceased might be blessed. Al-Qadi 'Iyad and scholars of the Maliki school agree with them on this point. Ahmad holds that there is nothing wrong in reciting the Qur'an at a grave, whereas Malik and Abu Hanifah view this as not desirable because the sunnah does not mention this practice.

Building New Graves over Old Graves:
Muslim scholars agree that a place where a Muslim is buried should not be disturbed if flesh, bones, or other parts of the body remain there. If any of his other remains are found it is not permissible to disturb them. But if the entire corpse has disintegrated into dust, then a new grave may be dug there. Also, in such a case it is permissible to use the land for planting, cultivation, building, and for other beneficial purposes. If the remains of a body, such as bones, are found during the digging, then the digging should be stopped. And if the remains are found after the digging is finished, then it is quite permissible to place these to one side in the grave and bury another body beside them.

If the deceased person was buried before a funeral prayer was offered for him or her and the person had not yet been covered with soil, then the remains should be removed and the funeral prayer should be offered before reburial. But if the deceased was buried completely without a funeral prayer, it is unlawful, according to the Hanafi and the Shafi'i schools, to dig up the grave. This is also the opinion of Ahmad, according to one narration from him. In such a case, a funeral prayer should be offered for the deceased without disturbing the grave. Yet another report from Ahmad says that in such a case the grave should be dug up, the body exhumed, and a funeral prayer offered for the deceased person.

The leaders of the three schools hold it permissible to dig up a grave for a valid reason, e.g., to remove some money left in the grave, to turn the face of a body toward the Kaibah if buried otherwise, to wash a body that was buried without a proper purification, and to improve the shroud. This is not done, however, in cases when it is feared that by doing so the corpse will disintegrate.

The Hanafi school disagrees and considers it not permissible to dig up a grave for any of the above reasons. They consider such digging of a grave as a sort of dismembering of the body, which is not permissible in any case. Ibn Qudamah countered this position by explaining: "It would be considered dismemberment (muthlah) only in the case of those whose bodies have rotten away. In such a case, a grave should not be dug up. If the deceased was buried without a shroud, then there are two alternatives. First, he should be left alone since the object of having a shroud is to cover the body. and that is achieved by covering it with soil. Second, the grave should be dug up and the body shrouded, because shrouding is obligatory and is as important as washing the body."

Ahmad said: "If the grave digger forgot and left his tools inside the grave, he may dig them up." The same applies if someone dropped an axe, some money, or something of value. He was asked: "What if the deceased's family offered the owner of the objects compensation for his lost valuables?"He said: "If they give him his rightful due, then he may not dig."

Bukhari has reported a relevant hadith concerning this from Jabir, who said: "The Prophet, peace be upon him, came to Abdallah ibn Ubayy after he was lowered in his grave. He commanded his companions to take him out. Then he put him on his knees, blew his saliva over him, then put a shirt on him." He has also reported: "A man was buried with my father. I did not feel good until I removed him and buried him in a separate grave.'' (The body was taken out six months after his father's death) Bukhari has given these two hadith in a separate chapter, entitled: "Can a deceased be taken out of the grave for any reason?" Abu Daw'ud reported from Abdallah ibn ' Amr who said, "While we were going to al-Taif and passing by a grave, I heard the Prophet, peace be upon him, saying: 'This is Abu Raghal's grave. ' He used to treat the Prophet insolently in the sacred precincts (of the Sacred Mosque). The Prophet, peace be upon him, added, 'When he left, a retribution overtook Abu Raghal, as it did his people at this place, so he was buried here. And the proof of this is that he was buried with a piece of gold. So if you dig up his grave, you will get it.' The People rushed to the grave, dug it up, found, and removed the gold piece."

Al-Khattabi said: "This shows that it is permissible to dig up the graves of polytheists if there is some good or benefit for Muslims in doing so. Indeed, in such a situation their case is not similar to that of deceased Muslims."

Transfering the Body from One Place to Another:
The Ash-Shafi'i school considers it unlawful to transfer the body of a deceased from one country or town to another unless it is to Makkah, Madinah or Jerusalem. It is permissible to remove the body to one of these cities because of their special significance and position.If someone leaves instructions in his or her will that he or she be buried in a place other than these three cities, the will may not be executed, because it could delay the burial and cause the body to deteriorate. Likewise transferring the body from one grave to another is prohibited unless there is a valid reason for doing so, for example, if the deceased was buried without a proper wash, or was buried without tuming the deceased's face toward the qiblah, or the grave was damaged by flood or dampness.

It is stated in Al-Minhaj that digging up a grave after burial either for removing the body or for any other reason is prohibited unless there is genuine reason for it. such as when a deceased person is buried without a wash or is buried in a usurped cloth or land or something of value is left in the grave or the deceased was buried without facing the qiblah.

The Maliki school holds it permissible to remove the body from one place to another, before or after the burial, for a genuine reason, for example, when it is feared that the body of a deceased may be drowned in the sea or eaten up by wild animals, or when relatives want to bury the deceased nearby so that they may visit it more easily, or in order to seek the blessings of the place to which the body is removed. In all such cases, transferring of the body from one place to another is permissible provided its sanctity is not affected, e.g., it does not bloat, does not decompose or its bones do not break.

The Hanafi school considers the removal of a body from one place to another undesirable, and holds it preferable to bury a person at the place of death. The body may be taken for a mile or two for burial, for that is the usual distance to a cemetery. After the burial removing the body without a genuine reason is not permissible as mentioned above. If a woman's son dies and he is buried in her absence in another town, and she was impatient and wanted to remove his body to her own town, her request may not be heeded.

The Hanbali school considers it desirable to bury a martyr at the place where he or she is killed. Ahmad said, "As to those who are slain, a hadith reported by Jabir from the Prophet, peace be upon him, says: 'Bury the martyrs wherever they are killed'." Ibn Majah reported: "The Prophet, peace be upon him, ordered that the martyrs of the Battle of Uhud be returned and buried at the places where they had fallen." As for the others, they are not to be removed from one town to another without a valid cause. This is the opinion of AlAwza'i and Ibn al-Mundhir. Abdallah ibn Malikah said: "Abd-ur Rahman ibn Abu Bakr died in Abyssinia and his body was carried to Makkah where he was buried. When 'Aishah visited his grave she said: 'By Allah! Had I been there when you died, I would not have allowed you to be buried anywhere except at the place where you had died. And had I seen you there, I would not have visited you'." Burying the deceased at the place of death is easier and more secure against deterioration of the physical remains. It is permissible, however, to remove the body from one place to another in case there is a valid reason.

Ahmad said: "I do not know of any harm in transferring the deceased from one town to another." When Az-Zuhri was asked about that, he said, "The bodies of Sa'd ibn Abi Waqqas and Sa'id ibn Zaid were removed from al-'Aqiq to Madinah."

Visiting Graves:
Visiting graves is desirable for men. 'Abdallah ibn Buraidah reported from his father that the Prophet, peace be upon him, said: "I had forbidden you to visit graves, but now you may visit them. It will remind you of the Hereafter." (Muslim, Ahmad, and the Sunan works) They were prohibited from visitlng the graves because of their proximity to the jahiliyyah (Days of Ignorance) when they used incorrect and obscene language. After they had fully entered the fold of Islam, became well pleased with it, and had fully accepted its laws, the Prophet, peace be upon him, permitted them to visit graves.

Abu Hurairah reported: "The Prophet, peace be upon him, visited his mother' s grave and cried, and everyone there cried with him. Then the Prophet, peace be upon him, said: 'I sought my Lord's permission to seek forgiveness for her, but He did not permit me. I then sought permission to visit her grave and He permitted me to do this. You should visit graves, because they will remind you of the reality of death.'' (Muslim, Ahmad, and the Sunan, except Tirmidhi)

Since the purpose of visiting graves is admonition and remembrance of death, it is permissible to visit the graves of disbelievers. Weeping when passing by the graves of the wrongdoers who were seized and punished by Allah for their evil deeds, and to express one's humility and one's need for forgiveness of Allah is desirable.This is obvious from a hadith, reported by Bukhari on the authority of Ibn 'Umar, that the Prophet, peace be upon him, said to his Companions, when they passed through Al-Hijr, the dwellings of the people of Thamud, "Do not go without weeping to the places of burial of those who are undergoing torment. But if you cannot weep, then do not enter these places lest what befell them should befall you."

Etiquette of Visiting Graves:
Whoever pays a visit to a grave should face the deceased, greet him, and supplicate for him. On this subject we find the following: Buraidah reported: "The Prophet, peace be upon him, taught us that when we visited graves we should say, 'Peace be upon you, O believing men and women, O dwellers of this place. Certainly, Allah willing, we will join you. You have preceded us and we are to follow you.We supplicate to Allah to grant us and you security'.'' (Reported by Muslim, Ahmad, and others)

Ibn 'Abbas reported: "Once the Prophet, peace be upon him, passed by graves in Madinah. He tumed his face toward them saying: 'Peace be upon you, O dwellers of these graves. May Allah forgive us and you. You have preceded us, and we are following your trail'." (Tirmidhi)

'Aishah said: "Every time it was my turn to be with the Prophet, peace be upon him, toward the end of the night, he would go out to the cemetery of al-Baqi' and would say, 'Peace be upon you, O abode of believers. What you were promised will come to pass tomorrow at a fixed time. We shall, Allah willing, soon join you. O Allah! Grant forgiveness to the people who are buried in al-Baqi' al-Gharqad',' (Muslim)

'Aishah also reported: "I asked: 'What should I say when I pass by a graveyard, O Messenger of Allah?' He replied, 'Say, "Peace be upon the believing men and women dwelling here. May Allah grant mercy to those who have preceded us and those who are to follow them. Certainly, Allah willing, we will join you"'."

What some people do, like wiping hands over the graves and tombs, kissing them, and circumambulating around them are abominable innovations. Such things should not be done, for they are unlawful. These things are permissible, however, if performed in relation with the House of Allah, the Ka'abah, for Allah has so honored it. The grave of the Prophet, peace be upon him, cannot be considered a similar case, nor the tomb of a saint. All good comes from adherence to his example whereas all evil flows from innovating new things in religion.

Ibn al-Qayyim said: "The Prophet, peace be upon him, visited the graves to supplicate for their inhabitants, and to seek mercy and forgiveness of Allah for them. Contrary to this, the pagans supplicated to the dead, swearing by them, asking them for their needs, and seeking their support and help. Such pagan practices are in conflict with the guidance of the Prophet, peace be upon him, and his teachings about the Oneness of Allah and about the manner of supplicating for Allah's mercy for the dead. The people who do such things are guilty of polytheism; they are indulging in sin, and bringing evil to the deceased.They may be divided into three categories: those who supplicate for the deceased, those who supplicate through the deceased, and the third who supplicate to the deceased. They think that making supplications by a grave is better than in a mosque. For anyone who looks to the guidance of the Messenger of Allah, peace be upon him, and his Companions, the distinction between the two cited positions is fairly obvious."

Can Women Visit Graves:
Imam Malik and some Hanafi scholars, and, according to one report from Ahmad, most of the scholars hold it permissible for women to visit graves. This is based on the following hadith from 'Aishah, "What should I say to them, O Messenger of Allah when visiting graves?" As mentioned above Abdallah ibn Abi Mulaikah is also reported to have said, "Once 'Aishah returned after visiting the graveyard. I asked, 'O Mother of the Believers, where have you been?' She said: 'I went out to visit the grave of my brother Abd ar-Rahman.' I asked her: 'Didn't the Messenger of Allah, peace be upon him, prohibit visiting graves?' She said, 'Yes, he did forbid visiting graves during the early days, but later on he ordered us to visit them'." This is reported by Al-Hakim and Al-Baihaqi, who also remarked that this hadith was narrated only by Bistam bin Muslim al-Basri. Adh-Dhahabi said that it is a sound hadith.

Anas reported: "The Prophet, peace be upon him, saw a woman crying by the grave of her son, and said to her, 'Fear Allah, and be patient.' She replied, 'What do you care about my tragedy?' When he went away, someone told her, 'Indeed, that was the Messenger of Allah, peace be upon him. ' The woman felt extremely sorry and she immediately went to the Prophet's house, where she did not find any guards. She called out: 'O Messenger of Allah! I did not recognize you.' The Prophet, peace be upon him, said, 'Verily patience is needed at the time of the first affiction'.'' (Bukhari and Muslim) This supports the argument in favor of the permissibility of women visiting graves, for the Prophet, peace be upon him, saw her at the grave and did not show his disapproval of it.

The purpose of visiting graves is to remember the Hereafter, which is something that both men and women need. Men are by no means more in need of this reminder than women. Some scholars disliked it for women to visit graves as they are less patient and too emotional. The Prophet, peace be upon him, said, "May Allah curse the women who are frequent visitors of the graves." (Reported by Ahmad, Ibn Majah, and Tirmidhi, who said that it is a sound hadith)

Al-Qurtubi said: "The curse mentioned in this hadith applies only to those women who visit graves frequently. The reason for this curse lies perhaps in the fact that it involves infringement of the rights of the husband, and leads to adornment and exhibition of their beauty to strangers, and shouting, yelling, and other similar things." It may be said that, "If no such harm is feared from women visiting graves, then there is no valid reason for preventing them from visiting graves, for indeed remembrance of death is something that both men and women equally need." Commenting on Al-Qurtubi's view, Ash-Shawkani said, "This statement may form the basis for reconciling apparently contradictory hadith."

The Deeds that Benefit the Departed Souls and Proffering Reward for Good Deeds to the Messenger of Allah (peace be upon him):
There is consensus that a deceased person benefits from all good deeds for which he or she in his or her life might have been a cause. Abu Hurairah reported, "The Prophet, peace be upon him, said, 'When a person dies all his good deeds cease except for three: a continuous act of charity, beneficial knowledge, and a righteous son who prays for him'.'' (Muslim, and the Sunan) Also Abu Hurairah reported, "The Prophet, peace be upon him, said, 'The righteous works that continue to benefit a believer after his death include the knowledge that he taught and spread among others, a righteous son whom he leaves behind, or a copy of the Qur'an that he bequeaths to his inheritors, or a mosque that he builds, or a rest house that he builds for the wayfarers, or a canal of water that he digs for the benefit of others, or a charity that he gives out of his property during his life while he is sound of health. He will continue to receive reward for all these even after his death.' (Ibn Majah)

Jarir ibn Abdallah reported: "The Prophet, peace be upon him, said: 'Whoever introduces a good practice in Islam will get its reward and the rewards for all those who follow these practices after him, without any loss to their reward. And whoever introduces a bad practice in Islam will acquire its sin and the sins of all those who practice it, without any decrease in their sins."

An account of the righteous deeds performed by others that continue to be beneficial to the deceased is given in detail below:

2. Charity. An-Nawawi has recorded that Muslim scholars agree that charity benefits the deceased person and its reward reaches the deceased whether it is given by his or own son or by someone else. This is based on a report from Ahmad, Muslim, and others from Abu Hurairah that, "A man said to the Prophet, peace be upon him, ' My father died leaving wealth but no will. Would he be pardoned if we gave charity on his behalf?' He said: 'Yes."' It is also reported from Al-Hasan from Sa'd ibn 'Ubadah that "his mother died and he said, 'O Messenger of Allah, my mother has died. Should I give charity on her behalf?' He said: 'Yes.' I said: 'What is the best charity?' He said, 'Offering people a drink of water'." Al-Hasan said: "This is the drinking place of the family of Sa'd in Madinah." This is reported by Ahmad, Nasa'i, and others. Giving charity in the graveyard is not permissible and giving it during the funeral is disliked.

3. Fasting. This is based on a report by Bukhari and Muslim from Ibn 'Abbas who said, "A man came to the Prophet, peace be upon him, and said, 'My mother has died without making up for a missed month of fasting. Can I fast on her behalf? ' The Prophet, peace be upon him, said, ' Would you pay her debt if she owed someone?' The man said, 'Yes.' The Prophet, peace be upon him, said, 'Allah is more deserving of payment in settlement of His debt'."

4. Performing the Pilgrimage (Hajj). This is based on a report by Bukhari from Ibn 'Abbas that "a woman of the Juhainah tribe came to the Prophet, peace be upon him, and said, 'My mother had vowed to perform pilgrimage, but she died before she could fulfill her vow. Should I do it on her behalf?' The Prophet, peace be upon him, said, 'Yes. Perform Hajj on her behalf. Would you not pay the debt of your mother if she had owed someone? Fulfill it. Allah is more deserving of receiving payment for what is due to Him'."

5. Prayer (salah). This is based on a report by Ad-Darqutni who said that "a man asked, 'O Allah's Messenger! I had parents whom I served while they lived. How can I be good to them after their death? ' The Prophet, peace be upon him, said, 'Verily, among the good deeds that you can do after their death is to offer prayer (salah) for them when you pray for yourself and to fast for them when you fast for yourself'."

6. Recitation of the Qur'an. This is beneficial to the deceased according to the opinion of the majority of the scholars among the ahl al-sunnah.

An-Nawawi said, "The most well-known position of the Shafi'i school is that this does not benefit the deceased." Ahmad ibn Hanbal and a group of Shafi' i scholars hold that it does benefit the deceased . The reciter has an option. He may supplicate for the deceased to be rewarded for the recitation, saying: "O Allah! Grant the reward of what I recited to so-and-so."

Ibn Qudamah in al-Mughni stated, "Ahmad ibn Hanbal said, 'The deceased will receive the reward for every good done on his behalf. This is proved by textual evidence found on this subject. The fact that Muslims in every city gather to recite the Qur'an for the benefit of the deceased and that they have been doing so without any disagreement or disapproval show that there is consensus on this subject'." Those who hold that the deceased benefits by the recitation of others make it conditional upon the reciter not to accept any payment for his recitation. If the reciter is paid for reciting, it is unlawful for both the giver and the receiver, and he shall have no reward for his reciting. Abd Ar Rahman ibn Shibl reported that the Prophet, peace be upon him, said, "Recite the Qur'an, and do good deeds .... Do not neglect it, nor be extreme in it. Do not make it a means of living nor a source of your wealth.'' (Reported by Ahmad, At-Tabarani, and Al-Baihaqi)

Ibn al-Qayyim said, "Worship is of two types: financial and physical. The Prophet, peace be upon him, has informed us that because charity (sadaqah) benefits the deceased, all other acts of charity will also benefit the deceased, and that because fasting on his behalf benefits the deceased, all other physical acts of worship will likewise benefit the deceased. Similarly the Prophet, peace be upon him, informed us that the reward of making Hajj, which involves both physical and financial sacrifice, does indeed benefit the deceased. Thus these three types of beneficial acts of worship are supported by both the revealed texts and reason."

Intention as a Prerequisite:
The performer must have the intention of performing an act on behalf of the deceased. Ibn 'Aqil said, "If one performed any act of obedience, for example, a prayer, fasting, or recitation of the Qur'an and made its reward a gift to a deceased Muslim, the deceased will receive the reward for it, provided that he has a prior intention of making it for the benefit of the deceased, and the act and the intention go together." Ibn al-Qayyim supports this opinion.

The Best Present for the Deceased:
Ibn al-Qayyim said, "The best present for the deceased is an act that is most beneficial to people, for example, freeing a slave.Thus a sadaqah giving in charity is better than fasting on behalf of the deceased. The best charity is that which fulfills someone's need and is continuous. The Prophet, peace be upon him, said, "The best charity is to give people a drink of water." This applies to a place where water is scarce. Otherwise, giving someone a drink of water from a river or a canal would not be better than feeding the hungry who need food. Likewise, supplication and asking forgiveness for the deceased is beneficial to the deceased, especially when the supplicant is sincere, earnest, and humble in his supplication. Such a supplication is better than charity, just as regular prayer (salah) is better than the funeral prayer and than supplicating for the deceased by his grave.

In general, the best gift to send the deceased is freeing a slave, giving in charity, asking forgiveness for him or her, and making the Hajj (pilgrimage) on his or her behalf.

Presenting a Reward to Allah's Messenger (pbuh):
Ibn al-Qayyim said, "Some of the latter jurists hold it desirable while others do not agree because they regard it as an innovation (bid'ah). The Companions never did it. The Prophet, peace be upon him, shall receive a reward for every good done by anyone from among his community (Ummah) without in the least diminishing the reward of the doer.This is because he is the one who invited his community to every good, and led them to it, and because the one who calls others to truth always has a reward similar to that of those who follow it without in any way diminishing their reward. Whatever guidance or knowledge his community gained, they gained it only through him, so he shall have a reward equal to that of his followers whether they formally dedicate it to him or not.

Children of Muslims and Non-Muslims:
The children of Muslims who die prior to the age of puberty go to Paradise. 'Adi ibn Thabit reported that he heard al-Bara' saying, "When Ibrahim, son of the Prophet died, the Prophet, peace be upon him, said, 'Verily, he will have suckling in Paradise'.'' (Bukhari) Al-Hafiz said in Al-Fath, "Bukhari indicates his view on this subject when he makes the statement that 'they are in Paradise'." Anas ibn Malik reported that the Prophet, peace be upon him, said, "If any Muslim has three children and they die prior to reaching the age of puberty, Allah will cause him to enter Paradise on account of His mercy to them." It is clear from this hadith that those children who become a reason for others to enter Paradise, would themselves be in a far better position to enter it, because they are the real cause of the mercy of Allah. As for children of non-Muslims, they are similar to the children of Muslims with respect to their entry into Paradise. An-Nawawi said, "This is the sound view held by the eminent scholars, and it is supported by Allah's words, 'We will not punish anyone until We have sent a Messenger.' (Qur'an 17.15) Now if an adult is not punished for the reason that the truth did not reach him, it is far more reasonable to assume that a child will not be punished." A report by Ahmad from Khansa, daughter of Mu'awiyah ibn Sarim, states that he related her aunt's following account: "I asked, 'O Messenger of Allah! Who will be in Paradise?' The Prophet, peace be upon him, said, 'Prophets will be in Paradise, martyrs will be in Paradise, and babies will be in Paradise'." Al-Hafiz said that this hadith has a sound chain of narrators.

The Questioning in the Grave:
Allahl al-Sunnah wa Al-Jama'ah agree that each person will be questioned after his death, whether he is buried or not. Even if a person were eaten by carnivorous animals or bumt to ashes and thrown into the air or drowned in the sea, he or she would be questioned about his or her deeds, and rewarded with good or evil depending on his or her deeds in life. Both the body and the soul together experience punishment or reward.

Ibn al-Qayyim said, "The early Muslim community and its prominent scholars held that after death, a person is either in bliss or torment both physically and spiritually. After its separation from the body, the soul endures a state of happiness or punishment. At times, when the soul rejoins the body, both of them receive torture or joy. On the Day of Resurrection, the souls will be returned to the bodies and they will rise from their graves and stand before the Lord of the worlds. The Muslims, Christians, and Jews, all believe in the resurrection of the body.

Al-Maruzi related that Imam Ahmad said, "The punishment in the grave is a reality, and only he who is misguided or wants to misguide others denies it."

Hanbal said, "I asked Abu Abdallah about the punishment in the grave. He said, 'These are the sound hadith and we believe in them and affirm them. We affirm everything that comes from the Prophet, peace be upon him, with a sound chain of narrators. If we were to confirm a report as being from the Prophet, peace be upon him, and then reject it or oppose it, we would be denying the Word of Allah, "Whatever the Messenger gives you, take it".' I asked him, 'Is the punishment of the grave a reality?' He said, 'Yes, it is a reality. The people are punished in their graves. ' I heard Abu Abdallah saying, 'We believe in the punishment of the grave, in Munkar and Nakir (the two questioning angels), and that the deceased will be questioned in their graves.' The Qur'an states that 'Allah will establish in strength those who believe in the Word, that stands firm in this world and in the Hereafter,' Qur'an 14.27 that is, in the grave."

Ahmad ibn al-Qasim said, I asked, 'O Abu Abdallah! Do you believe in Munkar andNakir and what is related conceming the punishment of the grave? ' He said, 'Glory to Allah.Yes, we do confirm that and we declare so.'I said, 'This expression that you use, is it Munkar and Nakir? Or do you call them, "The two angels?"' He answered: 'Munkar and Nakir.'I said, 'They say, "There is no mention of Munkar and Nakir in the hadith".' He replied, 'Of course there is. There is Munkar and Nakir'."

Al-Hafiz said in Al-Fath, "Ahmad ibn Hazm and Ibn Hubairah are of the opinion that the questioning is addressed to the soul only, without its returning to the body. The majority of Muslim scholars, however, disagree with them. They say, 'The soul is returned to the body or some of it, as is confirmed by the hadith. Had the punishment been directed at the soul only, there would not be concern for the body. The scattered parts of a body should pose no problem, for Allah is able to give life to any part of a body, and then address the questioning to that particular part. Likewise, He is able to gather all its parts easily'." Those who hold that the questioning will be addressed only to the soul say that if one were to examine the body in the grave at the time of the questioning, one will notice no trace of its sitting or any other movement.One will also notice that the grave is neither more narrow nor spacious. Similar is the case of those who are not buried in any grave, e.g., the people who are crucified. To counter this objection, it is maintained that it is not impossible. Rather, in physical life we find a similar example, namely, sleeping. A sleeping person experiences both pleasure and pain, but his companion cannot notice any of its effects on him. In fact, even a person who is wide awake also feels pain and pleasure when he hears or thinks of his painful or pleasant experiences, but its effects cannot be noticed. Considering the unseen in the light of what is seen or guessing about life after death in terms of the present life is the mistake of this fallacious thinking.

Obviously Allah has screened the sights and sounds of the other world from man, and with our limited physical faculties, we are incapable of perceiving the vast kingdom of heavens, unless Allah wills it. The opinion of the majority in this respect is supported by various hadith. The Prophet, peace be upon him, for example, told us, "the deceased hears the sound of their footsteps"; "his ribs are altered because of the embrace of the grave"; "the sound of his voice resounds when the angel strikes him with a hammer"; "he is struck between his ears," or "they (the two angels) will cause him to sit up." All these hadith refer to various bodily conditions. We will mention here some of the sound hadith concerning this subject.

Zaid ibn Thabit reported, "The Prophet, peace be upon him, was going with us toward the dwellings of Banu an-Najjar. He was riding a pony, which spooked and he nearly fell off. He found four, five, or six graves there, and asked, 'Which of you knows about those lying in these graves?' Someone said, ' I do . ' Thereupon the Prophet, peace be upon him, asked, ' In what state did they die? ' He replied, 'They died as polytheists. ' He said, "These people are passing through an ordeal in the graves. You would stop burying your dead in the graves if you heard the torment in the grave that I hear. If it were not for this fact, I should have certainly made you listen to it.' Then turning his face toward us, he admonished, 'Seek refuge with Allah from the torment of Hell.' They replied, 'We seek refuge with Allah from the torment of Hell.' He said, 'Seek refuge with Allah from the torment of the grave.' They said, 'We seek refuge with Allah from the torment of the grave. ' He warned, 'Seek refuge with Allah from temptations both visible and invisible.' They replied, 'We seek refuge with Allah from temptation (fitnah) in every visible and invisible form.' Then he added, 'Seek refuge with Allah from the temptation of the Dajjal.' They said, 'We seek refuge with Allah from the temptation of the Dajjal'.'' (Muslim)

Qatadah reported that Anas ibn Malik said, "The Prophet, peace be upon him, said, 'When a human is laid in his grave and his companions return and he hears their footsteps, two angels will come to him and make him sit and ask him, "What did you say about this man, Muhammad, may peace be upon him?" He will say, "I testify that he is Allah's servant and His Messenger." Then it will be said to him, "Look at your place in Hell-Fire. Allah has exchanged for you a place in Paradise instead of it".' The Prophet, peace be upon him, added, 'The dead person will see both his places. As for a non-believer or a hypocrite, he will respond to the angels, "I do not know, but I used to say what the people used to say ! " It will be said to him, "Neither did you know nor did you seek guidance from those who had knowledge." Then he will be hit with an iron hammer between his two ears, and he will cry and that cry will be heard by all except human beings and jinns'." (Bukhari and Muslim)

Al-Bara ibn 'Azib reported: The Prophet, peace be upon him, said, 'When a Muslim is questioned in his grave, he bears witness that there is no god but Allah, and that Muhammad is the Messenger of Allah.' According to one report, the verse, 'Allah will establish in strength those who believe with the Word, that stands firm in this world and in the Hereafter' (Qur'an 14.27) was revealed concerning the punishment of the grave. The deceased will be asked, 'Who is your Lord?' He will say, 'Allah is my Lord and Muhammad is my Prophet.' That is what is meant by the statement of Allah, 'Allah will make firm those who believe with a firm statement in this life and in the hereafter'." (Al-Bukhari, Muslim, and Sunan) Ahmad and Abu Hatim reported that the Prophet, peace be upon him, said, "When a deceased person is laid in his grave, he hears the sound of the footsteps of people as they go away. If he is a believer, the prayer will stand by his head, the fasting will be to his right, alms to his left, and all other good deeds of charity, kindness to relations, and good behavior will be by his feet. The deceased will be questioned by the angels at his head. The prayer will say, 'There is no entrance through me.' Then he will be questioned by his right side where fasting will say, 'There is no entrance through me.' Then he will be questioned by his left side where charity will say, 'There is no entrance through me.' Then he will be questioned by his feet where the good acts of voluntary charity, kindness to relations, and good behavior will say, 'There is no entrance through me.' Then they will say to him, 'Get up.'And he will get up. The sun will appear to him and it will begin to set. Then they will ask, 'This man who was among you, what do you say about him? What is your testimony about him?' The man will say, 'Let me pray.' The angels will say, 'You will pray. Answer our question. What do you think about this man who was among you? What do you say concerning him? What do you testify concerning him?' The deceased will say, I bear witness that Muhammad was the Messenger of Allah who brought the truth from Allah.' The deceased will be told, 'According to this you lived, died, and according to this you will be resurrected, if Allah wills.' "Then a door to Paradise will be opened for him. He will be told, 'This is your place in Paradise and what Allah has prepared for you. ' At this the desire and happiness of the deceased will increase. His grave will be enlarged 70 arms-length and his grave will be lit up. His body will change to his original form and his spirit will be placed in a bird dangling by the trees of Paradise in a nice breeze." The Prophet, peace be upon him, added, "That is what is meant by the statement of Allah, 'Allah will establish in strength those who believe with the Word that stands firm, in this world and in the Hereafter'." He also mentioned the unbeliever and said, "His grave will be compressed, so that his ribs will be crushed together. About this the Qur'an says, 'Verily, for him is a narrow life and We will resurrect him blind on the Day of Resurrection'.'' Qur'an 20.124

Samura ibn Jundub reported, "The Prophet, peace be upon him, after the prayers would turn toward us and ask us, 'Did any one of you have a dream?' If someone had, he would relate it. Upon hearing it the Prophet, peace be upon him, would say, 'Whatsoever Allah wills (is done).' One day he questioned us saying, 'Did anyone of you have a dream?' They answered, 'No.' Then the Prophet, peace be upon him, said, 'But I saw tonight two men. They came to me. They held my hand and took me to the holy land. We came across a man Iying down, and behold, another man was standing over his head, holding a big rock. Behold, he was throwing the rock at the man's head, crushing it. The rock rolled away and the thrower followed it and brought it back. By the time he reached the man, his head was restored to its normal state. The thrower then did the same as he had done before. I asked my two companions, "Who are these two people?" They said, "Proceed!" So we proceeded and came to a man lying flat on his back and another man standing over his head with an iron hook. Behold, he would put the hook in one side of the man's mouth and tear off that side of his face to the back of the neck and similarly tear his nose from front to back and his eye from front to back. Then he turned to the other side of the man's face and did just as he had done with the other side. As soon as he tore one side, the other side returned to its normal state. Then he returned to it to repeat what he had done before. I said to my two companions, "Who are these two people?" They said to me, "Proceed!" So we proceeded and saw a hole like an oven, narrow at the top and wide at the bottom, and fire burning in it. In that oven there were naked men and women, and behold, flames of fire were reaching them from underneath, and when it reached them, they would be raised high until they were close to the mouth of the oven. Then the fire subsided and they went back inside it again. I asked, "Who are these?" They said to me, "Proceed!" And so we proceeded and came to a river of blood. And behold, in the middle of the river was a man standing, and on the bank there was one who had many stones. The man who was in the river would try to leave but the other man would throw rocks into his mouth so that he would return to where he was. Every time the former tried to leave, the other would throw rocks into his mouth. Then he would return to where he was. I asked, "Who are these people?" They replied, "Proceed! Proceed!" We proceeded until we came to a man with a repulsive appearance, the most repulsive appearance you ever saw in a man! Beside him there was a fire and he was kindling it and running around it. I asked my companions, "Who is this (man)?" They said to me, "Proceed! Proceed!" So we proceeded until we reached a garden of deep green dense vegetation, bedecked with all sorts of spring colors. In the middle of the garden there was a very tall man. I could hardly see his head because of his great height. And around him there were more children than I had ever seen before. I said to my companions, "Who is this?" They replied, "Proceed! Proceed!" So we proceeded until we came to a huge majestic garden, greater and better than I have ever seen! My two companions said to me, "Go up," and I went up.'

"The Prophet, peace be upon him, added, 'So we ascended until we reached a city built of gold and silver bricks. We went to its gate and asked the gatekeeper to open the gate. It was opened and we entered the city. There we found men with one side of their bodies as handsome as the most handsome person you have ever seen, and the other side as ugly as the ugliest person you have ever seen. My two companions ordered those men to throw themselves into the river. Behold, there was a river flowing through the city, and its water was as white as milk. Those men went and threw themselves in it and then returned to us after the ugliness of their bodies had disappeared and they turned in the best shape.' I said to them, "I have seen many wonders tonight. What is the meaning of all that I have seen?" They replied, "We will inform you. As for the first man you came upon whose head was being crushed with the rock, he is the symbol of the one who studies the Qur'an and then neither recites it nor acts on it, and sleeps, neglects the enjoined prayers. As for the man you came upon whose mouth, nostrils, and eyes were torn off from front to back, he is the symbol of the man who goes out of his house in the morning and tells so many lies that it spreads all over the world. And those naked men and women whom you saw in the oven, they are the adulterers and the adulteresses, and the man whom you saw in the river of blood is the usurer. As for the man by the base of the tree, he was Abraham. As for the children around him, they are the children of the people. (The narrator added, "Some Muslims asked the Prophet. peace be upon him, 'O Messenger of Allah! What about the children of pagans?' The Prophet, peace be upon him, replied, 'And also the children of pagans'.") And the man whom you saw near the fire kindling it and going round it, is Malik, the gatekeeper of Hell."'

"The Prophet, peace be upon him, added, 'My two companions explained, "The men you saw half handsome and half ugly were those persons who had mixed an act that was good with another that was bad, but Allah forgave them." The first house is the common believer's house. As for this house, it is the house of martyrs. I am Gabriel and this is Michael. Now, raise your head."

When I raised my head, I saw a palace that looked like a cloud. They said, "This is your home." I said, "Let me enter my house." They said, "You still have some life to complete on earth. Upon completing it, you may come to your home''.' (Al-Bukhari)

Ibn al-Qayyim explained, "This is a text that pertains to the punishment of barzakh, for a vision by the Prophets is like revelation demonstrating the reality."

Al-Tahawi reported from Ibn Mas'ud that the Prophet, peace be upon him, said, "A person was ordered to be lashed a hundred times in his grave. He continuously asked Allah to decrease his punishment until only one lash remained. His grave was totally filled by fire. When the fire was removed, he regained consciousness and asked, 'Why was I lashed?' He was told, 'You offered a prayer once without proper purification, and you passed by an oppressed person but you did not help him'."

Anas reported, "The Prophet, peace be upon him, once heard a voice from a grave. He asked, 'When did this one die?' They said, 'He died during the pre-Islamic era.' He was pleased to hear that and remarked, 'Had I not feared that you would stop burying your dead, I would have asked Allah to let you hear the punishment of the grave'." (Reported by Nasa'i and Muslim)

'Abdallah ibn 'Umar reported, "The Prophet, peace be upon him, said, 'This is (Sa'd ibn Mu'adh), for whom the Throne (of Allah) moved. The doors of Heaven were opened for him and seventy thousand angels participated (in his funeral prayer). (His grave) was compressed and later on was expanded for him'.'' (Nasa'i)

The Abode of Souls:
Ibn al-Qayyim dealt with this subject under a separate chapter in which he mentions opinions of various scholars concerning the abode of souls. Mentioning the most correct position he explained, "It is said that the abodes of the souls in barzakh vary considerably. Some of them are in the highest reaches of the heavens, such as the souls of the Prophets, peace be upon them all. Their status also varies as observed by the Prophet, peace be upon him, during the night of Isra."

Some souls are in the form of green birds who roam around freely in Paradise. These are the souls of some of the martyrs, but not all of them. The souls of some martyrs are prevented from entering Paradise on account of their debts or some other similar thing. This is supported by a report by Ibn Hanbal in his Musnad from Muhammad ibn Abdallah ibn Jahsh that "A man came to the Prophet, peace be upon him, and asked, 'O Allah's Prophet! What would I have if I am killed in the cause of Allah?' The Prophet, peace be upon him, replied, 'Paradise.' But, when the man got up to go, the Prophet added, 'Unless you have some debts to pay. Gabriel has informed me about it just now'."

Some souls will be locked out at the gate of Paradise, in accordance with this hadith: "I have seen your companion locked out at the gate of Paradise." Other souls are restricted to their graves as is evident from the hadith about the martyr who had stolen a cloak (He had stolen it out of the spoils of war before their proper distribution) when he was killed, the people asked, "Will he have bliss in Paradise?" The Prophet, peace be upon him, said, "By Him in whose hand is my soul, the cloak which he stole causes a fire to flare over him in his grave."

The abode of others is at the gate of Paradise, as described in a hadith by Ibn 'Abbas that, "The abode of martyrs is in a green dome, on a bright river, near the gate of Paradise. Their provision comes from Paradise in the morning and in the evening.'' (Ahmad) This does not apply to Ja'far ibn Abi Talib, whose hands were transformed into wings, and with these he flies wherever he wishes in Paradise.

Others remain confined to earth, for these souls cannot rise to heaven. Indeed, these are base, earthly souls which do not mix with the heavenly souls, just as they do not mix with them during their sojourn on earth. A soul that is oblivious to its Lord, blind to His love, negligent of His remembrance, and remiss in seeking His pleasure is a despicable earthly soul. After separation from its body, it cannot go anywhere, but remains here. On the other hand, the heavenly soul in this life clings to the love of Allah and to His remembrance, and seeks His pleasure and nearness. After separation from its body, it will join other kindred heavenly souls. In the barzakh (Literally an interval, a separation or a partition, Al-barzakh may be defined as the intervening state between death and the Last Day) and on the Day of Resurrection a person will be with those he loved. Allah will join some souls with others in the abode of barzakh and on the Day of Resurrection, placing the believer's soul with other pure souls, that is, other pure souls kindred to his soul. A soul, after separation from the body, joins other kindred souls who in their nature and deeds are similar to it and stays with them.

Some souls would be thrown in an oven or a pit along with other fornicators and harlots. Other souls would be in a river of blood, floating therein and swallowing rocks.The two categories of souls - the blessed and the damned - do not share a similar abode, for there are souls that reside in the highest reaches of heavens, while the others, low and mean earthly souls, cannot rise above the earth.

When one ponders the hadith and traditions on this subject carefully, one can easily find the reason for this. There is no contradiction in the sound traditions on this subject. In fact, they are all true and each supports the other. It is important, however, to understand the soul and to appreciate its essence and the laws that govern its functions. Indeed, the soul is something completely different from the body. It is in Paradise, but at the same time is attached to the grave and the body in it. It is the swiftest thing in moving, relocating, ascending, or descending from one place to another.These souls are divided into various categories: the ones that are free to move about, those that are confined, the ones that are celestial, and the others that are earthly and of a low order. After separation from their bodies, souls do experience health and sickness, and they feel far more pleasure and pain than they experienced when they were joined together.They are subject to confinement, pain, punishment, sickness, and grief as they are to various states of joy, rest, bliss, and freedom. How similar is its condition in the body to when it was in the womb of its mother! And likewise how analogous is its situation after separation from the body to when it came out of the womb into this world! There are four abodes of the soul, and each abode is bigger and greater than the previous one.

The soul's first abode is the womb of the mother, where there is confinement, compression, seclusion, and three layers of darkness.The second abode is its earthly habitat where it grows, does good and evil, and accumulates blessings for its ultimate success or failure. Its third abode is the abode of barzakh, which is more spacious and immense than the abode of this world. This abode, compared to the fourth one, is like this [third] abode compared to the first abode.

The fourth abode is the abode of eternity, either Paradise or Hell. There is no other abode after these.Allah causes the soul to pass through these abodes in stages, until it reaches the abode most suitable for it, an abode that only it deserves and for which it is [uniquely] suitable, because this abode was created for it, and the soul was given the ability to perform the deeds that lead precisely to this abode.

In each abode the soul enjoys a peculiar status and position altogether different from what it has in other abodes. Blessed indeed is soul's Originator and Creator, Who gives it life, causes it to die, makes it happy or subjects it grief and sorrow. Blessed is He Who appointed for it various levels of success and failure, and distinguished them by various grades in accordance with their knowledge, performance, faculties, and morality.Whoever truly understands and appreciates this cannot, but bear witness to the fact that there is no deity except Allah, Who has no partners. With Him alone rests all authority, praise, and all that is good, and to Him alone all affairs return for decision. His is the absolute authority, and all dominion, might, honor, wisdom, and perfection free of any defects or imperfections. He is known through the testimony of His truthful Prophets and Messengers. They did indeed come with Truth. Reason testifies to its truthfulness, and nature supports and confirms it. And anything that contradicts this testimony is untrue.

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