What is the evidence for the punishment of the grave?
Will the punishment of the grave be experienced by the soul only, or by both the soul and the body?
All perfect praise be to Allaah, the Lord of the worlds. I testify that there is none worthy of worship except Allaah, and that Muhammad, sallallaahu ‘alayhi wa sallam, is His Slave and Messenger.
Ahlus-Sunnah agree that the punishment and bliss of the grave will be experienced by both the soul and the body. This is also the opinion of Shaykh Al-Islam Ibn Taymiyyah who argues that the view of Ahlus-Sunnah is that the punishment or bliss of the grave happens to the soul of the deceased and their body. After it departs the body, the soul continues to be blessed or punished, and may also be connected to the body from time to time, so that the blessing or punishment is reflected in the body as well.
He also added that the belief of all the righteous predecessors and Ahlus-Sunnah is that there is bliss and punishment in the life in Al-Barzakh (the interval between death and the Day of Resurrection). He mentioned that innovators in religion fall into three groups concerning this issue:
1- A few of them deny the punishment and bliss in the life in Al-Barzakh
2- Some of them believe that punishment and bliss happen to the body only
3- Some of them believe that punishment and bliss happen to the soul only.
There are many Mutawaatir (collectively contiguous) pieces of evidence supporting the belief in the existence of punishment in the grave. Some of this evidence has already been previously mentioned on our site.
The following is also evidence that punishment and bliss of the grave happen to both the soul and the body:
1- A Hadeeth (narration) that was narrated on the authority of Anas says that when a servant is placed in the grave and his acquaintances leave, he hears the noise of their footsteps. Two angels come to him and make him sit, asking him about what he has to say about Muhammad, sallallaahu ‘alayhi wa sallam. A faithful believer will say, “I testify that he, sallallaahu ‘alayhi wa sallam, is the Slave and Messenger of Allaah.” Then they will say to him, “Look at your place in Hell, Allaah has given you a place in Paradise instead.” So he will see both his places and his grave is then expanded to 70 cubits and filled with flourishing vegetation until the Day of Resurrection.
Whereas when a hypocrite or a disbeliever is asked about Muhammad, sallallaahu ‘alayhi wa sallam, he will reply that he does not know anything about him. Then they will supplicate against him and he will be hit with iron hammers between his ears and send out such a loud cry that all the creatures hear it, except Jinn and humans. His grave will close in upon him, crushing him until his ribs are pressed together. [Al-Bukhari, Muslim, Ahmad, Abu Daawood and An-Nasaa'i].
This Hadeeth proves that the bliss and punishment of the grave happen both to the soul and body, as the Prophet, sallallaahu ‘alayhi wa sallam, mentions that the deceased person will hear footsteps, sit and be hit, and his rib cage will be crushed.
2- It was narrated on the authority of Abu Hurayrah that the Messenger of Allaah, sallallaahu ‘alayhi wa sallam, said that when the deceased is buried, two bluish-black angels, one of whom is called Munkar and the other Nakeer, come to him and ask him about Muhammad, sallallaahu ‘alayhi wa sallam. If the deceased was a believer then he replies that he is the Slave of Allaah and His Messenger, and bears witness that there is none worthy of worship but Allaah and that Muhammad is His Slave and Messenger. Then his grave is expanded 70 cubits wide, it is filled with light and he sleeps like a bridegroom who no one will wake but his most beloved, until Allaah The Almighty raises him up. On the other hand, if he was a hypocrite he will reply that he knows nothing about Muhammad, sallallaahu ‘alayhi wa sallam. Then the earth is ordered to squeeze him so that it squeezes him until his ribs interlock. He will remain like that, being punished, until Allaah The Almighty raises him up. [At-Tirmithi]. This Hadeeth also proves explicitly that the punishment occurs to the body.
3- It was narrated on the authority of ‘Aa'ishah that the Prophet, sallallaahu ‘alayhi wa sallam, said that a righteous person will sit in his grave feeling secure while an unrighteous person will sit in his grave feeling terrified. [Ahmad]
4- It was narrated on the authority of Al-Baraa’ ibn ‘Aazib that the Prophet, sallallaahu ‘alayhi wa sallam, said that when a believer is about to die, angels with white faces will descend from the Heavens, carrying a shroud and the fragrance of Paradise. They take the soul and put it in the shroud with the perfume. Then they ascend to Allaah The Almighty Who commands them to record the book of that slave in a place in the seventh heaven where the souls of the Prophets, the steadfast affirmers of truth and the martyrs reside. Then Allaah The Almighty commands the angels to return his soul to the earth. Thus his soul is returned to his body and two angels come to him and make him sit. Later his grave is widened for as far as he can see. When a disbeliever dies, heaven’s angels take his soul and ascend until they reach the lowest heaven, but it is not opened for them. Then Allaah The Almighty commands them to record the book of that slave in a place in the lowest earth and to return him to the earth. Then his soul is returned to his body and two angels come to him and make him sit, and finally his grave is tightened and he is pressed until his ribs interlock. [Ahmad, Abu Daawood, Ibn Khuzaymah, Al-Haakim and others].
This Hadeeth also proves that the punishment and bliss of the grave happen to both the soul and body.
However, sometimes bliss is experienced only by the soul, as proved by the aforementioned Hadeeth which states that the soul is taken to heaven and its gates are opened for it. There is also another Hadeeth narrated on the authority of Ka‘b ibn Maalik . In that Hadeeth the Prophet, sallallaahu ‘alayhi wa sallam, said that the soul of the believer is a bird hanging on the trees of Paradise until Allaah The Almighty restores it to its body on the Day of Resurrection. [An-Nasaa'i, Ibn Maajah and Ahmad].
Combining all these Sharee‘ah (Islamic law) texts, we conclude that the soul is punished or blessed with the body in the grave, while it is blessed alone in Paradise.
Finally, it should be noted that the punishment of the grave and the punishment in Al-Barzakh are one thing, that is to say whoever dies while deserving to be punished will surely be punished unless Allaah The Almighty pardons him, regardless of whether he was buried or not. The same thing applies to those who are burned to death, drowned, etc. This is the opinion of Ibn Al-Qayyim, as reported by As-Saffaareeni both.
Allaah Knows best.
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