A Muslim brother and insurance broker left his home hale and hearty, with his family travelling towards Ibadan in Oyo State to drop one of his children at school; the University of Ibadan. Unfortunately, he allowed his wife to be at the steering-wheel which sadly, she could not control when one of those truck-trailer drivers hoots his horn. She lost control and he became news. He died and by 8:00 pm same day, he was lowered into his final abode, kilometers away from his posh home!
In the same vein, a learned silk, had a similar death experience. At thirty-nine, he earned the prestigious membership of the Silk. His career was prosperous, coupled with the fact that he was married to a medical doctor. His standard of living and that of his family was opulence until that evening he took ill. Ironically the injection that sent him to the world beyond was administered by medics from the hospital of his wife. Hours after he died, his wife came home from her private hospital and met him stone dead! He died at forty-four.
Death is a certain occurrence which no human is spared of its bitterness and agonies – not even prophets. So we must prepare for it. Ironically, most of mankind is distracted by worldly pleasures. Whereas, all other things are not sure; but death is certain. Allah says: “Indeed, the death from which you flee indeed, it will meet you. Then, you will be returned to the Knower of the unseen and the witnessed, and He will inform you about what you used to do.” Surat Al-Jumu`ah 62 8
Death is inescapable and it is one of the most difficult phases in man’s total existence as it is the time when the soul departs the body to live in another realm. But Islam teaches it is not the final and total annihilation of man nor is it the end of his existence that was created by Allah. Therefore, we should not allow our vain desires, wealth, positions, children and wives to constitute impediment from making necessary preparation for a life after death, which starts immediately one is lowered into the grave. Wise men do not delay any good act till tomorrow because, when the appointed time comes, it shall neither be delayed nor be quickened by a second.
Death brings with it an end to all the worldly ambitions and it can come through; plane crash, ship wreck, wars, gun-attack, plague and many others that sometimes beat man’s imagination. It is a moment, nobody plans for but there are admonitions on how to prepare for the new life that begins when a man dies. A dying person should try as much as possible to end his life with good deeds that are pleasing to Allah; expecting good from Allah through His forgiveness, fearing his sins and hoping for Allah’s Mercy. As for those standing by the dying person, they should help him/her to say the shahadah (La ilahailla ‘Llah) and say good words. An example of good words is contained in the Prophet’s instruction to Umm Salamah when she lost her husband; “O Allah, forgive me and him, and succeed him for me with that which good” [Muslim]. Once the person dies we should close the eyes and supplicate for the person to be forgiven and attain paradise; because the angels say amin to what we say [Muslim].
There begins another journey of man. Many other religions and cultures believe, once a man dies, his existence had stopped and no need to relate with such persons again. This account for why many religions except Islam have different attitude and approach to the burial of their dead. During the Trojan War between the Greek and the Troy, Patroclus, dearest friend of Achilles was killed. Achilles gave Patroclus a hero’s funeral with a feast. Woods were gathered from the forests for a great pyre. After the funeral rites were performed, the body was consumed by fire, and the bones were subsequently gathered in a golden vessel, and Achilles organized athletic contests in his honor. Parsis (Old Persian Parsa, “Persia”) are followers of the ancient Persian religion known as Zoroastrianism (living in India, Iran, and Pakistan). Parsis prefer not to defile the earth through burial or fire through cremation, and so they traditionally leave their dead exposed on towers to the Sun and to vultures and other carrion-eating birds.
Contrary to other religious beliefs, Islam recommends the dead should be placed in the grave on his right side, facing the qiblah. While placing the body, the Prophet (SAW) instructed us to say; “Bismillaah, waalaa millati rasuulilaah [With Allah’s Name, and upon the religion of Allah’s Messenger].” After the burial, one should throw three handfuls of soil on the side of the grave’s head in line with the prophet’s manner without any utterance [Ibn Majah]. And after completing the burial, it is recommended to stand near the grave for a while and supplicate (for forgiveness) on behalf of the deceased.
In the grave, a new life begins entirely and evidences abound in the Quran and aHadith that particularly encourage man, and his people to mindful of life in the grave. And one of such things man and his people must be mindful of is that, although on the point of death, soul is removed by its owner, but once a man is lowered in the grave, the soul is returned as please Allah swt. Al-Ghazzali said, “The soul leaving the body means that it is no longer governs the body as the body is no longer under the soul’s control.”
All human beings shall live inside the grave dumb but not deaf. Starting from the closest people to Allah the Prophets, and the “Shuhada” they are declared for ‘ever living’. Rasool Allah (saw) said: Allah has declared it forbidden for the earth to eat the bodies of the prophets. So the prophets are living their graves a praying and they regularly receive their sustenance. Ibn Majah narrated this sahih (sound) hadith in his Sunan, b. of jana’iz (funerals) ch.65
Life inside the grave, evidently confirms, the dead speak and listen, but we cannot perceive it. Narrated Abu Sa’id Al-Khudri : Allah’s Apostle said, “When the funeral is ready (for its burial) and the people lift it on their shoulders, then if deceased is a righteous person he says, ‘Take me ahead,’ and if he is not a righteous one then he says, ‘Woe to it (me)! Where are you taking it (me)?’ And his voice is audible to everything except human beings; and if they heard it they would fall down unconscious.” Sahih Bukhari, Volume 2, Book 23, Number 462: Narrated Anas bin Malik: Allah’s Apostle said, “When (Allah’s) slave is put in his grave and his companions return and he even hears their footsteps, two angels come to him and make him sit and ask questions Sahih Bukhari.
Anas b. Malik reported that: Allah’s Messenger (may peace be upon him) let the dead bodies of the unbelievers who fought in Badr (lie unburied) for three days. He then came to them and sat by their side and called them and said: O Abu Jahl b. Hisham, O Umayya b. Khalaf, O Utba b. Rab’ila, O Shaiba b. Rabi’a, have you not found what your Lord had promised with you to be correct? As for me, I have found the promises of my Lord to be (perfectly) correct. Umar listened to the words of Allah’s Apostle (May peace be upon him) and said: Allah’s Messenger, how do they listen and respond to you? They are dead and their bodies have decayed. Thereupon he (the Holy Prophet) said: By Him in Whose Hand is my life, what I am saying to them, even you cannot hear more distinctly than they, but they lack the power to reply. Then’ he commanded that they should be buried in the well of Badr.
Sahih Muslim, Book 040, Number 6869.
Interestingly, the above are indicative that the dead can hear and still relate to the living even in the their graves. Only that, Allah has not told us what these means are, but the following examples from the prophet and Quran testifies that dead can hear us irrespective of being close or far away. And it is enough for us to believe in it.
In the Glorious Quran, Q7:77-79, the story of the people of prophet, Salih, was told how they went against Allah’s Laws and were destroyed afterwards. Then ‘they ham-strung the she camel, and insolently defied the order of their Lord, saying: “O Salih! Bring about thy threats, if thou art a messenger (of Allah)!” So the earthquake took them unawares, and they lay prostrate (dead) in their homes in the morning! So Salih left them, saying: “O my people! I did indeed convey to you the message for which I was sent by my Lord: I gave you good counsel, but ye love not good counsellors!” This narration, in the Holy Quran testifies that Salih addressed to his nation who had already been perished by Allah and it shows clearly that souls of the dead can hear, otherwise what is the meaning of Salih’s address to them?
Similarly, the Prophet (peace and blessings be upon him) said, “Invoke greetings and blessings upon me in abundance on Fridays and on the eve of Fridays as they are conveyed to me.” The Companions said, ‘O Messenger of God! How can our prayers and greetings be sent to you and you will have passed away?” He said, “God has forbidden the earth to consume the bodies of prophets.”The Prophet (peace and blessings be upon him) said, “God has assigned an angel to stand by my grave and convey to me my community’s prayers and greetings to me.”
Furthermore, it is recommended for Muslims to visit their dead ones and pray for them. In this admonition, we learn that the dead listen to the visitors. Abu Huraira narrated that the Prophet (peace and blessings be upon him) said, “None of you passes by the grave of a fellow believer that he knew in this life and sends salutations to him except that the deceased recognizes him and responds to his salutation.” It is for this reason that it is impermissible to desecrate bones and trample on graves.’”
This demonstrates that the dead are aware of those who visit them and are pleased with these visits. It is for this reason that the Prophet (peace and blessings be upon him) ordered us to send greeting to them. He taught the Companions to say upon passing by a graveyard, “Peace be upon you O inhabitants of the graves, believers and those who have submitted to God (Muslims). May God have mercy on those who passed away first and those who will pass away later, and we will, by the will of God, join you.”
Imam al-Nawawi said, “It is good if the one who visits a deceased person in his grave to draw near to it and keep the same distance between them that he would have kept while visiting him had he been alive.”Ibn Qayyim said, “The Messenger of God (peace and blessings be upon him) enjoined upon his community that, if they send greetings to the inhabitants of the graves, they should do so in a way similar to the greetings of the living by saying; ‘Peace be upon you O inhabitants of the believers.’ This speech is directed to those who hear and perceive. Otherwise, it would be tantamount to speaking to inanimate objects.
Also, when Ibn Taymiyya was asked whether the dead can hear the living and he replied, “Yes, the dead hear the living.” He then listed the many text proofs supporting this statement. Upon mentioning the hadith of sending greetings to the dead while visiting their graves, he said, “These are words that are addressed to them [the dead] and words can only be addressed to those who can hear.”
In conclusion, it is obvious the deceased can hear the living and are pleased by the actions of those who visit them. It should likewise be clear that death is not the cessation of existence since the soul remains attached to the body after death. We ask God to please the dead who have rights over us by our visits to them. May the peace of God be upon them and God is most High and all Knowledgeable