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Wadi Al-Salaam is an Islamic cemetery, located in the Shia holy city of Najaf, Iraq. It is the largest cemetery in the world.

What Happens After Death? Life in the Grave

In his will to Imam Hasan (peace be upon him), Imam Ali (peace be upon him) said, “My son, know that you have been created for the next world and not for this world, and for annihilation and not for stay, for death and not for life; you are in a transient place, a place which is a path to the Hereafter… You are driving away a death from which no one can run away and which none of its seekers can miss. It has to be experienced, so beware lest it catches up with you while you are in a bad state.” (Nahjul Balagha, Letter 31)

As the Holy Infallibles constantly reminded us, our departure from this world is imminent. It is but a transitory place, a mere passage to our permanent abode, while the Hereafter is for eternity – beginning with life in the grave, followed by the stage of Barzakh, continuing on until the Day of Judgment (Qiyamat), until we can finally enter Paradise and/or Hellfire.

Each of these phases of life has different effects, occurrences, and outcomes, all depending on our deeds and beliefs in this short and temporal world. Yet for most of us, the next world is too frightful to even think about, and such fear is often coupled with a general lack of awareness of what exactly we will encounter once the soul disconnects with the material body and enters a whole other dimension of life. The vital question we must ask is: Do we plan to take the life of the Hereafter as it comes when it is our turn to lie some six feet under the ground, or will we, as intelligent beings, acquaint ourselves with its reality before we get there?

Just as we care to make sure beforehand that we know exactly where we are going for any journey we embark upon, let us gain insight into the most important of all journeys that awaits us after we die. Indeed, along with increasing our remembrance of what the Prophet (peace be upon him and his progeny) called “the demolisher of desires” (death), our Imams have directed us to be aware and reminisce over that which we will experience when we enter the next world, so that we may properly prepare and strengthen ourselves for it: “O son, increase your remembrance of death, of that which overcomes it, and of that which you will return to after death such that when it comes to you, you will have taken heed of it and strengthened yourself for it, and you will not let it overcome you by surprise so that it bewilders you.” (Ibid.)

While this article will focus on life inside the grave, it will be followed shortly by an article on life in Barzakh, and a third one on the Day of Judgment and its aftermath.

Terror of the Grave

Imam Ali says, “O servants of Allah! The state in the grave of a person whose sins are not forgiven is more horrifying than death itself. Fear its (the grave’s) narrowness, its squeezing, its imprisonment and its loneliness. Verily the grave calls out daily: ‘I am the house of loneliness, the house of terror and worms.’ The grave is like a garden of Paradise for a good-doer, while it is like a dungeon of hell for the evil-doer. Allah tells His enemies He will send ninety nine serpents in their graves that will tear their flesh and smash their bones, and this punishment will continue till the Day of Judgment. If one such serpent exhales towards this earth, all the plants and trees will be destroyed. O servants of Allah! Your souls are tender, and your bodies delicate; you cannot confront any ordinary serpent of this world, how then will you face them?”

The above tradition is enough to cause one to shudder, but let us not forget that for a good-doer, “the grave is like a garden of Paradise.” In fact, the very first good news given to a true believer in the grave is: “The Most Merciful God has forgiven you and all those who participated in your burial.”

Sayyed ibne Taoos relates from the Holy Prophet that he said the first night in the grave is the most fearful and difficult night for the dead person, and thus Sadqa should be given for his or her safety. If this is not possible, then two units of prayer should be recited: in the first unit, after Surah al-Fatiha, recite Surah Tawheed twice, and in the second unit after Surah al-Fatiha, recite Surah Takathur ten times. After finishing the prayer, the following du’a should be recited: Allaahumma sallay a’la Muhammadinw wa aale Muhammadin wab atha thawaabaha ilaa qabre dhaalikal mayyite [name of the deceased person]. Allah will immediately send one thousand angels to the grave of the dead person with attires of Paradise, and expand his grave until Qiyamat, while for the one who performs this Salat, Allah will offer him great rewards and exalt his position forty times.

The other Salat to be recited on the first night of burial is as follows: Two rak’at Salat such that in the first rak’at after Surah al-Hamd, recite once Ayatal Kursi, and in the second rak’at after Surah al-Hamd, recite ten times Surah al-Qadr. After finishing the Salat, say: Alla humma salli ‘ala Muhammadin wa Ali Muhammad wab’ath thawabaha ila qabri [name of the deceased person].

Squeeze in the Grave (Fishare Qabr)

Shaikh Kulayni has narrated from Abu Baseer that he asked Imam Sadiq (peace be upon him), “Is anybody spared from the squeezing in the grave?” The Imam replied: “May God save. Very few people escape from the pressure in the grave.”

Allama Majlisi has mentioned in Bihar al-Anwar and Haqqul Yaqeen that all Muslims have the unanimously agreed belief that the squeezing in the grave and both rewards and punishments therein are true facts. He has shown through reliable traditions that it will be experienced by the same worldly body in which the deceased had lived, as will the questioning in the grave. Of course, this punishment is inflicted only on those who have earned it through their sins, and the degree of pressure will also depend on the severity if these sins.

The Holy Prophet (peace be upon him and his holy family) is reported to have said that the squeezing of the grave is the expiation of the sin of wasting and not appreciating the bounties granted by God. Some of the other reasons for this punishment include laziness in purifying oneself after urinating, creating mischief amongst the people, backbiting, bad behavior towards one’s family members, and making false allegations.

Questioning in the Grave

Shaikh Abbas al-Qummi has stated in his book Manazelul Akhera that one of the principal factors of Shia Islam, belief in which is obligatory, is the questioning in the grave by the angels Munkar and Nakeer. The questions will pertain to one’s beliefs (Aqaid) and deeds (Amaal), and will be put to every believer as well as non-believer; only infants, the mentally disabled, and those of lesser intellect are exempt from it. The two angels with voices like thunder and eyes like lightening will ask the following questions:

  1. Who is your Lord?
  2. Who is your Prophet?
  3. What is your Religion?
  4. Who is your Imam?

The person is also questioned about his prayers, his fasts, the Holy Pilgrimage (Hajj), Zakat, Khums and his love for the Ahlul Bayt (peace be upon them all). Imam Zainul Abedeen (peace be upon him) says that after the questioning about the beliefs of Islam, the person is questioned about how he spent his life, and also about the way he earned and spent his wealth.

If the deceased is able to give correct answers, a gate is opened near his head, and his grave is widened as far as he can see. The period of Barzakh (which will continue until the Day of Resurrection) passes with ease and the angels proclaim to him, “Sleep thou like a newly wedded bride.” (Al-Kafi) However, if the deceased is unable to give correct replies, a door of the hell of Barzakh will open for him, and a breath from the breaths of hell will fill his entire grave.

The questioning in the grave will therefore be a cause of happiness for the believer, proclaiming an era of eternal happiness. He will confidently give testimony to the Oneness of the One God and the Messengership of His Beloved Messenger, see the beautiful faces of the angels, and smell the fragrance of the gardens of Paradise accompanying them. That is why such angels have been named “Mubashir and Basheer” (announcers of good tidings).

On the contrary, unbelievers in their grave will see the beginning of their pains and divine punishment, opening their eyes to the misfortune and torture that lies ahead of them. The very arrival of the angels will terrorize such deniers, and this is why these angels are named “Munkar and Nakeer” (the abhorring ones).

It is mentioned in Bihar al-Anwar that a man was questioned about his beliefs in the grave. He was able to successfully respond, until one question was put to him: “Do you remember that on such day you had seen a person was being oppressed but you did not go to help him? You saw that his honor was being trampled upon and his wealth taken. You were in a position to help him but you did not do so.” The man was silent and unable to reply. Indeed, it is obligatory upon believers to help the oppressed, and as the man failed to fulfill this responsibility, the angels told him a punishment of a hundred lashes has been ordered for him. Then they inflicted the first lash which filled his entire grave with fire.

The story serves to remind us that containing true beliefs in the heart is not sufficient if deeds are lacking, and that we must not take lightly a single obligatory deed commanded by our Lord.

The Only Companion

‎”Until when death comes to one of them, he says: My Lord, send me back so that I may do some good I did not do (in the world). But Nay! These are mere words which he utters and behind them is a Barzakh until the Day of their Resurrection.” (Qur’an 23:100)

We hear it time and again – after a person dies, his/her only companion will be his/her deeds. Shaikh Saduq has narrated from Qais bin Aasim that once he went to the Holy Prophet along with a group of people from the tribe of Tameem. He submitted, “O Messenger of God! Give us some admonition by which we may be benefitted, because most of the time we remain roaming in forests and deserts (and have few chances of visiting your honor).” The Holy Prophet gave them a number of admonitions, one of them being: “O Qais! It is necessary for you to have a companion to be buried in the grave. That companion will be alive whereas you will be dead. So if that companion is a nice and kind person, he will keep you in a respectable condition. If he is a bad person he will leave you there in your grave in total solitude, without any help or assistance. Also remember this companion will be necessarily with you in the grand gathering (Hashir) on the Day of Resurrection. You will be asked only about him, so it is very essential for you to select a good companion. If he is a good person he will make you happy, but if he is a corrupt fellow he will terribly frighten you. This companion is your aamal (deeds).”

Allama Majlisi in his Mahasin quotes Imam Baqir and Imam Sadiq that when a believer dies, six figures enter his grave along with him. Out of these, one is more illuminated, pure, and fragrant than the others. One stands on the right side, the second on the left, the third in front, the fourth near the head, the fifth near the legs, and the one more illuminated shelters on the head. From whichever side the wrath of Allah comes, the figure on that side defends the body. The one who is more illuminated asks these other figures: “May Allah bless you all, who are you?” The one on the right side says, “I am the prayers (Salat) which he recited in his lifetime.” The one on the left side says, “I am the charity which he gave while alive.” The one standing in the front says, “I am his fasts he undertook.” The one near the head says, “I am the Hajj and Umrah which he performed in his life.” The one standing near the legs says, “I am the kindness which he performed with his brother believer.” Then all these faces turn towards the more illuminated one and ask it as to who it is. He replies, “I am the love for the Ahlul Bayt which he carried in his heart.” (Manazelul Akhera)

Some Beneficial Acts

Shaikh Sadooq stated whoever fasts for nine days in the month of Sha’ban, Munkar, and Nakeer will deal with him gently and courteously during questioning.

One of the benefits narrated by Imam Muhammad Baqir for a person who remains awake on the night of 23rd of the month of Ramadan and offers one hundred units of prayer is that Allah removes fear from his heart during the questioning, and a light shines forth from his grave which illuminates the whole world.

The Holy Prophet said applying dye has four benefits, one of which is that Munkar and Nakeer shy away from him in the grave.

A person who recites Surah Yaseen before going to bed and Salaatul Laylatul Raghaib (the first Thursday night of the month of Rajab), will be saved from the terror of the grave.

If a person fasts for twelve days in the month of Sha’ban, Allah will send 70,000 Angels daily to his grave.

If a person visits an ailing man, Allah appoints an Angel for him who accompanies him in his grave until Qiyamat.

Ayatollah Dastghaib Shirazi has listed some of the many Amaals that protect one from the squeeze in the grave:

  1. Imam Ali says a person who recites Surah Nisa every Friday will remain safe from the squeeze in the grave.
  2. It is narrated that if a person recites Surah Zukhruf, Allah will save him from the reptiles of the earth and the squeeze in the grave.
  3. A person who recites Surah Qalam in obligatory or supererogatory prayers will remain safe from this punishment.
  4. Imam Sadiq says if a person dies between the sunset of Thursday and the sunset of Friday, Allah will exempt him from this punishment.
  5. Imam Ali al-Ridha (peace be upon him) says if a person gets up in the last part of the night and recites Salatul Layl, Allah will save him from the squeeze in the grave and grant him immunity from the fire of hell, and will increase his age and sustenance.
  6. The Holy Prophet says if a person recites Surah Takathur before going to bed, Allah will grant him freedom from this punishment.
  7. To put Jareedatayn (two wet sticks or panches) along with the dead body in the grave. It is narrated that so long as the sticks remain wet, the dead person is saved from chastisement.
  8. A person who recites ten rak’at of Salat on the 1st of Rajab, such that in every rak’at after Surah al-Hamd he recites three times Surah Tawheed, he will be saved from the squeezing in the grave.
  9. Reciting Surah Mulk on the grave is an act which saves the dead man from punishment in the grave. Allama Qutubuddin Rawandi relates from Ibn Abbas, who says that once a person pitched a tent on a ground not knowing that there was a grave beneath it. Thereafter he started reciting Surah Mulk. Suddenly he heard a voice saying that the Surah gives salvation. He related this incident to the Holy Prophet, who replied, “Verily, this Surah frees a person from the punishment in the grave”. Shaikh Kulayni also narrates from Imam Baqir who said that the recitation of Surah Mulk saves one from the punishment in the grave.
  10. To keep Khake Shifa (the mud of the grave of Imam Hussain) in the shroud (kafan), or to rub it on the parts of prostration (Sajda).

It is highly recommended to visit the shrines of the Ahlul Bayt and to recite their Ziyarats, especially the Ziyarat of Imam Ridha, after each prayer. Shaikh Abbas al-Qummi mentions in Manazelul Akhira that Haji Ali Baghdadi had the honor of meeting with Imam Mahdi (may Allah hasten his reappearance). Among other questions, he said to the Imam, “In the year 1269 AH, when we went for the pilgrimage to the shrine of Imam Ali al-Ridha, we met a nomadic Arab who was a native of Najaf. We invited him for a meal and asked him his views regarding the reward of the love of Imam Ridha. He replied, ‘Paradise’, and said, ‘For the past 15 days, I have been from the wealth of Imam Ridha, do Munkir and Nakeer have the nerve to come near me? The food which I consumed from the table of Imam Ridha has turned into my flesh and blood.” He asked Imam Mahdi whether his claim was true. Imam replied, “Yes, it is true. Imam Ridha himself will come and save him from the questioning in the grave. For verily, by Allah! My Grandfather is a Zamin (surety) Imam.”

About Farah Masood

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  • jh

    an eye opener…maashallah
    😮 😐 😕

  • Zubair Ali Sahil

    very nice

    Thanks for all this

  • JP

    jazakAllah for this wonderful piece.

  • Ali imran

    Very nice ….farha……its all the truth abt the examination hall and the destiny…keep it up…..allah will surely bless you in every field ….everybdy should read it….and atleast try to follow the guidence…

  • leopold ndiaye

    It’s said that you will go and come back and go again and come back until the day when there would be no come back
    And great people said that if it wasn’t for the End of the Time they would have not believed
    Why not stick on the tradition and get to fear the day when nobody would have a place where to hide

  • Saba

    Salaam all,
    My father passed away on July 1, 2010, I was far away and was not able to be at his burial, he died on Thursday afternoon and buried the same day, I keep praying for him…
    May my prayers be accepted in his favour..amen! This writing is indeed an eye opener and no doubt deeds matter the most, anyone who values Prophets,Ahalulbayat, and Imams cannot be negligent of deeds as deeds was the modality of thier noble preaching….may all be helped to live the faith impeccably…amen! Kind Regards to all,

    Salaam and Khuda Hafiz Fiaman Allah,

    • Farah

      Alaikum salam Sis Saba,
      I’m sorry to hear that.. may he be granted Paradise, insha’Allah, and may your prayers always reach him. Allamah Majlisi narrates in “Zadul Ma’ad” we should never forget our dead for they have no power to perform good deeds, and they totally rely on their children, brothers, and relatives eagerly awaiting their favours. So along with praying for your father (and all other deceased believers iA), also send him gifts in other forms, by giving Sadqa on his behalf or praying 2 units of prayer whenever you can and gifting the reward to him..

      From Manazelul Akhera:
      The Prophet continued, “On every friday the spirits (Rooh) of the dead come to the homes and call out: O people of my house! May Allah bless you, have mercy on us. Whatever we have done in this world, we are facing it’s consequences now, while the fruits of our toil is being enjoyed by others. Favour us by giving on our behalf a dirham, or a bread, or clothes, so that Allah may reward you with a heavenly attire”.

      The Holy Prophet also said , “Whatever alms (Sadqa) is given on behalf of the deceased person, the blessed Angels adorn it on an illuminated tray (whose light spreads across the seven heavens) and take it to the head of the grave and say: Peace be on you, O inhabitant of the grave! This gift has been sent to you by your relatives. The deceased person takes the tray into his grave, as a result of which the entire grave gets illuminated, and the grave expands in length”.

      He then continued, “Those who favour their departed relatives by giving alms on their behalf, it’s reward is as big as the mountain of Ohad in the sight of Allah, On the day of Qayamat, Allah will give the person shelter under His Throne (Arsh), when there will be no other shelter except this. Hence this sadqa proves useful for the living person as well as the dead one”.

    • Farah

      Salam sis Ayeesha. We are all on the journey to become better believers… you are right, death can approach us at any time 😕 But alhamdulillah there is so much that we can do to prepare ourselves for it.. There is a nice article in this week’s issue– http://www.islamicinsights.com/religion/religion/mindful-of-our-return.html

      I’m so happy to know you’ve found the Ahlul Bayt (peace be upon them all), alhamdulillah! You will never leave them now and rest assured they will never leave you. If you ever need help with anything sis please let us know 🙂

  • fareeha

    masha’Allah a very well written article. Truly an eye-opener! May Allah guide us and keep us on the right path. Ameen

  • Ayeesha.

    Masha-allah , all this was so useful ,
    it makes me think how much of a sinner i am 😥 ,
    and how much i need to do remeber allah (swt) and remember death , and there is no other escape from it , it can happen any time , 😕 ,, and the i’ve just started to find all about the ahlul-bait 😐 ,, and now trying to make myself know about them more, and make my love for them increase insha-allah , but masha-allah this made me think alot , :sigh: ,, i need to beecome a better muslim , because i am a sinner 😳 , ann thankyou so much for this information really helped alot alhamdulillah , 😆

  • zainab


  • Syed Mohammad Alhadi

    Allah,Allah..t dont know what to say..i had done many sins in all my years..i hope the love for the ahl bayt in my heart wiil save me..Amiin…

    • fuzz

      Hadith: “Do not lose hope in the Mercy of Allah, when the door to forgiveness is always open…”

      And Allah says in the Holy Quran: “Say: O My servants! Who have acted extravagantly against their own souls, do not despair of the mercy of Allah; surely Allah forgives the faults altogether; surely He is the Forgiving, the Merciful. And return to your Lord time after time and submit to Him before there comes to you the punishment, then you shall not be helped.” [39:53-54]

      The Prophet (saww) said, ‘A man who repents before he sees [the angel of death], Allah will accept his repentance.’ [al-Kafi]

      However we must remember that repentance can only be true and real if alone with our feelings of shame and remorse, we have the firm decision to give up the sins (that we knowingly commit) forever and be determined never to repeat them. Otherwise, it is not repentance… Imam Ali (as) says: “It cannot so happen that a man has really felt ashamed and yet he did not give up sins.”

      He also said, ‘Repentance stands on four pillars: remorse with the heart, asking for forgiveness with the tongue, work with the limbs, and resolve not to repeat [the offense].’ [Bihar al-Anwar]

      In fact, our Almighty Lord is so merciful to His creation that if we properly repent, He will not only forgive our sins but even replace them with good deeds! :O He has said:

      “Except him who repents and believes and does a good deed; so these are they of whom Allah changes the evil deeds to good ones; and Allah is Forgiving, Merciful. And whoever repents and does good, he surely turns to Allah a (goodly) turning.” [25:70-71]

      SubhanAllah!!! 🙂

      The Prophet said, ‘Sincere repentance is remorse for the sin as soon as it slips out from you; then you ask Allah for forgiveness, then you never return to it.’ [Kanz al-Ummal]







  • M. Javed

    what is 4 question asked about in rave??????

  • Nadeem

    Is it true that Muslims who neglect fajr prayers and are punished in their graves that their form of punishment will be some rock or stone or boulder that will fall and crush their heads repeatedly till Judgement Day?

  • Qasim Raza

    Please recite a Surah Fatiha and 3times Sura Ikhlas with Salawat for me beloved mother Kaneez Fatima died on 5 October 2011.

  • kh. Aziz shah

    thnxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxx a lots!!!

  • AYesha

    Asalam u alaikum

    I am sorry but i am still in the process of learning and would like to know what you mean by the term Ahlul Bayt ?

    Thank You

    • believer

      Salaam, the general word “AhlulBayt” means the “People of a House”. In this context, AhlulBayt is used to refer to the purified family members of the Prophetic household, referring to none other than Ali ibn Abi Taleb, Fatima bint Muhammad, and their sons Hasan and Husain (may Allah be pleased with them).

  • shoaib

    very good

  • Omar

    So true

  • Omar

    I am really scared about the life after death (i have commented before)

  • Omar


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  • Karim Khalifa

    I have been stressing out about just the idea of death for a while. I recently was diagnosed with a chronic infection that may shorten my life span a little or probably not who knows. But it still brought me to what I’m glad i realize that life is not eternal and might end earlier for me than others. Reading this brings me so much peace. I read other sources from different sects of Islam and Christianity which scared me a lot. But this one brought peace, and I come from a Shia Muslim family, but i don’t know that much about our religion. No one really taught me how to pray. But I know so much about Ahal Al Bayt. I don’t know the old calendar so it’s hard for me to find out when ashura usually begins, but this year the day before ashura I was driving back home from work and out of now where the story of Ahal al Bayt popped into my head, and the next day I woke up and I see on TV that it was the first day of muharram. It was crazy, like I was being reminded by someone the day before. I’ve been to Sayada Zainab Shrine in Syria when I visited with my mom twice when I was kid. It was beautiful. I was raised and live in the U.S. that’s why I don’t know much about my religion. But it seems very peaceful.