Torture and Felicity of the Grave. Question of two Angels Munkar & Nakir
بِسْمِ اللهِ الرَّحْمَنِ الرَّحِيم
Praise be to God the Creator of the world, the One Who exists without beginning, without end, without location, without a “how” and Who does not depend on time. Nothing resembles Him in anyway and He hears and sees everything without organs. Whatever you imagine, God is different from that. May the elevation in degree and preservation of his community of what he fears for it, be granted to our master Muḥammad Al-'Amin, the Honest One, who called for following Islam, the religion of truth, the religion of all the Prophets: of the First, Adam, to the last Muḥammad.
The Torture of the Grave
Allâh, the Exalted, said in the Qur'ân [Ayah 46 of Surat Ghâfir]:
﴿ النَّارُ يُعْرَضُونَ عَلَيْهَا غُدُوًّا وَعَشِيًّا وَيَوْمَ تَقُومُ السَّاعَةُ أَدْخِلُوا آلَ فِرْعَوْنَ أَشَدَّ الْعَذَابِ ﴾
(An-nârou you`raDûna `alayhâ ghuduwwan wa `achiyyâ ; wa yawma taqûmu s-sâ`atu 'adkhilû 'âla fir`awna 'achadda l-`adhâb)
This Ayah means: « Hellfire will be exposed to them early in the morning and late in the afternoon, and on the Day of Judgment, Allāh will make the followers of Fir`awn (Pharaoh) enter the severest torture. »
Also Allâh said in the Qur'an [Ayah 124 of Surat Tâhâ]:
﴿ وَمَنْ أَعْرَضَ عَن ذِكْرِي فَإِنَّ لَهُ مَعِيشَةً ضَنكًا ﴾
(Wa man a`raDa `an dhikrî fa'inna lahôu ma`îchatan Dankâ)
This Ayah means: « And Whoever turns away from the correct belief in Allâh and his Messenger, shall face a harsh distressing situation. »
These two verses refer to the torture of the grave for the blasphemers. As for the sinful Muslims who committed enormous sins and died before repenting, some of them will be forgiven by Allāh and thus they will not be tortured in their graves while others will be tortured in their grave then the torture will stop and the rest of the punishment they deserve will be delayed for them to the Hereafter.
We must believe in the torture of the grave for some people, because this is confirmed in the Qur’an, the Hadith of the Prophet, and by consensus of the Muslims. As for the Qur’an, the previous two verses are enough to confirm this matter.
Imam Abu Hanîfah, said in al-Fiqhu l-'Akbar:
« وضغطة القبر وعذابه حق كائن للكفار ولبعض عصاة المسلمين »
which means: « The pressure of the tomb and its torture are a truth. This is something that will take place for the disbeliever and some disobedient Muslims. »
As for the Hadiths of the Prophet, Salla l-Lâhu `alayhi wa sallam, concerning the torture of the grave, they are numerous, to a point that al-Hafidh as-suyûTiyy said, « The news of the torture of the grave is narrated by at-tawâtur from the Prophet, Salla l-Lâhu `alayhi wa sallam. » This means that a large number of companions narrated the Hadiths of the Prophet, Salla l-Lâhu `alayhi wa sallam, concerning the torture of the grave.
Also the whole nation agreed by consensus that the torture of the grave will take place for some people.
`Abdu l-Qâhir Abu ManSûr at-tamimiyy said in his book 'Al-Farqu Baynal-Firaq:
وقطعوا (أى أهل السنة والجماعة) بأن المنكرين لعذاب القبر يعذبون فى القبر (أى لكفرهم)
which means: « Sunnis are unanimous that the one who denies the torture of the grave will be tortured in his grave. », that is, because of their disbelief. See: Protect his Faith: Avoid Apostasy, Blasphemy, Disbelief
When the non-believer dies, he would encounter the severe torture of Allâh. The hardest situation a non-believer might encounter in this life would be nothing compared to the severe torture he receives after he dies.
Al-Bukhâriyy an Muslim reported from Anas that the Prophet Muḥammad صلى الله عليه وسلم said:
« إِنَّ الْعَبْدَ إِذَا وُضِعَ فِي قَبْرِهِ وَتَوَلَّى عَنْهُ أَصْحَابُهُ إِنَّهُ لَيَسْمَعُ قَرْعَ نِعَالِهِمْ إِذَا انْصَرَفُوا أَتَاهُ مَلَكَانِ فَيُقْعِدَانِهِ فَيَقُولاَنِ: مَا كُنْتَ تَقُولُ فِي هَذَا الرَّجُلِ مُحَمَّد ؟ فَأَمَّا الْمُؤْمِنُ فَيَقُولُ: أَشْهَدُ أَنَّهُ عَبْدُ اللّهِ وَرَسُولُهُ، فَيُقَالُ لَهُ: أُنْظُرْ إِلَى مِقْعَدْكَ مِنَ النَّارِ أَبْدَلَكَ اللّهُ بِهِ مِقْعَداً مِنَ الْجَنَّةِ، فَيَرَاهُمَا جَمِيعاً، وَأَمَّا الْكَافِرُ أَوِ الْمُنَافِقُ فَيَقُولُ: لاَ أَدْرِي كُنْتُ أَقُولُ مَا يَقُولُ النَّاسُ فِيهِ، فَيُقَالُ: لاَ دَرَيْتَ وَلاَ تَلَيْتَ، ثُمَّ يُضْرَبُ بِمِطْرَقَةٍ مِنْ حَدِيدٍ بَيْنَ أُذُنَيْهِ فَيَصِيحُ صَيْحَةً يَسْمَعُهَا مَنْ يَلِيهِ إِلاَّ الثَّقَلَيْنِ »
('inna l-`abda 'idhâ wouDi`a fî qabrihi wa tawallâ `anhou 'aS-Hâbuhu, 'innahu layasma`ou qar`a ni`âlihim 'idha n-Sarafû 'atâhu malakâni fayuq`idânihi fayaqûlâni: mâ kunta taqûlou fî hâdha r-rajuli Muḥammad ? fa'amma l-mu'minu fayaqûlu: 'ach-hadu 'annahu `abdu l-Lâhi wa raçûluh fayuqâlu lahu: 'ounDhour 'ilâ maq`adika mina n-nâri 'abdalaka l-Lâhu bihi maq`adan mina l-jannah fayarâhumâ jamî`â wa 'amma l-kâfiru 'awi l-munâfiqu fayaqûlu: lâ 'adrî, kuntu 'aqûlu mâ yaqûlu n-nâçu fîhi, fayuqâl: lâ darayta wa lâ talayt thumma yuDrabu bimiTraqatin min Hadîdin bayna 'udhunayhi fayaSîHu SayHatan yasma`uhâ man yalîhi 'il-la th-thaqalayn)
which means: « When the man is laid in his grave, and his companions leave him, he hears the sound of their soles and when they have withdrawn, two angels come to him, make him sit and say to him: "What did you say about this man Muḥammad?" So the [complete] believer will say, "I testify that he is the slave of Allâh and His messenger", so we will say to him: "Look at the place in hell, Allâh has exchanged it for you against a place in paradise" and he will see them both. As for the disbeliever or the hypocrite [who hides his disbelief and calls himself a Muslim], he will say, "I do not know, I was saying what people said about him." Then he will be told: "You did not know anything and you did not say anything", then he will be struck between the two ears with a mass of iron and he will shout with a shout that will be heard by all those who are surrounding except men and jinn. »
Ibnu Hibbân reported from Abu hurayrah that the Prophet Muḥammad صلى الله عليه وسلم said:
« إِذَا قُبِرَ الْمَيتُ أَوِ الإِنْسَانُ أَتَاهُ مَلَكَانِ أَسْوَدَانِ أَزْرَقَانِ يُقَالُ لأَحَدِهِمَا مُنْكَرٌ وَلِلآخَرِ نَكِيرٌ، فَيَقُولاَنِ لَهُ: مَا كُنْتَ تَقُولُ فِي هَذَا الرَّجُلِ مُحَمَّد ؟ فَهُوَ قَائِلٌ مَا كَانَ يَقُولُ. فَإِنْ كَانَ مُؤْمِناً قَالَ هُوَ عَبْدُ اللَّهِ وَرَسُولُهُ أَشْهَدُ أَنْ لاَ إِلَهَ إِلاَّ اللَّهُ وَأَشْهَدُ أَنَّ مُحَمَّداً عَبْدُهُ وَرَسُولُهُ. فَيَقُولاَنِ لَهُ: إِنْ كُنَّا لَنَعْلَمُ أَنَّكَ لَتَقُولُ ذَلِكَ ، ثُمَّ يُفْسَحُ لَهُ فِي قَبْرِهِ سَبْعُونَ ذِرَاعاً فِي سَبْعِينَ ذِرَاعاً ، وَيُنَوَّرُ لَهُ فِيهِ ، فَيُقَالُ لَهُ: نَمْ، فَيَنَامُ كَنَوْمِ الْعَرُوسِ الَّذِي لاَ يُوقِظُهُ إِلاَّ أَحَبُّ أَهْلِهِ حَتَّى يَبْعَثَهُ اللَّهُ مِنْ مَضْجَعِهِ ذَلِكَ. فَإِنْ كَانَ مُنَافِقاً قَالَ: لاَ أَدْرِي، كُنْتُ أَسْمَعُ النَّاسَ يَقُولُونَ شَيْئاً فَكُنْتُ أَقُولُهُ. فَيَقُولاَنِ لَهُ: إِنْ كُنَّا لَنَعْلَمُ أَنَّكَ تَقُولُ ذَلِكَ، ثُمَّ يُقَالُ لِلأَرْضِ الْتَئِمِي فَتَلْتَئْمُ عَلَيْهِ حَتَّى تَخْتَلِفَ أَضْلاَعُهُ فَلاَ يَزَالُ مُعَذَّباً حَتَّى يَبْعَثَهُ اللَّهُ تَعَالىَ مِنْ مَضْجَعِهِ ذَلِك »
('idhâ qubira l-mayyitu 'awi l-'insânu 'atâhu malakâni 'aswadâni 'azraqâni yuqâlu li'aHadihimâ Munkarun wa lil-'âkhari Nakîroun fayaqulâni lahu: mâ kunta taqûlu fî hâdha r-rajuli MouHammad ? fahuwa qâ'ilun mâ kâna yaqûl: fa'in kâna mu'minan qâla: huwa `abdu l-Lâhi wa raçûluh 'ach-hadu 'an lâ 'ilâha 'il-la l-Lâhu wa 'ach-hadu 'anna Muḥammadan `abduhu wa raçûluh fayaqûlâni lahu: 'in kunnâ lanalamu 'annaka lataqûlu dhâlik ; thumma yufsaHu lahu fî qabrihi sabûna dhirâ`an fî sab`îna dhirâ`an wa yunawwaru lahu fîh ; fayuqâlu lahu : nam ; fayanâmu kanawmi l-`aruçi l-ladhî lâ yûqiDhuhu 'il-lâ 'aHabbu 'ahlihi Hattâ yab`athahu l-Lâhu min maDja`ihi dhâlik ; fa'in kâna munâfiqan qâla : lâ 'adrî kuntu 'asma`u n-nâça yaqûlûna chay'an fakûntu 'aqûluh ; fayaqûlâni lahu : 'in kunnâ lana`lamu 'annaka taqûlu dhâlik ; thumma yuqâlu lil-'arDi l-ta'imî fatalta'imu `alayhi Hattâ takhtalifa 'aDlâ`uhu falâ yazâlu mu`adh-dhaban Hattâ yab`athahu l-Lâhou ta`âlâ min maDja`ihi dhâlik)
which means: « When the dead or the man is buried, come to him two blue-black angels, one is called Munkar and the other Nakir, and they say to him: "What did you say about this man Muḥammad?" And he will say what he said [before] ; if he were a believer, he would say: "It is the slave of Allāh and His messenger, I testify that there is no god but Allāh and I testify that Muḥammad is His slave and messenger." The angels will say to him, "Surely we knew that you would say that", then his grave will be enlarged by seventy cubits by seventy cubits, and will be illuminated for him. Then he will be told: "Sleep", then he will sleep from the groom's sleep, which will only be awakened by the dearest being of his family, until Allāh raises him from that couch. If he were hypocritical, he would say, "I do not know, I heard people say something and I said like them." They will say to him: "Yes, we knew you would say that." Then, the earth will be told to close and it will close on it until its ribs intertwine. He will remain in chastisement until Allâh ta`âlâ resurrects him from this situation. »
In these Hadîths there is confirmation of the return of the soul to the body and sensory perception in the grave. These Hadîths are proof that the pressure of the tomb will not take place for all people as some ignorant claim, indeed the pious Muslims, the saints and the prophets will not suffer the pressure of the tomb but on the contrary the grave widens for them 70 cubits out of 70 or more.
The Prophet Muḥammad, Sallallahu `alayhi wa sallam, said about the pious believer:
« الدُّنْيَا سِجْنُ الْمُؤْمِنِ وَسَنَتُهُ، فَإِذَا فَارَقَ الدُّنْيَا فَارَقَ السِّجْنَ وَالسَّنَةَ »
(ad-dunyâ sijnou l-mu'mini wa sanatuh fa'idhâ fâraqa d-dunyâ fâraqa s-sijna wa s-sanah)
Which means: « This world is a prison for the pious believer and a place of enjoyment for the blasphemer. » This is so because after dying, the pious believer will have great enjoyment while the blasphemer will encounter continuous torture.
Al-Bukhariyy, Muslim, at-Tirmidhiyy, Abu Dawud and an-Nasa'iyy narrated from Abdullâh Ibn `Abbâs that the Prophet, Salla l-Lâhu `alayhi wa sallam, once passed by two graves and said:
« إِنَّهُمَا لَيُعَذَّبَانِ وَمَا يُعَذَّبَانِ فِي كَبِيرِ إِثْمٍ »
('innahumâ layu`adh-dhabâni wa mâ yu`adh-dhabâni fî kabîri 'ithm)
« بَلَى أَمَّا أَحَدُهُمَا فَكَانَ يَمْشِي باِلنَّمِيمَةِ، وَأَمَّا الآخَرُ فَكَانَ لاَ يَسْتَتِرُ مِنَ الْبَوِل »
(balâ ! 'ammâ 'aHaduhumâ fakâna yamchî bi n-namîmah, wa 'amma l-'âkhar fakâna lâ yastatiru mina l-bawl)
Which means: « They are being tortured for committing enormous sins ; One of them used to contaminate himself with urine, and the other used to practice tale-bearing. » Then the Prophet, Salla l-Lâhu `alayhi wa sallam, asked for a green branch of a palm tree and he split it into two, then he stuck one in the first grave and the other in the second and said:
« لَعَلَّهُ يُخَفَّفُ عَنْهُمَا »
(la`allahu yukhaffafu `anhumâ)
Which means: « May this lessen their torture. »
Also it was narrated from the route of `Abdullâh Ibn Amr that the Prophet of Allâh, Salla l-Lâhu alayhi wa sallam, mentioned the two angels who test the people in the grave. Upon hearing this, `Umar Ibn al-KhaTTâb said, “O Messenger of Allâh, do we get our minds back?” The Prophet said:
« نَعَمْ كَهَيْئَتِكُمْ الْيَوْمَ »
(na`am kahay’atikumu l-yawm)
which means: « Yes, just as you are today. » When `Umar heard that, he fell silent out of shock.
Death and the Question of the two Angels in the Grave
Allâh, the Exalted, said in the Qur'an [Ayah 11 of Surat As-Sajdah]
﴿ قُلْ يَتَوَفَّاكُم مَّلَكُ الْمَوْتِ الَّذِي وُكِّلَ بِكُمْ ثُمَّ إِلَىٰ رَبِّكُمْ تُرْجَعُونَ ﴾
This Ayah means: « Say, the Angel of Death who is given charge of you shall end your life (by taking your souls), then, to your Lord you shall return. »
By consensus of the Ummah, the Angel of Death is our Master `Azra'îl, peace be upon him. He is an honoured angel as are the rest of Allāh’s angels. `Azra'îl is assigned to the task of taking the souls.
If the soul taken is that of a Muslim, then it will be placed in the care of the Angels of Mercy and will be given the good tidings of having the Reward, Mercy and Acceptance of Allâh.
However, if the soul taken is that of a blasphemer, then it will be given to the Angels of Torture and will be given the news of receiving Allāh’s Punishment.
Moreover, the soul will not be kept in the hands of Angel `Azra'îl after he takes it even for a moment, rather, it will be taken to the skies if it is a soul of a pious believer and to the seventh earth if it is a soul of a blasphemer.
When the coffin is ready for its burial and people lift it on their shoulders, then, the angels will bring back the soul and accompany the funeral procession to the grave. Then as mentioned in the Hadîth, « if the deceased is a righteous person he would say, ‘Take me ahead,’ however, if he is a blasphemer, he would say, ‘Woe to me! Where are you taking me?’ But his voice would not be audible to human beings, for had they heard it they would have fallen down unconscious. » Narrated by An-Nasâ'iyy and others.
The deceased person is then placed in his grave. He leaves his wealth, children, parents and friends and all that which remains with him is his deeds.
The Prophet peace be upon him said, « Three things follow a dead person (i.e. to his grave) ; two of which will return and one will remain with him. His family members, his wealth and his deeds follow him but his family members and his wealth return, while his deeds remain with him. » Narrated by al- Bukhâriyy.
The belief in the questioning of the two angels Munkar and Nakir is an obligation upon the accountable. This questioning is directed to both the believers and non-believers of whom Prophet Muḥammad peace be upon him was sent to.
The pious Muslim will not be frightened nor will he be disturbed by their questions ; this is because Allāh will strengthen his heart and therefore will not be horrified by their terrifying appearance. In the Hadith, Munkar and Nakir were described as being black and blue (i.e. blackish-blue) with red eyes and tusks similar to the horns of cows. They are able to split the ground with their tusks and their voice is like thunder storm.
Felicity of the Grave
Having said that, the pious Muslim will be pleased upon seeing them and upon being questioned, for he knows that he will be saved. When questioned about the beloved Prophet, he will reply, « He is the slave of Allâh and is His Messenger. » The angels will then reply to him, « look at that place in Hellfire, had you died as a blasphemer then that would have been your place, however, since you died as a believer, Allâh has replaced it for you with one in Paradise. »
As to the hypocrite (i.e. in faith) or the blasphemer, he will be horrified to an extent where he will utter words he did not want to say, he will start saying [when questioned about the Prophet peace be upon him] “I do not know, I used to say about him what others used to say”. Then the angels will tell him, « You have never known nor said. » Then he will be hit with an iron hammer on his head, and he will scream and that scream will be heard by whatever approaches him except human beings and Jinn.