On the Life of the Prophets in their Blessed Graves

Translated by Zameelur Rahman

Haddab ibn Khalid and Shayban ibn Farrukh narrated to us: they said: Hammad ibn Salamah narrated to us: from Thabit al-Bunani and Sulayman al-Taymi: from Anas ibn Malik: that Allah’s Messenger (Allah bless him and grant him peace) said:

“I came – and in the narration of Haddab ‘I passed’ – by Musa the night I was taken on the night journey (Isra’) at the red dune and he was standing, praying in his grave” (Sahih Muslim)

A group of verifiers adduced this hadith as proof that the Prophets (upon them be peace) are alive in their graves. Controversy on this issue has been ongoing in our time, so we will give a brief synopsis here of the [correct] view on this topic. And Allah (Glorified is He) is the Helper.

The Issue of the Life of the Prophets (peace be upon them)

Indeed the starting point of this issue is Allah’s statement (Blessed and High is He) “And say not of those who are slain in the way of Allah: ‘They are dead.’ Nay, they are living, though ye perceive [it] not” (2:154). Since the life of the martyrs is established, the life of the Prophets (peace be upon them) is established by indication of this text, because the rank of the Prophets is higher than the rank of the martyrs without doubt. Al-Shawkani said in Nayl al-Awtar (Adab al-Jumu’ah 3:211): “A textual proof in Allah’s Book is revealed with regards to martyrs, that they are living and sustained, and that the life in them pertains to the body, so what of the Prophets and Messengers?”

In this topic, a hadith with unequivocal import has been reported which Abu Ya’la transmitted in his Musnad (6:147, no. 3425) from Anas ibn Malik (Allah be pleased with him) that he said: “Allah’s Messenger (Allah bless him and grant him peace) said: ‘The Prophets are alive in their graves, praying'”. Al-Haythami mentioned it in Majma’ al-Zawa’id (8:211) and said: “Abu Ya’la and al-Bazzar narrated it and the narrators of Abu Ya’la are trustworthy”. Al-Dhahabi weakened it in al-Mizan because of al-Hajjaj ibn al-Aswad but al-Hafiz ibn Hajar disagreed with him in al-Lisan and said: “He is al-Hajjaj ibn Abi Ziyad al-Aswad, known as Ziqq al-‘Asal and he was Basran … Ahmad said: ‘trustworthy and a pious man’; ibn Ma’in said: ‘trustworthy’; Abu Hatim said: ‘passable in narration’; and ibn Hibban mentioned him in al-Thiqat.” The hadith was also transmitted by al-Bayhaqi in his volume on the life of the Prophets (p. 3) and he authenticated it. Likewise, al-Munawi authenticated it in Fayd al-Qadir.

This hadith is further corroborated by what Anas (Allah be pleased with him) narrated in this chapter. Imam al-Bayhaqi devoted a short volume to this issue in which he collected the hadiths which prove the life of the Prophets (peace be upon them). ‘Allamah Jalal al-Din al-Suyuti (Allah have mercy on him) has a treatise on this with the title Inba’ al-Adhkiya’ fi Hayat al-Anbiya’ in which he collected the hadiths related to this issue.

From the hadiths which prove the life of the Prophets after their death is the hadith of Aws ibn Aws about the virtue of Friday, in which it is mentioned: “So increase in your blessings on me, for indeed your blessings are shown to me.” Aws said: “They said: ‘O Messenger of Allah! How will our blessings be shown to you when you have decomposed?’ He said: ‘Indeed Allah (Great and Glorious is He) has forbidden the earth to consume the bodies of Prophets.'” Al-Nasa’i, Abu Dawud, ibn Majah, al-Darimi and al-Hakim transmitted it; (al-Hakim) authenticated it and al-Dhahabi agreed with him in Talkhis al-Mustadrak (1:278).

In mentioning the perpetuity of his body (Allah bless him and grant him peace) after his death in the context of blessings being presented to him there is an indication that his blessed soul has a connection to his body, and when blessings are shown, it is to both his body and soul, for otherwise there would be no meaning to mentioning the physical body in the answer.

From them is the hadith of Abu ‘l-Darda’ (Allah be pleased with him) that he said: “Allah’s Messenger (Allah bless him and grant him peace) said: ‘One does not send blessings on me except his blessings are shown to me until he finishes with it.'” Abu ‘l-Darda’ said: “I said: ‘And after death?’ He said: ‘After death, indeed Allah has forbidden the earth to consume the bodies of Prophets, so the Prophet of Allah is alive and given sustenance.'” Ibn Majah transmitted it.

From them is what Abu ‘l-Shaykh transmitted in Kitab al-Thawab with a good chain from Abu Hurayrah (Allah be pleased with him) in marfu’ form: “He who sends blessings near my grave I hear it and he who sends blessings on me from far, it reaches me.” Al-Hafiz mentioned it in al-Fath (6:488, chapter 48 from Kitab al-Anbiya’); and Abu Dawud transmitted it from Abu Hurayrah (Allah be pleased with him) with the words “Send blessings on me! For indeed your blessings reach me wherever you may be.”

From them is what Abu Dawud transmitted from Abu Hurayrah (Allah be pleased with him) through another route in marfu’ form: “None sends peace on me but Allah restores to me my soul so I can respond to him [by sending him] peace”. Its narrators are trustworthy as al-Hafiz clarified in al-Fath. It may be problematised by [claiming that] the restoration of the soul to the body entails that it was previously detached from the body, which is death, so the hadith only proves that the soul returns upon sending peace.

Imam al-Bayhaqi (Allah have mercy on him) responded to this problem in his treatise on the life of the Prophets (p. 5) by his saying: “He only intended, and Allah knows best, ‘and Allah restored to me my soul so I [am able to] respond to him by sending peace.'” Its upshot is that the assumption in the expression is : “None sends peace on me but Allah has restored to me my soul before that so I can respond to him.” Hence, his statement (Allah bless him and grant him peace) “Allah restored to me my soul” is in the context of responding to a greeting, and the intended meaning is that “I respond to him by sending peace (upon him) due to my soul having already been restored to my body.”

‘Allamah al-Suyuti explained this in Inba’ al-Adhkiya’ (p. 5) based on Arabic principles and said “His statement ‘Allah restored’ is an adverbial phrase (jumlah haliyyah) and the Arabic principle is that qad (already) is assumed in an adverbial phrase when it occurs as a perfect verb.” This is like His statement “or those who approach you with hearts restraining” (4:90) i.e. it has already been restrained. This is how it is assumed here. The sentence in the perfect tense [implies the restoration of the soul] precedes greetings from everyone. “Hatta” (so) is not for an explanation (ta’lil) [of why the soul was restored], rather it is only a particle of conjunction (harf ‘atf) with the meaning “and” (wa). Thus, the assumption of the particles is that “None sends peace on me except Allah has already restored to me my soul before that and I [can thus] respond to him”. Al-Suyuti (Allah have mercy on him) mentioned at the end of his stated treatise “then after that I saw the hadith in question transmitted in the book Hayat al-Anbiya’ by al-Bayhaqi with the words ‘but my soul has already returned to me’ and the words ‘wa qad‘ were clearly in it, so I praised Allah abundantly.”

In sum these hadiths, together with the hadith of the chapter, prove the Prophets are alive after their death, and this is the belief of the majority of the Ahl al-Sunnah wa l-Jama’ah. However, at times it is problematised by some people [who ask] how can life be determined for them while unequivocal texts have pronounced that death has overtaken them and they will gather on the Day of Resurrection like all [other] men? This difficulty only arises from a lack of understanding of the meaning of the life established for the Prophets and the martyrs after their death. Some people claim that it is exactly like the worldly (dunyawi) life which they experienced before their death. The truth is that no one says the life of the Prophets is established after their death in this sense. The meaning of their “life” is in the sense that their souls have a strong connection to their noble bodies buried in the graves, and by this strong connection their bodies come to have many unique features from the features of the living, like hearing greetings and replying to them, being preoccupied in worship and other similar things of the said features.

No one from the people of truth says [this life] established for them after their death is characterised by all the features of their previous life. ‘Allamah al-Subki (Allah have mercy on him) says in Shifa’ al-Siqam (p. 191): “The life being real does not entail that the bodies have life as it did in the physical world, in needing food and drink and in it being impossibile to pass through a dense barrier and other features from the qualities of physical bodies, which we observe. Rather it has another law. Thus, nothing in the intellect prevents the affirmation of a real life for them.”

The conclusion that is reached by analysing the texts is that although “death” is an expression about the departure of the soul from the body, after death the soul continues to have a connection to the body which it departed, and by this connection the body feels pain at the punishment of the grave and is delighted by the blessings of the intermediary realm (Barzakh), in accordance with the opinion of the majority of the Ahl al-Sunnah that the punishment of the grave happens to the body and the soul. This is the meaning of the soul returning to the body when questioning [the inmate] of the grave and when punishing him as has been recorded in clear texts the authenticity of which has been verified by Ibn al-Qayyim in Kitab al-Ruh. The soul being restored to the body after death does not imply resurrection (ihya) after death. Rather it implies only the development of a connection between their bodies and their souls and there is no way of knowing the true nature of that connection.

However this connection is not on the same level for all the dead. Thus, the dead differ in the strength and weakness of this connection. Consequently, this connection in the generality of the dead is very weak, since their bodies are consumed by the earth. Hence the designation of “bodily life” is not generally assigned for them after death overtakes them, although some ‘ulama also used the designation of “bodily life” for the restoration of the soul to their bodies. See Ahkam al-Qur’an by al-Jassas (1:185).

As for martyrs, the connection of their souls to their bodies is stronger in relation to all the dead to the degree that the earth does not consume their bodies. Thus the Qur’an assigned for them the designation of “living”. If the meaning of their life is intermediary (barzakhi) or spiritual (ruhiyya) only, there would be no difference between them and others. The difference between them and the rest of the dead is that their souls have a strong connection to the bodies. This is the meaning of their bodily lives.

As for the Prophets (peace be upon them), the connection of their souls to their noble bodies is the strongest of connections which is conceivable of a man after death has overtaken him. This strong connection affects some of the worldly rules also. Thus, their properties are not divided between their heirs and it is not permissible for one to marry their wives after their death. Our master Abu Bakr (Allah be pleased with him) would spend on them as Allah’s Messenger (Allah bless him and grant him peace) would spend [on them]. As such, the Prophets (peace be upon them) acquired some of the unique features of life which are not established for others besides them after death.

Hence, complete and real bodily life is designated for a number of degrees in the connection of the soul to the body, some of them stronger than others. What is established for the Prophets and martyrs after their death is a real bodily life due to the presence of many of the features of the previous life upon death, although it parts with this worldly life, which was established for them before their death, in many [physical] laws. The outcome of this real bodily life is a strong connection of the soul to the body which goes beyond the connection which the rest of the dead acquire.

As for discussion about understanding the true nature of this connection it is a discussion about that which man has no means of knowing, for indeed the states of the intermediary realm and the Afterlife is not perceived by these minds [of ours]. Therefore, whoever recognises this much, established by clear texts, and consigns its true nature to Allah Most High, his creed will be safe if Allah Most High wills. As for discussion about the true nature of the states of the intermediary realm and striving to perceive the reality of the connection of the soul to the body or contesting about terminologies of the designation of this connection as bodily life or intermediary life, it is not the concern of the people of truth and not from the path of the people of knowledge.

As for debating (mujadala), contestation (mira’), mutual hatred (tabaghud) and argumentation (niza’) on these semantic or theoretical issues as has occurred in our time, it is very far from the etiquette of the people of knowledge. Likewise denying this connection between the soul and body which is established by many textual proofs which there is no scope in denying is erroneous and presumptuous. It is not permissible for one of the people of knowledge and balance to deny them expressly. Al-Hafiz ibn al-Qayyim said in Kitab al-Ruh (p. 86) “It is authentic from him that he saw Musa standing in prayer in his grave during the Night of Isra’ and he saw him in the sixth or seventh heaven. Thus, the soul was in heaven and it has a connection with the body in the grave, ennobles it and has a relationship with it, whereby he prays in his grave and responds to the greeting of one who greets him, while the soul is in the Greater Company (al-Rafiq al-A’la).”

So the realities which are necessary to recognise according to the texts are as follows:

[1] The noble souls of the Prophets have a strong connection with their bodies after their death

[2] This connection is much stronger than the connection of other souls of other dead people to their bodies

[3] By virtue of this connection unique features of the previous life occur in them after their death and this is indeed known by clear texts

[4] It is accurate to designate this strong connection as “life”, and its people as “living” as has been reported in the texts

[5] This life attained by them after their death is not the worldly life in its essence or with all its features rather it is similar to the worldly life in some of its features, some expressed clearly and some assumed

People continue to recognise these realities (haqa’iq) for they are in accordance with the beliefs of the Ahl al-Sunnah wa al-Jama’ah, and there is no need to discuss about its details more than what we have mentioned here. Allah (Glorified is He) knows best.

(Takmilah Fath al-Mulhim, vol. 5 pp. 23-7)