The Validity of Calling the "Dead"

بِسۡمِ ٱللهِ ٱلرَّحۡمَـٰنِ ٱلرَّحِيمِ

Despite what the Wahhabi sect and those influenced by them say, it is a foundational doctrine of Sunni Islam that the prophets are alive in their graves.  This is because the attribute of living, hayy, belongs to the soul, not the body.  That is why, when the soul leaves the body, the person dies.  The body, which is, in reality, dead, is sustained by dead things.  Nothing we eat is alive, or stays alive.  The soul, which is alive, is sustained by that which is alive - communion with the Divine.  Therefore, the prophets are alive in their graves.

The Wahhabis cite this:

سُوۡرَةُ آل عِمرَان
كُلُّ نَفۡسٍ۬ ذَآٮِٕقَةُ ٱلۡمَوۡتِ‌ۗ (١٨٥)

Every soul will taste of death … (Surah Ali ‘Imran:185)

And, they also cite the famous saying of Sayyidina Abu Bakr asw-Swiddiq (r.a.): “Whoever worships Muhammad, then know that Muhammad is dead; but whoever worship Allah, then know that Allah is Alive and will never die.”

This ayat and atsar are taken out of their context.  The ayat is about the fact that we all have a set time in this world, and then we leave it.  The atsar was about Sayyidina Abu Bakr (r.a.) telling the Muslims to be steadfast, for though they lost the Prophet (s.a.w.) in his passing, they did not lose their religion.  Allah (s.w.t.) is Always with us, even at our lowest times.

Coming back to the Qur’an, Revelation is Explicit that the prophets and the pious are very much alive:

سُوۡرَةُ البَقَرَة
وَلَا تَقُولُواْ لِمَن يُقۡتَلُ فِى سَبِيلِ ٱللَّهِ أَمۡوَٲتُۢ‌ۚ بَلۡ أَحۡيَآءٌ۬ وَلَـٰكِن لَّا تَشۡعُرُونَ (١٥٤)

And call not those who are slain in the way of Allah “dead.”  Nay, they are living, only ye perceive not. (Surah al-Baqarah:154)

سُوۡرَةُ آل عِمرَان
وَلَا تَحۡسَبَنَّ ٱلَّذِينَ قُتِلُواْ فِى سَبِيلِ ٱللَّهِ أَمۡوَٲتَۢا‌ۚ بَلۡ أَحۡيَآءٌ عِندَ رَبِّهِمۡ يُرۡزَقُونَ (١٦٩)

Think not of those, who are slain in the Way of Allah, as dead.  Nay, they are living.  With their Lord, they have provision. (Surah Ali ‘Imran:169)

Imam Muhammad ibn ‘Ali ash-Shawkani (r.a.), in his Nayl al-Awthar, said, “It is Mentioned, in the Qur’an, that martyrs are alive, and they are provided with food; the prophets and the righteous are much higher in status than they are, so what will be their place?  It has been proven, through ahadits, that the prophets are alive in their graves.”

Imam Shihab ad-Din Abu al-Fadhl Ahmad ibn Nur ad-Din ‘Ali ibn Hajr al-‘Asqalani (r.a.) said, in his commentary of Swahih al-Bukhari, Fath al-Bari, “When the living of the martyrs is proven from the text of the Qur’an, then this is also proven from an analogical perspective.  And the prophets are superior then the martyrs.”

Life in the grave is part of the barzakh, the realms in between this world and the Hereafter of Heaven and Hell.  The life of the grave is a reality where one is either punished, as a prelude to Judgement, or lives a life of bliss, awaiting entry to Paradise.  For the believers, and the pious, the life of the Hereafter is superior to the life of dunya:

سُوۡرَةُ الِضُّحىٰ
وَلَلۡأَخِرَةُ خَيۡرٌ۬ لَّكَ مِنَ ٱلۡأُولَىٰ (٤)

And verily, the Hereafter will be better for thee than the present. (Surah adh-Dhuha’:4)

It is also important to note that the bodies of the prophets do not decompose.  Imam Shams ad-Din Abu ‘Abdullah Muhammad ibn Abi Bakr ibn al-Qayyim al-Jawziyyah (r.a.) recorded, in Jala’ al-Afham fi Fadhl Swalati ‘ala Khayr al-Anam, that the Prophet (s.a.w.) said, “Send salutations on me, but send more salutations on Friday.  When you recite the salutation, your voice will reach me wherever you are.”

Some of the companions asked, “Even after your death?”

The Prophet (s.a.w.) replied, “Allah has Made it unlawful for the earth to decompose my body.”

Imam ash-Shawkani (r.a.) wrote, in his Nayl al-Awthar, “Scholars agree that our Prophet (s.a.w.) is alive in his grave, and the earth does not eat the bodies of the prophets.”

Furthermore, the Prophet (s.a.w.) also said, “The prophets are alive in their graves and they are praying.”  This is recorded in the Musnad of Imam Ahmad ibn Muhammad ibn Hanbal (r.a.); the Swahih of Imam Abu al-Husayn ‘Asakir ad-Din Muslim ibn al-Hajjaj (r.a.); the Sunan of Imam Abu ‘Abd ar-Rahman Ahmad ibn Shu’ayb an-Nasa’i (r.a.); the Musnad of Imam Abu Ya’la Ahmad ibn ‘Ali al-Mawswili (r.a.); Majmu’ az-Zawa’id by Imam Nur ad-Din ‘Ali ibn Abi Bakr al-Haytsami (r.a.); Hayat al-Anbiya’ by Imam Abu Bakr Ahmad ibn Husayn al-Bayhaqi (r.a.); and Fath al-Bari by Imam Abu al-Fadhl Ahmad ibn ‘Ali al-‘Asqalani (r.a.).

It is recorded, in Swahih Muslim, that the Prophet (s.a.w.) said, “On the night of Mi’raj, when I passed Musa’s grave. he was standing in his grave and offering swalah.”  By this, we know that the prophets and the pious pray in their graves.

We are also told that the Prophet (s.a.w.) is a witness to our deeds:

سُوۡرَةُ النِّسَاء
فَكَيۡفَ إِذَا جِئۡنَا مِن كُلِّ أُمَّةِۭ بِشَهِيدٍ۬ وَجِئۡنَا بِكَ عَلَىٰ هَـٰٓؤُلَآءِ شَہِيدً۬ا (٤١)

How then, if We Brought, from each people, a witness, and We Brought thee as a witness against these people? (Surah an-Nisa’:41)

Imam Abu ‘Abdullah Muhammad ibn Ahmad al-Qurthubi (r.a.) wrote, in his Tafsir, “The actions of the ummah are presented to the Prophet (s.a.w.), not every day, but every Friday.”  How can this be so, if the Prophet (s.a.w.) is dead?

Imam Zayn ad-Din Abu al-Faraj ‘Abd ar-Rahman ibn Ahmad ibn Rajab al-Hanbali (r.a.) wrote, in his Latha’if al-Ma’arif, “Deeds of the people are presented in front of our Prophet (s.a.w.).  That is why a person should be ashamed of themselves from doing evil deeds.”

Hafizh Abu al-Fida’ ‘Imad ad-Din Isma’il ibn ‘Umar ibn Katsir (r.a.) wrote, in his Tarikh, that the Prophet (s.a.w.) said, “My life is better for you; you narrate ahadits, and ahadits are narrated for you.  When I pass away it will continue to benefit you because your actions will be presented before me.  If I see a good deed, I shall praise Allah Ta’ala.  If I see a bad deed of yours, I shall ask Allah Ta’ala to Forgive you.”  This is also found in Imam al-Haytsami’s (r.a.) Majmu’ az-Zawa’id.

Imam ash-Shawkani (r.a.) wrote, in his Nayl al-Awthar, “Our Prophet (s.a.w.) knows the actions of his ummah.  When he sees them doing something good, he is happy; and when he sees them doing bad actions, he makes du’a for them.”

Imam ibn al-Qayyim (r.a.) wrote, “It is true that our Prophet (s.a.w.) is presented with the actions of his ummah in his grave.  This is from unauthenticated ahadits, and it is not something to be surprised with, because when our parents pass away from this world, our actions are presented to them to view.  However, with our Prophet (s.a.w.), he is presented with the actions of the all humans and the jinn.”

He also wrote, in his Jala’ al-Afham, that the Prophet (s.a.w.) can hear from afar even though the Prophet (s.a.w.) is in his grave: “Rasulullah (s.a.w.) has said that when you send salutations to him from wherever you might be, he can hear your voice.”  He cited the hadits, from the Shaykhayn, where the Prophet (s.a.w.) said he heard the footsteps of Bilal (r.a.) in Paradise.

Not only does the Prophet (s.a.w.) hear from the grave, but he also speaks.  The Prophet (s.a.w.) also said, “No one greets me except that Allah Returns my soul to me so that I may greet him back.”  This is found in Imam Abu Zakariya Yahya ibn Sharaf an-Nawawi’s (r.a.) Riyadh asw-Swalihin; Imam al-‘Asqalani’s (r.a.) Fath al-Bari; Imam Ahmad’s (r.a.) Musnad; and, Imam al-Haytsami’s (r.a.) Majmu’ az-Zawa’id, amongst many other places.

Shaykh Taqi ad-Din Ahmad ibn Taymiyyah (r.a.) wrote, in Iqtidha asw-Swirath al-Mustaqim, “A group of people heard the answer of their salaam.  And Sa’id ibn al-Musayyib, in the days of al-Harrah, heard the voice of our Prophet (s.a.w.), calling the adzan from the grave.  And there are more events like these and they are all true.”

Imam Abu Muhammad ‘Abdullah ibn ‘Abd ar Rahman ad-Darimi (r.a.) wrote, in his Sunan, “When Yazid bin Mu’awiyah attacked Madina, there was no adzan or jama’ah in Masjid an-Nabawi for three days.  Sa’id ibn al-Musayyib said, ‘I stayed in Masjid an-Nabawi for the three days and pretended to be majnun,” meaning he feigned madness, “and for every prayer, I heard the adzan from the blessed grave of the Prophet (s.a.w.).”

Hafizh ibn Katsir (r.a.) wrote, in his Tarikh, “Zayd ibn Kharijah was one of the pious that talked after his death.  When he died and was placed in his grave, he started to speak and said, ‘I bear witness that Muhammad is the Prophet of Allah and ‘Ahmad’ was mentioned in the previous scriptures; and Abu Bakr and ‘Umar were two caliphs, and now it is Utsman’s rule.  Four years have passed, and there are two years to go and conflicts will come, and Muslims will become weak.’  A lot of scholars verify this narration including Imam al-Bukhari and Imam al-Bayhaqi.”

Hafizh ibn Katsir (r.a.) also wrote, “There was a tabi’i called Ribi ibn al-Harrash, and he said, ‘I will not laugh until I know whether I am going to go to Heaven or Hell.’  When he died, and was bathed and placed in the grave, he started to smile and started to speak.  He said, ‘I met Allah and He was Pleased with me, and I asked Him for Permission to go back to the people and tell them that Allah is Pleased with me, and He Gave me Permission.  I am going back.’  This is in accordance with saying of the Prophet (s.a.w.): ‘There will be a tabi’i, and after his death, he will speak; and he will be the best among the tabi’un.”

Hafizh ibn Katsir (r.a.) also wrote, in his chapter about the Battle of Uhud, “‘Atha’ ibn Khalid said, ‘My aunt went to the grave of Hamzah, and said, ‘as-Salaamu‘Alaykum!’  She heard the response to the salaam, and the voice was coming from beneath the earth.  She said, ‘I recognised the answer to my salaam as I recognise that Allah Ta’ala has Created me, and as I recognise the difference between day and night – that is how clear it was.  Besides my slave and I, there was no other person, which is why I was frightened’”

Hafizh ibn Katsir (r.a.) also wrote. “A young person used to come to the mosque for his prayers.  One day a woman with bad intentions invited him to her house.  When he was in her house, he recited a verse from the Qur’an loudly, collapsed and died from the fear of Allah.  The people prayed the funeral prayer and buried him.  ‘Umar asked, ‘Where is that young man who used to come to the mosque for his prayers?’

They replied, ‘He passed away, and we have buried him.’

‘Umar went to his grave and called out to him and recited a verse from the Qur’an:

سُوۡرَةُ الرَّحمٰن
وَلِمَنۡ خَافَ مَقَامَ رَبِّهِۦ جَنَّتَانِ (٤٦)

But for such as fear the time when they will stand before (the Judgment Seat of) their Lord, there will be two Gardens ― (Surah ar-Rahman:46)

The young man replied from his grave, ‘Indeed Allah has Given me two Paradises,’”

Not only can the prophets and the pious see, hear, and speak from the grave, they may also manifest in the flesh, particularly our Prophet (s.a.w.).  The Wahhabi heretic, the former Grand Mufti of Saudi Arabia, ‘Abd al-‘Aziz ibn ‘Abdullah ibn Baz, said that the Prophet (s.a.w.) was bound to the grave based on this ayat:

سُوۡرَةُ المؤمنون
ثُمَّ إِنَّكُم بَعۡدَ ذَٲلِكَ لَمَيِّتُونَ (١٥) ثُمَّ إِنَّكُمۡ يَوۡمَ ٱلۡقِيَـٰمَةِ تُبۡعَثُونَ (١٦)

After that, at length ye will die.  Again, on the Day of Judgement, will ye be Raised up. (Surah al-Mu’minun:15-16)

This is a weak argument.  The ayat is a general ayat, for all mankind, and does not specifically address the Prophet (s.a.w.).  Also, it does not specifically negate exceptional circumstances.  ibn Baz said, “A Muslim should be aware of these things and must not be easily misled by the innovations and superstitions created by the ignorant people with no authority in Islam.”  This is from his “Indispensable Implication of the Sunnah & Caution against Innovation”, publication #385 from the Saudi Ministry of Islamic Affairs.  A sect with a limited conception of Allah (s.w.t.) will necessarily have a limited conception of the abilities granted to the pious by Allah (s.w.t.).  We know, for example, that the Prophet (s.a.w.) met all the previous prophets on the Mi’raj, and lead them in prayer.  This alone shows up the lie of these Wahhabis.

Hafizh ibn Katsir (r.a.) wrote, in his Tarikh, for example, “‘Utsman said that when the enemy surrounded his house and stopped the household from receiving water, they were thirsty for many days.  ‘Utsman said, ‘One day, I saw that Rasulullah (s.a.w.) give me some water from my window.  Some days later, my roof parted, and the Prophet (s.a.w.), accompanied by Abu Bakr and ‘Umar, entered and gave me some water to drink, and said, ‘You will break your fast with us tomorrow.’’”

The great irony is that even Shaykh ibn Taymiyyah (r.a.) is said to have helped people in issues of fiqh from beyond his grave.  Imam ibn al-Qayyim (r.a.) wrote, in Kitab ar-Ruh, “Many people saw ibn Taymiyyah, after his death, in their dreams and asked him many difficult questions on issues of jurisprudence, and he replied to all their questions.  Only those who are ignorant of the status of the spirits can reject this.”  He further wrote, on this issue, “When numerous people have the same type of dream, and what they have seen in their dreams actually happens, to label these kinds of dreams as only dreams, would come from people that have no sense.”

Shaykh ibn Taymiyyah (r.a.) wrote, in Iqtidha asw-Swirath al-Mustaqim, “Some people came to the grave of our Prophet (s.a.w.), and requested something, and their needs were fulfilled.  In the like manner, the pious people can also fulfill the needs of people – and we do not deny this.”

Imam ibn al-Qayyim (r.a.) wrote, in Kitab ar-Ruh, “After dying, the spirit can do those things that it cannot do when the person is alive in the world, just as one or two spirits defeated a large army.  Many companions relate that they saw Rasulullah (s.a.w.), Abu Bakr and ‘Umar in their dreams at night, fighting with them, against the kuffar, and winning the battle.  Then, it became a reality: on the following day a small army of Muslims defeated an army of a great many kafirun.”

Even after the passing of the Prophet (s.a.w.), the swahabah still called upon him, and we have many such narrations.  Imam Abu ‘Abdullah Muhammad ibn Isma‘il al-Bukhari (r.a.) wrote, in his Adab al-Mufrad, where the swahabah would say, “Ya Muhammad,” after the Prophet (s.a.w.) had passed away.  He wrote, “Sometime after Rasulullah (s.a.w.) had passed away, ‘Abdullah ibn ‘Umar was in Najd, where one day, his foot became numb.  As a remedy to alleviate the discomfort, a person advised him, ‘Remember the one whom you love the most!’

Upon hearing this, ibn ‘Umar said, ‘Ya Muhammad!’ and his foot made an immediate recovery.”

Imam an-Nawawi (r.a.) recorded this in his al-Adzkar, and Imam ash-Shawkani (r.a.) in his Tuhfat adz-Dzakirin.

Also, during the caliphate of Sayyidina Abu Bakr (r.a.), there was a battle against the false prophet, Musaylimah an-Najdi.  At the Battle of Yamamah, the Muslim army under Sayyidina Khalid ibn al-Walid (r.a.) were put at a precarious disadvantage against the apostates.  Khalid ibn al-Walid (r.a.) and the swahabah present called out “Ya Muhammad!” and proceeded to crush the enemies of Islam.  This is recorded in Imam ath-Thabari’s (r.a.) Tarikh; Hafizh ibn Katsir’s (r.a.) Tarikh; and Shaykh ibn al-Atsir’s (r.a.) al-Kamil fi at-Tarikh.

Hafizh ibn Katsir (r.a.) wrote, in his Tarikh, “During the caliphate of ‘Umar, there was a famine outside the city of Madina.  A companion called Bilal ibn Harits al-Mazani said to his people, ‘The famine is very severe, so sacrifice a goat.’  Apart from a red bone, nothing came from the goat.”  This is because the goat was very thin due to famine and as such, there was no meat on the bones.  Hafizh ibn Katsir (r.a.) continued, “Bilal ibn Harits called out, ‘Ya Muhammad!  Rasulullah (s.a.w.) then appeared, in a dream, to Bilal ibn Harits and informed him that there will be rain.”  Imam ath-Thabari (r.a.) also mentioned this in his Tarikh.

Another incident mentioned by both Hafizh ibn Katsir (r.a.) and Imam Abu Ja’far Muhammad ibn Jarir ath-Thabari (r.a.), is after the massacre at Karbala.  Sayyidatina Zaynab (r.a.), the younger sister of Sayyidina Husayn (r.a.), and her company were taken as prisoners to Syria.  When she passed the bodies of the slain, she said, “Ya Muhammad!  Your Husayn is drenched in blood without a shroud or a grave”, and “Ya Muhammad!  Your daughters are taken prisoners and your children have been killed.”

Imam ash-Shawkani (r.a.), in his Tuhfat adz-Dzakirin, wrote that the Prophet (s.a.w.) said, “If one is in trouble or is in distress, he should perform two nawafil raka’at, and then make a supplication.  One should say, ‘Ya Muhammad!’ and Allah Ta’ala will Grant them what they requested, and their problems and troubles should be resolved.”  Imam at-Tirmidzi (r.a.), Imam al-Hakim(r.a.), Imam Nasa’i (r.a.), Imam ibn Majah (r.a.) and Imam ath-Thabarani (r.a.) all recorded it, and authenticated it.

Shaykh ibn Taymiyyah (r.a.) wrote, in al-Kalim ath-Thayyib, “In the same way as ‘Abdullah ibn Umar’s foot became numb and he remembered the one he loves the most, ‘Abdullah ibn ‘Abbas’ foot also became numb.  Someone also advised him to remember the one who he loves the most, whereupon ‘Abdullah ibn ‘Abbas exclaimed, ‘Ya Muhammad!’ and his foot immediately recovered from numbness.”

If we were to list every narration and every tafsir of the Qur’an on the Prophet (s.a.w.) and the pious being alive in the grave, on their ability to hear, and answer, and appear, and help the living, this article would become a tome of several volumes.  It takes a certain level of dishonesty to deny it, as the Wahhabi sect have done.  What I have put here are from the Sunni scholars that Wahhabis claim as their preferred authorities, and sources, and shown the validity of this doctrine.


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