By Br. Hesham Rakha
[du'á in Arabic]
Dear Brothers and Sisters in
The poor attitude of Muslims all over the world indicates that we lack two main ingredients to be successful, namely: a firm belief in Allah and a firm belief in accountability after death. The focus of my khutbah today will be on our journey after death prior to our resurrection on the Day of Judgment. Later khutbas, Insha Allah, will describe the scene on the day of judgment in great detail. The intent of this khutba is to remind myself and everyone here of the great responsibility we as human beings have been assigned. I must warn you that the scenes described in this khutba are very disturbing. The khutba is based on an article in "The Friday Report" Vol. V, No. 7.
Death is an inescapable end for every human being. Allah says in the Quran:
"Truly you will die, one day, and truly they too will die one day."
What happens to a person after death is a matter of the unseen. However, the spectacle of death, and life afterdeath were described in the Quran and in the Sunnah, with such detail a person can have a precise idea about what will happen during the after death. This khutba gives a glimpse of the after death prior to the resurrection.
1. THE SPECTACLE OF DYING
Allah says in the Quran:
"He is irresistible, Supreme over His servants, and He sets guardians over you.
Until when death approaches one of you,
Our angels take his soul, and they never fail in their duty."
The angels of death come to the person when his time has come. What happens to the believer and what happens to the disbeliever, at that time, are two different things. These are described in a hadith narrated by Al-Baraa Ibn Azeb that quotes Prophet Muhammad (SAW) as saying the following:
"When the believer is about to depart from this world and go forward into the next
world, angels with faces as bright as the sun descend from the heavens and sit around
him in crowds stretching as far as the eye can see. Then the Angel of Death comes and
sits at his head and says: `Good soul, come out to forgiveness and pleasure of Allah!'
Then his soul emerges like a drop of water leaving from a water-skin and the angel takes
hold of it... When a disbeliever is about to depart from this world, strong and rough
angels with blackened faces descend from the heavens carrying a rough hair cloth and
sit around him in crowds stretching as far as the eye can see. Then the Angel of Death
comes and sits at his head and says: `Foul soul, come out to the wrath and anger of
Allah!' Then his soul divides up in his body and is dragged out like a skewer is pulled
out of wet wool. Then the angel takes hold of it..."
(Related by Al-Bukhari and Muslim).
The above hadith clearly states that the Angel of Death brings the good tidings of Allah's forgiveness and mercy to the believer. As for the disbeliever, he is informed of the opposite and is greatly terrified by this. Allah describes the disbeliever's state, saying:
"And if you could see when the angels take away the souls of those who
disbelieve, they smite their faces and their backs, saying:
`Taste the punishment of the blazing fire.' "
People present at the time when a dying person is experiencing all this, are looking at him but cannot
see what is happening to him as Allah says in the Quran:
"Then who do you not intervene when the soul of the dying person reaches his throat? And you at the moment are looking on, but We are nearer to him than you, but you see not."
The Agony of Death
The agony of death is experienced by everybody. Prophet Muhammad (SAW) when dying was holding a pot full of water, washing his face and saying:
"La ilaha illallah! Truly, death has its own agony!"
(Related by Al-Bukhari).
There is no doubt that the disbeliever and the hypocrite suffer a greater agony than the believer. This was mentioned in the previous hadith where the departing of the disbeliever's soul from the body was
compared to pulling a skewer from wet wool. This happens when the angels are informing him of the
punishment awaiting him, as Allah says in the Quran:
"And if you could but see how the wicked are in the agonies of death, while
the angels are stretching forth their hands, saying:
`Deliver your soul! This day you shall be recompensed with the torment of degradation.'"
The agony of death is lessened for the believer by the good news the angels bring to him, as Allah says:
"Verily, those who say: `Our Lord is Allah.' And then stand straight and steadfast,
on them the angels will descend, saying: `Fear not, nor grieve! But receive the
glad tidings of Paradise which you have been promised!'"
At the time of his death, the believer is afraid of the next world awaiting him, and is sad for leaving his
beloved ones who might need him. The angels tell him not to be afraid of the future and not to be sad for leaving his loved ones.
2. THE SOUL'S JOURNEY TO HEAVEN
In the hadith mentioned previously (narrated by Al-Baraa Ibn Azeb and related by Al-Bukhari and Muslim), the Messenger of Allah (SAW), after describing how the soul of the believer leaves his body said:
"...And the angel takes hold of it. When he has grasped it, the others do not leave
it in his hands even for the twinkling of an eye. They take it and place it in a
perfumed shroud and a fragrance emanates form it like the sweetest scent of musk
found on the face of the earth. Then they bear it upwards and whenever they take
it past a company of angels they ask: `Who is this good soul?' And the angels holding
the soul reply: `So-and-so, the son of so-and-so', using the best names by which
people used to call him in this world. They bring him to the lowest heaven and ask
for the gate to be opened for him. It is opened for him and angels who are near Allah
from each of the heavens accompany him to the subsequent heaven until he reaches
the heaven where Allah the Great is. Allah, the Almighty and Majestic, says:
`Register the book of my slave in Illiyun (one of the highest levels of paradise) and
take him back to earth. I created them from it and I return them to it and I will bring
them from it again.' "
As Allah says:
"Nay, verily the record of the righteous is preserved in Illiyun. And what will explain
to you what Illyun is? A register fully inscribed, to which bear witness those nearest to Allah."
Describing what happens to the wicked soul, the Prophet (SAW) said:
"...Then the angel takes hold of it. When he has grasped it, the other angels do not
leave it in his hands even for the twinkling of an eye. They take it and wrap it in the
rough hair cloth and stench comes out of it like the worst stench of a corps on the
face of the earth. Then they take it up and whenever they take it past a company
of angels, they ask: `Who is this foul soul?' And the angels carrying the soul reply:
`So-and-so the son of so-and-so,' using the worst names by which people used to
call him in this world. They bring him to the lowest heaven and ask for the gate to be
opened for him. It does not open." The prophet then recited "The gates of heaven
will not open to them nor will they enter Paradise until the camel passes through the
eye of the needle." (Quran 7:40). "Then Allah will say: `Register his book in Sijjeen
(one of the depths of Hellfire) in the lowest earth.' Then his soul is flung down."
The Prophet then said: "Whoever associates anything with Allah, it is as though he
has fallen from heaven and the birds snatch him away or the wind sweeps him headlong
into a place faraway." (Quran 22:31)
This describes the soul's journey to heaven right after death. All this happens while the person is lying dead and his family is around him, but they neither hear nor see it. Like the sleeper who dreams and enjoys his dream or is tormented by it, while someone awake at his side is not able to perceive what is going on at all.
3. IN THE GRAVE
The Embrace of the Grave
When the dead person is put in the grave, it embraces him, exerting a pressure on him. The grave has an embrace from which neither believer nor disbeliever escapes . Afterwards, the believer is relieved of its pressure while the disbeliever remains in punishment. The Messenger of Allah (SAW) said:
"The grave has a pressure and if anyone were to be saved from it, it would be
Saad Ibn Muadth."
The Questioning of the Grave
When the corps has been placed in the grave, the soul inserts itself between the body and the shroud so that the questioning can take place. Then the dead person hears the receding footfall of the last of the people who followed the funeral and the earth is leveled on him. In the hadith narrated by Al-Baraa Ibn Azeb the Prophet (SAW) describes what happens to the believer, saying:
"...His soul is then returned to his body and two angels come to him. They make
him sit up and say to him: `Who is your Lord?'
He replies: `My Lord is Allah.'
They ask him: `What is your religion?' He replies: `My religion is Islam.'
They ask him: `Who is this man who was sent among you?'
He replies: `The Messenger of Allah.'
They ask him: `How did you come to know these things?'
He replies: `I read the book of Allah, believed it, and declared it to be true.'
Then a Voice from above declares: `My slave has spoken the truth, so spread out
the carpets from Paradise for him and open a gate of the Paradise for him!' Then
some of its fragrances and perfumes comes to him, his grave is expanded for him
as far as the eye can see, and a man with beautiful garments and a fragrant scent
comes to him and says:
`Rejoice in what delights you for this is the day which you were promised.'
He asks: 'Who are you? Yours is a face which presages good.
' He replies: `I am your good deeds.'
Then he says: `O Lord, let the last hour come soon so that I may rejoin my family and my property!' "
Describing what happens to the disbeliever, the Prophet (SAW) said:
"...Then his soul is returned to his body and two angels come to him.
They make him sit up and say to him: `Who is your Lord?'
He replies: `Alas... alas, I do not know!'
They ask him: `What is your religion?'
He replies: `Alas...alas, I do not know!'
Then a Voice calls above: `My slave has lied, so spread out carpets from hell
for him and open a gate of hell for him!'
Then a hot blast from it comes to him, his grave is made so narrow that his ribs
are pressed together. A man with a hideous face and clothing with a foul odor
comes to him and says:
`Grieve on account of what has brought you disgrace for this is the day which
you have been promised.'
He asks: `Who are you?' Yours is a face which presages evil.'
He replies: `I am you bad deeds.'
Then he says: `O Lord, do not let the Last Hour come!'"
Bliss and Torment in the Interspace
The Interspace (Barzakh) is what separates the world we are living in, from the Eternal Domain which comprises Paradise and Hell. A person who dies is neither in this world nor in the Eternal Domain. He is in the Interspace and remains there until the Day of Resurrection. In the Interspace, he experiences either happiness or torment. Happiness or torment in the grave is what is meant by happiness or torment in the interspace. Many verses in the Quran show us the reality of punishment in the grave. For example, Allah said:
"An evil torment encompassed Pharaoh's people. The Fire; they are exposed to
in morning and afternoon, and on the day when the Hour will be established, it will
be said to the angels: `Throw Pharaoh's people into the severest torment!' "
SUMMARY AND CONCLUSIONS
Remembering death has the effect of pushing us to improve ourselves, and making up for the time spent in the pursuit of the pleasures of life. Anas Ibn Malik narrated that Prophet Muhammad (SAW) said:
"Remember the spoiler of pleasures: Death.
Whoever remembers it while experiencing hardship, will feel enriched.
And whoever remembers it in wealth, will feel hardship."
(Related by Al-Bukhari)
To conclude my khutba I will present a hadith that demonstrates the possible punishment one can face in the grave. This hadith describes what Prophet Muhammad (SAW) saw in a dream [the dreams of prophets are true and a part of the revelation]:
"Last night, I saw two men who came to me, held my hand and took me to the
Holy Land. I could see one man sitting and another man standing holding an iron
hook which he stuck into the side of the sitting man's mouth so that it came out at
the back of his neck. Then he did the same thing to the other side. After his mouth
healed and became normal, he did the same thing all over again. I asked what this
was and they told me to go on. We went on until we came to a man lying on his back.
Another man was standing at his head with a stone or a rock with which he smashed
his head. When he hit the head, the stone rolled away and he went to recover it. He
did not get back to the man until his head had mended and returned to normal, then
he smashed it again. I asked what this was and they told me to go on. We came to a
hole like a furnace which was narrow at the top and wide at the bottom. There was a
fire burning under it and there were naked men and women in it. The flames leapt up to
them from underneath. When the fire came near, they rose up until they almost came
out. When it abated, they went back into it again. I asked what this was, and they told
me to go on. We went on until we came to a river of blood with a man standing in it.
On the bank of the river there was a man with some stones in front of him. The man in
the river came forward and when he was about to get out, the man threw a stone at him
and he went back to where he had been before. Every time he tried to come out, the man
threw a stone at him and he went back to where he was before. I said to the men who
took me: `You have been with me for the whole night, so now tell me about what I have
seen. `They replied: `Certainly! The man you saw whose mouth was being pierced was
the originator of a lie, which spread from him to all parts of the earth. He will suffer like
that until the Day of Resurrection. The one whose head was being smashed was a man
who had learned the Quran but spent his nights asleep and did not act according to it
during the day. He will suffer like that until the Day of Resurrection. The people in the
hole were fornicators. The man you saw in the river devoured usury."
(Related by Al-Bukhari)
[du'á in Arabic]
Ameen! Aqeemus Salaah!
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