What is the reality of the two angels questioning the deceased in the grave?


Someone from Australia wrote to Hazrat Amirul Momineen, Khalifatul Masih Vaa, enquiring, “Is it true that when we pass away, two angels appear to ask us about our faith, who our prophet is, and who our God is? Are we then required to respond from memory before our soul ascends?” Huzoor-e-Anwaraa, in his letter dated 18 June 2022, gave the following reply to this question:

“Different narrations about the questioning and the torment of the grave are found in the Hadith books. What you have asked about is narrated in Sunan Abi Dawud.

“Hazrat Bara’ bin ‘Azib narrated, ‘We went out with Allah’s Messengersa accompanying the funeral of a man of the Ansar. When we reached his grave, it was not yet dug. So, Allah’s Messengersa sat down, and we also sat down around him as if birds were over our heads. He had in his hand a stick, with which he was scratching the ground. He then raised his head and said, ‘Seek refuge with Allah from the punishment in the grave.’ He said it twice or three times.’ (The version of Jarir adds here that, ‘[The Prophetsa said,]) ‘He hears the beat of their sandals when they go back, and at that moment he is asked, ‘O so and so! Who is your Lord, what is your religion, and who is your Prophet?’’’ (Hannad’s version states that, ‘[The Prophetsa said,]) ‘Two angels will come to him, make him sit up, and ask him, ‘Who is your Lord?’ He will reply, ‘My Lord is Allah.’ They will ask him, ‘What is your religion?’ He will reply, ‘My religion is Islam.’ They will ask him, ‘What is your opinion about the man who was sent on a mission among you?’ He will reply, ‘He is the Messengersa of Allah.’ They will ask, ‘Who made you aware of this?’ He will reply, ‘I read Allah’s Book, believed in it, and considered it true.’’ (The version of Jarir also adds here that,) ‘This is the meaning of the following words of Allah:

يُثَبِّتُ اللّٰہُ الَّذِيۡنَ اٰمَنُوۡا بِالۡقَوۡلِ الثَّابِتِ…

“‘Allah strengthens the believers with the word that is firmly established…’ [Surah Ibrahim, Ch.14, V.28]

“[The agreed version reads that, ‘(The Prophetsa said,)] ‘Then a crier will call from Heaven, ‘My servant has spoken the truth, so spread a bed for him from Paradise, clothe him from Paradise, and open a door for him into Paradise.’ So some of its fragrant air and sweet scents will come to him, and a space will be made for him as far as the eye can see.’’

“‘[The Porphetsa] also mentioned the death of the disbeliever, saying, ‘His soul will be restored to his body, two angels will come to him, make him sit up and ask him, ‘Who is your Lord?’ He will reply, ‘Alas, alas! I do not know.’ They will ask him, ‘What is your religion?’ He will reply, ‘Alas, alas! I do not know.’ They will ask, ‘Who was the man who was sent on a mission among you?’ He will reply, ‘Alas, alas! I do not know.’ Then a crier will call from Heaven, ‘He has lied, so spread a bed for him from Hell, clothe him from Hell, and open for him a door into Hell’. Then some of its heat and pestilential wind will come to him, and his grave will be compressed, so that his ribs will be crushed together.’’ (Jarir’s version also adds that, ‘[The Prophetsa said,] ‘[An angel] who is blind and dumb will then be placed in charge of him, having a sledgehammer such that if a mountain were struck with it, it would become dust. He will give him a blow with it, which will be heard by everything between the east and the west, except by men and jinn, and he will become dust. Then the soul will be restored to him.’’ (Sunan Abi Dawud, Kitab as-sunnah, Bab fi l-mas’alati fi l-qabri wa ‘adhabi l-qabri)

“It is crucial to bear in mind that the matters elucidated in these traditions are predominantly allegorical, and it would be incorrect to interpret them merely on their surface value. An instance related to the grave can be seen in the following verse of the Holy Quran:

ثُمَّ اَمَاتَہٗ فَاَقۡبَرَہٗ

“The apparent meaning is that Allah the Exalted causes one to die and then places them in a grave. (Surah ‘Abasa, Ch.80: V.22) However, in reality, it is not God Almighty who places a person in the grave, but other humans who bury the deceased. Moreover, there are many individuals who do not even receive a grave in this world. For instance, those who drown and whose bodies are never recovered, or those devoured by wild beasts. Similarly, those who are cremated do not have graves either. Thus, the reference here pertains to that ‘grave’ that God Almighty creates in the life after death for each individual.

“Hazrat Musleh-e-Maudra elucidates this verse in his explanatory note, saying:

“‘The actual meaning is that in this world, a person’s relatives place him in the grave. However, the real ‘grave’ is that in which God Almighty places the soul of a person.’ (Tafsir-e-Saghir, p. 803, footnote 6)

“Hence, as I mentioned, these are spiritual and allegorical matters. Their occurrence will transpire when the physical life ends and a person presents himself before God Almighty for reward and punishment. All these points elucidate the extraordinary abundance and significance of the rewards and blessings bestowed by God Almighty in the hereafter as a result of virtuous deeds performed in this world. Similarly, they illustrate the severity of the punishment incurred in the hereafter due to the wicked actions performed in this world. All of these are expressed to make humans understand the rewards and the intensity of the difficulties associated with the punishment.”

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