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“Verily, they are greatly tortured in their graves and the animals hear it” [Musnad Ahmed].

What's the punishment and wouldn't all of us be punished? Bodies being slowly eaten and rotting?

Also isn't this a contradiction to the hadith?:

"You cannot make the dead hear, you cannot make the deaf listen to your call when they turn their backs and leave." (Qur'an 27:80)

"The living and the dead are not the same. Allah makes anyone He wills hear, you cannot make those in their graves hear." (Qur'an 35:22)

"And do not say about those who are killed in the way of Allah, "They are dead." Rather, they are alive, but you perceive [it] not."

Shaykh al-Islam Ibn Taymiyah (may Allaah have mercy on him) said:

“The view of the salaf (earliest generations) of this ummah and its imams is that the torment or blessing (of the grave) happens to the soul of the deceased and his body. After it departs from the body, the soul continues to be blessed or punished, and it is also connected to the body from time to time, so that the blessing or torment befalls the body as well as the soul.”

Al-Nawawi said:

“If it is said, we see the deceased and how he is in his grave, so how can he be questioned, made to sit up and beaten with iron rods, when no mark is left on him? The answer is that this is not impossible, and indeed there is a similar case in our regular lives, that of the sleeper who feels joy or pain of which we feel nothing. A person who is awake may also feel joy or pain because of something he hears or thinks about, and those who are sitting with him feel nothing of that. Similarly, Jibreel used to come to the Prophet (peace and blessings of Allaah be upon him) and tell him of the Wahy (Revelation), and the people present were unaware of it. All of that is clear and evident.”

That explanation makes no sense, because there is no more brain material left.

I see a good way to prevent the punishment in the grave. Behead the person, cremate the head and now since there isn't single brain cell left we all good!

Am I correct or incorrect in saying this?

  • It doesn't really matter if you destroy all the brain cells or not since the brain isn't working anyway. It is the soul that is conscious, not the brain. The example Imam al-Nawawi gave is simply to show that physical markings are not needed to have pleasure or pain. – The Z Apr 11 at 21:21
  • A soul can feel pain without a body? What else can a soul do, I'm curious. I thought a soul was just like an "ID tag", to each body. Which even still doesn't make sense, why would a soul be accountable for anything if it has no memories or its own thinking process. Maybe a soul is just a thing to be taken care of by the human and idk... – Jeff Apr 11 at 22:02
  • Yes, a soul can do whatever God allows it to do. But the soul is what has consciousness. It definitely has memories and consciousness. – The Z Apr 12 at 15:57
  • If it has memories then why is it when someone has alzheimers they have no memories at all? Wouldn't the soul provide it? – Jeff Apr 12 at 16:23
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    For the duration of this life, God limited the soul to this body. It is the same how our body can die, but our soul does not. Similarly, our body can grow old and lose memories completely, but God reminds the soul after it is taken out of the limitations of the body. – The Z Apr 12 at 18:03
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Very good question.

The traditions about the torment in grave indeed pose a great question as they seem to be in direct contradiction to science. The torments are said to be bodily in particular. So it's just not that there's torment that can be said to affect only the soul. There are bodily pains felt just as punishments and rewards in hell and paradise are said to be bodily.

Now we know the body stops feeling anything upon death. Science tells us the brain and the nerves are instrumental in sensations and consciousness, and should they stop working there will be no feeling and consciousness.

Now how to get around this apparent conflict between science and religion?

If you think about it, you'll see that there's really no way around this unless by postulating that we probably have other bodies that don't perish upon death!

But the question is what do we have in way of religious, scientific or experimental evidence to confirm that this theory is really the case?

The analogy you have quoted from al-Nawawi is very useful here. There's actually a Quranic hint that helps us with understanding what happens upon death by an analogy to sleep.

Allah in the Quran says that He takes away the people's "nafs" (self or soul) upon sleep and then returns it back when they wake up. But when they die He doesn't return the soul! Here's the text of this very significant verse:

It is Allah Who takes away the souls of people at the hour of their death, and takes away at the time of sleep the souls of those that have not died. Then He retains the souls of those against whom He had decreed death and returns the souls of others till an appointed time. Surely there are Signs in this for a people who reflect. (39:42)

This is a very key statement as it points to a fundamental similarity between sleep and death: under both conditions the soul is "taken away" by Allah.

But the important thing is that, we do keep thinking and dreaming during sleep, right? -- which only confirms that human consciousness is not necessarily dependent on the body and the brain under all conditions.

If there remains a question that how can people sustain vegetative life during sleep if their soul is taken away, the answer is that the soul is taken away during sleep but not in full! In other words there are still some strings attached. A more technical answer, based on the doctrine of divisions and faculties of human soul (e.g. vegetative soul, animal soul, rational soul), would argue that during sleep only the rational soul and probably also animal souls are taken away but not the vegetative soul. See this extensive answer for religious confirmation of multiple subsidiary souls in humans.

Now by further reflecting "the signs" in sleep, we arrive at an even more interesting observation which confirms our hypothesis: we do seem to have bodies, dream bodies, during dream, don't we? And we do sense and observe things during dream by our dream body? Right?

Eureka! The riddle seems to be solved now! We are always embodied creatures, even in our dreams and even after we die! This explains why pains and pleasures in afterlife whether in the grave or in heaven and hell can be quite physical and bodily. It only happens that these other bodies are subtle, reside in other dimensions and are invisible to our physical eyes but they appear to us as quite concrete physical things when we experience them in other dimensions.

Now do we have non-scriptural evidence that braodly confirm this? Yes, we do!

  • Mystics from all religions have reported subtle bodies that accompany humans in higher/other dimensions of existence.
  • People with near-death experiences and out-of-body experiences report finding themselves in other bodies during the experience of living their natural body.
  • And the rare special good news is that there's a rare group of dedicated scientists specializing in study of paranormal phenomena who confirm the supernatural reality of such experiences and are strongly persuaded that consciousness survives bodily death and can operate independently of the brain. Watch this public presentation by scientists from Division of Perceptual Studies, the Department of Psychiatry and Neurobehavioral Sciences at the University of Virginia.

Are there Muslim scholars who held this view with full certainty? Yes, many Sufis as well as Shia scholar-metaphysicians (a famous case being Ayatollah Khomeini) adhere to this belief. Mulla Sadra, a 17the century Muslim metaphysician, mystic and scholar was first among Muslim thinkers to establish the doctrine of subtle bodies in afterlife by rational and religious arguments.

There can be still some minor questions left like how the person is said to experience those torments or pleasures as if in his physical grave but maybe I answer them next time.

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  • So basically we have another body in another dimension. – Jeff Apr 12 at 16:23
  • @Jeff Yes that's the gist of it. – infatuated Apr 12 at 20:01

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