As can be seen from this hadith, Rasulullah (saw) is trying to correct a big misunderstanding regarding death. No other hadith can correct the misconception that people are dead when placed into their graves and will only be resurrected back to life on Doomsday. Indeed, people will be as aware and conscious as they are now when they are buried and will be able to hear everything that is told to them, just as they would if they were outside.
The third Khalifa Osman bin Affan (r.a.) stood near a grave he would cry until his beard got soaked. Someone once said to him “You do not weep when you hear about heaven and hell but you cry in fear of the grave”. He replied: “I heard Rasulullah (saw) say:
‘The grave is the first station of the afterlife, if one is able to pass this station the rest of his journey will be easier, but if one cannot pass this station, the rest of his journey will be much difficult.’”
Then he added,“Rasulullah (saw) said,
‘I have never encountered a scene more frightening than that of the grave.’”
Standing before the grave of one of Islam’s most distinguished martyrs, Sa’d bin Muaz, who Rasulullah (saw) buried with his own hands, Rasullulah (saw) said:
“This eminent soul for whom the throne (arsh) trembled and the gates of the heavens opened and thousands of angels descended… Even he fret so much in his grave that his bones were almost going to crumble. If anyone were to escape from the torments of the grave and the anguish after death, this would have been possible for Sa’d first! Though, due to the elevated rank he had acquired here, he was swiftly released!”
Let us now have a think, if the person isn’t aware and conscious in his grave, could such torments be possible?
It was asked to Rasulullah (saw): “O Rasulullah, which of the believers are more intelligent and more conscious?” He answered:
“Those who remember the reality of death most often and who prepare for the after death most prudently. Indeed, they are the most intelligent and conscious ones.”
In yet another narration, he says: “The most conscious and prudent one is he who subjects his soul to the divine laws and engages in deeds that will benefit him in the hereafter. The impotent one is he who follows his desires then hopes for salvation from Allah!”
Ibn Masud, one of the followers of Rasulullah (saw) says:“I had heard Rasulullah (saw) say ‘the sinners will assuredly be tormented in their graves, in fact even the animals will hear their anguish!’”
Abu Said al Hudri narrates:
I heard Rasulullah say:
“The denier will be tormented by ninety nine dragons that will sting and bite him until the Day of Judgment. If only one of these dragons were to blow on earth, no green plant would ever live again.”
Ibn Omar (r.a.) narrates:
Rasulullah (saw) said:
“When a person dies, his place, whether it be heaven or hell, will be shown to him every morning and every evening. He will be told, ‘this is your place, until the Day of Judgment, when you will be resurrected, you will be here.’”
Another interesting note is the statement “wal bat’thu ba’dal mawt” in Amantu, which literally means “… and in resurrection after death”, it does not say “resurrection after Doomsday”! Evidently, ba’th, i.e. resurrection, is an event that occurs after tasting death, not after Doomsday!
We live in this world without physical bodies and the spirit body that we simultaneously produce. The eminent Islamic scholar and Sufi Saint Imam Ghazali explains the name ‘Al-Ba’ith’ in his Construal of the Most Beautiful Names as the following:
“Many fall into misconceptions in regards to this topic and then try to justify their beliefs, saying things like: ‘death is nothingness, resurrection (ba’th) is to come back to life after becoming inexistent, just like the first time we are brought to life…’ First of all, to think death is nothingness is incorrect. Secondly, to assume resurrection will be like the first time is also incorrect.