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From Death to Resurection
کلمة الاسترجاع.jpg

Burial Night or Laylat al-dafn (Arabic:لَیلَةُ الدَّفن) is the first night after the burial of a deceased person in grave. In Islamic culture, this night, its characteristics and events have been extensively discussed. According to hadiths, the first night after burial is an important night for the person passed away and has different stages. Among its important events are meeting different angels, questioning the person and receiving his answers and the pressure of the grave. Some actions such as the prayer of burial night can help the deceased person to pass these events. The first night in the grave is beautiful and relaxing for believers and very harsh and dreadful for disbelievers and wrongdoers.

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Entering the Grave

According to hadiths and religious teachings, since the time the person is in his deathbed and the first moments of death approaching, the person sees the result of his actions and will be pleased of or suffer from them. In the first hours and days after death, the soul, while being in the world of Barzakh, finds itself beside the physical body. Due to the great attachment it has had with the body in this world, it is attentive toward it and follows it in the movements and while it is being washed, and then sees itself with the body in the grave, when it is buried.

As soon as the deceased person enters the grave, his first night begins and it is the roughest night he inevitably will experience. The states of the deceased person are greatly influenced by his actions, beliefs and his attachment to the material world.

Muslim philosophers refer to a hadith of Imam al-Sadiq (a) and interpret "the grave" and all its events referring to "the world of barzakh". According to this view, entering the grave and the first night in grave begins from the first moments after death and is not related to the burial of the body.

The Time of Burial

It is recommended to place the body twice on the ground near the grave and wait for some minutes and do not hurry to bury the body, because entering the body to the grave brings about great fear to the soul; so, the delay helps the soul which is with the body to become familiar with the new environment and easily bears that fear.

Presence of an Angel called Ruman

After burying the body, the first angel visiting it is Malik Ruman. In the third supplication of al-Sahifa al-Sajjadiyya, Imam al-Sajjad (a) hails to this angel. The job of this angel is reckoning and summing up the actions of people and compiling them in a file for them which will be considered their action records. The person will carry this file, nature of which is unknown to us, until the Day of Judgment, when it will be opened to him and he will be judged accordingly. This angel, based on the person’s actions, advises the next angels to be either harsh or easy on the person.

Questions of the Grave

Questions of Nakir and Munkar are among the most important events of the first night in grave. They enter the grave after the angel Ruman. One of them stands at the right side of the person and the other at his left side and ask him questions. If the person is a disbeliever or a sinner, he meets those angels having scary faces and they will punish him. His grave will be then filled with fire and thus they will be called Nakir and Munkar. If the person is a believer, he will be able to answer questions with the help of the friends of God and the two angels will meet him with kind and beautiful faces and will give him the good news of entering the paradise and his grave will be expanded with blessings of God. That is when the two angels are called Bashir and Mubashshir.

According to hadiths, in this night, the faith of the person will be questioned and that if he believes in God and His Prophet (a) and about whom he took as his leader and Imam in the world. In other hadiths, more questions are mentioned. According to some hadiths, questions and answers of the first night in grave are general and include all human beings. Some scholars have excluded two groups of people from being questioned: people such as Prophets (a) and Imams (a), and those who do not have the requirements for answering such as kids and mentally ill people. 'Allama Majlisi mentioned that there are no clear hadiths in this regard and believed that it is better not to give opinion about it.

According to some other hadiths, questions and answers in the grave are for mere believers or disbelievers. Thus, in his Hayat ma ba'd al-mawt, 'Allama Tabataba'i did not consider questions and answers in the grave for common people.

Factors for Easy Passage of the First Night in Grave

It is recommended that relatives of the deceased person do not leave him after burial and through dictation, help him answer the questions of Nakir and Munkar. In addition to the actions, acts of charity, prayers and the fasting the deceased person has performed, some actions such as gifted prayers and prayer of burial night performed by his relatives are influential in relieving him from or decreasing difficulties of the grave for him.

Those without Grave

The first night in grave is not only for those who are buried, but also those whose bodies are not buried and destroyed due to burning or explosion, will experience the first night in grave, the questions and also the pressure of the grave. According to one view, all the mentioned issues happen to this material body and God can give the power to perceive and answer to scattered or burned body parts and gives water, air or anything in the world the power to make pressure on or punish the body or its parts; thus, if a body decays in the air, it will not be excluded from this rule. Al-Kulayni narrated that, "Yunus b. 'Ammar asked Imam al-Sadiq (a), If a person who was hung up would have punishment of grave as well? Imam (a) answered: "Yes, God, the Almighty will order the air to surround him with pressure."

According to philosophers, since the grave is interpreted as the world of barzakh, its night is especial to it and the first night in grave does not necessarily begin after the deceased person is buried.

The Relation between the Material Grave, the Soul and the World of Barzakh

There is an especial relation between the grave in barzakh and the grave in this world, i.e. there is a relation between the soul in barzakh and the material body in the grave. It comes originally from the relation between the soul and the material body which have a kind of unity during the life in this world. With death, this relation does not completely break, but a weak relation between the soul in barzakh and the material body remains. Thus, the material grave is related with the grave in barzakh and the soul which is present in a supernatural world is attentive toward the material body and the place where it is buried. It is because of this relation between the material grave and the grave in barzakh that there are certain rulings about the material grave, funeral, shrouding, burial, respecting graves, recommendation of visiting graves, making supplication and asking for forgiveness upon graves and as such in Islam.

This relation between the soul in barzakh and the material body in the material grave will remain in the next hours and days after death due to the great attachment the soul has had with the material body in this world. This attention and relation gradually decreases after the soul finds attachment with the body in barzakh and the ideal form and only a weak relation remains between the soul and the material body thereafter.

Pressure of the Grave

Main article: Pressure of the Grave

One of the certain events which will happen in the grave is the pressure of the grave referred to in hadiths as "Daghtat al-qabr" (ضغطة القبر).

Companions of Imams (a) have frequently asked them about it and also asked if it included everyone.

Abu Basir asked Imam al-Sadiq (a): If a person would be relieved of the pressure of the grave? Imam (a) answered: "The refuge of God is to be sought for the pressure of the grave, for how few people would be relieved of the pressure of the grave."

The Prayer of Burial Night

In hadiths, it is recommended (Mustahab) that people perform the prayer of burial night for the deceased person at the first night after his burial. It is known among people as Salāt al-Wahsha and is recommended to be performed in either way below:

  • To perform a two-rak'a prayer, on the first rak'a of which, after reciting sura al-Fatiha, Ayat al-Kursi should be recited once and in the second rak'a, after reciting sura al-Fatiha, sura al-Qadr should be recited ten times and after saying salam (last phrase of prayer), the following phrase should be recited: "«أللهُمَّ صَلِّ عَلی مُحمّدٍ و ‌آلِ مُحمّدٍ وَ ابعَث ثَوابَها إلی قبرِ فلان", but instead of "فلان", the name of the deceased person should be mentioned.
  • To perform a two-rak'a prayer, on the first rak'a of which, after reciting sura al-Fatiha, sura al-Tawhid should be recited twice and on the second rak'a, after reciting sura al-Fatiha, sura al-Takathur should be recited and after the prayer, the following phrase should be recited: "«أللهُمَّ صَلِّ عَلی مُحمّدٍ و ‌آلِ مُحمّدٍ وَ ابعَث ثَوابَها إلی قبرِ فلان", but instead of "فلان", the name of the deceased person should be mentioned.

This prayer is recommended (Mustahab) to be performed after burial, even if there are some days of delay between the death and the burial. It is to be performed since the beginning of the night until fajr, but it is better to be performed at the beginning of the night after 'Isha prayer.

The Meaning of Day and Night in Barzakh

About the world of barzakh, it should be said that even though it is not completely known to us, but it can be learned from some verses and hadiths that time exists in barzakh.

But what is the meaning of day and night in barzakh is a truth the details of which cannot be perceived by us easily, because time as known to us with sunrise and sunset which make day and night does not exist in barzakh, unless it is said that since the teachings of revelation are for the people in this world, then morning and night have been used in references and the statement such as "their punishment in the mornings and nights in barzakh" is used, so that it can be comparable to this world; however, there is no actual sunrise or sunset there.

Therefore, the same way it is said that there is no matter in the world of barzakh while there are forms, sizes and volumes the same as the material world; the same is said about time and place; and, the first "night" in grave is a relative address.

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