Thursday, October 02, 2008

The torture of the grave Islam and the afterlife

Hardly a week goes by without front-page news of Muslims dying somewhere in the world in a violent way. Despite all the media attention, there is little understanding among non-Muslims of Islamic views of death and the afterlife.

Everyone knows, of course, that after death martyrs go straight to the Garden of Eden, where they recline on couches, savor meats and fruits and enjoy the company of dark-eyed houris while listening to the sound of flowing rivers.

But what happens to the vast majority of Muslims, those who do not die as martyrs?
According to Islamic doctrine, between the moment of death and the burial ceremony, the spirit of a deceased Muslim takes a quick journey to Heaven and Hell, where it beholds visions of the bliss and torture awaiting humanity at the end of days.

By the time corpse handlers are ready to wash the body, the spirit returns to earth to observe the preparations for burial and to accompany the procession toward the cemetery. But then, before earth is piled upon the freshly dug grave, an unusual reunion takes place: The spirit returns to dwell within the body.

In the grave, the deceased Muslim - this composite of spirit and corpse - encounters two terrifying angels, Munkar and Nakir, recognized by their bluish faces, their huge teeth and their wild hair.

These angels carry out a trial to probe the soundness of a Muslim's faith. If the dead Muslim answers their questions convincingly and if he has no sin on record, then the grave is transformed into a luxurious space that makes bearable the long wait until the final judgment.
But if a Muslim's faith is imperfect or if he has sinned during life by, for example, failing repeatedly to undertake purity rituals before prayer, then the grave is transformed into an oppressive, constricting space.

The earth begins to weigh down heavily upon the sentient corpse, until the rib cage collapses; worms begin to nibble away at the flesh, causing horrible pain.

This torture does not continue indefinitely. It occurs intermittently and ends at the very latest with the resurrection - when God may well forgive Muslims who have endured the punishment.
Surely this violence sounds medieval. Belief in "the torture of the grave" indeed stretches way back in history. It appears in eighth-century epitaphs and in early Islamic traditions, which elevated this belief to the status of dogma.

But pious Muslims today continue to adhere to this belief. In invocations, funeral prayers, sermons, and popular literature, Muslims are frequently reminded to heed this punishment.
Anecdotal evidence suggests that many of them take it seriously. The psychologist Ahmed M. Abdel-Khalek, who has studied anxieties about death among Arab youth, has found that preoccupation with the torture of the grave remains acute.

The Egyptians and Kuwaitis he polled worried about this torture more than they feared losing a dear relative or succumbing to a serious, fatal disease.

Recently, an Islamist Web site posted a picture of an 18-year-old man exhumed by the order of his father. Only three hours had passed since his burial, but already his corpse appeared aged and bruised. Scientists, according to the story, affirmed that this was caused by the torture of the grave; and the father explained that his son had been a sinner.

Many Muslims commenting on the picture took it as a sign from God to stop sinning and as a reminder to pray assiduously for relief from the punishment of the tomb. Several doubted the reality of the picture, prompting the author of the Web site to remove the posting and to apologize for it. But even a skeptic who challenged the "scientific" evidence professed in this public forum his belief in the reality of the torture of the grave.

Muslims can escape the torture of the grave by dying as martyrs. In Islam the category of martyr does not belong exclusively to those who die fighting in God's path. According to Islamic tradition, Muslims who die in a fire, by drowning, in the collapse of a building or in some other way involving great physical suffering merit the rank of martyrs in the afterlife.

This means that immediately after death, their spirits do not return to dwell within mutilated or burned corpses. Instead they enter the Garden of Eden, where they receive new bodies, perfectly reformed, so as to enjoy the rewards of martyrdom until the resurrection. Those who have lost a relative in a violent and shocking death - in the bombings in Baghdad, for instance - may find some consolation in this belief.

Mohammed, along with Buraq and Gabriel, visit Hell, and see a demon punishing "shameless women" who had exposed their hair to strangers. For this crime of inciting lust in men, the women are strung up by their hair and burned for eternity. Persian, 15th century.
Mohammed sees women strung up by hooks thrust through their tongues by a green demon. Their crimes were to "mock" their husbands and to leave their homes without permission. Persian, 15th century. Mohammed sees a red demon that is torturing women by hanging them up by hooks through their breasts, as they are engulfed in flames. The women are being punished for giving birth to illegitimate children whom they falsely claimed were fathered by their husbands. Persian, 15th century.


  1. Anonymous5:31 AM

    I'm a Maldiviam girl who was molested when young. I admire your work.
    What's your stand on Buruma Gasim marrying a girl who could be his grand daughter? Do you think a child-molester like Gasim should be allowed to run for president?
    I want to become a Christian too. What do I do?
    Thank you.

  2. During Ramadan the air waves are full of religious programs talking about this nonsense 24hrs a day.

    I always wonder, how the spirit of the Maldivian, perhaps as a result of their Buddhist ancestry, is (and was) able to pay no serious attention to these fearful tales of the grave. It is only when we are exposed to die-hard fundamentalist ideologies that we begin to take this seriously and that's the danger of parties like Adaalath.

    No matter what the moderates say, that is the real Islam.

  3. anonymous,
    Thank you for your comments.
    If you admire and read the stuff I post, I really don't think you extra elaborations.
    If you wish to become a Christian, maybe you could try contacting some Christians? If you cannot find someone physically, try

    Than you for your comments. I believe we did not pay serious attention to the real Islam because the Portuguese, and then the Dutch and British drove the Arabs out of the Indian ocean before they could complete the Islamic indoctrination. Thus we were left with a version of Islam that was syncretized with Hindhu/Buddhism.
    Now "scholars" educated in Islamic lands are trying to finish the job they started 800 years ago.
    The sad irony is that the people who are doing this are descendents of those who were massacred and converted to Islam with a sword at their throat.
    The story that Maldivians converted peacefully is just bollocks. One has only to read the old Maldivian writings and what happped on the Indian subcontinent when Islam arrived.
    It is intellectually dishonest to continue repeating the lie that Maldivians converted to Islam peacefully and by choice.

  4. Anonymous5:44 AM

    Hey I do not believe that the majority of the people that visit this site actually believe this site. The lack of factual information and the bias views have dis-owned many from these beliefs. So a pointer and heads up, the truth may lead people to believe. But I do admire your courage.

  5. Anonymous5:33 AM

    Your approach to the matter is very biast, and you are referencing is cleary un-reliable, and your knowledge to islamic litreature is ignorant and un-professional.

    I have studied islamic litreature and your portrayal of the religion is false. I have also met and lived amoungst them and I did not see such nonsense that you speak of.

    Your messeges are clearly accusing islam of things that of which are not true.


    PS. go and meet some muslims scholars who adhere to the original teachings and their Quran, it will change your preception.

  6. Anonymous7:59 AM

    this is the punishment


    What your showing here is a 15th century depiction of Muslim atitudes in Persia. This is not showing the religion of Islam itself, but the way some people follow and view Islam using their primitive imaginations.

    I can easily show Christian and Jewish medieval art depictions of hell, and western cultural atitudes towards women during those times. Many paintings from famous European artists, does that then make your western ideology and religions evil by the same logic?

    Anybody who cannot see this website for what it really is, is as dim as the authors of the site.

  8. Anonymous12:04 AM

    can any christan tell me how old was mary when she married joseph in th bible?

  9. Anonymous4:41 PM

    who is the idiotic writer of this page?????????

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