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Questions in the grave

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From Death to Resurection
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Questions in the Grave are questions a recently dead person is asked in his or her grave. According to hadiths, two angels called Munkar and Nakir or Bashir and Mubashshir interrogate a recently dead person at the first night of their death about their beliefs. So, these are called questions in the grave.

Most scholars of hadith and theology believe that it is the same material body that one had in their life in this world to which the questions are addressed, but many philosophers believe that another body—Barzakhi body—is the body to which the questions are addressed.


Main article: Munkar and Nakir

The first night when a corpse is placed in its grave, two angels—commissioned by God to interrogate the beliefs of the recently dead person—enter the person's grave. According to some hadiths, they are called "the two guardians of the grave". One of the two angels stands at the right side of the dead and the other at his or her left side, and they start interrogating the dead person by asking questions about his or her beliefs. If the person is an unbeliever or a sinner, then the two angels appear to him or her with a frightening face, and when the true character of the dead is revealed, he or she will be tortured by the frightening angels, called Munkar and NakirTemplate:Note , and the grave will be filled with fire. But if the departed is a faithful and pious, then he or she can answer the questions with the help of the Prophet (s) and Imams (a). The angels will appear to him or her with a beautiful face, and are called "Bashir" and "Mubashshir"[1]. They give him or her the good news of going to the Heaven and expand the grave with divine bounties. [2]

The Content of The Questions

The questions asked by Munkar and Nakir (or Bashir and Mubashshir) are the most important events of the first night in the grave. According to frequently narrated (mutawatir) hadiths, the two angels ask the following:

  • Who is your Lord?
  • Who is your prophet?
  • Which imam (leader) did you follow in the world?[3]

According to other hadiths, further questions are also asked:

  • What god do you worship?
  • What prophet did you believe in?
  • What Sacred Book or Scripture was your guideline in life?
  • Which imam (leader) did you follow?
  • How did you spend your life?[4]
  • How did you acquire money and how did you spend it?[5]
  • Who were your friends in this-worldly life?[6]
The Propeht (s):

Know that the first thing that the two angels will ask you is about the Lord that you worshiped and the prophet that was sent to you and the religion that you believed and the scripture that you read and the imam (or leader) that you obeyed. They then ask you about the way you spent your life, how you gained money and how you spent it. Be cautious and think about yourself, and before the interrogation, prepare yourself for the answer. If you are a pious believer and a follower of prophets, then God will suggest the required answers to you and will open your tongue to the right thing, and you will successfully answer. At this time, God will give you the good news of the Heaven and a lot of good, and divine angels will welcome you with fragrance. Otherwise, you will stammer and you will lose your argument and fail to answer. You will be warned to go to the Hell and angels of torture will receive you.

Al-Kulayni, al-Kafi, vol. 8, p. 72

The Addressees

According to some hadiths, every person will be asked questions in the grave. Some scholars excluded two groups from post-mortem interrogation: people who are too virtuous and perfect to be asked such questions, such as prophets and Imams (a), and people who had no religious obligations, such as children and mad people. Muhammad Baqir al-Majlisi believes that since there is no explicit hadith in this regard, we had better remain silent about this.[8]

According to some hadiths, only pure believers and pure unbelievers are interrogated in their graves, and the rest of the people will be interrogated on Dooms Day. [9] To reconcile these two groups of hadiths, some scholars hold that certain questions (such as a detailed interrogation of one's actions) are specific to pure believers and pure unbelievers, and the rest of the people are only asked about their basic religious beliefs in general.[10]

Talqin of the Dead

Main article: Talqin

Relatives and friends of the dead are recommended not to leave him or her alone after the burial, and help him or her answer the questions of Munkar and Nakir by talqin (dictation/instruction).[11] If a person does good actions, gives alms, performs prayers and fast during his life in this world, then difficulties of the grave will be relaxed for him or her. Moreover, if their relatives do some actions on their behalf, such as gift prayers and burial-night prayers, that will also help the dead in the grave.

Material Body or Barzakhi Body

There is a disagreement about whether questions in the grave are addressed to the same material body that is put inside the grave or a barzakhi body [12] that is connected to the material body and the grave. Most scholars of hadith and kalam (theology) appeal to the apparent meanings of Quranic verses and hadiths to show that the material body is asked the questions.[13] In his al-Kafi, al-Kulayni cites a hadith from Imam al-Baqir (a) according to which: when the dead person is put inside the grave, the soul will return to his or her body and then two angels come and ask them questions.[14]

Most philosophers believe that one's barzakhi body is addressed by the questions. In response to the above hadiths, they interpret them allegorically.[15]

People Without Graves

A person whose body is not buried or has disappeared by being burned or by an explosion will also undergo the first night of the grave, questions in the grave and the pressure of the grave.

  • According to the view that all these happen to the material body, God can give the scattered or burned parts the power to undergo such experiences, as He can give the water or the air the power to exert pressure on these parts or the body. So even if a body is destroyed in the space, it will still undergo all these experiences. Al-Kulayni cited a hadith quoted by Yunus b. 'Ammar from Imam al-Sadiq (a) about a person who was hanged: will he undergo the sufferings of the grave? The Imam (a) replied: "yes, God will order the air to exert pressure on it."
  • And according to the view of philosophers, since the grave is interpreted as the world of barzakh, the corpse does not need to be buried in order for the above experiences to occur.[16]


  1. literally meaning: bearers of good new
  2. Al-Shaykh al-Mufid wrote: "according to some hadiths, the two angels that go to an unbeliever are Munkar and Nakir, and the two angels that go to a believer are Bashir and Mubashshir. They are called "Nakir" and "Munkir" because an unbeliever denied (was munkir') the truth and the existence of these angels, and so he or she is unpleased (nakir') by seeing them. And they are called "Bashir" and "Mubashshir" because they give him the good news (they are "mubashshir") of God being pleased with the person. Tashih al-i'tiqa, al-Shaykh al-Mufid, p. 220; 'Ilm al-yaqin, Fayd Kashani, 2:1073.
  3. The messenger of God (s) said: "Indeed when the servant enters his/her grave, the two angels-Nakir and Munkar-will go to him/her. Then, the first question they ask is about their God and next about their prophet and then their wali (guardian). So if he/she answers they will be safe and if not the two angels will punishment them. Kashf al-Mahajja, p. 273.
  4. Kulaynī, al-Kāfī, vol. 8, p. 72.
  5. Majlisī, Biḥār al-anwār, vol. 6, p. 223, 264.
  6. Majlisī, Biḥār al-anwār, vol. 6, p. 175.
  7. Jazāyirī, al-Anwār al-nuʿmānīyya, vol. 4, p. 239.
  8. Majlisī, Biḥār al-anwār, vol. 6, p. 278.
  9. Imam al-Sadiq (a) said: "only a pure believer or a pure unbeliever will be asked in their graves, and the rest will be ignored". al-Kafi, vol. 3, p. 235, the section regarding Questions in the Grave and who will be asked and who will not be asked, hadith 8.
  10. Ishtihārdī, ʿĀlam-i barzakh, p. 109.
  11. Kulaynī, al-Kāfī, vol. 2, p. 634; vol. 3, p. 201.
  12. On some philosophical views, one's soul will find itself in a barzakhi or imaginal body after death and the separation from the material body. The imaginal body is very similar to one's material body, but with a different stuff that fits the laws of the world of barzakh.
  13. Majlisī, Biḥār al-anwār, vol. 6, p. 270.
  14. Kulaynī, al-Kāfī, vol. 3, p. 234.
  15. Jawādī Āmulī, Maʿād shināsī, vol. 1, p. 222.
  16. Jawādī Āmulī, Maʿād shināsī, vol. 21, p. 222.


  • Ishtihārdī, Muḥammad Muḥammadī. ʿĀlam-i barzakh dar chand qadamī-yi mā. Tehran: Nabawī, 1373 AH.
  • Jawādī Āmulī, ʿAbd Allāh. Maʿād shināsī. Qom: Intishārāt-i Asrāʾ, [n.d].
  • Jazāyirī, Niʿmat Allāh al. Al-Anwār al-nuʿmānīyya. Beirut: [n.p], 1404 AH.
  • Kulaynī, Muḥammad b. Yaʿqūb al-. Al-Kāfī. Tehran: Dār al-Kutub al-Islāmīyya, 1407 AH.
  • Majlisī, Muḥammad Bāqir al-. Biḥār al-anwār. Tehran: Dār al-Kutub al-Islāmīyya, 1362 Sh.