The Lives of Man

by Imam Abdallah Ibn Alawi Al-Haddad

The Lives of Man by Imam Abdallah Ibn Alawi Al-Haddad. Translated from the Arabic by Mostafa Al-Badawi. Editor's preface by Abdal Hakim Murad, London 1411 and Foreword by Shaykh Hasanayn Muhammad Makhluf, Formerly Grand Mufti of Egypt Member of the Senior Ulema Council.

The Prologue bears the caption: The Way to Remember and Learn from the Lives of Man that Wane and Perish and consists of the following five chapters:

  1. The First Life: Life before conception.
  2. The Second Life: Dunya –the Lower World, divided into: In the Womb, Youth, Maturity, Seniority, Decrepitude, Sickness and Death.
  3. The Third Life: The Intermediate Realm (barzakh), divided into: The torment of the Grave, How the Living may help the Dead, Visiting Graves.
  4. The Fourth Life: Judgment Day, divided into: The Balance and the Bridge, The Hawd, The Intercession.
  5. The Fire and the Garden, divided into: The Fire, The Garden with an Afterword captioned The Vision of God, and His Overwhelming Mercy.

Selections from The Lives of Man

The following is related on the authority of Anas ibn Malik, Allah is pleased with him: The Messenger of God, blessings and peace upon him said:

"For a newborn child until he reaches the age of discretion, his good deeds are written to the credit of his parents, while his bad deeds are written neither against him nor against his parents. Once he reaches the age of discretion and the pen begins to write [his acts], God the Exalted issues His command to the two angels who accompany him and guard and counsel him.

When he reaches forty years in Islam, God gives him security from three [things]: madness, leprosy and vitiligo.

When he reaches fifty, God makes his reckoning lighter

When he reaches sixty, God grants him to revert to Him as pleases Him.

When he reaches seventy, the inhabitants of Heaven love him

When he reaches eighty, God records his good acts and is lenient with his bad ones.

When he reaches ninety, God forgives him his bygone sins and those to come, allows him to intercede on behalf of his family, and he becomes God's prisoner on the earth .

Then should he be returned to the worst age, so that after having had knowledge he knows nothing, God continues to record as good acts for him those which he used to do knows nothing. God continues to record as good acts for him those which he used to do when he was well, and if he commits an evil act it is not recorded."

This hadith is mentioned by Shaykh Ahmad ibn Ali ibn Abil Qasim al Yamani among the forty hadith has collected regarding the forgiveness of sins that had gone by and sins to come.

A man dies in accordance with what he had lived in, and is resurrected in accordance with what he had died in. [Hadith]

When God wishes good for His servants, He wishes him up. They said: "How does He wish him up?" and he replied: "He blesses him with success in doing good before he dies."

And when a funeral procession once passed by him the Prophet, blessings and peace upon him, said: "Delivered or delivered from!" They asked: "O Messenger of God! What is delivered, and what is delivered from?" He replied: "God's believing bondsman is delivered from the hardship of the world and its harm into His mercy. As for a depraved person: people, town, trees and animals are delivered from him."

And he said to Abu Dharr: "O Abu Dharr! The world is the prison of the believer, the grave his place of safety, and the Garden his end. O Abu Dharr! The world is the Garden of the disbeliever, the grave is his torment, and the Fire his end."

Ibn Abbas, Allah is pleased with him, said: "If you see death nearing a man, give him good tidings, so that he may meet his Lord thinking well of Him, and if you see him well and alive, put fear into him."

Ali, is pleased with him, said: "When a believer dies the place where he used to pray weeps for him, and so does the place from which his deeds used to ascend to Heaven." Then he recited: The heaven and earth wept not for them. [44:29]

And [the Prophet] said, blessings and peace upon him: "Someone whose death coincides with the close of Ramadan enters the Garden, and someone whose death coincides with the close of Arafat enters the Garden, and someone whose death coincides with the close of his charity enters the Garden."

And he said: "Someone who dies on a Thursday night or on a Friday is given protection against the torment of the grave, and shall arrive on the Day of Rising with the marks of the martyrs."

The Torment of the Grave

When he is laid out in his grave it is recommended that those who put him there say: "In the name of God, and according to the religion of the Messenger of God." It is also recommended that those who are near the grave put three handfuls of dust on it, saying with the first, "From it did We create you" with the second, "To it shall We return you" and with the third, "And from it shall We bring you forth another time." [20:55] Then dust should be gradually and gently poured over him until the grave is filled and evened, after which the people present should remain for a while reading Quran, and asking forgiveness and firmness for him, for according to a hadith this is the time when he will be questioned by the two angels, Munkar and Nakir, who are the grave's tormentors. They ask: "Who is your Lord? What is your religion? Who is your Prophet?" Those whom God gives strength then say: "My Lord is God, Islam is my religion, and Muhammad is my Prophet." But those whom God allows to swerve will be confused and hesitating, just as in the world they had been doubtful, tortuous, neglectful of God's orders, prone to violate His prohibitions. They say" Er! Er! I do not know!"—as has been mentioned in sound hadiths. They will then strike him, and his grave will tighten around him and fill with torture.

As for the firm believer, however, who was established in faith and observance during his life, he will be given good tidings by the angels, his grave will be spacious and filled with both light and delight, his good works will surround him: his prayers, fasts, charity, recitation of Quran, and remembrance of God the Exalted, all these things will drive away any terror or fears that may come near him. "The grave is either one of the Garden's meadows or one of the Fire's pits." [Hadith] "I have never seen anything more terrifying than the grave." [Hadith]

Whenever Uthman ibn Affan Allah is pleased with him, came near a grave he wept so much that his beard became wet. Someone once remarked to him that when he mentioned the Garden and the Fire he never wept as much and he said: "I heard the Messenger of God blessings and peace upon him say: "The grave is the first of the Hereafter's stages. If one is saved from it, then what comes next is even harder.

The Messenger of God blessings and peace upon him, said: " The grave has an oppressive tightness, and were [it possible for] any one to escape this, Sad ibn Muadh would have done so, "for he is the one for whom the Throne of the All-Merciful shook."

It is said that the torment of the grave is mostly the consequence of three things: slander, calumny, and not guarding oneself against being soiled with urine. There are two hadiths relating to this: "Much of the grave's torment is from urine." And there is the incident in which when the Messenger of God, blessings and peace upon him, heard two men being tormented in their graves, he asked for palm twigs and put them on their graves saying that their suffering might be relieved to a certain extent for as long as they remained moist. He then remarked that they were being tormented, and not for committing anything major. One of them was had become used to calumny, and the other did not clean himself from urine.

He frequently asked protection, blessings and peace upon him, from the grave's torment, and urged others to include this in their supplications following the tashhahud of every ritual prayer, and in their evening and morning invocations. For the grave's torment is real, and so is its bliss: bliss for the people of faith and obedience, torment for those of disbelief, hypocrisy, depravity, and rebellion. Each of the two groups differs in the intensity of bliss or torment in proportion to how they differed in the world in their doing those things which attract reward and bliss, or chastisement and torment.

Spirits are subject to the grave's bliss or torment much more than bodies, although both share in it. There are differences of opinions [among scholars], but the truth is, as we said, that both spirits and bodies are subject to the grave's bliss or torment.

How the Living may help the Dead

Praying for the dead, asking forgiveness for them, and giving charity on their behalf are some of the things God causes the dead in their graves to benefit from and be protected by. There are many hadiths about this, and many fine and virtuous people have witnessed it in their dreams. Sad ibn Ubaida, Allah is pleased with him, once said to the Messenger of God, blessings and peace upon him: "My mother's soul departed suddenly, and had she been able to speak she would have given alms. Would it bring benefit to her if I did so on her behalf?" "Yes!" he replied. So he dug a well [for people to take water from] and said: "This is on behalf of Sad's mother."

And another man said: "O messenger of God! My parents have died, is there anything left with which I may be good to them?" And he replied: " There are four things: praying and asking forgiveness for them, carrying out their promises, being good to their friends, and giving proper attention to those kinship bonds which could only have been attended to by them."

And the Prophet said, blessings and peace upon him: "Were it not for the living the dead would have been doomed". In other words, because of the prayers and requests for forgiveness and for mercy which they receive.

And he said, blessings and peace upon him:" My Nation is a nation covered with mercy. Its members enter their graves with sins like unto mountains, and leave their graves having been forgiven because the living have asked forgiveness for the dead."

It is related that the gifts of alms, prayers, and Quranic recitation sent by the living to the dead reach them carried by the angels on plates of light, and adorned with silk handkerchiefs, and they say to them: "This gift is from so—and—so," and in this way they find joy and delight.

A dead man was once seen in a dream and, upon being questioned about his state, said that he had been greeted by an angel who attempted to burn his face with a flame held in his hand. But one of the living said: "God have mercy on so—and—so"—and the flame went out.

One of the greatest things which one may offer to the dead is to recite Quran and send on the reward for it. This is of great benefit and baraka. The Muslims have agreed on this everywhere throughout the ages, the majority of scholars and virtuous people have recommended it, and there are hadiths to confirm this. Although these hadiths have weak chains of transmission, there is a principle, as the hadith scholar al-Suyuti (Allah show him His mercy) has said: "Weak hadiths may be acted upon when they indicate acts of goodness." And these are indeed acts of goodness.

All the Quran is blessed and beneficial, but the most beneficial thing to offer to the dead is Surat Al-Ikhlas eleven times, and this has been seen in many blessed dreams. Each person should recite this noble surah the said number of times, either each night, each day or more, or less, or even only Thursday night, and offer the reward to the parents, teachers, and all those who had rights over him.

He must not forget his dead ones when he prays, asks forgiveness, or gives alms, lest he in turn be forgotten after his death, for the one who remembers is remembered, and the one who forgets is forgotten. Benevolence goes ahead of you, and God allows not the reward of those who have done good to be wasted. [18:30]

Visiting Graves

You should know that it is recommended to visit graves. The Messenger of God, blessings and peace be upon him, permitted this after having at first forbidden it.

It contains benefits both for the living visitor and the dead person who receives the. The Prophet said, blessings and peace be upon him, "Visit graves, for they are a reminder of death." And "I used to forbid you to visit graves, but now you should visit them. They render one able to do without the things of the world, and remind one of the Hereafter." He also said: "No man visits the grave of his brother and sits by it but that he (the dead man) finds solace in this, having his spirit restored to him until the visitor departs." And he said: "A dead [person] in his grave is never more comforted than when those that he loved the world pay him a visit."

When a visitor enters the cemetery or passes it by he should say: "Peace on you, O place of believers. We are granted respite until tomorrow. That which you were promised has come to you, and we will, God willing, rejoin you. You are our predecessors and we are your followers. I ask God to us and you well being. O God forgive us and them."

It is recommended to visit the cemetery on Thursday night, Friday, Friday night until sunrise, and on Monday, for it is said—and this is supported by various narrations—that the spirits of the dead return to their graves at those times.

The visitor must ask for forgiveness and mercy for them, read whatever Quran he can and make over the reward to them, he should remember that soon he will go to the same end, and learn the lessons to be drawn from their condition.

When he visits the graves of his parents, relatives or anyone else who had rights over  Him, he must sit with unhurried serenity, pray for them, and ask abundantly for forgiveness, for they rejoice at this, and are glad. When he visits the graves of righteous people he should pray in abundance, for prayers are answered at many such places, as has often been experienced. The tomb of Imam Musa al-Kazim, the son of Imam Jafar al-Sadiq, is known in Baghdad as the "Proven Medicine", that is, for prayers to be answered and worries to be relieved, and so is the tomb of Maruf al-Karkhi, also in Baghdad. Some of the noble house of the Alawi Sayyids used to sit at the tomb of our master al Faqih al-Muqaddam for such long periods, in the heat of the sun, that sweat could have been wrung from their clothes, while they were unaware of this. This is reported of Shaykh Abdallah ibn Ali and others.

As for rubbing tombs and kissing them, these are distasteful practices which are to be discouraged. Even worse is the custom of circling around them.

Some have said that it is better, if possible, to stand facing the top of the [buried person's] head. They claim that the dead are more aware of those who are before their faces, but God knows best.

Know that the deeds of the living are shown to their dead families and their relatives: if those deeds are good they rejoice and are optimistic, and they pray for them to have firmness and rectitude, but if these deeds are otherwise, they feel sad and hurt, and they pray for them to be guided and given success in doing good. The Messenger of God, blessings and peace be upon him, has said: "Your deeds are shown to your dead relatives and kin. If they are good, they rejoice, and if they are otherwise, they say: “O Lord God! Do not let them die before You guide them as You guided us.!”

And he said: "Your deeds are shown to God on Monday and Thursdays, and to the Prophets, fathers, and mothers on Fridays. They rejoice at your good deeds, and their faces grow in radiance and in light. Therefore fear God, and do not distress your dead!

Suggested for further reading: Classics of Muslim Spirituality

1.The Book of Assistance by Imam Abdallah Ibn Alawi Al-Haddad. Translated by Mostafa Al-Badawi. (1989,1999)

2. Key to the Garden by Habib Ahmad Mashhur al-Haddad. Translated by Mostafa Al-Badawi. (1990)

3. Gifts for the Seeker by Imam Abdallah Ibn Alawi Al-Haddad. Translated by Mostafa Al-Badawi. (1992)

4. Degrees of the Soul by Shaykh Abd al-Khaliq al-Shabrawi. Translated by Mostafa Al-Badawi. (1997)

5. Islam—Religion of Life by Abdul Wadud Shalabi. Translated by A. H. Murad.

6. Understanding the Four Madhhabs: The Facts about Ijtihad and Taqlid by Abdal Hakim Murad.

Available from: Iman Books [iman_books@hotmail.com]

[see also www.al-haddad.co.uk]

Thanks for this review by Abdul Wahid Osman Belal, Advocate High Court, Karachi, Pakistan.