There is no such concept as a “punishment in the grave” According to the Quran. This is a concept completely alien and unsupported by the Quran. This concept is found in man made hadiths invented in Abbasid Caliphate by Persian Imams.
According to the Quran at the point of death, one will become aware of the ‘truth’. Then one will enter ‘Barzakh’, a quintessential state of ‘sleep’ where all concept of time will be lost.
36:52 They will say: “Woe to us! Who has resurrected us from our resting place? This is what the Almighty had promised; and the messengers were truthful!”
When one finally awakes, they will be confronting the Day of Judgment. The time lapse will feel as if one had only slept for a small part of the day when in truth, they would have tarried all the way to the Day of Judgment.
Before we take a look at the verses, an immediate question should arise:
What would be the purpose of an appointed Day of Judgment if after death, one were to receive their punishment in their graves before the trial had even taken place?
Conviction before trial is not a concept of justice and Allah is the most Just. In effect, this would render the Day of Judgment meaningless, a fundamental belief posited by the Quran underscored by numerous Chapters and verses. Allah repeatedly informs His creation that He will never be unjust to his slaves and not an atom’s weight of injustice will take place. All actions will be recorded in a clear record (10:61; 34:3; 99:7-8; 4:40)
Furthermore, we note the following from the Quran.
FROM THE MOMENT ONE DIES AND ARE SUBSEQUENTLY RAISED, IT WILL FEEL LIKE A MOMENTARY TIME LAPSE
17:52 The Day He calls you and you respond by His grace, and you think that YOU ONLY STAYED A LITTLE WHILE.
30:55-56 And the Day the Hour is established, the criminals will swear that they HAVE REMAINED ONLY FOR AN HOUR! Thus they were deluded. And those who were given knowledge and faith said: “YOU HAVE REMAINED ACCORDING TO THE DECREE OF ALLAH UNTIL THE DAY OF RESURRECTION; so this is now the Day of Resurrection, but you did not know.”
10:45 And the Day He gathers them, it will be as if THEY HAD STAYED BUT AN HOUR OF A DAY. They will get to know one another. Losers will be those who have denied meeting Allah, and they have not been guided.
46:35 Therefore, be patient like the messengers of strong-will did before you and do not be in haste regarding them. On the Day they will see what they have been promised, it will be as if they had not REMAINED EXCEPT FOR ONE HOUR OF A SINGLE DAY. A proclamation: Are any destroyed except for the wicked people?
79:46 For the Day they see it, it will be as if they had REMAINED AN EVENING OR HALF A DAY.
Similar wisdom is mentioned in other verses:
1- The sleepers of the cave slept for many hundreds of years (Allah knows best the exact period) but they felt they had only slept for a little while (18:19)
2- A man slept for a 100 years but he only felt like that he slept for a part of a day (2:259)
THE DAY OF JUDGMENT IS ONLY A BLINKING OF AN EYE AWAY
In the context of the above verses, it becomes clear what is meant by the following verse which completely resonates with the theme of the Quran. At the point of death (which can come upon any of us at a stroke) and till the Day of raising, it is but a blink of an eye.
16:77 And to Allah is the unseen of the heavens and the earth, and the matter of the Hour is like the blink of the eye or nearer. Allah is capable of all things.
WHEN ONE DIES, THEY ENTER ‘BARZAKH’ – HUMAN CONCEPT OF TIME IS LOST
23:100 “So that I may do good in that which I have left behind.” No, it is but a word he is speaking. And there is a barrier (Barzakhun) to prevent them from going back until the Day they are all resurrected.
10:45 And the Day He gathers them, it will be as if they had stayed but an hour of a day. They will get to know one another. Losers will be those who have denied meeting Allah, and they have not been guided.
AT THE POINT WHEN YOU DIE, THE ACTUAL TRUTH (OF PURPOSE) WILL BE KNOWN ESPECIALLY FOR DISBELIEVERS
6:93 And who is more wicked than he who invents lies about Allah, or says: “It has been inspired to me,” when We did not inspire anything to him; or who says: “I will bring down the same as what Allah has sent down.” And if you could only see the wicked at the moments of death when the angels have their arms opened: “Bring your souls out, today you will be given the severest punishment for what you used to say about Allah without truth, and you used to be arrogant towards His revelations.”
A MISQUOTED VERSE
Regrettably, without reconciling the Quranic narratives in full and due to beliefs stemming from popular traditions, one often finds use being made of isolated Quranic verses to authenticate doctrines not taught by the Quran.
With regards the example of Pharaoh, the following verse is often cited to justify the concept of ‘punishment in the grave’.
40:46 “In front of the Fire will they be brought, morning and evening: and (the sentence will be) on the Day that Judgment will be established: “Admit them the People of Pharaoh into the most severe of the retribution”
If read in context, it becomes absolutely clear that this is a reference to the Day of Judgment.
40:47 And when they argue in Hell, the weak will say to those who were arrogant: “We used to be your followers, can you take from us any portion of the Fire?”
For this reason given in the context, it is difficult to accept 40:46 as a reference to a ‘punishment in the grave’. Mutual disputes between the people of Pharaoh in the fire clearly indicate a state of communal punishment and not a punishment in separate graves.
The very next verse provides further clarity:
40:48 Those who were arrogant will say: “We are all in it together, for Allah has passed judgment upon the servants.”
This judgment can only be one made on the Day of Judgment.
Furthermore, given the descriptive traditions which deal with punishments in the grave, one has to acknowledge that Pharaoh actually drowned but was later preserved in body (10:92) and has no grave in the sense one would commonly understand it. So the difficulty with traditional understanding continues in so much as how one then reconciles Pharaoh’s punishment in the grave when his body was never buried. Clearly, the verses are misquoted out of context.
The key to understanding any Quranic theme is to remain consistent with all the Quranic verses.
Will it not be unjust to punish disbelievers in the grave before the trial takes place on the Day of Judgment?
If there was such an unjust concept of punishment in the grave, how could one reconcile the period of the Azaab (punishment) of someone who died as a disbeliever 5000 years ago and one that dies 2 minutes before the Day of Resurrection?
At the point of death, one will come to know the truth, the possible reality of his actual purpose on earth. One will then enter a state of ‘Barzakh’ where all human concept of time will cease. Once awoken, one would be face to face with the Day of judgment and it would have felt that one had stayed in Barzakh just a short while (regardless of actual time).
This is when the final judgment would then begin, where not an atom’s weight of injustice would take place (99:7-8).