By Osman Riaz
The Objection: It is claimed that the Prophet Muhammad (peace & blessings be upon Him) is dead like the common bodies which are lying dead in their graves having no concern with the affairs of the world. That he is not alive in his grave. He is, therefore, unaware of the state of his ummah and the world in general. It is, thus, wrong to seek anything from the dead through intermediation, nor is there anything special about visiting Madinah (that many Muslims yearn for) since the Prophet (peace & blessings be upon Him) is not alive and is unaware of our presence when we visit his grave.
Answer: This idea stems from an atheistic, secularist and western orientalist approach to Islam which some Muslims have assimilated and marketed as "pure Islam". This concept had never existed for over a thousand years of Islamic history until recent centuries. This allegation has, however, been rejected by the majority of Muslims across the globe and they refuse to accept this creed. Quite frankly, since it is a deviation from the original Islamic belief. The actual belief concerning this matter is that the Prophet (peace & blessings be upon Him) did die but this does not mean that he is not alive in his grave; fully informed. The true Islamic belief will be proven through Quran, Hadith, and sayings of religious authorities:
"And do not (ever) think that those who are slain in the way of Allah are dead. They are rather alive in the Presence of their Lord. They are served with sustenance (comprising bounties of Paradise)." [Quran 3:169]
Imam Shawkani writes: "In the Quran it is mentioned that martyrs are alive and food is provided for them. The Prophets and righteous people are a lot higher in status than them so what will be their place? It has been proven through hadith that Prophets are alive in their graves. Both Imam Tirmidhi and Imam Bayhaqi have said that these are authentic hadith." [Nayl al-Awtar, vol. 3, pg. 82]
"The Prophet (peace & blessings be upon Him) said: 'My life is good for you because you hear traditions from people and relate them to others and my death is also good for you because your deeds will be presented to me. If I see virtues (good) prevail, I will be grateful to Allah, and if I see the vices (evil) prevail, I will pray for your forgiveness from Allah". [Imam Haythami; Imam Bazzar; Imam Iraqi; Imam Ibn Sa'd; Qadi Iyad; Imam Sayuti; Mulla Ali Qari; Imam Ibn al-Qayyim al-Jawzi - all who reported this hadith as Sahih].
"Shaddad bin Aws (upon him be peace) reported that the Prophet (peace & blessings be upon Him) said: 'The most excellent day is the day of Friday. Adam was created on that (day) and on it the Trumpet will be blown and on it will (the people) lose their senses. So invoke blessings on me abundantly on that (day) for your blessings are presented to me'. Upon this, a man asked: 'Allah's Messenger, how are our blessings presented to you while you will decay?' The Prophet (peace & blessings be upon Him) replied: 'Certainly Allah has made it unlawful for the earth to eat the bodies of the Prophets." [Ibn Majah, ch. 79 (1: 345 # 1085) & ch. 65 (1: 524 # 1636); Abu Dawud, Book of Salah 1: 275 (# 1047)].
"Abu Darda' (upon him be peace) narrates that the Prophet (peace & blessings be upon Him) stated: 'Invoke blessings on me abundantly on the day of Friday. Verily it is attended and the angels attend it, and none invokes blessings on me but his supplication is presented to me till he finishes it'. I asked: '(Is it also compulsory for us) even after your demise?' The Prophet (peace and blessings be upon Him) replied: 'And even after my demise because Allah has forbidden the earth to eat up the bodies of the Prophets. Therefore, a Prophet of Allah is alive (and) is granted provisions (from heaven)." [Ibn Majah, ch. 65 (1: 524 # 1637)]
"The Prophet (peace & blessings be upon Him) stated: 'Invoke blessings on me, since blessings invoked by you are conveyed to me wherever you may be". [Abu Dawud, Book of Manasik (2: 218 # 2042); Majma-uz-Zawa'id, 2: 247]
The Prophet (peace & blessings be upon Him) was telling his companions about the return of Prophet Isa (upon him be peace) when he stated: "And when he (Isa) will stand beside my grave calling: 'O Muhammad!' I will respond to him". [Ibn Hajar Asqalani in al-Matalib-ul-aliyah (4: 23 # 3853)].
"The Prophet (peace & blessings be upon Him) stated: 'There is no Muslim who invokes blessings upon me (salutes me) but Allah returns to me my soul till I respond to him in return". [Abu Dawud, Book of Manasik (2: 218 # 2041); Musnad Ahmad Ibn Hambal, 2: 527]
"Abu Hurayrah (upon him be peace) reported that the Prophet (peace & blessings be upon Him) said: There is no Muslim in the east or the west who salutes me but I and the angels of my Lord answer him". [Abu Nu'aym in Hilyat-ul-Awliya, 6: 349].
"The Prophet (peace & blessings be upon Him) said: 'I listen to the blessings of my lovers and know them'. [Muhammad Mahdi (not The Imam Mahdi who will emerge at the end of times) in Matali-ul-Masarrat, pg 81]
"Sa'id Ibn al-Mussayib says, 'In the days of Harrah (when Yazeed attacked Madinah) I was alone in Masjid al-Nabawi for three days when there was no adhan or iqamah. I heard the adhan from the grave of our Prophet, and that is how I knew the time of salah." [Musnad Darimi, chapter on Fadhail Sayyid al-Mursalin]
Imam Ibn Taymiyya writes: "A group of people heard the answer of their salaam. And in the days of Harrah, Sa'id Ibn al-Mussayib heard the voice of our Prophet (peace & blessings be upon Him) saying the adhan from the grave. And there are more events like these and they are all true." [Iqtidah Sirat al-Mustaqim, pg. 373]
Mawlana Qasim Nanotwi (one of the founders of the Madrassa of Deoband) says: "Reverence is offered to the Prophet's bodies because they are alive. Soulless bodies do not have any power over the earth". [Ab-i-Hayat, pg. 32]
Imam Ibn Taymiyya writes: "In the time of a drought, a person came to our Prophet's grave and complained about the drought. He then saw our Prophet (peace & blessings be upon Him) who told him to go to Umar and tell him to perform Salah of Istisqah. There are numerous true narrations similar to this". [Iqtida Sirat al Mustaqim, pg. 373; Imam Bukhari also discussed the same in Ta'rikh al Kabir]
Imam Ibn Kathir writes: "When an Arab came to our Prophet's grave and said 'I repent from my sins through you and ask for forgiveness; I would give my life for you'. Afterwards our Prophet (peace & blessings be upon Him) appeared in the dream of Utba' (upon him be peace) and informed him to go to the Arab and convey the message that there is good news for him that Allah had forgiven his sins". [Tafsir Ibn Kathir, under Surah Nisa, v. 64; Imam Qurtabi mentions the same event in Tafsir al-Qurtabi]
Imam Ibn Hajar al-Asqalani therefore quotes: "Imam Bukhari finalised the chapters of his compendium between the grave of the Prophet (peace & blessings be upon Him) and his pulpit." [Muqaddima Fath-ul-Bari, pg. 13]