This letter, written to Badi'uddîn Sahâranpûrî, informs us about life in the grave and about the thawâb of plague.
Hamd be to Allâhu ta'âlâ. Salâm be to the good people He has chosen. Your valuable letter has reached us. You write that in your part of the country two horrific series of events have commenced, and that one of them is the tâ'ûn [plague] and the other is the qaht [food famine]. May Allâhu ta'âlâ protect us and you against calamities. May He bless us all with good health!
"This great catastrophe notwithstanding, we are still praying day and night and waiting upon the will of Allâhu ta'âlâ. Our hearts are with Him momentarily," you write. Upon reading this, we paid our hamd and gratitude to Allâhu ta'âlâ. At such times as this, recite the four Quls very often! [That is, say the sûras beginning as "Qul yâ ayyuhal kâfirûn...," "Qul huwallâhu..." and "Qul a'ûdhu..." This will protect you against the harms of genies and human beings!]
The sunna prescribes that a man's shroud must consist of three parts. It is bid'a to wrap a turban. A piece of paper called Ahdnâma, [on which the answers to be given to the interrogating angels and the prayers such as istighfâr are written], must not be put in the grave. Otherwise it will cause the blessed letters and names to be smeared with the foul emissions from the corpse; and it has not been commanded by any [of the four] basic proofs [of the Sharî'a]. The savants of Mâwarâ-un nahr [Transoxiana, the cities between the rivers Syr Darya (Jaxartes) and Amu Darya (Oxus) near the Aral Sea] never did so. It is good to put a savant's shirt on the deceased instead of a qamîs. Martyrs' shrouds are their clothes. [Those martyrs who die of a wound by a gun are not washed or shrouded. Those who die in combat without being wounded or who die of an epidemic disease or in a catastrophe still get the thawâb of martyrs, but they are washed and shrouded]. Abû Bakr-i Siddîq (radiyallâhu 'anh) enjoined in his last will, "Shroud me with these two pieces of clothes of mine!"
Because life in the grave is like worldly life in one respect, the deceased makes progress and gets promoted. Life in the grave is different with different people. It has been said that Prophets 'alaihimussalâm' perform namâz in their graves. As our Prophet 'sallallâhu 'alaihi wasallam' went by the grave of Mûsâ ('alaihissalâm) on the night of Mi'râj, he saw him performing namâz in his grave. When he ascended to heaven at that moment, he saw Mûsâ 'alaihissalâm' in heaven.
Life in the grave is a wonder. Nowadays, studying the life in the grave on account of my deceased eldest son [Muhammad Sâdiq 'rahmatullâhi 'aleyh'], I have been observing wonderful mysteries. If I were to divulge only a few of them, due to their being beyond the mind's range they would cause mischief and a disturbance. The Arsh is the ceiling of Paradise. But the grave also is one of the gardens of Paradise. Mind's eye cannot see this. The astonishing things in the grave are seen with a different eye. Belief in this, weak as it may be, causes one to be saved from torment. However, to be able to utter that beautiful word [Kalima-i tawhîd] at your last breath it is necessary to [obey the Sharî'a in the world and to] do pious deeds.
It is a grave sin to abandon a place stricken with plague lest you should die. It is like deserting the battlefield. A person who does not leave the place of plague and who puts up with it patiently will get the thawâb of martyrs when he dies. He will not suffer any torment in the grave. If this patient person does not die, he will get the thawâb of ghâzîs (those who survive a Holy War).