As you may recall, I've been asking around about what happens to the body and soul after death. Here are some of the responses chosen because they were the most informative:
Truly - we are ALL from Allah and back to Him is our return - whatever faith we belong to we all came from Him and we have to return back to Him to account for our deeds.
You are right sister, cremation is not permissible in Islam - we are told in many ahaadith that even after death, there is an attraction of the soul to its body - especially in the immediate aftermath of the death. I do not know if any books in English cover this topic in detail however I know of many works in Farsi which speak about the relationship between the soul and body. Unfortunately, time constraints do not permit me to go into much detail in this email but you may check out some books on this topic which are on the al-islam.org site.
Some Ahaadith speak about the "pain" the soul feels when the body is mishandled during the period after death such as at the time of the Ghusl, burial, etc... and explain the reasons why this occurs. Some things, like the 'squeezing of the grave' are Haqq (truth) but the actual way it takes place is not known to us - some people used to believe and preach on the pulpit that it was actually a phsyical squeeze of the grave however most if not all of the true scholars and Ulamaa who have written on this topic completely do not accept this.
It is a punishment for the body and at the same time a form of purification - at least for the true believers - the Mo'minoon - the Shi'a of the Prophet and his Ahlu Bayt. For others, the punishments in the grave are the beginning of their perpetual punishments if they are destined for Hell.
As for the burial process, a Muslim has to strive to ensure that he or she is buried as a Muslim - the Ghusl, Kafan, method of burial etc.. are all legislations in Islam which must be carried out just as we have other obligatory acts which we make sure we fulfill in our life on this Earth.
As for comparing Imam Husain (as) and him not getting a "Muslim burial" - there is a stark difference between his situation and dying in an American or Canadian city (or any other city) in which no one is available to give you the last rites and bury you according to your faith. His circumstance was different as he was not permitted a proper burial however even if he was, being a Shaheed, there was no need for the Ghusl or Kafan - he would have been buried in his clothes with no ghusl facing Makkah as this is the ruling for all who are killed in the way of Allah on the battlefield.
The Qur'an tells us that Prophet Ibrahim was prohibited for praying for his Uncle who was an open enemy to Islam however for those who did not know about Islam (the Mustadhafeen or downtrodden) - they are not technically classified as Kuffar or disbelievers.
as for cremation, it falls under mutilation of a dead body- a thing not permitted even for insects. The basic idea here is the preservation of the sanctity of Allah's (swt) creation.
The relation between the soul and the physical world (including the soul's human body) after death differs by the level of "taQwa" and faith attained by the human being. Some time ago (I can vaguely remember) there was an 'alim speaking about the after-death, Allah knows best, but I learned that certain people are given privileges after their demise. In the Hadeeth, when the prophet (S) was in his assention (me'raaj), he passed by prophets praying inside their graves..
The "squeeze of the grave" was explained as an expression of the tremendous suffering most souls go through in the transition between this world and the "barzakh" (purgatory?). That new level of existence, by its nature, creates a level of pressure on the soul and mind, so intense that it is not a simple journey. Hence the term "squeeze of the grave".
He drew a similarity to the transition from pre-birth into the seen world: It is by Allah's mercy that new-borns do not know anything about the new level of their existence, because otherwise the transition would carry a huge pressure that they would not be able to stand.
As for receiving proper burial, one must in this case try to make it at least possible (such as writing their will, letting key people (such as some involved in an islamic center for example) whom they know might put some effort to fulfill the obligation should it happen... May Allah proglong our lives in His satisfaction.
Please accept my deepest sympathy and condolences on the passing away of your aunt.
Burial is important. There are hadeeth r eports that say that every person would be raised on the Day of Judgement as he/she was buried.
By the way, Imam Husayn did get a Muslim burial. There are two versions of this. First one is this. When Husayn arrived at Karbala, he bought the land of the Banu Asad for 60,000 Dirhams and then made a gift of it back to them with three promises: (1) After the battle, when the enemy soldiers have left, come and bury our dead, (2) Do not reuse the land for farming, and (3) When the Mausoleums are built, welcome the Zai'r (visitors) and host them for three days without charging them.
The second version is that by miracle, the fourth Imam came back to Karbala on the 12th of Muharram and buried his father and all the other martyrs, because only an Imam can perform the funeral of another Imam.
Thank you for reading.
Later several people said only Imams (sa) bury Imams (sa), so the second seems more likely. I had then asked about Imam Mahdi (as) and was told about the concept of raj'a that some or all of the Imams (sa) may return and one of these would bury 12th Imam (as).
As for burial, it seems perhaps the pain felt cannot be what we call a physical pain since the body no longer feels at death. Someone compared the pain as to what a mother feels at the suffering of her child. The squeezing of the grave - apparently this happens to the soul, and can be a purification from sins or a beginning of the taste of upcoming punishment in Hell.
At times some of this information was pretty scary, and then someone would say it differently and their wording was more calming. There are many hadith about the importance of thinking about death and remembering death always. I don't think this means to be gloomy all the time, but it is a warning that we should constantly be aware of and preparing for our Hereafter and that all of our deeds (or lack thereof) need to weighed against that.
This reminds me of my students. Many of them do not do homework and thus they don't pass. They theoretically realize the importance of homework and of getting good grades, but the immediate distractions and entertainments lead them away from doing what they should and they forget or they simply defer to instant gratification. Teachers and parents are constantly frustrated as to how to fix this problem. But our state in this life is the same; we theoretically know what is best for us but we constantly defer to instant gratification and distractions and forget what is important.