Death occurs when the angel ^azraa'iil takes the soul from the human being through he mouth, and immediately hands it to either the angels of mercy or the angels of torture. The reason why a dead person is staring is that he is watching his soul leave. (Muslim)
After burial, the soul comes back to the dead person, and he can hear his companions' footsteps as they leave. (Bukhaariy) Umar once asked, "Are our minds returned to us, O Messenger of Allah?" The Prophet (may Allah raise his rank) confirmed that this will be so. (Ahmad)
Two blueish black angels Munkar and Nakiir come to the newly buried, sit him up, and ask him "what did you use to say about this man, Muhammad?" As for the believer, he will say "He is the slave of Allah and His messenger. I bear witness that there is no god but God." Then the angels will show him his place in the Hellfire that Allah substituted for a place in Paradise, which he will also see. His grave will be widened and illuminated, and he is told to sleep.
The unbeliever and hypocite, however, will answer, "I don't know. I used to say what the people were saying about him." Upon that the angels will hit him with a kind of iron hammer between his ears whereupon he screams a scream that is heard by those nearby except humans and jinn. The ground around him will squeeze and crush him.
Note, however, that martyrs of the battlefield, prophets and chldren are spared the questioning of the angels.
These states of the grave continue until there is only a small part of the tailbone left. This part will not be eaten by the soil, but around it the person will be re-composed. Upon this, the soul of the non-muslim will be in a place called "Sijjiin," the soul of the sinful muslim between the sky and the earth, and the soul of the pious in Paradise. The souls of the martyrs go directly to Paradise after death. The martyrs, the prophets, and some of the Muslim saints do not decompose at all. It was related that "the prophets are alive in their graves, praying," (Ibn Hajar) and the Quran states that the Martyrs are alive.
In addition to the above Ibn ^abbaas related that if a Muslim greets a buried muslim who used to know him in this life, then he will know who it is and return his greeting from the grave. (Ibn ^abdu-l-Barr)
All of the above hadits and many more show that death is not total annihilation, but a different state of being.
- As for the things that can save one from the torture of the grave, they are:
- Sincere repentance
- Reading the suurah called al-Mulk every day
- Martyrdom, which one gets through dying by drowning, burning, diarrhea, constipation, fighting for ones family or property, unjust killing, falling from a height, and other reasons.