Is it correct that the Prophet (sws) answers those who send blessings on him in the grave. I have been told that the Prophet (sws) himself has said that whenever someone invokes Allah's blessings for him, Allah returns the soul to his body until he replies to his salutation. Is the Hadith authentic?
The text of the Hadith follows:
First of all, it should be remembered that it is a gharib report. The author of Mu'jam Al-Awsat has also recorded this tradition and observed:
Abu Hurayrah narrated that the Prophet (sws) said: Whenever someone sends blessings upon me the Almighty return me my soul so that I respond to it. (Abu Da'ud, No: 2041)
The narrator, Abu Sakhar, has been declared weak by some authorities of the science of Hadith:
None has narrated this Hadith from Yazid except for Abu Sakhar and none narrates from Abu Sakhar but Haywah, and 'Abdullah Ibn Yazid is the only person who has narrated this tradition. (Mu'jam Al-Awsat, No: 3092)
Ishaq Ibn Mansur has reported that Yahya Ibn Mu'in said: 'Abu Sakhar Hamid Ibn Zayad is da'if'. And Ahmad Ibn Sa'ad Ibn Abi Maryam also reported that Yahya Ibn Mu'in said that Abu Sakhar Hamid Bin Zayyad Al-Kharrat is Dhaif-ul-Hadith (narrates weak narratives). Nisa'i also declared the same. (Yusuf Mizzi, Tihdhib Al-Kamal, 4th ed., vol. 7, (Beirut: Al Mu'assasah Al-Risalah, 1994), p. 368)
The text of the Hadith also contradicts some basic Qur'anic concepts. According to this Hadith the Prophet (sws) though dead, is given life to respond and this process goes on. Whereas the Qur'an tells us that after we die, we will only be resurrected on the Day of Judgment.
Regarding Hamid Ibn Sakhar, I heard Ibn al-Hammad say that Hamid Ibn Sakhar, the one from whom Hatim Ibn Isma'il narrates is da'if. (Yusuf Mizzi, Tihdhib Al-Kamal, 4th ed., vol. 7, (Beirut: Al Mu'assasah Al-Risalah, 1994), p. 370)
Due to these reasons the scholars have tried to interpret the words of the Hadith to fit it in the Qur'anic stance on the issue and other reliable narratives. Some hold that returning of the soul is metaphorical for the returning of his power to speak etc. After mentioning all the possible interpretations and comments, the author of 'Aawnu'l-Ma'bud has concluded the discussion with the following words:
We understand that until and unless an acceptable interpretation of the text is offered and the reliability of the chain of narrator is established we should not consider this Hadith as an authentic saying of the Prophet (sws).
To sum up, this narrative is not without ambiguity. [Muhammad Shams Al-Haqq Al-'Azim, 'Awn Al-Ma'bud, 3rd ed., vol. 6, (Beirut: Dar Al-Fikr, 1979), p. 29]