The Messenger of Allah (sal Allahu alaihi wa sallam) said: “Hearing is not like seeing.” [Ahmad]
Allah (subhana wa ta’ala) says: “The mutual rivalry for piling up (the good things of this world) diverts you (from the more serious things). Until you see the graves!” [Surah At-Takathur, Ayah 1-2] Truly, competing in accumulating wealth causes destruction in both worlds. But what is its cure? “Until you see the graves!”
Imam Qurtubi (rahimahu Allah) explains in his Tafseer: “The scholars say: It is recommended for him who wants to cure the diseases of his heart and who sincerely wants to begin obeying Allah (subhana wa ta’ala) to, (1) think about the destroyer of pleasures, the separator of groups and the finisher of sons and daughters - death, (2) see those who have passed away, and (3) visit the graves.
“These three things are recommended for him whose heart has become hard and who persists in sins, as a cure for his spiritual diseases and as a shield against temptations and Shaitaan. If contemplating on death benefits him and his heart becomes soft once again, well and good. But if he persists in sinning, he should also visit the dead and their graves. It is possible that he take heed from the viewing of that which only thinking of did not benefit him.
“For remembering death notifies the heart about where it is going to end and is a warning to it: But seeing him who has already passed away and visiting the graves of the Muslims is witnessing it with one’s own eyes. This has a different and special impact. Rasulullah (sal Allahu alaihi wa sallam) said: ‘Hearing is not like seeing.’ (Ahmad) Thinking about death is not always possible and does not work for him who wants to cure the diseases of his heart immediately. Seeing a grave is faster, and its impact is greater.
“He should learn from him who is already under the ground. (He should think about) how this person got separated from his family and his loved ones, after leading soldiers and armies, starting new generations and families, and gathering wealth and provisions. Then suddenly, death approached him in a time he never expected and he was caught in such shock he wasn’t able to handle it!
“He who has come to visit the grave should contemplate on the condition of his brothers who have already passed away. These brothers of his had set such high hopes and accumulated so much wealth, now look at how their hopes are finished and their wealth doesn’t do them anything. The soil has now erased the different qualities and traits of their faces and has separated the different parts of their bodies. After them it did the same to their women, it orphaned their children and divided their wealth among their heirs.
“He should remember how these people ran after the world, how they strived in fulfilling their desires, how they even used deception to get what they wanted and how they depended on their health and their youth. He should realize that his inclination towards his desires and worldly things is like the inclination of these people, and his negligence of death is like their negligence. He should realize that he will end up where they are, for sure.
“He should contemplate on the condition of him who was persistent in achieving his ambitions, and now his legs have perished… This person who is now in his grave would enjoy looking at whatever he felt like. Now, his eyes too are gone… This dead person would debate and overcome others with his eloquent speech and insects have now eaten his tongue... This person would laugh when he was pleased and things went according to his way and now dirt has replaced his teeth… The believer who has come to visit the grave should understand that his condition is and will be like this person’s condition.
“After this contemplation and observance all worldly desires should become meaningless and the observer should start working for his Aakhirah. He should become austere and should begin obeying his Lord, his heart should soften and he should humble himself before his Lord.”