Building mosques over graves – Skeptics’ arguments

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One of the most hotly debated issues of Islam over the last 80 years or so that precipitated quite suddenly and one might say even conveniently in the beginning of the 20th century, with the ascent of the new order in Hejaz, is the building of mosques over the graves of the righteous servants, the Prophets (a.s.) including the Holy Prophet (s.a.w.a.), successors of the Prophet (s.a.w.a.), righteous wives of the Prophet (s.a.w.a.), among others.

Without venturing into the backdrop of how this non-issue was pitchforked into a burning issue by the rulers of the time, we will directly address the doubt raised by the skeptics with replies from the Holy Quran, and Sunnah as also history both pre-Islamic and post-Islamic.

Apart from some stray traditions and single narrator traditions (Khabar-e-Waahid) and decrees (fatwa) of scholars from a particular school of thought, there is not much evidence advanced by these Muslims.

1. Argument from tradition of Prophet (s.a.w.a.)
The foremost argument revolves around the tradition related by the Holy Prophet (s.a.w.a.) concerning the actions of the Jews and the Christians. It has come in a tradition that the Messenger of Allah (s.a.w.a.) cursed the Jews and Christians who took the graves of their Prophets (a.s.) as places of worship. Based on such traditions, these Muslims conclude that those who build graves are subject to the Prophet’s (s.a.w.a.) curse.

2. Argument from tradition of Abul Hayyaaj
The other argument revolves round a tradition with a single narrator – Abul Hayyaaj wherein Ali b. Abi Talib (a.s.) ordered him (Abul Hayyaaj) to flatten all graves which was also the Prophet’s (s.a.w.a.) order to him (Ali (a.s.).

3. Argument from decrees of scholars
These Muslims then cite decrees of scholars to support their contention. Apparently, there aren’t that many scholars, but they take solace from the very few like Ibne Qayyim-e-Juaziyyyah who have forbidden building of graves, lighting of candles on graves, etc on the contention that it represents idol worship of the period of paganism.

A moment’s reflection
Before venturing into a detailed response, it is first worth considering if the argument against building graves was so compelling and evident as the sun to all Muslims of all eras, why was building graves a culture of Deen-e-Hanif right from the Bani Israel prophets (a.s.) to the era of the Holy Prophet (s.a.w.a.)? Why didn’t the Holy Prophet (s.a.w.a.), the first caliph, the second caliph and other companions object to the building of graves beginning with the grave of the Prophet (s.a.w.a.) himself and then the graves of the first and second caliphs?

When questioned about the grave of the Holy Prophet (s.a.w.a.), they respond quite absurdly that earlier the grave was not a part of the mosque but was later included in the expansion. What a far-fetched argument indeed! Only the absolutely ignorant will buy such a theory. Firstly, the mosque is defined by the dome or by the precincts? The answer is obvious! Now, the grave of the Holy Prophet (s.a.w.a.) is beneath the dome or in the precincts? Secondly, if the grave was later included in the mosque, when was it done? Who were the Muslims who had done it? Were they so ignorant that they were not aware of these traditions? Why no voice was raised by any scholar in the history of Islam?

In fact the first and second caliphs should have explicitly stated that they would not like to be buried next to the Prophet (s.a.w.a.) as it was housed inside a structure that is an innovation according to these Muslims, also he (s.a.w.a.) was buried alongside the mosque – another innovation for these Muslims.

Their haste in wanting to be buried next to the Prophet (s.a.w.a.) without due permission from all the wives or even the general Muslims since “the Prophet (s.a.w.a.) does not leave behind anything to his relatives and he only bequeaths to the Muslims” shows that building graves inside and next to mosques is not a sin, rather it is recommended being the Sunnah of the Prophet (s.a.w.a.).

Equally complicated for these Muslims is to answer why after gaining complete control of Medina and destroying the graves of the immaculate Imams (a.s.) and members of the Prophet’s (s.a.w.a.) household in Jannatul Baqi, they have spared the graves of the first and second caliphs inside the mosque?

We need not remind these Muslims that by their own definition the Prophet (s.a.w.a.) and the two caliphs are among the Salaf, whose actions are a guide for these Muslims. These Muslims have been suggesting for hundred years or so that mosques should not be built over graves, while the caliphs are buried inside the mosque clearly repudiating their claims of being Salafi and followers of Tauheed.

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