Visitation of Graves and Wahhabism

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Visitation of graves and respecting them has been an age-old tradition, an act revered and considered absolutely important. The visitation of a pilgrim is widely accepted among the people and due to this they respect the pilgrim. This trait is found in all the religions and across all nations.People of the past and the present have always considered visiting graves as means of fortune and prosperity. Abu Hatim says that whenever Abu Mashur Abdullah Demeshqi Ghassani (died 218 A.H.) used to go towards the mosque people one after the other used to salute him and kiss his hands. Abu Sa’ad used to say that whenever Abul Qasim Sa’ad b. Ali Shaikh Haram Zanjani (died 471 A.H.) used to go towards the House of Allah (Kabaa) for circumambulation (tawaaf), people used to rise from their places to kiss his hands, many more times than they would kiss the Black Stone (Hajare Aswad). Ibne Kaseer in his Tarikh from pages 12-20 has mentioned the reason for their actions, saying, people by doing this used to seek an increase in blessings.

Whenever Abu Ishaq Ibrahim b. Shirazi (expired 476 A.H.) used to pass through a city, residents of that place used to approach him with their families in quest for blessings. They used to rub themselves against his bridle and grasp the sand from underneath his horse’s hooves. When he reached the city of Savah , its inhabitants rushed towards him and wherever he would go, they would shower him with valuable gifts.

From these incidents, it is apparent that the devout find immense prosperity in visiting the graves of pious people and consider it a part of their creed. Religion permits, rather advocates, such an act. It certainly does not consider visitation of the pious’ graves as unlawful, then how is it possible that it deems visiting the graves of the Prophets (a.s.) and Imams (a.s.) as unlawful? Those who claim that visiting the graves of Prophets (a.s.) and their successors is unlawful make a false claim that has no basis in Islam; rather it degrades the Prophets (a.s.) and lowers their position.

Doubts regarding the Visitation of Graves

Ibne Taimiyyah, who is considered to be a Mujaddid (reviver of faith) among the Wahhabis, while raising questions regarding the visitation of graves wrote that visiting graves is an innovation (bid’at) and is tantamount to polytheism. To strengthen his argument he quoted a tradition which has been narrated in three different versions.

1. Do not travel for other than the three mosques — my mosque, Masjidul Haraam and Masjidul Aqsa. (Shifa Al Siqaam fi Ziarate Qubooor)

2. Travelling is only for three mosques, Masjide Kufah, my mosque and Masjide Eeliyah (Wafa Al Wafa vol. 4, pg. 1, 36)

3. Traveling is undertaken only for three mosques.

Based on these traditions, the visitation of graves has been decreed as unlawful. Regarding the traditions that have been narrated in Hidaayat al-Saniyya they claim:’The traditions that have been narrated with regards to
visitation of graves are false and fabricated. Except for Daar Qutni, no other
scholar has permitted it (visitation).’

Answers to the doubts

To prove the permissibility of visitation, many traditions can be quoted. We present a synopsis keeping in mind brevity.

1. Quran

Allah, the Almighty, declares:

‘…and had they, when they were unjust to themselves, come to
you and asked forgiveness of Allah and the Apostle had (also) asked forgiveness for them, they would have found Allah Oft-returning (to mercy), Merciful.’

(Surah Nisa (4): Verse 64)

Visitation means to be present. This term can be interpreted differently as ‘to come’, which can be either for seeking forgiveness or for the fulfillment of a demand. In other words, visitation does not mean to submit oneself (as one submits to Allah) or to put oneself in the hands of another (as one resigns himself to Allah).

Visiting the Prophet (s.a.w.a.) is considered as a virtuous act by the Holy Quran. Then whether he visits the Prophet (s.a.w.a.) while he is alive or dead is irrelevant; in both these situations, the visitation is a virtuous and commendable action.

In his book Wafaa al-Wafaa (vol. 2), Sabki narrates from Mas’hoodi writes, ‘Most scholars have considered visitation as a recommended (mustahhab)
act regardless of whether the Prophet (s.a.w.a.) is alive or dead. This is the
view of scholars of all the four religious sects of the Ahle Sunnah.


Ibne Asakir in his Tarikh and Ibne Jauzi in his famous work Al Sakin have narrated from Muhammand b. Harb Halali:

‘I entered Medina and went to the grave of the Holy Prophet (s.a.w.a.) and recited his Ziarat. After that I sat in front of the grave. I saw an Arab come and recite the Ziarat of the Prophet. Then he addressed the Prophet (s.a.w.a.)- “O Prophet’s (s.a.w.a.) grave, certainly Allah has revealed upon you in the truthful book.”

(Narrated from Kashful Irteyaab, p. 362)

2. Sunnah

Samhoodi in Wafaa al-Wafaa vol. 3, pg 394-403, among several other scholars, has narrated scores of traditions under this topic. We present below some of the most reliable traditions mentioned by Samhoodi.

Daar Qutni and Bayhaqi narrate from Nafeh who relates from Ibne Umar that the Holy Prophet (s.a.w.a.) said:

‘One who visits me, then my intercession is obligatory for him.’

Suyooti in Jaame’ al-Sagheer, Ahmad in his Musnad and Abu Dawood,Tirmidhi and Nesaaee have narrated the following tradition attributed to the Holy Prophet (s.a.w.a.) from Haarith.

‘The one who visits my grave is like the one who has visited me during my lifetime.’

In another tradition, this portion is also added, The one who has not visited me has done injustice upon me.’

Abul Fath Azdi has narrated from Haroon b. Kazath that the Holy Prophet (s.a.w.a.) said:

‘The one who has done the obligatory Hajj, visited my grave, fought in holy war (Jihad) and prayed at Baitul Muqqadas, Allah (on the Day of Judgment) will not question him about the obligatory actions or deeds.’

Apart from this, many other traditions have been narrated on the virtues of visiting the graves. The claim of the author of ‘Hadiyatul Sanniyah’ that these traditions are false is completely baseless because the raditionalists (muhadditheen) and the masters in the field of Islamic knowledge and jurisprudence have endorsed the veracity of these traditions. His claim that Daar Qutni is the only one who has narrated these traditions is equally misleading as Ahmad Ibn Hanbal, Abu Dawood, Tirmidhi, Nesaaee and Ibne Jauzi, to name a few scholars, have all narrated such traditions. Wahhabis have also objected to such traditions. The claim that the most important scholars are against the visitation of graves is again deceptive as all the relevant leaders of the Ahle Sunnah have been narrators of such traditions and considered visitation of graves as a recommended act and have compiled several books on this topic.

Apart from making such baseless and fallacious claims, Ibne Taimiyyah and his elders have also objected that the Holy Prophet (s.a.w.a.) replies to the people who salute him after his death. Sabki says that Samhoodi after presenting the arguments in support of visitation has said that the Holy Prophet (s.a.w.a.) hears the salutation made to him from near the grave, recognizes the identity of the sender and even replies to the salutation. This
argument itself is sufficient to prove why Muslims from across the world  spend a fortune and just for a glimpse of the Prophet’s shrine.

3. Ijmah (Consensus)

From the time of the Holy Prophet (s.a.w.a.) till date, the entire Islamic nation (with the exception of the Wahhabis) is of the view that not only the visitation of graves of Prophets (a.s.), their vicegerents (a.s.) and the virtuous ones, rather visitation of all believers, is a commendable act. Right from the time of the companions of the Prophet (s.a.w.a.), Taabeen (those who saw the companions but did not see the Prophet (s.a.w.a.)) and Tab’ Taabeen (those who saw the Taabeen but not the companions) till date, the act of visiting graves is enumerated among the established principles of Islam. There is complete consensus (except for the Wahhabis) on this principle. Rather, the consensus is a lot broader as it extends to all the people of the world whether they are learned or ignorant, old or young, man or woman, rich or poor.

Samhoodi in Wafaa al-Wafaa vol. 2, p. 412 has narrated from Sabki saying that the scholars are united in their view that the visitation of the graves is a recommended act. In fact some scholars like Nauee are of the view that the visitation is among the obligatory acts of faith. Samhoodi in Wafaa al-Wafaa vol. 2, p. 410 wonders how some people in the past have objected to the visitation of the Prophet’s (s.a.w.a.) grave while the scholars have deemed the visitation of the graves of the believers as a recommended act. Then on the basis of the Prophet’s (s.a.w.a.) superiority, his visitation is far more
preferable and meritorious.

Taqiuddin Abul Hasan Sabki’s famous book Shifaa al-Seqaam, a dedicated book on this topic, writes in the preface that the visitation of the chief of believers and the grave of the Holy Prophet (s.a.w.a.) is a medium for attaining divine proximity. This is a concept that is well-known and well-acknowledged among the Muslims across eras and regions.

Ibne Hajare Makki in his book Jauhar Munazzam Fi Ziarate Qabre Mukarram writes — as has been narrated by the author of Kashful Zunoon who has brought many arguments supporting the visitation of graves on the basis of
consensus. After that he writes that anyone who objects and questions why
should one visit the grave of the prophet or travel for it or seek his needs from them and asks for proof based on the argument that Ibne Taimiyyah has objected to the visitation, I say — Who is Ibne Taimiyyah and why should his word be heeded and accepted in religious matters? Isn’t Ibne Taimiyyah the one whose outlandish and deviated views have been questioned by the religious scholars who are of the opinion that he is astray and attributes falsehood to others?

4. Characteristics of historical figures

In Wafaa al-Wafaa vol. 2, p. 410 Samhoodi, while writing about the characteristics of a believer, has written that traditionalists and historians have narrated many incidents which indicate that the companions  of the Prophet (s.a.w.a.) used to go for visitation of the graves; moreover the Holy Prophet (s.a.w.a.) himself used to go for it. Ibne Majaa and Nesaaee have narrated from Abu Hurairah that the Holy Prophet (s.a.w.a.) visited the grave of his mother and cried over it and because of his crying the people around him also started wailing.

The Holy Prophet (s.a.w.a.) used to visit the graves of Jannah al-Baqee and the martyrs of Ohad. Muslim narrates that whenever the Prophet (s.a.w.a.) was at Ayesha’s house, he (s.a.w.a.) used to visit the graveyard of Baqee in the latter half of the night and saluted.

Ibne Abbas narrates that any believer who passes the grave of another believing brother who he knew when he was alive, salutes him, that person in the grave replies to his salutation. In another tradition it has been narrated the one who visits the grave of his parents or even one of them on a
Friday, Allah enlists him among the good doers even though his parents would have disowned him in the world.

Apart from these, many other traditions have come regarding Hazrat Fatemah (s.a.) who used to visit the grave of her uncle Hamzah every second
or third day. For deeper understanding, kindly refer to Allamah Sayyed Mohsin Ameen’s (r.a.) Kashful Irtebaat.

5. Intellect

Every man’s intellect bears witness to the fact that whosoever Allah wishes to grant greatness, he should be given due respect. Visiting the grave is like giving him respect. Visiting the grave of the Prophet (s.a.w.a.) or bestowing respect in any other form is to respect the signs of Allah and those who respect the signs of Allah are truly pious. Intellect conforms to this rationale and does not consider it a misguided notion.

As for the question of the tradition to which Ibne Taimmiyah has objected, scholars have given a string of fitting replies in this regard.

1. In these three traditions the word of exception is used, i.e. exception has been has been made. An exception can only be made regarding something else. So if that something else is not mentioned, then obviously it is implied so as to form a meaningful sentence.

So the tradition of travel to the three mosques can mean one of these two statements:

a. Except for these three mosques travel for mosques should not be done.

b. Under any pretext travel should be made only for these three mosques.

If we accept the second interpretation then the tradition disallows us to travel to any mosque other than the three mentioned in the  tradition, but where does the tradition indicate that a person cannot travel/visit to places other than the three mosques?

One travels/visits religious schools, Imambargahs, factories, graves of martyrs and vicegerents. The odd part over here is that the objection is only for the visitation of graves! If we take into consideration the first meaning of the tradition then apart from those mosques, no other mosque should be visited. It is not because it is prohibited to visit other mosques but because visiting these mosques has more merit as compared to others but if one visits other mosques with the intention to glorify Allah then his this act is not considered as prohibited. Also the argument given for the tradition under both the conditions is abrogated as in many other traditions it has come that the Holy Prophet (s.a.w.a.) used to visit Masjide Quba sometimes
on foot, at other times on a mount to perform prayers.

Therefore there is no comparison between this tradition and the tradition quoted by the Wahhabis. Then one has to accept that either this tradition is not correct or has not been correctly narrated especially since the narrator of this tradition is Abu Hurairah. Probably this was the reason that Ibne Taimmiyah claimed that the visitation of Masjide Quba is a recommended act only for the people of Madina. One should ask Ibne Taimmiyah whether the Prophet (s.a.w.a.) was only sent for the people of Madina or whether the words and actions of the Prophet (s.a.w.a.) was only for the people of Madina or for that matter, did Islam only come for the people of Madina? If
we assume that the exception for travel is strictly for these three mosques,
then would a common Muslim accept the ruling that he can only travel to these three mosques and none other? Would a scholar pass a ruling on that in the present day? Don’t Wahhabis visit mosques in their localities? Even then there can be a question raised that weren’t the Prophet (s.a.w.a.) and his companions traveling during Hajj or other than Hajj to different places? Aren’t there several verses of the Holy Quran and traditions urging Muslims to travel whether in the way of Allah, holy wars, meeting relatives/friends, spreading religion or for gaining knowledge? For instance in Surah Tauba (9), verse 122 Allah says:

‘And it does not beseem the believers that they should go forth all together; why should not then a company from every party from among them go forth that they may apply themselves to obtain understanding in religion, and that they may warn their people when they come back to them that they may be cautious?’

Moreover, we have also been ordered to travel for sustenance. We finish our discussion by quoting the words of al-Ghazzali in Ehyaa al-Uloom in which he mentions the second type of traveling which is done for worship like pilgrimage, holy war and visitation to the graves of Prophets (a.s.), Companions, Taabeen, scholars and the pious. In the same way visiting a person carries some reward, the same reward is bestowed upon the one who visits him after his death, is permitted and the tradition

We beseech Allah, the Almighty through the mediation of His Last Proof (a.t.f.s.) to strengthen our faith and counter such doubts. We invoke Him to give us the opportunity to visit the graves of the Holy Prophet (s.a.w.a.) and his pure progeny (a.s.) and forgive our sins through their intercession (a.s.)!

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