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The Islamic Ruling on Graves and Shrines

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The Islamic Ruling on Graves and Shrines

Post by Ithar Ghada Faied on Thu Mar 17, 2011 12:03 pm



Bismillaah, wal-hamdulilaah, was-salaatu was-salaamu 'alaa rasoolillaah, As Salamu 'Alaykum wa Rahmatullaahi wa Barakatuh

A number of Muslims under take religious journeys every year to the graves of certain pious people, in order to perform acts of worship at these graves. These people normally do these acts of worship at these graves believing they will get more reward for these acts of worship. However religious journeys to graves are prohibited.

The Prophet, sall'Allahu alayhi wasalam said: “No [religious] journey should be undertaken to visit any mosque but three: al-Masjid al-Haraam [in Mecca], the Mosque of the Messenger [in Medina] and the Mosque of al-Aqsa [in Jerusalem]”[1]

This hadeeth indicates that a Muslim should not undertake any religious journey which involves visiting a place [due to the status of that place] except for the above three mentioned places. Other places such as the graves of the righteous have not been given any special status by Allaah or his prophet therefore they must not be travel to.

Moreover it is not allowed to make any grave even the prophet's grave a place that is visited at a known set time every year, month, week or daily.

The prophet, sall'Allahu alayhi wasalam said “…..do not make my grave an eid…..”[2]

The word Eid in the Arabic language refers to something that keeps reoccurring at certain known set times.[3] Therefore what is meant by the prophet's statement is that a Muslim must not take his (the prophet's) grave or any other grave as a place that is visited at known set times whether it be yearly monthly, weekly or daily.

Some Muslims write directly on to the graves or the put things on the graves which have writing on them. Some Muslims write messages or verses of the Qur'an on the graves.

Jabir said, “The Messenger of Allah (sall'Allahu alayhi wasalam) has forbidden plastering the walls of graves, to make them a place to sit, or to build over them constructions” [4] Nasaa’ee added, with authentic chain, “or to write on them.”

The hadeeth above shows that writing anything on the grave is forbidden so is plastering the walls of the graves. Plastering the walls of the grave refer to putting things on the graves such a piece of metal for example with the persons name on or something similar on it.

Connected to this issue is the issue of putting followers and lights (candles or normal lights), and other things on or around the graves. This practice of putting things around or on the graves was not ever done by the prophet or his companions[5] so it should not be done today by Muslims. Plus it is feared that if Muslims do this then over time others may want to beautify the grave even more by building structures over the grave, which is not allowed.

Also Muslims are not allowed to pray towards the graves or sit on them.

The Prophet, sall'Allahu alayhi wasalam said: “Do not pray facing a grave and do not sit on one.”[6]

Praying towards a grave could eventually lead a person into a far greater sin. It could lead to a person praying to the person in the grave, which is Shirk al-Akbar[7]. Additionally sitting on the grave is showing disrespect to the person inside the grave.

Unfortunately some Muslims build mosques over graves of pious individuals but this practice has been forbidden by the prophet Mohammed, sall'Allahu alayhi wasalam.

Aisha reports that Umm Salamah mentioned the churches she saw in Abyssinia and the pictures they contained to the Messenger of Allah. The Prophet, sall'Allahu alayhi wasalam said to her: “These are the people who, when a pious servant or pious man among them dies, build a mosque [place of worship] upon their graves and put those pictures in it. They are the worst of the whole creation in the sight of Allah.”[8]

From this hadeeth it is clear that people in the time of the prophet, sall'Allahu alayhi wasalam used to also build mosques over the graves of there pious people and the prophet, sall'Allahu alayhi wasalam did not agree with what they did. In fact he called them the worst of the whole creation in the sight of Allah.

Moreover Imam al-Nawawee ruled that whatever mosques had been built over the graves should be torn down.[9]

Plus the prophet, sall'Allahu alayhi wasalam prohibited building any sort of construction over graves.

Jabir said, “The Messenger of Allah (sall'Allahu alayhi wasalam) has forbidden plastering the walls of graves, to make them a place to sit, or to build over them constructions” [10]

Qadi Thanaullah Panipati Hanafi said “Whatever is happening on saints graves like building over them, putting candles, and others things like that, it is all Haraam”[11]

Ibn Abidin said, “It is reported from Imam Abu Hanifah that he considers Haraam constructions over graves because Jabir reported that the Prophet, sall'Allahu alayhi wasalam has forbidden to plaster graves, to write over them, and to build constructions over them, narrated by Muslim and others”[12]

Graves are supposed to be hand span high however some of today’s Muslims build graves much higher than this, not knowing that the prophet,sall'Allahu alayhi wasalam commanded his companions to destroy any graves higher than a hand span.

Abul Hayaj Al-Asadi narrates that Ali Ibn Abu Taalib said to him, “Do you want me to give you the mission that the Messenger of Allah gave to me? Do not leave any picture without erasing it, nor any elevated grave except that you level it”[13]

Concerning the hadeeth of `Ali ordering the destruction of tombs in the Sahihayn[14], Sunan[15], and Musnad[16] with various wordings:

Imam Shafi'i said in his book, al-Umm, “I have seen the scholars of Makkah command the demolition of [graves] that are built over. Such demolition is supported by the hadeeth, “… nor an elevated grave except that you level it …””

Imam al-Nawawee in his sharh[17] Saheeh Muslim said: “The sunnah is that the grave not be raised up a lot above the earth['s surface], nor rounded, but that it be raised up approximately a hand-span (shibr) and flattened, and this is the madhhab[18] of al-Shafi'i and those [of the other schools] who agreed with him, while al-Qadi Iyad related that most of the Ulema prefer it to be rounded [in the shape of a mound], and this is the madhab of Imam Maalik.

Furthermore worshiping Allaah at the graves is not allowed because, worshiping Allaah at the graves turns the grave in to a mosque (a place of worship).

Jundub ibn ‘Abdullah al-Bajali heard the Prophet, sall'Allahu alayhi wasalam say, five days before he died: “The people before you took graves as mosques. I prohibit this to you.”[19]

Also the Prophet, sall'Allahu alayhi wasalam said: “Allaah cursed the Jews and Christians [because] they took the graves of their prophets as mosques.”[20]

In these two hadeeths the prophet, sall'allahu alayhi wasalam explicitly informs Muslims that it is prohibited to take graves as mosque (a place of worship) and he informs them that due to the Jews and Christians taking the graves of their prophets as mosques, Allaah has cursed them.

Additionally these two hadeeth highlight the most important thing a Muslim must understand is du’aa to the righteous or using them as intermediates between themselves and Allaah is not allowed. However if the pious dead Muslims are called upon at the graves this is even more hated. So for example if a Muslims says “O so and so in the grave can you help me” or “O so and so in the grave I call on upon you, so that you can take my du’aa to Allaah” at the graveside. The reason for this is if it is forbidden to worship (make du’aa to Allaah) Allaah at a grave then it must be even worst to worship (make du’aa to) other than Allaah at a grave.

--------------------------------------------------------------------------------

[1] Recorded by Bukhari and Muslim.

[2] This is taken from a longer hadeeth recorded by Abu Dawood and it is Hassan (good)

[3] This is why in Islam we have two Eids as they occur at the same time every year either after Ramadan or Hajj.

[4] Recorded by Muslim

[5] A companion was a person, who meet the prophet Mohammed, believed in him and died with that believe.

[6] Recorded by Ahmad and Muslim

[7] Shirk al-Akbar is when a person worships other than Allaah for example, a man who prays to a dead person.

[8] Recorded by Bukhari, Muslim and Nasaa’ee.

[9] Comment in the margin of Fataawa al-Imam al-Nawawee, p. 65

[10] Recorded by Muslim

[11] Ma la Buda minhu p 95

[12] Fataawa Shami vol. 2 page 237

[13] Muslim

[14] Sahihayn means the hadeeth books of Bukhari and Muslim

[15] Sunan means the four hadeeth books Tirmidhee, Ibn Maajah, Abu Dawood and an-Nasa’ i

[16] Imam Ahmeds book of hadeeth.

[17] This is the Arabic word for explanation.

[18] A madhab is a school of Islamic law which was founded by one of the early scholars of Islam. Most madhabs died out. The most famous and still in use are the Hanafi [Imam Abu Hanifah], Maalaki [founder Imam Maalik], Shafi [founder Imam Shafi] and Hanbali [founder Imam Ahmed] madhabs.

[19] Recorded by Muslim

[20] Recorded by Bukhari, Muslim, Ahmad, and an-Nasaa’ee.
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