Visiting Graves

Musa Kâzım GÜLÇÜR

God’s Messenger encouraged the visiting of graveyards as it reminds Muslims of life in the Hereafter. The Prophet said, “Mention death often, for it shatters pleasure.” [Tirmidhi, Qiyama, 26; Zuhd, 4; Nasai, Janaiz, 3; Ibn Maja, Zuhd, 31]

Another hadith says, “Visiting tombs was forbidden before, but now it should be done, for the dead will remind you of the next life.” [Muslim, Janaiz, 105, 108; Adahi, 37; Abu Dawud, Janaiz, 75; Tirmidhi, Janaiz, 60; Nasai, Janaiz, 100–101] Imam Abu Hanifa said to Imam Abu Yusuf, “If you have benefited from someone’s knowledge or the wisdom of some scholar, pray to God to forgive them, read the Qur’an, and visit their tombs.”

The legitimacy, as well as the benefits, of visiting graves is shown in these narrations. However, there are also some guidelines about how graves should be visited. During such visits, no requests or help should be asked of the dead. It is stated in the first chapter of the Qur’an, “Only You do we worship, and only You do we ask for help.” This verse clearly means that worship is only for God and help is only from God. It is clear that it is incompatible with the Islamic faith to ask of dead people favours that only God can grant.

When visiting graves, it is proper to greet the dead souls, “O inhabitants of the land of the dead! God’s peace be upon you. God willing, one day we will meet again.” Then we should recite the Qur’an and pray for the forgiveness of the departed souls. There is no definite day set aside for visiting graves, but Fridays or Saturdays, as well as holidays and the day before the Eids are good times for such visits. Indeed, it is recorded in the hadith that the Prophet visited graves on such days.

The hadith I have chosen to include regarding the benefits of recitation of the Qur’an or giving charity for the departed will, I believe, serve to clarify this issue. Ibn Abbas related, “The mother of Sa’d ibn Ubada passed away. He came to the Prophet and asked, ‘O Messenger of God! My mother died while I was away from her. If I give charity in her name will it benefit her?’ The Messenger replied, ‘Yes.’ Then Sa’d asked, ‘O Prophet! Be my witness; I give my fruit garden as charity in my mother’s name.” [Bukhari, Wasaya, 15]

The Prophet also advised, “When a person dies, their book of deeds is closed. Only three things are exceptions: the benefits of their charity, the knowledge they have shared, and surviving children who pray for them.” [Muslim, Wasiyyah, 14]

These hadith teach that for believers who have passed away the good they did in life continues to bring them blessings after death; it also urges their relatives and fellow believers to continue to pray for them since this will also benefit them.

The benefits and lessons of visiting graves can be put in order of priority thus:

1. Visiting the graves reminds people of death and the Hereafter, motivating them to prepare themselves for the next life.

2. It develops God-consciousness. It discourages people from committing prohibited acts, and from greed, and encourages them to do good. [Ibn Maja, Janaiz, 47]

3. Visiting the resting places of the Prophet and other holy people provides relief to souls and fosters higher emotions. Traveling to see the graves of the Prophet and others of God’s servants is a commendable act. In fact, the Prophet said in a hadith, “Whoever visits me after I die it will be as if they have visited me during my lifetime.” [Nasif, Al-Taj, al-Jami al-Usul, II, 190]

4. To visit tombs reminds people of history, as well as helping to strengthen their understanding of history and the religious background of their people.

Translated by Jessica ÖZALP

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