Tombs and Elevated Marking of Graves: What the Hadiths say and what the Wahhabiyya do not say

The Wahhabiyya refer to a set of narrations which they claim is proof that tombs and elevated marking of graves are “prohibited in Islam” and  a “means to polytheism“. They then use it as a propaganda tool for their barbaric destruction of Islamic relics, heritage and knowledge and as weapon to wipe out all traces of Islamic history(as the whole of Islamic history is a threat to them). With their destructive actions they then hope that it would lead to replacing Islam and Muslim society with a Wahhabi cult version of Islam and a Wahhabi-fied society, as the generations that would come later they hope would be disconnected from the Islamic history and heritage. The ways of the Wahhabiyya are no different to the Crusaders, Mongolians, Communists and Western Imperialists who occupied the lands of Muslims and carried out the very same cultural destruction to remove traces of Islam from the hearts of people and hope to make the people obedient to their ways. But history has proven that they failed and Islam remained and fought back. And history will repeat once again when the Wahhabi attempts at destroying Islam will be fought back and chased away into oblivion.

In support of the Ahlus Sunnah wal-Jamaah is the following article,  a part exposition of  the Wahhabi cult and their distortion of Islamic texts. It will be shown why the narrations that are used by them to justify their acts of destroying Islamic relics, graves of venerated leaders,  monuments and other vestiges of Islamic history,  are deceptions to misguide the laymen. It will be shown how the Wahhabiyya in reality have no basis at all, to justify any of their acts.

Wahhabi Distortion of the narration cursing Jews and Christians

The biggest fraud the Wahhabi cult has been perpetuating in this arena, is their distortion of prophetic narrations that relate to the curse upon the Jews and Christians. According to the narration, the Jews and Christians took the graves of the Prophets and righteous as “masaajid” and were  cursed for it.  They quote the narration:

‘A’isha reported: The Messenger of Allah (may peace be upon him) said during his illness from which he never recovered: Allah cursed the Jews and the Christians that they took the graves of their prophets as masajid. [Sahih Muslim, hadith No.1079]

They then interpret this to mean that it is a prohibition of building a tomb or any construction over or around  the graves. This false argumentation is based on partially quoting the actual narration. In the other half of the narration, the wife of the Prophet, Aisha(radiallahu anha) clarifies its meaning by making reference to the burial of Prophet Muhammed(peace and blessings be upon him) within her room/house. The narration continues as follows :

She (‘A’isha) reported: Had it not been so, his (Prophet’s) grave would have been in an open place, but it could not be due to the fear that it may be taken as a masajid. [Sahih Muslim, hadith No.1079]

Meaning, because of the fear that the practice of what the cursed from the Jews and Christians did, might occur again, they did not rest the Prophet (peace be upon him) in an open place. Imam al-Bukhari, in his Sahih, brings the same narration containing this added statement of Sayyida Aisha(r), under the heading “That which disliked in respect of siting mosques over graves”, indicating that this narration explains what exactly is being disliked or prohibited by these category of narrations.

What this narration proves is that,

  • The curse upon Jews and Christians was not for having the graves within a closed place or a house(bayt). For if that was the case then it would imply the absurd notion that the companions took the caution of the curse of  the Prophet (peace be upon him) against Jews and Christians, by doing the very act that brought about the curse as the Prophet peace be upon him was laid to rest in a close structure i.e., the room of Aisha (may Allah have mercy on her). Therefore, these narrations are not in any sense a prohibition against having a house or a structure, with a grave within it. The narration proves unequivocally that the concept of taking the grave as masaajid, had nothing to do with whether the grave is placed in a closed structure or an open place.
  • This also unequivocally proves that the one who claims such closed structures over tombs should be destroyed as it “leads to shirk” or “imitation of Jews and Christians” are outright wrong, as the companions of the Prophet (peace be upon him) instead feared that the open place would lead to such imitation of Jews and Christians, rather than the closed structure.
  • The action of the companions to rest the Prophet (peace be upon him) within the room of Biwi Aisha (radiallahu anha) also proves that the narrations which prohibit “building over a grave1,  have got nothing to do with a grave being within a closed structure or a bayt(house) as in the case of the grave of the Prophet(peace be upon him).

Further explanation of the narration

As proved above decisively,  the curse was not on the mere existence of a closed structure or house over the grave, and the companions on the contrary feared in making the grave open and prominent. Therefore, the reasons for the curse is either of the following possibilities:

1) Prostrating towards the grave.

2) Praying on top of the grave.

3) Taking the grave as qiblah/direction of prayer, by praying towards it.

4) Using the area besides the grave for any prayer, prostration or forms of worship.

5) Building a house of worship containing the grave.

6) Frequently visiting the graves.

There are no other possibilities upon which this narration is interpreted.

Now, from these possible meanings, the first three prohibitions are agreed upon by all and no one disputes on this matter.  Muslims don’t require the Wahhabiyya to form a splinter cult and teach Sunnis these prohibitions.

But for the sake of information to understand the basis for validating the first three prohibitions (and that the prohibition is  not based on conjecture), the  following hadiths are from the additional proofs:

1) Proof for the prohibition of prostrating to graves: 

The literal meaning of a “masaajid” is a “place of prostration“. And this is one of the basis upon which the hadith cursing the Jews and Christians are understood I.e., as a prohibition of prostrating to the grave. This prohibition has come explicitly in the following narration:

Narrated Qays ibn Sa’d: I went to al-Hirah and saw them (the people) prostrating themselves before a satrap of theirs, so I said: The Apostle of Allah (peace_be_upon_him) has most right to have prostration made before him. When I came to the Prophet (peace_be_upon_him), I said: I went to al-Hirah and saw them prostrating themselves before a satrap of theirs, but you have most right, Apostle of Allah, to have (people) prostrating themselves before you. He said: Tell me , if you were to pass my grave, would you prostrate yourself before it? I said: No. He then said: Do not do so. If I were to command anyone to make prostration before another I would command women to prostrate themselves before their husbands, because of the special right over them given to husbands by Allah. (Abu Dawud Book#11, Hadith#2135)

2) Proof for the prohibition of praying towards the grave or taking the grave as a qiblah: 

The prohibition of this too has come in another narration of the Prophet(peace be upon him):

Abu Marthad al-Ghanawi reported Allah’s Messenger (may peace be upon him) as saying: Do not pray facing towards the graves, and do not sit on them. (Sahih Muslim, Book#004, Hadith#2122)

3) Proof for the prohibition of praying on top of the grave:

The third possible meaning of taking the grave as masaajid, is in taking the top or surface of the grave as masajid or a place of worship. The prohibition on this is proven in the hadith:

“Don’t pray towards or on top of graves.” (Tabarani (#12051, 12168) and Diya’ (12:124 Hasan))

Therefore, praying on top of the grave, and henceforth also building any structure that leads to or causes prayer to be performed directly on top of the grave,  is prohibited. And this would be the meaning of the prohibition of taking the grave as a masaajid, that it is a prohibition of the grave itself being considered as masaajid; and not a prohibition on taking the area besides or around the grave as a masaajid.

It is also because of such prohibition to pray on top of graves that the Prophet peace and blessings be upon him, removed the graves of idolaters prior to constructing a masjid:

It is related that Anas said, “When the Prophet, may Allah bless him and grant him peace, came to Madina, he stopped at ‘Awali al-Madina in an area lived in by a clan called the Banu ‘Amr ibn ‘Awf. The Prophet, may Allah bless him and grant him peace, stayed among them for fourteen nights. Then he sent for the Banu’n-Najjar who came with their swords girded on. It is as if I could see them now, the Prophet, may Allah bless him and grant him peace, on his camel and Abu Bakr riding behind him with the Banu’n-Najjar all gathered around him, continuing until he arrived at the courtyard of Abu Ayyub. He liked to pray wherever he was when the prayer time came. He would even pray in sheepfolds. He ordered the mosque to be built and sent for some of the Banu’n-Najjar saying, ‘Banu’n-Najjar, tell me the price of this walled garden of yours.’ They said, ‘No, by Allah! We ask for no payment except from Allah!”Anas said, “The place I am telling you about contained pagan graves and some ruins and also some palm-trees. The Prophet, may Allah bless him and grant him peace, ordered the graves of the pagans to be dug up and the ruins to be levelled and the palm-trees to be cut down. The palm trunks were lined up to form the mosque’s qibla and its two sides walls were made of stone. They used to recite rhyming verses while carrying the stones. And the Prophet was with them saying:’O Allah, there is no good except the good of the Next World*so grant forgiveness to the Ansar and the Muhajirun.'” [Sahih al Bukhari, hadith no. 418]

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The fourth possible meaning to the narration is that, it is against any form of prayer or worship being performed besides the grave.

Such a meaning would be contrary to Islam, as it is permitted in Islam, based on clear evidence, to visit the grave and make the visitation as a means of renunciation of the world, to obtain meritorious reward by visiting the grave of the Prophet(peace be upon him), to greet the inhabitant of the grave, to make supplications at the site of the grave, to read Qur’an by the grave, the permissibility of performing a funeral prayer by the grave, etc. All of these are forms of prayer/worship at the site of the grave, that is accepted in Islam by the vast overwhelming majority of Sunni Scholarship. Furthermore, there are also reports from the companions that prove that they performed Salah even within the room containing the grave of the Prophet himself, peace and blessings be upon him. The Sahabi Usama ibn Zayd was known to pray next to the noble grave of the Prophet (pbuh).2  Sayyida A’isha used to pray regularly in her room, which used to contain the Prophet’s (pbuh) blessed grave3 and people used to request her to enter her room and pray there too, such as the lady who came in to pray there and passed away in prostration.4

Note that all these reports that cursed  the Jews and Christians were narrated from Aisha(radiallahu anha), and her actions are therefore the best explanation for its intended meaning. Those who still stand in opposition to any of this need to bring decisive proof for the prohibition, and not just speculative or conjectural rhetoric.

Besides all of these evidences, the mosque and grave that is sunnah for Muslims to imitate is nothing but the mosque of the Prophet(peace be upon him). The grave of the prophet(peace be upon him) was separated from his mosque by merely a wall. So every act of worship that was performed from the mosque by the salaf and generations of righteous Muslims till today, separated from the grave by merely a wall becomes proof for the legality of having all such worship performed, by mere such requirement of a separation of the grave with a wall. This proof is clear, unequivocal and unchallengable.

The fifth possible meaning, is that it is prohibited to build a house of worship/place of worship containing the grave.

This meaning would require a classification. If what is meant by constructing a house of worship or place of worship over the grave, is in the sense of taking the grave as an object of worship or having idols constructed upon the grave and worship of it, then this is obviously prohibited by consensus. The Prophet(pbuh) invoked Allah t’aala to prevent such actions from ever happening to his grave:

Yahya related to me from Malik from Zayd ibn Aslam from Ata ibn Yasar that the Messenger of Allah, may Allah bless him and grant him peace, said, “O Allah! Do not make my grave an idol that is worshipped.”(Muwatta Imam Malik, Book#9, Hadith#9.24.88)

Instead, if having a “masjid built over them” is meant differently, in the sense of having the grave connected to or in the vicinity of a masjid or a masjid complex, then there are no hadiths that prohibit this. The burden of proof ultimately lies upon the claimant if  one claims that such a prohibition does exist.

The positive proof for the permissibility of having a grave connected to the mosque, comes from the consensus of the salaf on the location of the  grave of the Prophet of Islam(peace be upon him). The location being the house/room of Biwi Aisha (radiallahu anha) which was connected to the mosque. Moreover, the consensus of salaf also existed when the room was brought within the expanded structure of the mosque. The Mufti of Egypt, Shaykh Ali Gomaa summarized the history of the development as follows:

“In the year 88 A.H., Al-Walid Ibn Abd al-Malik issued orders to the governor of Medina at that time, ‘Umar Ibn Abd al-‘Aziz, to include the room where the Prophet was buried within the premises of the mosque itself. Scholars from among the seven scholars of Medina approved of this and none of them objected except Sa’id Ibn al-Musaib. He only protested because he wanted to preserve the Prophet’s quarters to serve as an example for Muslims to become acquainted with the living conditions of the Prophet and thereby renounce worldly pleasures not because he maintained the prohibition of praying in a mosque containing a grave.”

This proof is unequivocal and cannot be challenged.

Yet another additional proof that can be provided in support is, the grave of the companion Abu Basir(r).  When the Sahaba died, a masjid was built over his grave in the presence of 300 Companions. This was towards the end of the Prophet’s (asws) earthly life. [Musa ibn ‘Uqba (d. 141H) recorded this –in his Maghazi with a Sahih chain. Also recorded by Ibn ‘Abd al-Barr in his Isti’ab, Ibn Ishaq in his Sira, and others.]

Furthermore, present in Sahih al-Bukhari is the following narration:

“Abdullah related that the Prophet, may Allah bless him and grant him peace, prayed at the end of the upper part of the valley behind al-‘Arj if you are on the way to Hadba. There are two or three graves at that mosque, on which are piles of stones, to the right of the path at the large stones marking the path. ‘Abdullah used to return home from al-‘Arj after the sun had declined from midday. He would pray Dhuhr in that mosque.‘” [Sahih Bukhari, Hadith No.470]

This proves that the Prophet and the companions prayed in a mosque with graves in it and thereby proves the existence of such mosques without any opposition from the Prophet or the companions.

Some other examples from the Companions of the Prophet(SAWS), that prove the legality of bayt or a strucure over the grave was the practice of pitching a tent over the graves: Ibn Abi Shayba (3:217) recorded that ‘Umar built a large structure (fustat) over the tomb of Zaynab (Also see, al-Baji al-Maliki’s Kitab al-Muntaha II p.23; Ayni’s Umdah VII p.46). A structure was pitched on the grave of Sayyida Aisha(radiallahu anha)’s brother Abdrahman bin Abi Bakr(see Fathul Bari vol3 p286; al-Baji al-Maliki’s Kitab al-Muntaha II p.23). Fatima bint Husayn built a large tent over the grave of her husband Hasan ibn Hasan ibn ‘Ali and kept it for a year, then removed it (Fathul Bari3:200, Ibn ‘Asakir 70:19-20, Ibn Abi Dunya’s Hawatif p. 92 #131). Muhammad ibn Hanafiya built a fustat over the grave of Ibn ‘Abbas (Khalili’s Irshad1:185, Ibn ‘Abd al-Barr’s Isti’ab II p.352; al-Baji al-Maliki’s Kitab al-Muntaha II p.23; Ibn Hallikan Wafayat al a’yan wa ‘anba’ abna’ az-zaman III p.64; Ayni’s Umdah VII p.46).

The legal scholars explained from the above examples that, tents were not reprehensible as long as “the shade relieves the living”(Shirwani Hashiya III p.197).  That is, as long as the “right intention” prevailed and not the aim to relieve the deceased(Fathul Bari III pp 286f; Ayni Umdah VII p.101; Qastallani Irsad al-Sari II p.370; at-Turkmani al-Hanafi Kitab al-Luma I p.216). Others argued that tents were useful and hence allowed if they shade the Quran reciters at a tomb(Ali al Qari al-Hanafi’s Mirqat al-Mafatih IV p.69).

A note clarifying the false categorization done by the Wahhabiyya

It must be reminded that the tombs that are in existence today are not considered as a masajid in and of itself, in the first place. Many of them are mere structures to facilitate visitation and tabarruk and to mark or preserve the location of the grave, by a house or dome over it . And  those places were mosques do exist, then they are built in the vicinity of the grave and is usually separated from the tomb by some form of a barrier built around the grave or in a room under a whole complex of buildings. The tomb is also at times used as a place for preserving the relics of the individual and provisions are made to facilitate ziyarah.

The argument made against the traditionalist Sunni community, that they have turned the graves into masjids is completely false, as neither the grave itself nor its immediate close surrounding was considered ever as a masjid. They were instead separated from the masjid, just as the grave of the Prophet (peace and blessings be upon him), was separated from the masjid by walls. The grave by itself never tookover the function of a masjid.

Despite this clarification , if the so called “salafis” are still adamant to argue that such separation is not enough, then:

1) The Wahhabis are opposing the way of the Salaf, who better understood the caution from hadiths and acted by merely putting up a barrier between the grave and masjid.

2) The Wahhabis need to bring proof from the Quran and Sunnah as to how many metres or inches away from a grave, can a masjid be built or salat be performed.

In reality, they themselves are the heretical innovators introducing laws into the religion that never existed in it.

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The sixth possible meaning is that, it is prohibition of  frequently visiting the graves.  The logic being that such a frequent visitation would make the visitation of the grave equivalent to the frequency in which a masjid is visited. And hence the grave turns into a masjid by frequent visitation.  Some of the Maliki scholars related this opinion.

Firstly, this meaning would have no basis to prohibit tomb constructions as it is merely a question of frequency of visitation.  Furthermore, scholars have divergent opinion on this meaning. The scholars who do not support this opinion instead say that graves do indeed have to be frequently visited and they cite other narrations as proof. In the presence of divergent opinions, there is no sufficient proof that one opinion could be selected and forced upon the others who do not hold this opinion.  Additionally, this meaning is regarding the dis-likeness of “frequently” visiting and not a dis-likeness of in-frequently visiting them. Indeed, the greetings upon the Prophet(peace be upon him) reaches him from any place on the earth and it is not a requirement that a person has to always visit the graves to send their greetings. But that does not prohibit a person from visiting.

Finally, this meaning cannot be used  by the dhahiris and la-madhabis of the Wahhabi sect,  who often claim with much pomp and glitter that they would accept an opinion or interpretation of an Imam, only if they find proof for it in the “Quran and Sahih Hadith“. So they have to provide us with proofs from Quran and Sahih Hadith for the validity of this interpretation of the hadith in question, without any possibilty of speculation or ambiguity in their proof. Until then, their usage of this interpretation would by default remain rejected by their own principles.

Answering Wahhabi Apologetics

Some of the Wahhabiyya attempted to counter argue against these unequivocal and unambiguous proofs. They say that since the Prophet (pbuh) was buried within a  room that was pre-existent , it is not a proof that a tomb could be constructed after the burial.

This reasoning of theirs is a blunder and an insult to intelligence.  Because if the prohibition against structures over graves were true as they say, it would be directed towards the structure and not the timing of the construction. The structure that existed over the grave of the Prophet(peace be upon him), could have simply been destroyed to adhere to the conditions of the shariah. But the actions of the Salaf on the contrary show that they infact rebuilt and expanded the structure, thereby clearly making invalid any such Wahhabi ramblings.  We see this in the narration :

Narrated ‘Urwa: When the wall fell on them (i.e. graves) during the caliphate of Al-Walid bin ‘Abdul Malik, the people started repairing it, and a foot appeared to them. The people got scared and thought that it was the foot of the Prophet. No-one could be found who could tell them about it till I (‘Urwa) said to them, “By Allah, this is not the foot of the Prophet but it is the foot of Umar.” [Sahih Bukhari Volume 2, Book 23, Number 474]

The fact that they re-built the structure is a explicit re-affirmation of the fact they did not have  a problem with constructing a structure over the grave of the Prophet(peace be upon him). So this narration is an another independent proof in and of itself. So if the Salaf- the best of generation, had no problem with having and building the tomb, then neither should the so called “Salafis” who falsely label themselves as the inheritors and followers of the Salaf,  be now hypocritically abandoning the Salaf, when it goes against their whims and fancy.

Another fact unveiling their low level of intelligence with this argument of theirs is that, according to this argument itself  it becomes permissible to construct a tomb first and then later shift a persons body within the structure or even within a masjid. I.e., one has to merely shift a body into a pre-existant structure to meet the great puritan standards of the Wahhabiyya. This argument of theirs is nothing but a mockery of Islam.

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Another argument introduced by the Wahhabi apologetic in this respect is that, this is an exceptional case and not the general rule. They then explain that Prophets are to be buried where they passed away and hence the need for such an exception.

Firstly, the mere acceptance there are such exceptions to the general rule automatically invalidates the interpretation of the hadith they give because it implies that under other valid reasons, it is permissible to have structure over the grave and not always forbidden, sinful or cursed. And indeed the scholars of Islam included the scholars and saints of Islam along with the Prophets, upon whose grave such exception to construct a tomb exists.

Secondly, the claim that this is an exception is refuted by the context  surrounding the burial of Prophet(pbuh):

Yahya related to me from Malik that he had heard that the Messenger of Allah, may Allah bless him and grant him peace, died on Monday and was buried on Tuesday and people prayed over him individually with no one leading them. Some pople said that he would be buried near the mimbar, and others said that he would be buried in al-Baqi. Abu Bakr as-Siddiq came and said, “I heard the Messenger of Allah, may Allah bless him and grant him peace, say, ‘No prophet was ever buried except in the place where he died.’ “So a grave was dug for him there. When he was about to be washed they wished to take off his shirt but they heard a voice saying “Don’t take off his shirt,” so they did not take off his shirt and he was washed with it on, may Allah bless him and grant him peace. (Muwatta Malik, Book#16, Hadith#16.10.27) [Same text with different chain of reporters is present in Ibn al-Jawzi's book  مثير العزم الساكن إلى أشرف الأماكن ط الراية and in Imam al Ajurri's (d. 360H) Kitab ash-Shariah]

The same incident as mentioned in Sirat ibn Hisham (Taken from Abridged English Translation by Abdus-Salam M. Harun):

The Muslims has disagreed over the place of burial. Some favored burying him in his mosque, while others thought to bury him with his companions. Abu Bakr said, “I head the Messenger of Allah(pbuh) saying, ‘No prophet dies but is buried in the place he has died.'” So the bed on which he died was drawn away and they made a grave under it.

We clearly see an alternate opinion existed among a group of the companions, to use the place near the mimber (pulpit) inside the mosque for burial. The existence of this opinion among the companions, to locate the grave near the mimber, is proof that the final decision to keep the grave within a structure was not a result of some exceptional necessity and that they were instead open to suggestions one of which included the burial within the mosque close to the mimber itself.  This in fact is also another clear independent proof for the legality of burying within the masjid itself (not just within a house or structure).

Even more, the action of companions in burial of the two foremost companions and righteous caliphs, Abu Bakr(radiallahu anhu) and Umar(radiallahu anhu) within the same structure next to the grave of Prophet Muhammed (peace be upon him), unequivocally proves that this was not a case of an exception or one that was restricted to the Prophet(peace and blessings be upon him). This argument concocted by the Wahhabiyya fails here completely.

But to eliminate the satanic doubts that some may attribute to the companions of the Prophet(peace be upon him), suggesting that they were mistaken or ignorant or incompetent to apply shariah properly, we therefore extend our case in order to prove that this action was based on prophecy.

Proof 1: The location was known and praised by the Prophet(peace be upon him):

The Prophet (peace be upon him) said: “The area between my grave and my minbar is a garden from the gardens of paradise.” 5

Ibn Hazm(d.1064) of Cordoba, in Kitab al-Muhalla(vol 5, p.133) comments on this narration:

“He [sc. Muhammad(pbuh)] already announced the place of his grave by his word: ‘The space that lies between my grave and my minbar belongs to the garden of paradise.’ By saying that, he announced that it [sc. his grave] would be in his bayt. He did not object to his grave’s being located inside the bayt and [therefore] did not object to an erected building (bina qaim)[on the a grave].”

Hence, as Ibn Hazm mentioned,  it is proven that the location of the grave within the structure was known to the Prophet without any objection against it.  Imam al-Ajurri (d.360H) in Kitab al-Shariah, also said the same that this hadith is proof the Prophet صَلَّى اللَّه عَلَيْهِ وَسَلَّمَ knew in advance he was to be buried in the room of Aisha (r). The groups that wish to destroy the tomb or  re-bury the Prophet(peace be upon him) in a new location or wish to make a division between the mosque and grave disconnecting and dividing the “garden of paradise” between the mimber and grave, are clearly heretics rebelling against the teaching of the Prophet(peace be upon him).

This narration is also a blistering answer to those who say that the location of graves have no special importance, as this narration on the contrary shows that the area besides the grave is from the gardens of paradise.  A garden in general as we know is a place of bliss and nourishment and a garden of paradise therefore is a place where Allah’s heavenly Mercy and Blessings are present to receive. The barakah/blessings of the grave, is not just on account of the barakah emanating from the body of the Prophet (peace be upon him) and his soul and from the gardens of paradise, but also because it is a place where the angels descend:

Ka’b al-Ahbar (d. 32H.) said: “Not a day goes by without seventy thousand angels descending upon the grave of the Prophet (asws), surrounding him and sending salawat upon him until night falls.When they ascend another such group of angels take their place and do the same;until when the earth splits open before him (asws), he comes out with 70,000 angels in procession around him.”
[ Recorded (with authentic chains to Ka’b ) by Darimi (1:57 #94), Bayhaqi (Shu’ab, 3:492), Ibn Mubarak in Kitab az-Zuhd(1:558), Abu Nu’aym (Hilya, 5:390), Qadi Isma’il (Fadl as-Salat, #102), and Abu’l Shaykh.]

In addition to this, is the consensus(ijma) of the Islamic scholarship that the location of the grave of the Prophet(peace be upon him) is the most holiest of places. Ibrahim Muhammed ash-Shaghouri writes in his work “Defense of the Sunnah”:

There is … consensus among the scholars of the four madhhabs that the blessed place which contains his blessed fragrant body (asws) is superior to any other place on earth, and some (e.g. Ibn ‘Abidin al-Hanafi, Ibn ‘Aqil al-Hanbali, Salim an-Nafrawi al-Maliki) added even superior than the Divine‘Arsh. Consensus on this is documented by: Ibn Habira in Fiqh ‘ala Madhahib al-A’imma al-Arba’a1:337. Also: (Hanafi): Ibn ‘Abidin (Hashiya, 2:626), Tahtawi (Hashiya Maraqi Falah, p. 70). (Maliki): Qadi ‘Iyad (Shifa’, 2:58), Hattab (Mawahib Jalil, 3:344-45), Qarafi (Dhakhira, 3:378, 381), Nafrawi (Fawakih Dawani, 1:45). (Shafi’i): Nawawi (Majmu’, 7:389), Ibn Kathir (Bidaya, 3:205), Suyuti (Khasa’is, 2:351), Munawi (Fayd Qadir, 6:264). (Hanbali): Ibn ‘Aqil (see: Subki’s Shifa’ Siqamand Ibn Qayyim’s Bada’i Fawa’id2:147), Ibn Muflih (Mubdi’, 3:70).

This is the belief, status, honor, reverence and religious devotion the Imams as well as Islamic Ummah at large gave to the grave of the Prophet, and by sharing and inheriting this Prophetic mantle, towards the graves of  Ulema and Saliheen of the Islamic Ummah.  The Wahhabiyya have instead parted ways from the straight path of the Islamic Ummah, in cursed rebellion.

Their graves are also a place of tawassul/means to Allah, as the Prophets and the friends of Allah are the symbols and signs of Allah manifested on earth. Quran encourages travelling to see the signs of Allah: {Say, ‘Travel throughout the earth and see….}[29:20] and to seek a means towards Allah: {O you who have believed, fear Allah and seek the means [of nearness] to Him}[5:35].  A supplication to Allah (SWT) by their blessed presence and through their intercession is a deed recommended in the Quran when it says { And if, when they wronged themselves, they had come to you, [O Muhammad], and asked forgiveness of Allah and the Messenger had asked forgiveness for them, they would have found Allah Accepting of repentance and Merciful}(Quran 4:64).6

 

Proof 2: The location was attested by a true vision of Sayyida Aisha(radiallahu anha): 

Yahya related to me from Malik from Yahya ibn Said that A’isha, the wife of the Prophet, may Allah bless him and grant him peace, said, “I saw three moons fall into my room, and I related my vision to Abu Bakr as-Siddiq. Then, when the Messenger of Allah died, may Allah bless him and grant him peace, and was buried in my house, Abu Bakr said to me, ‘This is one of your moons, and he is the best of them.’ “(Muwatta Malik, Book#16, Hadith#16.10.30)

As we can clearly see from the above narration, the location of the grave was confirmed by a true vision. The Prophet (peace be upon him) said:

Narrated Abu Huraira: Allah’s Apostle said, “The (good) dream of a faithful believer is a part of the forty-six parts of prophetism.”  (Sahih al-Bukhari)

Narrated Abu Qatada: The Prophet said, “A true good dream is from Allah, and a bad dream is from Satan.”  (Sahih al-Bukhari)

Hence, a true vision comes from Allah Himself and is a part of prophethood. The location of the grave of the Prophet(peace be upon him) and his two companions, to be within the structure of the house, comes from Allah Himself. This vision of Sayyida Aisha(radiallahu anha) also adds to strengthen  the various similar visions the pious people of Islam have reported in connection to the burial of a pious person. The modern day khawarij look upon such visions as mere superstition, Sufi fairy tales and a subject of mockery.

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A note on the grave of the Prophet and it’s implication in interpreting the narration that curses the Jews and Christians

Quranic verses or prophetic narrations are not interpreted in isolation.  This is a major fallacy of the Wahhabi movement and similar protestant movements.  The meaning of the narration that curses  the Jews and Christians or that which prohibits building over a grave, cannot be interpreted by isolating itself away from the reality of the grave of the Prophet and His companions.  If the meaning was as the Wahhabiyya movement give it such that the curse against Jews and Christians was merely on account of having a structure over the grave or a masjid besides it than, the first and foremost and the most important grave over which such a structure should have been avoided would be the grave of the Prophet(peace be upon him). It is to be noted that the curse against Jews and Christians, was specifically referring to what they did to the graves of their Prophets and righteous individuals and not with regards to ordinary laypeople. Yet the most honored Prophet in Islam (infact, the leader of all Prophets) and two of the most righteous individuals in this Ummah were buried within the structure by the best of people, the companions around the Messenger,  and brought within the fold of the expanding masjid by the best of generation, the Salaf,  without any objection from anyone in the history of Islam.  None of the people of Islam has ever questioned or raised doubt over this or over the validity of praying in Masjid-un-Nabawi on account of the presence of the grave of the Prophet(pbuh), until the heretical innovators raised their satanic heads from Najd.

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Quranic proof for building a Masjid enclosing a grave

18:21
Quran [18:21] (Sahih International Translation)

And similarly, We caused them to be found that they [who found them] would know that the promise of Allah is truth and that of the Hour there is no doubt. [That was] when they disputed among themselves about their affair and [then] said, “Construct over them a structure. Their Lord is most knowing about them.” Said those who prevailed in the matter, “We will surely take [for ourselves] over them a masjid.”

There are a number of points to be noted from this verse of the Qur’an:
  • The first and foremost source of proof in Islam is the Qur’an and it does mention this example of a Masjid being built over the people of the cave. Yet  Allah did not reveal any verse that  abrogates this, opposes or curses this nor declares them as “Qubburis” or grave worshipers, as the Wahhabi sect does in rebellion against this verse.
  • When the Prophet(peace be upon him) cursed the Jews and Christians for taking the graves as a Masajid,  he(saws) did not refer to this Quranic verse and explain that these people mentioned in the Quran, who built a Masjid over the people of the cave, were also cursed for it. Therefore, a distinction has to be made between what the Jews and Christians were cursed for and what this verse of the Qur’an permits.

The distinction between the two is that the Prophet (peace be upon him) cursed the Jews and Christians for taking the graves in and of itself as a Masajid, in its literal meaning, which is to take the grave in specific as a place and direction of prostration, or to have idols built over them(which is the place of prayer of idolaters), as explained previously. While the verse of Qur’an only mentions that they would take a Masjid over them. It does not mention graves in specific. The Masjid being built over them is in the sense of house of worship and being located around or adjacent to them, such that the Masjid ultimately surrounds over them as an enclosure , building or a house.

  • There is no proof that the Companions, of the Prophet(saws), ever said  this Quranic verse was abrogated or that the people mentioned in the Qur’an were cursed for it.
  • There is no proof that the Salaf ever said this Quranic verse was abrogated or these people mentioned in the Qur’an were cursed for what they did.
  • The Quran uses the word “Masjid” and Masjid is a place of worship built by Muslims. Thereby, the Qur’an acknowledges them as Muslims and monotheists.  The Qur’an in fact uses distinct words for places of worship built by Non-Muslims, as seen clearly in the verse  : {And were it not that Allah checks the people, some by means of others, there would have been demolished monasteries, churches, synagogues, and mosques in which the name of Allah is much mentioned.}[Quran 22:40]

The Wahhabis, in rebellion against the Qur’an, instead describe such mosques as “temples” of polytheists.

  • Most of the commentators of the Qur’an say that these people who built a Masjid over them were Muslims, while some of the commentators explicitly state this verse to be a proof for constructing a Masjid over graves.

Remember, if one agrees that the people who built the Masjid over the people of the cave, were Muslims, then it would be impossible for them to use the narration( they often use) against such, because, it would entail the absurd view that the Prophet(peace be upon him) was sending curses upon the believers of the past. Instead, the Prophet(peace be upon him) only cursed the Jews and Christians and did not say that the monotheist believers of the past did the same and where cursed for it.

  • This Quranic detail was mentioned in Surah al-Kahf, which is a Quranic chapter that is recited to seek protection from Dajjal. What this indicates is that it predicts a Dajjalic movement that would raise controversy on this subject during the end times. This detail present in Surah al-Kahf serves as a weapon for the rightly guided believers against the Dajjalic forces that emerge during end times, such as the Wahhabiyya.

The Prophet(peace be upon him) forewarned the appearance of such Dajjals: There will be towards the end of time, dajjals, liars who will say to you what neither you nor your forebears ever heard before. Beware of them lest they misguide you and bring you confusion.” [Sahih Muslim];  and that the last of the Khawarij would follow Dajjal:   ‘every time a generation of them appears it will be cut down-this will occur over twenty times – until the Anti-Christ appears in their last remnant.’ [Sunan Ibn Majah].

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The Elevation of a Grave and the meaning of “Taswiyat” 7

 

Proof that the grave of the Prophet(peace be upon him) was elevated

Narrated Abu Bakr bin ‘Aiyash : Sufyan At-Tammar told me that he had seen the grave of the Prophet elevated and convex. [Sahih Bukhari Volume 2, Book 23, Number 473]

Narrated Al-Qasim ibn Muhammad ibn AbuBakr: I said to Aisha! Mother, show me the grave of the Apostle of Allah (peace_be_upon_him) and his two Companions (Allah be pleased with them). She showed me three graves which were neither high nor low, but were spread with soft red pebbles in an open space. [Abu Dawud, Book 20, Number 3214]

Abu Hanifa informed us from Hammad that Ibrahim said: Someone informed me that they had seen the grave of Prophet (Peace be upon him), the grave of Abu Bakr (ra), and the grave of Umar (ra) with“mounds on top of them protruding prominently from the gournd” and on them pieces of white clay.Imam Muhammad said: We (Ahnaaf) adhere to this”. [Kitab ul Athaar, Page No. 145]

Furthermore, the righteous Khalifa Umar ibn Abdul-Aziz raised the grave of the Prophet (asws) even more (Fath al-Bari 3:357). It is therefore established that the grave of the Prophet(peace be upon him) was elevated above the ground.

Proof that the Prophet(peace be upon him) marked a grave high

The first companion of the Prophet(saws), to be buried in the cemetery of al-Madina, al-Baqi`, was `Uthman ibn Maz`un (ra), the milk-brother of the Prophet (saws). A large boulder was placed on top of his grave, by the Prophet(saws),  to mark it, saying:

“By this I shall know where the grave of my brother `Uthman is and add to him my relatives.”8

Take notice of how high this grave marking was:

Kharija ibn Zayd said: “I can see myself when we were young men [CORR. boys] in the time of `Uthman [ibn `Affan] (ra). The strongest one of us in high jump was he who could jump over the grave of `Uthman ibn Maz`un and clear it.” [Sahih al-Bukhari]

Ibn Hajar al Asqalani, commented on this narration (Fath al-Bari (3:256)): “Al-Bukhari narrated it with its chain in al-Tarikh al-Saghir (1:42). It contains a proof for the licitness of raising high the grave and elevating it above the surface of the earth.”  Similarly, Imam Qastallani, in his commentary of Sahih al-Bukhari called “Irshad al-Sari fi sharh Sahih al-Bukhari”, commented that in this hadith is proof a high grave is jaiz (permissible).

Additionally, Ibn Abi Shaiba recorded(Musannaf3:216) that Abdullah ibn Abi Bakr said, “I saw the grave of Uthman ibn Madh’un raised high”. Ibn Abi Shayba also recorded (Musannaf3:215) that al-Sha’bi (a Tabi’i) said: “I saw the graves of the martyrs of Uhud elevated above the ground.”

Therefore,  it is also established that having a grave marked high/elevated above the ground, is from the sunnah of the Prophet (peace and blessings be upon him).

On the narrations used by Salafists to call for prohibition and destruction of elevated graves

The narration of Fadala bin Ubaid:

Thumama b. Shafayy reported: When we were with Fadala b. ‘Ubaid in the country of the Romans at a place (known as) Rudis, a friend of ours died. Fadala b. ‘Ubaid ordered to prepare a grave for him and then it was levelled; and then he said: I heard the Messenger of Allah (may peace be upon him) commanding (us) to level the grave. (Sahih Muslim, Book#004, Hadith#2114)

Answer:

Firstly, in this narration there is no mention of the “height” or “elevation” of the grave nor any proof that the “leveling” of the grave being referred to here is on “leveling” to the ground.

Secondly, what this narration indicates is that the shape of the grave should be leveled. The Imams differed on whether the upper surface should be shaped as a mound (as reported in other narrations) or whether it should be shaped by flattening its upper surface (i.e., giving it a squared shape). The difference between the scholars on this issue of “taswiyat”  was on the shape of the outward surface of graves and not on how high a grave should be. The scholars of the Shafi school, who held the opinion that the grave should be leveled, also at the same time said that it was desirable the grave should be kept one-hand span high. This was not a contradiction. They were referring to separate issues. The leveling was regarding its surface shape and not the height.

Thirdly,  the meaning of “taswiyat” does not mean “leveling” alone. It is also means “proportioning” or “equalization”. The “taswiyat” referred to in these narrations was understood alternatively as a reference to proportionately leveling the grave, equalizing the grave or maintaining the grave; as opposed to leaving the grave unleveled, non-uniform or unkept with bumps and holes. This is a common practice that anyone who has seen a newly dug grave being filled would be capable of noticing. At the end of filling the grave, there remains a outward protruding surface that would be smoothened out, or a pointed surface that remains mounted at the center which is then leveled proportionately, to give the grave a clean, even and maintained appearence.

But, no matter the case be on how it is interpreted,  that which is unequivocal and proof against the arguments of the Wahhabi sect is that,

1) There is no decisive proof in this narration that indicates it as a reference to levelling the grave to the ground or that it is a prohibition of having the grave elevated high. Conjecture is not a proof.

2) The scholars of the four schools, recommended that the grave should be raised at least a hand span above the ground. Therefore it is further impossible that this hadith was regarding the leveling of the grave to the ground. For,  leveling to the ground is not the same as raising it above the ground, whatever the span above the ground be.

3) Most importantly, the interpretation being used by the Salafists, would be counter to the apparent meaning of the narration. This is because it would imply that the grave was first raised high and then later leveled to the ground by the same Sahabi. This would make it a pointless exercise of ordering the grave twice, as the grave could have been kept at the required ground level at the beginning itself, rather than first elevating it high and then leveling it back to the ground level at the same time.  And so since it is clearly impossible that the grave here was even high at all, it becomes apparent and clear that the act of leveling that did take place was NOT a leveling of a high/elevated grave in the first place,  and hence this narration had nothing to with what the neo-Salafis claim.

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The narration of Ali bin Abi Talib(r):

Abu’l-Hayyaj al-Asadi told that ‘Ali (b. Abu Talib) said to him: Should I not send you on the same mission as Allah’s Messenger (may peace be upon him) sent me? Do not leave an image without obliterating it, or a high grave without levelling It. This hadith has been reported by Habib with the same chain of transmitters and he said: (Do not leave) a picture without obliterating it. (Sahih Muslim, Book#004, Hadith#2115)

Answer:

1)  The apparent of this narration does not make any reference to the graves of Muslims. On the contrary it makes reference to “images”,  indicating that it was regarding the idols and graves of idolators. The la-madhabiyya cannot use this as proof until they, as per their own principles,  can strictly prove from the Quran and Sahih Hadith, that this was applied to the  graves of Muslims too. Conjecture is not a proof.

2) There is no proof that this applied to graves that was built on land that was owned privately.   If it was inclusive of land owned then, it would mean it is permissible to enter a Church or a house of a Non-Muslim and destroy the images therein. That would be contradictory to the Islamic ruling.

3) There is no proof that the righteous Salaf or Khalaf has ever used this hadith to call for the destruction of the structure that existed over the grave of Prophet Muhammed (peace and blessings be upon him), despite there existing a house over the grave and despite the masjid being expanded to include the grave from the 1st century of Islam. This proves unequivocally that the narration is not an absolute reference to every grave or every kind of high structure over it.

4) There is no proof that the Sahabah, Salaf or Khalaf went about destroying the graves of other early Prophets even though they were held in veneration by the Jews and Christians. On the contrary we find that those graves were to soon come under Muslim control and Muslims improved the tombs, rather than destroy it. Surely, if such vandalism being practiced by the Wahhabiyya were practiced by the Muslims back then,  the books of history would have mentioned it.

5) There is no proof that by this “leveling” of high graves what was meant was a leveling  of the graves to the ground.  Conjecture cannot be a proof.

6) There is no proof that this leveling of high graves were carried out because high graves were prohibited in and of itself. It could instead be that the purpose of leveling the high graves were so that the land was leveled, and by it make the land usable for the Muslims.

7)  This narration could alternatively be understood as a leveling those high decorated graves in graveyards, that are built out of ostentation, vanity and wastage of money, and not those graves that are built for purpose of marking, protecting and visitation.

8) As per the interpretation claimed by Salafis, it would mean that the Sahabah at the time of the Prophet peace be upon him, as well as during the time of rule of Ali ibn Abi Talib (rad) had their graves built high with idols, which obviously is a spurious claim against the sahabah.

9) The interpretation of the hadith is to be understood by looking at the practice of the Salaf. Imam Shafi (150-204 AH),  had explained clearly what the practice of the Salaf was. Imam Shafi says:

“I have seen the governors who demolished[tombs] in Mecca built inside the city, and I found no jurist who saw therein a wrong decision.  If it was a question of tombs on land owned by the dead in their lifetime or bequeathed to their offspring, nothing that was built on their part was destroyed. Only that which no one called his own was demolished.The demolition took place so that the space around the tomb would not be inaccessible to[other] people or prevent others from being buried there, and to avoid people’s being harmpered.” [al-Umm 1:277]

There are several proof present in this:

  1.  The practice of building over graves was present from the time of Salaf and that too among the Meccans itself.
  2. The purpose of demolition was to prevent restriction of space and not because of some great fear for Shirk and Kufr, as the Wahhabiyya allege.9
  3. No sort of demolishing was carried out on those structures built on land which was owned.10

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Marking the Graves 

Narrated Al-Muttalib: When Uthman ibn Maz’un died, he was brought out on his bier and buried. The Prophet (peace_be_upon_him) ordered a man to bring him a stone, but he was unable to carry it. The Apostle of Allah (peace_be_upon_him) got up and going over to it rolled up his sleeves. [Abu Dawud, Book 20, Number 3200]“

“Prophet cast three handfuls of earth on the dead with both hands, that he sprinkled water on the grave of his son Ibrahim, and that he put small pebbles on it.[ Al-Tirmidhi 1708]

Narrated Al-Qasim ibn Muhammad ibn AbuBakr: I said to Aisha! Mother, show me the grave of the Apostle of Allah (peace_be_upon_him) and his two Companions (Allah be pleased with them). She showed me three graves which were neither high nor low, but were spread with soft red pebbles in an open space. [Abu Dawud, Book 20, Number 3214]

Therefore, it is established that using stones, whether in the form of a big one or as pebbles, to mark all of the grave, is from the Sunnah.

Moreover, the practice of coating the grave with clay and gravel is also proven as a Sunnah:

Ja’far bin Muhammad reported from his father: “The grave of the Prophet (saws) was raised one hand from the ground and was coated with red clay and some gravel.” This was narrated by Abu Bakr An-Najjad. [Fiqh us-Sunnah]

Abu Hanifa informed us from Hammad that Ibrahim said: Someone informed me that they had seen the grave of Prophet (Peace be upon him), the grave of Abu Bakr (ra), and the grave of Umar (ra) with mounds on top of them protruding prominently from the gournd and on them pieces of white clay. Imam Muhammad said: We (Ahnaaf) adhere to this”. [Kitab ul Athaar, Page No. 145]

The Prophet(Peace be upon him) used a clod of clay to embelish the tomb of his son Ibrahim, saying “In itself, it is neither harmful nor useful, but it delights the eye of the living.“[Abdur Razzq Musannaf  6499(III p.508)].  A similar report also regarding the burial of Umm Khulthum, the daughter of the Prophet(Peace be upon him). [Bayhaqi Sunan III p.409;  Shams ad-din as-Sami in Subul al-huda fi sirat hayr al wara VIII p. 379; Ibn Muftih in furu II p.269]

Imam Nawawi said, the permissiveness of using clay was shared by vast majority of scholars except for al-Ghazzali and al-Guwayni [Rawdah II p.136]. This opinion was also shared by Ibn Hanbal. [Ibn Qudamah in Mughni II p.507; Ibn Muflih in al furu II p. 271 ] and by the Hanafites [Mulla Ali al Qari in Mirqat al_mafatih IV p.68].

Tirmidhi said: “Some scholars, including Al-Hasan al-Basri, hold it permissible to coat the graves with clay.” [Fiqh us-Sunnah]

Shaykh ‘Abd Al-Qadir Al-Jilani al-Hanbali: “The grave should be raised above the ground to the extent of one span (shibr). Water should be sprinkled over it, and pebbles should be placed upon it. If it is coated with clay, this is permissible, but the application of whitewash is subject to disapproval” [Al-Ghuniyah li Talibi Tariq al-Haqq , v4  p 300]

Answering objections

Some will mention the following narration of Jabir as an objection:

Jabir said: Allah’s Messenger (may peace be upon him) forbade that the graves should be plastered or they be used as sitting places (for the people), or a building should be built over them. [Sahih Muslim]

To this we respond, we have shown that it is permitted to use material other than gypsum(plaster) such as stones, clay and gravel. Furthermore, other materials were even allowed, such as  Imam Nawawi permitting the usage of burnt bricks[Rawdah II p. 136] and even the usage of cane or reed being preferred to wood.[Abu Yusuf in Athar 398(pg. 80) and 425(pg 84); Ibn Abi Shaybah in Musnad III p.219; Ibn Qudamah in Mughni II pp.503 & 507 and Umdah p.121; Ibn Muftih in Furu II p. 270 ]

Moreover, there is no mention in this narration whether it is a reference to prohibiting the usage of gypsum inside the grave or outside the grave. Conjecture cannot be a proof.

Thirdly, the prohibition of gypsum could be because of the harmful nature of this specific material, as the scholars explained.  Zain ad-din al-Iraqi(d. 806 H) said:  “Someone from among the learned mentioned that the rational principle behind the prohibition of whitening of tombs was the fact that gypsum was very inflammable. Therefore, there is no harm in using clay instead, as set down by al-Shafi” [Suyuti in Zahr ar-ruba ala l-Mugtaba IV p. 71;  Samhudi in Wafa ul Wafa, ahkam al janaiz p. 266]. Supporting this is what the Sahabi,  Zayd bin Akram, said when his son was being buried: “Nothing must be in his neighborhood that has been touched by fire” [Ibn Abi Shayba in Musnad III p.218; Ibn Qudamah in Mughni II p.503 and Umdah p.121; Ibn Muflih in Furu II p.270; ].

If one is to object using the latter part, of the narration of Jabir, that apparently prohibits constructing a “building” on the grave, then, such an argument does not hold, because, having  a grave  marked in such a manner  is not even called or understood as a “building” either in the language or general usage [ See, Suyuti Zahr ar-ruba ala l-Mugtaba IV p.71;  Ramli Nihaya III p.34; Shirwani Hashiyah III p.198].

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Answering Other Objections

A objection raised by some is by referring to a different narration:

1276. It is related that ‘A’isha said, “When the Prophet, may Allah bless him and grant him peace,was ill, some of his wives mentioned a church which they had seen in Abyssinia called Mariya. Umm Salama and Umm Habiba had been to Abyssinia and they mentioned its beauty and the pictures in it. He raised his head and said, ‘Among those people, when a virtuous man among them dies, they build a place of prayer over his grave and then they make those pictures in it. Those are the worst of creatures in the sight of Allah.'” [Sahih al-Bukhari]

They say that, in this narration the word “build” is specifically used and therefore it has something to do with “building” over the graves and cannot be merely explained as prostration towards or on the grave.

The response to this objection is :

  • The narration starts by describing a “church” which the wife’s of the Prophet(saws) had seen.  But when the Prophet (peace be upon him) then   explains the matter, he refers only to a “masajid”, that they built over a grave. The Prophet(saws) did not say that a “church” was built over the grave. This distinct terminology indicates something more specific was being objected too by the Prophet(saws). The meaning of masajid in general usage is a place of prayer.  A place of prayer need not have any building or roofs or walls. The mere usage of the ground as a place of prayer makes it a masjid. And from the fact that the Prophet(saw) did not say a “church” in specific indicates that he was not concerned with mere roofs or walls or shelter for prayer being built around the grave.
  • This narration cannot be opposed or be contradicted by what the grave of the Prophet(saws) was, during the time of the companions and the righteous salaf after them. Therefore any explanation to this narration, has to exclude the grave of the Prophet(saws) being tainted by it and no objection should be made against graves that resemble that of the Prophet (saws).
  • This narration refers to the Christians only.  So this is something specific to the Christians, unlike the other narrations where both the Jews and Christians are mentioned.
  • That which concerns us then, is to understand what this distinct place of prayer of the Christians is.  As it is obvious from the Christian usage of idols for worship, the place of prayer of a Christian is not like Muslims, but instead a place upon which they set up their idols and towards which they face for prayer.

The tomb of Mary (Jerusalem)

The grave lying within the outward altar built over it

As we can see clearly from these pictures, an altar  is built over the grave and the grave is within it. This altar built over becomes their qiblah just as any of their other idols. So there are three specific factors that is distinct here: 1) A place of prayer or altar in specific, is built specifically on or over the grave  2) Idols being placed on the grave 3) Taking the grave as a qiblah of prayer.

Those who equate Islamic tombs, such as that of Prophet Muhammed (peace be upon him), as equivalent to this described in the narration, are either ignorant or seeking to distort the facts.

Note the distinction made by, for example,  Hafiz Ibn Hajar (Fath al-Bari, 1:525) quoting the words of Imam al-Baydawi, who said: “Because the Jews and Christians would prostrate towards the graves of the Prophets out of veneration of them, and make them (their graves) a Qibla towards which  they face in their salat, and took them as idols, he (asws) cursed them and forbade the  Muslims from such acts. As for the one who takes a place of worship in the vicinity (jiwar) of a righteous  servant, and by that intends to gain blessings (tabarruk) from proximity to him, and not veneration of him,  nor directly facing him, then this does not enter under the warning and curse in this hadith.

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Did the Companions  vandalize the  grave of Prophet Daniel ?

Some of the Salafis quote a narration in which Umar bin al Khattab(r), kept the grave of Prophet Daniel(as), away from the Jews:

Abul Aalia said: “When Tastar was invaded, we found, in the treasure house of Al-Harmazan, a bed on which lay a dead man, with a holy script at his bedside. We took the scripture to Umar Ibn Al-Khattab. He called Ka’b and he translated it into Arabic, and I was the first Arab to read it. I read it as I read the Quran.” Here, I (i.e. Khalid Ibn Dinar) said to Abul Aalia: “What was in it?” He said: “Life history, annals, songs, speech, and what is to come.” I asked: “And what did you do with the man?” He said: “We dug in the river bank thirteen separate graves. At nightfall we buried him and leveled all the graves in order to mislead people for they would tamper with him.” I asked: “And what did they want from him?” He said: “When the sky was cloudless for them, they went out with his bed, and it rained.” I asked: “Who did you think the man was?” He said: “A man called Daniel.” I asked: “And for how long had he been dead when you found him?” He said: ‘Three hundred years.” I asked: “Did not anything change on him?” He said: “No, except for the hairs of his face (beard and mustache); the skin of the prophets is not harmed by the earth, nor devoured by hyenas.” [Narrated by Ibne Abi Duniya, Behaqi, Muhammad bin Ishaq in Maghazi, Ibne Kathir in his book Stories of the Prophets]

They use this as an alleged proof to carry out acts of vandalism and desecration against graves.  But the truth of the matter is that:

  • Firstly, this narration has nothing to do with having structures over the graves. Therefore the idea of permitting vandalism and desecration of graves on the mere existing of a structure over the grave is never derived from this.
  • Secondly, they are misleading by not clarifying the contextual details of the incident. The Jews were actually using the remains of the Prophet Daniel by bringing it out into the open. The narration quoted by them  itself mentions this fact, that, the body was kept in the open lying on a bed. One can read more details on this here. From the details of it, we can clearly see that the Jews used to constantly dig out the coffin and move the coffin around between two groups of people. So it in this context that Umar bin al-Khattab kept the body and grave away from them. It had nothing to do with having a construction over the grave nor even to do with the fact that the Jews sought tawassul by it. On the contrary, it was because the remains of the Prophet was being fought over by the groups of people and rights of the dead being violated in this manner. Such violation was then prevented and the remains finally laid to rest safely to prevent it from happening again.

Therefore, the Salafists have no proof in this whatsoever. This is rather a proof against the salafi grave diggers. In attempt to force their heretical ways upon the Muslims, groups of armed fanatic bigots from the Salafi sect wreck destruction of the graves and dig out their remains. By this they are in effect violating the rights of the dead, the very matter Umar bin al-Khattab(r) sought to prevent. The Messenger of Allah, (may Allah bless him and grant him peace), cursed those “who dug up graves”. (Al-Muwatta of Imam Malik).

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Wahhabi Double Standards

Besides being confronted by the fact that, the grave of the blessed Prophet of Islam and two of his closest companions, were buried within a structure from the very first day, they have to also deal with the fact that other holy places or relics had domes or structures constructed over it.

From among them is the relic called Maqam Ibrahim, which had a dome constructed over it in the early periods of Islam. Umar bin al-Khattab(r) was “the first one who built a structure (maqsura) around it.” (Ibn Hajar in Fath al-Bari, 8:169). Even today, there continues to be a structure over it in the form of a gold casing. As per Wahhabi tradition and customs, this should be an evil innovation that leads to Muslims towards polytheism.

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The Zam Zam well also had a dome built over it in the early Islamic period, by Caliph al Mansur (149AH). This too should be categorized by them as an evil innovation and an act leading to polytheism. Giving any significance to signs or symbols(sha’air) of Allah manifested in history on earth is equated with polytheism, as per their tradition.

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The Wahhabi influenced Saudi regime, even constructed for the first time in the history of Islam a structure over the two hills of Safa and Marwa, and made it part of the Masjid al-Haram complex. As per the principle customs of Wahhabism, it should be an evil innovation that leads Muslims towards worshiping mountains. In fact  the idolaters prior to the advent of Islam used to have idols placed at Safa and Marwa, and they use to venerate them while performing the tawaf. By Wahhabi rules of interpretation, that would constitute proof to destroy and bulldoze the structure over it and prevent people from conducting tawaf  there, as a method of blocking the means to shirk, or even bulldoze the Safa and Marwa if needed.

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The pillars, called Jamarat, on which Satan is stoned as a ritual of Hajj, is turned into this:

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If they defend themselves by saying that all of these constructions are for facilitating or protecting or honoring that which is permitted, we say structures around graves are similarly for protecting, honoring and facilitating acts which are permitted and recommended.

{whoever holds in honor the symbols of Allah, such (honor) should come truly from piety of heart.} [Qur`an 22: 32]

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Notes:

1 The meaning of prohibition of “building over them” is understood with the same meaning of prohibition of “sitting over them” or “stepping over them” which are mentioned in continuity with such narrations. Just as the prohibition of sitting or stepping over them, does not prohibit sitting or stepping besides the grave, similarly the prohibition of building over them does not imply prohibition of building around them.

2 Recorded by Imam Ahmad (5:202 #20769), Ibn Hibban (12:506 #5694), Tabarani (M. Kabir, 1:166 #405), Diya’ al-Maqdisi (Mukhtara, 4:106-07 #1317-18), Ruyani (Musnad, 3:42), Ibn ‘Asakir (Tarikh, 57:248-49), and Ibn Abd al-Barr in his Isti’ab(1:76-77). It is Sahih according to Ibn Hibban, Hafiz Diya’, Haythami (Majma’ 8:64-65), and Munawi (Fayd Qadir2:285)”[taken from "Defense of the Sunnah" by Ibrahim ash-Shaghouri]

3 Recorded by Bukhari (#3303), Muslim (#5325), Abu Dawud (3:320 #3169), Imam Ahmad (#23720, 24081), Abu Ya’la (#4393, 4677), Ibn Hibban (#100, 7153), Humaydi (#249), and others.]; [taken from "Defense of the Sunnah" by Ibrahim ash-Shaghouri]

4 Recorded by Hakim (3:476 Sahih) and Bayhaqi in his Shu’ab al-Iman(7:256 #10222).[taken from "Defense of the Sunnah" by Ibrahim ash-Shaghouri]

5 Recorded by Bukhari (Tarikh Kabir, 1:392), Imam Ahmad (3:64), Abu Ya’la (2:496 #1341), Nasa’i (Sunan Kubra, 2:489), Bayhaqi (Sunan5:246, Shu’ab#4163), Tahawi in Mushkil Athar(4:68-70), Tabarani (Kabir12:294, Awsat1:192), Bazzar (Musnad, 4:44 #1206), Abu Nu’aym (Hilya7:248, 9:324), Ibn Abi Shayba (7:413), Harith (Zawa’id, #396), Khatib (11:228), Ibn ‘Asakir (22:177, 40:37, 49:118, 62:44), Ibn ‘Adiyy (3:1182), Dulabi (2:64), Abu’l Shaykh (Tabaqat al-Muhaddithin, 2:361), Sa’id ibn Mansur (Kanz, #34947), Musaddad (Busiri’s Ithaf#3218), andmany others. It is also in the chapter titles in the two Sahihs(B: Fath3:70 and M: 2:1009 Ch 92).[taken from "Defense of the Sunnah" by Ibrahim ash-Shaghouri]

6 Imam Ahmad ibn Hanbal said to Abu Bakr al-Marwazi: “Let him use the Prophet as a means in his supplication to Allah.” And this is not restricted to the Prophet (peace be upon him), and extends to others from the righteous. Ibn ‘Imad al-Hanbali writes in Shadharatu ad-Dhahab in the biographical note on as-Sayyid Ahmed al-Bukhari, “His grave is visited and sought blessing through it”. Ibrahim al-Harbi said, “Dua’ at the grave of Ma’ruf al-Karkhi is well known and is accepted.” Ibn al- Jawzi says: “We ourselves go to Ibrahim al-Harbi’s grave and seek blessings with it.” Ibn al Jawzi al hanbali also reported regarding the grave of Abu Ayyub al Ansari(radiallahu anhu), who’s tomb still stands today in Turkey: “al-Waqidi said: It has reached us that the Eastern Romans visit his grave and seek rain through his intercession when they suffer from droughts.” Imam Nawawi in his “Tahdhib Asmaai wal-lughaat”, describes the grave of Hamza(radiallahu anhu) and Talha(radiallahu anhu) as a place where ziyarah is done and tabaruk is taken.

7 The narrations cursing the Jews and Christians, do not make any reference to the height/elevation of a grave. Such narrations are therefore excluded from requiring more explanation here than what has preceded.

8 G. F. Haddad writes : “The hadith is narrated from an unnamed Companion by Abu Dawud and al-Bayhaqi in al-Kubra (3:412) with fair chains cf. Ibn Hajar, Talkhis al-Habir (2:134); Ibn al-Mulaqqin, Tuhfat al-Muhtaj (2:29). The complete report states that the Prophet asked a man to place a rock on top of Ibn Maz`un’s grave; when he was unable to move it, he rolled up his sleeves and helped him and the whiteness of his arms was visible. Ibn Maz`un was the first of the Muhâjirûn buried in Baqi` al-Gharqad. Ibrahim, the Prophet’s son, was buried next to him.”

9 Ibn Hajr al-Haythami said: “The reason for the prohibition of building upon graves is that its ratio legis (‘illah) is permanent, namely the stone-work of (or above) the surface of a grave after the decay of the deceased , for in most cases the construction remains after the decomposition (of the corpse) and people are reluctant to open a (strongly) built tomb. Therefore, (strongly built) tombs narrow the space in the cemetery with the result that the people cannot any longer use it properly, and thus it has been forbidden.” [Haythami in Fatawa Fiqhiyya II pp.24f. Cf. also ib.pp 16 and 18; Ibn Muflih in Furu II p.273; Suyuti in Husn al Muhdara fi ahbar Misr wa-l-Qahirah I p.112; Ramli in Nihaya III p.34; al-Wansharisi al-maliki in al-Miyar   I p.318]

Note that some of the scholars have further explained and classified this issue. The question of constricting space in public graveyards would not apply to the Prophets or the friends of Allah, because their bodies do not decay and their graves would always be occupied. Secondly because their grave could be built with an elevated marking in such a manner that it does not occupy any land beyond itself or constrict the space. Hence the question of occupying or restricting the space would not emerge. A similar exception is when they are buried in cemetery’s that is restricted for the special ones and not for general public.

10 Ibn Hajr al-Haythami was asked:

“Question: Given that the tomb of one of the companions of the Messenger of God is sheltered by a mausoleum (qubbah) and someone wishes to be buried beside it though there is not sufficient space to do so unless a small part of the (already existing) mausoleum is removed: is this removal permitted ? If you consider it permitted, it will be done, but if you consider it forbidden, then how would that agree with what as-shafii said, ‘I saw the governors in Mecca ordering the destruction of funerary structures, and the jurists did not raise their voice against them’?

Response: If this mausoleum is built in an appointed (i.e. ‘communal’ or public) cemetery, as is normally the case with local burial sites, then the destruction is justified and everybody is entitled to do so. If, however, (the mausoleum is built) only upon a specific grave (i.e, on land privately owned) and not in a public cemetery, then nobody has the right to destroy it, for example if someone wishes to be buried beside it, as mentioned in the question”. [al-Haytami, Fatawa Fiqhiyyah II p. 7]

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3 thoughts on “Tombs and Elevated Marking of Graves: What the Hadiths say and what the Wahhabiyya do not say

  1. Αλή αλ Γιουνάνι says:

    Quran [18:21] (Sahih International Translation)

    And similarly, We caused them to be found that they [who found them] would know that the promise of Allah is truth and that of the Hour there is no doubt. [That was] when they disputed among themselves about their affair and [then] said, “Construct over them a structure. Their Lord is most knowing about them.” Said those who prevailed in the matter, ”We will surely take [for ourselves] over them a masjid.”

    Ibn Kathir what says about this?

    • Admin says:

      Nothing specific. He relates from Imam Tabari that there are two opinion regarding the identity of the people who built the masjid. First is that they were Muslims. Second is that they were unbelievers. Then he says that apparently it shows that they were people who had influence and power but are not sure if they are praiseworthy people or not because of the narration regarding the Jews and Christians taking the graves of their Prophets as masjids as well as the narration of Umar (radiallahu anhu) keeping the grave of Prophet Daniel (alahy salam) away from the Jews.

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