Practices at the graves of the scholars and righteous in the Indian Subcontinent and elsewhere
The Prophet (May Allah send abundant blessings upon him) said: I used to ban you from the visitation of graves, now, visit them. (Bukhari)
Thirteen companions narrate this hadith. From amongst them are: Abu Sa’eed al-Khudri, Ibn Mas’ud and Abu Huraiyrah (May Allah be pleased with them all).
Kattani mentioned that the hadith is Successive ‘mutawatir’. (Nazm al-Mutanathir p129)
The visitation of graves is recommended for the purposes of remembering death and the hereafter. However, graves of the prophets and pious awliya are places of close means and a great intermediary to Allah (swt). This is not due to the graves themselves; instead it is due to the significance of the body that rests within.
This does not allow people to practice acts contrary to the Islamic norms; which are common in the people of the sub-continent due to their ignorance and lack of knowledge. It is the duty of the scholars to inform the people of permissible and impermissible practices.
The great Muhaddith, Abd al-Haq al-Dehlvi mentions the permissible form of intercession at the graves, who states:
1-Firstly, the person who makes dua, begs Allah swt and is in need of him alone. The one in need makes the person of the grave an intermediary to Allah swt due to his raised rank and significance. One says: Oh Allah! For the sake of this person whom you have bestowed your mercy upon, ease my hardship because you alone are the most generous and all giving.
2- Secondly, the person in hardship may also call the wali and ask him to intercede for him for the ease of difficulty.
In both forms of tawassul (intercession), one”s hope is not in the pious, instead the centre of hope is Allah (swt) who will resolve the problems, help in need, and provide the asked-for. The true and absolute benefactor, and authority of change, is Allah swt who is the creator of all existence.
(Ash’at al-Lumat sharh Mishkat 3:401, Fatwa Aziziyah 2:108)
He continues writing:
If the visitor believes that the pious himself solves difficulty and independently eases hardship with all power to do so, without the reliability on Allah (swt) and dua, which is common in the ignorant as they commit such strongly condemned acts at the graves i.e. kissing the grave, prostrating to the grave, and praying salah towards it, this is unacceptable and the person is subject to punishment. One who knows the religion and has knowledge of the revealed law ‘alim cannot practice such traditions. (Ash’at al-Limat 3: 401)
Prostrating to the graves
It is not allowed to prostrate to the grave through veneration. Hence, it is strongly condemned by all scholars, as clearly stated by Imam Ahmed Rada (May Allah be pleased with him) in his book named: “al-Zubdah al-Zakiyyah fi Tahreem sujud al-Tahiyyah”.
The question is whether one is allowed to pray salah in a mosque with a grave. Many Mosques in the Islamic world are with a grave of a Prophet or either a pious.
The Prophet (May Allah send peace and blessings upon him) said: “May Allah curse the Jews and Christians; they have taken the tombs of their Prophets as places of worship.” (Bukhari, Ahmed). Though, this hadith may imply the meaning that salah is not allowed in such mosques, Ibn Hajar Haythmi gives the pure meaning of this narration in his words:
“Taking a grave as a place of worship means to pray on the grave or towards it. The impermissibility, however, applies exclusively to the grave of someone respected… under the two conditions:
a) That the grave is of someone who is honoured and esteemed;
b) And that the prayer is performed towards or on the grave with the intention of gaining the blessing of it, or out of reverence for it.” (al-Zawajir, Reliance w21)
This is the position of the Hanafi and Shafi`i schools.
Kissing and touching the grave
Though permissible according to some scholars, Imam Ahmed Rada disliked the practice in his Fatawa, in accordance with the soundest position.
He states: “there are diverse opinions amongst the scholars regarding kissing graves. It is an act which lies between two things: something that allows the practice: love and something that disallows it: “adab” respect. Hence, the one who does it through overwhelming love is not criticized because this act is proven from the sahabah. Though, it is better for the general public to be precautious. Our scholars have explicitly stated that one should stand at least four feet away from the grave, so how would one kiss it!?” (Fatwa Ridhwiyah, 9:528)
Allamah Samhudi (Ra) states:
Imam Abdullah asked his father, Ahmed bin Hanbal, whether it was permissible to touch and kiss the pulpit and grave of the Prophet (abundant peace and blessings be upon him), he replied: there is no fear in this act “la ba sa bihi”. (wafa al-wafa 4:1404)
Imam Subki and Allamah Samhudi both narrate that Marwan (May Allah be pleased with them all) saw a person clinging to the Prophet’s grave (Peace and blessings be upon him). Marwan in anger gripped the throat of that person and shouted: Do you know what you are doing?
The man turned to him and replied “I have come to the Prophet (May Allah bless him) and not to a stone”! (Wafa al-Wafa 4:1359) Allamah Samhudi says: “Ahmed narrated it and said it has a sound chain”.
Sayyiduna Bilal rubbed his face on the Prophet’s grave, which was well known amongst the sahabah. (Hafiz Abd al-Ghani, Khatib bin Hamla, Wafa al-Wafa 4:1356, 1406)
Ibn Umar used to place his right hand on the grave of the Prophet (May Allah send abundant peace and blessings upon him). (Wafa al-Wafa 4:1406)
It is narrated that Ibn Abi Saiyf and Muhibb Tabari allowed kissing the graves of pious ‘saliheen’. Similarly, it is narrated from Ismael Timi that whenever al-Minkdar (tabi’i) was afflicted with an illness in his mouth, he used to rub his cheek on the Prophet’s grave. Somebody objected on this practice to which he replied: “I seek cure from this”. (Wafa al-Wafa 4:1406)
Qurtabi mentions the famous narration of the Bedouin who came to the grave of the Prophet (May Allah’s blessings and peace be upon him) and clung to it. This was narrated from Sayyiduna Ali (May Allah be pleased with him) in which he says that the Bedouin poured the dust of the grave over his head. This story, as well as Utbi’s narration, is found in the books of Tafseer of Surah al-Nisa v.64.
Shaykh Abd al-Qadir Fakihi states: “In complete segregation where no laymen stick around, it is recommended to rub the cheek, face and beard on the Prophet�s grave. This act is permissible once done through love and good intention”. (Husn al-Tawassul fi ziyarati afdal al-Rusul. Fatwa Ridhwiyyah 9:531)
Sheikh Abd al-Ghani al-Nabulsi (May Allah be pleased with him) has a whole chapter to the name “Kissing the graves of the pious” in his “Jam al-Asrar fi al-radd ala ta’ini al-sufiya al-akhyar” in which he allows the kissing of the graves with combining evidence.
Allamah Abd al-Haq al-Dehlvi (Ra) states:
“Bayhaqi has a narration which allows kissing parent’s grave, but the correct position is that it is not allowed.” (Madaraj al-Nubuwwah 2:424)
The latter states in Ash’at al-lumat (1:716):
“One should not touch the grave and neither kiss it”
These were some of the scholar’s statements regarding the topic.
I personally find the position of Imam Ahmad Rada (May Allah be pleased with him) moderate and in between the two opinions.
Sheikh Abd al-Ghani al-Nabulsi states: “where there is a questionable issue that can be marked permissible in any of the madhhabs, it is not a sin to commence that act and neither obligatory to obstruct from it. Though, Impermissible is that sinful act, upon which the scholars have agreed.”
(al-Hadeeqah al-Ndiyyah , al-Nabulsi, 2:309)
Tawaf of the grave
Some scholars have allowed this act, but the correct opinion is that it is not allowed.
It is mentioned in Majmah al-barakat:
“It is permissible for one to make tawaf of the grave 3 times”.
(Fatawa Ridhwiyyah 9:533)
Mullah Ali Qari states:
Tawaf is from the khasa’is of the ka’bah, thus, it is not allowed at the graves of the Prophets and pious. (Mansak Mutawassit p342)
Imam Ahmad Rada (May Allah bestow abundant blessing on his grave) also strongly condemned the act.
Qawali at graves
Imam Ahmed Rada (May Allah be pleased with him) disallowed the custom of qawali at the graves of the awliya, especially when there is free-mixing between the two sexes. He strictly condemned the qawali which includes the usage of musical instruments i.e. flutes and drums. Furthermore, all, if not, most qawalis in the sub-continent consist of these instruments.
Slaughtering animals at the grave
Slaughtering animals to send the reward to the dead is permissible. The food is then easily provided to the poor who usually gather at the tomb. Moreover, the practice is not impermissible unless associated with something prohibited i.e. free mixing (though the slaughtered will be halal to consume) and slaughtering in the name other than Allah swt (the slaughtered will not be halal) etc.
If one sees that unlawful acts are committed at the tombs of the awliyah, one should make all efforts by talking to someone responsible through hikmah. Moreover, if one fears that the talk will lead to fitna, one should stay silent. This is only when the visitor is from the general public. If the visitor is from the ulama, it is his duty to confront the responsible people so that the public are informed of the right and wrong practices.
“Whoever of you sees something wrong let him change it with his hand. If unable to, then let him change it with his tongue. If still unable to, then with his heart. And that is the weakest degree of faith.”
And Allah alone provides guidance.
Munawwar Ateeq Rizvi