The Praiseworthiness of Visiting the Prophet's (s.a.w.) Grave

بِسۡمِ ٱللهِ ٱلرَّحۡمَـٰنِ ٱلرَّحِيمِ

Imam al-Ghazali (r.a.) wrote in his Ihya’ ‘Ulum ad-Din after mentioning the hadits, “Do not travel except to three mosques,” “The gist of the matter is that some ‘ulama use it as evidence for prohibiting travel to places of religious visitation and pilgrimage.  It is clear that this is not the case.  On the contrary, visitation to graves is commanded by the hadits, ‘I have forbidden you in the past to visit graves, but now I tell you to visit them.’  The hadits only mentions the prohibition of frequent visitation to other than the three mosques because of the likeness of one mosque to another.  Furthermore, there is no city in which there is no mosque.  Hence, there is no need to travel to another mosque.  As for places of religious visitation, the blessing of visiting them varies to the measure of their rank with Allah.”

The following is an excerpt from the booklet by Shaykh ‘Isa ibn ‘Abdullah ibn Mani` al-Humayri, Director of the Da’irat al-Awqaf in Dubai, United Arab Emirates, entitled, al-I’ilam bi Istihbab Shadd ar-Rihal li Ziyarati Qabr Khayr al-Anam ‘Alayhi asw-Swalat wa as-Salam, “The Notification Concerning the Recommendation of Travelling to Visit the Grave of the Best of Creation Blessings and Peace be upon Him.”

There are many ahadits to that effect which have reached the grade of tawatur, the highest authenticity.  One of the common mutawatir narrations is, “I had forbidden you from visiting graves, but now I tell you to visit them for they remind you of the Hereafter.”  This is from in Imam Muslim (r.a.), Imam Ahmad ibn Hanbal (r.a.) and Imam ath-Thahawi (r.a.) from Buraydah ibn al-Hasib (r.a.).

Another narration according to Imam an-Nisa’i (r.a.), also from Buraydah (r.a.) is, “Whoever wants to visit the graves, let him do so, and do not prohibit it.”  This is a general narration which makes visiting permitted whether a journey was intended for it or not.  This hadits is definitely not restricted to one person or one circumstance but is a general order in nature.  This general order is evidence that the Prophet (s.a.w.) is recommending movement by the word, “ziyarat” which, in Arabic. implies travelling from one place to another by undertaking a journey.

If people claim that Shaykh ibn Taymiyyah (r.a.), in his answer in Radd ‘ala al-Akhna’i, said, “The order to visit graves does not entail travel,” we answer, the hadits is general, without any condition.  If ziyarat implies a journey, there is no way for us legally to prohibit that journey.  Further, the higher reference in case of difference of opinion, is the shari’ah, and the Legislator (s.a.w.) called the journeying, “ziyarat,” as in this hadits, “A man visited a close brother of him in another village, so Allah Ordered an angel to meet him on the way and ask him, ‘Where are you going?’

He answered, ‘I intend to visit a brother of mine in the next village.’

He asked him, ‘Is there any business between him and you?’

He replied, ‘None except the love of Allah.’

He said, ‘Know that I am a messenger from your Lord to tell you that Allah Loves you both as you both love each other for His Sake.’”  This was narrated by Imam Muslim (r.a.) in his Swahih.

The Prophet (s.a.w.) here made ziyarat entail both travel and non-travel.  To limit the ziyarat to something not entailing travel is an abuse of the meaning of the word and a deviation from the fundamentals of the shari’ah, and Allah (s.w.t.) Knows best.

Imam ibn Rajab al-Hanbali (r.a.), a disciple of Shaykh ibn Taymiyyah (r.a.), once told Imam al-Hafizh al-‘Iraqi (r.a.) on a trip, “I am intending to pray in the mosque of Ibrahim.”

Imam al-`Iraqi (r.a.) said, “As for myself I am intending to visit the grave of Ibrahim.”

Imam ibn Rajab (r.a.) asked, “Why your difference in intention?”

Imam al-‘Iraqi (r.a.) said, “You have contradicted the sunnah of the Prophet, who said, ‘Do not intend to journey except to three mosques,’ and you have intended to visit a fourth.  As for me, I am following his sunnah according to the hadits: ‘Visit the graves.’”  This refers to all of the graves, not excluding those of the prophets.

On travelling to visit the Prophet’s (s.a.w.) grave, Imam ibn ‘Abd al-Barr (r.a.) said, “It is allowed among people to visit graves in general, and it is obligatory to travel to the grave of the Prophet (s.a.w.).”

Shaykh Abu al-Hasanat al-Lucknawi (r.a.) wrote, in his Ibraz al-Ghayy fi Shifa' al-`Ayy, “The Exposure of Deviation for the Healing of the Sick,” “Until ibn Taymiyyah, not a single scholar ever questioned even in the slightest the permissibility of visiting the Prophet’s grave.  Rather, all scholars unanimously supported the ruling that it was one of the best acts of worship and highest acts of obedience.  The only difference was whether it was wajib or near the wajib or merely recommended.  The first who broke the unanimity is ibn Taymiyyah.”  The Malikis consider it wajib; the Hanafis consider it a sunnah al-mu’akkadah, and the Shafi’i’s and Hanbalis consider it mustahabb.

Ijma’ in shadd ar-rihal, travelling, to visit the noble grave is of the highest grades of ijma’ among the ‘ulama.  Level after level of both the ‘ulama and the commonality, century after century, across the disciplines, all agree on this.  This is for both the grave and the masjid.  To make a difference between the grave and the masjid of the Prophet (s.a.w.) is decisively null and void.

The hadits, “Mounts are not to be saddled except to go to three (mosques),” does not indicate that it is forbidden to visit the noble grave.  Shaykh ibn Taymiyyah's (r.a.) inference that this kind of trip is a disobedience and swalah must not be shortened during it, is patently incorrect.  Imam ibn Hajr (r.a.) wrote in al-Fath, “This is one of the ugliest matters reported from ibn Taymiyyah.”

Imam al-‘Iraqi (r.a.) wrote, in al-Ajwiba al-Makkiyyah and Tharh al-Tatsrib, “There are several answers to this.  Either he means absolutely no travel except to these three places.  And this is completely false.  The nature of an exception must be the same as that of the things forbidden.  If the exception concerns the masajid, the prohibition must concern the masajid.  This rule is followed by Imam Ahmad as quoted in Sharh al-Kawkab al-Munir by ibn an-Najjar al-Hanbali, al-Kharqi in the Mukhtaswar, ibn Badran, al-Ghazali in al-Mankhul, and Abu Ishaq al-Shirazi in al-Luma`.  Therefore, the proper significance must be, ‘Do not travel to any masjid other than these three masajid.’  This is confirmed by the hadits related by Sharh ibn Hawshab formulating the legal ruling retained by the ‘ulama: ‘The traveller must not saddle the mounts in order to go to pray a certain prayer in a mosque except in the Holy Mosque, or the Farthest Mosque, or my Mosque.’

as-Subki in Shifa' asw-Swiqam said, ‘There are two reasons for travelling: a certain cause, or the place of destination itself.  There is no question about the first one.  As for the limitation on the latter in the hadits, although it has to do with the Prophet’s mosque, the limitation does not rule concerning the grave of the Prophet.  Therefore, even if the mosque of Madina were not mentioned in that hadits, we would still not be concerned by the order in relation to visiting the Prophet's grave.’”

The true meaning of the hadits can be seen in the light of other authentic ahadits praising the travel to the mosque in Quba’: “If they knew what was in Quba’, they would have travelled there at the highest speed,” which is swahih.

And, “If the masjid of Quba’ was at the top of the skies, we would have ridden our camels to death in order to attain it,” through ‘Umar ibn al-Kaththab (r.a.), and is hasan.

Also, Abu Hurayrah (r.a.) used to travel to visit Quba’ masjid.  If he understood the hadits, la tushadd ar-rihal as a categorical tahrim, he would not have gone.

In conclusion, Shaykh al-Khaththabi (r.a.) said, “The position of an-Nawawi and ibn Qudamah and ibn Battal is that there is no prohibition of an act of travel in the hadits; rather it is an emphasis on the importance of travelling to these three masajid in particular, and the emphasis becomes an obligation in case of nadzr which is not the case for a vow to pray in any masjid other than these three.”


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