The Permissibility of Praying in Mosques Containing Shrines

بِسۡمِ ٱللهِ ٱلرَّحۡمَـٰنِ ٱلرَّحِيمِ

Shaykh ‘Ali Juma’ah was asked regarding the permissibility of praying in mosques containing shrines and building domes over such shrines.

Praying in mosques containing shrines of the friends of Allah (s.w.t.) is not only valid and permissible, but reaches the status of recommendation as confirmed by primary evidence from the Qur`an and sunnah, the practice of the companions and the practical consensus of the community.

Allah (s.w.t.) Says:

… Behold, they dispute among themselves as to their affair.  (Some) said, “Construct a building over them”: their Lord Knows best about them: those who prevailed over their affair said, “Let us surely build a place of worship over them.” (Surah al-Kahf:21)

The context of the verse indicates that the words in the first quotation were uttered by the disbelievers while those in the second were uttered by the believers.  Allah (s.w.t.) Relates the two statements without repudiation, demonstrating the permissibility of both opinions.  But contrary to the words of the believers which were marked with indecision, the words of the believers imply commendation and resoluteness in their desire to erect a mosque and not a mere structure.

With regards the interpretation of the scholars, Imam Fakhr ad-Din ar-Razi’s (r.a.) interpretation of, “Let us surely build a place of worship over them,” means a place in which “to worship Allah (s.w.t.) and keep the remains of the people of the cave in it.”  In his meta-commentary on Imam al-Baydawi’s (r.a.) exegesis, Imam Shihab ad-Din Muhammad ibn ‘Umar al-Khafaji (r.a.) wrote, “This is evidence on the permissibility of building mosques over the righteous.”

‘Urwah ibn az-Zubayr (r.a.) narrated through al-Muswawir ibn Makhramah (r.a.) and Marwan ibn al-Hakam (r.a.) that when Abu Baswir (r.a.) passed away, Abu Jandal ibn Suhayl ibn ‘Amr (r.a.) buried him and constructed a mosque over his grave at Sayf al-Bahr in the presence of three hundred of the companions.  This hadits was related by Shaykh Abu Ishaq (r.a.) in as-Sirah and by Musa ibn ‘Uqbah (r.a.) in Maghaziyah.  The ascription of this hadits is sound and includes trustworthy scholars.  Such an action could not have been concealed from the Prophet (s.a.w.).  In spite of this, it was not reported that the Prophet (s.a.w.) ordered that the grave be removed or exhumed.

It was confirmed that the Prophet (s.a.w.) said, “The graves of seventy prophets can be found in the mosque of al-Khayf.”  This is included by Imam al-Bazzar (r.a.) and by Imam ath-Thabarani (r.a.) in his al-Mu’jam al-Kabir.  The hadits scholar, Imam ibn Hajr al-‘Asqalani (r.a.), mentioned in Mukhtaswr Zawa’id al-Bazzar that its ascription is sound.

Non-prophetic narrations confirm that Prophet Isma'il (a.s.) and his mother, Hajar (r.a.) were both buried in al-Hijr in the Sacred Precinct.  This was mentioned by trustworthy historians and acknowledged by Islamic historians such as Shaykh ibn Ishaq (r.a.) in as-Sirah, Imam ibn Jarir ath-Thabari (r.a.) in Tarikh, Shaykh as-Suhayli (r.a.) in ar-Rawdh al-Unuf, Imam ibn al-Jawzi (r.a.) in Muntadzim, Imam ibn al-Atsir (r.a.) in al-Kamil, Imam adz-Dzahabi (r.a.) in Tarikh al-Islam and Hafizh ibn Katsir (r.a.) in al-Bidayah wa an-Nihayah among others.  The Prophet (s.a.w.) acknowledged both the fact that prophets are buried in Khayf Mosque and that Isma’il (a.s.) and his mother are buried in al-Hijr and did not order that their graves be removed.

With regards the practice of the companions, Imam Malik (r.a.) recorded the companions’ disagreement over the Prophet's (s.a.w.) burial place in his Muwaththa`.  He cited that some people favoured that the Prophet (s.a.w.) be buried at the pulpit while others wanted to bury him at al-Baqi’.  Abu Bakr (r.a.) then came forward and said, “I heard the Prophet say, ‘Whenever a prophet died, he was buried in the same place where he died’”; therefore, the Prophet (s.a.w.) was buried in a grave in the same room where he died.

None of the companions renounced the suggestion to bury the Prophet (s.a.w.) at the pulpit which is definitely part of the mosque.  Abu Bakr (r.a.) only refrained from acting upon this suggestion to conform to the Prophet’s (s.a.w.) order to be buried in the place where he died.  Consequently, the Prophet (s.a.w.) was buried in 'Aishah's (r.a.) room which was adjoined to the Prophet's (s.a.w.) Mosque where Muslims pray.  In our time, this corresponds to the scenario of mosques adjoining rooms containing the shrines of the friends of Allah (s.w.t.).

The claim that adjoining a shrine or a grave to a mosque is a privilege of the Prophet (s.a.w.) is invalid since it is unsubstantiated by any evidence and is, furthermore, completely nullified by the burial of Abu Bakr (r.a.) and `Umar (r.a.) in the same room in which ‘Aishah (r.a.) lived and performed both her obligatory and voluntary prayers.  The companions' acknowledgment of this is proof of their unanimous agreement on its permissibility.

With regards the practical consensus of the community and scholarly acknowledgement, the righteous predecessors and later generations offered their prayers in the Prophet’s (s.a.w.) Mosque and others containing shrines without anyone raising objections.

In 88 AH, al-Walid ibn ‘Abd al-Malik issued orders to the governor of Madina at that time, Caliph ‘Umar ibn ‘Abd al-'Aziz (r.a.), to include the room where the Prophet (s.a.w.) was buried within the premises of the mosque itself.  Scholars from among the seven scholars of Madina approved of this and none of them objected except Imam Sa’id ibn al-Musayyib (r.a.).  He only protested because he wanted to preserve the Prophet’s (s.a.w.) quarters to serve as an example for Muslims to become acquainted with the living conditions of the Prophet (s.a.w.) and thereby renounce worldly pleasures not because he maintained the prohibition of praying in a mosque containing a grave.

‘Aishah (r.a.) narrated that the Prophet (s.a.w.) said, “Allah Cursed the Jews and the Christians for taking the graves of their prophets as masajid.”  This was recorded in the Swahih of Imam al-Bukhari (r.a.) and the Swahih of Imam Muslim (r.a.).  The word ‘masajid’ here refers to places of worship; they prostrated before the graves in glorification and worship like the disbelievers who worshipped statues and idols.  This is further elucidated in an authentic hadits mentioned by Imam ibn As’ad (r.a.) in Thabaqat Kubra’ through Abu Hurayrah (r.a.) who narrated that the Prophet (s.a.w.) said, “O Allah, do not make my grave an object of worship; Allah Cursed those who took the graves of their prophets as masajid.”  The words, “Allah Cursed those…” indicate that taking the grave as an object of worship and therefore the hadits is interpreted as, “O Allah!  Do not let people take my grave as an object of worship before which people prostrate and worship as others did with the graves of their prophets.”

Imam al-Baydawi (r.a.) said, “Allah Cursed the Jews and the Christians because they prostrated in glorification before the shrines of their prophets, took the graves as their qiblah towards which they turned for prayer and as objects of worship.  Allah Forbade Muslims from imitating them. However, there is no objection to building a mosque around the grave of a righteous person or to praying inside his shrine, by way of seeking blessings and not veneration to its inhabitant.  Do you not see that the grave of Isma’il in the Holy Mosque and the graves at Hatim are the best places in which to pray?  The prohibition only concerns exhumed graves containing filth.”

It is established in Islamic law that a grave must have been either owned by its inhabitant before his death or endowed to him after his death.  Conditions laid down by the endower are tantamount to rulings laid down by the legislator and so it is impermissible to use the grave for any other purpose.

The sanctity of the deceased is very important.  Islam forbids violating the sanctity of the dead and renders it impermissible to exhume their graves, since the sanctity of the dead is tantamount to the sanctity of the living.  If the inhabitant of a grave is one of the pious friends of Allah (s.w.t.), then it is even more prohibited and a greater crime to disinter or remove his grave.  This is because they are of great importance in the Sight of Allah (s.w.t.) and consequently whoever violates their graves will be subject to Allah’s (s.w.t.) Punishment.  Concerning this issue, Abu Hurayrah (r.a.) narrated the following hadits qudsi, “I will Declare War against whoever is hostile to a friend of Mine.”  This was recorded by Imam al-Bukhari (r.a.).


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