bismillah ir-Rahman ir-Raheem
Visitation of the Graves by Women
by Dr. G. F. Haddad
In his recent booklet, Advice to our Brothers the Scholars of Najd, Sayyid Yusuf al-Rifa`i states, addressing present-day Wahhabis: "You forbid women from visiting the noble Baqi` with no agreed-upon, clear and explicit proof from the Law!" The following is a demonstration of the permissibility of visits to al-Baqi` according to the principles of Sacred Law and the proof-texts of the Sunna.
Those who object to the visitation of graves by women adduce chiefly three hadiths as their proof, two of these being the weak-chained narrations, (a) "Allah curses the women who visit the graves"1 (la`ana Allahu zâ'irât al-qubûr) and (b) "Allah curses the women who visit the graves and take them for places of worship and candles,"2 the third one being, (c) "Allah curses the women who frequently visit the graves" 3 (la`ana Allahu zawwârât al-qubûr).
As indicated by Sayyid al-Rifa`i, the above narrations do not constitute "agreed-upon, clear and explicit proof from the Law" for the prohibition of women from visiting graves in Islam. Accordingly, the majority of the Ulema concur that women are permitted to visit the graves if there is no danger of temptation and sin.4 This is established by the following proofs:
1. The Prophet - Allah bless and greet him - said: "I forbade you to visit the graves but [now] do visit them!"5
2. `A'isha - Allah be well-pleased with her - said: "The Prophet - Allah bless and greet him - forbade the visitation of graves then permitted it, and I think he said: `For, truly, they remind you of the hereafter.'"6
3. `A'isha visited came to Mecca after her brother's death saying, "Where is the grave of my brother?" Then she came to the grave and prayed over him, a month after his death.7 Another version states that Ibn Abi Mulayka said: "`A'isha's brother died six miles away from Makka, so we carried him until we reached Makka and buried him there. `A'isha came to us after that and reproached us for doing so. Then she said: `Where is the grave of my brother?' We showed it to her and she alighted in her howdah and prayed at his grave."8
4. When `Abd Allah ibn Mulayka saw `A'isha visiting the grave of her brother `Abd al-Rahman he said to her: "Did not the Prophet - Allah bless and greet him - forbid this [visitation of graves]?" She replied: "Yes, he had forbidden it. Then he ordered to visit them."9 Ibn `Abd al-Barr mentions that Imam Ahmad adduces this report as proof that women are permitted to visit the graves.10
The wording and verb tenses used by the Prophet - Allah bless and greet him - and the Companions in the above narrations show that these narrations explicitly abrogate the narrations that express prohibition. This is confirmed by al-Hakim who narrated the hadith: "Allah curses the women who frequently visit the graves" then said: "Those narrations pertaining to prohibition from visiting the graves are abrogated, the abrogator being the hadith of `Alqama ibn Marthad, from Sulayman ibn Burayda, from his father, from the Prophet - Allah bless and greet him -: `I forbade you to visit the graves but [now] do visit them!'"11
5. Due to her strictness, and perhaps in confirmation of Ibn Abi Mulayka's remark, `A'isha disliked to visit the grave of her brother as is evident from her remark in al-Tirmidhi's narration of her visitation to `Abd al-Rahman: "If I had been present at the time of your death I would have never visited you [now]."12 Yet this is another proof that she did not understand the Prophet's - Allah bless and greet him - prohibition as absolute - were it not abrogated - since she did allow herself the visitation of her brother despite it.
6. The Prophet - Allah bless and greet him - passed by a woman who was weeping next to a grave and said: "Fear Allah and be steadfast!" She replied: "Leave me alone! You were not afflicted with my affliction" - without recognizing him. Then she was told that this was the Prophet - Allah bless and greet him -. She came to see him and did not find anyone at the door [so entered directly] and said: "I did not recognize you!" He replied: "Steadfastness is only at the first shock."13
7. `A'isha asked: "What should I say, O Messenger of Allah [at al-Baqi`]?" He replied: "Say: `Greeting to you, O people of the abodes among the men and women believers! May Allah grant mercy to those of you and us who went ahead and those who tarried back! Truly we shall - if Allah wills - join up with you.'"14
Al-Bayhaqi, Ibn Hajar and al-Nawawi said that the above narrations show that it is permitted for women to visit the graves in confirmation of `A'isha's visitation of her brother, as the Prophet - Allah bless and greet him - only admonished the mourning woman to be steadfast without forbidding her from visiting the grave, and he gave instructions to `A'isha on what to say when visiting the graves.15
8. The Prophet - Allah bless and greet him - said: "I had forbidden you to visit the graves but Muhammad has been permitted to visit the grave of his mother, so visit them, for truly, they remind you of the hereafter."16
9. Another version states: "I had forbidden you to visit the graves but do visit them for they truly remind one of the hereafter."17
10. Another version states: "Whoever wants to visit the graves [may], truly they remind of the hereafter."18
11. Another version states: "I had forbidden you to visit the graves but do visit them, for they help to renounce the world and they remind of the hereafter."19
12. Another version states: "I forbade you to visit the graves then it appeared to me that they soften the heart, bring tears to the eyes, and remind one of the hereafter. Therefore, visit them, but do not say reprehensible things!"20
The proof for the visitation of women in the above five narrations is that the positive effects of remembering the hereafter, weeping, and softening the heart are not exclusively limited to men but extend to women as well. Therefore women are also addressed by these narrations which are to be taken in the most general, inclusive sense. This is confirmed by the practice of Fatima - Allah be well-pleased with her! - the daughter of the Prophet - Allah bless and greet him - as shown in the following two narrations:
13. Imam Ja`far al-Sadiq narrated with his chain from al-Hasan ibn `Ali that Fatima the daughter of the Prophet - Allah bless and greet him - - may Allah be well-pleased with all of them! - used to visit the grave of her uncle Hamza ibn `Abd al-Muttalib every Jumu`a21 and she used to pray and weep there.22 Another version adds that she had marked the grave with a rock in order to recognize it.23
14. The women wept over Ruqiyya - Allah be well-pleased with her! - when she died, so `Umar tried to forbid them but the Messenger of Allah - Allah bless and greet him - said, "Wait, O `Umar!" Then he said: "[Women,] beware of the devil's croaking! As long as it comes from the eye and the heart, it is coming from mercy; and as long as it comes from the tongue and the hand,24 it is coming from Satan." Whereupon, Fatima began to weep over the grave of Ruqiyya and the Prophet - Allah bless and greet him - was wiping her tears from her face with his hand - or, the narrator said, his sleeve.25
Even if we should consider the first two of the three hadiths adduced by the objectors (a and b) authentic as a handful of scholars did, they do not form proof for prohibition, for two reasons. First, they are abrogated according to the more correct view as demonstrated. Second, they elucidate one another and are elucidated by the third hadith adduced (c), in the sense that the curse does not concern women who visit the graves in absolute terms, but only those women who both (1) visit excessively and (2) commit certain reprehensible acts during visitation as stated by al-Tirmidhi, al-Baghawi, al-Tahawi, al-Qurtubi, and others.26 This qualified prohibition is confirmed by the fact that the soundest version of the prohibition hadith states, "Allah curses the women who *frequently* visit the graves," in which case the prohibition is patently restrictive, concerning only a specific group of women and not all of them.
Another confirmation is that this qualified prohibition extends to men as well, as stated in the hadith of the Prophet - Allah bless and greet him -: "Allah curse the Jews and Christians! They took the graves of their Prophets as places of worship."27 This men-inclusive qualified prohibition is further confirmed by the version stating: "I forbade you from visiting the graves and now [allow you to] visit them, but do not utter words that make your Lord angry!"28
The gist of this documentation is not that Muslim women today are indifferently permitted to visit the graves, since temptation and sin abound in our time and there is little or no observance of the obligations of Sacred Law shown by either Muslim men or women who visit the graves. To say the least, as al-Bayhaqi said: "If women keep themselves clear from following funeral processions, going out to cemetaries, and visiting graves, it would be healthier for their Religion - and from Allah comes success."29 As far as we know, this is the Consensus of the Imams of Ahl al-Sunna.
Yet, the negative situation of contemporary Muslim visitors to city and country cemetaries hardly applies to the women pilgrims who visit al-Baqi` and the Prophet - Allah bless and greet him - in Madina, where the effusion of emotion is somehow counter-balanced by the natural decorum of Madina al-Munawwara. Therefore their status there should be that of allowance together with male Muslims rather than prohibition as confirmed by the fatwa of the Ulema and contrary to the claims of a handful of Wahhabi dissenters such as the late `Abd al-`Aziz ibn Baz, Muhammad ibn Ibrahim ibn `Abd al-Latif, Hammad al-Ansari and his student Bakr Abu Zayd, the late Abu Bakr al-Jaza'iri, and others of the circle who hold sway over the religious jurisdiction of the Two Sanctuaries.
As for the absolute prohibition, including the Mosque and al-Baqi` in Madina, insisted upon by Bakr Abu Zayd in his epistle titled "Juz' fi Ziyarat al-Nisa' li al-Qubur"30 and his odd claim that the narrations prohibiting women from following the funeral bier apply to prove the prohibition of visitation, such claims stem from an unreasonable, stubborn rejection of the evidence and a blind following of the familiar founts of misguided originality and nonconformity - Ibn Taymiyya and Ibn al-Qayyim. But truth is more deserving of being followed than eminent figures. And from Allah alone comes all success, and Allah Most High knows best.
1Narrated from Abu Hurayra by Ibn
Hibban in his Sahih (7:452 #3178) with a weak chain because of `Umar
ibn Abi Salama ibn `Abd al-Rahman al-Zuhri who is weak as stated by al-Arna'ut
and Ma`ruf in Tahrir al-Taqrib (3:74 #4910). Also narrated from
Hassan ibn Thabit from the Prophet - Allah bless and greet him - by Ibn
Abi Shayba (3:31) with a weak chain because of `Abd al-Rahman ibn Bahman
who is of unknown rank as a narrator (majhûl). The hadith itself
is acceptable as "fair due to witness and corroborating chains and
versions" (hasan lighayrih) as stated by al-Arna'ut in the Musnad
(5:128 n. 2).
Allah bless and greet the Prophet, his Family, and all his Companions. Wal-hamdu lillahi Rabb al-`alamin.