I feel bound by the obligation of Nasiha to point out that Shaykh Gamieldin’s letter to the Cape Town, South Africa daily The Cape Argus shows lack of knowledge of the sources of Islam on the issue of grave visitation and the etiquette pertaining thereto. The issue hinges on “the erection of shrines to the dead” – I presume he means tombs (darih, qabr) as well as shrines/sanctuaries (maqam) – “and their veneration” meaning respect of a pious Muslim through visitation of his tomb, touching or kissing it, its embellishment, etc.
Building Shrines to the Pious
I had replied to someone else who had asked me the following question:
>Recently i met an arabi, we had long discussion about wahabism and their
>thoughts. When we discussed about building of tombs for dead persons, he
>quoted a hadith, in which he said Once Prophet Mohammed Peace be upon him,
>had sent Hazarth Ali (RA) to Yemen to break the tombs, please put light upon
The hadith is in the Sahihayn, Sunan, and Musnad with various wordings.
Ibn al-Jawzi in al-Tahqiq said: “This [hadith] is understood to refer to the elevated graves they used to build with high and beautiful structures.” Al-Zayla`i mentioned it in Nasb al-Raya.
Imam al-Nawawi in his Sharh Sahih Muslim said: “The Sunna is that the grave not be raised up a lot above the earth[‘s surface], nor rounded, but that it be raised up approximately a hand-span (shibr) and flattened, and this is the madhhab of al-Shafi`i and those [of the other schools] who agreed with him, while al-Qadi `Iyad related that most of the `Ulama prefer it to be rounded [in the shape of a mound], and this is the madhhab of Malik.”
Al-Shawkani in Nayl al-Awtar added to this that it is haram to build them up high and he claimed that the fact that the Salaf and Khalaf built them up high is no proof that it is not haram, and al-`Azim Abadi approved him whole-heartedly in `Awn al-Ma`bud.
But the Amir al-San`ani in Subul al-Salam said: “The Jumhur – vast majority – hold that the prohibition of building up and plastering graves is one of preference (tanzih) [i.e. not strictness (tahrim)].”
There is also an excellent and authoritative discussion of the issue by Sh. Nuh Keller’s wife, Ustadha Umm Sahl, on Mas`ud Khan’s homepage: under the subtitle: “Domes over the Grave of the Awilya.”
Seeking Blessings (tabarruk) with the Grave and Remains of the Pious
The rest of this post concerns veneration of the tomb of a righteous Muslim.
Dawud ibn Salih said: “[The governor of Madina] Marwan [ibn al-Hakam] one day saw a man placing his face on top of the grave of the Prophet. He said: “Do you know what you are doing?” When he came near him, he realized it was Abu Ayyub al-Ansari. The latter said: “Yes; I came to the Prophet, not to a stone.” Ibn Hibban in his Sahih, Ahmad (5:422), Al-Tabarani in his Mu`jam al-Kabir (4:189) and his Awsat according to Haythami in al-Zawa’id (5:245 and 5:441 #5845 Book of Hajj, “Section on the honoring of the dwellers of Madina, chapter on placing one’s face against the grave of our Master the Prophet saws” and #9252 Book of Khilafa, “Chapter on the leadership of those unworthy of it”), al-Hakim in his Mustadrak (4:515); both the latter and al-Dhahabi said it was sahih. It is also cited by al-Subki in Shifa’ al-siqam (p. 126) and Ibn Taymiyya in al-Muntaqa (2:261f.).
It is also narrated that Mu`adh ibn Jabal and Bilal came to the grave of the Prophet (s) and sat weeping, and the latter rubbed his face against it. Ibn Majah 2:1320, Ahmad, al-Tabarani, al-Subki, and Ibn `Asakir.
Imam Muslim relates in his Sahih, in the first chapter of the book of clothing, that Asma’ bint Abi Bakr said: Here is the cloak (jubba) of Allah’s Messenger… [which] was with `A’isha until she died, then I got possession of it. The Apostle of Allah used to wear it, and we washed it for the sick so that they could seek cure thereby. Al-Nawawi comments in Sharh Sahih Muslim (Book 37 Chapter 2 #10): In this hadith is a proof that it is recommended to seek blessings through the relics of the righteous and their clothes (wa fi hadha al-hadith dalil `ala istihbab al-tabarruk bi aathaar al-salihin wa thiyabihim).
The latter verdict puts to rest the possible claim that, on the basis of the above reports, such veneration applies only to the Prophet (s). This would be contrary to the rules of Islamic Principles (Usul) and probably none claims it except the uneducated.
Imam al-Dhahabi said: Ahmad ibn Hanbal was asked about touching the Prophet’s saws grave and kissing it and he saw nothing wrong with it. His son ‘Abd Allah related this from him. If it is asked: “Why did the Companions not do this?” We reply: “Because they saw him with their very eyes when he was alive, enjoyed his presence directly, kissed his very hand, nearly fought each other over the remnants of his ablution water, shared his purified hair on the day of the greater Pilgrimage, and even if he spat it would virtually not fall except in someone’s hand so that he could pass it over his face. Since we have not had the tremendous fortune of sharing in this, we throw ourselves on his grave as a mark of commitment, reverence, and acceptance, even to kiss it. Do you not see what Thabit al-Bunani did when he kissed the hand of Anas ibn Malik and placed it on his face saying: “This is the hand that touched the hand of the Messenger of Allah saws”? Muslims are not moved to these matters except by their excessive love for the Prophet saws, as they are ordered to love Allah and the Prophet saws more than their own lives, their children, all human beings, their property, and Paradise and its maidens. There are even some believers that love Abu Bakr and ‘Umar more than themselves. Al-Dhahabi, Mu`jam al-Shuyukh (1:73 #58).
Al-Dhahabi elsewhere relates that Imam Ahmad himself used to seek blessings from the relics of the Prophet saws then he lambasts whoever would fault the practice of tabarruk or seeking blessings from blessed objects:
`Abd Allah ibn Ahmad said: “I saw my father take a hair that belonged to the Prophet (s), put it on his mouth, and kiss it. I believe I saw him put it on his eyes. He also dipped it in water and drank the water to obtain cure. I saw him take the Prophet’s saws bowl (qas’a), wash it in water, and drink from it. I saw him drink Zamzam water in order to seek cure with it, and he wiped his hands and face with it.” I say: Where is the quibbling critic of Imam Ahmad now? It is also authentically established that `Abd Allah asked is father about those who touch the pommel of the Prophet’s (s) pulpit and touch the wall of the Prophet’s (s) room, and he said: “I do not see any harm in it.” May Allah protect us and you from the opinion of the Khawarij and from innovations! Al-Dhahabi, Siyar A’lam al-Nubala’ (9:457). Ch. on Imam Ahmad, section entitled Min adabih.
As for the licitness or rather desirability of praying in a mosque that contains or is located near the grave(s) of one or more righteous persons, it is established from the hadith of the Prophet saws: “In the Mosque of al-Khayf there is the qabr of seventy Prophets.” Narrated from Ibn `Umar by al-Tabarani in al-Kabir and al-Bazzar with a chain of trustworthy narrators according to al-Haythami in Majma` al-Zawa’id (#5769, #5965).
Maqam without a body?
As for the confusion of Shaykh Gamiel over a bodyless maqam, and how could such a place be venerated, has he not heard of Maqam Ibrahim in front of the Ka`ba? There is also a Maqam Ibrahim in Barza, near Damascus, that the `Ulama of Sham have authenticated as the place where Ibrahim (as) took refuge from Nimrud and prayed. Neither spot is his grave but both are venerated. It is established that his grave is in al-Khalil and it also is venerated. The pious Muslims in this Umma do not doubt that du`a is answered in such places, just as it is answered in the place of the Mawlid of the Prophet (s) in Makka, in Khadija’s house, etc. All of these being Maqams, as were the places where the Angel ordered the Prophet (s) to pray during his Isra’, teaching him: “This is the place where Musa (as) rested on his flight from Egypt, this is the place where `Isa (as) was born, etc. because, lo and behold, all such places were, are, and shall until the Day of Resurrection remain holy in Islam.
As for Shaykh Gamiel’s characterization of Muslims as committing “such practices as shirk” and his use of foul terms such as “shrine-worship”, “pagan ceremony” etc. it falls under the Qur’anic verse 16:116:
And speak not, concerning that which your own tongues qualify (as clean or unclean), the falsehood: “This is lawful, and this is forbidden,” so that ye invent a lie against Allah. Lo! those who invent a lie against Allah will not succeed.
© 2012 As-Sunnah Foundation of America