Is it permissible for one to visit the graves of the saints, pious and other Muslims? Some people say that it is unlawful to visit graves. Can you explain the ruling on this with evidence from the Sunnah? Also, if it is permissible, then what are the benefits in doing so?
It is the understanding of the Ahl al-Sunnah wa al-Jama’ah that, visiting graves in general and the graves of the prophets, pious and saints in particular, is not just something that is permissible, rather recommended (mandub) and rewarding.
There are many prophetic traditions in this regard, just to mention a few:
1) Ibn Buraida narrates from his father that the Messenger of Allah (Allah bless him & give him peace) said: “I used to forbid you from visiting graves. Now, do visit them…” (Sahih Muslim, no. 977)
2) Sayyida A’isha (Allah be pleased with her) narrates that “Whenever it was her turn to spend the night with the Messenger of Allah (Allah bless him & give him peace), he used to go to the Baqi (graveyard) in the last portion of the night and say: “May you be safe, O abode of the believing people. What you have been promised has come to you. You are tarried till tomorrow and certainly we shall follow you if Allah wills. O Allah, forgive the inmates of the Baqi-al-Gharqad.” (Sahih Muslim, no. 974)
3) Sayyiduna Abu Huraira (Allah be pleased with him) narrates that the Messenger of Allah (Allah bless him & give him peace) said: “…Visit graves, for it reminds one of his death.” (Sahih Muslim, no. 976)
4) Sayyiduna Abd Allah ibn Mas’ud (may Allah be pleased with him) narrates that the Messenger of Allah (Allah bless him & give him peace) said: “I used to forbid you from visiting graves. Now, do visit them, for it (visiting graves) makes one ascetic of the world and reminds one of the hereafter.” (Sunan Ibn Majah, no. 1571)
5) Sayyida A’isha (may Allah be pleased with her) says: “The Messenger of Allah (Allah bless him & give him peace) gave permission in the visitation of graves.” (Sunan Ibn Majah, no. 1570)
The above and many other narrations of the Messenger of Allah (Allah bless him & give him peace) are more than sufficient to prove the permissibility and desirability of visiting graves.
There are many reasons for visiting graves, such as:
a) It is a Sunnah of the Messenger of Allah (Allah bless him & give him peace), as we have seen in Hadith no. 2, quoted above;
b) It reminds, the person visiting, of death, as mentioned in Hadith no 3;
c) It reminds, the person visiting, of the purpose of one’s life and helps him in removing the love of this world from his heart and striving in the betterment of the hereafter;
d) One benefits from the baraka of the person visited if one goes with a good intention, whether one realizes it or not. Those with more spiritual clarity realize this more clearly;
e) It benefits the one visited, because of the reward of recital of Qur’an (and other matters) one makes.
Having said the above, one must always remember not to engage oneself in any unlawful and blameworthy act when visiting graves, such as prostrating (sajda) to the graves, which is undeniably a grave sin, if not Kufr. Similarly, excessive mourning, crying and wailing has also been prohibited by the Messenger of Allah (Allah bless him & give him peace). Intermingling of the sexes at the graves of many saints is very common, which is unlawful, and must be avoided.
Thus, all acts that are unlawful or innovation must be avoided when visiting graves. If one avoids such matters, and visits the graves by observing the proper manners (adab) and etiquettes of visiting, then not only will visiting graves be permissible, rather it will be regarded as an commendable act of virtue.
And Allah Knows Best
[Mufti] Muhammad ibn Adam
Leicester , UK