By Naba Basar and Laila Brence
In Islam, death is a natural part of existence; it is a transition from this world into the Hereafter. Allah (swt) says in the Quran that every soul will taste death (Al-Ankabut 29:57). Likewise, every soul will be resurrected on the Day of Judgement to stand in front of the Creator (swt). For us, the living ones, their graves are constant reminders of death and the Hereafter.
The Prophet (sa) said: “I had prohibited you from visiting the graves, but now I encourage you to visit them, because they are a reminder of the Hereafter.” (Abu Dawood and Ahmad)
Although the above Hadeeth encourages Muslims to go to graveyards, we should pay attention to certain guidelines, when visiting the graves.
Sheikh Al-Albani reminds us that the primary purpose of visiting the graveyard must be that of remembering death and contemplating about the Hereafter. The intention for visiting the graves should not be to provide any comfort or benefit to the deceased. Likewise, we should refrain from praising the deceased by saying that so-and-so is in Jannah.
Also, we should not call upon the deceased ones, seeking their help instead of Allah (swt). Even though Muslims are allowed to make Duas at the grave for their deceased ones, these Duas are no more special than the Duas made for the deceased at any location other than the graveyard. Our supplications reach Allah (swt) regardless of where we offer them.
If we choose to say Duas for the deceased while in the graveyard, we should follow certain etiquettes.
First and foremost, we should be facing Kabah (not the grave) when making supplication. According to Sheikh Al-Albani, “The Prophet (sa) forbade prayer (Salah) facing graves, and Dua is the heart and soul of Salah, as is well-known, and is subject to the same rulings.
The Prophet (sa) said: ‘Dua is worship’ then he recited the Ayah: ‘And your Lord said: Invoke Me [i.e. believe in My Oneness (Islamic Monotheism) and ask Me for anything] I will respond to your (invocation).’ (Ghafir 40:60)”
Sheikh Al-Albani continues by saying that it is permissible to raise one’s hands, when offering supplication. Aisha (rta) has said: “The Messenger of Allah (sa) went out one night, and I sent Bareerah to follow him and see where he went. She said: ‘He went towards Baqee A-Gharqad [the graveyard in Madina], and he stood at the bottom of Al-Baqee and raised his hands, then he went away.’ Bareerah came back to me and told me, and when morning came, I asked him about it. I said: ‘O Messenger of Allah, where did you go out to last night?’ He said: ‘I was sent to the people of Al-Baqee to pray for them.’”
There are numerous Duas that can be recited at the grave. One of the most common supplications has been passed on by Abu Hurairah (rta): “Assalamu alaykum ahl Al-diyar min Al-mumineen wAl-Muslimeen, in sha Allah bikum lahiqoon, asal Allaha lana wa lakum Al-afiyah (Peace be upon you, O people of the dwellings, believers and Muslims, Insha’Allah we will join you, I ask Allah (swt) to keep us and you safe and sound).” (Muslim)
While visiting the graveyard, we must remember that graves are to be respected. It is not permitted to violate or cause destruction in a graveyard. A majority of scholars agree that it is by no means allowed to demolish or destroy a Muslim graveyard, unless their bones have crumbled and turned to dust. Likewise, it is strictly forbidden to build or erect anything over a grave or have Quranic inscriptions around or on them. It is unlawful to slaughter animals in the cemetery, light candles or fragrant sticks, wipe hands or kiss the grave, as all these acts are done by people belonging to non-Muslim cultures and traditions. There is also no proof that one should visit the graveyard every Friday, on Lailat-ul-Qadr, Eids or during Ramadan.
The opinions of scholars differ on the matter, whether Muslim women are allowed to visit the graveyard or not. Many say it is Makrooh (disliked) by quoting a Hadeeth that Prophet Muhammad (sa) said: “May Allah curse the women, who are frequently visiting the cemetery.” (At-Tirmidhi) However, if the visiting is not frequent, most scholars say it is permissible for Muslim females to visit the graveyard, provided that the sole purpose of going there is to remember death and Hereafter. If a female does visit the graveyard, she should be properly dressed (without displaying her adornments) and should abstain from wailing or any other un-Islamic behaviour.