Visiting the graves

Q664 :What is the Islamic view of visiting the graves of relatives to pray Allah to make the soul of the deceased rest in peace? People also visit the tombs of saints, thinking that such visits will make Allah fulfil their requests with promptness. How far should we differentiate between a visit to graves expecting the deceased to be of help to us and a visit without any such expectations?

A664 : Visiting graves is recommended if it is for the purpose of expressing dutifulness to deceased parents or to remind oneself of the inevitability of death so that one can prepare for the hour when he is no longer able to do anything to improve his situation in the life to come. The Prophet describes death as a silent preacher because when people remember death they remember that they have to do well in this life in order that they ensure a happy future in the hereafter. Visiting the graves of parents is recommended as evidence of dutifulness, at least once a year. [Added: These visits should not be related to a particular date only, e.g. death anniversaries, etc.] Such visits are rewarded by Allah in the same way as other aspects of dutifulness are. I hope I have made the purpose of visiting graves very clear. We have to remember that the deceased can not benefit the living. Indeed, it is the other way round. The living can pray Allah to have mercy on those who have died and Allah may answer such prayers. In this respect, the living can benefit the dead. The dead, however, cannot benefit the living. This applies to all people no matter how good and devoted they are during their lifetime on earth. The Prophet says that "a human being" is unable to do anything after his death. The description "human being" applies both to saintly people and those who are weaker in faith. He says: "When a human being dies, all his actions come to an absolute end, except in one of three ways: a continuous act of charity, a useful contribution to knowledge and a dutiful child who prays for him." Moreover, it is not for us to classify dead people as saints or non-saints. Who are we to judge people, especially those with whom we have had no contact, because they may have died before we were born. Some people may have the appearance of being dedicated to the service of Allah. But how can we judge their intentions? And if we cannot judge those who we know, how can we judge those whom we have not known? As you realize, a person may do a good action, but he may not be rewarded for it because his intention was not as good as the act itself. An example of this type may be given. When a rich person donates several thousands for a charitable purpose in the hope that it will be said of him that he has given a very generous donation then his reward is that reputation which he will inevitably earn. Someone who is less rich and makes a little donation for a charitable purpose, keeping the whole thing secret will be rewarded much more generously by Allah. The reason is that the second person has made his donation only for the purpose of pleasing Allah and earning reward from Him. As you have said, people do visit the tombs of persons whom they call saints in the hope that they would have their wishes through such visits. Now who will fulfil these wishes? Is it the deceased person in his grave? If the answer is in the affirmative, then we tell that person that he has done a gross error. He has attributed to a dead person powers which he does not have. Moreover, he has appealed to him instead of appealing to Allah for the accomplishment of his purpose. In effect, he has associated the dead person with Allah as a partner. Some people say that they know that the deceased person does not do anything by himself in his grave, but he can appeal to Allah on our behalf. This is absolute rubbish. It makes the dead person an intermediary between Allah and His creation. Allah has said so may times in the Qur'an that he accepts no partners. If people associate partners with Him He abandons those people to those partners to sort their affairs with them the way they like. Eventually they are the losers because the partners they associate with Allah are of no use to them. It is for this reason that we say time and again that such visits to the graves of deceased people in the hope that the visit will be of use in the fulfillment of the visitor's wishes is an act of polytheism. It is needless to say that it is absolutely forbidden. To sum up, we must not confuse visiting graves in order to remind ourselves of death and the need to be better servants of Allah or to show dutifulness to our deceased parents on the one hand and visiting the so-called saints in the hope that they will be of use to us, helping in the fulfillment of our wishes on the other. The first action is recommended while the second is forbidden, as it is a polytheistic act.

Our Dialogue ( Source : Arab News - Jeddah )