Women: Visiting graves

Q710 :May I refer to an earlier answer by you when you suggested that women are allowed to visit graves. If the Hadith you have quoted is authentic, then it shall supersede earlier sayings by the Prophet Muhammad (peace be upon him), concerning the same subject. Could you please include the full text of the Hadith reported by Lady Aisha and comment further on the subject.

A710 : The relevant part of the Hadith which I have quoted mentions that Lady Aisha was questioned on her return from visiting the grave of her brother about the Prophet's prohibition on visiting graves. She answered: "Yes, he did prohibit that, but he later encouraged visiting them." Before mentioning the full text of the Hadith, let me mention two authentic Hadiths on this subject. The first is reported by Buraidah, a companion of the Prophet, who quotes him as saying: "I had ordered you not to visit graves, now I say: Visit them; and I did prohibit you to keep sacrificial meat for more than three days, now I say: Keep what you wish; etc." (Related by Muslim). This Hadith is clear that an early prohibition has been abrogated. Scholars suggest that in the early years of Islam, the Prophet was keen to restrict every action which had even the slightest connotation of associating partners with Allah. Because people used to do various rituals at graveyards, the Prophet wanted them to get used to accepting death as a natural thing, determined by Allah, and which does not justify any wailing or the performance of any rituals. In the case of sacrificial meat, the early prohibition encouraged the distribution of meat at a time when the circumstances of the Muslims were hard and things scarce. When the Muslim state became richer, the Prophet allowed people to keep what they wished of the meat of animals they had sacrificed. The second Hadith is that which encourages visiting graveyards. Abu-Hurairah reports that the Prophet "visited his mother's grave and wept until everyone around him was in tears. He then said: I sought my Lord's permission to pray Him to forgive her, but this permission was not given me. I also sought His permission to visit her grave, and He has permitted me. Visit graves, because such visits remind you of death." (Related by Muslim). Some of the scholars do maintain that women are not allowed to visit graves. In support of their view, they cite the Hadith which prevents women from following funerals and the one which quotes the Prophet as saying: "Allah curses the women who visit graves frequently and the ones who pray at them and put lanterns at them" (related by Abu-Dawood and An-Nassaie). Al-Qurtubi, a renowned scholar, explains that this curse is limited to those who carry the habit of visiting graves to excess. This is clearly indicated by the way the Arabic text of this Hadith is phrased. He suggests that the reasons for such a curse may be that such frequent visits may lead a woman to abandon her duties, or cause her to dress improperly or she may often wail at the grave, etc. If she visits graves and does not do any of these things, then that is appropriate because both men and women need to remember death. A larger number of scholars, however, are of the view that visiting graves is permitted for women. In support of their view, they cite the Hadith of Lady Aisha, which is related by Al-Hakim on the authority of Abdullah ibn Maulaikah, who saw her coming back from visit to the grave of her brother, Abdurrahman. He asked her : "Had not the Prophet prohibited this?" She said: "Yes, he had prohibited it, but he later encouraged visiting them (graves)." There is nothing in this Hadith to suggest that this permission applies to men only. Indeed, we have an authentic Hadith which may be quoted in support of this view. Anas ibn Malik, a companion of the Prophet, reports: "The Prophet (peace be upon him) passed by a woman crying at a grave. He said to her: Fear Allah and be patient. She said: Leave me alone, for you have not had a calamity like mine and you have not known him. She was subsequently told that she was talking to the Prophet. She went to him at his place where she found no door-keepers. She said: I did not know you. He said: Real patience is that shown at the first shock" (related by Al-Bukhari). The evidence in this Hadith is that the Prophet saw a woman visiting a grave and he did not prohibit her from doing so. Nor did he suggest to his companions who were with him that her action was wrong. Indeed, he approved of it. Such approval is sufficient to consider the action of the women, i.e. visiting the grave of a close relative, permissible.

Our Dialogue ( Source : Arab News - Jeddah )