Manners of Visiting     

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What are the manners of visiting? What is the etiquette of visiting in islam?

“My love is true and inevitable for those who do not cut their relations with their relatives and friends.” (Ibn Hanbal, V, 229)

It is the requirement of being a Muslim and the brotherhood of Islam to visit people and ask about their state. Allah the Almighty has declared all Muslims as brothers and ordered them to love and take care of each other. Visiting each other is one of the most significant ways to establish love amongst people. This is why Islam pays importance to it.

Visiting may be for various reasons, like sickness, holidays, birth, or death. There are also visits done just out of courtesy without any apparent reason. Through visits Muslims learn each other’s problems and needs and so they are able to help one another. They also get the chance to share each other’s opinions and experiences. Thus, they can confer their issues with each other and aid in making decisions. Hence people get the feeling that they are not alone in the community so that they can look into the future with hope and confidence. Seeing a believing brother beside one during their happy and sad moments becomes a source of peace and tranquility for them. This is why visiting friends and relatives consist of many benefits. For this reason, Allah’s Messenger (pbuh) always visited his companions. Qais b. Sa’d (r.a.) narrated one of the Prophet’s visits as follows:

“The Apostle of Allah (pbuh) came to visit us in our house, and said:

“Peace and Allah’s mercy be upon you!” My father Sa’d returned the greeting in a lower tone.

I said to my father:

“Do you not grant permission to the Apostle of Allah (pbuh) to enter?”

He said:

“Leave him, let him give us many greetings.” The Apostle of Allah (pbuh) then said:

“Peace and Allah’s mercy be upon you!” My father again responded in a lower tone. The Apostle of Allah (pbuh) said a third time:

“Peace and Allah’s mercy be upon you!” Then when the Apostle of Allah (pbuh) was going away, my father went after him and said:

“O Apostle of Allah! I heard your greetings and responded in a lower tone so that you might give us more greetings. The Apostle of Allah (pbuh) returned with him. My father then offered to prepare bath-water for him, and he took a bath. He then gave him a long wrap dyed with saffron or wars and he wrapped himself in it.

The Apostle of Allah (pbuh) then raised his hands and said:

“O Allah, bestow Your blessings and mercy on the family of Sa’d b. Ubadah!” The Apostle of Allah (pbuh) then shared their meals.

When he intended to return, my father brought him an ass which was covered with a blanket. The Apostle of Allah (pbuh) mounted it.

My father said:

“O Qays, accompany the Apostle of Allah.” I said:

“The Apostle of Allah (pbuh) told me to get on the ride.” But I refused.” Allah’s Apostle (pbuh) again said:

“Either ride or go back.” So I went back. (Abu Dawud, Adab, 127-128) In another narration, it was reported that Allah’s Messenger (pbuh) visited a family of Ansar, ate and performed prayer with them, and repeated supplications for them. (Bukhari, Adab, 65)

Allah’s Messenger (pbuh) commanded his ummah to visit the sick and brothers in Islam. In one of his sayings, the Prophet (pbuh) said that:

“Whoever visits a sick or a Muslim brother, a caller addresses him: “What a nice deed you did. For doing this deed, your walk’s reward became good, too. And you prepared a place in Paradise for yourself.” (Tirmidhi, Birr, 64)

Visits should be done for the sake of Allah not for a worldly benefit. Allah the Almighty states that He loves those who sincerely visit each other. In a qudsi saying of the Prophet (pbuh) it is stated that:

“For those who love each other for My sake, and for those who give charity for My sake, and for the righteous ones who sincerely love each other for My sake, and for those who do not cut their relations with their relatives and friends My love is true and inevitable” (Ibn Hanbal, V, 229)

It is possible to count the types of visits advised by Allah and His Messenger (pbuh) from the life of our excellent Exemplar, the Prophet (pbuh) as follows:

1. Visiting the Sick

“He who visits the sick continues to remain in the fruit garden of Paradise until he returns.” Muslim, Birr, 39

Health and sickness are two important means of a test and warning in this world. We should not get heedless and stop thanking and praising Allah the Almighty during our healthy moments. We should also try to get closer to Allah with our prayers and supplications during our times of sickness. Smart believers who appreciate both of these situations will eventually be the profiting ones.

People suffer from various diseases at every age. Diseases are sources of sadness and distress. During such times people want to see their friends and relatives next to them. They want to be consoled by their words and help. If relatives and friends do not visit them the sick person may become sadden by this. Allah’s Messenger (pbuh) ordered everybody to visit the sick. Bara b. Adhib (r.a.) said that:

“Allah’s Messenger (pbuh) ordered us to follow the funeral procession, to visit the sick, to accept invitations, to help the oppressed, to fulfill the oaths, to return the greeting and to reply to the sneezer: saying, “May Allah be merciful on you,” provided the sneezer says, “All the praises are for Allah,”. (Bukhari, Janaiz, 2; Muslim, Libas, 3)

When a person gets sick he/she becomes very sensitive and heartbroken. Allah the Almighty is closer to such heartbroken people. Since Allah the Almighty likes that his servants visit the sick, He considers them as visits done to Him. According to Abu Huraira’s (r.a.) report, Allah’s Messenger (pbuh) states this fact as follows:

“Verily, Allah, the Exalted and Glorious, would say on the Day of Resurrection:

“O son of Adam, I was sick but you did not visit Me.” He would say:

“O my Lord; how could I visit You whereas You are the Lord of the worlds?” Thereupon He would say:

“Did not you know that such and such servant of Mine was sick but you did not visit him and were you not aware of this that if you had visited him, you would have found Me by him? O son of Adam, I asked food from you but you did not feed Me.” He would say:

“My Lord, how could I feed You whereas You are the Lord of the worlds?” He said:

“Did not you know that such and such servant of Mine asked food from you but you did not feed him, and were you not aware that if you had fed him you would have found him by My side?” The Lord would again say:

“O son of Adam, I asked for a drink from you but you did not provide it to Me.” He would say:

“My Lord, how could I provide it to You whereas You are the Lord of the worlds?” Thereupon, He would say:

“Such and such servant of Mine asked you for a drink but you did not provide him with it, and had you provided him with a drink you would have found him near Me.” (Muslim, Birr, 43)

Therefore, servants should think about whom they are visiting and whose orders they are fulfilling. This is why Allah’s Messenger (pbuh) told his companions that when they visited a sick person, they should ask for supplications from him and they should know that the supplication of a sick person was like the prayers of angels. (Ibn Majah, Janaiz, 1)

Visiting the sick means asking about his/her state, consoling him/her, and taking care of his/her needs as much as it is possible. Therefore, visiting sick people becomes a reiterated prophetic custom. Some scholars even think it is obligatory. If no Muslim in the neighborhood visits a sick person of their neighborhood, everybody in that neighborhood becomes responsible. Therefore, visiting a person who is sick becomes a communal obligatory act like feeding the hungry.

Ibn Umar (r. anhuma) narrated an incident in this regard as follows:

“While we were sitting with the Messenger of Allah (pbuh), a person, one of the Ansar, came to him and greeted him. The Ansari then turned back. Upon this the Messenger of Allah (pbuh) said:

“O brother of Ansar! How is my brother Sa’d be Ubada?” He said:

“He is better.” The Messenger of Allah (pbuh) said:

“Who amongst you would visit him?” He (the Holy Prophet) stood up and we also got up along with him, and we were more than ten persons. We had neither shoes with us, or socks, or caps, or shirts. We walked on the barren land till we came to him. The people around him kept away till the Messenger of Allah (pbuh) and his Companions with him came near Sa”d b. Ubada.” (Muslim, Janaiz, 13)

Aisha (r. anha) narrated another incident which explains this wonderful characteristic of the Prophet (pbuh):

“Sa’d was wounded on the day of Khandaq (i.e. Trench) when a man from Quraish, called Hibban bin Al-Araqa hit him (with an arrow). The man was Hibban bin Qais from (the tribe of) Bani Mais bin Amir b. Lu’ai who shot an arrow at Sa’d’s medial arm vein (or main artery of the arm). The Prophet pitched a tent for Sa’d in the Mosque so that he might be near to the Prophet to visit… (Bukhari, Maghazi, 30)

As it can be observed in these reports, Allah’s Messenger (pbuh) was concerned about all kinds of problems which people had. Asking about the problems of the sick, visiting his friends, taking care of the needs of the needy, attending the funerals and performing their funeral prayers, and consoling the people left behind are some of the good behaviors manifested in his life. He would usually be accompanied by some of his companions while performing a social duty like visiting a sick person. Thus, he would discipline them about the matter in question. For being poor and needy is not an obstacle for visiting the sick. On the contrary, this would make people get closer to each other, help each other to take care of their needs, and share the blessings they have.

In visiting the sick there should be no difference between being a Muslim and non-Muslim; acquaintance and stranger; close and far neighbor. Indeed Allah’s Messenger (pbuh) visited a sick Jewish kid and caused him to convert to Islam. (Bukhari, Janaiz, 80)

In his following lines Jalal al-Din Rumi (q.s.) elegantly depicts that visiting the sick actually benefits the visitor himself:

“There is profit in your visiting the sick: the profit thereof is returning to you again. The first profit is that the sick person may perchance be a Qutb and a glorious spiritual king. And if he be not a Qutb, he may be a friend of the Sufí Way; if he be not the king, he may be the cavalier of the host. Deem it, then, incumbent on you to attach yourselves to the friends of the Way, whosoever it may be, and whether he be footman or rider. And if he be a foe to you, still this kindness is good, for by kindness many a foe hath been made a friend; And though he do not become a friend, his enmity is lessened, because kindness becomes the balm for enmity. There are many profits besides these, but I am afraid of being tedious, good friend. The gist (of the matter) is this: be the friend of the whole community (of Sufis): like the idol-maker, carve a friend out of the stone, because the throng and multitude of a caravan will break the backs and spears of the highwaymen. Inasmuch as you have not the heart’s two eyes, O contumacious man, so that you cannot distinguish firewood from aloes wood. (You may despair of finding the true friend of Allah; but) since there exists a treasure in the world, do not grieve: deem no ruined place empty of treasure.” (Mathnawi, II, 2143-2153)

Allah’s Messenger (pbuh) taught some supplications to the sick people. Uthman b. Abu al-‘As Al-Thaqafi reported that he made a complaint of a pain to Allah’s Messenger (pbuh) that he felt in his body at the time he had become Muslim. Thereupon Allah’s Messenger (pbuh) said: Place your hand at the place where you feel pain in your body and say “Bismillah” (in the name of Allah) three times and say

“I seek refuge with Allah and with His Power from the evil that I find and that I fear” seven times (Muslim, Salam, 67).

Uthman (r.a.) practiced this supplication word by word and said: “I did what the Messenger of Allah taught me. Allah the Almighty blessed me with my health. After that I recommended this supplication to my family and other people.” (Abu Dawud, Tib, 19)

Allah’s Messenger (pbuh) advised to inculcate to people that are about to die to say “La ilaha illa-llah – There is no god but Allah” (Muslim, Janaiz, 1-2)

Companions paid attention to visiting the sick, too.

Some of the principles of manners in visiting sick as follows:

  1. The visitor should put his hand over the sick’s hand or forehead, and ask “how are you?” The Prophet (pbuh) advised to care closely for the sick. However, the doctor’s orders must be considered in this regard. Also, this principle is not applicable for cases of contagious diseases.
  2. One should avoid the words and actions which might hurt and depress the sick. Visits should be kept short.
  3. One should ask the sick if there is anything he/she needs, and if it is needed, one should financially help the sick, too. If it is not going to harm the sick, one may give food and other gifts to the sick. Ibn Abbas (r. anhuma) narrated:

“Allah’s Messenger (pbuh) visited a sick person and asked:

“Is there anything that you would like?” The man said:

“Wheat bread.” Allah’s Messenger (pbuh) told his companions:

“Whoever has wheat bread with him should send it to his brother.” And then he added:

“If your patient wants something from you, let him eat that.” (Ibn Majah, Janaiz, 2)

  1. A person who is sick may contemplate about death and feel disturbed. It is a nice thing to console such patients with appropriate words, to explain to them that death is an order of Allah and it is inevitable, to explain to them that being ill does not mean its end will be death, and that ailments become compensation for the evil deeds of a servant. According to the narration of Ibn ‘Abbas (r. anhuma): “Allah’s Apostle visited a sick bedouin and said to him, “Don’t worry, Tahur (i.e., your illness will be a means of compensation for your sins), if Allah will.” (Bukhari, Tawhid, 31)
  2. Praying for the sick and wishing for his/her recovery is one of the manners of visiting the sick. Aisha (r. anha) narrated:

“When any person amongst us fell ill, Allah’s Messenger (pbuh) used to rub him with his right hand and then say:

“O Lord of the people, ease his pain and grant him health, heal him, for You are a Great Healer. There is no healer, but with Your healing Power. Bestow upon this person health so that no sign of the disease could be seen upon him.” (Bukhari, Marda, 20; Muslim, Salam, 46-49)

Salman (r.a.) narrated: “When I was sick, Allah’s Messenger (pbuh) came to visit me. When he was leaving, he prayed for me saying:

“O Salman! May Allah remove your problems, May He forgive your sins, May He give your religion and your body strength until your death (time)” (Haythami, II, 299)

  1. For some reasons, like distance, etc. if one could not find the opportunity to visit his/her sick brother he/she should at least give them their wishes for a quick recovery through an agent or other means of communication, like a phone call.

2.  Offering Condolences

“Believers who are inflicted upon a calamity should think about my death to console themselves and be patient.” (Muwatta, Janaiz, 41)

Even though the Arabic word “ta’ziyah” refers to consoling those who are inflicted upon a trouble, it usually implies to visiting a funeral house and expressing one’s condolences. It is necessary to advise patience to people who are inflicted upon a trouble, remind them to have faith in destiny, and tell them that such troubles are the means of attaining spiritual maturity. Moreover, it might have some effect in consoling them to say that “Allah the Almighty increases His servant’s spiritual rewards because of his suffering.” It is among the most important manners of ta’ziyah to pray for such people by saying “May Allah increase your rewards” and “May Allah bestow upon you the best patience.”

Ta’ziyah can be done by personally visiting the people who experience the hardship or by calling them or sending them a message. Once when Zainab (r. anha), the Prophet’s daughter, sent a message to her father saying that:

“My son passed away. Could you please come to our house?” Allah’s Messenger (pbuh) sent someone along with his greetings to his daughter saying:

“Allah is the One who gives and takes back. Everything has a time in His presence. Tell her to be patient and expect its rewards from Allah the Almighty.” (Bukhari, Janaiz, 33)

Allah’s Messenger (pbuh) said that ta’ziyah was a very important humanistic duty and added that: “Allah the Almighty will clothe a garment of honor upon a believer who visits his brother suffering from a trouble.” (Ibn Majah, Janaiz, 56)

The following letter of the Messenger of Allah (pbuh) to Mu’adh b. Jabal (r.a.) for the death of his son is an elegant and beautiful example of expressing one’s condolences:

“In the name of Allah,

From Muhammad the Messenger of Allah to Mu’adh b. Jabal

May Allah’s peace be upon you

I would like you to know that I praise Allah that there is no god save Him. May Allah increase your reward; may He bestow great blessings and the power of patience upon you. May He let us and you succeed in thanking Him; because our lives, possessions, family and children are His gifts entrusted to us temporarily.

Allah made you happy by giving you that child. Now He takes him back in return for a great reward. If you hope to receive mercy, forgiveness, and guidance from Allah the Most Exalted, be patient. Do not let your grief and pain make your reward disappear. Otherwise you will feel regret. You should know that wailing and complaining cannot bring anything back and remove the grief and pain. What is predestined to happen has happened. Peace (be upon you)!” (Hakim, III, 307)

In addition to consoling a person in grief with words, one may also need to help him with actions. Indeed when the news of Ja’far b. Tayyar’s (r.a.) martyrdom reached the Messenger of Allah (pbuh), he said: “Prepare food for the family of Ja’far for there came upon them an incident which has engaged them.” (Abu Dawud, Janaiz, 25-26)

There is still a custom in Turkey that neighbors bring food to the funeral house for a few days which is a nice reflection of this prophetic advice.

Expressing one’s condolences is an Islamic manner; however continuing to express condolences for more than three days is regarded as objectionable. This is to prevent from keeping the grief which one feels fresh in their mind. Those who are not present at the funeral because of distance are exempted from this rule.

3. Funeral Preparation and Visiting Graves

a. Funeral Preparation

“O you who believe! Fear Allah, and let every soul look to what (provision) he has sent forth for the morrow.” (Al-Hashr 59; 18)

The term tashyi’ means to prepare the dead and take the body to the graveyard after the funeral prayer. This is one of the final duties which needs to be done for a believer. Allah the Almighty promises great rewards for this duty.

The Messenger of Allah (pbuh) taught what needs to be done for funeral preparation through his actions. Umm Salama reported:

“The Messenger of Allah (pbuh) came to Abu Salama (as he died). His eyes were fixedly open. He closed them, and then said:

“When the soul is taken away the sight follows it.” Some of the people of his family wept and wailed. So he said:

“Do not supplicate for yourselves anything but good, for angels say “Amin” to what you say.” He then said:

O Allah, forgive Abu Salama, raise his degree among those who are rightly guided, grant him a successor in his descendants who remain. Forgive us and him, O Lord of the Universe, and make his grave spacious, and grant him light in it.” (Muslim, Janaiz, 7)

Allah’s Messenger (pbuh) suggested the dead to be washed by loyal believers (Ibn Majah, Janaiz, 8) and asked his followers to pay special attention to the dead, to wash and enshroud them nicely. The rewards of those who wash the dead and do not tell their defects to anybody are stated as follows:

“Allah the Almighty will forty times forgive those who wash the dead and do not tell their defects to anybody. He will clothe those who enshroud the dead with the silk clothes of Paradise. He will give rewards to those who dig graves for the dead as much as the rewards that could be given to someone who places a poor in a house till the Judgment Day.” (Hakim, I, 505-506)

Umm Atiyya reported:

“The Apostle of Allah (pbuh) came to us when we were bathing his daughter, and he told us:

“Begin washing her from her right side. Wash her with water and with the leaves of the sidr[1], three, five, or seven times, or more than that if you think fit, and put camphor or something like camphor in the last washing; then inform me when you have finished.”

We entwined the hair of the dead daughter of the Prophet into three braids. One braid was entwined in front and the other two were entwined on the sides of the head. When we had finished, we informed him, and he gave to us his (own) under-garment and told us to shroud her in it.[2] (Bukhari, Janaiz, 9, 13, 17; Muslim, Janaiz, 36; Ibn Sa’d, VIII, 34-36)

It is very important to bid our farewell to the dead by going with him till the graveyard, by praying for his soul, and by bearing a positive testimony about him; for Allah the Almighty will treat him in accordance with such testimonies.

It was narrated by Anas bin Malik (r.a.):

“When the Messenger of Allah was with some of his companions a funeral procession passed and the people praised the deceased. The Prophet said,

“It has been affirmed to him.” Then another funeral procession passed and the people spoke badly of the deceased. The Prophet said,

“It has been affirmed to him.” Umar bin Al-Khattab (r.a.) asked Allah’s Apostle (pbuh):

“What has been affirmed?” He replied,

“You praised this, so Paradise has been affirmed to him; and you spoke badly of this, so Hell has been affirmed to him; because you, believers, are Allah’s witnesses on earth.” (Bukhari, Janaiz, 86; Muslim, Janaiz, 60)

It is a reality that people would not easily agree upon praising or speaking badly about a person. This is why we should remember this and act accordingly to make others praise us after we die.

After preparing the body, believers pray to Allah, perform the funeral prayer, say their praises to the Messenger of Allah (pbuh), and ask for forgiveness for the dead. This is a means of mercy for the dead. This is why one should hope that many people will be present at his funeral and pray for him. Awf b. Malik reported that Allah’s Messenger would attend to the funeral prayers and say supplications for the dead as follows:

“Allah’s Messenger (pbuh) led a funeral prayer. Just then I heard him saying the following supplication:

“O Allah! Forgive him, have mercy upon him, give him peace and absolve him. Receive him with honor and make his grave spacious; wash him with water, snow and hail. Cleanse him from faults as You would cleanse a white garment from impurity. Requite him with an abode more excellent than his abode, with a family better than his family, and with a mate better than his mate. Admit him to the Garden, and protect him from the torment of the grave and the torment of the Fire.” When I heard this wonderful supplication, I earnestly desired that I were that dead body. (Muslim, Janaiz, 85)

Allah’s Apostle said,

“(A believer) who accompanies the funeral procession of a Muslim out of sincere faith and who hopes to attain Allah’s reward and remains with it till the funeral prayer is offered and the burial ceremonies are over, he will return with a reward of two ‘qirats’. Each ‘qirat’ is like the size of the (Mount) Uhud. He who offers the funeral prayer only and returns before the burial will return with the reward of one ‘qirat’ only.” (Bukhari, Iman, 35)

Sa’d b. Abi Waqqas reported on the authority of his father that while he was sitting along with Abdullah b. Umar, Khabbab b. Arat, the owner of Maqsura, came and said:

“O Ibn Umar, have you heard what Abu Huraira says?” And then he narrated the following tradition:

“Abu Huraira heard the Messenger of Allah (pbuh) say:

“He who goes out with the bier when taken out from its residence and offers prayer for it and he then follows it till it is buried, he would have two ‘qirats’ of reward, each ‘qirat’ being equivalent to Uhud; and he who, after having offered prayer, (directly) goes back would have his reward (as great) as Uhud”

Ibn Umar (r. anhuma) sent Khabbab to Aisha (r. anha) in order to ask her about the words of Abu Huraira and also told him to come back to him (Ibn Umar) and inform him what Aisha said. (In the meanwhile,) Ibn Umar took up a handful of pebbles and turned them over in his hand till the messenger (Khabbab) came back to him and told (him) that Aisha testified (the statement of) Abu Huraira. Ibn Umar threw the pebbles he had in his hand on the ground and then said:

“We missed a large number of qirats.” (Muslim, Janaiz, 56)

It is recommended that one should carry a casket for ten steps holding each handle thus for the total of forty steps. Carrying the casket for more steps makes the carrier earn more spiritual rewards. The coffin should be carried first from the right side front handle and next right back handle and then from the front and back left handles. Hurrying up with the funeral ceremony is also among the suggestions of the Prophet (pbuh) (Bukhari, Janaiz, 51); because it is not advisable that the corpse of a Muslim should remain withheld among his family. (Abu Dawud, Janaiz, 34)

Coffins should be carried quiescently. When Allah’s Messenger (pbuh) saw people carrying a coffin in haste, he told them “Carry it quiescently.” (Ibn Majah, Janaiz, 15)

Those who follow the funeral procession should avoid unnecessary talks and lower their voices. Even loud remembrances of Allah and recitation of the Qur’an are not considered appropriate. One should contemplate about death and the afterlife.

If it is possible, people should not be on rides. It is considered objectionable to on a ride if it is possible to walk. According to the Thawban’s (r.a.) report, Allah’s Messenger (pbuh) attended a funeral. He saw some people on rides, in order to state the disrespectfulness of this action, he said that:

“Aren’t you ashamed? You go on rides while Allah’s angels are on foot.” (Tirmidhi, Janaiz, 28)

The Prophet said, “Whenever you see a funeral procession, stand up till the procession goes ahead of you.” In another version of the tradition it was stated that, “Till the coffin leaves you behind or is put down.” (Bukhari, Janaiz, 47-48)

b. Visiting Cemeteries

Allah’s Messenger (pbuh) had temporarily forbidden visiting graves, at the time when people were still prostrating before the graves and using them as means of pride and worshipping the idols. Later Jews and Christians turned the graves of their saints into places of worship. Idolatry, too, had begun by showing respect to prominent figures’ graves and statues, and in time they were changed into idols; whereas, Islam’s goal is to place the belief in the unity and oneness of Allah the Almighty into the hearts. After this goal had been achieved, the prohibition of visiting cemeteries had been abolished. Allah’s Messenger (pbuh) said that:

“I forbade you to visit graves, but you may now visit them.” (Muslim, Janaiz, 106)

And the Prophet’s saying, “…Those who wish to visit graves may do so; for visiting graves reminds us of the Hereafter,” (Tirmidhi, Janaiz, 60) emphasizes that the object of visiting cemeteries is to remember the afterlife and be prepared for it.

Visiting the graves of righteous people, parent, and the graves of the close relatives are accepted as recommended (mandub) acts.[3] Visiting graves is recommended for men. It is also permitted for women provided that they do not wail, do not show excessive respect towards the graves, and do not tear their clothes up. Hence, the Prophet (pbuh) advised patience to a woman who was crying over her son’s grave, but he did not forbid her to visit. (Bukhari, Janaiz, 7; Muslim, Janaiz, 15) There is also another report that Aisha (r. anha) visited her brother Abdurrahman b. Abi Bakr’s grave. (Tirmidhi, Janaiz, 61)

Ali (r.a.) expressed his concern about the afterlife addressing the dead in a cemetery as follows:

“The houses you left are now occupied by others

Your property is already shared

Others married with your wives

This is what is happening on our side

I wish we could know what is happening on your side

By Allah, if they were allowed to speak, they would say

“…but the best of provisions is right conduct (fear of Allah)…” (al-Baqarah 2; 197) (Ibn Abdilbarr, al-Iqd al-Farid, III, 236-37)

There are great benefits in visiting the graves of righteous people and the graves of the religiously prominent figures. Such visits are allowed provided that one acts consciously, attains necessary lessons, and does not take false creeds during the visit. One day Marwan (r.a.) saw a man who placed his face upon the Prophet’s (pbuh) grave. He thought this was an un-Islamic deed. He took the man by his collar and said:

“What do you think you are doing?” When the man turned his face, Marwan recognized that he was Abu Ayyub al-Ansari (r.a.). When Abu Ayyub (r.a.) saw that Marwan (r.a.) was concerned about the lawfulness of his act, he told him:

“Yes, I know what I am doing. I came to the Messenger of Allah (pbuh) not to his grave stone. I heard the Prophet (pbuh) saying that:

“Do not be worried as long as your religious affairs are taken care of by qualified people. However when unqualified people begin to interfere with them, then you have every right to get worried and cry for the religion.” (Ibn Hanbal, V, 422)

What we understand from Abu Ayyub’s (r.a.) response is that visiting graves is permissible as long as it is done consciously and according to its manners; because this is beneficial both for the visitor and the visited. These benefits can be summarized as follows:

– Visiting graves reminds people of death and the Hereafter, leads them to piety and righteousness, and enables them to attain lessons from it. Those who think about death perform their acts of worship more sincerely. They lose their ambition towards this world, avoid unlawful acts, turn to do righteous deeds, and pay more attention to getting prepared for the afterlife.

“Aisha (r. anha) said that a Jewess came to her and mentioned the punishment that takes place in the grave, saying to her,

“May Allah protect you from the punishment of the grave.” Aisha then asked Allah’s Apostle about the punishment of the grave. He said,

“Yes, (there is) punishment in the grave.” Aisha added, “After that I never saw Allah’s Apostle but seeking refuge with Allah from the punishment in the grave in every prayer he prayed.” (Bukhari, Janaiz, 87; Muslim, Masajid, 123; Nasai, Janaiz, 115)

Allah’s Messenger (pbuh) said that:

“When one of you finishes the recitation of ‘tahiyyat’ at the end of his prayer, he/she should say that:

“O Allah! I seek refuge with You from the torment of the grave, and I seek refuge with You from the trial of the Masih al-Dajjal (Antichrist) and I seek refuge with You from the trial of life and death.” (Muslim, Masajid, 128; See also Muslim Masajid, 130-134; Abu Dawud, Salat, 149, 179; Nasai, Sahv, 64)

Uthman (r.a.) would cry till his beard got wet when he stood by the graves. When he was told:

“You do not cry when you remember Paradise and Hell; but you cry when you remember the grave” he replied:

“Because I heard Allah’s Messenger (pbuh) saying:

“The grave is the first station of the Hereafter. If someone passes it, the following stations will be easier. If he cannot pass it, the rest will be much harder and harsher… None of the scenes I have seen was more fearful and gruesome than the grave.” (Tirmidhi, Zuhd, 5/2308; Ahmad b. Hanbal, I, 63-64)

Bara (r.a.) narrated:

“We were with the Messenger of Allah (pbuh) in a funeral. Allah’s Messenger (pbuh) sat by the grave and began to cry so much that the earth got wet from his tears. And then he said that:

“O Brothers! Get well prepared for the death which everyone will experience.” (Ibn Majah, Zuhd, 19)

Before the prophet Dhu’l Qarnain (pbuh) passed away, he made the following exemplary will for the future generations:

“Wash and enshroud my body. And then place me in a coffin. Just leave my arms hanging outside the coffin. Let my servants come behind me. Load my treasures upon asses so that people can see that I had a magnificent kingdom and wealth in this world; but I left everything behind and I am leaving this world with nothing. All my servants and treasures are staying in this world. Thus they would not be deceived by this lying and temporary world…”

His will was carried out exactly. Muslim scholars interpreted this will as follows:

“I ruled the East and West with the armies following me. I had countless soldiers and servants in my service. None of them went against my orders. The entire world was under my command. I had limitless treasures. But all the blessings of this world are temporary. Just like you see I leave this world and go to my grave empty handed… Possessions of this world stay in this world… You should do the deeds beneficial for the Hereafter… (Osman Nûri Topbaş, Nebîler Silsilesi, II, 17)

– Visiting the graves of righteous peoples, especially the Prophet’s (pbuh) grave, gives the souls relief and makes people feel lofty feelings. Setting off on a journey to visit the Prophet’s grave and the graves of the friends of Allah is recommended (mandub). Allah’s Messenger (pbuh) said that, “whoever visits me after my death my intercession will be required for him.” (Bayhaqi, al-Sunan al-Kubra, V, 245)

– Visiting graves strengthens people’s ties with their culture and history. Graves of the prominent figures of history provide a bridge between young generations and their history. The spiritual atmosphere here plays an important role in keeping the religious life robust. The most typical example of this is the cities of central Asia, such as Samarkand and Bukhara, which were under the rule of communist regime for many years.

Visiting graves is also useful for the dead.

– After visiting graves people pray for the salvation, forgiveness, and eternal happiness of the dead. They recite the Qur’an and ask Allah to accept the spiritual rewards of their deeds to be written for the dead. Allah’s Messenger (pbuh) stated that:

“When one of you dies, take him to his grave right away. When you bury him, the person waiting at the side of his head should recite the chapter Fatiha (chapter 1) and the person waiting at the side of his feet should recite the last verses from the chapter al-Baqara (chapter 2.) (Tabari, XII, 340; Daylami, I, 284; Haythami, III, 44)

“…Chapter Yasin is like the heart of the Qur’an. Whoever reads it hoping for Allah’s content and the abode of the afterlife, his sins will certainly be forgiven. Recite the chapter Yasin to your deceased.” (Ibn Hanbal, V, 26)

Ala’ b. Lajlaj narrated that his father Lajlaj, who was one of the companions of the Prophet (pbuh) made the following will at the time of his death:

“When you put me into my grave, say “بِسْمِ اللهِ وَ عَلَى سُنَّةِ رَسُولِ اللهِ” (In the name of Allah and upon the Sunnah of the Messenger of Allah)[4] and throw earth upon my body. Recite the beginning and last verses of the chapter al-Baqara at my grave. Of course I witnessed that Abdullah b. Umar (r. anhuma) had deemed this practice appropriate.” (Bayhaqi, al-Sunan al-Kubra, IV, 56)

Amr b. al-As said when he was about to die: “…When you bury me, fill my grave well with earth, then stand around it for the time within which a camel is slaughtered and its meat is distributed so that I may enjoy your intimacy and in your company ascertain what answer I can give to the messengers (angels) of Allah.” (Muslim, Iman, 192)

Nawawi, who mentioned this narration in his book, reported the following words of Imam Shafii:

“Reciting chapters and verses from the Qur’an is a recommended act in Islam. Reciting the entire Qur’an is better.” (Nawawi, Riyadh al-Salihin, p. 293)

Recitation of the Qur’an is an offering for the dead. It is also confirmed by the authentic traditions of the Prophet (pbuh) and by the consensus of the scholars that the spiritual rewards of the good deeds performed on behalf of the dead will reach him. (Muwatta, Itq, 13-14; Muslim, Siyam, 155-156; Ibn Hanbal, II, 509; VI, 252) This is also supported by the following verse:

“…Our Lord! Forgive us, and our brethren who came before us into the Faith, and leave not, in our hearts, rancor (or sense of injury) against those who have believed. Our Lord! You art indeed Full of Kindness, Most Merciful.” (al-Hasr 59; 10)

Another tradition in this context was narrated by Ibn Abbas (r. anhuma):

“The mother of Sa’d bin Ubada died in his absence. Sa’d came to the Prophet (pbuh) and said,

“O Allah’s Apostle! My mother died in my absence; will it be of any benefit for her if I give charity on her behalf?” The Prophet said,

“Yes,” Sa’d said,

“I make you a witness that I donated my garden called Al-Makhraf in charity on her behalf.” (Bukhari, Wasaya, 15)

– Planting trees on the gravesite is also a nice thing to do. Plants and trees planted in the graveyards help to reduce the punishment of the dead. (Muslim, Taharah, 111) Ottomans would plant sycamore trees in the yards of institutions and cypress trees in the graveyards. The reason of these choices was that the sycamore tree loses its leaves, and thus is a reminder of death and temporariness; whereas, the cypress is evergreen and it represents the eternity of the afterlife. These practices also helped to protect the environment.

– Sending wreathes to funerals is something objectionable in Islam. The wreath, which is a symbol of the Ancient Greek and Christian world, does not contain any benefit to the dead. It is also a manifestation of resembling non-believers, which is strongly prohibited in Islam. In addition, a lot of money is spent on making a wreath and many flowers are destroyed in the process. Thus, a wreath is a waste and Islam prohibits being wasteful.

Clapping at funeral ceremonies is another objectionable custom of the contemporary world. Such a behavior does not fit into the spiritual atmosphere of the funeral. In this regard, Allah the Almighty reprimands the unbelievers in the Qur’an as follows:

“And their worship at the (holy) House is naught but whistling and hand-clapping…” (al-Anfal 8; 35)

c. Manners of Visiting Cemeteries

– When the visitor arrives at the graveyard, he/she turns his/her face to the graves and greets them as taught by the Messenger of Allah (pbuh):

“Peace be upon you! The abode of the believing people and we, if Allah so wills, are about to join you.” (Muslim, Taharah, 39; Janaiz, 104)

– One should pray for the dead and think about how one day he/she will join them. He/she should approach the graves and turn his/her face to the grave like there is someone alive in it and they will talk. If one is not sick, one should stay standing. If the dead was someone close to him/her, he/she should get very close to the grave; and if was not, he/she should keep some distance between him and the grave and pray.

– Performing ritual prayer in the graveyards and turning them into mosques is a disapproved action. Performing prayer towards a grave is also not accepted in Islam.

– Placing and lighting candles by the graves are not permitted. (Muwatta, Janaiz, 12-13)

– Sitting on the graves and stepping over them are not permitted. (Muslim, Janaiz, 98)

– One should stay away from talking inappropriate and useless matters in the graveyard. He/she should also avoid walking arrogantly and should act humbly. (Nasai, Janaiz, 100)

– Relieving oneself in the graveyards is forbidden.

– Cutting trees and green plants in the graveyard is disapproved.

– Slaughtering animals next to the graves is objectionable even if it is done for Allah. It is strongly prohibited, if it is done for the dead. There are some scholars who consider this as accepting partners to Allah; because slaughtering animals is an act of worship and acts of worship are done only for Allah the Almighty.

– Circumambulation around the graves, like circumambulating around the Ka’bah, is not permitted.

– Asking for help from the dead and tying strings and pieces of clothes to the grave in order to receive help from the dead are not allowed in Islam and have no benefit to anybody. The body in the grave could not even help himself let alone helping others. However, when asking for something from Allah the Almighty, asking for it for the sake of righteous servants of Allah and visiting their graves is permitted. For instance, it is allowed to say “O Lord! Please grant me my wishes for the sake of Your Messenger, I pray to You with Your Messenger” (Tirmidhi, Daawat, 118; Ibn Hanbal, IV, 138)

An interesting example of this is follows:

After the death of the Messenger of Allah (pbuh) a severe drought in Medina occurred. People came to Aisha (r. anha) and complained. Aisha (r. anha) told them:

“Go to the Prophet’s grave and open a window on the roof of it so that there would be nothing between Allah’s Messenger (pbuh) and the skies.”

After the people fulfilled her advice, rain poured down, everywhere got green, and camels got fat. That year was even called “’am al-fatk – year of abundance.” (Darimi, Muqaddimah, 15)

– It is more rewarding to visit graves especially on Fridays or Thursdays and Saturdays. However, one may visit graves on other days, too.

– It is permitted to visit graves at nights. Allah’s Messenger (pbuh) went to the cemetery of Jannat al-Baqi and prayed. (Muslim, Taharah, 39; Janaiz, 104)

4. Manners of Visiting Relatives and Friends

“Whoever is pleased that he be granted more wealth and that his lease of life be prolonged, then he should keep good relations with his kith and kin.” (Bukhari, Adab, 12)

One of the things that Islam emphasizes strongly is “sila-i rahim.” Sila-i rahim means to strengthen and maintain relationships amongst relatives. If they do not live far away, one should frequently visit his/her relatives, help them, and be concerned with their problems. When they are happy, one should congratulate them, whereas console them at their sad moments. If they live in a distant place, then one should sometimes visit them and keep his/her connection through means of communication. Allah the Almighty says in the Qur’an:

“…and be careful of (your duty to) Allah, by Whom you demand one of another (your rights), and (to) the ties of relationship; …” (al-Nisa 4; 1)

Allah the Almighty attracts our attention to the significance of this issue by mentioning to be careful about Him and to be careful about keeping ties of relationship in the same sentence.

Although, sila-i rahim is primarily about one’s relation with his/her relatives, it also is a responsibility towards neighbors, friends, colleagues, brothers in religion, and other acquaintances. Allah the Almighty says in the Qur’an:

“Serve Allah, and join not any partners with Him; and do good – to parents, kinsfolk, orphans, those in need, neighbors who are near, neighbors who are strangers, the Companion by your side, the wayfarer (you meet), and what your right hands possess…” (al-Nisa 4; 36)

Severing the ties with relatives and treating them badly is a sin in Islam. The extent of goodness varies in accordance with the closeness of the relationship. Allah’s Messenger (pbuh) stated that trustworthiness and kinship would be a measure in crossing over the bridge to Paradise. These qualities will be sent before one and will stand on the right and left of the bridge to Paradise. And they will catch anyone who did not fulfill these responsibilities properly by hooks and throw them into Hell fire. (Muslim, Iman, 329) Therefore, it does not look likely that those who cannot pass the test of establishing good kinship ties will not be able to pass the Path.

The following traditions of the Messenger of Allah (pbuh) manifests how significant this matter in Islam:

The Prophet (pbuh) said,

“Allah created His creation, and when He had finished it, the kinship got up and caught hold of Allah whereupon Allah said,

“What is the matter?” On that, it said, “I seek refuge with you from those who sever the ties of kith and kin.” On that, Allah said, “Will you be satisfied if I bestow My favors on him who keeps your ties, and withhold My favors from him who severs your ties?” On that, it said, “Yes, O my Lord!” Then, Allah said, “That is for you.” Then the Prophet (pbuh) added:

“If you wish, you can recite:

“Would you then if you were given the authority, do mischief in the land and sever your ties of kinship. Such are the men whom Allah has cursed for He has made them deaf and blinded their sight.” (Muhammad 47; 22) (Bukhari, Tafsir, 47; Muslim, Birr, 16)

One should pay much attention to keeping his/her family ties strong. Even if our relatives sever their ties with us, we should keep in contact with them with the Hereafter in mind and listen to their problems. A person said:

“Allah’s Messenger, I have relatives with whom I try to have close relationship, but they sever (this relation). I treat them well, but they treat me ill. I am sweet to them but they are harsh towards me. Upon this he (the Holy Prophet) said:

“If it is so as you say, then you in fact throw hot ashes (upon their faces) and there would always remain with you on behalf of Allah (an Angel to support you) who would keep you dominant over them so long as you adhere to this (path of righteousness).” (Muslim, Birr, 22)

Another saying was narrated by Abdullah bin Amr (r.a.):

“The Prophet said,

“‘Al-Wasil’ is not the one who recompenses the good done to him by his relatives, but ‘Al-Wasil’ is the one who keeps good relations with those relatives who had severed the bond of kinship with him.” (Bukhari, Adab, 15)

Making the visited relatives happy seems as if it only benefits them, but it actually helps the visitor; because visiting relatives not only benefits the visitors in the Hereafter but also in this world, too. The Messenger of Allah explains some of these benefits as follows:

“Whoever is pleased that he be granted more wealth and that his lease of life be prolonged, then he should keep good relations with his kith and kin.” (Bukhari, Adab, 12; Muslim, Birr, 20-21)

In addition to visiting relatives, visiting friends is also very important. Allah’s Messenger (pbuh) would visit his companions. The following tradition nicely explains this issue:

“A man set out to visit a brother in faith in another town and Allah sent an angel on his way. When the man met the angel, the latter asked him,

“Where do you intend to go?” He said,

“I intend to visit my brother in this town.” The angel said,

“Have you done any favors for him?’” He said,

“No, I have no desire except to visit him because I love him for the sake of Allah, the Exalted, and Glorious.” Thereupon the angel said,

“I am a messenger to you from Allah (to inform you) that Allah loves you as you love him (for His sake).” (Ibn Hanbal, II, 292)

The Prophet (pbuh) said, “Allah will give shade, to seven, on the Day when there will be no shade but His. (These seven persons are) a just ruler, a youth who has been brought up in the worship of Allah (i.e. worships Allah sincerely from childhood), a man whose heart is attached to the mosques (i.e. to pray the compulsory prayers in the mosque in congregation), two persons who love each other only for Allah’s sake and they meet and part in Allah’s cause only, a man who refuses the call of a charming woman of noble birth for illicit intercourse with her and says: I am afraid of Allah, a man who gives charitable gifts so secretly that his left hand does not know what his right hand has given (i.e. nobody knows how much he has given in charity), and a person who remembers Allah in seclusion and his eyes are then flooded with tears.” (Bukhari, Adhan, 36; Zakat, 16)

Companions also attached much importance to visiting family and friends. Abdullah b. Mas’ud (r.a.) asked his friends who came to visit him from Kufa to Medina:

“Do you sit and discuss scholarly issues?” They replied:

“We never stop doing that.” Ibn Mas’ud (r.a.) asked again:

“Do you visit each other?” They said:

“Yes, O Abu Abdurrahman, Some of us even go from one side of Kufa to the other side of it to check his friend, if he does not see him for a while.” This answer pleased Ibn Mas’ud (r.a.) and he told them:

“If you maintain this state of yours, then you would live happily and peacefully.” (Darimi, Muqaddimah, 51)

Salman (r.a.), who knew very well how important this issue was, walked from Medina to Damascus just to visit his friend Abu al-Darda. (Bukhari, Adab al-Mufrad, p. 127; no: 346)

There are some manners which need to be observed during such visits. Some of them are as follows:

– Visiting hours should be chosen well. One should avoid going for a visit during the hours of sleep, meals, and working hours.

– If it is possible, the host should be informed in advance. And the visitor should be there exactly at the scheduled time.

– The visitor should wear clean, tidy clothes, and should avoid bad smells and looks.

– Visits should be short. If one is visiting the old, he/she should listen to them carefully and stay away from words, which may hurt them. One should bring good news to them.

[1] The Sidr tree (also known as Lote tree, Christ’s Thorn, Jujube or Nabkh tree. Botanical name: Ziziphus spina-christi) is an ancient tree grown in Arabian Peninsula. It is from the cherry tree family, and its leaves are used in washing a believer’s dead body. (Âsım Efendi, Kâmus, II, 385)

[2] Shroud proper to the teachings of the Prophet (pbuh) consist of three pieces, i.e. izar, qamis, and lifafa, for males and five pieces, i.e. izar, qamis, lifafa, a head cover and a cover for the breasts for females.

[3] Mandub: In Islamic fiqh this term describes the deeds which are recommended for Muslims, but are not necessary for a Muslim to do to be considered faithful. Even though they are recommended deeds, not performing them is not considered a sin, and they are the deeds that Allah’s Messenger (pbuh) sometimes performed and sometimes did not.

[4] This means: “We leave you here in the name of Allah and upon the Sunnah of the Messenger of Allah.”

Source: Osman Nuri Topbaş , Journey To Eternity, Erkam Publications

Dying as Muslims

Death’s Mirror

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