Traveling to visit the grave of the...

Egypt's Dar Al-Ifta

Traveling to visit the grave of the pious, friends of Allah, dedicating the reward of vows to them and commemorating them


We reviewed request no. 2446 for the year 2005 and which includes the following:

    1- What is the extent of the permissibility of traveling for long distances to visit the shrine of pious person or a sheikh?

    2- Many people take sacrifices with them as offerings of thanks and appreciation to these people. Is this permissible?

    3- What is the ruling for commemorating the righteous by celebrating, hanging lights and decorations?

    4- I fear for my father from the lesser shirk. Am I entitled to prevent him from going to these commemorations and from visiting shrines?


1- Traveling to visit the grave of a pious person or sheikh 

    Visiting graves

    It is permissible to visit graves according to the imams of the four schools of jurisprudence. There is a scholarly consensus that it is recommended for men, though only Hanafi scholars maintain its recommendation for women; other scholars deem it permissible but disliked due to their lack of emotional strength and patience. The premise for the recommendation of visiting graves is the hadith of the Prophet [pbuh] who said: "I had formerly prohibited you from visiting graves. But now visit them as they are a reminder of the Hereafter" [Muslim]. 

    Visiting the grave of the Prophet

Though the majority of scholars maintained that it is disliked for women to visit graves, they excluded the grave of the Prophet [pbuh] and those of other prophets from this ruling due to the generality of evidences on this matter. 

    Traveling to visit graves

    If visiting graves is sanctioned in Islamic law, then traveling for this purpose holds the same ruling. Traveling is not an act of worship in itself nor is it a fundamental part of performing one. Those who restrict visiting graves or the grave of the Prophet [pbuh] only to those residing in the same city as the shrine or grave, maintaining impermissibility of traveling for this purpose, are erroneous in their belief. Proof to this lies in the unanimity of scholars of jurisprudence on the axiom stating that means take the same rulings as their ends; if pilgrimage is obligatory, then so is undertaking the journey for it and if traveling to visit the grave of the Prophet [pbuh] and the graves of the righteous, relatives and those of Muslims in general is recommended, then it is determined that traveling to visit these graves is likewise recommended, or else how can an act be recommended when the means to it are prohibited?!

    Discussion of Evidence

    The Prophet [pbuh] said: "Do not set out deliberately on a journey to visit mosques except to three: this mosque of mine [in Medina], the Sacred Mosque [in Mecca] and al-Aqsa Mosque [in Jerusalem]" [Sahih Bukhari and Sahih Muslim].
    The injunction in this hadith is limited to traveling for the purpose of visiting any mosque except to those mentioned in it. In discussing this directive, Al-Sheikh Sulayman ibn Mansur, better known as al-Gamal, explains in al-Hashiyya 'ala Manhaj al-Tullab vol. 2, p. 361, explains that the injunction in the hadith is specific to the impermissibility of traveling for the purpose of offering prayers in a mosque other than the three mentioned in the hadith. According to him, this does not conflict with traveling for other purposes. He quotes several scholars' opinions and these include:

Al-Nawawi. In his interpretation of the hadith, he says: "There is no virtue in traveling to any mosque apart from these three."
Al-'Iraqi. He said that among the most beautiful meanings encompassed in the hadith is that the impermissibility expressed in it is restricted to mosques. Traveling for other purposes such as to seek knowledge; visit the righteous, friends and relatives; for trade purposes, recreation and so forth, are not included under this directive. This is further made explicit in the hadith narrated by abu Sa'id al-Khudari, may Allah be pleased with him, who quoted the words of the Prophet [pbuh] in a raised chain hadith: "It is impermissible for a person to travel to any mosque for the purpose of offering prayers except for the Sacred Mosque, al-Aqsa Mosque and this Mosque of mine [at Medina]" [Reported by Imam Ahmed and ibn abu Shaybah with a fair ascription].
Al-Subki. He said: "There is no spot on earth that has virtue for its own sake and to which one can travel for the sake of that virtue apart from the three [mentioned in the hadith]. And what I mean by 'virtue' is what Islamic law established as being thus and in consequence of this, based legal rulings for it. A person is not to travel to places for their own sake, but for reasons such as seeking knowledge, for a visit or any other permissible or recommended motive. Those who maintain prohibition are erroneous in their belief, since the visit is intended for those who are in the mosque and not for the mosque itself. Therefore, what the hadith actually means is the impermissibility of traveling to a mosque or place for its own sake except to the three mentioned in it. But traveling for the purpose of visiting someone or to seek knowledge is not intended for the place itself but for those in that place."

    Based on the above, traveling to visit the grave of a prophet, the righteous or relatives is a recommended matter since this is the only means of achieving this aim and any claim to the opposite is invalid.

2- Making sacrifices and vows to the pious and the righteous

    When a person makes a sacrifice or vow to the pious or the righteous, he is in fact dedicating the reward of these acts to them, whether or not he explicitly states this by saying: "This is for so-and-so" or "I dedicate the reward to so-and-so" or "I slaughtered this [animal] and make this vow for so-and-so". The above statements do not denote directing these acts to other than Allah. This is similar to a person who gives out in charity and says, "I give out this charity for the sake of Allah and dedicate its reward to so-and-so." Sa'd ibn 'Ibadah, may Allah be pleased with him, said: "O Messenger of Allah! Umm Sa'd passed away. Which form of sadaqah is best?" The Prophet replied, "Water." So he dug a well and said, "This is for Umm Sa'd" [Reported by Abu Dawud, al-Nisa`i and Ahmed].

    Based on this, a vow or a sacrifice made to a pious or a righteous person in this sense is valid and does not constitute shirk [associating partners to Allah] as some allege. Nor is it inconsistent with Tawheed [Oneness of Allah] and sincerity in worshipping Allah Almighty, since the person making the sacrifice or vow only intends to dedicate their reward to the deceased. It is an act of worship dedicated to Allah and its reward donated to the deceased. 

    Kinds of Vows

    At this point, it is worthy to note that there are two kinds of vows: Conditional and unconditional.

    The conditional vow: Scholars maintain that this kind of vow is disliked due to the words of 'Umar, may Allah be pleased with him, who said: "The Prophet [pbuh] forbade making vows and said, 'It [the vow] will not avert anything but will only force the miser to give up something" [Muslim and Bukhari]. It is better for a Muslim to draw close to Allah through his pious deeds and obedience without attaching a condition to his vow. 

    Unconditional Vows: Vows to do an act of worship are of two kinds. They include acts which are similar in kind to an obligatory act of worship such as prayers, fasts, Hajj and so forth and they must be fulfilled according to the opinion of the majority of scholars. The other type includes acts which are not similar in kind to obligatory acts of worship, yet are meritorious. These include building mosques, joining a funeral procession, Tashmeet [asking Allah to have mercy on the person who sneezes] and so forth. These are necessary to fulfill according to the majority of scholars except for the Hanafis.

    It is claimed that a vow made to a deceased is invalid due to the impossibility of him receiving the object of the vow. This is false since the intention of the person making the vow is to direct it to Allah and dedicate its reward to the deceased.

3- Commemorating the righteous and hanging lights and decorations on these events

    The recommendation in Islamic law to commemorate and rejoice the birth of the pious or righteous stems from the fact that they are considered role models and, as such, this may lead people to follow their example. There is no objection to specifying certain days on which to commemorate these or other occasions due to the words of Allah:
    "And remind them of the Days of Allah." 
                                                                            [Qur`an 14:5]

    As for the prohibited acts which occur during these events such as the mixing of the sexes, these are to be repudiated and their perpetrators must be warned against contravening the basic objective for which these events are held.

4- Preventing a parent from attending commemorations of the pious and the righteous or visiting their shrines

    It is impermissible to give credence to erroneous beliefs and prevent your father from doing a pious deed. A person's love for the righteous is among the signs of Allah's acceptance and pleasure. 'Uqba ibn 'Amer, may Allah have mercy on him, narrated that the Prophet [pbuh] said: "I do not fear for you from shirk [associating partners with Allah] after I die, but I fear that you will compete and fight over worldly interests and thus be destroyed like those who came before you" [Bukhari and Muslim]. However, you must advise your father gently if you see him doing something forbidden.

    Allah Almighty knows best.

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