Visiting Graves to remind oneself of the reality of death is a right of every Muslim including Muslim women.
Justifying the practice of forbidding Muslim women from visiting graves or accompanying the funeral procession, one of the leading scholars of Islam in the previous century, Shaikh Bin Baz of Saudi Arabia, wrote the following: “Because they (women) may present a temptation to men and even to themselves, and because they have little patience and they get too upset. So by His mercy and kindness towards them, Allah forbade them to visit graves. This is also a form of kindness towards the men, because if they were all to gather at the grave, this might cause fitnah. So by His mercy, Allah forbade women to visit graves.”
In simple words, women are a source of temptation and they lack patience, thus they should not be allowed in cemeteries or near graves. Nor should they accompany the funeral procession. Are women really temptations? Do they lack patience? Does Allah say so? Did the Prophet (s) believe in this? Or this is the way patriarchal societies have always believed in? If women are a source of temptation so can be men. So why specify women only. If women can be impatient so can be men, why specify women only. Both have proven through human history that they are capable of committing errors. The Qur’an says that humans have a tendency either to fall prey to evil or to practice goodness. It further explains that those who accept divine guidance, be men or women, follow the path of goodness and prevent evil taking place in any aspect of their life. Was not the purpose of faith to educate people properly in their behavioral aspects and treat each other with respect and dignity? Was not the purpose of faith to empower men and women to control their carnal desires and regulate their energy in a positive manner within a legal framework to achieve higher purposes of life? Is the purpose of faith only to preserve the faith of men that every effort should be made to ensure that they remain uncontaminated with everything that may prompt them to deviate from their path? Should others who are accused of posing them temptations must always be quarantined? If this is the case, then why limit this analysis to graveyards only? In a world where homosexuality is fast becoming a norm and prevalent in all societies, including those that claim to be Muslims, the temptation may come from men for men or women to women. The only thing that would prevent such a temptation is recognition of the fact that the priority has to be given to divine guidance rather than to one’s own desires. So why not prevent men from visiting the graves or have male-only gatherings? Why not prevent men from gathering for prayers in a male-only mosque? Why not stop all the female-only gatherings under the pretext that their presence may cause temptation to other women? Why not stop sending girls to all girls institutions?.
Such an argument does not hold any strength no matter where it comes from. If people are empowered to control their behavior, they can overcome any adversarial situation.
Moreover, this is an absurd argument that has been imposed on Allah and His Messenger (s) by scholars who view everything through the Freudian lances where everything revolves around sex and carnal desires of men. This analysis defeats the very purpose of religion as it is based on perversion. It simply says that men would never change as they would always follow their carnal desires if they find them in close proximity of a woman. Men constantly live in close proximity of women. Mothers, sisters, daughters, yet everyone treats these relations as sacred. If men are capable of respecting these relations within the confines of a family, they are capable of extending the same to others under the guidance of their faith.
In fact, such an argument belittles human beings and their capacity to overcome their own weaknesses. It repeats the age-old adage that has shaped the thinking of most men in our human history that women are seductress or source of evil or the daughters of Shaitan (devil), an idea that the faith was introduced to demolish.
Blaming women for disrupting the iman of men goes against the instructions of the Qur’an. The Qur’an categorically explains the following in its 33rd chapter: “It should be well understood that there are no differences between men and women; except in certain biological conditions. In a society governed by Islamic ethics both men and women should possess the following potentials and qualities
1. They should totally submit to the Divine Laws; 2. This obedience should exhibit complete conviction in them; 3. They should utilize their developed potentialities according to the Divine guidance; 4. They should be true to the covenant which they have made with Allah ; 5. They should be steadfast when facing adversities, troubles or difficulties ; 6. They should be prompt in rendering services to humanity 7. They should be ready to sacrifice all their assets for the sake of the Divine Order; 8. They should abstain themselves from all that the Divine Laws prohibit them to do; 9. They should guard their chastity fully; 10. In short, throughout their lives, at each and every step, they should act upon the Divine Laws. 11. People with this behavior are protected from all deviations and both will get their rewards from the divine. (Qur’an, 33:35)
Such a behavior ought to be displayed in all aspects of life and in every sector of society. It should be practiced at home, in cemeteries, at the grocery store or at graves.
The argument that temptation is the main reason for women’s exclusion from visiting the grave site is not based on any logic. Because if temptation is the main reason for isolation, then this isolation should be in every aspect of life, in grocery stores, in mosques, in public gatherings, in wedding and social gatherings, on planes, in trains and buses. The same scholars who advocate such a seclusion do not get upset when women serve them food or beverages in hotels or airplanes or even in their homes where some work as their maids.
As far as lack of patience is concerned, women have proved a higher level of patience in almost all situations. Right from giving birth to a child to accepting all adversarial conditions confidently, their patience is well established and evident. A woman is the one who decides to leave her relatives and family to live with a total stranger in matrimonial relations. She is the one who endures sufferings without compromising her dignity. And she is the one who accepts the challenge of raising the future generation of Islam through her dedication by nurturing and taking care of her children patiently. The hadith of the Prophet (s) where he praised a female companion for showing exemplary behavior in the wake of the death of her son speaks volumes of her level of patience. The hadith says: “Narrated by Anas bin Mãlik: One of the sons of Abu Talha (became sick and) died and Abu Talha at that time was not at home. When his wife saw that he was dead, she prepared him (washed and shrouded him) and placed him somewhere in the house. When Abu Talha came, he asked, “How is the boy?” She said, “The child is quiet and I hope he is in peace.” Abu Talha thought that she had spoken the truth. Abu Talha passed the night and in the morning took a bath and when he intended to go out, she told him that his son had died. Abu Talha offered the (morning) salãt (prayer) with the Prophet (s) and informed him of what had happened to them. Allah’s Messenger said, “May Allah bless you both concerning your night.” (That is, may Allah bless you with good offspring). A man from the Ansãr said, ‘They (i.e., Abu Talha and his wife) had nine sons and all of them became reciters of the Qur’an (by heart).”
It was the patience of a woman that brought such endless blessings for the entire family and the community. Yet the scholars claim that she does not have the strength to endure sufferings.
Thus blaming a woman for lack of patience is also an absurd idea.
In fact if anyone had shown an emotional outburst at the death of the dearest one, as recorded in our books of ahadith, was none other than the second Caliph, who at one point of time had refused to accept the news of the death of the Prophet (s). He was willing to fight everyone who had held this belief. Thus we read: “When Omar ibn al Khattab (r) heard that the Prophet (s) had passed away, he was so distraught that he drew his sword and declared: ‘Some hypocrites are pretending that the Prophet of God – may God’s peace and blessing be upon him — has died. By God I swear that he did not die; that he has gone to join his Lord, just as other prophets went before. Moses was absent from his people for forty nights and returned to them after they had declared him dead. By God, the Prophet of God (s) will return just as Moses returned. Any man who dares to perpetrate a false rumor such as Muhammad’s (s) death shall have his arms and legs cut off by this hand.” People listened to Omar (ra), too stupefied to believe that the man who had transformed Arabia from the backwaters of history to the forefront of the historical process, was dead. The situation was grave indeed. It was only after the speech of Abu Bakr that he calmed down.
Sometimes a few other arguments are also presented to justify the prohibition for women. It is argued that dead can see the visitors naked in the cemetery. If this is true, then no one should visit the graveyard because seeing a naked person whether male or female violates the principles of Islam. The burial should be done by robots with no human intervention. If the dead can see everyone naked, they why should we bury men and women in the same graveyard sometimes next to each other?
Another argument that is given to prevent women from visiting the grave is that jinn or ghosts would possess them especially if they visit the site during their menstrual cycle. These are the beliefs of the pagans and they should not be taken seriously.
The ahadith that many scholars quote in support of their self-designed prohibition for women should be seen in the historical context. Many of them are either weak in chain of narration or do not reach to the level of sahih. A hasan hadith is as described by al-Dhahabi, “A Hasan hadith is one which excels the Da`if (weak) but nevertheless does not reach the standard of a Sahih hadith.
While quoting these ahadith what is often ignored is the fact that they referred to a particular historical reality. Islam was introduced to a society where everyone was a pagan or non-Muslim. They were part of polytheism and followed a culture that was built around idolatry and class distinctions. They were used to cultural and tribal customs that often conflicted with many basic Islamic principles. For instance, it was a common practice on the part of the elites to hire women to wail and mourn for their dead. It was common that women would beat their chests, slap their faces, unfurl their hair and would lie down over the grave to make their mourning visible. It was also common that women would consider it part of their social obligation to wail and cry over the graves of those known to them or their families. Thus, we read in one of the hadith that Umm Attiya asked specific permission from the Prophet (s) to reciprocate the wailing and crying over the death, (whenever it takes place) of anyone in the family of one of her friends because she had wailed and cried when one of her family had died. The Prophet granted her the permission.
This is what the hadith says: It was narrated that Umm ‘Atiyyah said: “When the verse: …pledge, that they will not associate anything in worship with Allah”, “…and that they will not disobey you in Ma’râf was revealed, that included (refraining from) wailing. I said: ‘O Messenger of Allah, except for the family of so-and-so, they used to help me (in wailing) during the Jâhiliiah, (pre-Islamic period) so I have to help them now. The Messenger of Allah (s) said: ‘Except for the family of so-and-so.” (A/-Muwatta)
Thus it is obvious that the Prophet (s) was concerned with the idea of reforming a society that had no respect for the genuine feelings at the time of death. He wanted to abolish the practice of hiring people to shed artificial tears over the death of the elites. He wanted to eliminate the practice of wailing and crying for the purpose of showing off. He was not opposed to the idea of mourning the dead.
He himself cried over the death of his daughters and son. He said at the death of his son, And Ibn ‘Umar (ra) reported, “The Prophet (s) said, ‘The eyes shed tears and the heart grieves.”
At his death men and women cried and none of his companions and wives prevented them from doing so. In fact the Prophet (s) himself cried at the grave of his mother where he had gone with over 1,000 of his companions including his wives and other women. They witnessed the Prophet (s) visiting the graves with his wives and other women and crying there.
Inspired by the Prophet (s), Syeda Ayesha visited the grave of her brother and when someone told her that the Prophet (s) had forbidden that, her response was that the prohibition was later withdrawn and women were allowed to visit the graves.
Abdullãh bin Al Mulaikah said: “Abdur-Rahmãn bin Abu Bakr (ra) died in Al-Hubshi”111 He said: “He was carried to Makkah to be buried there. So when ‘Aishah (ra) arrived she went to the grave of ‘Abdur- Rahman bin Abi Bakr and she said: “We were like two drinking companions of Jadhimah for such a long time that they would say: ‘They will never part.’ So when we were separated it was as if I and Mãlik due to the length of unity never spent a night together.”
Then she said: “By Allah! Had I been present, you would not have been buried except where you died, and if I had attended (the burial) I would not be visiting you.” In other words the mother of the believers was acknowledging that women were allowed to visit the graves.
There is a hadith quoted byAbu Hurairah (ra) that says “Indeed the Messenger of Allah cursed the women who visit the graves.” is Hasan and should be seen the context of tribal customs of the society. In fact, some scholars have suggested that this is not a general rule as the Prophet (s) might be referring to those who were crossing the limits set by the faith. Some of the people of knowledge thought that this was before the Prophet (s) permitted visiting the graves. Then when he permitted it, both men and women were included in the permission.
The purpose of visiting the graves is to understand the finite nature of this life and this world and to prepare oneself to face Allah. If men or women visit the graves for this purpose it is allowed, but going to graves for purposes that promote polytheistic ideas is not allowed.
Syeda Ayesha (ra) and the wives of the Prophet (s) spent their lives staying closer to the grave of the Prophet (s). The Prophet (s) is buried in the quarter of Syeda Aisha and there is no record to suggest that she moved out of her quarter.
We read in several ahadith that Syeda Ayesha was present during the burial of the Prophet (s). She and other wives sprinkled the dust on the grave. They recited the Qur’an in the vicinity of the grave. They offered prayers in the vicinity of the grave.
In fact the mother of the believer is reported to have said that had we known what we know now, the wives of the Prophet (s) would have given him funeral bath. “‘Aishah used to say: ‘If I had known beforehand what I know now, no one but his wives would have washed him.”(Abu Dawood) This hadith also clarifies the misconception that a wife cannot see the face of her husband after his death.
One of the wives of Syed Hasan Ibn Ali pitched a tent at his grave site as reported in the Bukhari “When Al-Hasan bin A]-Hasan bin ‘Au expired, his wife pitched a tent on his grave and it remained there for one year and then was demolished..”
Crying for the dead was not prohibited. What was prohibited was excessive mourning crossing all limits.
In one of the hadith recorded in Sahih Bukhari, it is reported “Narrated Jabir bin ‘Abdullãh: When my father was martyred, I lifted the sheet from his face and wept and the people forbade me to do so but the Prophet did not forbid me. Then my aunt Fatima began weeping and the Prophet said, “It is all the same whether you weep or not. The angels were shading him continuously with their wings till you shifted him (from the field).” The incident took place in a graveyard where women were present and the Prophet was there as well.
The Prophet did not prevent women from visiting the graves as is evident from this hadith. “Narrated by Anas bin Malik reported that the Prophet (s) passed by a woman who was sitting and weeping beside a grave. He did not ask her to leave the grave site. He did not rebuke her. He did not curse her. Rather he advised her and told her, ‘Fear Allah and be patient.’ “ (Sahih Bukhari)
This is further collaborated by Umm ‘Atiya when she said that the Prophet (s) discouraged us accompanying the funeral procession but not strictly. Umm Atiya is talking about a funeral procession and not about visiting the grave sites or graves.
Some scholars quote a hadith that says that the punishment in the graves increases for those whose relatives weep and wail after his or her death. This statement was challenged by the companions of theProphet. When this hadith was presented to Syeda Ayesha, she said as reported in Bukhari by Ibn ‘Abbãs who said, “When ‘Umar died I told that to ‘Ayesha and she said, ‘May Allah be Merciful to ‘Umar. By Allah, Allah’s Messenger did not say that a believer is punished by the weeping (crying aloud) of his relatives. But he said, ‘Allah increases the punishment of a disbeliever because of the weeping (crying aloud) of his relatives.” ‘Ayesha further added, “The Qur’an is sufficient for you (to clear up this point) as Allah has stated: ‘…No bearer of burdens shall bear the burden of another…’” (6:164)
Allah and the Prophet (s) did not prevent women initially because they were weak or impatient or source of temptation. The purpose was to reform the society of practices that had turned death into a display of pomp and status. How can the decision be based on gender when the Prophet in several ahadith emphasized the importance of visiting graves and following funeral processions? Those who say that the Prophet meant to imply that only men would receive the rewards for visiting graves are adding their interpretations influenced by a patriarchal system where everything revolved around the interests of men. Sulaiman bin Buraidah narrated from his father that the Messenger of Allah said: “I had prohibited you from visiting the graves. But Prophet Muhammad was permitted to visit the grave of his mother: so visit them, for they will remind you of the Hereafter.” (Tirmidhi)
What is prohibited is very clear. Neither men nor women should use the occasion to exhibit their physical features for the purpose of attracting others. In our times people do not do that. People should be properly dressed. In our time in funerals, men and women are properly dressed. Their behavior should be in accordance with the ethics of Islam. The funerals in general show commitment by people to Islamic ethics. They should lower their gaze. They should remember their own death and use the occasion to remind themselves that they would return to the same place on the shoulders of someone else one day.
There is no restriction on men and women visiting the graves provided they abide by the code of Islamic dress and conduct, as can be deduced from the aforesaid Ahadith that give blanket permission to Muslims to visit the graves. However, if men or women violate the Islamic morals, make loud lamentations, prostrate themselves before the graves, they both deprive them of the mercy of Allah.
The practice of denying visitation rights to women are practices in South Asia and in many Arab countries. Depending on which school of thought one belongs to, prohibition is imposed in varying degrees. In the United States there is now a systematic campaign on the part of many imams to propagate that women cannot participate in the funeral even if it is the funeral of their sons, daughters, fathers or brothers or husband. It is un-Islamic. As stated above there is no sahih hadith that supports this claim. Those ahadith that make this claim are considered either hasan or daif by hadith scholars and are regarded invalid as they referred to an earlier situation. Even if there are sahih, they refer to a tribal culture and a society that had little respect for women. People had just come out of paganism. Many of those situations have changed. Rather than preventing women from visiting graves, the learned people should educate men and women about the rules of visiting graves.
God and His Prophet cannot be used to reduce Muslim women to a second class status. This is institutionalized inequality and before we talk about discrimination against Muslims by non-Muslims, we must talk about discrimination of Muslim clergy or so-called scholars against Muslim women. This is sheer injustice and making a mockery of faith.
Syeda Ayesha and all the wives of the Prophet participated in the funeral prayers of the Prophet. They stayed around the grave. They sprinkled the dust. In fact Syeda Ayesha stayed around the grave twenty-four hours for several years. All the wives of the Prophet were in close proximity of their husband’s grave. They would visit his grave daily till they left the world. Syed Hasan bin Ali’s wife pitched her tent close the grave of her husband for almost one year and no one could make her remove it even though the companions of the Prophet were alive. Syeda Fatima, bint Muhammad, (PBUH) visited the grave of her father regularly.
The theology of deprivation that is being promoted in the name of Islam is a theology that is rooted in the perversion of deen by the so-called scholars. It is rooted in a sexist attitude that has been imposed upon people in the name of Islam. We cannot dismiss it as a trivial issue. It is a crime and sin against Allah and the Prophet. Men and women have accepted it because they are not told the truth. It is not an issue of opinion that they have a different perspective and someone else has a different perspective. It is a matter of institutionalized inequality in the name of religion. This is the dividing line and the line has already been drawn.
We have to speak up for the rights of women fearlessly. We have to stand up for Islamic rights. We have to refuse to acknowledge the legitimacy of this theology. Be assured, women are as honored Muslim as the so-called scholars are. If we would not speak, they would continue to impose their tribal and cultural dictates upon us and the community. We all have a stake in religion. Each one of us would be responsible individually before Allah. We have to make our choice and let it be known. It is the jihad for equality and decency.
They say women cannot come to the graveyards because they are a source of temptation. They are perverts and if they cannot think of women beyond an object of sex and as a decent human creation of Allah, then they should stop visiting the graves, not women.