Wahhabis say that tombs are indicators of shirk (polytheism). How was the application of the Companions? What are the views of the Islamic scholars regarding the issue?

The Details of the Question
Wahhabis say that tombs are indicators of shirk (polytheism). How was the application of the Companions? What are the views of the Islamic scholars regarding the issue?
The Answer

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It is mustahab to raise the soil on the grave for about twenty cm or more so that the grave will be easy to find and it will not be trodden on. Unlike the other three madhabs, the majority of Shafiis hold the view that it is more appropriate to make the grave level with the ground. The Messenger of Allah (pbuh) erected a largish stone on the head part of the grave of Uthman b. Maz'un and said, "I will know the grave of my brother and find it thanks to this stone; I will also bury the people from my family near it."(1)

Acting upon the hadiths (2) that prohibited writing things on the grave, most of the fiqh scholars regard it makruh (abominable) to write anything on the grave no matter what it is about. According to Hanafis and some other scholars, there is no drawback to writing things on the grave so that the grave will not be lost and it will not be trodden on because despite the prohibition in the hadiths, writings have been written on the graves as if there is a consensus. Hakim an-Nishaburi states that the narrations regarding the issue were sound but the application did not turn out to be in compliance with them adding that writings were written on the graves of all of the leaders of Muslims and that it was something the successors took over from the predecessors.(3) After reporting the determination of Hakim, Ibn Abidin says the issue is strengthened by the hadith regarding Uthman b. Maz'un; he adds that writings can be written only due to those reasons stated above and that it is makruh to write verses, poems and writings praising the dead person on the gravestone. (4)

Taking the statement of the Prophet (pbuh) he made during his last illness about the outward appearance of the graves into consideration,  

"May Allah damn Jews and Christians. They turned the graves of their prophets into mosques and temples."

(5) and similar hadiths, the scholars stated different views about building domes, tombs and buildings on the graves.

According to Hanafis, Malikis and Shafiis, it is haram to build houses, domes, tombs on the graves in the private property in order to show off and boast; it is makruh if there is not such a purpose. It is haram in both cases to build buildings, etc on the graves in public cemeteries and lands allocated for graves by their owners. Hanbalis regard it as makruh tahrimi without discriminating between them.

It is makruh to build mosques or to perform prayers in the cemeteries according to all madhhabs except Hanbalis, who regard it as haram. The aim of the prohibition in hadiths is to protect the belief of oneness and to prevent show off and extravagance. It was prohibited to make graves like mosques and to turn them into mosques because people with weak knowledge of religion could confuse them with mosques and could regard the person in the grave as a superhuman being. Besides, it is not regarded permissible to build the graves using materials like marble, stones, etc by spending a lot of money in order to show off.

Some scholars regard it permissible to build tombs over the graves of saint, scholars, sultans, the wives and children of sultans. There are some scholars who regard it permissible to build tombs and domes on the graves if there are many buildings and domes in a place and if those tombs and domes do not lead to any respect and similar homage to the people in those graves but serve to make the names of those people known. (6)

All madhhabs except Wahhabis agree unanimously that it is necessary to put or erect a stone or a similar sign so that the name and place of the dead person will be known.  

It is understood from the fact that the dead bodies of Hazrat Prophet (pbuh), Hazrat Abu Bakr and Hazrat Umar are in a room that the decree of the hadiths that prohibit constructing buildings and domes on the graves is not absolute and that the applications of some Companions who understood the decree as limited and based on some conditions.(7) Here, an interpretation can be made that rather than the violation of the prohibition stated by the hadith, there was, at first, an uncompromising prohibition aiming at protecting the belief of oneness just like the prohibition of visiting graves, but later the prohibition was moderated as the risk of aberration from oneness and returning to shirk diminished in parallel with the demand from the society.  As a matter of fact, it is known that some people from the Companions, their successors and the successors of their successors constructed tombs (buildings, tents) on the graves. For instance, Hazrat Umar made a tomb on the grave of Zaynab bint Jahsh, Hazrat Aisha on the grave of Abdurrahman, her brother, Muhammad Ibn Hanafiyya on the grave of Ibn Abbas, and Fatima, Husayn’s daughter, on the grave of Hasan, her husband, and who is also the sun of her uncle. It is reported that the building on the grave of Abdurrahman was later pulled down by Abdullah b. Umar. (8)

Ali al-Kari states that the scholars of predecessors regard it permissible to construct domes and tombs on the graves of famous saints and scholars so that people will visit them and rest there.(9) Ibnu'l-Humam, a Hanafi scholar says that it is permissible not makruh, according to preferred view, to build a place to enable people to sit while reading the Quran next to the grave. (10), (11)


1. Abu Dawud, "Janaiz", 63; cf. Ibn Majah, "Janaiz", 42

2. Müslim, "Janaiz", 94, 95; Ebû Dâvûd, "Janaiz", 76; Tirmidhi, "Janaiz", 58

3. al-Mustadrak, I, 370

4. Raddu'l-Mukhtar, 11, 237-238

5. Bukhari, "Janaiz", 62; Abu Dawud, "Janaiz", 76

6. Hasan al-Idwi, Mashariku'l-Anwar, Egypt, 1316/26

7. Süleyman Uludağ, Mezar ve Türbe, Nesil, II/1, İstanbul 1977, p. 25

8. Ayni, VII, 46

9. Mirqatu'l-Mafatih, II, 372; Ibn Abidin, I, 237

10. Fathu'l-Qadir, 1,473

11. DiA, Kabir Maddesi.

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