What are the benefits of visiting graves? Do the dead people see those who come to their graves?

Details of the Question

Is it true that the dead people see us when we go to the graveyard on Friday? If it is true, is there a certain time for it? Is it before or after the noon prayer? I read in a book that if a person goes to the grave of his mother or father on Friday and reads the chapter of Yasin, each letter of it will be forgiveness for them. Is it true?

The Answer

Dear Brother / Sister,

Benefits of Visiting Graves

a) It reminds one of death and afterlife, and makes him draw a lesson from it for his afterlife. (Muslim, Janaiz, 108; Tirmidhi, Janaiz, 59; Ibn Majah, Janaiz 47-48; Ahmad b. Hanbal, Musnad, I, 145).

b) It directs one to asceticism and taqwa (God-Consciousness). It prevents over-ambitiousness for worldly life and committing harams. It leads one to commit good deeds. (Ibn Majah, Janaiz, 47).

c) Visiting graves of saintly people - especially that of our Prophet’s - refreshes one’s spirit and helps to evoke supreme feelings in them. It is mandub to travel to the graves of our Prophet and Allah’s saintly slaves in order to visit them. The Prophet states the following in a hadith:

“Whoever visits me after I die, it is as if he visited me when I was alive.” (Mansur Ali Nasif, at-Taj, al-Jamiu’l Usul, II, 190).

d) Visiting graves helps the strengthening of one’s relations with his past, religious culture and history.

Benefits of Visiting Graves for the Dead

Graves of people, especially parents, other relatives and friends are visited in order to pray for the peace of their spirits and for their salvation. The fact that thawabs gained from good deeds that are performed on behalf of the dead will reach them is stated in hadiths and determined by the consensus of Islamic scholars. When visiting the dead, one prays for the peace of their spirits, reads the Quran and thawabs gained from those good deeds are donated to them.

It is thawab to plant a tree at a grave. There are hadiths stating that a tree planted at a grave will be a reason to ease the dead person’s agony. It is makruh (abominable) to put a wreath on graves as Christians do.

This Quranic verse indicates the fact that prayers and supplication made for the sake of the dead people’s spirits will be beneficial for them:

“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.” (al-Hashr, 59:10).

There are many hadiths on the issue (Ahmad b. Hanbal, Musnad, II, 509; VI, 252; Ibn Majah, Adab).

Are the dead people aware of the people who visit them? 

After the Battle of Badr, the dead bodies of Qurayshis were put into a well. The Messenger of Allah addressed them as follows:

"O son of this and that! Did you find that what Allah and His messenger had promised you came out true? I found that what Allah had promised me came out true." Hz. Umar said,

"O Messenger of Allah! How do you address the dead bodies?" The Prophet said,

"You cannot hear what I say better than them. However, they cannot answer me." (Muslim, Jannah, 76, 77)

Once, the Prophet was passing by a graveyard; he ordered the people with him to salute the dead people by saying, "O dwellers of the land of believers! " (Muslim, Janaiz, 102; Abu Dawud, Janaiz, 79; Nasai, Taharah, 109; Ibn Majah, Janaiz, 36, Zuhd, 36; Muwatta', Taharah, 28)

Since the one who can understand it is greeted, it means the dead recognize those who visit them. Ibn Qayyim al-Jawvziyya, who is known as an investigative scholar, reports the joy felt by the dead when people visit them, especially on Friday and Saturday and the good deeds of their children. (Ibn Qayyim al-Jawvziyya, Kitabu'r-Ruh, 10)

A person can read the verses of the Quran that he can read easily at the grave. It is sunnah to read the Quran at the grave because the thawab (reward) of the Quran reaches the dead people there. A dead person is like the one that is ready there. It is hoped that he will receive Allah's mercy. After reading the Quran, one needs to pray for the dead so that it will be accepted. For, prayer (dua) is useful for the dead. The dua made after reading the Quran is more likely to be accepted. (Wahba Zuhayli, İslam Fıkhı Ansiklopedisi, III/91-92)

It is mustahab for a person who visits a grave to read the chapter of Yasin. For, according to what is reported from Anas , the Messenger of Allah said,

"If a person goes to a graveyard, reads the chapter of Yasin and gives its reward to the dead as a present, Allah will relieve their torture. He also receives as many rewards as the number of the dead in that graveyard."

Hz. Prophet (pbuh) also said,

"Read the chapter of Yasin to your dead people." (Ibn Majah,Sunan, Janaiz, 24; Abu Dawud, Sunan, Janaiz, 4)

Acting upon this hadith, some Hanafi scholars gave the following decree: "A person can give the reward of his deed as a present to somebody else; it does not matter what kind of deed it is (reading the Quran, prayer, fasting, sadaqah, hajj, etc." (İbrahim CANAN, Kütüb-i Sitte Muhtasarı, Akçağ, 15/239)

When a grave is visited, it is necessary to turn toward the face of the dead, greet and pray. It is necessary to avoid kissing the grave, wiping the grave with one's face and turning round (circumambulating) it. For, those deeds are bid'ah; they do not exist in the religion. (Ghazali,Ihya, 1/473; Ibn Qudama, al-Mughni, 2/422; Shawkani, Naylu'l-Awtar, IV/117-120; Sheykh Ali Mahfuz, al-Ibda, 192; Sayyid Sabiq, Fiqhu's-Sunna, 1/566; Ibn Qayyim al-Jawvziyya, Zadu'l-Maad, 1/146.)

IS IT PERMISSIBLE TO READ THE QURAN TO THE DEAD?

The Quran does not have one aspect only. Badiuzzaman said Nursi states the following:  

“It is both a book of wisdom and law, and a book of prayer and worship, and a book of command and summons, and a book of invocation and Divine knowledge - it is book for all spiritual needs and it is a sacred library offering books appropriate to the ways of all humans." (Sözler (Words), p.340)

That is, the Quran organizes our life. It shows our responsibility to Allah; it teaches us the purpose of our coming to the world, what we need to do and how to worship; it gives information about the wisdom behind everything and the nature of everything. To sum up, the Quran is a book of dhikr, thought, prayer (dua) and invitation (call).

The influence area of the Quran is not limited with the world only. The prosperity it gives spirits does not end in the world; it continues in the realm of the grave; it rejoices our spirits there; it becomes a luminous light in our graves.

The Prophet (pbuh) gives the following advice about what to read from the Quran for our deceased people: 

"Yasin is the heart of the Quran. If a person reads it and asks the happiness of the afterlife from Allah, Allah will forgive him. Read the chapter of Yasin to your dead people." (Musnad, V/26)

It has been discussed whether to read it to the dead or not. However, taking into consideration the narrations that confirm one another, Shawkani holds the view that it is permissible and useful. (Azimabad, Awnu'l-Ma'bud, III/160;Shawkani, Naylu'l-Awtar, IV/21; Ibn Abidin, Raddu'l-Mukhtar, 1/626; Sayyid Sabiq, Fiqhu's-Sunna, 1/502, Beirut, 1969.)

This hadith indicates that the chapter of Yasin can be read to an ill person who is in deathbed and to the spirits of the dead believers.

The following hadith narrated by Hz. Abu Bakr clarifies the issue:

"If a person visits the grave of his father and mother or either of them on Friday and reads the chapter of Yasin there, Allah will forgive the person in the grave." (Elmalılı, Hak Dini, Yasin Suresinin başı; Sünen-i İbni Mace Tercemesi ve Şerhi, Kahraman Yayınları: IV/273-274)

We should attract attention to the fact that this narration is regarded as weak.

When the Quran is read, Islamic scholars advise making a dua after it and giving it as a present to the spirits of the dead people. The Companions did so. In a narration of Bayhaqi, it is stated that Abdullah bin Umar advised reading some verses from the chapter of al-Baqara to the spirits of the dead people. (Bayhaqi, IV56)

Let us learn how the chapter of Fatiha or Yasin that is read only once reaches the spirits of all of the dead people through an excerpt from Badiuzzaman Said Nursi:

"The Wise Creator makes the element air a field and means of transmitting and increasing words like lightning; He makes the adhan of Muhammad recited from a minaret to be heard by everywhere and all people through the radio; similarly, He has arranged spiritual electricity and radios; He makes them work through natural wireless telephones in order to make the chapter of al-Fatiha read that is read once reach all of the dead people of the believers at the same time through his endless power and unlimited wisdom."

"When a lamp is lit, it becomes a separate lamp for each of the thousands of lamp facing it; similarly, when the chapter of Yasin is read once and it is given as a present to the spirits of millions of believers, one complete Yasin reaches each of them separately. (Şualar, p.576)

Besides, our relatives in the graveyard wait for our help all the time. They know that they will be relieved thanks to a dua, the chapter of al-Fatiha and al-Ikhlas sent by us. For, the grave has such hard conditions that, a tiny spiritual help will cool the spirit of the person in the grave. The Prophet states the following in a hadith:

"A dead person in the grave is like a drowning person who asks for help. He waits for the prayer to come from his brother or friend. When the prayer reaches him, the reward of this prayer becomes more valuable than the world and everything in it for him. The presents from the living people for the dead people are definitely their prayers and asking for forgiveness." (Mishqatu’l- Masabih, 1/723)

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