Graveyard Rules

Important Rulings Concerning Death, Burial and Graveyard

Allah and His Messenger, peace be upon him, encourage us to contemplate death and be ready for it with good deeds. This is regarded as a sign of goodness. Ibn ' Umar reports: "I came to the Prophet, peace be upon him, and I was the tenth of the first ten people (who embraced Islam). A man from among the Ansar got up and said: "O Prophet of Allah, who is the most sagacious and the most prudent among the people?" He eplied: "Those who are most aware of death and prepare themselves for it. They are the wisest of people and will have honor in this world and a generous reward in the Hereafter'." Ibn 'Umar also said that Allah's Messenger, peace be upon him, said: "You should remember the reality that brings an end to all worldly joys and pleasures, namely, death." (Both hadith are narrated by At-Tabarani with a sound chain of narrators)

Ibn Mas'ud narrated that the Messenger of Allah, peace be upon him, explained the following words of Allah, the Exalted: "The hearts of those whom Allah wills to guide, He opens to Islam." (Qur'an 6.125) This means, the Messenger explained, that, "When the light (of truth) enters the heart it expands and opens up." The Companions asked: "Is there any evidence of this (in the life of a Muslim)?" He replied: "Being ever mindful of the eternal life of the Hereafter, and remaining at guard in this life of delusion, and preparing oneself for death before it comes." This is reported by Ibn Jarir through different chains each of which strengthens the other.

Listed below are some important aspects, concerning death, burial and graveyard that every Muslim should be mindful of:

At the Time of Death

The sick or dying person should hope and expect good on behalf of Allah (SWT). He should assume that Allah (SWT) would pardon him, for His forgiveness and mercy are boundless, encompassing everything. The Messenger of Allah (S) said:

"Let none of you die except while assuming good on behalf of Allah" [Muslim]

The dying person should be encouraged to recite the Testimony of Faith. The Messenger of Allah (S) said:

"Encourage your dying to say: "None has the right to be worshiped except Allah" [Muslim]

Immediately After The Death Of A Muslim

When the soul departs, the eyes of a Muslim should be closed and his body covered. The Messenger of Allah (S) said while closing Abu Salamah's eyes shortly after he died:

"Indeed, when the soul is taken away, the sight follows it. [Muslim]

Nothing but good should be said about him, such as: "O Allah, Forgive him. O Allah shower Your Mercy on him." The Prophet (S) said:

"Do not invoke except good, since the angels say Aameen to what you say." [Muslim]

From The Time Of Death To The Time Of Burial

Announcing the death: The Prophet (S) announced the death of Zayd, Ja'far and Abdullah bin Rawahah when they were martyred. The proclamation in a loud voice, in the streets or at the gates of Masajid is prohibited.

Weeping is allowed and wailing is prohibited. Regarding wailing, the Messenger of Allah (S) said:

"I am innocent of those who wail, shave, or tear their clothes (in mourning)" [Bukhari]

As for weeping, there is no harm in it. When the Messenger of Allah's son Ibrahim died, he said:

"Indeed, the eyes shed tears, the heart grieves, but we say nothing but what pleases our Lord. We are sad because of your death, O Ibrahim." [Bukhari]
It is prohibited to dress as a mourner, for more than three days, except in the event of a woman's husband. Then it is obligatory upon her to do so for four months and ten days, as the Prophet (S) said:

"The woman is not to dress as a mourner upon the death of anyone for more than three days, except in the case of the husband. Then she is to do so for four months and ten (days)" [Bukhari and Muslim]

Paying off the deceased's debts: The Messenger of Allah (S) would not pray for the one with debt until his debt was paid off. He (S) said:

"The believer's soul is suspended by its debt until it is rectified." [Bukhari]

Al-Istirja, Supplication and Patience: It is necessary for the family of the deceased to be patient. The Prophet (S) said:

"Patience is only at the initial shock." [Bukhari]

They should increase in supplication and recite the phrase of Al-Istirja which is, "We belong to Allah and to Him we will return." (Inna Lillahi wa inna ilaihi raajioon)

The Prophet (S) said:

"There is no servant who suffers an affliction and says: We are Allah's and to Him we will return. O Allah! Reward me with good in my adversity, and compensate me with better than it," except that Allah rewards him abundantly, and compensates him with what is better." [Muslim]

Washing (ghusl) of the body is obligatory, except in the case of a martyr. If water in unavailable, then Tayammum should be performed.

The spouse is permitted to wash the other. The Messenger of Allah (S) said to Aishah (R)

"If you would pass away, I would wash and shroud you." [Ibn Majah, Ahmad]

The shroud (kafn) is obligatory.

A clean white shroud (kafn) is recommended. The Messenger of Allah (S) said:

"Wear white clothes, since they are the best of your clothes, and shroud your dead with them." [At-Tirmithi]

Silk shrouds are prohibited for men. As for women though permissible are disliked. Abu Bakr (R) said: "The living one is more worthy of new than the dead. The shroud is for the pus and matter that comes out of the deceased.' [Bukhari]

Performing the funeral prayer for the deceased Muslim, like his washing, shrouding and burial is a collective duty. The Prophet (S) said:

"Perform the Salah for your companion." [Bukhari]

Excellence of large number of people participating in the funeral prayer. The Messenger of Allah (S) said:

"If a Muslim dies and forty people, who do not associate anything with Allah in worship, participate in the funeral prayer over him, Allah will accept their intercession for him." [Muslim]

Hastening the burial: The Prophet (S) said:

"Hasten (the burial), if he is righteous, you are hastening him to good. If not, then it is evil you are removing from your necks." [Bukhari]

Following the funeral procession: The Prophet (S) said:

"Visit the sick, and follow the funeral procession; this reminds you of the Hereafter." [Muslim]

The Prophet (S) also said:

"Whoever follows the funeral procession of a Muslim out of faith and hoping for reward (form Allah), then he stays until the funeral prayer and the burial, will return with two Qirats, each of them is as huge as the mount of Uhud. And whoever attends it until the funeral prayer will have a reward equal to one Qirat." [Bukhari]

It is disliked for women to go out to follow the funeral, as Umm Atiyyah (R) said: "We were prohibited from following funeral, but without being strict on us.' [Muslim]

It is disliked to raise the voice while attending the funeral procession with remembrance of Allah (SWT) or recitation. The Companions of the Messenger (R) disliked raising the voice for three things;

(i) The funeral

(ii) The remembrance of Allah (SWT)

(iii) And while fighting. [Ibn Al-Mundhir from Qays bin Ubadah.]

It is also disliked to sit before laying down the body. The Prophet (S) said:

"If you follow the funeral, do not sit till it is placed in the earth." [Bukhari and Muslim]

Aspects Regarding Burial

The burial, by completely covering the body with dirt is a collective duty. Allah (SWT) says what means:

"Then he causes him to die and puts him in his grave." [80:21]

It is desirable for each one of those who attend the burial to throw three handfuls of dirt on the grave near the head of the body; as the Messenger of Allah (S) did. [Reported by Ibn Majah]

The following should be said while placing the body in the grave:

"In the name of Allah, and in conformity with the religion of the Messenger of Allah." [Abu Dawud and Al-Hakim]

After The Burial

It is desirable that those who attend the burial, ask for forgiveness and supplicate for the deceased. The Messenger of Allah (S) said:

"Ask forgiveness for your brother and ask Allah to keep him firm; since he is being questioned now." [Ibn Majah]

It is necessary to level the earth over the grave, since the Messenger of Allah (S) commanded that. However, raising the grave about a hand span from the earth is permissible, since the grave of the Prophet (S) was raised in this manner.

It is prohibited to exhume the grave and relocate the remains, except due to dire necessity.

It is disliked to transport the body from one country to another for burial, except to one of the two sacred places; Makkah or Al Madinah, and similarly to Jerusalem. The Messenger of Allah (S) said:

"Bury those killed where they met their end." [Abu Dawud]

The Sunnah and Prohibitions Concerning Graveyards

The sunnah is to raise the grave at least one hand above the ground so it is known that it is a grave. It is forbidden to raise it more than that. This is based on a narrative reported by Muslim and others from Harun that Thamamah ibn Shufayy told him: "Once we were with Fadalah bin 'Ubayd in the Roman land of Brudis. One of our companions died and upon burying him we were ordered by Fudalah ibn 'Ubayd to level his grave. Then Fudalah said: 'I heard Allah's Messenger, peace be upon him, ordering people to level the graves of the deceased." It is reported from Abul al-Hayaj al-Asadi who said 'Ali bin Abu Talib told me: "Should I not instruct you to do as the Messenger of Allah, peace be upon him, instructed me? Do not leave a statue standing without removing it. Do not leave a grave raised without leveling it."

Tirmizhi said: "Some scholars act upon this opinion. They disapprove of raising the grave more than necessary to indicate that it is a grave, and so people will not step or sit on it." Muslim governors used to destroy cemetery structures not permitted by the law, in accordance with the authentic sunnah. Ash-Shafi'i said: "I prefer that the soil used for a grave be no more than that dug for that grave. I like to see a grave raised above the ground the length of a hand or so. I prefer not to erect a structure over a grave or to whitewash it, for indeed this resembles decoration and vanity, and death is not the time for either of these things. I have never seen the graves of the Muhajirin or Ansar plastered. I have seen the Muslim authorities destroying structures in graveyards, and I have not seen any jurists object to this."

Placing a Distinguishing Mark on a Grave:
It is permissible to place a mark, such as a stone or a piece of wood, over a grave so that it can be recognized. This is based on a hadith reported by Ibn Majah from Anas that the Prophet, peace be upon him, "placed a rock over 'Uthman ibn Maz'eun's grave so that it could be recognized."

Building Mosques or Placing Lights on Graves:
There are many sound and clear hadith conceming the unlawfulness of building mosques over graves or putting lights on them. Abu Hurairah reported: "The Prophet, peace be upon him, said: 'May Allah destroy the Jews, because they used the graves of their prophets as places of worship.'' (Bukhari and Muslim)

Ibn 'Abbas reported: "The Messenger of Allah, peace be upon him, cursed the women who visit graves and those who build mosques and place lights on them.'' (Reported by Ahmad and other compilers of the Sunan)

Slaughtering Animals on the Graves:
The Prophet, peace be upon him, forbade the slaughtering of animals at graves, which was practiced in the Days of Ignorance out of arrogance and self conceit in order to flaunt one's wealth. Anas reported: "The Prophet, peace be upon him, said: 'There is no slaughtering (of animals on graves) in Islam.'' (Abu Daw'ud)

Prohibition of Sitting, Leaning, and Walking on Graves:
It is not permissible to sit on a grave, or lean on it, or walk over it. This is based on a hadith reported by 'Amr bin Hazm who said: "The Prophet, peace be upon him, saw me leaning on a grave, so he said: 'Do not harm the dweller in this grave or do not harm him.''' (Reported by Ahmad, who considers its chain of narrators as sound) Abu Hurairah reported: "The Prophet, peace be upon him, said: 'It is better for you to sit on a glowing coal that burns through your clothes to your skin than to sit on a grave.'' (Reported by Ahmad, Muslim, Abu Daw'ud, Nasa'i, and Ibn Majah)

Prohibition of Whitewashing or Writing on a Grave:
Jabir reported: "The Prophet, peace be upon him, forbade the whitewashing of a grave, sitting on it, or erecting any structure on it." (Reported by Ahmad, Muslim, Nasa'i, Abu Daw'ud, and Tirmizhi who said that it is a sound hadith) Tirmizhi reported this hadith with this wording: "The Prophet, peace be upon him, forbade the whitewashing of graves, writing on them, building on them, or stepping on them." Nasa'i, reported it in these words: "The Prophet, peace be upon, forbade building over a grave, adding anything to it, white washing it, or writing on it."

Other Etiquettes to be Observed During Burial and while in the Graveyard

During the burial and while at the graveyard, refrain from vain talk, and utilize this occasion for reflection and remembrance of Allah (SWT)

Accompany the janazah and participate in the burial only for the sake of Allah (SWT), and for seeking His pleasure. This should never be done just because you knew the deceased or to please the family of the deceased.

Women visiting the graveyard should be dressed in the proper Islamic manner, without displaying themselves and without makeup and perfume.

As in all situations, men and women should avoid mixing while at the graveyard.

Do not smoke in the graveyard.

Visiting the Graves

Visiting the graves is recommended. The Messenger of Allah (S) said:

"I had prohibited you from visiting the graves, (now), visit them, since this reminds you of the Hereafter." [Muslim]

When visiting the graves, the Muslim should say what the Prophet (S) used to say when visiting Al-Baqi' (the graveyard of Al-Madinah):

"Peace be upon you, dwellers of these graves of the Muslims and the believers. We will join you when Allah wills. You are our predecessors and we will be your followers. We ask Allah's forgiveness for us and for you. O Allah, forgive them and have mercy on them." [Muslim]

Women are prohibited to frequently visit the graves. The Messenger of Allah (S) said:

"Allah's curse be upon the women that (frequently) visit the graves and illuminate them." [At-Tirmidhi and Al-Hakim]

It is permissible for women to infrequently visit the graves. This is based on the saying of Aishah (R) when she was asked about it: "Yes, the Messenger of Allah (S) had prohibited visiting of the graves, later, he permitted it." [Al-Hakim, Al-Baihaqi]