Zanbal – Visiting the Graves of the Righteous

Nurulain Wolhuter tells of how visiting the righteous dead is a blessed act for those who seek to make their hearts alive.


The place is Zanbal, the resting place of the Ba‘alawi family of descendants of the Prophet in Tarim, Yemen. The time is after asr. The sun is beating on the white sand that cushions the shoe-less feet of the visitors that silently wind their way through the cemetery – shoe-less out of respect for the righteous occupants of the graves, and also in order to receive the healing that the sand is said to provide. The sky is clear and silent, a regal reminder of the power of its Creator. The scent of perfume effuses the air, and Tarimi-style wreaths left by previous visitors are dotted around the graves.

The visitors stop first to greet Sayyid Muhammad al-Faqih al-Muqaddam and then his son, Ahmad. They read Sura Ya Sin quietly and make supplication. For newcomers, a brief biography of al-Faqih al-Muqaddam is read. Born in Tarim in 574 AH, he founded the Ba‘alawi sufi order by drawing together the paths of Shaykh Abu Madyan and Shaykh Abd al-Qadir al-Jaylani, and the way of his forefathers. (Buxton, Imams of the Valley) Tears start to well from the intensity of the experience of proximity to souls of this stature, as the visitors make their way to the graves of other great saints, like Imam al-Aydarus al-Akbar (born in Tarim in 811 AH). Known as the “sufi of his time,” he contributed significantly to the development of the order. (Buxton)

Visiting the graves of these righteous people is a truly blessed experience. Our standard-bearer, the Beloved of Allah, Allah bless him and give him peace, used to visit graves. It is narrated that he visited the grave of his mother and he wept, and moved others around him to tears, and said, “I sought permission from my Lord to beg forgiveness for her but it was not granted to me, and I sought permission to visit her grave and it was granted to me. So visit the graves, for that makes you mindful of death.” (Muslim) It is also narrated from Ibn Mas‘ud (with a weak chain) that the Messenger of Allah, Allah bless him and give him peace, said, “I used to forbid you to visit the graves, but now visit them, for they will draw your attention away from this world and remind you of the Hereafter.” (Sunan Ibn Majah)

In addition to drawing one closer to Allah and reminding one of the after-life, other blessings also flow from such a visit. Ibn al-Juruzi said that supplications are answered at the graves of the righteous, on known conditions. And Imam Abu Bakr Ahmad ibn Ali al-Baghdadi said (with a chain of transmission to Imam Shafi‘i) that Imam Shafi‘i said: “Indeed, I took blessings with Abu Hanifa and I came to his grave every day, visiting, and when a need befell me I prayed two rakat and came to his grave and asked Allah Most High for the need [while there] with him, and it wasn’t long before it was met.”

The visit culminates at the grave of Imam al-Haddad (born in Subayr in 1004 AH). Despite becoming blind at the age of four, he was a devoted caller to Allah. He used his many litanies and poems in aid of this cause, and became known as the mujaddid (renewer) of the 12th century AH, Allah have mercy on him. (Buxton)

Here, the visitors’ souls unite in chanting the verses the Imam left for posterity. Verses that continue to inspire thousands to this day, :

يا عالم السر منا لا تهتك الستر عنا
وعافنا واعف عنا و كن لنا حيث كنا

O Knower of our secrets, do not remove (your) protective veil from us;

Exempt us, forgive us, and – wherever we are – be there for us.

The heart is soft there, open and vulnerable, and those who have visited will always remain somehow at one with it. As a lovely Tarimi lady put it: They’re alive in their graves and they hear you, and if you love them, they love you.

For authoritative and established fatwas and arguments on the practice of visiting graves, see Nuh Ha Mim Keller, Reliance of the Traveller g.5.8; g.5.9;
نماذج من أدلة أهل السنة والجماعة في بعض المسائل التي يتعرض لها المبتدعة إعداد لجنة بدارالمصطفى .

Should We Visit the Grave for the First 40 Days After the Burial?

Answered by Ustadh Salman Younas

Question: Assalam aleykum

Is there a ruling or recommendation to visit the grave for the first 40 days after the burial?

We have observed growing up that someone from the family should visit the grave daily for the first 40 days.

Answer: assalamu alaykum

I have not come across any specific tradition or ruling concerning visiting the grave for forty days following the burial.

If it is done with the belief that it is a specifically established religious practice, then it would be considered blameworthy. However, if there is no specific religious intention behind it, it would be permissible.

I should point out that even if your family are performing such a practice with the belief that it is a specifically established religious practice, there are still guidelines concerning correcting them. One does not, for example, seek to argue with them in a manner that proves harmful and of no benefit. For more on this, please see:

The Criteria of Enjoining Good and Forbidding Evil

[Ustadh] Salman Younas

Checked and approved by Shaykh Faraz Rabbani

Ustadh Salman Younas graduated from Stony Brook University with a degree in Political Science and Religious Studies. After studying the Islamic sciences online and with local scholars in New York, Ustadh Salman moved to Amman. There he studies Islamic law, legal methodology, belief, hadith methodology, logic, Arabic, and tafsir.

Do Seeking Intercession (Tawassul), Visiting Shrines, and Other Popular Practices Have a Basis in Our Religion?

Answered by Shaykh Faraz Rabbani

Question: As salam alaykum,

Many people go to a tomb of a saint and ask for a child or a job. Some may even prostrate in its direction. Is it tawassul? Is building a shrine over a grave ok? Can the saint help from his grave? What is the meaning of calling out a saint?

Answer: Walaikum assalam,

I pray this finds you in the best of health and spirits.

Tawassul itself is making dua to Allah Most High, Himself, through the means (wasila) of one of rank and regard with Him—such as the Prophet (peace and blessings be upon him). Its basis is from the Qur’an itself, from Allah’s call to, “Seek a means (wasila) to Him.” [Qur’an, 5.35] And it is established from a number of hadiths of the Prophet (peace and blessings be upon him), including the “Hadith of the Blind Man.”

Shaykh Nuh Keller writes:

Tirmidhi relates, through his chain of narrators from ‘Uthman ibn Hunayf, that a blind man came to the Prophet (Allah bless him and give him peace) and said, “I’ve been afflicted in my eyesight, so please pray to Allah for me.” The Prophet (Allah bless him and grant him peace) said: “Go make ablution (wudu), perform two rak’as of prayer, and then say:

اللَّهُمَّ إِنِّي أَسْأَلُكَ وَأَتَوَجَّهُ إِلَيْكَ بِنَبِيِّكَ مُحَمَّدٍ نَبِيِّ الرَّحْمَةِ ، يَا مُحَمَّدُ إِنِّي تَوَجَّهْتُ بِكَ إِلَى رَبِّي فِي حَاجَتِي هَذِهِ فَتُقْضَى لِي ، اللَّهُمَّ شَفِّعْهُ فِيَّ

“Oh Allah, I ask You and turn to You through my Prophet Muhammad, the Prophet of mercy; O Muhammad (Ya Muhammad), I seek your intercession with my Lord for the return of my eyesight [and in another version: “for my need, that it may be fulfilled. O Allah, grant him intercession for me”].”

The Prophet (Allah bless him and give him peace) added, “And if there is some need, do the same.” See the full Answer here: Tawassul: Supplicating Allah through an Intermediary

The Other Issues Mentioned

As for the other issues mentioned, we have to distinguish between what is soundly established from Prophetic teachings, as understood by mainstream scholars—as represented by the four schools of Islamic law (fiqh)—and popular practices that may mix sound and unsound matters. This includes visiting graves (a recommended sunna) itself, as opposed to some questionable practices that may be found in some contexts.

Please see:

The Loss of Meaning: The Destruction of Muslim Holy Sites

Libyan Graves – Shaykh Musa Furber

Is It Permissible to Make Tawassul Through Awliya (Saints)?

Prostrating to Other Than Allah

Is it permissible to erect gravestones at graves for identification?

The Ruling on Women Visiting Graves and Etiquettes of Visiting

Women Visiting Graveyards & Donating Reward to the Deceased

Can the Dead Hear Us?
Manners of Visiting the Messenger of Allah (Peace and Blessings Be Upon Him)

Supplicating Through an Intermediary and Calling the Prophet “Master”

Faraz Rabbani

How Do We Deal With the Death of a Loved One?

Answered by Shaykh Faraz Rabbani

Question: My grandmother is about to die, it seems. How does one deal with death? What can I do for her?

Answer: Walaikum assalam,


1. Patience,

2. Submission to the Divine Will,

3. Reflection on the fleetingness of live,

4. Taking admonition for one’s own situation.

Shaddad ibn Aws reported that the Prophet (Allah bless him and give him peace) said, “The intelligent is one who controls his lower self and works for that which comes after death. The stupid is one who follows his caprice and vainly hopes that his desires will be fulfilled by Allah. ” (al-Tirmidhi)

Abu Hurayra reported that the Messenger of Allah (Allah bless him and give him peace) said, “Race to good deeds! What do you await but delayed poverty, overbearing wealth, debilitating illness, senility, unexpected death or the Dajjal? Or are you waiting for unseen evil, or the Final Hour? And the Final Hour will be bitter indeed and terrible. ” (al-Tirmidhi)


1. Making sure the dead person’s estate is correctly divided according to the Shariah AFTER all debts have been cleared.

2. If the person is expected to have missed fard fasts or prayers, their family (or friends) should make expiatory payments (fidya) to compensate for this, according to the rules of fiqh. [Can be explained upon request.]

3. Reciting a lot of Qur’an oneself (and family and friends) and donating the reward to the deceased. One may not pay Qur’an reciters for this; it would be sinful and without reward.

4. Making a lot of dua for them.

Malik ibn Rabi’a al-Sa`idi said, “Once as we sat with the Messenger of Allah (Allah bless him and give him peace), a man from the Bani Salama came and asked, ‘O Messenger of Allah, is there any goodness I can show my parents after they die?’ He said, ‘Yes . Praying for them, seeking forgiveness for them, fulfilling the pledges they made, keeping ties with their relatives, and honouring their friends. ” (Abu Dawud)

Finally, we should learn the manners and ways of the Prophet (Allah bless him & give him peace) and live them:

Sayyiduna Abu Hurayra reported that the Messenger of Allah (upon him be blessing & peace) said, “My entire community will enter Janna except those who refuse. ”

He was asked, “O Messenger of Allah, who are those who refuse?

He said, “Those who obey me will enter the Garden and those who disobey me refuse. ” (al-Bukhari)

 This is a beautiful answer from a great wali:  

How the living may help the dead

from The Lives of Man, by Imam ‘Abdallah Ibn ‘Alawi al-Haddad, translated by Dr. Mostafa al-Badawi, Madina

Praying for the dead, asking forgiveness for them, and giving charity on their behalf are some of the things God causes the dead in their graves to benefit from and be protected by. There are many hadiths about this, and many fine and virtuous people have witnessed it in their dreams . Sa’d ibn ‘Ubada, may God be pleased with him, once said to the Messenger of God, may peace and blessings be upon him: ‘My mother’s soul departed suddenly, and had she been able to speak she would have given alms . Would it bring benefit to her if I did it on her behalf?’ ‘Yes!’ he replied . So he dug a well (for people to take water from) and said: ‘This is on behalf of Sa’d’s mother. ‘

And another man said: ‘O Messenger of God! My parents have died; is there anything left with which I may be good to them?’ And he replied: ‘There are four things: praying and asking forgiveness for them, carrying out their promises, being good to their friends, and giving proper attention to those kinship bonds which could have only be attended to by them. ‘

And the Prophet said, may peace and blessings be upon him: ‘Were it not for the living the dead would have been doomed’; in other words, because of the prayers and requests for forgiveness and for mercy which they receive.

And he said, may blessings and peace be upon him: ‘My Nation is a nation covered with mercy. Its members enter their graves with sins like unto the mountains, and leave their graves having been forgiven because the living have asked forgiveness for the dead. ‘

It is related that the gifts of alms, prayers, and Qur’anic recitation sent by the living to the dead reach them carried by the angels on plates of light, and adorned with silk handkerchiefs, and they say to them: ‘This is a gift from so-and-so’, and in this way they find joy and delight.

A dead man was once seen in a dream and, upon being questioned about his state, said that he had been greeted by an angel who attempted to burn his face with a flame held in his hand. But one of the living said: ‘God have mercy on so-and-so!’ -and the flame went out.

One of the greatest things which one may offer to the dead is to recite Qur’an and send on the reward for it . This is of great benefit and baraka. The Muslims have agreed on this everywhere throughout the ages, the majority of scholars and virtuous people have recommended it, and there are hadiths to confirm this. Although, these hadiths have weak chains of transmission, there is a principle, as the hadith scholar al-Suyuti (may God show him His mercy) has said, that: ‘Weak hadiths may be acted upon when they indicate acts of goodness. ‘ And these are indeed acts of goodness.

All the Qur’an is blessed and beneficial, but the most beneficial thing to offer to the dead is Surat al-Ikhlas eleven times, and this has been seen in many blessed dreams . Each person should recite this noble sura the said number of times, either each night, each day, or more, or less, or even only on Thursday night, and offer this reward to his parents, teachers and all those who had rights over him.

He must not forget his dead ones when he prays, asks forgiveness, or gives alms, lest he in turn be forgotten after his death, for the one who remembers is remembered, and the one who forgets is forgotten . Benevolence goes ahead of you, and God allows not the reward of those who have done good to be wasted. ( 18:30 )

Visiting Graves

You should know that it is recommended to visit graves . The Messenger of God, may blessings and peace be upon him, permitted this after having at first forbidden it . It contains benefits both for the living visitor and the dead person who receives the visit . The Prophet said, may peace and blessings be upon him: ‘Visit graves, for they remind you of death . ‘ And: ‘I used to forbid you to visit graves, but now you should visit them . They render one able to do without the things of the world, and remind one of the Hereafter . ‘ He also said: ‘No man visits the grave of his brother and sits by it but that he (the dead man) finds solace in this, having his spirit restored to him until the visitor departs . ‘ And he said: ‘A dead (person) in his grave is never more comforted than when those that he loved in the world pay him a visit. ‘

When a visitor enters the cemetery or passes it by he should say: ‘Peace be on you, O place of believers. We are granted respite until tomorrow. That which you were promised has come to you, and we will, God willing, rejoin you. You are our predecessors and we are your followers. I ask God to give us and you well-being. O God, forgive us and them!

It is recommended to visit the cemetery on Thursday night, Friday, Friday night until sunrise, and on Monday, for it is said—and this is supported by various narrations—that the spirits of the dead return to their graves at those times.

The visitor must ask for forgiveness and mercy for them, read whatever Qur’an he can and make over the reward to them; he should remember that soon he will go to the same end, and learn the lessons to be drawn from their condition.

When he visits the graves of his parents, relatives, or anyone else who had rights over him, he must sit with unhurried serenity, pray for them, and ask abundantly for forgiveness, for they rejoice at this, and are glad. When he visits the graves of righteous people he should pray in abundance, for prayers are answered at many such places, as has often been experienced. The tomb of Imam Musaal-Kazim, the son of Imam Ja’faral-Sadiq, is known in Baghdad has the ‘Proven Medicine’, that is, for prayers to be answered and worries to be relieved, and so is the tomb of Ma’ruf al-Karkhi, also in Baghdad. Some of the noble house of the ‘Alawi Sayyids used to sit at the tomb of our master al-Faqih al-Muqaddam for such long periods, in the heat of the sun, that sweat could have been wrung from their clothes, while they, because of their profound concentration in prayer, were unaware of this. This is reported of Shaykh ‘Abdallah ibn ‘Ali and others.

Source: Imam ‘Abdallah ibn’Al-awial-Haddad, Sabil al-iddikarwa ‘li ‘tibar bimay amurru bi’l insan min al-a’mar,( The Lives of Man), translated by Dr. Mostafa al-Badawi, The Quilliam Press, London, England, 1411/1991, p. 45-48

And Allah knows best.

Faraz Rabbani.