Advice for Visiting the Graveyard

Advice for Visiting the Graveyard

Islam recommends us to visit the graveyard. But why?

The Prophet (peace be upon him) said: “I had prohibited you from visiting the graves, but now I encourage you to visit them, because they are a reminder of the Hereafter.” Sunan Abî Dâwûd (3235) and Musnad Ahmad (23005)]

The reason a Muslim is encouraged to visit the graveyard is to be reminded of the Hereafter. By seeing the deceased – by seeing what we are destined to come to – we are given a strong reminder. This is especially the case when we realize that for each and every grave, we do not know whether it is one of the gardens of Paradise or a pit from the pits of Hell.

Our purpose for visiting the graves is not to provide any comfort or benefit to the deceased. The dead get nothing out of our visit. As for our supplications to Allah to forgive them and to reward them, these reach Allah regardless of where we offer those supplications.

It is not from the Islamic etiquettes of visiting the graveyard to mention the deceased by name. However, there is nothing wrong with reminding oneself of their identities to make the impact of the visit all the stronger. There can be no doubt that those people whose lives and circumstances we are personally acquainted with have the greatest impact on us.

When the Prophet (peace be upon him) visited the graves, he would stand at the head of them and say a general supplication like: "Peace be upon you, believing and Muslims denizens. May Allah the first and last of us. Soon, we shall join you." [Sahîh Muslim] Then he would move on.

The benefit for the person who visits the graveyard is to be reminded of the Hereafter. There are three dimensions to this reminder:

1. To be reminded of the state of the person in the grave. The one who is buried in the grave is either in a garden from the gardens of Paradise of a pit from the pits of Hell. This is why one of the things the Prophet (peace be upon him) would say upon visiting the graveyard is another general statement: "You have received what you have been promised." In this way, he reminded himself that the person in the grave has absolute certainty of Allah's promise – certainty born of firsthand experience.

We should be aware that in life, the person who is now in the grave had been concerned with his or her personal affairs, keeping private matters private and safeguarding his or her secrets. However, after death, others have started to spend the wealth of the deceased. In their hands is what used to be the deceased's property – even that person's clothing is now being worn by someone else. This is also a poignant reminder to the living.

In life, we are afraid to be alone. We need the support of others. We can consider how the deceased is alone in the great unknown that is beyond death. The company of the dead are the dead, all those who are preoccupied with their own sins and who do not exchange visits.

2. To be reminded of the family the deceased left behind. The deceased might have been the breadwinner of family, someone they looked up to and depended upon. He has now moved on without a trace. They still have their expenses and their needs. Their sustenance still comes to them. In this way, we are reminded that truly Allah alone is the Provider upon whom all of us depend. He is the Living, the Self-Subsisting, Eternal. Everything else must sooner or later come to an end.

3. To be reminded that the best state in which to die is where other Muslims give us our burial rites. We will be washed and shrouded. We will have our funeral prayers offered for us, and we shall be buried.

Then, maybe, someone will visit our graves and likewise be reminded about the transience of life and the goal of the Hereafter.