Losing dear ones is a difficult experience. However, death in Islam does not result in the end of a human being. Rather it is moving on to the next realm of life in which the soul of the deceased can fully perceive what is happening around it. This is more so for a pious person whose soul is sent to waadi al-salam (valley of peace and bliss). The bereaved long to meet the soul of the departed one or to at least see him/her in dreams. Since this is not always possible, they try to do something for the spirits of the dear ones and keep in touch that way. The deceased, on the other hand, also wants to be remembered after death.
To keep the relation between the dead and the living members of family and friends, Islam has recommended several deeds to be performed by bereaved believers. Several Hadiths from Ma‘sumin (a) encourage us to visit cemeteries where believers have been interned and to remember them in our prayers, pilgrimage and charity. The Holy Prophet (s) advised that, “surely the gift for the dead is Du‘as and Istighfar.” Imam Ja‘far al-Sadiq has said, “Prayers, fasting, Hajj, charity, good deeds and supplications reach the dead in his grave and reward is written for [both] the doer and the dead.” The Imam encourages all Muslims to carry out good deeds for the dead and has promised manifold rewards. He has also said, “Whosoever among the Muslims does a good act for a dead person, Allah rewards him many times and Allah (also) benefits the dead with it.”
In this brief write-up we quote a few Hadith on the merits of visiting and remembering the dead and explain the etiquette of interacting with them. May the Almighty accept this small effort and inspire those around us not to forget us in their prayers and good deeds after our departure.
Richmond Hill, ON, Canada. Jumadi al-Thaniyyah 1433/April 2012.
Merits of visiting the gravesite of believers
Holy Prophet (s) said:
One who shows mercy on the inhabitants of graves, will be saved from the Fire and will enter Paradise whilst he is laughing.
Imam Amirul Mu’minin Ali (a) said:
Visit your deceased, for they feel happy with your visitation. Ask for your needs at the grave of your father and your mother after having prayed for them.
Imam al-Sadiq (a) advised visiting cemeteries of believers and said, “By Allah, they (i.e. the dead) know about it and are happy with your visit.” He also said:
The (dead) perceive your company and when you leave them they experience loneliness.
Someone asked Imam al-Sadiq (a) is it possible to pray for the dead? He said:
The dead rejoices being pitied and prayers of forgiveness for him, just as a living person rejoices upon receiving gifts.
Etiquette of visiting the dead and rewards of recitations
Islam is a complete way of life. It guides Muslims in all aspects of life and recommends beautiful etiquettes (adaab) of interacting with others, including the dead. Here are a few recommendations which believers are urged to follow. As for the recitations mentioned here, one can recite one, a few, or all of them, depending on time available and spiritual mindset.
We suggest that you at least say one or two of these recitations on every visit, and try to cover all of them over time so as to derive numerous benefits promised for the believers.
1) It is recommended (mustahab) to visit the graves of Muslim men and women
2) It is recommended to plead for Divine mercy and forgiveness for the dead
3) It is recommended to ask for your needs at the graves of your parents
4) It is recommended to visit the cemetery on Monday and Thursday afternoon at ‘Asr time and on Saturday mornings. (Bibi Fatima (a) visited the martyrs of Uhud, especially Hadrat Hamza, on Saturday mornings).
5) Upon entering the cemetery greet the dead by praying for the Divine mercy and remember that we will all face death sooner or later:
Peace be with you, O the inhabitants of the grave amongst the believers and Muslims. May the Allah have mercy on those before you and those who follow you! If Allah wishes, we shall (soon) join you.
6) When reciting Surahs from the Qur’an and pleading for Divine mercy and forgiveness for the deceased place your hand on the grave and face Qiblah.
7) Recite Suratul Qadr (No. 97) seven times. (Imam Ali al-Ridha (a) said, “any servant (of Allah) when visiting the grave of a believer recites Inna anzalnahu fi laylatil qadri … seven times, Allah will forgive him and the inhabitants of the grave.)
8) Recite Suratul Ikhlas (No. 112) eleven times. (The Holy Prophet (s) said, ‘one who passes by a cemetery [of Muslims] and recites Qul huwalllahu ahad . . . eleven times and gifts its reward to the deceased, he (i.e. the reciter) is granted a reward equal to the number of the dead.)
9) Recite Surat Yaasin (No. 36). (Holy Prophet (s) has been attributed saying, “one who recites Surat Yaasin in a cemetery Allah will lighten (the punishment) on them (i.e. the dwellers of the graves) on that day and reward him (i.e. the reciter) with good deeds equal to number of the dead in the cemetery.)
10) It is also recommended to recite: (a) 3 x Suratul Fatiha, (b) 3 x Suratul Falaq, (c) 3 x Suratun Naas, (d) 3 x Aayatul Kursi, (e) and/or any passage from the Holy Qur’an.
11) According to a Hadith attributed to the Holy Prophet (s) and reported by Ibn ‘Abbas, reciting Suratul Mulk on the grave will save the dead from the punishment of the grave.
12) Recite a two short raka‘at prayer on the grave. (The Holy Prophet (s) once passed by a grave of a person who was buried the previous day, and his family weeping. Observing this he said, “Surely, two short raka‘at (raka‘atan khafifatan) of prayer is dearer to the inhabitant of this grave than your world in its entirety.”)
Wamaa tawfeeqi illlaa billaah – my success is with non-other than Allah.
1. Al-Akhlaq wa al-Aadab al-Islamiyyah compiled by Hay’at Muhammad al-Amin, Qum: 2006
2. Abu Muhammad Zaynu’l ‘Abidin, Manifestations of the All-Merciful, Stanmore: 2005.