|Ahl as Sunnah vs the "Salafi" Movement - Wahhabis Claim: Anyone Visiting a Grave is a Disbeliever|
|Radd al Salafiyya - Refutations|
|Written by Al-Shaykh Jamil Effendi al-Siqdi al-Zahawi|
11: Wahhabis Claim: Anyone Visiting a Grave is a Disbeliever
Should one inquire as to the nature of Wahhabi doctrine and be curious as to what its objective is, the answer to both questions is easily summed up. It is their declaring all Muslims unbelievers. This answer is a sufficient definition of their entire school of thought. For the one who looks closely into the ideas they introduce will find that in each question that school strives to declare all Muslims unbelievers, even though God Himself is pleased with Islam as their religion:
they have declared Muslims unbelievers for their assertion that God the Exalted transcends corporeality;
they have declared Muslims unbelievers for their acceptance of Consensus is unbelief;
they have declared Muslims unbelievers for their unquestioning emulation (taqlid) of the legal rulings concerning the faith made by the Imams, the mujtahids of the four schools of Islamic law;
they have declared Muslims unbelievers for their seeking the Prophet's intercession (istishfa`) after his death and using him as a means to God (tawassul);
they have declared Muslims unbelievers for their visitation of graves.
To anyone who has eyes to see, it is obvious that a visitor to a grave either aims at seeking intercession, using as means to God those buried there and seeking to be blessed by visiting them, as in the case of visitation of places where prophets and saints are buried; or, on the other hand, the purpose may be consideration of the departed folk in order to strengthen feelings of humility in the heart and attain reward by reading the opening chapter of the Qur'an and asking God to forgive them, as when one visits the graves of all Muslims. Or, yet again, the aim of visitation may be remembrance of relatives and the departed beloved and visiting those whom fate has snatched away, of early making their graves their abodes. He remembers that they left him never to return again, feeling grief at their leave, his mind's tongue moving to express itself in lines like the following:
O thou departing hence in pomp and power,
Tarry a while, for thy ransom is pomp and power.
Do not make haste, but walk humbly,
For thou art leaving never to return again.
His sensibilities impel him to visit their graves, pausing at the traces of their tombs to shed sad tears over their remains and express their sorrow in lines like the following:
Gone are those dear to me! and I remain, like a lone sword.
How many a brother dearly beloved
I laid in his grave by my own hand!
There is not in any of these practices one thing which calls for labeling as an unbeliever a Muslim bearing witness that there is no god but God and Muhammad is the Messenger of God. I do not think that even the uneducated and gullible among people, not to mention the learned person versed in Islamic Law, is ever so impelled by his ignorance as to intend, by his visitation of a grave, to worship it; nor that he would ever believe that the grave itself accomplishes his need and creates what he wants.
The Prophet's Order to Visit Graves
The Prophet said: "I forbade you in the past to visit graves, but visit them. (For visiting graves promotes renunciation of this World and remembrance of the Hereafter)."ft1 As for travels to visit graves, the ulama have had different opinions about it. Some of them make it illicit (haram) giving as evidence the words of the Prophet: "Do not travel except to three mosques: the Masjid al-Haram, this Masjid here in Madina, and Masjid al-Aqsa (in Jerusalem)." This is related by Bukhari, Muslim and al-Tirmidhi. Al-Qadi Husayn al-Marwazi (d. 462H) and al-Qadi `Iyad (d. 544H) have opted to forbid travel for visitation to gravesft1 while others have permitted it, among them Imam al-Haramayn al-Juwayni and others. The proof they adduce for its permissibility is the Prophet's statement: "I have forbidden you in the past to visit graves, but visit them." They said the Prophet has commanded us in this hadith to visit graves, and that he did not differentiate between graves that are near and graves that are far and to visit which travel becomes necessary.
As for the hadith: "Do not travel except to three mosques..." he only forbade frequency of travel to mosques not to places of religious visitation, just as is clear from his words. He only forbade frequency of travel to mosques because one mosque is like the other and no city is devoid of a mosque; so there is no need for a journey. This is not the case with graves that are places of visitation. They are not equal in blessing just as the hierarchical standing of their inhabitants differs in the view of God.
Without doubt, the exception expressed: "...except for three mosques" has several ramifications. Its meaning may be either the remote genus as when one says: "Do not travel anywhere except to three mosques." According to this meaning it is prohibited to travel anywhere other than what is expressed in the exception: this means that travel is illicit even for jihad, trading and commerce, gaining livelihood, acquiring knowledge and for pleasure and so forth. This cannot be the case. As for the proximate genus the meaning is: do not undertake travel to any mosque except to three. This is the correct interpretation. The hadith is specific in forbidding travel to all mosques except three. Thus, it is evidence for the permissibility for travel to visit graves.
`Umar, may God be pleased with him, after the conquest of Damascus said to Ka`b al-Ahbar: "O Ka`b, do you wish to come with us to Madina to visit the Messenger of God?" Ka`b answered: "Yes, O Commander of the Faithful." Similarly, we have evidence of Bilal's coming from Damascus to Madina to visit the grave of the Prophet. This took place during the caliphate of `Umar.ft1
Among those who say that traveling to visit graves is permissible we find Imam al-Nawawi, al-Qastallani, and Imam al-Ghazali. The latter said in his Ihya' `Ulum al-Din after mentioning the hadith: "Do not travel...": "The gist of the matter is that some ulama use it as evidence for prohibiting travel to places of religious visitation and pilgrimage. It is clear to me that this is not the case. On the contrary, visitation to graves is commanded by the hadith: "I have forbidden you in the past to visit graves, but visit them." The hadith only mentions the prohibition of visitation to other mosques than the three Mosques because of the likeness of one mosque to another. Furthermore, there is no city in which there is no mosque. Hence, there is no need to travel to another mosque. As for places of religious visitation, the baraka of visiting them varies to the measure of their rank with God."
Touching on the issue of whether dead people hear or not, our view is as follows. It is well known that hearing in living people is actually a property of spirit (al-Ruh). The ear is only an organ or rather instrument of hearing, nothing more. Since the spirit of the dead person does not become extinct with the extinction of his body, the belief that the spirit hears is not farfetched. One cannot claim that it does not hear due to loss of the organ of hearing by reason of the body's perishing. For we say that it sometimes hears even without that organ just as in visions. Thus, the spirit talks and hears in its sleep just as it sees in dreams without mediation of an instrument, that is, an organ of sensation. Then, is it too much for the rational person, after experiencing sound and sight in one's sleep by the sole means of the spirit and without the slightest participation of the organs of sound and sight, to believe that after the spirit separates from the body it hears and sees even without the organs of sound and sight?
Yet and still, the Wahhabis do not extend their denial that the dead can hear to martyrs because God says: "Do not consider those who are slain for God's sake dead, but they are alive receiving sustenance with their Lord" (3:169). There is no doubt that the rank of prophets is not beneath the rank of martyrs: they, like them, are alive with their Lord, receiving sustenance. It has been narrated that the Prophet said: "I passed by Musa on the night of my Journey while he was praying in his grave."ft1 And on the authority of Anas the Prophet said: "Prophets are alive in their graves [praying]."ft1 Abu Ya`la al-Mawsili and al-Bazzar relate this. On the authority of Ibn `Umar the Prophet said: "I saw Jesus, Moses, and Abraham, on them be peace." This is related by Bukhari, Muslim and Imam Malik in his Muwatta'. Abu Bakr Ahmad Ibn Husayn al-Bayhaqi recorded in Shu`ab al-Iman on the authority of Abu Hurayra that the Prophet said: "Whoever sends blessings on me at my grave, I will hear him, and whoever sends blessings on me from afar, I am informed about it."ft1 Therefore, if the premise prophets are alive is affirmed, then, one must also affirm the premise prophets can hear; for hearing is a concomitant property of life.
It is incorrect to invoke the fact that since the life of prophets and martyrs in the barzakh or "isthmus life" is different from the life of this world they cannot hear. Even if we grant that the two lives are each of a different kind, nevertheless affirming "They are alive" with any kind of life is sufficient to establish that they hear and that their tawassul and supplication for help follows as a matter of course.
Finally, the organ of hearing itself, in prophets, is not voided by death: for their bodies do not suffer the corruption of the grave as we know from the noble hadith: "God has forbidden the earth to consume the bodies of Prophets."ft1 If we were to slacken the reins and say it is true that the bodies of prophets undergo corruption in their graves as the Wahhabis claim, having already affirmed that they are alive and receiving sustenance (3:169), then, this would simply count as affirmation that they hear even though they lack an organ for this purpose according to the view we expounded above.
We have abundant evidence in hadith which provide evidence that other than prophets and martyrs among the dead can hear. Cited by Bukhari and Muslim and the narrators of the Sunan is the hadith transmitted on the authority of Ibn `Umar who said: "The Messenger of God spoke to the People (buried) in the Well saying: "Have you found out that what your Lord had promised you is true?" then someone exclaimed: "Are you calling out to the dead!" The Prophet replied: "You do not hear better than they do, except they do not respond."" And in Bukhari and Muslim we find the hadith of Anas on the authority of Abu Talha that the Prophet called to them: "O Abu Jahl Ibn Hisham! O Umayya Ibn Khalaf! O `Utba ibn Rabi`a! Have you not found out that what your Lord promised you is true? for I have found that what he has promised me is true." `Umar said to him: "O Messenger of God, how do you address bodies devoid of spirit?" The Prophet replied: "By Him Who holds my life in His Hands! You do not hear what I am saying to them better than they do." Similarly, it has been affirmed in Bukhari and Muslim on the authority of Anas that the Prophet said: "Surely, when the servant of God is placed in his grave and his companions in this life turn away from it, he hears the thumps of their sandaled feet."ft1
Abu Nu`aym Al-Isbahani has mentioned with his chain of transmission from `Ubayd Ibn Marzuq who said: "A woman of Madina, named Umm Mihjan, used to sweep the mosque, then she died. The Prophet was not told of this event. Thereafter, he passed over her grave and queried: "What is this?" Those present replied: "Umm Mihjan." He said: "The one who swept the mosque?" They answered: "Yes." Thereupon the people lined up and prayed for her. Then he addressed her: "Which work of yours did you find more favored?" They exclaimed: "O Messenger of God, can she hear you?" He replied: "You cannot hear better than she does." Then it is mentioned that she answered him: "Sweeping the mosque." The chain of transmission in this hadith is interrupted. There are others more like it.ft1
It is narrated concerning `A'isha, may God be pleased with her, when she heard the hadith about the dead hearing, she denied it and said: "How does the Prophet say something like that when God has said: "You cannot make those to hear who are in the graves" (35:22). While her opinion does not affirm the hearing of the dead as Ibn Taymiyya notes in his Legal Opinions (Fatawa) and in other places, we have no excuse for following it. For the question necessarily concerns a well-known matter of faith which no one has permission to deny. In fact `A'isha has also narrated that the Prophet said, as Ibn Rajab has noted in Ahwal al-Qubur: "Surely they know now that what I said to them is true." This narration of hers supports those which say that the dead hear, for if it is possible for a dead man to know, surely it is possible for him also to hear. Therefore, to affirm that they do know is necessarily also to affirm that they hear.
As for the Qur'anic verses: "You cannot make those who are in the graves hear" (35:22) and: "You cannot make the dead hear..." (27:80) there is no evidence in them for the denial of hearing in the case of the dead in the absolute sense, it is only evidence for denying hearing for those who benefit thereof.ft1 That is because what is meant by the phrase: "Those in the graves" in the first verse and by "the dead" in the second verse are the unbelievers, who are compared to the dead lying in their graves. Just as the dead do not hear with a beneficial kind of hearing -- that is, with a hearing made complete by the mutual exchange of address between the hearer and the speaker -- in the same way the unbelievers do not hear the warning signs that the Prophet addresses to them in a way that benefits them by guiding them to faith in God.
What otherwise confirms the above is that unqualified hearing is also an established attribute of the unbelievers: they hear what the Prophet said to them; but they derived no benefit from it. This is confirmed by God's saying: "If God had recognized in them any good, He would, indeed, have made them hear: if He made them hear (as it stands), they would turn away" (8:23). Hence, what is meant by "hear" when He says "He would indeed have made them hear" is a hearing which brings benefit to the hearer and when He says: "If He made them hear (as it stands)" He means hearing which carries no benefit. If this were otherwise, the sense of the passage would be corrupt inasmuch as the verse would, then, be a syllogism where the middle term (He makes them hear) is reiterated; the end result would be: "If God had recognized any good in them, they would have turned away." This conclusion is absurd and contradictory, as you can see, since it would entail that the turning back take place -- which is evil -- despite the fact that God recognized good in them. God's recognition would be, in that case, a misrecognition with respect to the true state of the unbelievers -- Exalted is God high above such a possibility.
The above cited two verses point to a further meaning: that what is meant by the hearing negated in both cases is the hearing connected with the faculty of guidance just as the context of the two verses indicate. The meaning then is that you do not guide the unbelievers by yourself, O Muhammad! because they are like dead men and that you cannot cause the dead to hear by yourself. The only agent causing them to hear is God as the Qur'an says: "You do not guide whom you like but God guides whom he wishes" (28:56).
One does not say: "Just as the one making the dead to hear in reality is God, likewise, the one making the living to hear is in reality none other than He." For God is the Creator of all actions whatsoever, just as the true doctrine on the matter teaches. What, then, is the motivation for illustrating God's agency with the hearing of the dead? What we say is this:
1- The fact that God alone is the one making the dead to hear is a matter admitting of no ambiguity even for a blind man. As for His being the one causing the living to hear in reality, it is not said like that.ft1 This is because one might falsely suppose that the Agent causing hearing in the one spoken to is the actual speaker, on the grounds that the hearing of the one spoken to directly follows the external voice issuing from the mouth of the person who addresses him. Hence to exemplify God's agency with the hearing of the living is improper. To give an example requires that its content be unambiguously clear; this is not the case in the category of living persons as we have explained.ft1
2- Since the unbelievers were alive, to illustrate the fact that the Prophet cannot make them hear by comparing them to the living whom the Prophet cannot cause to hear comes close to fashioning a comparison between a thing and itself, as we find in that given by the poet who said:
Surrounded as we are with water,
We sit like people encircled by water.
The Wahhabis respond, with regard to the hadith of the People of the Well, that the hearing experienced by the dead on the occasion when the Prophet questioned them was a miracle proper only to him. It does not count as evidence, they claim, that these dead were also capable of hearing the speech of someone else. The answer to this is that the miracle is not a miracle unless its manifestation is a phenomenon experienced by other persons like the speaking of pebbles. The Companions were hearing the voice of the pebbles glorifying God while they were being held in the palm of the Prophet's hand.ft1 But it is impossible that the dead's hearing of the Prophet speaking to them be a miracle since it was not manifest to anyone but himself. Furthermore, the hadith reporting that the dead hear the thumping of sandaled feet (Bukhari and Muslim) contravenes such a phenomenon being a miracle in the case of the People of the Well. For it indicates that dead people also hear the talk of other people besides the Prophet.
The Wahhabis further respond that the object intended when the Prophet spoke to the dead was admonition of the living and not to cause an act of understanding on the part of the dead. The answer to this is that if the intended object of his speech was admonition of the living, why did `Umar ask: "How do you speak to bodies devoid of spirit?" out of astonishment at his speaking to them? I do not believe that fatuousness has pushed the Wahhabis to the point of thinking that after almost three-quarters of a millennium they understand what the Prophet meant better than his Companion, `Umar. Besides, the answer the Prophet gave by itself constitutes denial that what he aimed at was admonition because he replied: "You do not hear better than they." This answer is obviously not suitable as an admonition. On the contrary, it is a clear rejection of `Umar's sense of farfetchedness in the Prophet's behavior and astonishment because of it.
The Wahhabis, finally, answer that the Prophet only spoke to the dead out of personal conviction that they hear. Thereafter, they claim, the two verses of the Qur'an were revealed to correct his belief. The response to this is that it is unallowable that the Prophet believed anything like that of his own accord. On the contrary, it came about necessarily in virtue of revelation and inspiration from his Lord. God said of him: "He does not speak of his own desire" (53:3). This is especially the case since he did not arrive at his knowledge of the matter by merely exercising his faculty of reason. Rather, it came about by way of revelation and inspiration as we have said.
One piece of evidence that indicates that God quickens the dead in their graves so that they hear is His statement retelling the avowal of those who said: "Our Lord, twice hast Thou put us to death and twice hast Thou quickened us" (40:11). For what is meant by the first putting to death is the putting to death before resting in the grave. What is meant in the case of the other is the putting to death after resting in the grave. If God did not give life in the graves a second time, it would be impossible to put to death a second time. The Wahhabis answer this by saying that the first putting to death is the state of nonexistence prior to creation and the second putting to death is after creation. In truth, this is amusing even for children because putting to death can take place only after the occurrence of life and there is no life prior to God's creation of life. As for their response that the first putting to death is the putting to death of people after their life in the world of atoms, it is weaker than the first answer. People in the world of atoms were no different than spirits which God created and asked: "Am I not your Lord? and they answered, saying: Yes!" (7:172). Moreover, the reader knows that death is defined as a separation of the soul from the body. Hence, there is no death prior to embodiment, although it is possible for God to annihilate spirits after creating them. But that has nothing to do with death as we have just defined it.
Finally, the Wahhabiyya usher forth evidence for the incapacity of dead people to hear on the basis of a legal ruling of the Shari`a that ulama apply in the case where a man performs certain acts using such words as: "If I address X, my wife is divorced" -- or: "my slave-girl is free." Now, if that man speaks to X after his death, then the divorce is invalid and the act of manumission null. They conclude that the basis of nullity and voidness is the fact that dead person lacks the faculty of hearing.
We refuse to grant that the basis of the ruling for the ulama is the absence of hearing on the part of the dead. On the contrary, they base themselves on what they know of custom, namely that it routinely makes the stipulating of oaths like the above, conditional on life. The whole benefit of speaking is the mutual exchange of communication, which does not place when one party of the communication is dead. Conversing with a dead person, therefore, does not qualify as speech only inasmuch as his death renders him powerless to respond -- not because he is powerless to hear.