Ziyarat al-Salihin

The following is the second in a series of 3 articles on the subject of Ziyarat or “Visitation”. The previous and next articles can be accessed from here:

  1. Ziyarat al-Qubur – Visiting the Graves
  2. Ziyarat al-Salihin – Visiting the Righteous
  3. Ziyarat al-Nabi ﷺ – Visiting the Prophet ﷺ

And success is from Allah and He is the Guide!


  •  Introduction
    • Imam ‘Abdullah al-Haddad on visiting the graves of the righteous
    • Khwaja Ala’uddin al-‘Attar on visiting the graves of the righteous
    • Dar al-Ifta al-Misriyyah on visiting graves of the Prophet’s household
    • Prophetic narration [hadith] on “Visiting Brothers (in faith)”
  • Intentions for Visiting the Righteous
  • Propriety of Visiting the Righteous
    • Mulla ‘Ali al-Qari (d. 1605)
    • Maulana Muhammad Yusuf Lebbai (d. 1887)
    • Imam Ahmad Rida Khan (d. 1921)
    • Shaykh Muzaffer Ozak al-Jerrahi (d. 1985)
  • Addendum: Praying Towards Tombs
  • Conclusion


Visiting the (tombs of the) righteous [ziyarat al-salihin]—especially that of the Prophets [anbiya], the Prophet’s household [ahl al-bayt] and the Saints [awliya Allah]—is a great Sunnah and a highly meritorious act that benefits one in the physical and spiritual domains.

» Imam ‘Abdullah al-Haddad on visiting the graves of the righteous

The noble sage Imam ‘Abdullah al-Haddad wrote:

When he visits the graves of righteous he should pray in abundance, for prayers are answered at many such places, as has often been experienced. The tomb of Imam Musa al-Kazim, the son of Imam Ja’far al-Sadiq, is known in Baghdad as 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 ‘Abdullah b. ‘Ali and others.

As for rubbing tombs and kissing them, these are distasteful practices which are to be discouraged. Even worse is the custom of circling around them.

Some have said that it is better, if possible, to stand facing the top of the [buried person’s] head. They claim that the dead are more aware of those who are before their faces, but God knows best.

—Imam ‘Abdallah ibn ‘Alawi al-Haddad, Sabil al-iddikar wa’l i’tibar bima yamurru 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

» Khwaja Ala’uddin al-‘Attar on visiting the graves of the righteous

Khwaja Ala’uddin al-Bukhari al-‘Attar has said on visiting the graves of the righteous:

  • The benefit of visiting the graves of your Shaykhs depends on the knowledge you have of them.
  • To be near the graves of pious people has a good influence, although to direct yourself to their souls is better and carries with it a higher spiritual influence. The Prophet ﷺ said, ‘Send prayers upon me wherever you are.’ This indicates that you can reach the Prophet ﷺ wherever you are, and it applies to His saints as well, because they take their power from the Prophet ﷺ.
  • The adab, or propriety, of visiting graves is to direct yourself to Allah and to make these souls your means [wasilah] to Allah Almighty and Exalted, humbling yourself to His Creation. You humble yourself externally to them and internally to Allah. To bow before human beings is not allowed unless you look on them as appearances of God. Then that humbleness will be not directed to them, but it will be directed to the One Who is appearing in them, and that is God.


» Dar al-Ifta al-Misriyyah on visiting graves of the Prophet’s household

The scholars at Dar al-Ifta al-Misriyyah have said about visiting the graves of the Prophet’s household in the following emphatic terms:

The graves most worthy of visiting—after that of the Prophet ﷺ—are the graves of his noble household. This is because visiting them and having affection for them shows devotion and maintains ties with the Messenger of Allah ﷺ. Allah, Most High, says: “Say (O Prophet ﷺ): ‘No reward do I ask of you for this except the love of those near of kin.’” [42:23]

Indeed, visiting their graves is better than visiting the graves of one’s deceased relatives. In this regard, Abu Bakr al-Siddiq (may Allah be pleased with him) said: “By Allah in whose Hands is my life, it is more beloved to me to do good to the household of the Messenger of Allah ﷺ than it is to do so to my own relatives”. He (may Allah be pleased with him) also said: “Be dutiful to Muhammad ﷺ through his household.” [al-Bukhari].

Dar al-Ifta al-Misriyyah

» Prophetic narration [hadith] on “Visiting Brothers (in faith)”

Finally, such visitations also come under the remit of “visiting brothers (in faith)”, as the Prophetic narrations on the matter do not distinguish between the living and those in isthmus:

وعن أبي هريرة رضي الله عنه عن النبي صلى الله عليه وسلم ‏:‏ أن رجلاً زار أخا له في قرية أخرى، فأرصد الله تعالى على مدرجته ملكًا، فلما أتى عليه قال‏:‏ أين تريد‏؟‏ قال‏:‏ أريد أخًا لي في هذه القرية‏.‏ قال‏:‏ هل لك عليه من نعمة تربها عليه‏؟‏ قال‏:‏ لا غير أني أحببت في الله تعالى، قال‏:‏ فإنى رسول الله إليك بأن الله قد أحبك كما أحببته فيه‏”‏ ‏(‏‏(‏رواه مسلم‏)‏‏)‏‏.‏

Abu Hurairah (may Allah be pleased with him) reported that the Prophet ﷺ said: “A man set out to visit a brother (in faith) in another town and Allah sent an angel on his way. When the man met the angel, the latter asked him, ‘Where do you intend to go?’ He said, ‘I intend to visit my brother in this town.’ The angel said, ‘Have you done any favour to him?’ He said, ‘No, I have no desire except to visit him because I love him for the sake of Allah, the Exalted, and Glorious.’ Thereupon the angel said, ‘I am a messenger to you from Allah (to inform you) that Allah loves you as you love him (for His sake).’”


Intentions for Visiting the Righteous

In Al-Habib Muhammad b. Alawi al-Aydarus’ sublime Book of Intentions [kitab al-niyyat], there is a beautiful section titled: “The Intentions for Visiting Prophet Hud (peace be upon him)”.

Rather than re-inventing the wheel and to partake in the banquet of blessings in his intentions, we have adapted this particular section from the book for our intent and purpose as follows:

Know, O seeker, that if you desire to visit the Righteous, then motivate yourself with good thoughts and broaden the scope and horizon of your vision and make abundant good intentions—those that will draw you closer to Allah, the Lord of all created things.

The salaf have documented many good intentions and well-known, virtuous aims that you should have when visiting the Righteous, so search for them in their books. Persistence is the door to attainment. Do not make an outing or sightseeing your aim for visiting, rather aim for the loftiest of degrees and for the attainment of goals difficult to reach.

[So when you make your intentions [to visit the Righteous] say:] Verily, by the praise of Allah, and by Him I seek help and upon Him I place my trust!

  • I intend, by this, to follow the commands of Allah: “so walk in its paths and eat of His provision” [67:15] and His saying: “Say: ‘See all that is in the heavens and on earth’” [10:101] and also: “We shall show them Our signs in the horizons, and in their own souls.
  • I intend to visit the Righteous and to summon the heart at that noble place to the spritual presence [ruhaniyya] of the great beloved ﷺ (the Prophet Muhammad ﷺ).
  • I intend to seek knowledge and to teach, to listen, to advise and counsel; to gaze upon the faces of the knowers of Allah [‘arifin bi-Llah]; to seek their assistance; to be in the company of the scholars [‘ulama] and to attend the gatherings of knowledge; to benefit Muslims and to benefit from them; to obey whoever commands me; to obey the commands of my parents; and to worship in blessed places so that the earth may testify on my behalf.
  • I intend to hear the description of the Prophet ﷺ (and the Righteous); to recite the Noble Qur’an; to utter the phrase of tawhid; to glorify Allah and seek His forgiveness; to invoke blessings and prayers upon Prophet Muhammad ﷺ and Righteous at these locations; to attend prayer in congregation; to pray behind and visit the noble scholars [‘ulama]; to visit the Saints [awliya] and to relay their teachings by keeping alive their devotional legacies in order that their blessings are continued.
  • I intend to give charity [sadaqah] in a noble place and to give salutations to the prophets, angels and the righteous.
  • I intend to attend a gathering that follows the command of the Prophet ﷺ who said: “My nation [ummah] will never gather on falsehood.”
  • I intend to make the calls to prayer [adhan and iqamah] and to serve the visitors, to guide the blind and to remember Allah secretly and openly.
  • I intend to bring forward the two prayers and to delay them.*
  • I intend to remove harm from the path and to show veneration for the rituals of the visit. I intend to meet friend and loved ones for Allah from different lands, brought together by nothing other than the remembrance of Allah.
  • I intend to visit the sick, to attend funerals, to visit brothers in Allah and to uphold ties with those whom, by honouring them, I will also be fulfilling my filial duties towards.
  • I intend to reflect upon Allah’s land and His creation; to enter places where those who are devoted to Allah have entered and where the people of goodness [ahl al-khayr] have sat; to meet Muslim brethren and to increase their numbers; to help the weak and the impoverished and to act in accordance with those who say: “Staying silent is tasbih (glorifying Allah), laughing is an act of worship and living is spiritual training when visiting Righteous”; to follow the saying of the Prophet ﷺ: “Travel and you will gain health,” and implement his saying ﷺ: “A man’s joking with his brother on a journey is an act of worship.”

I have intended all of these for Allah Almighty, and I also intend what the righteous salaf have intended. Allahumma merge our intentions with their intentions and our actions with their actions. O the Most Merciful of the merciful!

—Adapted from: Al-Habib Muhammad bin ‘Alawi al-Aydarus, Kitab al-Niyyat, (The Book of Intentions), translated by Mohammad Ahmad Mbaye, Guidance Media, England, 2010, p. 125-128.

Propriety of Visiting the Righteous

In addition to the general propriety of visiting graves as mentioned in Ziyarat al-Qubur, many scholars have written on the etiquette that ought to be observed before, during and after visiting shrines and tombs of the righteous. We quote here from some of them.

» Mulla ‘Ali al-Qari (d. 1605)

The Imam said in his commentary on Ibn al-Jazari’s al-Hisn al-Hasin (a collection of supplications and prayers compiled at the time Damascus was besieged by the Mongol and Crusader armies):

قال الملا علي القاري في شرحه عـلى (الحصـن الحصـين) الـذي ألفـه الإمام المقرئ ابن الجزري رحمهما االله أثنـاء محـاصرة دمشـق بجيـوش التتار والصليبيين ما نصه: (إذا زرت قبر نبي أو ولي أو عالم أو من دونهم مثلاً، وكنـت في كـرب عظيم، وأردت أن صاحب ذاك القبر تحضر روحه إليك وتشكو إليـه ظلامتك: أي بلسان حالك أو قالك ليشفع فيك عند المليك، فيكفيك ما أهمك ومن دائك يشفيك، فاقرأ (قل هو الله أحد) عشر مرات وإن قَدَّمْتَ قلــب القــرآن – أعنــي سورة ((يس)) – كــان أجــود وأسرع، والمعوذتين ثلاثا ثلاثا، وفاتحـة الكتـاب والأسـماء الحسـنى بعـد أول البقرة وآخرها. وتَغْمُضُ عينيك وتستحضر جميع قلبك ثم
تقـول: لا إله إلا االله ً ثلاثا، ((االله)) ثلاثا بالمـد (أي: اللــــــــــــــــــــــــــــــــــــه)، ثـم تسـكت سـكتةً لطيفـة وتقـول: «السلام عليكم ورحمة االله وبركاته يا سيدي فلان! أو: يا شـيخ! أو: يـا أستاذي! أو: يا رسول االله صلى الله عليه وسلم!». وتَعْرُضُ على المُزار ما أصابك من أكدار، يُجليها بِمِنَّة الستَّار، بشفاعة صاحب المَزار. وهـذه الفائـدة مـن أكبر الفوائد.) اهـ. كلام مُلَّا علي القـاري كـما ذكـره الشـيخ يوسـف النبهــاني في (شــواهد الحــق) نقلاً عــن تلميــذ العــارف عبــد الغنــي النابلسي: الشيخ مصطفى البكري الخلوتي رحمهم االله تعالى ونفع بهم، آمين.

“Whenever you visit the grave of a Prophet or a Saint or a scholar or those below them in status, and you are in great distress, and you wish for the spirit [ruh] of the person in that grave be present with you so that you can complain to them of what is affecting you—meaning you complain through just being there or verbatim, SO THAT THEY WILL INTERCEDE FOR YOU IN THE PRESENCE OF THE SUPREME OWNER OF ALL, then He will suffice you against all that worries you and cure you of your disease:

Recite Qul Huwa Allahu Ahad 10 times; and if you first start with the Heart of the Qur’an—I mean Surah Yasin—it is better and faster, then the last three Suras three times each, then the Fatiha, the beginning and end of Surah al-Baqara, and the Beautiful Names. Then you close your eyes and summon up all your heart to be present and say: La ilaha illa Allah three times, then ALLAH three times lengthening the final A. Then you stay silent for a while and then you say: as-salâmu ‘alaikum  wa rahmatu Llâhi wa barakâtuhu yâ Sayyidî fulâni! or: yâ Shaikhî or: yâ Ustâdhî! or: yâ Rasûla Llâhi ﷺ! AND YOU PRESENT YOUR PROBLEMS TO THE ONE YOU ARE VISITING. HE WILL LIFT THEM UP BY THE GIFT OF THE ALMIGHTY CONCEALER OF FAULTS, THROUGH THE INTERCESSION OF THE ONE IN THAT GRAVE. This is one of the greatest benefits to know.”

This is the end of Mulla ‘Ali al-Qari’s words as quoted by Shaykh Yusuf al-Nabhani in his book Shawahid al-Haqq, as copied from the student of the Gnostic Shaykh Abd al-Ghani al-Nabulusi, Shaykh Mustafa Bakri al-Khalwati—Allah have mercy on them all and benefit us with them, Amin!

—Gibril Fouad Haddad, Mas’alat al-Qubur – About Graves, http://sunnah.org/wp/2015/07/26/masalat-al-qubur-about-graves/. Last accessed: 13 July 2016.

» Maulana Muhammad Yusuf Lebbai (d. 1887)

The Hanafi jurist of Ammapattinam in Tamil Nadu, India, has a section on “Visiting the Saints” in his popular fiqh primer, simt as-sibyan:

Visiting the Saints

Greeting the Saints [awliya’ Allah] at their
Resting Abodes and Supplicating thereat

Peace, mercy and blessings be upon you, O inhabitants of the graves from the believers! Peace be upon you, O possessors of pure spirits; (O possessors of) tranquil souls; (O possessors of) corporeal forms; (O possessors of) precious jewels liberated from the dungeons of the world—and its darkness and confusion—unto resplendent illumination and residence of the devout—together with the prophets, the veracious, the martyrs and the righteous.

Recite Al-Fatihah and others. Then make the following supplication:

O Allah, enrich us from the blessings of their lofty aspirations and gifts of their exalted sainthood; make us from the beneficiaries of their resplendent lights and followers upon their footsteps. O Allah, comfort their souls; sanctify their secrets; perfume their abodes; purify their mausoleums; increase their benefit; multiply their favours; and elevate their ranks.

O Allah, drench them in Your overflowing Benevolence, Your subtle Grace, Your overwhelming Generosity, Your exceeding Munificence and Your bounteous Conferrals; open to them the doors of Your Heavens; descend upon them canopies of Your honour and a palisade of Your sanctity—together with those whom You have blessed of the prophets, the veracious, the martyrs and the righteous. And increase them in reverence, acclaim and honour.

O Allah, verily we stand at the threshold of your Saints and the righteous from Your servants—in reverence, submission, shame and meekness—beseeching for the fulfilment of our needs and aspirations. Therefore do not leave us disappointed; do not leave us empty-handed; fulfil our hopes; grant our requests; make us amongst the protected ones by their blessings and blessed actions; and record us in the Divan of your righteous servants who have “no fear, nor shall they grieve”.

O Allah, forgive us, the believing men and women, the Muslim men and women—those alive and deceased from them. O Hearer of entreaties! O Fulfiller of needs! “Our Lord, perfect our light for us and pardon us; verily you are powerful over all things. Our Lord, grant us good in this world and good in the hereafter, and save us from the chastisement of the fire.” May Allah bless and bestow peace upon the paragon of creation, his family and companions.

—Muhammad Yusuf Lebbai, Simtu as-Sibyan, translated by Wan Nadia, Unpublished.

» Imam Ahmad Rida Khan (d. 1921)

The 20th century mujaddid from the Indian sub-continent has answered many questions on the issue of visiting the righteous and propriety associated with such visits. This is one of his responses:

Question: When we visit a Wali’s shrine, how do we pray [the fatiha] there and what should be [further] recited in the prayer?

To visit shrines of Awliya, go from the foot of the shrine and stand facing the head of the shrine at a distance of about six feet, and [then] greet them respectfully with a voice neither loud nor quiet, saying:

assalamu `alaykum ya Sayyidi wa-rahmatullahi wa-barakatuh.

Then recite durud ghawsiyya (Allahumma salli `ala Sayyidina Muhammadin ma’dan al-judi wal karami wa `ala ahlihi wa-sahbihi wa-barik wa-sallim) thrice, al-hamd sharif once, Ayat al-Kursi once, Surat Ikhlas seven times and if there is enough time [left], recite Surat Mulk and Surat Ya Sin too. And pray to Allah Ta`ala:

‘Oh Lord, Give as much reward for this recitation as is worthy to
your Grace and not as much that is worthy of my action,
and convey it to your favourite slave as an offering.’

After this du`a for your lawful [and] good desires, make the Wali sleeping in this shrine a means in the court of Allah Ta`ala. And then, after offering the greeting, return in the same way.

Don’t touch the shrine or kiss it. Circumventing it is unanimously forbidden, and prostration is purely haram.

And Allah Ta`ala knows best!

—Excerpted and adapted from: Ahmad Rida Khan, (Necessity of Zakaat), translated by Abdul Naim Azizi, Tehreek-e-fikr-e-reza, Mumbai, 1998, p.19. Download PDF from Marifah.net.

» Shaykh Muzaffer Ozak al-Jerrahi (d. 1985)

The 19th Grand-Sheikh of the Halveti-Jerrahi order of Dervishes wrote in “The Garden of Dervishes” the following chapter:

How to Conduct Oneself when visiting the Tombs of Saints

  • Formulate the intention that the visitation will be for Allah’s sake.
  • Do not set out without having performed a ritual ablution.
  • On your way there, keep your eyes away from things forbidden by Allah, and protect your heart from bad thoughts.
  • Remember and glorify Allah all the way to the tomb.
  • Along the way, engage in righteous acts such as giving alms to the poor for Allah’s sake, helping the needy, making charitable donations to worthy causes, feeding stray animals, providing crumbs for the birds in winter, watering flowers and planting trees.
  • Repent and pray for forgiveness for the sins and offences you have committed and be sure to utter many Affirmations of Divine Unity. This is the best way to ensure the speedy granting of your request.
  • On reaching the sacred tomb, begin with the salutation—“Peace be upon you, O Servant of Allah, son of Allah’s servant, O intimate Friend of Allah!
  • Then recite Surah Ikhlas three times, the Fatiha and Ayat al Kursi once. Recite ten noble benedictions upon the Prophet ﷺ, dedicating the spiritual reward of this to our blessed Master and to all the Prophets, the people of the Prophet’s household, his companions and helpers, and to the souls of all the Saints. Only then should you state your request of Allah in honour of the Saint.
  • Then you should enter the mosque to pray with the congregation, if it is the time for one of the five set prayers. Otherwise, perform two cycles as a greeting to the mosque, followed by two cycles of prayer dedicated to the occasion. After the prayers, you should make a supplication that your request be promptly fulfilled.
  • You should also mention the vow you intent to carry out, should your wish be granted, to please Allah and as a gift to the soul of the Saint. This might be that you make a sacrificial slaughter, recite the entire Qur’an or have it recited, or make a charitable donation.

Glory to your Lord, the Lord of Glory beyond description.
Peace upon the Messengers. Praise be to Allah,
Lord of all the Worlds.

—Sheikh Muzaffer Ozak al-Jerrahi, (The Garden of Dervishes), translated by Muhtar Holland, Pir Publications Inc, USA, 1991.

From the above, we can deduce that visiting the righteous is not merely a ritualistic activity with fixed rules outwardly but a lived reality where the Oneness of Allah [tawhid] is established inwardly. The aim is Allah alone while the occupant of the grave is a dignified means to Him Most High. 

Addendum: Praying Towards Tombs

To complete the discussion on visiting the righteous, we include the section w21 Praying Towards Tombs from the Shafi’i fiqh manual, Reliance of the Traveller [umdat al-salik], where the translator Nuh Ha Mim Keller states:

w21.0 Praying Towards Tombs (from f4.14)

w21.1 (Ibn Hajar Haytami:) Ahmad, Bukhari, Muslim, and Nasa’i relate that the Prophet (Allah bless him and give him peace) said,

“May Allah curse the Jews and Christians; they have taken the tombs of their prophets as places of worship,”

and Ahmad, Bukhari, Muslim, and Nasa’i also relate the hadith,

“They are the ones who, when a righteous man among them died, would build a place of worship upon his grave and paint those icons in it. They will be the wickedest of creation in Allah’s sight on the Day of Judgement.”

The reason for considering it an enormity to take a grave as a place of worship is obvious, for the Prophet (Allah bless him and give him peace) cursed those who did this with the graves of their prophets, and considered those who did it with the graves of the righteous to be “the wickedest of creation in Allah’s sight on the Day of Judgement.”

Taking a grave as a place of worship means to pray on the grave or towards it. The prohibition, moreover, applies exclusively to the grave of someone venerated, whether a prophet or friend of Allah (wali, def: w33), as is shown by the hadith’s wording “when there was a righteous man among them”; for which reason our colleagues say that it is unlawful to perform the prayer towards the graves of the prophets or friends of Allah “for the blessing of it” (tabarruk, dis: w31) or out of reverence for it, that is, under two conditions:

  1. that the grave is of someone who is honored and venerated;
  2. and that the prayer is performed towards or on the grave with the intention of gaining the blessing of it, or out of reverence for it.

That such an action is an enormity is clear from the above hadiths (A: though if either condition is lacking, performing the prayer near a grave is unobjectionable) (al-Zawajir ‘an iqtiraf al-kaba’ir (y49), 1.148-49).


We end with this quote from the great Hanafi master of Hadith, Mulla ‘Ali al-Qari:

Anyone who builds a mosque near the grave of an righteous person or supplicates in the tomb, or intends to ask for help through the soul [ruh] of that righteous person or intends to seek blessing [barakah] from his relics, if he does all that without the intention of giving him tazim or doing tawajjuh towards him (in prayer) then there is nothing wrong in that.

Do you not see that the grave of [Prophet] Ismail (alaihi-s salam) is inside the Masjid al-Haram, near the Hatim, and to pray there is superior than anything else? However to pray near the graves is only forbidden when the soil becomes dirty because of filth [najasat]. In the Hatim, near Hajr al-Aswad and Mizab, there are the graves of 70 Prophets.

[Mirqat, Sharh al Mishqat, vol. 2, p. 202]

And Allah and His Messenger know best!

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