Is it permissible to build on graves?

Answered by Shaykh Amjad Rasheed
Translated by Shaykh Hamza Karamali, SunniPath Academy Teacher

You mentioned in a previous answer that it is permissible to build over graves. Isn’t there a hadith in which the Prophet (Allah bless him and give him peace) ordered the leveling of every elevated structure that is constructed over graves? And didn’t Imam Shafi`i give a fatwa forbidding people from building over graves?

Answer:
In the Name of Allah, Most Gracious, Most Merciful

The Position of the Four Schools

 

I do not recall mentioning in any of my answers simply that it is “permissible to build over graves”. Rather, I went into great detail in my answer and mentioned the ruling of building over graves both in the Shafi`i school and in other schools. I mentioned that the relied-upon position in the Shafi`i school (i.e. the position of both Imam Nawawi and Imam Rafi`i) is that if the grave is built in an area that is endowed as a graveyard [1], it is unlawful to build over the grave because it blocks others from burying someone else in that area in the future. The ruling in this case does not change, regardless of whether the grave belongs to a righteous person, a scholar, or anyone else. If, however, the grave is dug in a privately-owned area, then it is offensive to build over the grave, but not unlawful.

 

Understanding the Hadith of the Prophet (Allah bless him and give him peace)

 

As for the Prophet’s (Allah bless him and give him peace) command that every elevated structure over graves be demolished, it is, in fact, rigorously authenticated from him. Imam Muslim narrated in his Sahih via Abu al-Hayyaj al-Asadi (Allah be pleased with him) that he said,

 

“`Ali b. Abi Talib asked me, “Shall I not send you to do what the Messenger of Allah (Allah bless him and give him peace) sent me to do?—That you leave no figure except that you erase it, nor an elevated grave except that you level it.”

 

Imam Muslim also narrated via Jabir that he said, “The Messenger of Allah (Allah bless him and give him peace) forbade the plastering of graves, sitting on them, or building over them.”

 

Imam Nawawi explained this hadith in his commentary on Sahih Muslim:

 

“As for building upon [a grave], then if (a) [the earth on which the grave is built] belongs to the one who builds over it, [building over it] it is offensive, whereas if (b) it is in a public graveyard, then it is unlawful. Imam Shafi`i and the early scholars of his school have explicitly said this. Shafi`i said in his book, al-Umm, “I have seen the scholars of Mecca command the demolition of [graves] that are built over. Such demolition is supported by the hadith, “… nor an elevated grave except that you level it …””

 

Imam Nawawi’s quoting from Imam Shafi`i  (Allah be pleased with him) explains the answer to the last part of the question above. [h: i.e., that his words have been understood by the scholars of his school to refer to public graveyards]

 

Other Positions

 

This is the relied-upon position of our school. There are, however, three other scholarly positions on the issue which have their own scholarly proofs. Among these positions is what is related by Imam Badr al-Din al-Zarkashi in the book, al-Khadim, from the great scholar and imam, Sharaf al-Din al-Ansari about the Qarafa graveyard [which is a famous graveyard in Cairo]. Among the things that Shaykh Sharaf al-Din al-Ansari mentioned is that the early Muslims (Allah be pleased with them) witnessed what happened in the Qarafa graveyard […] in previous ages; grave-visitation areas (turab) and places of residence (dur) were built [over graves] in it, and none of the scholars of the times condemned it, neither by word, nor by deed. He then said, “They built inside it the dome of Imam Shafi`i along with his school, and the same was done with all the other graves that are now sites of visitation.”

 

One of the late Shafi`i scholars has said that these words of Sharaf al-Din al-Ansari indicate that building over graves in a public graveyard is not unlawful, and if it is not unlawful in public graveyards, then it is a fortiori not unlawful in un-owned land (mawat) or land that belongs to someone who permits building over the grave. All of the above is taken from the Fatawa of Ibn Hajar al-Haytami.

 

Ibn Hajar also mentions in his Fatawa that [the great hadith scholar] Imam Hakim said in his Mustadrak after mentioning hadiths that prohibit building or writing on graves, “Scholars have not acted upon these hadiths, for the great scholars of the Muslims—east and west—have all had their graves built over, which is something that has been passed on from generation to generation.”

 

 

Translator’s Notes

 

[1] In other words, a public graveyard that is for general use. All Muslims have the right to use such graveyards and the ground that is used to bury one person is usually re-used to bury other people after the body disintegrates. Building over graves in such a graveyard prevents others from re-using that space in the future and is hence unlawful.

Related Answer: Is it permissible to build structures on graves?

 

السؤال: ذكرتم في فتوى سابقة أنه يجوز البناء على القبور؟ هل يوجد حديثٌ أمر النبي صلى الله عليه وسلم فيه أن يهدم كل بناء مرتفع على القبور؟ وهل أفتى الإمام الشافعي بالنَّهْي عن البناء على القبور؟

الجواب: لم أذكرْ في جوابٍ لي جوازَ البناء على القبر هكذا مطلقاً، وإنما فصَّلتُ في الجواب فذكرتُ أن في حكم البناء على القبر سواء عندنا وعند غيرنا من علماء المذاهب أربعةَ أقوالٍ، وأن المعتمدَ عندنا -وهو ما عليه شيخا المذهب النووي والرافعي-: أن القبر إن كان في مكان موقوف أو مسبَّل للدفن حَرُمَ البناءُ عليه؛ لأن فيه تحجيراً على الغير في الدفن في تلك البقعة، وسواءٌ في هذا كان القبرُ لصالح أو عالم أو غيرهما. أما إن كان القبرُ في مكانٍ مملوكٍ فيكرهُ البناء على القبر ولا يحرمُ.

            أما بخصوص أمره صلى الله عليه وسلم بهدم كلِّ بناء مرتفعٍ على القبور؛ فهو صحيحٌ رواه مسلم في “صحيحه” فعن أبي الهياج الأسدي قال: قال لي عليُّ بنُ أبي طالب:” ألا أبْعَثُكَ على ما بَعَثَني عليه رسولُ الله صلى الله عليه وسلم؛ أن لا تدعَ تمثالاً إلا طمستَهُ، ولا قبراً مُشْرِفاً إلا سَوَّيْتَه “. وفي مسلم أيضاً عن جابرٍ قال:

” نهى رسولُ الله صلى الله عليه وسلم أن يجصَّصَ القبرُ، وأن يُقْعَدَ عليه، وأن يُبْنَى عليه “.

            قال الإمام النووي في “شرح مسلم”:”: وأما البناءُ عليه؛ فإن كان في ملكِ الباني فمكروه، وإن كان في مقبرةٍ مُسَبَّلةٍ فحرام، نصَّ عليه الشافعيُّ والأصحاب. قال الشافعي في “الأم”: ورأيتُ الأئمةَ بمكةَ يأمرون بهَدْمِ ما يُبْنَى، ويؤيِّدُ الهدمَ قولُه (ولا قبراً مُشْرِفاً إلا سَوَّيتَه) “. انتهى وبما نقله النوويُّ عن الإمام الشافعي رضي الله عنه ورحمه يُعْلَمُ جوابُ الشقِّ الأخير من السؤال.

            هذا مذهبنا المعتمد، وفي المسألة ثلاثةُ أقوالٍ أخرى لها أدلتُها وتوجيهاتُها، فمن تلك: ما نقله الإمامُ بدرُ الدين الزَّرْكَشيُّ في “الخادم” عن الشيخ الإمام شرف الدين الأنصاري في الكلام على القرافة -أي: التي بمصر-، وذَكَرَ في أثنائه أن السلفَ رضي الله عنهم شاهدوا هذه القرافةَ الكبرى والصغرى من الزمان المتقدم، وبُنِيَ فيها التربُ والدُّور ولم ينكرْهُ أحدٌ من علماء الأعصار لا بقول ولا فعل. قال: وقد بَنَوا فيه قبةَ الإمام الشافعي رضي الله عنه ومدرستَه، وهكذا سائرُ المزارات، إلى آخر كلام الشرف الأنصاري. قال بعضُ المتأخرين: واقتضى كلامُه عدمَ تحريم البناء في المسبلة. قال: وإذا لم يحرم في مسبلة لم يحرم في موات ومملوك بإذن مالكه من باب أولى. اهـ من “فتاوى الكبرى” للشهاب ابن حجر الهيتمي.

            وفيها أيضاً: أن الحاكم قال في “مستدركه” إِثْرَ تصحيح أحاديث النهي عن البناء والكتب على القبور:” ليس العملُ عليها؛ فإن أئمةَ المسلمين شرقاً وغرباً البناء على قبورهم، وهو أمرٌ أخذه الخلفُ عن السلف “. قال البرزلي: فيكون إجماعاً.