Death is inevitable for each and every being on this earth. Millions have died before us, millions will die after us and as much as we like to think we can plan our best lives without worrying too much about death, it usually comes unexpectedly. Allah (SWT) has promised us quite a few things in the Quran, and death is one of them. The Prophet Muhammad (SAWS) has encouraged visiting graves and keeping death—and the dead—not too far from our minds.
A sometimes forgotten but well-encouraged Sunnah for both men and women, there is a certain etiquette around visiting graves.
1. Making dua for the deceased
Aishah (RA) was reported to have said that one night the Prophet Muhammad (SAWS) went out, and so she asked someone to follow him. Aishah later came to know that the Prophet Muhammad (SAWS) had visited Baqi Al-Gharqad (a graveyard in Madina) where he stood for a while, raised his hands, and made dua. Making dua for anyone is a beautiful gift, and we should try our best to continue making dua even for those who have left this world, as our dua will surely assist them in their graves and in the Akhirah.
An example of a dua that can be recited is the following:
السَّلامُ عَلَـيْكُمْ أَهْلَ الدِّيارِ مِنَ المؤْمِنيـنَ وَالْمُسْلِمين وَإِنّا إِنْ شاءَ اللهُ بِكُـمْ لاحِقـون نَسْـاَلُ اللهَ لنـا وَلَكُـمْ العـافِيَة
Assalāmu ‘alaykum ahlad-diyāri minal-mu’minīna wa ‘l-muslimīn, wa innā in shā’ Allāhu bikum lāḥiqūn nas’alullāha lanā wa lakumul-‘āfiyah.
Peace be upon you, people of this abode, from among the believers and those who are Muslims, and we, by the Will of Allah, shall be joining you. I ask Allah to grant us and you well-being. 1
2. Removing shoes and placing greens
Another etiquette when visiting graves is to remove our shoes when visiting the graves in the graveyard or stepping around the individual graves without touching them with our shoe-clad feet.
In a hadith narrated by Uqbah ibn Amir (RA), it was said that the Prophet of Allah (SAWS) said: “If I were to walk on hot coals or on a sword; if I were to mend my shoes using my feet, that would be better for me than if I were to walk on the grave of a Muslim. And it makes no difference to me if I were to relieve myself in the midst of the graves or in the middle of the marketplace.” 2 (That is, both are equally bad.)
It is also good etiquette to place branches of green, bright leaves on graves, as the fresh green leaves bring relief to the dead.
3. Pondering over death
Visiting the deceased is a big task and it can get very overwhelming, especially if you’re visiting the grave of a dear one or have mixed feelings about death in general. The Prophet Muhammad (SAWS) would often encourage his companions to keep death on their minds, as it makes sure we don’t get too attached to this dunya.
When visiting the graveyard, we should ponder over our short lives and think of death. It softens our hearts to the reality of our lives on this earth and reminds us that, sooner or later, death is inevitable.
4. Reciting the Quran
Sitting and reciting the Quran for the deceased is a wonderful Sunnah that we should definitely remember to put into practice. We should take our time and sit near the grave of whoever we are visiting and recite some verses or surahs from the Quran. We should recite the Quran with the intention that for every letter we read, a reward will be given to the deceased.
Applying the etiquette of visiting graves
Death is an event that will happen to all of us. And by visiting the deceased, making dua for them, reading the Quran for them, and pondering over them, we will hopefully be contributing to making the hereafter easier for them. May Allah (SWT) give us all easy deaths and grant Jannah to everyone who has passed away.