The prohibition of building Masjids over graves

Q: We noticed in the book entitled “Awdah Al-Tafasir” by Ibn Al-Khatib a strange opinion concerning the interpretation of Surah Al-Kahf, Ayah no. 21, (meanings of which are translated as): And thus We made their case known (to the people), that they might know that the Promise of Allâh is true, and that there can be no doubt about the Hour. (Remember) when they (the people of the city) disputed among themselves about their case, they said: "Construct a building over them; their Lord knows best about them;" (then) those who won their point said (most probably the disbelievers): "We verily shall build a place of worship over them." We would like to know the validity of what was written by the author in his commentary on the part of the Ayah that says: We verily shall build a place of worship over them.


A: Al-Hafizh ibn Kathir (may Allah be merciful to him) giving his Tafsir (explanation/exegesis) of Allah’s saying (meanings of which are translated as): (then) those who won their point said (most probably the disbelievers): “We verily shall build a place of worship over them.” He said that Ibn Jarir mentioned two views regarding those who said this: The first: They were the Muslims among them. The second: They were the Mushrikin (those who associate others with Allah in His Divinity or worship) among them. And Allah knows best.What is evident in this regard is that those who said so were the people vested with power and authority among them. But whether they are to be praised or not for doing so is controversial, because the Prophet (peace be upon him) said: (Part No. 4; Page No. 251)  “May the Curse of Allah be upon the Jews and the Christians for they have taken the graves of their Prophets as places of worship.’” (‘Aishah said), “He was warning against (doing) what they did.” End of quote.The correct view is that they are dispraised for doing so, because it was authentically reported on the authority of `Aishah (may Allah be pleased with her) that the Prophet (peace be upon him) said: “May Allah curse the Jews and the Christians for they have taken the graves of their Prophets as places of worship.” It was reported in the Two Sahih (authentic) Books of Hadith (i.e. Al-Bukhari and Muslim) on the authority of `Aishah (may Allah be pleased with her) that when Um Habibah and Um Salamah (may Allah be pleased with them) told the Prophet (peace be upon him) about a church they saw in Abyssinia (Ethiopia) and the pictures it contained, the Prophet (peace be upon him) said: “When a pious person among those people dies, they build a place of worship on his grave, and then make such images in it. Those will be the most evil of creation in the Sight of Allah on the Day of Resurrection.” It was reported also in Sahih Muslim on the authority of Jundub Ibn ‘Abdullah Al-Bajaly (may Allah be pleased with him) that the Prophet (peace be upon him) said: “Beware! Those who preceded you used to take the graves of their Prophets and righteous people as places of worship. Do not take graves as places of worship; I forbid you to do that.” Many other Hadiths have been narrated to that effect.Thus, it becomes evident to the questioner - through the previously stated evidence - that what was said by Ibn Al-Khatib in his Tafsir “Awdah Al-Masalik” concerning the permissibility of building Masjids over the graves is a grave mistake as it contradicts the authentic stated Hadiths. Moreover, it also contradicts what is consensually agreed upon by Ahl-ul-Sunnah wal-Jama‘ah (those adhering to the Sunnah and the Muslim main body) from the Companions of the Prophet (peace be upon him) and those who followed them in righteousness concerning building Masjids over the graves. Doing so means imitating the Jews, Christians and those who followed their example. (Part No. 4; Page No. 252) Moreover, this is one of the means that may lead to major Shirk (associating others with Allah in His Divinity or worship).May Allah grant us success. May peace and blessings be upon our Prophet Muhammad, his family, and Companions.

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