Ziyara Etiquette

Etiquette of Visiting the Tombs of Saints

Awaliya (in Arabic) is the plural of the word Wali.[1] The Wali or saint, as was described by al-Haytimy, upholds the rights of Allah and the rights of His servants by virtue of his or her complimenting true knowledge with correct action while being free from lapses and slip-ups.[2] Their being free from lapses and slips does not mean that they are flawless since flawlessness is only designated for the Prophets and Messengers. As Ibn Abdeen once said regarding the meaning of the statement, “Allah truly protects his saints: their protection is that they do not persist in a mistake if they were to fall into one. They are inspired with the desire for repentance so they respond and repent. Otherwise the [persistence] in lapses and slip-ups would spoil their sainthood.” [3]

There are etiquettes for visiting the saints of Allah. Firstly, the visitor should make a pure and sincere intention that this visit will result in closeness to Allah. He should be in a state of Tahara al-Kamila i.e. having done both wudu and ghusl before visiting the tomb. He should remove his footwear upon entrance and enter with his right foot while remaining composed and tranquil. At the door of the tomb, he should stand and ask permission to enter then proceed to read Sura al-Fatiha for the saint of the tomb and all the saints of Allah (past and present). At this point, he should salute the saint by saying: “Peace, mercy and blessing of Allah be upon you O saint. You are the predecessors and we, by the will of Allah are following suit.”

It is preferred to recite Sura Yaseen and Sura al-Ikhlas and then gift the reward of these recitations to the Emissary of Allahﷺ, the righteous folk, the pious saint being visited and whoever else is desired. Then one can proceed to supplicate to Allah with whatever one wishes since these places i.e. tombs of saints, are made blessed by Allah and supplications therein are accepted.

You may open your personal supplications by praising Allah and sending prayers and salutations upon the Emissary of Allahﷺ. Then one may request from Allah true knowledge, righteousness and all good from this world and the next. One can end his or her supplications by asking: “By the right placed upon this saint by Allah, I ask you Allah to lift the calamities that have befallen me and alleviate my anxieties of this world and the next.” Then one may say: “May Allah have mercy on this soul (of the saint) and envelope him with gentleness and generosity and accept my prayers by the right you have placed on the Chosen one (peace be upon him and his family) and by the secret reward in al-Fatiha”. One should strengthen his or her opinion of Allah (during supplication) by being certain that He will accept his or her prayers since these tombs are open doors leading to Allah.

It is incumbent that one respects the keepers of the tomb and, if able, to donate any amount to them. Then one should proceed to exit in a state of tranquility and composure having read al-Fatiha for the saint of the tomb and then ask him permission to leave.

One should not exit the tomb walking backwards for this was the habit of the visitors to the courts of the Persian and Roman Emperors. One should not wipe or kiss the tomb or press up against it, for all of this is disliked. It is prohibited to make circumambulation around the tomb or prostrate at the tomb. It is incumbent upon the women visitors to be well covered and not overly perfumed.

It was narrated in the “The History of Baghdad” (1/123) that Imam Shafi’i (may Allah have mercy upon him) said about the tomb of Abu Haneefa (may Allah have mercy upon him):

“I seek blessing from Abu Haneefa and visit his tomb everyday. If I experience any difficulties or needs, I pray two units of prayer and request from Allah (most High) at his tomb. [Soon after exiting] that request would be granted.”

In “The History of Damascus” by Ibn Asakir (5/333) it is recorded that Abu al-Farj al-Hindaba’iy said:

“I used to visit Ahmed bin Hanbal and left this habit for a time. Then I saw a vision in my sleep where I heard a voice saying to me, “Why did you leave the habit of visiting the tomb of the Imam of the Sunnah?”

Shaykh Mahmood Shabieb
Dar al-Ifta al-Misriyyah
Cairo, Egypt

[1] Wali is related to the Arabic word Walla which means to appoint or to turn towards or away from. These other morphological forms are telling to how the Islamic concept of “sainthood” considers this high level of enlightenment to be a function of carrying out God’s will rather than the idea of holiness or consecration alone like the word saint is.

[2] al-Fatawa al-Hadeetha lil Haytimy, pg. 301, Dar-al-Maarifa

[3] Majmooat Rasa’il ibn Abdeen 2/277.