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Building over graves

Building over graves (Arabic: ‫ )اﻟﺒﻨﺎء ﻋﻠﻰ اﻟﻘﺒﻮر‬means building any

construction or structure over graves. There is a disagreement
among Shia and Sunnis with Wahhabis about the Islamic ruling for
building over graves. Islamic schools, especially Shia, have built
constructions over the graves of great people and Islamic leaders
and some Islamic scholars. This – with a conceptual expansion
Wahhabis make – has a history and dates back to early Islam.
According to historical evidences, it was not encountered with any
objection from the Prophet (s) or the Followers. Wahhabis believe
that building over the graves makes the grounds for worshiping The Shrine of the Holy Prophet (s) in
them and polytheism in worshiping.

Meaning of Building over Graves
The Topic of Discussion and Dispute
Historical Background
Before Islam
At the Time of the Prophet (s)
At the Time of the Companions
During the Time of the Followers
Second/Eighth Century
After Third/Ninth Century
Building over the Graves of Imams (a) and the Ahl al-Bayt (a)
Islamic Ruling of Building over Graves
The View of the Qur'an

Meaning of Building over Graves

Building over graves, due to the many discussions related to it in qh, kalam and history, has become a term. It
refers to any construction over graves including qubba (dome), buq'a (mausoleum), darih, mosque and even
according to some, putting stones around the grave.

It also includes constructions built prior to burial. Therefore, contrary to the meaning usually coming to the
mind, it also includes leaving constructions built prior to burial.

The Topic of Discussion and Dispute

According to disputes made between Wahhabis and other Muslims, the discussion about building over graves
refers to the religious ruling about constructing new buildings over graves and also Muslims' obligation
regarding leaving built constructions over graves and its ruling.
Historical Background

Before Islam
The grave of Prophet David (a) in Jerusalem and the graves of Prophets Abraham (a), Isaac (a), Jacob (a) and
Joseph (a) in al-Khalil had tall buildings. At the time of the war led by 'Umar, Muslims did not destroy these
graves and buildings. It shows that building over graves was neither reprehensible before Islam, nor was it
wrong in the views of Muslims in early centuries of Islam.

At the Time of the Prophet (s)

The Holy Prophet (s) buried Fatima bt. Asad in a part of the mosque where was known as the grave of Lady
Fatima (a) in Islamic history. Contemporary with Hudaybiyya peace treaty, the rst construction or mosque was
built over the grave of Abu Basir by Abu Jandal and the Prophet (s) did not stop it while he (s) knew about it.

At the Time of the Companions

After the Prophet (s) passed away, he (s) was buried in his house
and preserving and repairing this house was made by Muslims
and caliphs since the rst years after his demise. First, 'Umar b. al-
Khattab built a wall beside the grave of the Prophet (s) and
separated it from the living place of Aisha. To expand the
Prophet's (s) burial place, Walid b. 'Abd al-Malik (r. 86/705 –
96/715) destroyed the Prophet's (s) house and in reconstruction,
he appended the area surrounding the house to it and nally
decorated the grave's chamber with alabaster. During the time of
The Grave of Salman al-Farsi in Iraq.
Mutawakkil (r. 228/846 – 242/861) and Musta'sim (ruling 640/1242
– 656/1258) this chamber was reconstructed. In 656/1259, the
shrine of the Prophet (s) was decorated using the material the ruler of Egypt, Malik Mansur Ibak Salihi had sent
and the rst dome called Qubba al-Zarqa was built over the chamber of the Prophet (s). In 765/1364, 852/1448,
881/1476, 886/1481 and 891/1486, it was reconstructed by Abbasid and Ottoman caliphs and domes were built
over it.

Lack of any objections to these reconstructions and expansions of the shrine by Muslims shows the legitimacy
of this action and following the conduct of the Prophet (s) by Muslims and the permission for building over

Building over graves was a common action in the views of the Companions. When Al-Mughira b. Shu'ba
expanded his house, the grave of Sa yya bt. 'Abd al-Muttalib, mother of Al-Zubayr b. al-'Awwam, the aunt of the
Prophet (s) was located inside the house, so a new structure was built over it. In the house of 'Aqil which
gradually turned to become the dedicated place for the graves of Banu Hashim in Baqi' cemetery, the graves of
Imams (a) and some companions had shrines. Ibn Athir reported about sending an architect by Majd al-Mulk
Qummi to repair the shrine and graves of four of Imams (a) and 'Abbas b. 'Abd al-Muttalib. Ibn Jubayr, Ibn
Najjar, Khalid b. 'Isa, Ibn Batuta and Awliya Chalapi in di erent times reported about the existence of some
shrines over the graves of Imams (a).

During the Time of the Followers

The graves of Umm Salama and Umm Habiba, the Prophet's (s) wives, had a building over them. The graves of
'Aqil, his nephew, 'Abd Allah b. Ja'far b. Abi Talib, Ibrahim and some other children of the Prophet (s) had
mausoleum and dome. Based on the report of Ibn Jubayr, the grave of 'Abbas b. 'Abd al-Muttalib, Imam al-
Hasan (a) and Ibrahim, son of the Prophet (s) were higher than the ground level. There are evidences which
show that before 94/713, there was a building over the grave of Ibn 'Abbas.

Second/Eighth Century
The tradition of building over graves grew more in Islamic lands. The building over the grave of Ja'far, son of al-
Mansur al-Abbasi (r. 136/754 – 158/775) which show the existence of building and dome over some graves in the
2nd/8th century, the building Harun al-Rashid (r. 170/786 – 193/809) built over the grave of Imam Ali (a) and the
building over the grave of Sayyida Na sa, a descendant of Imam al-Hasan (a) in Cairo are among the examples
of this growth.

Ibn Batuta reported about the existence of a mausoleum and mosque over the grave of Talha. Also, a mosque
existed near the grave of Zubayr. Other examples of building over graves are the building and mausoleum over
the grave of Salman Farsi in Mada'in and over the grave of Uways al-Qarani in Syria, a mosque over the grave of
Sa'd b. 'Ubada, chief of Khazraj tribe, and also dome and mausoleum over the graves of Mu'adh b. Jabal, 'Aqaba
b. 'Amir, Muhammad b. Abi Bakr and his sister Asma', Ibn Zubayr and Abu l-Hasan Dinawari, among the great
Egyptian scholars in qh, Anas b. Malik, servant of the Prophet (s) and Sahl b. 'Abd Allah al-Tustari.

After Third/Ninth Century

In the rst centuries after Islam, many cases of building constructions over graves and building mausoleums
were seen. It happened in many consecutive centuries before the eyes of Muslims while none of scholars, Shia
or Sunni objected to these constructions and no one believed that it is an act of polytheism or would deviate
Muslims toward polytheism and idol-worshiping and worshiping other than God.

Graves of Sunni leaders had dome and building too. The grave of Abu Hanifa (d. 150/767), leader of Hana
school of qh in Baghdad had a dome and mausoleum which were built in 4th/10th and 5th/11th centuries.
Also, the grave of Malik b. Anas (d. 197/813), the leader of Maliki school, in Baqi' cemetery had a small dome.
The grave of Muhammad b. Idris (d. 150/767), leader of Sha 'i school in Egypt and also the grave of Ahmad b.
Hanbal (d. 241/855), leader of Hanbalis in Baghdad have had domes and have been reconstructed several times.

The 3rd/9th century was when building domes over graves grew and since the 4th/10th century, visiting them
became common. An example of such graves is the grave of Muhammad b. 'Isa al-Tirmidhi (d. 296/892) which
possibly belongs to the end of 3rd/9th century and early 4th/10th century.

In Aswan region in Nuba which was one of the battle elds of Muslims with enemies, there are mausoleums
from 4th/10th and 5th/11th centuries over the graves of the martyrs of those wars. Since 6th/12th century,
many tombs were built around the Islamic world. In that century, when Su sm grew among Muslims, building
Su tombs grew up; such as the tomb of Shaykh Ahmad Jam in Turbat Jam possibly built in 6th/12th century and
the tomb of Bayazid Bastami built in 8th/14th century.

According to historical sources, Muslims have preserved and visited these buildings. Thus, destruction of some
buildings by caliphs such as destruction of the grave of Imam al-Husayn (a) in 236/851 by Mutawakkil made
Muslims upset and repulsive toward his action.

Building over the Graves of Imams (a) and the Ahl al-Bayt
The tradition of building mausoleums and shrines over the graves
of Imams (a) is another historical evidence Muslims considered by
Muslims. The grave of Imam Ali (a) has had a glamorous dome
and building and according to historical reports, its dome and
building were built by Harun al-Rashid in 2nd/8th century and it
was among old buildings over graves. Muhammad b. Yazid, a Shia
ruler of Tabaristan, reconstructed this dome in 287/900. In an ode,
Ibn Hajjaj Baghdadi, a poet of 3rd/9th and 4th/10th centuries,
mentioned the grave and dome of Imam Ali's (a) shrine. The rst The Holy Shrine of Imam Ali (a) in Najaf,
building over the grave of Imam al-Husayn (a) was built when Iraq.
Mukhtar al-Thaqa came to power. Later in 371/982, a darih made
of teak was placed over the grave by the order of 'Adud al-Dawla.
Khatib Baghdadi mentioned the grave of Imam al-Kazim (a) among the graves of Quraysh which was visited and
made entreaty to by Shias and some Sunni scholars.

The shrine of Imam al-Rida (a) in Mashhad is such a building. Muhammad b. Mumal, a Hana scholar reported
about the existence of Imam al-Rida's (a) mausoleum and shrine in Tus and also reported about visiting it by
Sunni scholars. Ibn Habban introduced it a refuge for the helpless.

In 333/945, Nasir al-Dawla Hamdani built a mausoleum over the graves of Imam al-Hadi (a) and [[[Imam al-
'Askari (a)]] in Samarra.

Until the half of 2nd/8th century, there was a shade over the grave of Lady Ma'suma (a) in Qom. In the second
half of 3rd/9th century, a mausoleum was built over it by Muhammad b. Zayd, da'i (caller) of Alawis
(descendants of Imam Ali (a)).

The brick entrance of the major gate to the shrine of 'Abd al-'Azim was made by Majd al-Din Barawistani,
minister of Bakiyaraq Saljuki in 5th/11th century.

The graves of Imams (a) in Baqi' cemetery, the grave of Banu Hashim and building dome over their graves and
also the grave of 'Abbas b. 'Abd al-Malik were constructed by the order of Majd al-Mulk Barawistani in 5th/11th
century and were reconstructed several times by caliphs. According to inscriptions available in these shrines, the
rst reconstruction was made by the Abbasid caliph Mustarshid Billah in 519/1125 and later in the early 7th/13
century, Mustansir Billah made other repairs in the shrine.

Islamic Ruling of Building over Graves

In the two last centuries, Wahhabis issued a ruling for destruction of constructions built over graves. The history
of this ruling dates back to 7th/13th century and based on the theories of Ibn Taymiyya (d. 728/1328) and his
pupil Ibn Qayyim (d. 751/1350) according to whom, destruction of these constructions and shrines is obligatory.
Their rst action was destruction of the shrine and grave of Imam al-Husayn (a) in 1216/1801 and then, they
destroyed the shrines of Imams (a) in Baqi' in 1221/1806. After reconstruction of destructed shrines, when
Wahhabis took the control of Hijaz in 1344/1926, they collected rulings of scholars in Medina on the issue and
began destroying the mausoleums of the Companions and Infallible Imams (a) in Baqi'. This way, the issue of
building over the graves turned into one of the controversial issues in Islamic world.

However contrary to the beliefs of this group, other Muslims considered it permissible to build over graves, any
construction including mausoleum, mosque or school. Shia and some Sunnis consider it in accordance with
Muslims' tradition. Some Sunni faqihs, only in some cases, have considered it reprehensible and some others
consider construction over the graves of the Prophets (s), martyrs and the righteous recommended.
Some Sunni researchers believe that the disagreement made about the issue of construction around graves is
because of Wahhabis' carelessness about hadiths prohibiting construction and their lack of attention toward
justi cations against them. Prohibitions in these hadiths are not general, and they are about special cases and
are based on some reasons such as touching the materials of construction with re, their heaviness on the
buried body or their separation from the graves of other Muslims and preventing burial of other Muslims near
them. According to principles of usul, a ruling which has its justi cation with it, is speci c to the certain case, the
justi cation is given for and cannot be generalized for other cases. Moreover, there are contrary reasons
permitting the construction which are even stronger in reference and chain of transmission than proscriptive

Even proscriptive narrations regard this action reprehensible. However, the graves of religious personalities, the
righteous and martyrs are out of this reprehension, because they are considered among religious sacraments
and building mosque and mausoleum over their graves is honoring them because their graves are distinguished
and people visit them. According to the glorious Qur'an, upholding religious symbols is a sign of spiritual health
and sincerity in intention.

The View of the Qur'an

In the dispute between Muslims and polytheists over the bodies of the People of the Cave, the glorious Qur'an
mentions the opinions of both parties. Some suggested to build a mausoleum or wall in front of the cave, "they
said, 'Build a building over them." (18:21) so that they would be hidden from people's sight. Some others
suggested to build mosque or temple over their graves, "'We will set up a place of worship over them.'" (18:21)

Finally, they decided to build a mosque over their graves so that people worship God there and also the work of
the People of the Cave would be kept and be blessed by their graves. In these verses, there is no mention of
polytheistic nature of this action, for if building a construction or mosque was polytheistic, it must have been

The material for this article is mainly taken from ‫( ﺑﻧﺎی ﺑر ﻗﺑور‬
7%DB%8C_%D8%A8%D8%B1_%D9%82%D8%A8%D9%88%D8%B1) in Farsi WikiShia.

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This page was last edited on 14 March 2019, at 08:31.

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