In the Name of Allah, Most Gracious, Most Merciful.
All praise and thanks are due to Allah, and peace and blessings be upon His Messenger.
In this fatwa:
In his response to your question, Sheikh Ahmad Kutty, a senior lecturer and an Islamic scholar at the Islamic Institute of Toronto, Ontario, Canada, states:
There is nothing wrong for the women to attend funeral prayers and go the cemetery as long as they abide by the Islamic guidelines.
It is noteworthy that visiting graves for women and men had been prohibited in Islam in the early days. This was due to the fact that there were reasonable grounds for suspicion that the Arabs, newly converted to Islam and fresh from paganism, might associate the right to visit graves with grave worship rituals.
There was, however, no reasonable ground for such suspicions when the Islamic concept of tawhid (monotheism or oneness) of Allah became deeply entrenched in the Islamic consciousness.
Accordingly, the Prophet (peace and blessings be upon him) lifted the above ban. He then went a step further by making grave visitations a recommended practice because of the associated benefits.
He said: “In the past I have forbidden you from visiting graves, but now you may do so, for it might remind you of the next world.” (Muslim)
As the above statement of the Prophet (peace and blessings be upon him) is stated in general terms, scholars disagreed as to its precise interpretation.
One group thought that the permission was general to include both males and females, since the Prophet (peace and blessings be upon him) never indicated that the permission had been limited only to males.
A second group, however, said that women were excluded from the above permission and according to them women are forbidden to visit graves. They supported their view by another statement of the Prophet (peace and blessings be upon him), “Allah has cursed women who frequent graves for visitation.” (At-Tirmidhi)
The first group cited a number of traditions in support of their view that women are permitted to visit graves. One of them is the report in Al-Bukhari, which states that once the Prophet (peace and blessings be upon him) saw a woman weeping over a grave. He advised her to exercise patience. It is not stated anywhere that he told her it was forbidden for women to visit graves. It is only reasonable to assume that had visiting graves been haram for women, the Prophet (peace and blessings be upon him) would have clearly stated so in this case.
As for the hadith that the second group cited to support their view, the first group explained that it was aimed at women who frequent graves for wailing and lamentation.
The above explanation seems more plausible when we take into account the fact that the pagan Arabs were in the habit of hiring professionals—who were mostly women—to practice the ritual of wailing and lamentation on the graves.
The view of the first group is further confirmed by the report from `A’ishah. When someone objected to her about her visit to her brother’s grave, she said that the prohibition was in the early days of Islam and that the Prophet (peace and blessings be upon him) had later allowed it. A similar view has been attributed to Umm `Atiyyah who said: “The Prophet (peace and blessings be upon him) had never firmly prohibited women from visiting graves.”
In conclusion, let us say that the issue of women visiting graves has been debated by scholars of the past. After having reviewed the various traditions in this respect, Imam Qurtubi concluded that women are permitted to visit graves on condition that they refrain from wailing and lamentation. Both Imam Ibn Hajar and Ash-Shawkani, both of whom who were thoroughly grounded in the science of Hadith, also tend to favor this view.
As for a widow, it is important for her, while venturing out, to observe the rules of ‘iddah. Therefore, she should avoid beatifications, shun interaction with males, and return home at night.
Almighty Allah knows best.
Editor’s note: This fatwa is from Ask the Scholar’s archive and was originally published at an earlier date.