Offering Salah in Masjids with graves in them
Q 1: In India, there are many Masjids (mosques) with graves inside them in the direction of Qiblah (direction faced for Prayer towards the Ka’bah) or otherwise.
I used to go to distant Masjids, because they do not contain graves whose landmarks are distinct.
Discussing the validity of Salah in these Masjids with some people, Imams or others, they assert that the whole district where we live is located in the Muslims graveyard. Like all houses and stores, the Masjids are built over graves whose landmarks are not visible. For fear that Hindus may destroy some of these graves whose landmarks remain, they are placed in the courtyard of the Masjid.
If they mainly refuse to build anything over these graves whose landmarks are effaced, Hindus will capture them all.
In the light of these circumstances, is it permissible to offer Salah in such Masjids or it is better to offer Salah at home?
Indeed, it is hard for some of us to go to the Masjids far from homes, if there are any such Masjids that are free from graves.
A: The basic principle is that it is impermissible for a Muslim to offer Salah in a Masjid that contains a grave, be it in the middle or at any of its corners, as long as it is inside the Masjid‘s wall.
Offering Salah in a Masjid with a grave at the Qiblah is worse. So, it is incumbent upon those in charge of the Muslims‘ affairs not to leave these Masjids in their exiting condition, with graves inside them, but must interfere to remove this Munkar (that which is unacceptable or disapproved of by Islamic law and Muslims of sound intellect) according to the situation of the Masjid which is one of two:
First: The Masjid was built over the graves. The graveyard existed before the Masjid was built. The basic principle states that any Masjid built over graves should be demolished, because it is a building that is not established according to what Allah and His Messenger (peace be upon him) ordained.
Leaving it in its existing state and taking no action about it and offering Salah in it is persistence in committing one of the major sins, for it is built over the graves. It also involves committing excesses in religion and veneration of the dead person on whose grave the Masjid was built, which are among the means that lead to Shirk (associating others with Allah in His Divinity or worship).
Second: The Masjid was built before the graves and then the graves were placed inside it. In this case the Masjid should not be demolished. These newly placed graves must be exhumed and the remains should be buried in the Muslim graveyard to eliminate this evil, in compliance with the Sunnah of the Prophet (peace be upon him) who prohibited offering Salah in Masjids containing graves or taking the graves as places of worship.
He (peace be upon him) even cursed those who do so. It is authentically narrated 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 the Prophet (peace be upon him) said in his terminal illness, ’May Allah curse the Jews and the Christians; they have taken the graves of their Prophets as Masjids (places of worship).“
…Aishah (may Allah be pleased with her) added, ’He (peace be upon him) was warning against (doing) what they did.
But for that, his grave would have been raised above the ground, but it was feared lest it might be taken as a place for worship.“
It is narrated in the Sahih of Muslim on the authority of Jundub Ibn …Abdullah that the Prophet (peace be upon him), five days before his death, said, ’Beware! Those who preceded you used to take the graves of their prophets and righteous people as Masjids (places of worship). Do not take graves as Masjids; I forbid you to do that.“
It is also narrated in the same book, ’Do not sit on graves or pray towards them.“
It is narrated in the Two Sahih (authentic) Books of Hadith on the authority of …Aishah (may Allah be pleased with her) that Um Salamah told the Messenger of Allah (peace be upon him) about a church she saw in the land of Abyssinia (Ethiopia) and the graves it contained. He (peace be upon him) said, ’When a righteous man among these people dies, they build a place of worship on his grave and make such pictures in it. These are the evilest creatures in the Sight of Allah.“
Another is the Hadith narrated by Ibn …Abbas (may Allah be pleased with both of them) who said, ’The Messenger of Allah (peace be upon him) cursed the women who visit graves and those who build Masjids over them or place lights upon them.“ (Related by the compilers of Sunan)
Accordingly, it is impermissible to offer Salah in the Masjids with graves inside them. You must try hard to find a grave-free Masjid where you can perform congregational Prayer. If you fail to find such a Masjid, you may perform Salah in congregation at home until you can afford to establish a Masjid with no grave.
May Allah make things easy for you, bless your efforts, and use you in making Islam victorious!
May Allah grant us success! May peace and blessings be upon our Prophet Muhammad, his family, and Companions!
Permanent Committee for Scholarly Research and Ifta‘
Member Member Deputy Chairman Chairman
Bakr Abu Zayd Salih Al-Fawzan `Abdul-`Aziz Al Al-Shaykh `Abdul-`Aziz ibn `Abdullah ibn Baz
Permanent Committee Fatwas>Group 2>Volume 5: Fiqh – Salah 1>Rulings related to Masjids>Offering Salah in Masjids including graves / The first question of Fatwa no. 19381