Translation Of The Well-Known Hadith: “Do Not Make My Grave a `Eid.”
Narrated Abu Hurairah رضي الله عنه: The Holy Prophet ﷺ said, “Do not make your houses graves, and do not make my grave as an ‘Eid (festival). But send salawat (blessings) upon me, for indeed your Salat (blessings) reaches me wherever you may be. [Sunan Abu Dawud – HASAN] (Al-Albani – Sahih)
Firstly, it must be said that Imam Abu Dawud narrated this hadith in the chapter titled “Visitation of the Graves” which is the last chapter of the book titled “Rituals of Hajj” in his Sunan and in order to leave no doubt as to the command of visiting the Prophet ﷺ, the very next narration is about the Prophet ﷺ visitation of the graves of the Shuhadah of Uhud. In other words, Imam Abu Dawud رحمه الله understanding of the Hadith is that the Prophet ﷺ insisted that the visit to his grave should not be only on occasion of Hajj.
Shams al-Din al-Sakhawi رحمه الله on the meaning of the Hadith: The translation of the word “ ‘EID ” as “place to gather as for visitation” or simply “place” is inaccurate. For example, “ ‘Eid al-Adha” and Eid al-Fitri have never been translated as the “place of sacrifice” and the “place of breaking fast”.
The translation of any word in the hadith should be as literal as possible, and additional or explanatory meanings be placed in brackets, not the other way round. The literal meaning of ‘Eid is “anniversary festival”, because ‘Eid denoted two things:
1) A time that returns (‘ada) annually;
2) A time one observes with festive activities (‘ayyada).
A further meaning connoted is that of gathering, and only then does ‘Eid begin to have the connotation of “place” which the above mistranslation arbitrarily gave as the primary meaning. Thus, to being with, the hadith should be literally translated: “Do not make my grave an anniversary festival.” Since this rendering mixes two unmixable classes of words, namely the grave – a solid object – and the anniversary festival – a time, it becomes clear that the final meaning is: “Do not make the visit to my grave an anniversary festival.”
This is understood in the sense of an insistence on the part of the Prophet ﷺ that the believers should visit him frequently and at all times, rather than visit him sparsely, which one might falsely understand from the misinterpretations of Ibn Taymiyyah and those who imitate him, which superimpose on the hadith the exact reserves of its intended meaning. “Visit me often and at all times” is the explanation by Hafidh al-Sakhawi رحمه الله the student of Imam al-Hadith Ibn Hajar رحمه الله in his chapter entitled, “On the meaning of the hadith: Do not make my grave an ‘Eid ”
In his masterpiece al-Qawl al-Badi’ fil-Salat ‘ala al-Habib al-Shafi’. The author of Silah al-Mu’min [the Muhaddith Taqi al-Din Abu-Fath Muhammad ibn Muhammad ibn Ali al-Asqalani thumma al-Misri, known as Ibn Shafi’i (677-745)] said, “It is probable that the intent of the Prophet’s saying: ‘Do not make my grave an ‘Eid is emphasis and encouragement for the frequency of visiting him and not treating his visit like an anniversary festival which does not occur in the year other than two times.” This meaning is also reported from the Hafidh of Egypt Abd al-Azeem al-Mundhiri the author of al-Targhrib wal-Tarhib. Imam al-Sakhawi رحمه الله continues: This meaning is supported by his saying: “Do not make your houses graves,” that is, “Do not abandon prayer in your houses and thus turn them into places similar to the graves where one does not pray.” As it is known from another hadith where the Prophet ﷺ ** the Jews and Christians for prostrating and making the graves into a qiblah of worship. Thus giving a parable of not turning the house into a place similar to a grave where worship is prohibited to them.
We have already seen something to that effect in the hadith of this chapter. One of the commentators of the Masaabih said, “The Prophet’s saying is an abridged form of the sense, “Do not make the visit to my grave an anniversary festival,” and its meaning is the prohibition of (formally) gathering for the purpose of his visit the way people gather together to celebrate ‘Eid. The Jews and Christians used to gather for the visit of their Prophets’ grave and busy themselves with entertainment and music, so the Prophet ﷺ forbade his Community from doing that.” It was also said that it is probable the Prophet’s ﷺ prohibition was intended to prevent hardship for his Community, as so they do not need to specifically come to his grave to send blessings rather they can send blessings from anywhere and it will still reach him.
As mentioned in the latter part of the hadith: “But send salawat (blessings) upon me, for indeed your Salat (blessings) reaches me wherever you may be”.
I say: The emphasis and encouragement on visiting his noble grave is mentioned in numerous hadith. It would suffice to show this if there was only the hadith whereby the truthful and God-confirmed Prophet ﷺ promises that his intercession, among other things, becomes guaranteed for whoever visits him; and the Imams are in complete agreement, from the time directly after his passing until our own, that this is among the best acts of drawing near to Allah.
Shaykh al-Islam (Taqi al-Din) al-Subki رحمه الله said in his book Shifa al-Siqam: “A large number of Imams have inferred from the hadith, ‘No one greets me except Allah has returned my soul to me so that I can return his salam’. [Abu Dawud with a sound chain in that same chapter of his sunan as the hadith under discussion] the legal desirability of visiting the grave of the Prophet ﷺ.” I say, “This is a sound inference because when the visitor greets the Prophet ﷺ his reply is given from near, and this is a much sought-after benefit which Allah ﷻ has made easily available for us to return again and again to the very beginning of that blessing. The reason is that the one who performs visitation has both the reward of visiting him and that of invoking blessing upon him, while those who invoke blessings upon him from all over the world only have the reward of invoking blessings upon him, and upon whoever invokes blessings once, Allah sends ten blessings.” To conclude, it can be known the act of visiting the beloved prophet ﷺ has no limitations and its permissibility is known among the scholars of Islam. The only prohibition which is clear, is of such a igronant person who may visit the Prophets ﷺ blessed grave but due to his ignorance the person does not observe decorum in his visitation, or prostrates to the grave, or does something outside the Law, such a person has done a severely prohibited act and should be taught the correct etiquettes and actions when visiting the blessed grave of the Beloved Prophet ﷺ.
“Verily Allah conferred a great favor on the believers when He sent among them a Messenger from among themselves, rehearsing unto them the Signs of Allah, sanctifying them, and instructing them in Scripture
and Wisdom while, before that, they had been in manifest error.” (3:164)
Source: Iqtidhaa Al-Siraat Al-Mustaqeem, Vol. 2 Pg. # 735 – 736.
May Allah grant us the blessing of visiting his Beloved Prophet in the city he has illumined with his light, and to die there.
Blessings and Peace on the Prophet, his Family, and his Companions.