Expanding a mosque over an old grave
Fatwa No: 306403

Question

Assalamu alaykum. Respected Sir, there was a renowned islamic scholar who served many years in an islamic institution and was an imam of his native village mosque. He died forty years ago and was buried beside the mosque with the permission of the villagers. His grave was marked with brick that shows its boundaries. Now we need to extend the mosque because the area has become more populated. Therefore, can we extend/build the mosque on the said grave? Someone demolished the grave, was this the right decision or not? Is it allowed to repair the grave or not? What is the solution for this problem ? Kindly answer with references.

Answer

All perfect praise be to Allaah, The Lord of the Worlds. I testify that there is none worthy of worship except Allaah and that Muhammad  sallallaahu  `alayhi  wa  sallam ( may  Allaah exalt his mention ) is His slave and Messenger.

The prohibition of building mosques over graves has been authentically reported. The Prophet  sallallaahu  `alayhi  wa  sallam ( may  Allaah exalt his mention ) said during his death-illness, "May the curse of Allaah be on the Jews for they built the places of worship at the graves of their Prophets." [Al-Bukhari and Muslim]

Shaykh Ash-Shiraazi  may  Allaah  have  mercy  upon  him wrote:

"It is disliked to build a mosque over a grave; Abu Marthad Al-Ghanawi  may  Allaah  be  pleased  with  him reported that the Prophet  sallallaahu  `alayhi  wa  sallam ( may  Allaah exalt his mention ) forbade Muslims from taking his grave as a place of worship. He  sallallaahu  `alayhi  wa  sallam ( may  Allaah exalt his mention ) said, 'Do not take my grave as an idol; verily, the Children of Israel were destroyed because they took the graves of their Prophets as places of worship.' Ash-Shaafiʻi  may  Allaah  have  mercy  upon  him commented, 'I dislike glorifying any created being taking his grave as a place of worship so as to avoid potential evils incurred on him and those who would come after him.'" [Al-Muhaththab]

Hence, if this grave is old and there are no remains of the dead body buried therein, then it is permissible to build the mosque over it given the need for this expansion. Imaam An-Nawawi  may  Allaah  have  mercy  upon  him wrote:

"It is permissible to exhume the grave if the deceased has disintegrated and become dust. In that case it is permissible to dig up the grave and bury someone else in it, and it is permissible to cultivate the land or build on it, and all other means of benefiting from it and disposing of it, according to the consensus of our companions. All of this applies if there is no trace left of the deceased, such as bones and so on..." [Al-Majmooʻ]

Al-Asbagh quoted Ibn Al-Qaasim, saying about a deteriorated grave, "There is no harm in building a mosque therein; and there is no harm to use what is for Allaah (not the property of people) to support what is for Allaah."

The Hanafi scholar Al-ʻAyni  may  Allaah  have  mercy  upon  him wrote, "If the dead body has completely decomposed, disintegrated, and become dust, then it is allowable to bury another body in the same grave, cultivate the land, build over it, and the like of permissible usage..." [Al-Binaayah Sharh-Al-Hidaayah, Vol.3, p. 295]

The Hanbali scholar Al-Mardaawi  may  Allaah  have  mercy  upon  him wrote, "When the dead body has completely decomposed and turned into dust, then the preponderant view according to the Hanbali school is that it is permissible to dig up the grave and bury someone else in it. Abu Al-Maʻaali  may  Allaah  have  mercy  upon  him narrated the permissibility of burying another dead body in that very grave or cultivating the land and the like..." [Al-Insaaf]

However, if the remains of the dead body have not yet disintegrated, then scholars held different views regarding digging up the grave for the purpose of expanding a mosque. As for building over the grave as it is, it is impermissible. The Prophet  sallallaahu  `alayhi  wa  sallam ( may  Allaah exalt his mention ) forbade such an act. Jaabir  may  Allaah  be  pleased  with  him narrated, "The Prophet  sallallaahu  `alayhi  wa  sallam ( may  Allaah exalt his mention ) forbade that the graves should be plastered (made into permanent structures), used as sitting places (for the people) or building over them." [Muslim] The Prophet  sallallaahu  `alayhi  wa  sallam ( may  Allaah exalt his mention ) even commanded that the graves be leveled. Abu Al-Hayyaaj Al-Asadi narrated that ʻAli  may  Allaah  be  pleased  with  them said to him, "I am sending you on the same mission as the Messenger of Allaah  sallallaahu  `alayhi  wa  sallam ( may  Allaah exalt his mention ) sent me; that I should not leave a high grave without leveling it and an image without obliterating it." [Muslim]

It is impermissible to renovate the structure built over the grave; however, demolishing such a high grave must be carried out with wisdom. Consequent evils and interests must be weighed ahead before opting for that; people may become bigoted and fanatic in supporting falsehood and seek the restoration of the high grave to its original state. This may bring about troubles among Muslims in the community.

Hence, it is advisable that you hasten to clarify the relevant religious ruling in this regard first and encourage people to abide by it, following the practice of the Prophet  sallallaahu  `alayhi  wa  sallam ( may  Allaah exalt his mention ) in addressing such delicate situations. He  sallallaahu  `alayhi  wa  sallam ( may  Allaah exalt his mention ) delayed the demolition of the idols around the Kaʻbah until the day of conquest. He  sallallaahu  `alayhi  wa  sallam ( may  Allaah exalt his mention ) said to 'Aa’ishah  may  Allaah  be  pleased  with  her "Your people did it so that they would admit one whom they liked and forbid him whom they disliked, and if your people were not new converts to faith, and I did not apprehend that their hearts would feel agitated at this, I would have definitely included (the area of) this wall in the House and would have brought the door to the level of the ground." [Al-Bukhari and Muslim]

An-Nawawi  may  Allaah  have  mercy  upon  him wrote:

"An important principle is deduced from this hadeeth as far as the potential conflict of benefits and evils is concerned; in case that the realization of a given benefit would incur a given evil and there is absolutely no way to realize the benefit while evading the evil, the Prophet  sallallaahu  `alayhi  wa  sallam ( may  Allaah exalt his mention ) gave priority to that which is of higher importance of them. He  sallallaahu  `alayhi  wa  sallam ( may  Allaah exalt his mention ) indicated that demolishing the Kaʻbah and rebuilding it according to the foundations laid by Prophet Ibraaheem (Abraham)  may  Allaah  exalt  his  mention was a considerable interest; however, it clashed with a graver evil, which is triggering fitnah (temptation, tribulation) in the hearts of new Muslims..." [Sharh Muslim]

Ibn Taymiyyah  may  Allaah  have  mercy  upon  him asserted, "Benefits should be realized and perfected and evils should be eliminated and reduced; in case of a clash, choosing the greater of two benefits or the lesser of two evils is the prescribed act in this regard..."

He  may  Allaah  have  mercy  upon  him also said: "An evil may be endured in two cases; firstly, in order to ward off a graver evil when there is no other way except by enduring the lesser of them. Secondly, in order to realize a greater benefit (greater than abandoning it) when there is no way to realize such benefit except by enduring this evil. This appeals to logic and common sense; it is said that, 'A genuinely wise person is not one who knows the good from the bad; rather, it is he who knows the greater of two goods and the worst of two evils.'"

Allaah knows best.

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