Ziyārah (Arabic: الزيارة, literally: the visit) is a religious act which means to attend before religious leaders or their graves in order to express and show love and reverence and acquire spiritual blessings. Visiting religious personalities and their graves have always been among recommended acts in Islam and during history, Muslims have paid attention to it and followed it. However, ziyarah of the Prophet (s) and Imams (a) has had a great importance among Shi'a and many spiritual benefits and rewards have been mentioned for them. Since ziyarah is greatly important in Shi'a culture, it has been regarded among the characteristics of Shi'a.
Despite the general opinion of Muslims about recommendation and permissibility of Ziyarah, Wahhabism, which has certain interpretations of some verses, claims that ziyarah is not compatible with the conduct of the Prophet (s) and has cast doubts on this issue. These doubts have made Shi'a and Sunni scholars answer and defend the permissibility of Ziyarah.
Literally, the word "Ziyarah" means turning and withdrawing from something. The person who goes on ziyarah is called Za'ir because when he goes to ziyarah of a person, turns away from others. The common meaning of ziyarah is that one turns to a person to show respect and become close to him; i.e. a visit which is accompanied with reverence at the heart and spiritual approach. Also, some have said that visiting friends of God and great Muslim personalities is called ziyarah because it is turning away from material world towards the spiritual world.
Importance in Islamic Culture
In Islamic culture and all Muslims' tradition, ziyarah has an important position which can be understood from hadiths received from Imams (a) about the promised rewards for Ziyarah. Hadiths about recommendation of ziyarah of the Prophet (s) are many and at the level of Tawatur [high frequency of narration] and agreed upon by both Shi'as and Sunnis. Therefore, Muslims go to ziyarah of the grave of the Prophet (s) since long ago.
Although ziyarah of the graves of the righteous, especially the Prophet (s) is accepted by all Muslims, the concept of ziyarah is more important in Shi'a culture. In addition to ziyarah of the Prophet (s), ziyarah of infallible Imams (a) is also a part of Shi'a rituals and is very important to them.
In Shi'a Culture
In Shi'a culture, ziyarah means the connection with the infallible Imam (a) and admitting his Wilaya, ziyarah has a tight relation with the issue of the love of the Ahl al-Bayt (a), Tawalli [Loving] and Tabarri [disassociation]. Ziyarah of the Infallible (a) is among the signs and requirements of loyalty towards them and doing justice to their rights of Wilaya over their followers; since, in the view of Shi'a, the Prophet (s) and Imams (a) have Wilaya and even after they pass away, their positions are preserved.
One of the fruits of Imam's Wilaya is his control over the hearts, meaning that Imam has control over souls and hearts of people. In most ziyarah texts, such a Wilaya and Imama is admitted; for example, it is mentioned in texts for ziyarah of Imams (a), "I attest that you see my place and hear my word and answer my salutation." In Shi'a view, the soul of Imam becomes aware about his visitor with God's permission and this has made ziyarah for Shi'a a meeting filled with love and spirituality, the influence of which can obviously be seen in Shi'a prose and poetry. Ziyarah and the holy shrines of the Ahl al-Bayt (a) have had great roles in Shi'a history and paying great attention to these is considered among significant cultural symbols of Shi'a.
In Sunni Culture
Many hadiths and historical reports can be found in Sunni sources about ziyara of sahaba which indicate that ziyara is accepted and recommended among Sunni Muslims. In numerous books such as Sahih Muslim and Sunan Abi Dawud, it has been narrated from the Holy Prophet (s) that:"In the past, I forbade you from ziyara of the graves, but make ziyara of them now (because it will remind you of the hereafter and their ziyara will add to your good so anyone who wants to make ziyara then it is allowed but do not utter useless and false statements).
Different types of ziyarah have been mentioned in hadiths from the Ahl al-Bayt (a); some of which are:
- Visiting Ka'ba: which is performing Hajj, 'Umra or circumambulation (Tawaf) of Ka'ba. Recommendation of ziyarah of Ka'ba and obligation of Hajj is among definite rulings agreed by all Muslims. Furthermore, according to hadiths, Ka'ba has been also respected by all prophets of the past.
- Ziyarah of the Prophet (s), which would be rewarded both during his lifetime and after he (s) passed away. Permissibility and recommendation of his ziyarah is accepted by both Shi'a and Sunni and many hadiths have been narrated about that. Imam al-Sadiq (a) narrated from the Prophet (s) that anyone who comes to visit me, I will intercede for him on the Day of Judgment. Also, in another hadith, it is narrated that ziyarah of the grave of the Prophet (s), graves of martyrs and the grave of Imam al-Husayn (a) equals to performing Hajj in the company of the Prophet (s).
- Ziyarah of Amir al-Mu'minin, 'Ali b. Abi Talib (a) in Najaf, for which great rewards are promised in hadiths; for example, Imam al-Husayn (a) narrated from the Prophet (s) that, "anyone who visits me or 'Ali (a), I will visit him on the Day of Judgment and I will free him from his sins." According to hadiths, Imam 'Ali (a) is superior to all Imams (a) and there are many hadiths regarding his Ziyarah.
- Ziyarah Imam al-Husayn (a) in Karbala; about which different and great rewards have been mentioned in correspondence with the visitor's knowledge and the manner of his Ziyarah.
- Ziyarah of other Imams (a). It is narrated from Imam al-Sadiq (a) that ziyarah of each of Imams (a) will be rewarded the same as the ziyarah of the Prophet (s).
- Ziyarah of Imams (a) from distance; if anyone is unable to go to ziyarah of the Prophet (s), Imams (a) or Lady Fatima (s), he can make ziyarah from distance.
- Ziyarah of Lady Fatima al-Ma'suma (a), the honorable daughter of Imam al-Kazim (a) in Qom; there are many hadiths about her virtues and it is narrated from Imam al-Rida (a) that the rewards for ziyarah of Lady Ma'suma (s) is the paradise.
- Ziyarah of 'Abd al-'Azim al-Hasani in Rey; he (a) was among the great children of Imam al-Hasan al-Mujtaba (a) and great companions of Imams (a). In a hadith, the rewards promised for ziyarah of him has been mentioned the same as ziyarah of Imam al-Husayn (a).
- Ziyarah of faithful and righteous people: In many hadiths, ziyarah of the graves of the faithful and making Du'a for them have been recommended; such as in a hadith narrated from Imam 'Ali (a) which advises that visit your passed ones since they become happy from your visit and make your requests from God near the graves of your father and mother.
The heart of ziyarah is the spiritual attention towards Imam and showing respect, greetings and making spiritual bond with him. However, since Ziyara is considered as going before Imam (a), certain instructions are given for it, following which increases the benefits one can receive from Ziyarah. Certain instructions are given for the ziyarah of some Imams (a) such as the Prophet (s) or Imam al-Husayn (a). For example, there are certain Du'as and manners recommended to be observed during the ziyarah of the Prophet (s), and ziyarah of Imam al-Husayn (a) on the day of 'Arafa will have more rewards; or ziyarah of Imam al-Rida (a) in the months of Dhu l-Qa'da and Rajab has been recommended.
Some common manners of ziyarah are:
- To make ziyarah with knowledge; according to many hadiths, the full reward of ziyarah would be given to those who do it being aware and having knowledge about the position of Imam (a) ('Arif bi-haqqih [knowing his rights]). Although, having knowledge has different levels, but the minimum degree of that is that the visitor knows that he is visiting an infallible Imam (a) who has Wilaya, whose obedience is obligatory, that he (a) is the successor of the Prophet (s) and that the visitor needs to admit to Imam's (a) rights and obey his orders. To explain what it means to be aware and to have knowledge about the rights of Imam, Imam al-Kazim (a) said, "It is to know that his obedience is obligatory and that he is Gharib [left in distance without help] and martyred."
- To do ghusl (ritual bath) for Ziyarah
- To make Wudu [ablution] and be pure
- Wearing new and clean clothes
- Wearing perfume (except for ziyarah of Imam al-Husayn (a), for which wearing perfume is not recommended)
- Avoiding idle talk
- Reciting Idhn Dukhul [permission for entrance]
- Going near the grave, so that the visitor reaches Darih and hang on it, provided that he does not disturb other visitors. (However, ziyarah of Imams (a) is not only touching and kissing Darih; but the visitor can receive the full rewards of ziyarah without touching Darih, only by reciting ziyarah text and saluting those honorable ones; and the idea that if a person does not reach Darih or kiss it, his ziyarah would be incomplete, is wrong.)
- Reciting Ziyarah texts received from Imams (a), such as the Ziyarah Amin Allah , Jami'a al-Kabira and the Ziyarah of A'immat al-Mu'minin.
- Not speaking loudly and reciting du'a in low tone
- Doing two rak'as of prayer and gifting its reward to the one buried in the grave
- Reciting du'a and the Qur'an and gifting its reward to the one buried in the grave
- Kissing the doorstep (however prostrating (Sajdah) for the Darih is not permissible)
- Making repentance (Tawba), because such places are the place of acceptance of repentance
- Leaving the shrine (especially from around Darih) after ziyarah to empty room for others to make ziyarah and also not become tired of ziyarah and to keep the love of ziyarah in his heart.
If someone cannot go to ziyarah of an Imam, he can make Ziyarah from distance. In references of du'a and ziyarah (such as Mafatih al-jinan), there are special ziyarah texts for making ziyarah from distance.
There are different types of Ziyarah, each of which has unique benefits. For example, ziyarah of Ka'ba has certain philosophy and certain manners of performance which are mentioned in the references of du'a and ziyarah in detail.
Ziyarah of the faithful and their graves is a mutual relationship which has benefits and fruits both for the visitor and the visited. In addition to abundant rewards for visiting the faithful, it is mentioned in many hadiths that the one is buried in the grave senses the presence of his visitor and becomes happy with their presence. Other benefits for the ziyarah of the graves of the faithful include being reminded about death, taking lesson and being prepared for correction.
Merits of the ziyarah of Infallible Imams (a)
The Prophet (s) and Pure Imams (a) are perfect people and most beloved servants of God who are closest to God and at the peak of Taqwa (God-wariness) and God has kept them immaculate from any sins and errors. To love the Ahl al-Bayt (a) is God's order and showing enmity with them is actually showing enmity with God. Reaching high levels of closeness to God without loving the Ahl al-Bayt (a) and accepting their Wilaya is not possible.
Accordingly, the merits of ziyarah can be understood, since ziyarah is among the best ways to connect to the infallible leaders which brings about great opportunities and spirituality. Also, respecting Imams (a) strengthens the spiritual connection between the visitor and Imam (a) and in fact makes their spiritual path continue.
Forgiveness of the sins, benefitting from intercession of Imams (a) and fulfillment of requests are among other spiritual fruits, ziyarah of Imams (a) bring about.
To give examples, some hadiths about the merits of ziyarah are mentioned below:
- Imam al-Sadiq (a) said, "Anyone who visits the grave of Imam al-Husayn (a) for the sake of God, God will free him from the fire of the hell and keeps him safe on the Day of Judgment. He would not ask God any request whether about the world or the hereafter except he would be granted."
- Imam al-Rida (a) said, "The friend and followers of every Imam are bound to a covenant with him which would be fulfilled completely only when those Imams's (a) graves are visited. Thus, one who visits Imams (a) with all his love and admits to anything they desired, his Imams (a) will intercede for him on the Day of Judgment."
- Imam al-Rida (a) said, "Anyone who visits me in this lonely town (Mashhad), I will come to visit him in three places and will free him from fears: when his records of actions is submitted to him, when he passes Sirat and when his actions are being measured."
In addition to rewards mentioned for visitors of Imams (a) in hadiths, the culture of ziyarah has several social and educational functions such as the benefits mentioned below:
- Increase of the visitor's knowledge and learning religious teachings through ziyarah texts
- Learning about the positions of Imams (a) and strengthening Wilaya relationship between the visitors and the friends of God
- Providing a good model for the society
- Preparing religious environment of the shrines of Imams (a) and the graves for dissolving the sins and developing virtues
Social and Political Functions
Since the beginning of their history and in most ages, Shi'a have been a minority opposite to the government and hated by different political powers; therefore, political and social issues have been blended with the souls and beliefs of Shi'a.
During history of Shi'a, respected shrines of infallible Imams (a) have been centers for knowledge and preaching religion, origins of revolutions and uprisings, places to make covenants for revolutions and social movements, etc. Largest Shi'a seminaries have been developed in Najaf, Qom and Mashhad.
According to political and social problems, some major roles can be mentioned for ziyarah in brief:
- Keeping the collective spirit alive and strengthening Shi'a identity and also continuing the struggles of Imams (a) against oppressors
- Creating the feeling of hope in hardships and critical situations among Shi'a
- Keeping the spirit of heroism and bravery alive in people and spreading it in the society
- Preaching the spirit of seeking truth and justice and focusing on claiming people's rights and implementation of justice as the most important goal of Shi'a which can obviously be learned through the texts of Ziyarah.
- Reviving the spirit of revenge from oppressors by mentioning instances of oppression brought upon Shi'a Imams (a) and their followers during history.
- Focusing on the society and ideal government which Imam al-Mahdi (a) will establish after his reappearance.
- Main article: Ziyarah Texts
Besides giving certain instructions for the ziyarah, also some texts are taught in Shi'a traditon and hadithes to be recited during the ziyarah of Imam's tombs. Ziyarah texts received from the Ahl al-Bayt (a) mostly have content rich with authentic Islamic beliefs and teachings. Some of such Ziayarah texts have found more importance and fame due to their special content or reference; such as Ziyarh 'Ashura, Ziyarah al-Jami'a al-kabira, Ziyarah Amin Allah, Ziyarah Warith, Ziyarah Al Yasin and Ziyarah Jami'a A'immat al-Mu'minin.
The importance of ziyarah and great range of its manners has made the discussion of Ziyarat text as an important religious issue, to be the subject for many works. Ibn Qulawayh al-Qummi's Kamil al-Ziyarat is among the most authentic such references. Other such works are al-Shaykh al-Mufid's al-Mazar, al-Shaykh al-Tusi's Misbah al-mutahajjid, Sayyid b. Tawus's Muhaj al-da'awat, Ibn al-Mashhadi's al-Mazar al-kabir, al-Allama al-Majlisi's Tuhfat al-za'ir and Shaykh 'Abbas Qummi's Mafatih al-jinan.
Doubts Cast by Critics
In contemporary time, Wahhabis have made literalistic interpretations of the verses of the Qur'an and have questioned Ziyarah of the graves. These questions have been answered in different books of Shi'a and Sunni scholars.
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