Ziyāra (Arabic: الزيارة; visit) or pilgrimage 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, ziyara 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 ziyara 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 Ziyara, Wahhabism, which has certain interpretations of some verses, claims that ziyara 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 Ziyara.
Literally, the word "Ziyara" means turning and withdrawing from something. The person who goes on ziyara is called Za'ir because when he goes to ziyara of a person, turns away from others.
The common meaning of ziyara 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 ziyara because it is turning away from material world towards the spiritual world.
Importance in Islamic Culture
In Islamic culture and all Muslims' tradition, ziyara has an important position which can be understood from hadiths received from Imams (a) about the promised rewards for ziyara. Hadiths about recommendation of ziyara 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 ziyara of the grave of the Prophet (s) since long ago.
Although ziyara of the graves of the righteous especially the Prophet (s) is accepted by all Muslims, the concept of ziyara is more important in Shi'a culture. In addition to ziyara of the Prophet (s), ziyara 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, ziyara means the connection with the infallible Imam (a) and admitting his Wilaya, ziyara has a tight relation with the issue of the love of the Ahl al-Bayt (a), Tawalli [Loving] and Tabarri [disassociation]. Ziyara 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 ziyara texts, such a Wilaya and Imama is admitted; for example, it is mentioned in texts for ziyara 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 ziyara 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 ziyara 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 ziyara 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.
- Ziyara of the Prophet (s), which would be rewarded both during his lifetime and after he (s) passed away. Permissibility and recommendation of his ziyara 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 ziyara 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).
- Ziyara 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 Ziyara.
- Ziyara of 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 Ziyara.
- Ziyara of other Imams (a). It is narrated from Imam al-Sadiq (a) that ziyara of each of Imams (a) will be rewarded the same as the ziyarah of the Prophet (s).
- Ziyara of Imams (a) from distance; if anyone is unable to go to ziyara of the Prophet (s), Imams (a) or Lady Fatima (s), he can make ziyara from distance.
- Ziyara 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 ziyara of Lady Ma'suma (s) is the paradise.
- Ziyara 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 ziyara of Imam al-Husayn (a).
- Ziyara of faithful and righteous people: In many hadiths, ziyara 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 ziyara is the spiritual attention towards Imam and showing respect, greetings, and making a 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 Ziyara. 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 ziyara of the Prophet (s), and ziyara of Imam al-Husayn (a) on the day of 'Arafa will have more rewards; or ziyara of Imam al-Rida (a) in the months of Dhu l-Qa'da and Rajab has been recommended.
Some common manners of ziyara are:
- To make ziyara with knowledge; according to many hadiths, the full reward of ziyara 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 Ziyara
- To make Wudu [ablution] and be pure
- Wearing new and clean clothes
- Wearing perfume (except for ziyara 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, ziyara of Imams (a) is not only touching and kissing Darih; but the visitor can receive the full rewards of ziyara without touching Darih, only by reciting ziyara text and saluting those honorable ones; and the idea that if a person does not reach Darih or kiss it, his ziyara would be incomplete, is wrong.)
- Reciting Ziyara texts received from Imams (a), such as the Ziyarat Amin Allah and al-Jami'a al-Kabira.
- Not speaking loudly and reciting du'a in a 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 (Sujud) 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 ziyara to empty room for others to make ziyara and also not become tired of ziyara and to keep the love of ziyara in his heart.
If someone cannot go to the ziyara of an Imam, he can make ziyara from distance. In references of du'a and ziyara (such as Mafatih al-jinan), there are special ziyara texts for making ziyara from distance.
There are different types of Ziyara, each of which has unique benefits. For example, ziyara of Ka'ba has certain philosophy and certain manners of performance which are mentioned in the references of du'a and ziyara in detail.
Ziyara of the faithful and their graves is a mutual relationship that 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 ziyara of the graves of the faithful include being reminded about death, taking lessons, and being prepared for a correction.
Merits of the ziyara 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 ziyara can be understood, since ziyara 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, ziyara of Imams (a) bring about.
To give examples, some hadiths about the merits of ziyara 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 are 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 ziyara has several social and educational functions such as the benefits mentioned below:
- Increase of the visitor's knowledge and learning religious teachings through ziyara 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 has 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 the 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 ziyara 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 Ziyara.
- 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.
Besides giving certain instructions for the ziyara, also some texts were taught in Shi'a tradition and hadiths to be recited during the ziyara of Imam's tombs. Ziyara-texts received from the Ahl al-Bayt (a) mostly have content-rich with authentic Islamic beliefs and teachings. Some of such ziyara-texts have found more importance and fame due to their special content or reference; such as Ziyara Ashura', al-Jami'a al-Kabira, Ziyara Amin Allah, Ziyara Warith and Ziyara Al Yasin.
The importance of ziyara and great range of its manners has made the discussion of ziyara-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 ziyara of the graves. These questions have been answered in different books of Shi'a and Sunni scholars.
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- Muslim b. al-Ḥajjāj, Ṣaḥīḥ al-Muslim, kitāb al-janāʾiz, vol. 2, p. 672; Abū Dāwūd, Sunan Abī Dāwūd, vol. 3, p. 332.
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