Did Imam Ahmad Permit Kissing and Touching The Grave Of The Prophet (ﷺ)?

This is actually a widespread shubhah (spurious argument) that is regularly circulated on Arab (and Persian) websites and social media by Rawafid and (unsurprisingly) Sufis alike.

The proponents of this argument do not realise that even if their opponents would submit to whatever evidence is put forward against them as in that it is undoubtedly established that Imam Ahmad (may Allah have mercy upon him) had no issues with the practice and habit of the Jews and Christians i.e. touching and kissing of graves, it would still not constitute a shred of evidence against Ahlul-Sunnah and for the practice of touching and kissing the Prophet’s () grave.

We do not have ‘infallible imams’ in Islam (nobody has, no matter what they claim), not even the greatest Sahabi is infallible, let alone someone like Ahmad b. Hanbal, who came after them and warned against the blind following of him.

From the principles of Islam is:

أقوال العلماء يحتج لها لا بها

‘The statements of the scholars are not proof in and by themselves, rather they need to be backed with proof.’

So  anybody’s words (if not substantiated with sound proofs) can be rejected, or in the words of Imam Malik (or what is attributed to him and was said by others before him) when he pointed to the Prophet’s (ﷺ) grave:

كل يُؤخذ من كلامه ويُرد إلا صاحب هذا القبر

‘Everyone’s statement can be taken or rejected except for the companion of this grave.’

The only person whose speech was ever taken without skepticism is the Prophet (ﷺ) and we have his noble companions as the best examples, the Sahabah, amongst them their chiefs, the likes of al-Farooq ‘Umar b. al-Khattab (may Allah be pleased with him) who explicitly stated that the only reason he kissed the al-Hajar al-Aswad is due to it being Sunnah (kissing graves is not):

Imam Bukhari reports that ‘Umar (may Allah be pleased with him) came to the Black Stone (performing tawaf, circumambulation), kissed it, and said, “I know that you are a stone, you do not cause benefit or harm; and if it were not that I had seen Allah’s Messenger () kiss you, I would never have kissed you.”

This is how strict the Sahabah were when it came to matters of worship i.e. religious rituals. Certainly, touching or kissing anybody’s grave was something that none of them were taught nor taught others, in fact, they warned from any form of grave veneration, as this was what Muhammad al-Mustafa () taught them and reminded them of, even at the last moments of his life when he () cursed the worst of all creation for their crime of having taken the graves of their holy men as places of worship.

So let’s say for the sake of argument that Imam Ahmad (may Allah have mercy upon him) approved the practice of the Jews and Christians with regards to the grave of the Prophet () i.e. touching and kissing it: why would anybody act upon an isolated statement of his? If he had approved such practices that’d be remembered as a great error, a shadh view, and we would ask Allah to forgive him. You will barely find a single scholar throughout the history of Islam that has not fallen into some forms of mistakes, sometimes even creedal ones.

And no, Imam Ahmad b. Hanbal (may Allah have mercy upon him) would not be accused of shirk as false tabarruk is a deviation, not major shirk:

قال شيخ الإسلام محمد بن عبد الوهاب رحمه الله: (ويُكرَهُ التمسُّح به، والصلاة عنده، وقصده لأجل الدُّعاءِ، فهذه من المنكراتِ، بل من شُعَبِ الشركِ)

كتاب آداب المشي إلى الصلاة للإمام محمد بن عبد الوهاب رحمه الله ص242

‘It is disliked to wipe over it (i.e. the grave), and performing ritual prayers next to it and taking it (i.e. the grave) as a central point of du’a. These are from the evil matters (munkarat), rather they are from branches of shirk.’ [Kitab Adab al-Mashi ila al-Salah by Imam Muhammad b. Abdul-Wahhab]

But the question is: Is it even established that Imam Ahmad (may Allah have mercy upon him) held the view that kissing and touching the grave of the Prophet () is a permissible act and a form of tabarruk (seeking blessings)?

An ignoramus Sufi and ruwaybidhah who has recently peddled this shubhah (beloved by Rawafid and Sufis) made the following claims:

As for Badr al-Din al-Ayni (may Allah have mercy upon him): He was a Hanafi who defended Shaykh al-Islam b. Taymiyyah (may Allah have mercy upon him) from the attacks of the vicious qubooris of his time and rebuked the khurafat of the Sufis such as their clapping, singing, screaming, and other absurdities that they have innovated and incorporated in their worship like the Nasara.

Neither al-Ayni constitutes in and by himself proof for anything nor does Shaykh al-Islam b. Taymiyyah. Besides creating a smokescreen, what’s the point to post such a statement that doesn’t prove anything and does not academically deal with the fact that we have contradicting statements from Imam Ahmad regarding the practice of touching and kissing graves? Shaykh al-Islam himself relays the agreement of the scholars regarding grave veneration and bid’i tabarruk practices such as touching and kissing the Prophet’s () grave.

As for Kitab al-Sunnah: Look at the hatred this Sufi has for Ahlul-Sunnah was al-Athari. Isn’t he supposed to be an Athari?

Yes, Ahlul-Sunnah do accept Kitab al-Sunnah by Abdullah ibn Ahmad ibn Hanbal, however, if Atharis like Daraqutni and al-Albani even weakened reports in Bukhari, why would anybody believe that Kitab al-‘Ilal narrated by ‘Abdullah ibn Ahmad ibn Hanbal (كتاب العلل ومعرفة الرجال لأحمد رواية ابنه عبد الله) or any book other than the Qur’an is free from error and discrepancies?

Of course, nobody rejects the narration of Imam Ahmad’s son (who narrated that his father saw no issues with touching and kissing the Prophet’s grave) with no reason, there is something called a holistic reading of reports which is not done by those who raise this shubhah.

The truth is, we have opposing views of Imam Ahmad on this matter and therefore we shall refer back to the Hanbali authorities and how they reconciled this matter.

The following is the report that the Qubooris present to the gullible:

Imam Ahmad did not author this book with his own hands. Rather, his sons and companions gathered his Fiqh from questions they used to answer.

[3243] سألته عن الرجل يمس منبر النبي صلى الله عليه وسلم ويتبرك بمسه ويقبّله ويفعل بالقبر مثل ذلك أو نحو هذا يريد بذلك التقرب إلى الله جل وعز، وقال: لا بأس بذلك

العلل ومعرفة الرجال” الجزء: 2، الرقم: 3243

“I (Abdullah son of Imam Ahmad) asked him (Imam Ahmad) about the person that touches the pulpit of the Prophet (), seeking blessings by touching it and kissing it, and does the same to the grave, or as such, seeking the blessings from Allah the Almighty, he (Ahmad) said: “Nothing wrong with that.” [al-‘Ilal by Ahmad ibn Ahmad narrated by ‘Abdullah ibn Ahmad ibn Hanbal]

Note: 'Bro Hajji' concealed the commentary (the parts highlighted in yellow) in his video where he claimed that Ahmad ibn Hanbal was fine with grave kissing. The commentary includes delicate clarifications that 'Bro Hajji' did not want his sheepish and gullible following to see, statements by Ibn Taymiyyah, a scholar he claims to respect. The muhaqqiq of the book added comments by Ibn Taymiyyah who said that touching and kissing graves is not just a forbidden act in Islam, it is agreed upon that it is haram, no matter what grave. Furthermore, he mentions that not a single Sahabi (despite their easy access to the grave back in those times) sought blessings by touching or kissing the grave (they only did so with the pulpit as the Prophet (ﷺ) touched it, but as it got burned, it is not anymore permissible to seek tabarruk with a new pulpit). It is also mentioned that nobody (else) has attributed this statement to Imam Ahmad. The Sufi 'Bro Hajji' deceptively hid the clarification part to his viewers. One day he will have to answer for his charlatanism.

This is what the Sufis and Rawafid clutch onto like as if their lives depend on it. Here is how Ahlul-Sunnah respond:

  1. The report (which exists in slightly different versions as well) is a shadh (odd/irregular) report that contradicts other more reliable and known statements of Imam Ahmad.
  2. It is a solitary report (التفرد في رواية الحديث) that goes against what the other transmitters from Imam Ahmad have transmitted.
  3. The narration opposes the principles of Imam Ahmad as what is transmitted in solitary form by his son ‘Abdullah goes against the actions of the Sahabah which are well known to be a foundation that Imam Ahmad relies upon.
  4. Hanbali authorities discount the odd and solitary report by ‘Abdullah in favour of more authentic narrations.

The top students of Imam Ahmad relay Imam Ahmad’s view regarding the baseless practice of touching and kissing the Prophet’s (ﷺ) grave.

Abu Bakr al-Athram, who is among the most prominent students of Imam Ahmad and who narrated directly from him said:

قال: (قلتُ لأبي عبد اللهِ: قَبرُ النبيِّ -صلَّى اللهُ عليه وسلَّمَ- يُمسُّ ويُتمسَّحُ به؟ فقال: ما أعرِفُ هذا. قلتُ له: فالمنبرُ؟ قال: أمَّا المنبرُفنَعَمْ؛ قد جاء فيه

المسائل الفقهية من كتاب الروايتين والوجهين)) (1/215) لأبي يعلى الفراء (ت: 458)، وانظر: ((المغني لابن قدامة)) (3/479).

“I asked Abu Abdullah (i.e. Ahmad b. Hanbal): “The grave of the Prophet () – should it be touched and wiped with”, he replied: “I do not know of this (practice).” I said to him: “What about the pulpit,” He said: “As for the pulpit, yes, (narrations) came about it.” [al-Masail Al-Fiqhiyah min Kitab al-Riwaytayn wa al-Wajhayn” 1/215 of Abu Ya’la al-Fara (458), see ‘al-Mughni’ of Ibn Qudamah 3/479]

Note: the pulpit (minbar) was an actual genuine prophetic relic (that later got burnt and lost. Ibn Taymiyyah also mentions that Ibn 'Umar (May Allah be pleased him) used to touch the pulpit for tabarruk, however, that was before it got burned and lost forever (after Imam Ahmad's era) and thus no actual minbar relic exists that was touched by the Prophet () and therefore it is impermissible to seek tabarruk with the pulpit we have today.

And this is also why Imam Ahmad had no issue with touching the minbar for tabarruk (as the original pulpit existed at his time). However, he gave a completely different answer regarding the grave of the Prophet () stating that he does not know of this i.e. this practice, and of course, after all the Prophet () was harsh against those who will venerate his grave in any shape or form.

Furthermore, the same al-Athram said:

قال الأثرم: رأيتُ أهلَ العلم من أهل المدينة لا يمسُّون قبرَ النبيِّ صلى الله عليه وسلم

المغني 5/ 468.

“I have seen the people of knowledge (Ahlul-‘Ilm) of Madinah, none of them of them touched the grave of the Prophet ().” [al-Mughni, 468/5]

There is no doubt that Imam Ahmad is no less in knowledge than the people of knowledge in Madinah of his time. And it is also not surprising that the Jewish and Christian habit and custom of touching the grave of the Prophet () were unknown to them, after all, it is a practice that was never endorsed by the Prophet () for any grave, not even for the great martyrs of Badr.

Note: Qadhi Iyad, the Maliki Imam relied on the very statement of al-Athram, the son of Imam Ahmad, instead of the shadh report by ‘Abdullah. Qadhi said:

 « وهذه الرواية تدل على أنه ليس بسنة وضع اليد على القبر ». ثم ذكر القاضي بأن طريقة التقرب إلى الله تقف على التوقيف، واحتج بقول عمر للحجر الأسود « ولولا أني رأيت رسول الله يقبلك ما قبلتك» (كتاب الروايتين والوجهين 1/214).

‘This report proves that it is not from the Sunnah to place the hands on the grave.’

He then continues mentioning that taqarrub ila Allah (i.e. to seek closeness to Allah) is only done via tawqif.  Tawqif is from the principles (usool) of Islam which basically means that it is not permissible to worship Allah, may He be exalted, through any act of worship (or belief) unless this act of worship (or belief) is proven in the shar’i texts (Qur’an and Sunnah).

Furthermore,  Abul-Fadl al-Salih, another son of Imam Ahmad also narrated contrary to what his brother ‘Abdullah narrated. He narrated about the one who enters Madinah:

ولا يَمسّ الحائطَ، ويَضَع يدَه على الرُّمَّانة والموضِعِ الذي جَلَس فيه النبيُّ صلَّى اللهُ عليه وسلَّمَ، ولا يُقَبِّل الحائطَ

مسائل الإمام أحمد بن حنبل رواية ابنه أبي الفضل صالح (3/61)

“He must not touch the wall (of the Prophet’s grave), and put his hand on the place upon which the Prophet () sat and he must not kiss the wall.” [Masail al-Imam Ahmad b. Hanbal, Riwayah ibnihi Abul-Fadhl Salih 3/61]

The Hanbali fuqahah reject the transmission by ‘Abdullah ibn Ahmad ibn Hanbal

 

The heads of the Hanbali madhab, those who understood Imam Ahmad best have an agreement that kissing and touching graves (this includes the grave of the Prophet) is impermissible and from the habits of the Jews and Christians.

It is of utmost importance to refer to the scholars of the Hanbali school when citing views of Imam Ahmad. This is because, for one Fiqh-related issue, you have a number of transmissions from Ahmad through his famous companions such as Abu Dawud, Salih, al-Athram, and many more. Sometimes these companions made mistakes, however, the Hanbali scholars know how to discern these mistakes and filter out the strongest/correct opinion. The only problem is that those who fish in murky waters and want to justify the touching and seeking blessings from touching the grave (or grave of the Prophet) either conceal what the Hanbali authorities have to say on this topic or (which is more likely) do not even know that such nuanced statements exists. All of this stems from a shallow reading of the text.

The Arab-Persian scholar Abdul-Qadir al-Hanbali al-Jilani (561H) said:

قال عبد القادر الجيلانيُّ (ت: 561هـ): (وإذا زار قبرًا لا يَضَع يدَه عليه، ولا يُقَبِّله؛ فإنَّها عادةُ اليهود)- ((الغنية)) (1/ 91)

“When one visits a grave, one must not put his hand on it nor kiss it, as this is the habit of the Jews.[al-Ghunyah by ‘Abdul-Qadir al-Jilani]

Imam ibn Qudamah (may Allah have mercy upon him) said in ‘al-Mughni’:

قال ابنُ قدامةَ: ولا يُستحَبُّ التمسحُ بحائطِ قبرِ النبيِّ صلَّى اللهُ عليه وسلَّمَ ولا تَقبيلُه، قال أحمد: ما أعرفُ هذا؛ قال الأثرمُ: رأيتُ أهلَ العِلمِ مِن أهل المدينةِ لا يَمسُّون قبرَ النبي صلَّى اللهُ عليه وسلم يقومون من ناحية فيسلّمون » [المغني 3/559 الفروع 2/573 وفاء الوفا 4/1403].

“And it is not recommended to wipe oneself against the wall of the grave of the Prophet () nor kiss it. Ahmad said: “I do not know of this (practice)”. Al-Athram said: “I have seen the people of knowledge (Ahlul-‘Ilm) of Madinah, none of them touched the grave of the Prophet (). They depart and send salam upon the Prophet.” [al-Mughni by Ibn Qudamah al-Hanbali]

Notice how Ibn Qudamah al-Hanbali uses the non-shadh report i.e. al-Athram’s, to clarify that Imam Ahmad/the Hanbali madhhab condemn the Judeo-Christian tradition of touching and kissing graves for tabarruk. No exception has been made for Prophet (). This comes to no surprise as we can also read in al-Mughni:

« لأن فيه إفراطاً في تعظيم القبور أشبه بتعظيم الأصنام ولأن الصلاة عند القبور أشبه بتعظيم الأصنام بالسجود ولأن ابتداء عبادة الأصنام كان في تعظيم الأموات باتخاذ صورهم ومسحها والصلاة عندها » المغني 2/507-508 

‘This is due to exaggeration that takes place in the veneration of graves that resemble the veneration of the idols and because prayers (salah) next to graves resemble the veneration of idols and the prostration towards them. And this is because idol worship began with the veneration of the dead, the veneration of their images, wiping over them and salah next to them. [al-Mughni by Ibn Qudamah al-Maqdisi]

The Imam of the Hanabilah Shaykh ‘Ala al-Din al-Mardawi al-Sa’di al-Dimashqi (may Allah have mercy upon him) who passed way 885H said:

al-Mardawi’s Al-Insaf is regarded as one of the most important works and main reference work in the Hanbali school. In it, al-Mardawi takes particular care of including the various reports by Imam Ahmad and gives a comparative assessment of these reports.

قال المَرداويُّ: (لا يُستحَبُّ تمسحُه بقبرِه -عليه أفضلُ الصَّلاةِ والسَّلام- على الصَّحيحِ من المذهبِ. قال في المستوعب: بل يُكرَهُ. قال الإمامُ أحمد: أهلُ العِلم كانوا لا يَمسُّونه) الإنصاف في معرفة الراجح من الخلاف)) (4/53)

“And it is not recommended to wipe oneself against the grave of the Prophet () according to the sahih (correct) position of the madhhab. He said in al-Mustaw’ab: Rather it is makrooh (disliked, hated). Imam Ahmad said: The people of knowledge would not touch it.”[al-Insaf fi ma’rifah al-Rajih min al-Khilaf]

Note: from the methods of tarjih i.e. the process of finding the strongest of two pieces of evidence/opinions in the Hanbali madhab regarding the reports of Imam Ahmad is الترجيح بالكثرة which can be translated as 'preference due to quantity.' And as we can see, the greatest Hanbali authorities relied upon the report by al-Athram and ignored the shadh report by Abdullah b. Ahmad.

Is there any doubt that these authorities of the Hanbali madhhab knew Imam Ahmad better than anybody else?  They don’t just argue that the mu’tamad of the Hanbali madhhab rests upon the position that touching and kissing graves is from the habits of the Jews and Christians and detested, they even understood Imam Ahmad to have held that opinion.

The irony is that the ignoramus ‘Bro Hajji’ quotes some reports (about someone kissing the hand and eyes of Imam Malik out of takrim and not tabarruk, as there is no evidence for tabarruk with anybody else than the Prophet) from Shaykh al-Buhooti al-Misri al-Hanbali, also known as al-Khalwati not realising that the very same Hanbali authority opposes him:

قال البُهوتيُّ الحنبليُّ (ت: 1051هـ): (لا يَمسَح قَبرَ النبي صلَّى اللهُ عليه وسلَّمَ، ولا حائطَه، ولا يُلصق به صَدْرَه، ولا يُقَبِّله)
بغية الناسك في أحكام المناسك, ص: 127

One must not wipe over the grave of the Prophet () nor the walls of it (i.e. the grave), nor should one rub one’s chest against it nor kiss it.” [Bughyah al-Nasik fi Ahkam al-Manasik by al-Buhooti al-Hanbali known as al-Khalwati]

Here an even harsher statements from al-Khalwati after he narrated the narration by al-Athram:

« واتفقوا على أنه لا يقبله ولا يتمسح به فإنه من الشرك» (كشاف القناع للبهوتي2/600).

And it is agreed upon that one must not kiss it (i.e. the grave of the Prophet) nor wipe over it as this is from shirk.” [Kashaf al-Qina’ by al-Buhooti]

Would the woke anti-Najids dear to call al-Buhooti a ‘Vahabi-Najdi’?!

It should be clear by now that major authorities of the Hanabilah rejected the notion based on a shadh narration that Imam Ahmad was fine with the practice of touching and kissing the grave of the Prophet (). Imagine to what khurafat such fatawa would lead. Yes, it would lead to the sceneries one can witness at Rafidi and Sufi shrines:

And from the ignorance of this ‘Bro Hajji’ is that he justifies his willingness to wipe himself at and kiss a grave (Sunnah of Jews and Christians) with a shadh report instead holding onto the true position of the Salaf who discouraged such acts. Instead of actually educating the masses on how the Hanbali authorities understood that report and how they strongly discouraged people from kissing and touching the Prophet’s () grave, he is busy normalising such practices and boasting how he’d indulge in Rafidi-esque rituals of grave kissing.

But then, why would a khurafi Sufi have the decency to do actual da’wah work (by warning against khurafat and whatever leads to shirk) anyway? This person doesn’t even know even Sufi authorities have stated that touching and kissing graves should be strictly avoided and that these foolish acts are done by foolish ignoramuses!

Taqiyyu al-Din al-Subki al-Shafi’i (756H), a Sufi Ash’ari and fierce enemy of Shaykh al-Islam ibn Taymiyyah, said:

al-Subki is also well known to transmit Ijma’ (consensus) that it is not allowed to wipe oneself upon the grave.

وقال تقيُّ الدِّين السبكيُّ الشافعيُّ (ت: 756هـ): (… وإنَّما التمسُّحُ بالقبر وتقبيله، والسجودُ عليه، ونحو ذلك: فإنَّما يَفْعَلُه بَعضُ الجهال، ومَن فعَل ذلك يُنكَر عليه فِعلُه ذلك، ويُعَلَّم آدابَ الزِّيارة…) -(شفاء السقام في زيارة خير الأنام)) (ص: 312)

Wiping oneself against the grave and kissing it; prostrating to it and similar actions, are indeed only done by some of the ignoramuses (juhhal). Whoever does something like that should be rebuked and proper etiquettes of grave visitations should be taught to him.” [Shifa al-Saqam fi Ziyarah khayr al-Anam by al-Subki]

Al-Ghazali (may Allah have mercy upon him) said:

وقال الإمام الغزاليُّ الشافعيُّ (ت: 505هـ): (ليس مِن السُّنةِ أنْ يَمسَّ الجدارَ، ولا أن يُقَبِّله، بل الوقوفُ مِن بُعد أقربُ للاحترامِ) ((إحياء علوم الدين)) (1/259).

It is not from the Sunnah to touch the wall nor to kiss it (i.e. the Prophet’s grave), rather, it is more appropriate and more respectful to keep some distance (i.e. from the grave).” [Ihya ‘Uloom al-Din by Imam Ghazali]

He also said:

وقال الغزالي: « ولا يمس قبراً ولا حجراً فإن ذلك من عادة النصارى »

One must not touch any grave or stone (i.e. stone markers), for indeed, this is from the habits of the Jews and Christians.” [Ihya ‘Uloom al-Din by Imam Ghazali]

Indeed, you would first seek permission and would stand in a respectful manner if the Prophet () was standing in front of you. This is why some Sufi shrines at least have some barriers (unlike Rafidi shrines) to prevent the zealous grave venerators from coming too close to the grave and kissing it and rubbing themselves at it.

Wallah al-Musta’an!

Even some Sufis have set up barriers around their heretical shrines as it is shows bad manners to touch the shrines/graves even according to some of their less khurafi scholars.

Conclusion:

The Rafidi-Sufi ‘proof’ turns out to be nothing but a spoof (as usual). The report that states that Imam Ahmad was fine with seeking blessings by touching and kissing the Prophet’s () is a shadh (odd) and solitary (via his son ‘Abdullah only) and on top of that it opposes other more authentic narrations in which Imam Ahmad did not condone that practice. This and other additional points led the most important scholars of the Hanbali school to discount the odd report that the Qubooris clutch onto (in order to justify their own heresies/grave veneration). Some Hanbali authorities and even some Sufis referred to the practice of seeking blessings by touching and kissing graves as the habit and tradition of the Jews and Christians and the foolish ignoramuses. Don’t be a foolish ignoramus and don’t fall for anybody who shows you quotes from books without the understanding of the scholars for the former and even beginner level students of knowledge know that you have to read texts holistically whereas the charlatan will pick and choose what fits his whims and desires.