Q. I recently attended a janazah service which
was held on our local mosque ground. Before the janazah salah, the
Imam mentioned that the sisters were allowed to perform the salah
since it was being read on the mosque ground and not at the cemetery.
However, he did instruct the sisters that it was forbidden for them
to follow the procession to the cemetery.
According to Sahih Bukhari, it is reported that women are forbidden
to follow the procession, but not strictly. How do we interpret
this statement? And in another Bukhari hadith, it is reported that
a Muslim who follows the procession of the deceased gets one qirat
of blessing. The bottom line question is what is the position with
regard to women attending the burial at the cemetery?
A. The Imam was incorrect in preventing the women
from going to the cemetery. If he relied on the hadith of Umm Atiyya
in Sahih al Bukhari to which you refer, then one should note that
her words are to the meaning that the prevention was not enforced.
The tradition about Aisha throws more light on the matter: Aisha
came one day from the cemetery, and I said to her: "O mother
of the believers! From whence do you come? She said: "From
the grave of Abdur Rahman." I said to her: "Did the Messenger
of God not prohibit visiting the graves?" She said, "Yes,
then he ordered to visit them."
The traditions state that the custom was to employ women who used
to wail and bemoan the dead. It would seem if we accept the hadith,
that this may have been the reason for any early prohibitions. It
ought to be noted too that men are also prohibited from wailing
and tearing their hair, etc. Once this was understood and became
the law of Islam, there was no need to prevent either sex from attending
a janazah in a graveyard. In assessing hadith, one ought to realize
that several hadith reflect the views of those who report them,
rather than the people to whom they are ascribed. One also needs
to take into consideration that Islam does not promote any type
of stereotyping as being a basis for legislation.
Therefore, a woman cannot be deemed as being too emotional to attend
a funeral -- be it in the mosque or the graveyard -- for as I have
pointed out, the prohibition is for both men and women if it is
feared that they will deport themselves in a manner deemed improper
in Islam. Your Imam's decision seems to have been the result of
some impromtu and improper ijtihad. If he could allow the women
to pray for the dead, then it does not matter where the service
occurred. If, as I have pointed out, Aisha visited her brother's
grave (and there are several other hadith where the women visited
the graveyard), then it shows that they are allowed to be in the
graveyard. And if they are allowed in the graveyard, it means that
they can visit the grave and/or pray at the funeral service.
I find it extremely upsetting that in this day and age, when the
research into hadith has shown that much of it is untrue, an Imam
can prohibit a female from visiting a graveyard. The Qur'an and
indeed the hadith present the image of a mother normally being the
closer of the two parents to the child. Is it not cruel to prevent
a mother from having the last view of her child before covering
the grave? To tell a woman that for whatever reason she cannot attend
a funeral service in its final rite is to discriminate in a fashion
that is totally removed from our religion. And we seem to forget
that the Qur'an states: "…and He has clearly explained
what is forbidden unto you." If we cannot find a prohibition
in the Qur'an, then no Imam -- no single person -- has a right to
enforce any interdiction. May Allah guide us to do that which is