Islamic Beliefs and Knowledge
Conveying Benefit to the Deceased
Adnan Chishti Attari
Many of the honourable Companions of the Messenger of Allah صَلَّى الـلّٰـهُ عَلَيْهِ وَاٰلِهٖ وَسَلَّم and the Followers requested that fresh branches be placed on their graves. Other Companions and Followers duly fulfilled these requests. Thus, placing fresh branches on graves was not an exclusive practice of the Holy Prophet صَلَّى الـلّٰـهُ عَلَيْهِ وَاٰلِهٖ وَسَلَّم. Otherwise, the Companions would not have made such requests, let alone carry them out. As for actual exclusive practices of the Holy Prophet صَلَّى الـلّٰـهُ عَلَيْهِ وَاٰلِهٖ وَسَلَّم, the Companions never requested for them to be carried out.
From the practices of the Companions and the Followers, as well as the legal verdicts of the Ulema, it is evident that placing fresh plants and branches on graves is a praiseworthy custom of the Ummah that has endured throughout the generations.
The will of a Companion
Sayyidunā Abū Barzah al-Aslamī رَضِىَ الـلّٰـهُ عَـنْهُ related that the Messenger of Allah صَلَّى الـلّٰـهُ عَلَيْهِ وَاٰلِهٖ وَسَلَّم once passed by a grave in which the deceased was being punished. So, the Messenger of Allah صَلَّى الـلّٰـهُ عَلَيْهِ وَاٰلِهٖ وَسَلَّم took a branch and placed it on the grave, remarking: “As long as this branch is fresh, his punishment will be reduced.”
Sayyidunā Abū Barzah رَضِىَ الـلّٰـهُ عَـنْهُ made a will, asking two branches to be placed with him in his grave after his passing. He left this world in a place between Kiraman and Qawmas. Those who accompanied him said, “He requested that two branches be placed in his grave, but there are no branches here.” Whilst they deliberated, riders from Sijistan arrived with fresh branches. They took two branches and placed them in Sayyidunā Abū Barza’s grave.
Bury me with two fresh branches
Sayyidunā Muwarriq al-ʿIjlī رَحْمَةُ الـلّٰـهِ عَـلَيْـه, a famous narrator of the Six Books of hadith, said: اَوْصَى بُرَيْدَةُ الاَسْلَمِیُّ اَنْ تُوضَعَ فِی قَبْرِهٖ جَرِيدَتَانِ, The Companion Sayyidunā Buraydah al-Aslamī رَضِىَ الـلّٰـهُ عَـنْهُ left a will requesting that two branches be placed in his grave.”
Commenting on the above-mentioned report, the renowned scholar of hadith, Imam Ibn Ḥajar al-ʿAsqalānī رَحْمَةُ الـلّٰـهِ عَـلَيْـه, writes: “It is possible that Sayyidunā Buraydah al-Aslamī رَضِىَ الـلّٰـهُ عَـنْهُ left a will for two branches to be placed on top of his grave—so as to imitate the Messenger of Allah صَلَّى اللهُ عَلَيْهِ وَاٰلِهٖ وَسَلَّم— or for two branches to be put inside his grave, as there are blessings in the date-palm. After all, Allah Almighty described it as a “pure tree.” However, the first position is preferable.”
Another commentator of Ṣaḥīḥ al-Bukhārī, Imam al-ʿAjlūnī رَحْمَةُ الـلّٰـهِ عَـلَيْـه, writes: “Without doubt, Sayyidunā Buraydah رَضِىَ الـلّٰـهُ عَـنْهُ requested two fresh branches to be placed in his grave, as he hoped for more benefit through this. Sayyidunā Buraydah رَضِىَ الـلّٰـهُ عَـنْهُ did not consider this hadith to be exclusive to the two people in the grave, rather, this is the original source.”
Sayyidunā Muwariq al-ʿIjlī رَحْمَةُ الـلّٰـهِ عَـلَيْـه adds: “Sayyidunā Buraydah رَضِىَ الـلّٰـهُ عَـنْهُ passed away close to Khurasan. We found two branches in the saddlebag of a donkey. When Sayyidunā Buraydah رَضِىَ الـلّٰـهُ عَـنْهُ was buried, those branches were placed in the grave with him.”
The origin of planting trees near graves
Imam Jalāl al-Dīn al-Suyūṭī رَحْمَةُ الـلّٰـهِ عَـلَيْـه said: “The scholars have stated that if a single branch can decrease punishment ˹in the grave˺, then what about the believer who recites the Holy Quran; one cannot imagine the extent to which punishment will be lessened through this. This hadith is the basis for planting trees near graves.”
Two fresh branches
In his will, Abū al-ʿĀliyah Rufayʿ ibn Mihrān رَحْمَةُ الـلّٰـهِ عَـلَيْـه—an eminent Follower who lived during the time of the Beloved Prophet صَلَّى اللهُ عَلَيْهِ وَاٰلِهٖ وَسَلَّم—asked for palm branches to be placed on his grave, as related by Sayyidunā ʿ Āṣim al-Aḥwal رَحْمَةُ الـلّٰـهِ عَـلَيْـه:
اَنَّ اَبَا العَالِيَةِ اَوْصَى مُوَرِّقاً العِجْلِیَّ اَن يَّجْعَلَ فِی قَبْرِهٖ جَرِيْدَتَيْنِ
Imam Abū al-ʿĀliyah رَحْمَةُ الـلّٰـهِ عَـلَيْـه requested Sayyidunā Muwariq al-ʿIjlī رَحْمَةُ الـلّٰـهِ عَـلَيْـه to place two fresh, green branches on his grave.”
Imam al-Baghawī رَحْمَةُ الـلّٰـهِ عَـلَيْـه also corroborated this practice: فَاَمَّا الْجَرِيدُ عَلَى الْقَبْرِ، فَلا بَاْسَ بِهِ “There is no harm in putting branches on graves.”
And he based it on the reports of Sayyidunā Ibn ʿAbbas رَضِىَ الـلّٰـهُ عَـنْهُما and the will of Sayyidunā Buraydah رَضِىَ الـلّٰـهُ عَـنْهُ.
After a lengthy analysis of the afore-mentioned hadith and reports, Ibn Ḥajar al-Haytamī al-Makkī رَحْمَةُ الـلّٰـهِ عَـلَيْـه concluded:
Considering everything I have spoken about, it is from the Sunnah for every person to have fresh palm branches ˹placed on their graves˺. The general rule is to imitate the practices of the Messenger of Allah صَلَّى الـلّٰـهُ عَلَيْهِ وَاٰلِهٖ وَسَلَّم, unless ˹a practice is˺ proven to be exclusive for him. However, in this case ˹of placing branches on graves˺, there is nothing to suggest exclusivity. Therefore, following the example of the Messenger of Allah صَلَّى الـلّٰـهُ عَلَيْهِ وَاٰلِهٖ وَسَلَّم in this practice is recommended and virtuous. This hadith also serves as proof for the people who spread palm leaves on graves. Palm trees near the grave of a person make dhikr of Allah Almighty, giving comfort to the deceased and reducing their punishment.
The celebrated jurist of the Hanafi school of jurisprudence, Imam Aḥmad al-Ṭaḥṭāwī رَحْمَةُ الـلّٰـهِ عَـلَيْـه stated:
Considering this blessed hadith, some later Hanafi jurists declared the practice of placing flowers and branches on graves as Sunnah. He further states: If it is hoped that the punishment will be reduced because of the blessings of the dhikr made by a mere branch, then the blessings of reciting the Holy Quran are far greater than this.”
All the narrations cited in the earlier issues prove that placing fresh branches on graves is recommended (mustahabb). It is also permissible to place them inside the grave because the same outcome is achieved. Many luminaries of Islam requested this, such as Sayyidunā Abū Barzah رَضِىَ الـلّٰـهُ عَـنْهُ.
A fatwa of Ibn Ḥajar al-Haytamī al-Makkī
When asked about the legal status of placing flowers on or inside graves, he issued this verdict:
Based on the practice of Allah’s Messenger صَلَّى الـلّٰـهُ عَلَيْهِ وَاٰلِهٖ وَسَلَّم, in which he placed twigs on a grave, the ulema have deduced the permissibility of placing saplings and flowers on them too. They did not specify a way to do this, however, the Holy Prophet صَلَّى الـلّٰـهُ عَلَيْهِ وَاٰلِهٖ وَسَلَّم placed one twig on each grave, as documented in an authentic hadith. Thus, this includes the entire grave. So regardless of where on the grave the branch is put, the intended aim will be achieved. Nonetheless, ʿAbd ibn Ḥumayd reported in his Musnad that the Messenger of Allah صَلَّى الـلّٰـهُ عَلَيْهِ وَاٰلِهٖ وَسَلَّم placed the branch towards the head of the grave.”
يُسَنُّ وَضْعُ جَرِيدَةٍ خَضْرَاءَ عَلَى الْقَبْرِ لِلِاتِّبَاعِ وَسَنَدُهُ صَحِيحٌ وَلِاَنَّهُ يُخَفِّفُ عَنْهُ بِبَرَكَةِ تَسْبِيحِهَا اذْ هُوَ اَكْمَلُ مِنْ تَسْبِيحِ الْيَابِسَةِ لِمَا فِی تِلْكَ مِنْ نَوْعِ حَيَاةٍ وَقِيسَ بِهَا مَا اُعْتِيدَ مِنْ طَرْحِ الرَّيْحَانِ وَنَحْوِهِ-
It is sunnah to place a fresh branch on a grave, in following ˹the above-mentioned hadith˺, and its chain is authentic. As it has some form of life, the fresh branch will make more dhikr than the dry one, reducing punishment for the ˹deceased˺ person through the blessings of dhikr. This ruling can be extended to fresh flowers and the like.
This same text has also been included by Imam al-ʿAjlūnī رَحْمَةُ الـلّٰـهِ عَـلَيْـه in his commentary of Ṣaḥīḥ al-Bukhārī..
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