The Ruling of Women Visiting Graves
Regarding this issue, we would like to quote Sheikh Ahmad Kutty, an Islamic scholar, who stated:
Visiting graves for women and men was prohibited in the early days of Islam. This was due to the fact that there were reasonable grounds for suspicion that the Arabs, newly converted to Islam and fresh from paganism, might associate the right to visit graves with grave worship rituals.
When the Islamic concept of Tawhid (Oneness of Allah) became deeply entrenched in the Islamic consciousness, there was no reasonable ground for such suspicions. Accordingly, the Prophet (peace and blessings be on him) lifted the above ban. He then went a step further by making grave visitations a recommended practice because of the associated benefits. He said: “In the past, I have forbidden you from visiting graves, but now you may do so, for it might remind you of the next world.” (Reported by Ibn Majah)
As the above statement of the Prophet (peace and blessings be on him) is stated in general terms, scholars differed as to its precise interpretation. One group thought that the permission was general to include both men and women, since the Prophet (peace and blessings be on him) never indicated that the permission had been limited only to men.
A second group, however, said that women were excluded from the above permission and according to them, women are forbidden to visit graves. They supported their view by another statement of the Prophet (peace and blessings be on him): “Allah has cursed women who frequent graves for visitation.” (Reported by At-Tirmidhi)
The first group cited a number of traditions in support of their view that women are permitted to visit graves. One of them is the report in Al-Bukhari’s Sahih, which states that once the Prophet (peace and blessings be on him) saw a woman weeping over a grave. He advised her to exercise patience. It is not stated anywhere that he told her it was forbidden for women to visit graves. It is only reasonable to assume that had visiting graves been haram (prohibited) for women, the Prophet (peace and blessings be on him) would have clearly stated so in this case.
As for the hadith that the second group cited to support their view, the first group explained that it was aimed at women who frequently visit graves for wailing and lamentation.
The above explanation seems more plausible when we take into account the fact that pagan Arabs were in the habit of hiring professionals — who were mostly women — to practice the ritual of wailing and lamenting on the graves.
The view of the first group is further confirmed by the report from `A’ishah. When someone objected to her about her visit to her brother’s grave, she said that the prohibition was in the early days of Islam and that the Prophet (peace and blessings be on him) had later allowed it. A similar view has been attributed to Umm `Atiyyah who said: “The Prophet (peace and blessings be on him) had never firmly prohibited women from visiting graves.”
In conclusion, let us say that the issue of women visiting graves has been debated by scholars of the past. After having reviewed the various traditions in this respect, Imam Al-Qurtubi concluded that women are permitted to visit graves on condition that they refrain from wailing and lamenting. Both Imam Ibn Hajar and Ash-Shawkani also tend to favor this view.