what is ziyarat?


The Introduction To Ziyarat

Ziyarat means visitation. In the Islamic sense, this term is primarily used for thevisitation of the graves of the vice-regents[1] of Allah (Khulafaa Allah) who include Allah’s messengers, prophets, and their executors. Ziyarat literature is a formal liturgical expression used by the faithful while visiting the shrines of Prophet Muhammad (PBUH&HF) and his Ahl al-Bait (PBUT),[2] and can also be recited to address them from afar. Much of the Ziyarat literature was recited and transmitted by the infallible Imams (PBUT) and was recorded in the books of traditions. 

 [1] The vice-regents of Allah on earth are His deputies and representatives who are chosen and authorized by Him over the creation while Allah preserves His authority and sovereignty. He has defined submission to His representatives as submission to Him since they act according to His command. C.f. the holy Quran, 4:59, 4:64-65, 4:80, 8:20, 21:26-28, 21:73, and 48:10.

 [2] Ahl al-Bait means People of the House. However, the Ahl al-Bait of the Prophet (PBUH&HF) as specifically defined by him and believed by the Shia, refers only to the divinely selected individuals of his house. They are his daughter (Lady Fatima (PBUH)) as well as twelve divinely appointed leaders (Imams) who were the executors and spiritual successors of the Prophet (PBUH&HF). The twelve Imams include the Prophet’s son in law and cousin, Ali (PBUH), Ali’s two sons, al-Hasan and al-Husain (PBUT), as well as nine descendants of al-Husain (PBUH). The acronym “PBUT” refers to phrase “peace be upon them.” In addition, “PBUH&HF” refers to phrase “peace be upon him and his family.”

The Significance of Ziyarat

The importance of the visitation of the graves of Allah’s representatives has been explained in many traditions. The narrators of these traditions are not limited to the Shia authorities. The Sunnis have also narrated several traditions concerning Ziyarat. For instance, Ibn Umar narrated:

قالَ رَسولُ اللهِ (ص): مَن زارَ قَبري وَجَبَتْ لَهُ شَفاعَتي.

The Messenger of Allah (PBUH&HF) said: “He who visits my grave, my intercession becomes incumbent for him.” [1]

According to the holy Quran, those who have been martyred in the path of Allah are alive.[2] Since the vice-regents of Allah were the greatest of martyrs, visiting their graves while believing in their virtues is like visiting them in their lifetime. Moreover, the Quran testifies that the vice-regents of Allah are witnesses over the actions of humankind.[3] Therefore, they see us when we visit their graves and hear our salutations and our renewal of covenant with them. These facts are confirmed by the following Sunni narrations as well:

قالَ رَسولُ اللهِ (ص): ما مِن مُسلِمٍ يُسَلّمُ عَلَيَّ إلّا رَدَّ اللهُ عَلَىَّ روُحي حَتّى أرُدَّ عَلَيهِ السَّلامَ، و قال (ص): مَن زارَني بَعدَ مَوْتي فَكَأنَّما زارَني في حَياتي، وَ قالَ (ص): مَن حَجَّ فَزارَ قَبري بَعدَ وَفاتي كانَ كَمَنْ زارَني في حَياتي، وَ قال (ص): مَن حَجَّ وَلمَ يَزُرْني فَقَد جَفاني.

The Messenger of Allah (PBUH&HF) said: “There is no Muslim that greets me but that Allah delivers it to my soul so that I may return the greetings to him.” He (PBUH&HF) also said in another Hadith, “He who visits me after my death is like the one who has visited me in my lifetime.” He (PBUH&HF) further said, “He who goes to Hajj and then visits my grave is like the one who has visited me in my lifetime.” He (PBUH&HF) also said, “He who performs Hajj but does not visit me, has indeed turned away from me.” [4]

The above traditions also imply that visiting the graves of the vice-regents of Allah is a duty to be fulfilled by their followers and is a way of appreciating their rights. Moreover, visitation of places that are related to the vice-regents of Allah causes greater awareness and remembrance of Allah because they have been the places of remembrance and worship of Allah and His blessings. The Sunnis further narrated:

قَرَأ رَسولُ اللهِ (ص) هذهِ الآيةَ: في بُيوتٍ أذِنَ اللهُ أنْ تُرفَعَ و يُذكَرَ فيهَا اسْمُهُ. فَقامَ اِلَيهِ رَجُلٌ فَقالَ أيُّ بُيوتٍ هذهِ يا رَسولَ اللهِ؟ قالَ (ص): بُيوتٍ الأنبياءِ. فَقامَ اِليهِ أبو بَكر، فَقالَ: يا رَسولَ الله هذَا الْبَيتُ مِنها؟ البيت عليٍ وفاطِمَةَ؟ قالَ (ص): نَعَم، مِن أفاضِلِها.

When the Messenger of Allah (PBUH&HF) recited the verse: In houses which Allah has permitted to be exalted and that His name may be remembered in them,” (24:36) someone asked, “Which are those houses, O Messenger of Allah?” He (PBUH&HF) answered, “The houses of the prophets (PBUT).” At this time, Abu Bakr asked, “Is this house—the house of Ali and Fatima (PBUT)—among them?” The Messenger of Allah (PBUH&HF) replied, “Yes. It is one of their most virtuous.” [5]

Visiting the Prophet (PBUH&HF) and His pure Ahl al-Bait (PBUT) is visiting our spiritual parents who have brought us into spiritual life and have raised us with divine teachings. Another Sunni narration states:

وَرُوِىَ أنّه (ص) قالَ لِعَلِيٍّ كَرَّم اللهُ تعَالى وَجهَهُ: أنَا وَأنتَ أبَوا هذِهِ الأُمَّةِ.

The Messenger of Allah (PBUH&HF) said to Ali (PBUH): “I and you are the fathers of this nation.” [6]

According to the Quran, Allah has decreed that one should be kind to his parents and lower the wings of humility before them. In fact, this is Allah’s most important commandment after His command in worshipping Him alone. Allah states in the Quran:

وَ قَضى‏ رَبُّكَ ألاَّ تَعْبُدُوا إلاَّ إيَّاهُ وَ بِالْوالِدَيْنِ إحْساناً إمَّا يَبْلُغَنَّ عِنْدَكَ الْكِبَرَ أحَدُهُما أوْ كِلاهُما فَلا تَقُلْ لَهُما أُفٍّ وَ لا تَنْهَرْهُما وَ قُلْ لَهُما قَوْلاً كَرِيماً. وَ اخْفِضْ لَهُما جَناحَ الذُّلِّ مِنَ الرَّحْمَةِ وَ قُلْ رَبِّ ارْحَمْهُما كَما رَبَّيانِي صَغِيراً.

Your Lord has decreed that you worship none but Him, and that you be kind to parents. Whether one or both of them attain old age in your life, say not to them a word of contempt, nor repel them, but address them in terms of honor. And, out of kindness, lower to them the wing of humility, and say, “My Lord! Bestow on them Your mercy as they cherished me in childhood.” (17:23-24)

According to the Shia traditions, visiting the graves of the Imams (PBUT) is one of the duties of their followers and is an acknowledgement of their lofty status. It is narrated that Imam al-Ridha (PBUH) said:

إنَّ لِكُلِّ إمَامٍ عَهْداً فِي عُنُقِ أوْلِيَائِهِ وَ شِيعَتِهِ وَ إنَّ مِنْ تَمَامِ الْوَفَاءِ بِالْعَهْدِ وَ حُسْنِ الْأدَاءِ زِيَارَةَ قُبُورِهِمْ فَمَنْ زَارَهُمْ رَغْبَةً فِي زِيَارَتِهِمْ وَ تَصْدِيقاً بِمَا رَغِبُوا فِيهِ كَانَ أئِمَّتُهُمْ شُفَعَاءَهُمْ يَوْمَ الْقِيَامَةِ.

“Certainly, for every Imam there is a covenant incumbent on those who accepted their Wilaya[7] and their followers. Without a doubt, that which completes and perfects the fulfillment of the covenant is visitation of their graves. Those who visit them longingly as a (practical) acknowledgment of what they long for (in their hearts), their Imams (PBUT) shall certainly be their intercessors on the Day of Rising.” [8]

The proofs of Allah are the means of remembrance of Allah. Remembering them is remembering Allah. It is narrated that Imam al-Sadiq (PBUH) said:

شِيعَتُنَا الرُّحَمَاءُ بَيْنَهُمُ، الَّذِينَ إذَا خَلَوْا ذَكَرُوا اللَّهَ. إنَّ ذِكْرَنَا مِنْ ذِكْرِ اللَّهِ. إنَّا إذَا ذُكِرْنَا ذُكِرَ اللَّهُ، وَ إذَا ذُكِرَ عَدُوُّنَا ذُكِرَ الشَّيْطَانُ.

“Our followers are compassionate among each other. When they are alone or when they hold a private meeting, they remember Allah. Verily, the remembrance of us is of the remembrance of Allah. When we are remembered, Allah has been remembered, and when our enemy is remembered, Satan has been remembered.” [9]

The Ziyarat of the vice-regents of Allah involves remembering them, their virtues, sayings, actions, and aims, all of which are counted as the remembrance of Allah and His worship.  

[1] This Hadith is found in 41 Sunni books of traditions, as quoted by al-Amini in his seminal book, al-Ghadir, vol. 5, pp. 93-96. See, for instance, al-Durr al-Manthur, by al-Suyuti, vol. 1, p. 569, under the commentary of Chapter 2, Verse 203 of the Quran, narrated from al-Tirmithi, al-Bazzar, Ibn Khuzaima, Ibn Adi, al-Dar Qunti, and al-Baihaqi.

[2] C.f. the holy Quran, Chapter 2, Verse 154, and Chapter 3, Verse 169.

[3] C.f. the Quran, Chapter 2, Verse 143.

[4] These traditions have been narrated by several Sunni authorities. See, e.g., al-Durr al-Manthur, by al-Suyuti, vol. 1, pp. 569-570, under the commentary of Chapter 2, Verse 203. For more detailed account, see al-Ghadir, vol. 5, pp. 98-99.

[5] al-Durr al-Manthur, by al-Suyuti, vol. 6, page 203, under the commentary of Chapter 24, Verse 36 of the Quran, narrated by Anas Ibn Malik and Buraida.

[6] Mufradat Alfadh al-Quran, by al-Raghib al-Isfahani, Chapter Alif, under the word “Ab”; Tafsir Ruh al-Ma’ani, vol. 22, p. 31, under the commentary of Chapter 33, Verse 40.

[7] To accept of the Wilaya of a divinely appointed leader (al-Wali), means to believe that he and his sayings should be preferred (Awla) over other people and their opinions (including oneself and one’s opinion). This belief eventually urges one to follow the divinely appointed leader in practice. C.f. the holy Quran, 33:6, 5:55, 4:59.

[8] al-Kafi, vol. 4, p. 567, Hadith 2; Kamil al-Ziyarat, p. 121; Uyun Akhbar al-Ridha (PBUH), vol. 2, p. 260, Hadith 24; Bihar al-Anwar, vol. 97, p. 116, Hadith 1.

[9] al-Kafi, vol. 2, p. 186, Hadith 1.

The Meaning of the Ziyarat of Allah

The Sunnis related many traditions to the effect that the people of Paradise will see Allah with their own eyes.[1] The Shia, on the other hand, believe that not only is Allah imperceptible by the eyes, but that His Essence (Dhat) cannot be imagined, thought about, or described. A number of verses in the Quran attest this rational fact.[2] Any imagination or perception of the Essence of Allah is a creation of our mind, and the Creator is far removed from such a perception. Therefore, we have no way to comprehend His Essence. We only understand by reason that He should be purified from two limits: non-existence and likeness. Due to His abundant signs, we know that He is not non-existent, and at the same time, we know that He has no similarity whatsoever with any type of existence that we know and comprehend. This implies that the Essence of Allah cannot be seen. Anything that is partially or entirely captured by our faculties is a limited, composed, and created being and any created being needs a creator. If one could see the Lord by eyes, then his eyes have made Him a created being like other beings. He who likens Allah to His creation has indeed taken associates with Alla

Hence, if the mentioned traditions by the Sunnis regarding viewing Allah are true, they should have a different interpretation. In the following widely reported narration, the eigth Imam, al-Ridha (PBUH), was asked about one of such traditions, and below is his interesting response. Abu Salt al-Hirawi (RA) narrated:

عَنِ الهِِِرَوِيّ قالَ: قُلتُ لِعَلِيِّ بنِ مُوسَى الرِّضا (ع): يَا ابنَ رَسولِ اللهِ! ما تَقولُ فِي الحَديثِ الّذي يَرويهِ أهلُ الحَديثِ إنّ المؤُمِنينَ يَزورونَ رَبّهم مِن مَنازِلِهم فِي الجنّة؟ فقالَ (ع): يا أبا الصَّلتِ إنّ اللهَ تَباركَ وَ تَعالى فَضَّلَ نَبيَّهُ مُحمّداً (ص) عَلى جَميعِ خَلقِهِ مِنَ النَّبيينَ وَ الملائِكَةِ وَ جَعلَ طاعَتَهُ طاعَتَهُ وَ مُبايَعَتَهُ مُبايَعَتَهُ وَ زِيارَتَهُ فِي الدُّنيا وَ الآخِرَةِ زِيارَتَه، فقالَ اللهُ عَزَّ وَ جَلَّ: مَنْ يُطِعِ الرَّسُولَ فَقَدْ أطاعَ اللَّهَ، و قال: إنَّ الَّذِينَ يُبايِعُونَكَ إنَّما يُبايِعُونَ اللَّهَ يَدُ اللَّهِ فَوْقَ أيْدِيهِمْ، و قال النَّبي (ص): مَن زارَني في حَياتي أو بَعدَ مَوتي فَقَد زارَ اللهُ جَلَّ جَلالُه، وَ دَرَجَةُ النبيِّ (ص) في الجنَّةِ أرفعُ الدَّرَجاتِ، فَمَن زارَهُ إلى دَرَجَتِهِ فِي الجنّة مِن مَنْزِلِهِ فَقَد زارَ اللهَ تَباركَ و تَعالى.

I asked Ali Ibn Musa al-Ridha (PBUH): “O son of the Messenger of Allah! What do you say about that which is related by the narrators of Hadith that the believers shall visit their Lord from their houses in Paradise?” [3]  He (PBUH) said: “O Aba Salt! Verily Allah favored the Prophet Muhammad (PBUH&HF) over all His creation including the prophets and the Angels. He made/rendered obedience to him as obedience to Him, pledging allegiance to him as pledging allegiance to Him, and visiting him (Ziyarat) in this world and in the hereafter as visiting Him. Allah, the mighty and the majestic, says, ‘Whoever obeys the Messenger, he has indeed obeyed Allah,’ (4:80) and ‘Verily those who pledge allegiance to you, they have indeed pledged allegiance to Allah; the hand of Allah is over their hands.’ (48:10) And the Prophet (PBUH&HF) said, ‘He who visits me during my lifetime or after my death has indeed visited Allah, the glorious.’ In fact, the degree of the Prophet (PBUH&HF) in Paradise is the highest (of all), and therefore, he who visits him in his degree in Paradise, from his house, has indeed visited Allah, the mighty and the majestic.”

قالَ: فَقُلتُ لَهُ: يَا ابنَ رَسولِ اللهِ فَما مَعنَى الخبرِ الَّذي رَوَوْهُ أنَّ ثَوابَ لا إلهَ إلّا الله النَّظَرُ إلى وَجهِ اللهِ؟ فَقالَ (ع): يا أبَا الصَّلتِ مَن وَصَفَ اللهَ بِوَجهٍ كَالوُجوهِ فَقَد كَفَرَ، وَ لكِنْ وَجهُ اللهِ أنبياؤُهُ وَ رُسلُه وَ حُجَجُهُ صَلَواتُ اللهِ عَلَيْهِم. هُمُ الَّذينَ بِهِم يُتَوَجَّهُ إلَى اللهِ وَ إلى دينِهِ وَ مَعرِفَتِهِ، وَ قالَ اللهُ عَزَّ وَ جَلَّ: كُلُّ مَنْ عَلَيْها فانٍ وَ يَبْقى‏ وَجْهُ رَبِّكَ. و قالَ عَزَّ و جَلَّ: كُلُّ شَيْ‏ءٍ هالِكٌ إلاَّ وَجْهَهُ. فَالنَّظّرُ إلى أنبِياءِ اللهِ وَ رُسلِهِ وَ حُجَجِهِ (ع) في دَرَجاتِهِم ثَوابٌ عَظيمٌ لِلمُؤمِنينَ يَومَ القِيامَةِ، وَ قَد قالَ النَبيُّ (ص): مَن أبْغَضَ أهلَ بَيتي وَ عِترَتي لمَ يَرَني وَ لَم أرَهُ يَومَ القِيامَةِ، و قالَ (ص): إنَّ فيكُم مَن لا يَراني بَعدَ أن يُفارِقُني. يا أبا الصَّلتِ إنَّ اللهَ تَباركَ وَ تَعالى لا يوُصَفُ بِمكانٍ وَ لا يُدرَكُ بِالأبصارِ و الأوهامِ.

I further asked the Imam, “O son of the Messenger of Allah! What is the meaning of the Hadith that they narrate: ‘The reward for saying, there is no God but Allah, is looking toward the face of Allah?’” The Imam (PBUH) answered, “He who describes Allah by a face like faces, has indeed become a disbeliever. The face of Allah is His Prophets, His Messengers and His Proofs, peace be upon them, through whom people turn towards Allah, His religion, and His cognizance. Allah, the mighty and the majestic, says, ‘All that is over it shall perish, but shall remain the face of Your Lord, to Whom belong majesty and honor.’ (55:26-27) Further, Allah says, ‘Everything shall perish but His face.’ (28:88) Thus, (that narration means) looking toward the Prophets of Allah, His Messengers, and His Proofs in their degrees is a great reward for the believers on the Day of Judgment. Verily the Prophet (PBUH&HF) said, ‘He who hates my household and my progeny, shall not see me (i.e., shall not see my mercy) nor shall I see him (i.e., nor do I pay attention to him) on the Day of Judgment.’ He (PBUH&HF) also said: ‘Verily amongst you are people who shall not see me after my departure.’ O Aba Salt! Verily Allah cannot be described by place and cannot be perceived by vision or imagination.” [4]

Wajh” means face or direction. When we want to pay attention to someone, we direct ourselves toward his face. The face is also means of identification. In order to know Allah, one should direct himself toward His “face”: the Prophet (PBUH&HF) and his Ahl al-Bait (PBUT). They are the means of remembrance and addressing Allah, and only through them can one properly recognize Him. They are the proofs (al-Hujja) of Allah, His “hand” of mercy over His creation, His “tongue” in expounding His commandments, and His “eyes” as witnesses over His creations. Allah is exalted beyond having organs as He is the creator of the face, eye, and hand. Whatever is other than Allah falls into the category of His creation and Allah does not need any of His creation. He is almighty, ever hearing and seeing without means. Yet, He has created means for His servants. It is narrated that Imam Ali (PBUH) stated:

وَ كُلُّ ما فِي الذِّكرِ الحَكيمِ وَ الكِتابِ الكَريمِ وَ الكَلامِ القَديمِ مِن آيةٍ تُذكَرُ فيهَا العَينُ وَ الوَجهُ و اليَدُ و الجَنْبُ، فَالمرادُ مِنهَا الوَلِيُّ.

“Any verse in the Book of Allah in which one of the words ‘eye’, ‘face’, ‘hand’, or ‘side’ is mentioned (for Allah), it is referring to the Wali (the divinely appointed authority).” [5]

Allah does not have a body to see or visit. Rather, He has defined visitation of His Messenger (PBUH&HF) as a symbolic visitation of Him in this world and the hereafter. In addition, since the Prophet (PBUH&HF) and the Imams (PBUT) from his family were created from one light, visiting the Imams is visiting the Prophet (PBUH&HF), which is, in turn, visiting Allah. Zaid Ibn al-Shahham narrated:

عَنْ زَيْدٍ الشَّحَّامِ قَالَ قُلْتُ لِأبِي عَبْدِ اللَّهِ (ع): مَا لِمَنْ زَارَ رَسُولَ اللَّهِ (ص)؟ قَالَ: كَمَنْ زَارَ اللَّهَ عَزَّ وَ جَلَّ ... قَالَ: قُلْتُ فَمَا لِمَنْ زَارَ أحَداً مِنْكُمْ؟ قَالَ: كَمَنْ زَارَ رَسُولَ اللَّهِ (ص).

I asked Imam al-Sadiq (PBUH), “What is (the benefit) of a person who visits the (the grave of the) Messenger of Allah (PBUH&HF)?” He answered, “He is like the one who has visited Allah, the mighty and the majestic …” I further asked, “How about the person who visits one of you (Ahl al-Bait)?” He (PBUH) replied, “He is like the one who has visited the Messenger of Allah (PBUH&HF).” [6]

[1] See, for instance, Sahih al-Bukhari, vol. 9, Hadith 530-532.

[2] C.f. the holy Quran, 6:103, 7:143, and 42:11.

[3] A similar narration for this Hadith of the Prophet (PBUH&HF) by the Sunnis, which explicitly uses the term Ziyarat of Allah (Yazuruna Rabbahum) is found in al-Durr al-Manthur, by al-Suyuti, vol. 8, page 354, under the commentary of Chapter 75, Verses 22-23 of the Quran, narrated by Anas Ibn Malik.

[4] al-Ihtijaj, vol. 2, p. 408; Uyun Akhbar al-Ridha (PBUH), vol. 1, p. 115, Hadith 3; Kitab al-Tawhid, p. 117, Hadith 21; Bihar al-Anwar, vol. 4, p. 31, Hadith 6.

[5] Bihar al-Anwar, vol. 25, p. 173.

[6] al-Kafi, vol. 4, p. 585, Hadith 5; Kamil al-Ziyarat, p. 150, Hadith 4; Bihar al-Anwar, vol. 97, p. 119, Hadith 15.

Importance and benefits of
the Ziyarat of Imam al-Husain (PBUH)

Imam al-Husain Ibn Ali (PBUH), the Chief of Martyrs, was the grandson of the Prophet (PBUH&HF) and the third divinely appointed guide after him. He, along with 18 members of his family and relatives as well as 72 faithful companions, was slain while thirsty on the lands of Karbala, Iraq on the tenth of Muharram (known as Day of Ashura) in the year 61 AH (680 AD) by the brutal army of Yazid in an inequitable and imposed battle. Since then, his place of martyrdom has been the visiting place for the lovers of Ahl al-Bait (PBUT) who struggle to reach there enduring all the hardships and barriers placed before them. They come to his shrine to show their love and respect, honor his sacrifice, renew their covenant, pledge themselves to his goals, and follow the Prophet’s advice about him. The following is an interesting tradition from the Prophet (PBUH&HF) narrated by Ibn Abbas. He said:

عَنْ عَبْدِ اللَّهِ بْنِ الْعَبَّاسِ قَالَ: دَخَلْتُ عَلَى رَسُولِ اللَّهِ (ص)، وَ الْحَسَنُ عَلَى عَاتِقِهِ وَ الْحُسَيْنُ (ع) عَلَى فَخِذِهِ يَلْثِمُهُمَا وَ يَقُولُ: اللَّهُمَّ وَالِ مَنْ وَالاَهُمَا وَ عَادِ مَنْ عَادَاهُمَا. ثُمَّ قَالَ: يَا ابْنَ عَبَّاسٍ كَأنَّنِي أنْظُرُ شَيْبَةَ ابْنِيَ الْحُسَيْنِ تُخْضَبُ مِنْ دَمِه،ِ يَدْعُو فَلاَ يُجَابُ وَ يَسْتَنْصِرُ فَلاَ يُنْصَرُ. قُلْتُ: وَ مَنْ يَعْمَلُ ذَلِكَ؟ قَالَ: شِرَارُ أُمَّتِي لاَ أنَالَهُمُ اللَّهُ شَفَاعَتِي. ثُمَّ قَالَ: يَا ابْنَ عَبَّاسٍ مَنْ زَارَهُ عَارِفاً بِحَقِّهِ كَتَبَ اللَّهُ لَهُ ثَوَابَ ألْفِ حَجَّةٍ وَ ألْفِ عُمْرَةٍ. ألاَ وَ مَنْ زَارَهُ فَقَدْ زَارَنِي وَ مَنْ زَارَنِي فَكَأنَّمَا قَدْ زَارَ اللَّهَ وَ حَقُّ الزَّائِرِ عَلَى اللَّهِ أنْ لاَ يُعَذِّبَهُ بِالنَّارِ. ألاَ وَ إنَّ الإِْجَابَةَ تَحْتَ قُبَّتِهِ وَ الشِّفَاءَ فِي تُرْبَتِهِ وَ الأَْئِمَّةَ (ع) مِنْ وُلْدِهِ‏. ... يا ابنَ عَبّاس وِلايَتُهُم وِلايَتي وَ وِلايَتي وِلايَةُ اللهِ، وَ حَربُهُم حَربي وَ حَربي حَربُ اللهِ، وَ سِلمُهُم سِلمي وَ سِلمي سِلمُ اللهِ. ثم قال (ص): يُرِيدُونَ لِيُطْفِؤُا نُورَ اللَّهِ بِأفْواهِهِمْ وَ يَأْبَى اللَّهُ إلاَّ أنْ يُتِمَّ نُورَهُ وَ لَوْ كَرِهَ الْكافِرُونَ.

I came to the Messenger of Allah (PBUH&HF) and saw al-Hasan (PBUH) on his shoulder and al-Husain (PBUH) on his thigh; the Prophet (PBUH&HF) was kissing them saying, “O Allah befriend him who befriends them and be hostile to him who is hostile to them.” Then he (PBUH&HF) said, “O Ibn Abbas! It is as if I see the beard of my son al-Husain dyed with his blood, calling people but is not being answered, asking for help but is not being helped.” I asked, “Who will do this?” He replied, “The wicked of my nation. May Allah deny them my intercession!” He then continued, “O Ibn Abbas! He who visits him while recognizing his rights, Allah shall write for him the reward of 1000 Hajj and 1000 Umra. Behold! He who visits him has indeed visited me, and he who visits me, it is as if he has visited Allah. And the right of the visitor of Allah over Him[1] is that He shall not punish him by Fire. Behold! Answering (of supplications) is guaranteed under the dome of his grave, cure is placed in the soil of his place (of martyrdom), and the (succeeding) Imams (PBUT) are from his progeny… O Ibn Abbas! Their Wilaya is my Wilaya, which is the Wilaya of Allah. Fighting them is fighting me, which is fighting Allah. Making peace with them is making peace with me, which is making peace with Allah. He (PBUH&HF) then recited: ‘Their intention is to put out the light of Allah with their mouths; but Allah will complete His light, even though the disbelievers may detest.’ (61:8)” [2]

The Ahl al-Bait (PBUT) put great emphasis on Ziyarat of the Chief of the Martyrs (PBUH) and urged their followers to it. In this manner, they kept alive the two important principles of faith, which are to love the friends of Allah (Tawalli) and to disassociate from their enemies (Tabarri).

What follows is a brief presentation of the importance and benefits of visiting Imam al-Husain (PBUH) while recognizing him as an Imam whose obedience is obligatory, as mentioned in the traditions. For the sake of brevity, references are given only from Kamil al-Ziyarat, compiled by Ja’far Ibn Quliwayh al-Qummi (d. 368 AH), which is one of the earliest reliable texts specifically dedicated to this issue.[3] Most of these precious traditions are also found in other reliable collections of the traditions, including the four major books of Hadith:

1-       Visiting Imam al-Husain (PBUH) is the sign of love for Ahl al-Bait (PBUT). Whoever loves Ahl al-Bait (PBUT) should aspire to visit the grave of al-Husain (PBUH). One who does not visit Imam al-Husain (PBUH), is deficient in faith, and if he ever enters Paradise, his rank will be below the rank of believers in Paradise.[4]

2-       When Allah intends goodness for a servant, He places love of al-Husain (PBUH) and love of visiting him in his heart.[5]

3-       According to several traditions, Ziyarat of Imam al-Husain (PBUH) is the best deed.[6]

4-       If a wretched person performs the Ziyarat of Imam al-Husain (PBUH), felicity shall be written for him, and he shall be continuously immersed in the blessings of Allah.[7]

5-       He who wishes to look towards Allah[8] on the Day of Judgment, be relieved from the agony of death, and pass the stops of the Day of Judgment with ease, should go for visitation of the grave of the Chief of Martyrs (PBUH) frequently.[9]

6-       The Messenger of Allah (PBUH&HF) will embrace the visitors of Imam al-Husain (PBUH) on the Day of Judgment.[10]

7-       By performing the Ziyarat of the Chief of the Martyrs (PBUH), one has made/observed a relationship with the Messenger of Allah (PBUH&HF) and the guiding Imams (PBUT). The requests of the pilgrim at his grave are fulfilled, his supplications are answered, sooner or later, and what the pilgrim had left behind is protected.[11]

8-       On the Day of Judgment, the visitors of Imam al-Husain (PBUH) will be seated on tables of light. Because of what Allah will grant them in terms of endless dignity and honor, none will be on the Day of Judgment except that he would wish to have been a pilgrim to the grave of Imam al-Husain (PBUH). They shall be around heavenly tables with the Prophet (PBUH&HF), Lady Fatima (PBUH), and the Imams (PBUT) while people are held in reckoning.[12]

9-       On the Day of Judgment, the Leader of the Faithful (PBUH) will command the bridge (al-Sirat) over Hell to yield to the visitors of Imam al-Husain (PBUH), and will command the fire (surrounding it) to hold back its scorching heat before them until they pass it with an Angel accompanying them.[13]

10-  If people know what Allah has placed in the visitation of the grave of Imam al-Husain (PBUH) in terms of excellence, they would die out of eagerness, and their breath would stop with a sigh.[14]

11-  The Messenger of Allah (PBUH&HF), Lady Fatima (PBUH), and the Imams (PBUT) pray to Allah for forgiveness of the visitors of Imam al-Husain (PBUH).[15]

12-  The Angels pray to Allah for their forgiveness, welcome their arrival, accompany them in their departure, visit their sick, attend their funeral prayers whenever they die, continue to pray for them after their death, and open for them a gate to Paradise in their graves.[16]

13-  Allah has appointed 70,000 Angels around the blessed grave of the Chief of the Martyrs (PBUH), who stay there until the Day of Judgment and perform prayers; each of their prayers is equal to 1000 prayers of human beings. The rewards and merits of these prayers are offered to the visitors of Imam al-Husain (PBUH).[17]

14-  The Angels cover the pilgrims with their wings in such a way that they feel the blessings of their presence.[18]

15-  For each day that a pilgrim resides in that sacred place, the reward of 1000 months (of worship) is written for him.[19]

16-  If the pilgrim is killed by a transgressor on his way to Ziyarat of Imam al-Husain (PBUH), for the first drop of his blood, all his mistakes shall be forgiven. The Angels shall wash his character, cleansing and purifying it of the impurities merged in it from the characteristics of the people of disbelief, until it becomes pure like the purity of the immaculate prophets (PBUT), and they shall cleanse his heart and broaden his chest. He shall be rewarded with the right to intercede for his family and 1000 of his friends. His grave shall be widened and illuminated. The Angels shall bring gifts for him from Paradise. On the Day of Judgment, the first people to embrace him shall be the Messenger of Allah (PBUH&HF) and his executors (PBUH).[20]

17-  If the pilgrim is detained on his way to Ziyarat of Imam al-Husain (PBUH), for each day of his captivity and distress, he shall have certain happiness (in this world and after his death) until the Day of Judgment. For any pain that his body receives, one million good deeds are written for him and one million evil deeds are removed from his record. On the Day of Judgment, He shall be able to speak with the Messenger of Allah (PBUH&HF) until he is discharged from reckoning. The carriers of the throne shall embrace him and shall tell him, “Ask for what you wish.” On the other hand, the person that has harmed him shall be taken to Hell without questioning and reckoning, and Allah’s requital and His punishment for him shall be shown to whom he had harmed.[21]

18-  A pilgrim who goes to Ziyarat of Imam al-Husain (PBUH) in a state of fear and insecurity, he or she shall receive security on the day of great terror,[22] and shall be under the shadow of the throne on that day. He shall return from the Ziyarat forgiven and covered with mercy. The Angels shall greet him and the Messenger of Allah (PBUH&HF) shall receive him and shall pray for him.[23]

19-  If a person comes to Ziyarat of the Chief of the Martyrs (PBUH) by ship, and the ship sinks and he is drowned, a caller will call from the heaven, giving him glad tidings of Paradise.[24]

20-  For a single penny that the one gives as charity during the Ziyarat journey, or pays to accommodate the journey of a visitor of Imam al-Husain (PBUH), Allah shall grant him 10,000 bounties. As per another Hadith, Allah shall write for him good deeds to the extent of the mount of Uhud, and shall reimburse the money he has spent many fold.[25]

21-  For each footstep of one who goes to Ziyarat of Imam al-Husain (PBUH) on foot, Allah, the mighty and the majestic, writes a good deed for him and removes a sin from his record. When he reaches the sanctified place, Allah will write him amongst the prosperous.[26]

22-  He who ritually rinses his body (Ghusl) in the Euphrates (al-Furat) intending the Ziyarat of the Chief of the Martyrs (PBUH), will be free of sins[27] like the day he was born.[28]

23-  He who sets out for the Ziyarat of Imam al-Husain (PBUH) leaves behind his sins on the door of his house like a person who crosses a bridge. He returns to his family while all his burdens and faults have been wiped out from his record. His sustenance increases, and Allah suffices him from what he is concerned about the affairs of his worldly life. No distressed one goes there, except that Allah returns him delighted.[29]

24-  When the pilgrim intends to leave the sacred place of Imam al-Husain (PBUH), a heavenly caller will call, and were it possible for the pilgrim to hear his voice, he would stay beside the grave of the Imam (PBUH) forever. The caller states, “Blessedness (Tuba)[30] is for you O servant! Indeed, you profited, are saved (from Hell), and are forgiven for the past (sins). Thus, resume (good) deeds.” [31]

25-  Numerous traditions confirm that he who visits the grave of al-Husain (PBUH) believing that he is an Imam assigned by Allah and that his obedience is obligatory, Allah shall forgive his past and future sins.[32] In one of many traditions that convey this, Imam al-Sadiq (PBUH) swore by the name of Allah three times when stating this fact.[33]

26- He who wishes to personally own a palace in Paradise, should visit the grave of Imam al-Husain (PBUH). He who dies while he has not visited Imam al-Husain (PBUH) (due to negligence) is not a true Shia, and even if he is admitted to Paradise due to his love for the Ahl al-Bait (PBUT), he will dwell there as a guest of the people of Paradise.[34]

27- Visiting the grave of the Chief of the Martyrs (PBUH) will increase one’s sustenance, prolongs one’s life, and repels the cannons of evil. On the other hand, avoiding it will decrease one’s natural lifetime and (spiritual) sustenance.[35]

28-  On the Day of Judgment, the visitor of Imam al-Husain (PBUH) will be allowed to intercede for 100 people of his choice even if for all of whom Hell had been necessitated, except for a Nasibi[36] because no one can intercede for a Nasibi.[37]

29-  Any number of pilgrimages to the House of Allah in Mecca, with all its due importance, cannot replace the Ziyarat of Imam al-Husain (PBUH). One who performs the pilgrimage to Mecca yearly, yet does not visit al-Husain (PBUH), has indeed neglected one of the rights of Allah and His Messenger, because performing it is a duty[38] for every capable believing man and woman.[39]

The excellence of the reward of the Ziyarat of Imam al-Husain (PBUH) is so much so that even some of the lovers of Ahl al-Bait (PBUT) who lived during their lifetime could not digest the traditions in this regard. Dharih al-Muharibi narrated:

عَن ذَريحِ المُحارِبي قالَ: قُلتُ لِأبي عَبدِ اللهِ ع ما ألقى مِن قَوْمي وَ مِن بَني إذا أنا أخبرَتُهُم بِما في إتيانِ قَبرِ الحُسَينِ (ع) مِنَ الخَيرِ إنّهم يُكَذِّبوني وَ يَقولونَ إنَّكَ تَكذِبُ عَلى جَعفَرِ بنِ مُحمدٍ. قال: يا ذَريح دَعِ النّاسَ يَذهَبونَ حَيثُ شاءُوا. و اللهِ إنّ الله لَيُباهي بِزائرِ الحُسينِ وَ الوافِدُ يَفِدُهُ الملائِكَةُ المقرّبونَ وَ حَمَلةُ عَرشِهِ حَتّى أنه لَيَقولُ لَهم: أ ما تَرَوْنَ زُوّارَ قَبرِ الحُسَينِ، أتَوهُ شَوقاً إليهِ وَ إلى فاطِمةَ بِنتِ رَسولِ الله أما وَ عِزَّتي وَ جَلالي وَ عَظَمَتي لَأوجِبَنَّ لَهُم كَرامَتي وَ لَأُدخِلَنَّهُم جَنَّتيَ الَّتي أعدَدتُها لِأَولِيائي وَ لِأنبِيائي وَ رُسُلي. يا مَلائِكَتي هؤلاءِ زُوّارُ الحُسينِ حَبيبِ مُحمّدٍ رَسولي. وَ مُحمّدٌ حَبيبي وَ مَن أحَبَّني أحَبَّ حَبيبي وَ مَن أحَبَّ حَبيبي أحَبَّ مَن يُحِبّهُ. وَ مَن أبغَضَ حَبيبي أبغَضَني. وَ مَن أبغَضَني كانَ حَقّاً عَلَيَّ أن أُعَذِّبَهُ بِأشَدِّ عَذابي، وَ أُحرِقَهُ بِحَرِّ ناري، وَ أجعَلَ جَهَنَّمَ مَسكَنَهُ وَ مَأواهُ، وَ أُعَذِّبَهُ عَذاباً لا أُعَذِّبَهُ أحَداً مِنَ العالمَينَ.‏

I said to Imam al-Sadiq (PBUH), “When I narrate to my folks and family some of the rewards of the pilgrimage to the grave of al-Husain (PBUH), they deny my narrations, and say that I am associating lies to Ja’far Ibn Muhammad (PBUH).” The Imam (PBUH) replied, “O Dharih! Let people believe what they want. By Allah! Allah recounts His glory (to the Angels) for having servants who are visitors of al-Husain (PBUH). When a new pilgrim arrives, the favored Angels and the carriers of the throne receive him. Allah tells them, ‘Don’t you see the pilgrims of the grave of al-Husain (PBUH) who have come to him eagerly, and in love for him and for Fatima, the daughter of Allah’s Messenger? By My might, majesty, and glory, I shall certainly make incumbent My honor for them, and shall surely enter them to My Paradise that I have prepared for My friends, Prophets, and Messengers. O My Angels! These are the visitors of al-Husain (PBUH), the beloved of Muhammad (PBUH&HF), My Messenger, and Muhammad (PBUH&HF) is My beloved. Whoever loves Me, should love My beloved, and whoever loves My beloved, should love whom he loves. He who hates My beloved, has hated Me, and he who hates Me, it is My right to make him suffer with My severest torment, burn him with the heat of My fire, make Hell his abode, and torment him with a punishment that I have not punished anyone with in the worlds.’” [40]

[1] Initially, no created being has any right over the Creator. However, out of mercy and grace (not out of compulsion or rational necessity), Allah may grant certain right to whom He wills. This includes any thing that Allah has promised of the rewards, which will be certainly fulfilled. See, e.g., the holy Quran, 10:103, 30:47, 51:5, 17:108, and 9:72. 

[2] Kifayat al-Athar, p. 16; Bihar al-Anwar, vol. 36, p. 285, Hadith 107; Mustadrak al-Wasa’il, vol. 10, p. 276, Hadith 30.

[3] The Arabic text of this book is available online at:

[4] Kamil al-Ziyarat, Chapter 78, Hadith 4 and Hadith 1.

[5] Kamil al-Ziyarat, Chapter 55, Hadith 3.

[6] Kamil al-Ziyarat, Chapter 58, Hadith 1-6.

[7] Kamil al-Ziyarat, Chapter 57, Hadith 3; Chapter 66, Hadith 10; Chapter 61, Hadith 5.

[8] The meaning of “visiting Allah” has been explained in the previous section.

[9] Kamil al-Ziyarat, Chapter 60, Hadith 1.

[10] Kamil al-Ziyarat, Chapter 40, Hadith 3.

[11] Kamil al-Ziyarat, Chapter 46, Hadith 1.

[12] Kamil al-Ziyarat, Chapter 50, Hadith 1-3; Chapter 52, Hadith 1-2.

[13] Kamil al-Ziyarat, Chapter 44, Hadith 1.

[14] Kamil al-Ziyarat, Chapter 56, Hadith 3.

[15] Kamil al-Ziyarat, Chapter 40, Hadith 1, 3; Chapter 40, Hadith 4.

[16] Kamil al-Ziyarat, Chapter 41, Hadith 1, 5; Chapter 27, Hadith 10 & 13

[17] Kamil al-Ziyarat, Chapter 42, Hadith 1-2; Chapter 27, Hadith 14.

[18] Kamil al-Ziyarat, Chapter 27, Hadith 16.

[19] Kamil al-Ziyarat, Chapter 44, Hadith 2.

[20] Kamil al-Ziyarat, Chapter 44, Hadith 2.

[21] Kamil al-Ziyarat, Chapter 44, Hadith 2.

[22] This is one of the names of the Day of Judgment, as mentioned in the holy Quran, Chapter 21, Verse 103.

[23] Kamil al-Ziyarat, Chapter 45, Hadith 1, 2, 5; Chapter 40, Hadith 3.

[24] Kamil al-Ziyarat, Chapter 49, Hadith 9-10.

[25] Kamil al-Ziyarat, Chapter 46, Hadith 2, 4, 5.

[26] Kamil al-Ziyarat, Chapter 49, Hadith 1.

[27] Although the sins will be dropped completely, some of them need some rectifications and complementary actions to be performed by the forgiven individual. For instance, a person who has hurt the property of others still needs to recompense for that property, and it will be incumbent upon him as a new obligation just as if he is in debt. A person who is in debt is not necessarily a sinner if he does not have ability to repay his expired debt now, but he needs to clear his debt as soon as he can. We can also deduce from these traditions that Allah blesses he who performs the Ziyarat of Imam al-Husain (PBUH) by providing him the means of purification, paving the way for him to eventually rectify his past deeds, and helping him to avoid sins in future to a greater degree.

[28] Kamil al-Ziyarat, Chapter 44, Hadith 2.

[29] Kamil al-Ziyarat, Chapter 62, Hadith 1; Chapter 46, Hadith 2; Chapter 69, Hadith 3.

[30] A blessed tree in Paradise whose branches enter into the places of all the believers.

[31] Kamil al-Ziyarat, Chapter 62, Hadith 4.

[32] In Chapter 48, Verse 2 of the holy Quran, Allah states to His Prophet (PBUH&HF) that He will forgive his past and future sins. Therefore, this is not a farfetched issue. Moreover, according to the commentaries of Ahl al-Bait (PBUT) since the Prophet (PBUH&HF) did not commit any sin, the sins mentioned in that verse refers to sins of his followers, i.e., the Shia of Ali. Since the Prophet (PBUH&HF) is their guardian (Wali), he has accepted their mistakes as his, and Allah has forgiven them all. Of course, not anybody can claim to be a Shia of Ali (PBUH). A true Shia does not insist on sin, and tries his best to follow the footsteps of the Imams (PBUT), and for such a person Allah forgives his sudden slips. The one who insists on sin is a disbeliever. These facts have been clearly mentioned in the traditions too. For instance, in one of the traditions concerning the commentary of the above verse (c.f. Bihar al-Anwar, vol. 53, p. 33), Imam al-Sadiq (PBUH) states that his followers should not just lean on this and neglect their duties since only those with whom Allah is satisfied will receive the Prophet’s intercession, and those who abandon their duties leaning on intercession, it will not avail them whatsoever with Allah. Then the Imam (PBUH) recited the verse, “they do not intercede except for whom Allah is pleased with and they are in dire fear of Him.” (21:28)

[33] Kamil al-Ziyarat, Chapter 54, Hadith 1-15; Chapter 57, Hadith 2.

[34] Kamil al-Ziyarat, Chapter 78, Hadith 3; Chapter 52, Hadith 2.

[35] Kamil al-Ziyarat, Chapter 61, Hadith 1-5.

[36] According to the definition of Ahl al-Bait (PBUT), Nasibi is a person who assigns (Nasb) something beside what Allah assigned, in leadership, beliefs or practices, etc, and loves and hates based on that. A person who loves what Allah has denounced, has indeed hated the message of Allah and His messengers. For the definition of Nasibi and the hater of Ahl al-Bait (PBUT) in the traditions, see the following various traditions: Man La Yahdhuruhu al-Faqih, vol. 3, p. 572, Hadith 4956; al-Kafi, vol. 2, p. 414, Hadith 1; Mustadrak al-Wasa’il, vol. 17, p. 310, Hadith 12; Bihar al-Anwar, vol. 27, p. 219, Hadith 4.

[37] Kamil al-Ziyarat, Chapter 68, Hadith 2, 4-5.

[38] The emphasis in visiting the grave of Imam al-Husain (PBUH) in the traditions is so much so that some of the previous scholars considered it a Wajib duty if one has capability just like pilgrimage to Mecca. However, others considered it a very strongly recommended action, and that avoiding it does not befit a capable believer. Moreover, as we will discuss in the next section, this duty can be preformed from far if one cannot afford the Ziyarat journey.

[39] Kamil al-Ziyarat, Chapter 78, Hadith 6, Chapter 43, Hadith 1-4.

[40] Kamil al-Ziyarat, Chapter 56, Hadith 5; Bihar al-Anwar, vol. 98, p. 75, Hadith 26.

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