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Ziyārah or Ziyacrat (Arabic: زيارة‎‎) is an Arabic term which literally means "visit", and is used to refer to a form of pilgrimage to sites associated with Muhammad, his family members and descendants (including the Shī‘ī Imāms), his companions and other venerated figures in Islam such as the prophets, Sufi Saints and Islamic scholars. Sites of pilgrimage include mosques, graves, battlefields, mountains, and caves.

Ziyārat can also refer to a form of supplication made by the Shia, in which they send salutations and greetings to Muhammad and his family.[1]

Pilgrimage sites

Different Muslim-majority countries, speaking many different languages, use different words for these sites where ziyarat is performed.

  • Ziyãratgãh – Persian word meaning, "sites of Ziyarat"
  • Imãmzãdeh – in Iran, tombs of the descendants of the Twelver Imāms
  • Dargah (Urdu, Turkish: Dergâh, Persian: درگاہ;‎‎, Hindi: दरगाह; literally: "threshold, doorstep [of the interred holy person's spiritual sanctum];" the shrine is considered a "doorstep" to a spiritual realm) – in South Asia, Turkey and Central Asia for tombs of Sufi saints
  • Ziarat or Jiarat – in Southeast Asia
  • Ziyaratkhana – in South Asia (less common)
  • Gongbei (Chinese: 拱北) – in China (from Persian gonbad "dome")
  • 'Mazar – a general term meaning a shrine, typically of a Shi'i Saint or noble.

Etymology and usage

Sufi places of worship and retreat may be built near the graves of famous Sufi Saints; they are often called khanqahs or tekkes. Ziyarat" comes from Arabic: زور‎‎ "to visit". Iranian and south-Asian Muslims use the word ziyarat for both the Hajj pilgrimage to Mecca as well as for pilgrimages to other sites[citation needed] such as visiting a holy place. In Indonesia the term is ziarah for visiting holy places or graves.

Views on Ziyarat

Sunni view

Majority of Sunni scholars declare that the purpose of visiting the graves, cemeteries and tombs is only to remind people of death, and the dead that are buried there while supplications are made only to Allah.[2] They point out to the Sunni historical sources proving that ziyarat is allowed and was always practiced:

Sufi view

The purpose of visiting a grave is to gain divine knowledge and to pray for the person in the grave.

Shī‘ah view

There are many reasons for which the Shī‘ah partake in the performance of Ziyarah, none of which include the worship of the people buried within the tombs - Ayatullah Borujerdi and Ayatullah Khomeini have both said

The Shī‘ah do however perform Ziyarah, believing that the entombed figures bear great status in the eyes of God, and seek to have their prayers answered through these people (a form of Tawassul) - Sayyid Muhammad Hasan Musawi writes

In this regard, Ibn Shu’ba al-Harrani also narrates a hadīth from the tenth Imām of the Twelver Shī‘as

The Ziyarah of the Imāms is also done by the Shī‘ah, not only as a means of greeting and saluting their masters who lived long before they were born, but also as a means of seeking nearness to God and more of His blessings (barakah).

Carrying corpses to the Holy Shrines, Persia, 19th century.

The Shī‘ah do not consider the narrations in Bukhari to be authentic,[6] and argue that if things such as Ziyarah and Tawassul were innovations and shirk, Muhammad himself would have prohibited people as a precaution, from visiting graves, or seeking blessings through kissing the sacred black stone at the Ka‘bah.[7] Some Sunni scholars such as Ibn Taymiyyah,[8] have also rejected the notion that such things are innovations (bid‘ah).

It is popular Shi'i belief that to be buried near the burial place of the Imams is beneficial. In Shi'i sacred texts it is stated that the time between death and resurrection (barzakh, purgatory) should be spent near the Imams.[9]

See also


  1. "List of Supplication Ziyarats". Duas.org. Retrieved 2014-02-23.<templatestyles src="Module:Citation/CS1/styles.css"></templatestyles>
  2. Sahih Al-Bukhari (Eng. Trans.) vol.1, p.255, no.427 Sahih Muslim (Eng. Trans.) vol.1, p.269, no.1082, Sunan Abu Dawood (Eng. Trans.) vol.2, p.917, no.3221, Sunan an-Nass’ai vol.1, no.115 and others.
  3. Ayatullah Borujerdi, Tawdih al-Masa'il, p.172 ; Imam Khumayni, Tahrir al-Wasilah, vol.1, p.150; Risalah-ye Novin, vol.1, p.148.
  4. Sayyid Muhammad Hasan Musawi, Risalah dar Kitab wa Sunnat, Majmu'ah Maqalat, Kitab Nida'-e Wahdat, Tehran, Chehel-Sutun Publishers, p.259.
  5. Ibn Shu’ba al-Harrani, Tuhaf al-'Uqul, p.510.
  6. Moojan Moman, Introduction to Shi'i Islam, Yale University Press, 1985, p.174 ; Ahmad Abdullah Salamah, Shia & Sunni Perspective on Islam, p.52.
  7. Risalatan Bayn al-Shaykhayn, p.17.
  8. Majmu'ah Fatawa Ibn Taymiyyah, vol.1, p.106, as cited in al-Mausu'ah al-Fiqhiyyah al-Kuwaitiyyah, vol.14, pp.163-164. Ibn Taymiyya states: "Those who accuse a person of heresy for making tawassul deserve the most severe punishment."
  9. Takim, Liyakatali N. (2006). The Heirs of the Prophet: Charisma and Religious Authority in Shi'ite Islam. Albany, NY, USA: State University of New York Press. p. 67. ISBN 978-0-7914-6737-4.<templatestyles src="Module:Citation/CS1/styles.css"></templatestyles>

Further reading

  • Privratsky, Bruce G.(2001) Muslim Turkistan: Kazak Religion and Collective Memory. Richmond, Surrey: Curzon.
  • Subtelny, M. E. (1989) The cult of holy places: religious practices among Soviet Muslims. Middle East Journal, 43(4): 593–604.

External links