Is it prohibited (ḥarām) for a woman to attend/follow a funeral procession? What is the position also in relation to visiting the graves or graveyard?
There is no prohibition on either count. Neither is there a restriction that prevents women from either attending the funeral procession or visiting the graves.
Accompanying this question was a short-written submission which purported to outline a prohibition on both points. Although not written by the individual asking the question, it is from amongst the most commonly held viewpoints on this subject. That has not been published here, because quite frankly, it is an embarrassment. Not only is there a complete lack of understanding the Islamic textual sources, but it also has a misogynistic undertone.
Amongst some quarters, to even mention the word ‘grave’ or ‘woman’ seems to provoke what can only be described as a bizarre retreat into irrationality. Permeating the supposed answer to this question were references to ‘causing fitnah’, ‘temptation’ and other arguments which have no legal basis. Rather, they are phantasms of a warped mind-set.
In the Qur’ān, Allah has stated:
O you who believe! Obey Allah and obey the Messenger and those in authority from among you. And if you differ concerning anything, refer it to Allah and his Messenger, if you believe in Allah and the last day; that is best, and most suitable for final determination [4: 59]
Accompanying the funeral procession
To address this point, we have translated Mas’ala (Issue) 599 (Book of Funerary Prayer) from Ibn Ḥazm’s al-Muḥalla bil’Athār.
[Mas’ala 599: Women accompanying the funeral procession
(The) issue we do not dislike (or discourage) women following the funeral procession, and we do not prevent them from doing so? What has come in the form of reports regarding a prohibition concerning that, are not anything valid, because it is mursal and it is about something unknown, and no proof is established by it. It is of resemblance with what has been narrated from the channel of Muslim:
Isḥāq bin Rāhwayh narrated to us Esa bin Yunus narrated to us from Hishām bin Ḥafṣ from Umm ‘Aṭiyyah, she said: We were refrained from following the bier, but it was not made absolute (or binding) on us.
It is not musnad (connected), because we do not know who this prohibition concerns. And whether it is (referring) to some of the companions. Then if it is authentically connected, it would not be a decisive proof, rather, it would only be a matter that is (viewed as being) disliked. But what is authentic is that which is in succession to it, like what has been reported from the channel of Abu Bakr ibn Abi Shayba:
Waki’ narrated to us from Hishām bin ‘Urwa from Wahb bin Kaysān from Muḥammad bin ‘Amr ‘Aṭā from Abu Hurayrah, that the Messenger of Allah peace be upon him was in a funeral. ‘Umar saw a woman and shouted at her, but the Messenger of Allah peace be upon him said: Leave her alone, O ‘Umar, for the eye weeps and the heart is afflicted, and the bereavement is recent.
It was authentically narrated from Ibn ‘Abbās that he did not dislike that.]
Visiting the graves
Again, in relation to this point, there is no valid textual prohibition that bars women from visiting the graves or going to the graveyard in general. Furthermore, there is nothing textually established that demonstrates there is a restriction only for men to attend. This point is outlined in Mas’ala (Issue) 600 from al-Muḥalla bil’Athār:
[Mas’ala 600: Visiting the graves
(The) issue, and we recommend the visiting of graves and it is obliged (farḍ), even if only once, that would be no problem. (And the position) with that of visiting a Muslim grave or that of an intimate (relative who was) polytheist, man and woman alike? It is established with what has been narrated from the channel of Muslim:
Abu Bakr ibn Abi Shayba narrated to us Muḥammad bin Fadeel narrated to us from Abu Sinān and he is Dirār bin Murra, from Muḥārib bin Dithār from Ibn Buraydah from his father, he said: The Messenger of Allah peace be upon him said: I prohibited you from visiting the graves, but (now) you may visit them.
And also from the channel of Muslim:
Abu Bakr ibn Abi Shayba narrated to us Muḥammad bin ‘Ubayd narrated to us from Yazeed bin Kaysān from Abu Ḥāzim from Abu Hurayrah, he said: the Prophet peace be upon him visited the grave of his mother and he wept, and moved others around him to tears, and said: I sought permission from my Lord to beg forgiveness for her but it was not granted to me, and I sought permission to visit her grave and it was granted to me so visit the graves, for that makes you mindful of death.
Indeed it is authentically established from the mother of the believers and from Ibn Umar and other than those two, regarding visiting the graves. What has been reported from Umar in relation to a prohibition concerning that, it is not authentic.]
In his Sunan collection of ḥadith Imām Tirmidhi cites two additional Prophetic traditions concerning this topic in the book of funerals. His comments in relation to each of them are very important and insightful and they are not always presented in full in English when this topic is discussed. He records:
Qutayba narrated to us Abu ‘Awāna narrated to us from Umar bin Abi Salama from his father from Abu Hurayrah, that the Messenger of Allah peace be upon him cursed the women who visit the graves.
(He said): and in the chapter from Ibn ‘Abbās and Ḥassān bin Thābit. Abu E’sa said: This ḥadith is ḥasan-Ṣaḥīḥ. Indeed it is seen that some of the people of knowledge (held) that this was before the Prophet peace be upon him permitted visiting graves. Then when he permitted it, both men and women were included in the permission. Some of them said that visiting the graves is only disliked (for women) due to their lack of patience and excessive mourning.
Muḥammad bin Bashār, Muḥammad bin Ghaylān and al-Ḥasan bin Ali al-Khilāl narrated to us, they said Abu A’āṣim an-Nabeel narrated to us Sufyān narrated to us from ‘Alqama bin Marthad from Sulaymān bin Buraydah from his father, he said the Messenger of Allah peace be upon him said: I had prohibited you from visiting the graves. But Muḥammad was permitted to visit the grave of his mother, so visit them, for they will remind you of the Hereafter.
(He said): in the chapter (also) from Abu Sa’eed, Ibn Mas’ud, Anas, Abu Hurayrah and Umm Salama. Abu Esa said: the ḥadith of Buraydah is ḥasan-Ṣaḥīḥ. This is acted upon according to the people of knowledge. They did not see any harm in visiting the graves. And it is said (as such) by Ibn al-Mubārak, ash-Shāfi’i, Aḥmad and Isḥāq.
In Islam, commandments and prohibitions are not based upon the whims, feelings or prejudices of people. They are established only by the revelation: the Qur’ān and the authentically established Prophetic Sunnah.
[Ṣaḥīḥ Bukhāri] Ismā’il narrated to us Mālik narrated to me from Abi Zinād from al-A’raj from Abu Hurayrah from the Prophet (peace be upon him) who said: Leave me as I leave you for the people who were before you were ruined because of their questions and their differences over their Prophets. So, if I forbid you to do something, then keep away from it. And if I order you to do something, then do of it as much as you can.
And with Allah remains all success and the ultimate attainment.