Is it sunnah or mustahab to visit graves on Friday?
Yes, it was declared a sunna and mustahabb for a Muslim to visit the graves on Jumu`a on the collective basis of several reports and per the practice of the early Muslims. Below is some of its evidence.
1. The Prophet — upon him blessings and peace — said: “Whoever visits the grave of his parents or the grave of one of them on every Jumuʿa, he will be forgiven and be recorded among the pious sons” (man zāra qabra abawayhi aw aḥadihimā fi kulli Jumuʿatin, ghufira lahu wa-kutiba barran). Narrated from Abū Hurayra by al-Ṭabarānī in al-Awsaṭ (6:175-176 §6114) and al-Ṣaghīr (2:160 §955) with a weak chain because of ʿAbd al-Karīm Abū Umayya cf. al-Haythamī (3:59-60); Ibn Abī al-Dunyā in Makārim al-Akhlāq (p. 83); al-Ḥakīm al-Tirmidhī in Nawādir al-Uṣūl (Dar al-Minhaj ed. 1:300-302 §98, Aṣl 15); Qawwam al-Sunna in al-Targhib wal-Tarhib (1:282 §451, 3:126 §2217); and al-Bayhaqī in Shuʿab al-Īmān (6:201 §7901). Its chain contains Muḥammad ibn al-Nuʿmān who is unknown while his shaykh Yaḥyā ibn al-ʿAlā’ al-Bajalī al-Rāzī is discarded as stated by al-ʿIrāqī per al-Munāwī, Fayd (6:141). Al-Sakhawi cites it as weak in al-Ajwibat al-Mardiyya while al-Suyūṭī cites it in al-Lumʿa fī Khaṣā’iṣ al-Jumʿa (p. 109 §193) and in al-Jami` al-Saghir, marking it as weak.
2. The Prophet — upon him blessings and peace — said, as related from Abu Bakr al-Siddiq — Allah be well-pleased with him: “Whoever visits the grave of his parents or one of them every Jumu`a and reads Yasin there, Allah shall forgive him to the count of each verse or each letter of it.” Narrated by al-Shajari in al-Amali al-Khamisiyya and Ibn al-Najjar in his Tarikh as cited by al-Suyuti in al-Durr al-Manthur. He also cited it in his commentary on Ibn Majah’s Sunan (Hadith of reciting Yasin over the dead) and included it in al-Jami` al-Saghir, marking it as weak. Al-Sakhawi cites it as forged in al-Ajwibat al-Mardiyya.
3. Jaʿfar al-Ṣādiq narrated with his chain from al-Ḥasan ibn ʿAlī that Fāṭima the daughter of the Prophet — upon them blessings and peace — used to visit the grave of her uncle Ḥamza ibn ʿAbd al-Muṭṭalib every Jumuʿa and she used to pray and weep there. Narrated by al-Ḥākim in the Mustadrak (1990 ed. 1:533 “its narrators are trustworthy from the first to the last” cf. 3:30 “its chain is sound”); al-Bayhaqī, al-Sunan al-Kubrā (4:78) and al-Sughra (2:38 §1160); Ibn ʿAbd al-Barr, al-Tamhīd (3:234). Al-Hakim declared it a Prophetic sunna after narrating the report. Ibn al-Mulaqqin cited it with al-Hakim’s rating in Tuhfat al-Muhtaj ila Adillat al-Minhaj (2:33 §892), as did Ibn Hajar in Ithaf al-Mahara (18:23 §23313) and Talkhis al-Habir (Qurtuba ed. 2:274).
4. A hadith states “Whoever visits the grave of his parents or of one of them on the day of Jumu`a, it is like a Hajj.” Narrated by al-Daylami in his Musnad as stated by al-Sakhawi in al-Ajwibat al-Mardiyya.
All four of the above reports are cited by Ibn al-Jawzi in his book al-Birr wal-Sila, in the chapter on visiting the grave of one’s parents.
5. Ibn Abi al-Dunya in al-Qubur and al-Bayhaqi in the Shu`ab narrated from Muhammad b. Wasi`, “It has reached me that the dead know their visitors on the day of Jumu`a and one day before and one day after.” Cited by Ibn Rajab in Ahwal al-Qubur and Suyuti in Sharh al-Sudur and in Bushra al-Ka’ib bi-Liqa’ al-Habib.
6. Ibn Abi al-Dunya in al-Qubur and al-Bayhaqi in the Shu`ab also narrated from al-Dahhak, “Whoever visits a grave [even] on the Sabt (the day after Jumu`a) before sunrise, the dead knows of his visit, due to the great status of the day of Jumu`a.” Ibn Kathir cites it in his Tafsir (al-Rum 30:52). Suyuti cites both this and the previous entry in Sharh al-Sudur, in Bushra al-Ka’ib bi-Liqa’ al-Habib, and in al-Hawi lil-Fatawa (al-Lum`a fi Ajwibat al-As’ilat al-Sab`a).
7. Abu al-Fadl `Abd al-Wahid b. `Abd al-`Aziz b. al-Harith al-Tamimi al-Hanbali (341-410), “al-Imam al-Faqih, Ra’is al-Hanabila,” narrates that Imam Ahmad “used to say that the Prophets are alive in their graves praying, and that the grave-dweller recognizes his visitors the day of Jumuʿa.” Cited in al-ʿAqīda lil-Imām Aḥmad bi-Riwāyat al-Khallāl, ed. `Abd al-`Azīz `Izz al-Dīn al-Sayrawān (Damascus: Dār Qutayba, 1988) p. 121 and I`tiqad al-Imam al-Munabbal Abi `Abd Allah Ahmad ibni Hanbal, ed. al-Naqqash Ashraf Salah `Ali (Beirut: Dar al-Kutub al-`Ilmiyya, 1422/2001) p. 69.
Note: The encouragement to visit graves is firmly and authentically established in absolute terms regardless of time. This includes the time of Jumua and never excludes it. The specific mention of Jumua is some reports is only because it is an additional meaning of honor for that day and of benefit attached to it as per al-Dahhak’s gloss and as confirmed by Ibn al-Qayyim at the beginning of Kitab al-Ruh. And Allah knows best.
Hajj Gibril Haddad