Answered by Shaykh Faraz Rabbani
This practice is established through rigorously authentic (sahih) hadiths from the Prophet (Allah bless him & give him peace), mentioned in Bukhari, Muslim, and elsewhere. The Hanafis, Shafi`is, and Hanbalis have all declared it to be recommended to place green stalks and the like on graves, following the Prophet (Allah bless him & give him peace). So how can it be an innovation?
Ibn Abidin mentioned in his Radd al-Muhtar, which is the primary reference for fatwa in the Hanafi school:
“Placing green stalks and the like on graves
… Its evidence is that which has been reported in the hadiths that the Prophet (Allah bless him & give him peace) placed a green stalk after breaking it in half on the grave of the two who were being punished [in their graves]… It is taken from the reasoning [given by the fuqaha, which is that the punishment is lessened by the tasbih of the stalk] and from the hadith [itself] that it is recommended to place them, in order to follow the Prophet (Allah bless him & give him peace). Analogy can be made from this for that which people customarily do in our times by places myrtle boughs and the like. A number of Shafi`i fuqaha have also stated this. This [reasoning] is superior to that which some Malikis stated that the lessening of the punishment of the grave for the two only happened by the baraka of the noble hand of the Prophet (Allah bless him & give him peace) or by his supplication, so [they said that] analogy may not be made on this. Bukhari (Allah have mercy on him) mentioned in his Sahih that Burayda ibn al-Husayb (Allah be pleased with him) stipulated that two green stalks be placed on his grave. And Allah knows best.” [Ibn Abidin, Radd al-Muhtar, ‘Bab al-Jana’iz]
Imam Abu Bakr Ibn Abi Shayba has a chapter in his Musannaf that he titled ‘That Which Reduces The Punishment of the Grave,’ in which he mentioned narrations from Prophet (Allah bless him & give him peace) regarding this.
Even Ibn Taymiyya (Allah have mercy on him), with his very narrow understanding of innovation said,
“The scholars deduced from [the hadiths regarding] placing the green stalks on graves that one may plant trees and flowers on the grave. They did not explain how exactly, though it is established that he (Allah bless him & give him peace) planted one stalk on each grave. Therefore, the purpose is fulfilled by placing them anywhere. It has been reported, though, by Ibn Humayd in his Musnad that, “The Prophet (Allah bless him & give him peace) placed the stalk on the grave at the level of the head.” [Ibn Taymiyya, al-Fatawa al-Fiqhiyya al-Kubra, ‘Kitab al-Jana’iz’, 2: 9]
In the Shafi`i school, Imam Ibn Hajar al-Haytami (Allah have mercy on him) said in his magnificent Tuhfat al-Muhtaj, a commentary on Imam Nawawi’s Minhaj al-Talibin,
It is a sunna to place a green stalk on the grave, in order to follow [the Prophet (Allah bless him & give him peace)], and the hadith is rigorously authenticated (sahih), because punished is reduced by the baraka of the stalks tasbih (glorification of Allah)… [Ibn Hajar, Tuhfat al-Muhtaj fi Sharh al-Minhaj, ‘Fasl fi al-Dafn’, 3: 197, Dar Ihya al-Turath ed.]
This is also mentioned by Khatib al-Shirbini in his Mujni al-Muhtaj and al-Ramli in his Nihayat al-Muhtaj, the other main commentators on Imam Nawawi’s Minhaj.
It is also mentioned as being recommended, for the same reasons, in many major Hanbali reference works, including Bahuti’s Kashshaf al-Qina` (2: 165) and his Sharh Muntaha al-Iradaat (1: 385).
And Allah alone gives success.
MMVIII © Faraz Rabbani and Qibla.
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