The following is a direct quote (including the relevant end notes) from Imam Mustafa ibn Ahmad Ash-Shatti’s (d. 1348 AH), may Allah be pleased with him, The Divine Texts: Answering Muhammad ibn `Abdul Wahhab’s Movement , pp. 65-71 (1st edition):
Ar. Mashahid (MESHA-HID), sing. Mashhad (MESH-HEAD). Imam Ibn Mandhur defined a mashhad as: “A mashhad is a place where people gather for something.” Lisan ul-`Arab, vol.3, pp.296-297. In general, when the scholars use the term, mashhad, they are referring to the place where a saint or great figure died and people come to visit him or her. It is for that reason that it is sometimes referred to as a mashhad.
A believer reading this may ask why I have chosen to translate mashhad as ‘shrine’ and not choose another term. There are a number of reasons why this is the case. Firstly, the word ‘shrine’ used in English captures adequately the meaning that the Arabic conveys and what the scholars intend. The Concise Oxford English Dictionary, pp.977-978 reads:
shrine n. , & v.t. 1. n. casket, esp. one holding sacred relics; tomb (usually sculptured or highly ornamental) of saint, etc; alter or chapel with special associations; Shinto place of worship; place hallowed by some memory. 2. v.t. (poet.) enshrine. [OE scrin, =OHG scrini, ON skrin, Gmc f. L scrinium case for books etc.]
Thus, the Muslim using this expression would intend sentences one and five of the first definition. This would in no way mean that the Muslim holds shrines erected to Buddha, Zoroaster, Confucius or other unbelievers as places to set out to for visitation and reverence.
When using the word ‘saint’, the author, the scholars who preceded him and the translator mean ‘believers’, those who have salvation and have testified to the words of, There is no god but Allah, Muhammad is the Messenger of Allah. It is these people who are saints and whom we would take steps to visit.
Imams Muwaffaq ud-Din Ibn Qudamah (d. 620 AH (AD 1223) and Shams ud-Din Ibn Qudamah (d. 682 AH (AD 1285) (who left the citation in place as tacit approval), may Allah have mercy upon both of them, when discussing visiting graves and shrines, added:
“So it is valid for a traveler to shorten his prayers on visitation of the graves and shrines. Imam Ibn `Aqil, may Allah have mercy upon him, said, ‘It is not permissible to shorten the prayers when visiting these places, as he has been forbidden from visiting them. The Prophet, peace and blessings be upon him said, You should not set out on a journey except to three masjids, as this hadith is agreed upon by Imams Al-Bukhari and Muslim’.
The authentic position is that such visitations are permissible and it is valid to shorten the prayers on these visits. This is because the Prophet, peace and blessings be upon him, when he came to Quba’, did so walking as well as riding, and he used to visit the graves.
He said, Visit them, for they remind you of the Hereafter. As far as his words, peace and blessings be upon him, ‘You should not set out on a journey except to three masjids…’ the meaning is referring to negating preferring another masjid to these but the ruling is not that it is impermissible. The virtue of the place is not a condition for the permissibility of shortening prayers on travel, so there is no harm in doing so.” [Al-Mughni wash-Sharh ul-Kabir, vol.2, pp.104-105, mas’alah #1343]
Imam `Ala’ ud-Din Al-Mardawi (d. 885 AH (AD 1481), may Allah have mercy on him, mentioned:
“It is praiseworthy for men to visit the graves and this is the absolute position in the madhhab as narrated from Imam Ahmad, and the clear majority of the school agree with this point. Imam Muhy ud-Din An-Nawawi, may Allah have mercy on him, has even narrated Consensus on the issue. Imam Sham ud-Din said in his Sharh, ‘We know of no difference of opinion between the people of knowledge in it being praiseworthy for men to visit the graves’.
As for Imam Muwaffaq ud-Din in Al-Mughni, he said, ‘We know of no difference of opinion regarding men visiting the graves being praiseworthy’. The author of Majma` Al-Bahrain stated that this was praiseworthy in the most dominant position of the school. Imam Az-Zarkashi (d. 774 AH (AD 1372) said that there are well known and explicit texts about this given from the scholars of the school. The same has been narrated from Imam Al-Kalwadhani in Al–Hidayah, Al-Madhhab, Imam Muhammad ibn `Abdullah As-Samuri (d. 610 AH (AD 1213) in Al-Mustaw`ib, Imam Muwaffaq ud-Din in Al-Kafi, Imam Muhammad ibn `Abdul Qawi ibn Badran Al-Maqdisi (d. 699 AH (AD 1299) in An-Nazam ul-Mufid, Al-Hasan ibn Yusuf Ad-Dujaili (732 AH (AD 1331) in Al-Wajiz and others besides them.
Imam Ahmad ibn Hanbal has mentioned, ‘There is no harm in men visiting the graves’. This is the dominant understanding of Imam Al-Khiraqi and other companions in the school. His position of permissibility has been taken as evidence by Imams Abul Mu`ali, Majd ud-Din Ibn Taymiyyah (d. 652 AH (AD 1254), Az-Zarkashi and others. They say that it is reported to be permissible but not praiseworthy and this is the dominant position of Imam Al-Khiraqi. This is due to the fact that the order for visitation had come after its prohibition – but the majority in the school have maintained that it is praiseworthy due to it reminding one of the Hereafter – as that was mentioned in the order.” [Al-Insaf fi Ma`rifat ir-Rajihi min al-Khilafi `ala Madhhab il-Imam Ahmad ibn Hanbal, vol.2, pp.560-561]
Imam Mansur Al-Buhuti (d. 1051 AH (AD 1656), may Allah be pleased with him, said of setting out to travel to shrines and graves:
“There are different types of travel. There is necessary travel, such as for hajj or a specific jihad. There is the travel established by the sunnah, such as for visiting brother and sisters, the ill and infirm as well as parents. Permissible travel includes recreation, visiting, commerce or attending a shrine or grave of a prophet, or even a masjid besides the three.” [Kash-shaf ul-Qina` `an Matn il-Iqna`, vol.1, pp.476-477]
Imam Mansur Al-Buhuti (d. 1051 AH (AD 1656), may Allah be pleased with him, says in conclusion:
“The traveler may take a dispensation when intending to travel to a shrine, or a masjid, even if it is other than the three. He may attend the grave of a prophet or other than a prophet, as in the case of a friend of Allah. As far as the hadith, ‘Do not set out on a journey except to three masjids. They are my masjid, Masjid ul-Haram and Masjid ul-Aqsa’, (1) there are points to it. It means that this should not be sought out. It is not forbidden from setting out on a journey to them, which is the opposite position to those scholars who oppose this view.
This is because the Prophet, peace and blessings be upon him, came to the masjid in Quba’, riding and walking. He also used to visit graves, and said to people, ‘Visit them, for they are a reminder of the Hereafter.’ ” [Kash-shaf ul-Qina` `an Matn il-Iqna`, vol.1, pp.478-480. ]
(1) This hadith is collected by Imams al-Bukhari in his Jami` us-Sahih, Book of Reward of Hunting, under the chapter of the Hajj of the Women; Muslim ibn al-Hajjaj in his Jami` us-Sahih, Book of Hajj, under the chapter of The Virtues of the Three Masjids; at-Tirmidhi in his Sunan, Chapters on the Prayer of the Prophet, peace and blessings be upon him under the chapter of Which masjid is the most virtuous, and classified by them as authentic.