How do we deal with ahadith making ziyara to Husayn obligatory?

Ahadith indicating obligation of ziyara to Husayn

(Kamil al-Ziyarat, page 236)

“Abi Ja’far [al-Baqir] said:

Order our Shiites to visit the tomb of Al-Husayn (peace be upon him), for ziyara to it is obligatory for every believer who acknowledges to divinely appointed imamate of al-Husayn (peace be upon him)

مروا شيعتنا بزيارة قبر الحسين (عليه السلام)، فان اتيانه مفترض على كل مؤمن يقر للحسين (عليه السلامبالإمامة من الله عز وجل

(Bihar al-Anwar, vol 94, page 134)

And on the authority of Safwan Al-Jammal, he said: I said to Al-Sadiq, peace be upon him: How long would it be appropriate to leave the ziyara of Al-Husayn, peace be upon him? 

He [al-Sadiq]] said: Not more than a month.

وعن صفوان الجمال قالقلت للصادق عليه السلامفي كم يسيغ ترك زيارة الحسين عليه السلام؟ قال عليه السلاملا يسيغ أكثر من شهر.

Is ziyara to Husayn obligatory?

Based on an analysis of ahadith, it seems this obligation is based on circumstance. 

Imam al-Sadiq had taken several trips to Karbala and Najaf, so perhaps to honor his grandfather al-Husayn (as) and as an expression of his [i.e, al-Sadiq’s] power over the Shi’a - he wanted to unite them in pilgrimage to Husayn during this time (of his trip). 

That’s why he ruled it inappropriate to leave the pilgrimage to Husayn’s shrine for more than a month. 

As a demonstration, one can see how powerful the expression of loyalty to Ahlulbayt when the Shi’a are united in their mass pilgrimage to Karbala in Ashura and Arba’een. 

Anyway, I digress. 

  • Hadith #1 

Despite ruling it inappropriate to leave the ziyara of Husayn for more than a month. 

Imam al-Sadiq, in this narration in Kamil al-Ziyarat, rules it makrooh to visit Imam Husayn’s shrine more than once every year. Perhaps, to protect the Shi’a from Abbasid secret police surveillance and attention.

Thus, indicating the obligatory aspect of this ziyara was time-specific. 

“I said to him [Imam al-Sadiq]: 

Do we visit the tomb of Husayn, peace be upon him, two or three times a year? 

Abi Abdilah [al-Sadiq], peace be upon him, said: I dislike that you do ziyara to him a lot, visit him once a year

كامل الزيارةعلي بن الحسين، عن علي، عن أبيه، عن ابن فضال، عن علي ابن عقبة، عن عبيد الله الحلبي، عن أبي عبد الله عليه السلامقالقلت لهإنا نزور قبر الحسين عليه السلام في السنة مرتين أو ثلاثة؟ فقال أبو عبد الله عليه السلامأكره أن تكثروا القصد إليه زوروه فيالسنة مرة قلت كيف اصلى عليهقال تقوم خلفه عند كتفيه ثم تصلي على النبي صلى الله عليه وآله وتصلي على الحسين صلوات الله عليه

The time-specific and circumstance-specific aspect of these ahadith, is further corroborated by the following reports:

  • Hadith #2

(Al-Kafi, vol 4, 584)

I told Abi Ja’far [i.e, Muhammad bin Ali al-Jawad], peace be upon him: 

Is visiting Al-Ridha better than visiting Al-Husayn, peace be upon him? 

He said: Ziyara to my my father [al-Ridha] is better because Aba Abdilah [al-Husayn] is visited by all Shi’a, whereas my father (al-Ridha) is visited by only the special elite among the Shi’a

قلت لأبي جعفر (عليه السلام): جعلت فداك زيارة الرضا (عليه السلامأفضل أم زيارة أبي عبد الله الحسين عليه السلام؟ فقالزيارة أبيأفضل وذلك أن أبا عبد الله (عليه السلاميزوره كل الناس وأبي لا يزوره إلا الخواص من الشيعة.

Ziyara Imam al-Ridha was better than visiting Imam Husayn, because of circumstance. 

Because of Imam al-Ridha being buried with al-Ma’mun, it was very difficult for the average Shi’i to reach the shrine due to strict surveillance and security. Thus, one would face much hurdles to reach it - making ziyara to al-Ridha’s shrine better back then.

  • Hadith #3

This is also corroborated by the fact Imam al-Ridha did not recommend visiting the shrine of Imam al-Kadhim, except out of necessity. 

And when visiting him - one must be covered with a veil, to escape Abbasid surveillance and security.

(Kamil al-Ziyarat, page 497)

I said to Al-Ridha (peace be upon him): Shall I visit the grave of Abi Al-Hassan [al-Kadhm] in Baghdad. 

He said: If it is necessary, then do so covered behind a veil

3 - حدثني أبي رحمه الله، عن سعد بن عبد الله، عن أحمد بن محمد بن عيسى، عن أبي علي الوشاء، عن الحسين بن يسار الواسطي، قالقلت للرضا (عليه السلام): أزور قبر أبي الحسن (عليه السلامببغداد فقالإن كان لابد منه فمن وراء الحجاب 

Wa Allahu A’lam