Question # 17: My family members do not stop visiting dargah & asking for murad (wishes). How to prove them it’s wrong through hadith & Qur’an?

bismi-llahi r-raḥmani r-raḥīm,

Assalamu ‘laikum warahmatullahi wabarakatuh,

All praise and thanks are due to Allah (سبحانه و تعالى), and peace and blessings be upon His Messenger (صلى الله عليه و سلم).

Dear questioner,

First of all, we implore Allah (سبحانه و تعالى) to help us serve His cause and render our work for His sake.

Shorter Answer: The grave worshippers are those who either (a) use the dead as intercessors/intermediaries, thinking that they are closer to Allah and can do favors for the living, or (b) pray directly and beg for forgiveness for their sins from them. There are many Muslims who not only pray to the Prophet (صلى الله عليه و سلم) for help but also pray to his companions, saints, great Imams of the past, or other righteous/pious Muslims; this heretical practice is based on the beliefs and practices of mystics (Sufis). In fact, both methods of grave worship contain the grave sin of shirk and are totally rejected in Islam. The Prophet (صلى الله عليه و سلم) said, “The most evil of mankind are those who will be alive when the Last Day arrives and those who take graves as places of worship.” 

In order to avoid the transforming of visiting graves into grave worship, the Prophet (صلى الله عليه و سلم) has forbidden the following:

  • Formal prayer in graveyards regardless of the intention;
  • Praying in the direction of graves;
  • Recitation of Qur’an in graveyards;
  • White-washing of graves, the building of structures over them, writing on them, or raising them above ground level;
  • Building of masjids over graves; and
  • Setting out on journeys to visit graves.

 Long Answer:

Prayers to the dead

Those who practice grave worship direct prayers to the dead in two ways:

  1. Some use the dead as intercessors. They pray to them in the way that Catholics use their priests in the confession of their sins. Catholics confess their sins to their priests and the priests ask God’s forgiveness for them. Thus, the priests act as middlemen between the people and God. The pre-Islamic Arabs viewed their idols in a similar way. With regard to the purpose of their idols, Allah quoted the pagan Arabs as saying, “… We only worship them so that they may bring us closer to Allah…” (Soorah Az-Zumar, 39:3)

Some grave-worshippers among Muslims pray to the dead, asking them to convey their requests to Allah for the fulfillment of their needs. This practice is based on their belief that righteous dead people are not only closer to Allah than they are but also that they are capable of hearing any man’s request and fulfilling it, even after their death! Thus, the dead become idol intermediaries capable of doing favors for the living.

  1. Others pray directly to the dead, begging them for forgiveness for their sins. In so doing, they give dead humans Allah’s attribute of being (at-Tawwab), the One to whom repentance is due, as well as that of being (al-Ghafoor), the only One capable of forgiving sins. Also, there are many ignorant Muslims throughout the world who direct their prayers to the Prophet Muhammad (صلى الله عليه و سلم) in this fashion. Even during his lifetime, the Prophet (صلى الله عليه و سلم) took great pains to explain that he could not benefit anyone, regardless of their closeness to him. Allah (سبحانه و تعالى) commanded him in the Qur’an to say to his followers: “I have no power to bring good or avert harm even regarding myself, except as Allah wills…” (Soorah Al-‘A`raf, 7:188). In spite of this clear indication, many Muslims not only pray to him for help but also pray to a hierarchy of saints. This heretical practice is based on the beliefs and practices of mystics (Sufis).

Both methods of grave worship contain the grave sin of shirk and are totally rejected in Islam. Allah (سبحانه و تعالى) says in the Qur’an, “Verily, Allah forgives not (the sin of) setting up partners (in worship) with Him, but He forgives whom He wills, sins other than that, and whoever sets up partners in worship with Allah, has indeed strayed far away” (Soorah an-Nisa,4:116). According to Islam, one who dies enters the dimension called the Barzakh, where his deeds come to an end, and he is unable to do anything for the living. Moreover, although practicing Muslims repeat at least 17 times a day in their daily prayers, “Eeyaka na ‘budu wa eeyaka nasta ‘een” “You alone do we worship and from You alone do we seek help” and yet inadvertently confirm the veracity of Allah’s Ominous statement in the Qur’an, “Most of them [claim} belief in Allah while committing shirk.” (Soorah Yusuf, 12:106)

Some ahadith to ponder

  • Prophet Muhammad (صلى الله عليه و سلم) described in detail exactly how polytheism first found its way among mankind. Allah (سبحانه و تعالى) describes the reaction of Prophet Nuh’s (as) people when he invited them to the worship of only one God: “They said to each other: ‘Do not leave your gods! Do not give up Wadd and Suwa‘, nor Yaghooth, Ya’ooq and Nasr!'” (Qur’an 71: 23) Ibn ‘Abbas said the following in his commentary on this Qur’anic verse: “These were idols of Prophet Nuh’s nation which in time ended up among the Arabs [as tribal gods]. These idols were named after some righteous men among Noah’s people. When these righteous men died, Shaitan inspired the people to make statues of them bearing their names. These statues were placed in their favorite meeting places as reminders of righteousness, and no one of that generation worshipped them. However, when that generation died off, and the purpose of the statues were forgotten, Shaitan came to their descendants and told them that their predecessors used to worship the statues because it was due to them that it rained. The descendants were fooled and began to worship them as idols. The following generations continued to worship them” (Bukhari).
  • On one occasion, the Prophet’s wife, Umm Salamah (رضي الله عنه) told him about a church with pictures (on its walls) that she had seen in Ethiopia. He (صلى الله عليه و سلم) said, “If a righteous man dies among those people, they build over his grave a place of worship and paint in it those types of pictures. They are the most evil of creation in Allah’s sight ” (Narrated by ‘A’ishah and collected by both Bukhari and Muslim)
  • Ibn Mas’ud reported that the Prophet (صلى الله عليه و سلم) said, “The most evil of mankind are those who will be alive when the Last Day arrives and those who take graves as places of worship.” (Collected by Ahmad)

Restrictions on visiting graves

The Prophet (صلى الله عليه و سلم) placed certain restrictions on the visiting of graves in order to avoid its deterioration into grave worship in later generations:

  1. Formal prayer has been totally forbidden in graveyards regardless of the intention. Abu Sa’id al-Khudri reported from Prophet (صلى الله عليه و سلم) that he said: “All the earth is a masjid (place of worship) except graveyards and toilets.” (Collected by Tirmidhi, Abu Dawud, and ibn Majah)
  1. Praying in the direction of graves has been prohibited because such an act may be understood by the ignorant as prayer directed to the dead themselves. Abu Marthad al-Ghanawi reported that the Prophet (صلى الله عليه و سلم) said, “Do not pray towards graves nor sit on them.” (Collected by Muslim, Abu Dawud, an-Nasa’i and Ibn Majah)
  1. The recitation of the Qur’an in graveyards is not allowed, as neither the Prophet (صلى الله عليه و سلم) nor his Companions were known to do so. When the Prophet’s wife, ‘A’ishah (رضي الله عنه) asked him what to say when visiting graveyards, he told her to give salaam and a supplication for those buried but did not tell her to recite al-Fatihah or any other chapter from the Qur’an.
  1. The Prophet (صلى الله عليه و سلم) forbade the white-washing of graves, the building of structures over them, writing on them, or raising them above ground level. He also taught that any such structures should be torn down and the graves made level with the ground. ‘Ali ibn Abi Talib (رضي الله عنه) reported that the Prophet (صلى الله عليه و سلم) ordered him to demolish all idols he came across and to level all graves more than a palm’s width high, with the surrounding earth (Muslim).
  1. The building of masjids over graves was expressly forbidden by the Prophet (صلى الله عليه و سلم). The Prophet’s wife ‘A’ishah (رضي الله عنه) reported that when death was descending upon Allah’s Messenger, he drew his striped cloak over his face saying, “May Allah’s curse be on the Jews and Christians for taking the graves of their prophets as places of worship.” (Collected by Bukhari, Muslim, Abu Dawud, and ad-Darimi)
  1. Setting out on journeys to visit graves was also forbidden by the Prophet (صلى الله عليه و سلم). Abu Hurayrah and Abu Sa’id al Khudri (رضي الله عنه) both reported that Allah’s Messenger said, “Do not travel except to three masjids, Masjid Haram (the Ka’bah in Makkah), the masjid of the Messenger, and alAqsa Masjid” (Collected by Bukhari, Muslim, Abu Dawud, Tirmidhi, an-Nasa’i and Ibn Majah)

(The above excerpt is the concise version of the Chapter ‘Grave Worship’ from the book ‘The Fundamentals of Tawheed’ by Abu Ameenah Bilal Philips)

Current Situation

Much of mankind has become involved in some form of grave worship, which involves honoring the dead through elaborate burial rites, ornate tombs, and decorated graves. The graves of saintly men among various religions have become shrines where rites of worship like prayer, sacrifice, and pilgrimage are being performed. In spite of the above warnings, throughout history, Muslims have built huge edifices over the grave of the Sahabah like ‘Ali (رضي الله عنه), major jurists like Imam Abu Hanifah and Imam ash-Shafi’i, and those designated as Sufi “saints”. Many ignorant Muslims travel vast distances to perform tawaf, prayer inside and outside these tombs, wipe the walls of their graves and collect the earth in the vicinity of the graves.

Every Islamic country has at least one major holy shrine where annual Ziyara (pilgrimage) celebrations take place. For example, some Moroccan Muslims believe that who are unable to make the hajj to Makkah are allowed to substitute five pilgrimages to Moulay Idris, who is supposed to be a descendant of the Prophet Muhammad (صلى الله عليه و سلم)’s daughter Fatimah and son-in-law Ali ibn Abu Talib (رضي الله عنه). Across India, shrines are patronized and even managed commonly by Muslims, Hindus, Sikhs, Buddhists, Jains, and Christians, and some have evolved into major pilgrimage centers, such as that of Mu‘een ud-Deen Chishti in Ajmer. Such places are identified with supermundane beings who offer their devotees power, healing, fertility, and occasions to participate in ecstatic rites. (Pilgrimage from the Ganges to Graceland – An Encyclopedia) Annually, the death anniversary of Mu‘een ud-Deen is commemorated as urs; pilgrims reach the inner sanctum of the shrine, where they bow low and kiss the tomb, offer prayers in thanksgiving, and make petitions for favors required. Offerings to the shrine are made if the devotee’s prayers are answered. The devotees scatter red rose petals over the tomb, and the privileged are given petals to keep as tabarruk (from Baraka), or to eat. Pilgrims spend time circumambulating the mausoleum (‘The Shrine and Cult of Mu’in al-din Chishti of Ajmer’ by P.M. Currie)

Similarly, in Pakistan, the urs of Data Ganj Bakhsh (“the master bestower of treasure”) celebrates the life and work of the Muslim mystic and Saint Ali ibn Uthman al-Jullabi al-Hujwiri. The saint achieved fame for writing the first book on Sufism issued in the Persian language. Soon after his death, a shrine, and mosque were built to honor him. Today the mosque is one of the most famous and visited shrines in South Asia. Each year, on the occasion of urs, millions of participants come from all over Pakistan, India, Saudi Arabia, Europe, and the United States in order to participate in this three-day affair. Groups of devotees honor the saint by marching through the city, holding the edges of beautifully decorated cloths (chaddars) to be thrown over the tomb. Well-wishers toss bills and coins onto the chaddar as an offering to the saint (‘Holiday Symbols and Customs’ by Helene Henderson).  Another famous shrine is in the city of Sehwan in Sind, Pakistan – the tomb of Sufi Saint Lal Shahbaz Qalandar, a pilgrimage destination for both Muslims and Hindus. Many pilgrims come seeking miracle cures at this shrine. Inside his shrine are copies of the Qur’an for Muslim use and diyas (small oil lamps for lighting) for Hindus. Pilgrims enter the shrine with folded hands carrying garlands of flowers, similar to Hindu customs. (Pilgrimage from the Ganges to Graceland – An Encyclopedia)

May Allah (سبحانه و تعالى) Guide your family members to Sirat al-Mustaqim.

Allahu A’lam (Allah (سبحانه و تعالى) knows best) and all Perfections belong to Allah, and all mistakes belong to me alone. May Allah (سبحانه و تعالى) forgive me, Ameen.