Home > Tawheed > Saint & Grave Worship! What, Muslims?

Saint & Grave Worship! What, Muslims?


Jumah prayer has just finished and a swarm of people are entering a big ground with arches at the entrance, just opposite the mosque. Inside are elevated tombs, well ornate. “Muslims” are swarming around the tombs, asking dua and some even prostrating!  When asked on what is the significance of these practices, the response, almost shocked about questioning one of their basic Islamic practices, is that these are the tombs of “awliyah” or saints. This scene is not only widespread in India, but in most parts of the Muslim world, ranging from Syria, Egypt, to Pakistan. Is this practice Islamic? Does making dua in the proximity of these so called saints or to use them as intercessors, increase chances of prayers being accepted? Does prostrating to the saints make one a Mushrik? Who exactly is a Wali of Allah? Let us attempt to understand the concept of wali and these practices in the light of Quran and Sunnah and see if they really have a place in Islam.

Today, the term wali is used to refer to saints who are supposedly close to Allah; They had entered the privileged status by performing miracles or karama.[1] The world wali means close friend or ally. Allah has used the term in different contexts throughout the Quran. In some cases, he refers to Himself as the wali of the believers and in others to refer to wali of Shaitan, as a close relative, closeness between people and also to refer to people who are close to Allah.

For instance: “…Allah is the Wali of those who have faith” (3:68)

“Whoever takes Satan as a Wali of Allah, has clearly lost all.” (4:119)

“Those who take disbelievers for awliya’…” (4:139)

The best definition of a Wali of Allah is defined by the Lord of the Universe, Himself:

“Behold! Certainly no fear nor grief shall overcome that Awliya of Allah, those who believe and have Taqwa.” (10:62-63)

Allah has defined those that are close to Him to possess two characteristics: Eeman and Taqwa. These traits are known to Allah alone as people cannot look into the hearts of others and judge what is the status of their belief or what is the true intention behind one’s actions.[2] Similarly a person may do so and so act to show off his religiosity instead of truly fearing Allah. This definition contradicts the common definition of Wali, where the masses look at some so called miracle attributed to the saint. This miracle may have been a favour from Allah or could have been performed from evil assistance from the Jinn. In a lot of cases, even basic Islamic practices, such as prayer, have been abandoned by the so-called Walis on account of their perceived superior status with Allah! How can this be justified when the Prophet of Allah and the best of Muslims, the Sahabas, themselves were not excused?

One such saint who has been highly venerated after his death is Abu al-Hasan al-Shadhili, after whose teachings the Shadhili sufi order had developed. He was born in Ghumara, Morocco, in 1196 C.E. Later, he studied in Fes and set out to North Africa in search of the “Qutb” or grand sufi master of his time.[3] The Mystics or Sufis claim that cosmic order is maintained by hierarchical fixed number of saints known as Rijal Al Ghayb (men of unseen world), the head of whom is the Qutb.[4] This belief had crept up in the Muslim world, despite dire warnings from prophet Muhammad, that he himself did not possess such power.

When Abul Hassan was asked who his spiritual master was, he replied, ‘I used to be the close follower of Abd al-Salam Mashish, but I am no more the close follower of any human master’! In other words, he had implied that either he is in direct contact with God or could be implying the deviant claim of “Fana” or experiencing the unity with God.

After his death, his teachings had spread across North Africa and Arab world. Further more, his tomb in Humaythra in Egypt is visited by numerous people and has led to shirk practices associated with Saint worship. People frequently ask the saint for intercession and feel that the area around the tomb is holy, where the chances of their prayer being accepted are higher. Others even call the saints directly to answer their prayer, which is a major shirk as we can make dua to Allah alone. The practice of writing letters to the dead saint is also a common practice in Egypt and elsewhere.

Khwaja Moinuddin Chisti is the most prominent of the early saints of Chisti order. His shrine is in Ajmer, India and is the most frequented in the Indian subcontinent. He is originally from Hari Rud in Afghanistan.[5] There are many rumors spread about his greatness. One such claim is that 100,000 people converted to Islam in one day after hearing one of his lectures in India.

His shrine in Ajmer, India is a thriving business run by the caretakers or peer baba. They run a worldwide marketing campaign and claim that visiting the shrine in Ajmer is the solutions to all problems ranging from removing black magic spells, solving marriage problems, financial woes, pregnancy issues, and any pretty much any other problem one might ask Allah for help.[6] It is also a lucrative business as the swarms of visitors, both Muslims and Non-Muslims, make financial contributions to the shrines.

Furthermore, one of the Peer Baba of the Ajmer shrine claims in his website that “Each part of their [Saint’s] body is completely rid of non-divine influence. Their heart become like a clean mirror reflecting back the reality of things. Their judgment does not err. Being giving the divine light, they see the things in their true perspective. They see everything including Angles, Souls, Divine Thorns, the “Lohe-e-Mahfooze”, the guarded tablet in the seventh Heaven containing records of all events distinct to take place from the beginning to the end of the universe. They see the past, the present and the future before them. “[7] These believes associate divine attributes that belong to Allah alone to the saints and lead to major shirk and corruption of their belief.

Allah has clearly stated numerous times in the Quran that Allah alone should be worshipped, such as in this ayat: “Surely we have sent to every nation a messenger saying worship Allah and avoid taghut [false gods]…” [Quran 16:30] Venerating saints, worshipping their graves and directing prayers to them is a clear violation of direct command of Allah to avoid Shirk; and is one of the most despicable sins that Allah has warned that He will not forgive if one dies in that state.


[1] Dr. Bilal Philips, The Fundementals of Tawheed, pg. 179

[2] Dr. Bilal Philips, Fundamentals of Tawheed

[3] http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Abu_al-Hasan_al-Shadhili

[4] Dr. Bilal Philips, Fundamentals of Tawheed

[5] Sufism,%20Sufis,%20and%20Sufi%20Orders%20Sufism’s%20Many%20Paths.htm

[6] http://www.moinuddinchishty.com

[7] http://www.moinuddinchishty.com/AuliaAllah.htm

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  1. September 26, 2010 at 7:22 am

    Nihal, I really love your blog… its got a soft heart like you… fully akhirah oriented, I mean..lol.

    One suggestion, if you quote someone else please add his name in a tag or in the post itself… it would help in the reading experience…

    like i want to know who wrote “Saints And Grave Worship: what muslims?” for reference purposes….

    But great work so far…
    Wasalam.

    • September 26, 2010 at 8:12 am

      Jazak Allah Khair for your comment bro. 🙂

      It is written by me. I’ve refrenced the sources I had used in this paper.

      Walikum Salam WRBT.

  2. October 3, 2010 at 11:00 am

    As salaamu alaykum Akhy.

    MashaAllah, beautiful write-up. Got a lot of references together.

    Whilst coming to an end of your article, a thought at the back of the mind was, “There should have been more to this”, and that the concluding paragraph could have been made even better.

    An eye-opener, akhy. Keep up the good work.

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