Fatihah: A ritual on the first Thursday of the new moon

Q218 :In my home country there are many people who do not follow Islam or fulfill its major duties, such as prayer. Instead, they attend graveyards and visit the tombs of some religious personalities, asking for their help. They do not miss performing "fatihah" every month, on the first Thursday of the new moon. How will this type of people be treated by Allah on the day of judgment?

A218 : We cannot say how Allah will deal with anybody on the day of judgment. He will administer His absolute justice to all. He knows the special circumstances, the intentions, the motives and the objectives of everyone. He values every action by every individual in the fairest of manners. What we can do, however, is to judge people's actions as they appear to us in the light of divine guidance provided by Allah in the Qur'an and in the light of the Sunnah of the Prophet. That should give us a very good idea whether a certain kind of action is acceptable or not. The first thing to say about such people is that they do not attend regularly to their most essential Islamic duties, such as prayers. The Prophet describes prayers as the mainstay of the Islamic faith. He explains that by adding: "He who attends to it (i.e. prayer) provides his faith with strongest support, while he who neglects it, allows his faith to collapse." Moreover, a person who neglects his prayer is more likely to neglect his other Islamic duties. It is a fact of life that a person who does not attend to his prayer is also not likely to have much reward from Allah. There will be little to his credit on the day of judgment. Yet these people try to satisfy their natural desire to be religious by resorting to practices that give them such an appearance. They visit the graves and tombs of those whom they consider saints. Because they give those dead people such a status, they imagine that they have special privileges and powers. It may be true that the dead people whose graves they visit were of high religious standing and it may be true that they have been given certain privileges by Allah, but they are not of the type which enables them to respond to the requests of those who visit their graves. No dead person can be of any benefit to the living. Allah has not given anyone that power. Indeed, a dead person can be of no benefit even to himself. The Prophet tells us that "when a human being dies, his actions come to an absolute end, except in one of three ways: A continuing act of charity, a useful contribution to knowledge or a dutiful child who prays for him." In other words, the living can be of benefit to the dead by praying Allah on his behalf, but the dead cannot be of benefit to the living. When those people, whom you have described, go to such graves in order to request the dead to help them, they engage in futile action. Moreover, they are indeed guilty of the worst type of sin, namely, associating partners with Allah. Their practice can only be described as "worshipping graves". The "fatihah" is a certain type of ritual when people gather to engage in reading certain verses of the Qur'an and certain phrases of glorification of Allah thousands of times. This is coupled with other rituals such as preparation of food, which is placed at a particular point before starting and then eaten after the whole ritual is over. All this has no basis whatsoever. It cannot be supported by any Hadith or Qur'anic verse. As such, it is an innovation which is totally unacceptable. The Prophet says: "Beware of newly invented matters. For every invented matter is an innovation and every invented matter is going astray and every (person) going astray is in hell fire." (Related by Abu Dawood and At-Tirmithi). The Prophet also says: "He who innovates something in this matter of ours, that is not of it, will have it rejected." When people engage in such practices, neglecting their duties, they actually try to give their lives a religious aspect. However, they err because they do not see the Prophet's guidance. Indeed, when it is pointed out to them that their practices are wrong, they are not prepared to listen to sound advice. They feel that their actions are good because they have seen some people, whom they consider guides, do them. They err in not seeking the guidance provided by Prophet Muhammad, peace be upon him, who was sent by Allah to convey His message. Their actions are of no value, because they do not give them any religious conscience. Their effect is only to give them a feeling that they have discharged what religion expects of them. Our religion is not a set of rituals. It is a constitution and a way of living. It has a very clear code of practice. Unless it is approached in the manner taught to us by the Prophet, it does not yield its fruit. If we want to be true Muslims, we have to follow the Prophet's guidance. That means discharging our duties and not adding to the faith of Islam anything that is not part of it. Unfortunately, such practices are widespread in large areas of the Muslim world. They are responsible for the backwardness of Muslims everywhere. Muslims will not regain their strength and proper status until they disown such practices and regain their Islamic sense. That sense will guide them along the path set out for us by Prophet Muhammad, Allah's last messenger (peace be upon him).

Our Dialogue ( Source : Arab News - Jeddah )