Urs: A death anniversary

Q657 :You have written in the past on the worship of graves and saints. On occasions you have touched on the practice known as Urs in some parts of India (and Pakistan). I am sending you a leaflet inviting people to come to such Urs. I will be grateful for your comments.

A657 : Thank you very much for enclosing the leaflet which is published in four languages and which tells of an occasion named "Urs Mubarak" and defined as "death anniversary". It is one week-long commemoration of someone whose exact name is difficult to identify, because it is mixed with so many titles. He is described as Sultan-Ul-Hind Hazrat Khawajah Moinuddin Hassan Sanjari Chishti Summa Ajmeri Ghareeb Nawaz. The leaflet calls on the recipients to come over with members of their families. The reason for which a gathering and big occasion which, incidentally, takes all the duties and Sunnahs of pilgrimage is to achieve the fulfillment of people's "heartfelt desires and cherished wishes." How is this done? Simply because the said Khawajah "after his sad demise" continued to hold a highly revered position and his tomb became a place of pilgrimage for the people of the world at large". The writer of the leaflet who calls himself Afsar Ahmad Niazi wants those who cannot attend the death anniversary to let him know their "inner hearty desires so that he may be able to beseech on their behalf and entreat Khawajah Sahib to pray for fulfillment of their innermost desires." At the end of the leaflet he solicits donations. I feel very sad that such practices still continue in parts of the Muslim world. Basically, such a practice is an outright indictment of the state into which Muslims of the world have sunk. People are encouraged to travel from their homes to take part in this week-long deception. Even if that man, Khawajah Moinuddin, was a highly religious person, or a great scholar or a great servant of Islam, why should his death be celebrated? People normally celebrate the birth of a child, but they are sad when someone dies. In this instance, we are told that it is the death anniversary of the man which is celebrated over a week. If that man had any great contribution to the cause of Islam, I am not aware of it. He was no scholar of standing. Otherwise, his writings would have earned him recognition in other parts of the Muslim world. We are told that after his death, he continued to hold a highly respected position. With whom? The only position that counts after one's death is the man's position with Allah. How could anyone tell of the position someone is given by Allah after his death? The Prophet himself says: "I myself, Allah's messenger, do not know what will happen to me in the hereafter." Allah instructs His messenger in the Qur'an to say to people: "I do not know what will become of me or you." (46;9) Now if Allah's messenger has not been given this sort of information about himself, how do these people claim to know about their man? Moreover, the leaflet speaks of the man's tomb, becoming "a place of pilgrimage". We know only one place of pilgrimage, namely, the Kaaba, the first house ever erected for the worship of Allah. Moreover, the Prophet says that there are only three mosques in the Muslim world to which people may travel. These are : The Haram in Makkah, i.e. Kaaba, the Prophet's Mosque in Madinah and Al Aqsa Mosque in Jerusalem. When we visit Madinah, we make our intention clear that we are going there to visit the mosque. We certainly greet the Prophet, but we do not undertake the journey to visit his tomb or grave. If people travel in order to visit the tomb of this man, which is said to be a place of pilgrimage, then that is the beginning of the worship of graves. This is one of the worst types of shirk, or associating partners with Allah. Now we come to the crunch. What is the purpose of such a visit? Is it to have innermost desire fulfilled? In other words, there is a temptation to people from all over the world to come over, spend their money, indulge in unacceptable practices, merely to have their wishes fulfilled. How? The key to the answer to this question is best expressed in the suggestion made by the writer of the leaflet to those who cannot attend. He wants them to communicate their desires to him and he would beseech the dead man to pray Allah on their behalf. So, we have a living man entreating a dead man to speak to Allah on behalf of people. How absurd! This is a preposterous suggestion which flies in the face of the teachings of the Prophet and Qur'anic revelations. The Prophet tells us in a most authentic Hadith that when a human being dies, he cannot avail himself of anything, let alone be of any avail to others. He says: "When a human being dies, all his actions come to a complete termination, except in one of three ways: A continuing act of charity, a useful contribution to knowledge or a dutiful child who makes supplication to Allah on his behalf." In other words, the living can be of avail to the dead, but not the reverse. This man who wrote the pamphlet wants to appeal to a dead person to intervene with Allah. Let me tell everybody who has ever contemplated going on such a journey that if there is a sure way of not having one's wish fulfilled, this is the one. The reason is that by asking the dead man to entreat Allah on his behalf, he is associating that dead man with Allah as a partner. In a Qudsi Hadith, Allah says: "I am the least in need of a partner. If anyone associates a partner with Me, I abandon him to that partner." If we try to apply this sacred or Qudsi Hadith to this situation, we conclude that Allah would abandon those who attend this Urs and those who organize it to a dead man to answer their prayers. What can a dead man do? He cannot defend himself against worms and other insects which eat up his flesh. If anyone has a dear wish which he or she wishes to have fulfilled, there is only one way of seeking Allah's help, namely, to pray Him directly. Allah says in the Qur'an: "Your Lord says: Pray Me and I will answer you." (40;60). He also says in the Qur'an: "When My servants ask you about Me, I am near, I respond to the supplication of anyone who prays Me. Let them, then, respond to Me and believe in Me so that they may be rightly guided." (2;186) Note here how Allah has phrased this verse. He is first addressing the Prophet who may be asked by people about Allah. He does not say to the Prophet: Tell My servants that I am near. He answers them directly "When My servants ask you about Me, I am near." With this direct answer all that we need is to address our supplication to Allah directly. What is important is to strive to be a good Muslim. Let us repent of our sins, fulfill our duties and make our supplication to Allah. This is the surest way of having it answered. We will never need Niazi or his dead man, or indeed any person, dead or alive, to intervene for us [ Save Prophet Muhammad, peace be upon him, on the day of Judgment]. Allah is our Lord and we pray Him directly. Urs: Graves and saints

Our Dialogue ( Source : Arab News - Jeddah )