Answering Islam - A Christian-Muslim dialog

Do Muslims Worship Allah Alone?

The Problem of Grave Worship in Islam

Sam Shamoun

Muslim apologist Paul Bilal Williams posted a passage from the Quran in order to show that Muslims worship Allah alone. The passage he references is Q. 1:5, which says, “You Alone we worship, and You Alone we ask for help.”

However, a careful examination of the so-called authentic sources of Islam proves that Muslims do not worship Allah alone, nor do they only seek his help. In fact, the Islamic data actually confirms that Muslims are not only guilty of invoking a dead man but also of grave worship. As we shall see here, Muhammad’s instructions have led his followers to commit serious transgressions by visiting the grave of a dead man in order to seek his mediation.

Muhammad was an imperfect human being.

Yet before you delve into that issue, it is vitally important to first highlight the fact that the Quran is rather emphatic in depicting Muhammad as a fallible sinner who would end up dying just like any other human being:

May God pardon thee [O Prophet]! Why didst thou grant them permission [to stay at home] ere it had become obvious to thee as to who was speaking the truth, and [ere] thou camest to know [who were] the liars? S. 9:43 Muhammad Asad

Yet, verily, thou art bound to die, [O Muhammad,] and, verily, they, too, are bound to die: and then, behold, on the Day of Resurrection you all shall place your dispute before your Sustainer. S. 39:30-31 Asad

“hence, remain thou patient in adversity - for, verily, God's promise always comes true - and ask forgiveness for thy sins, and extol thy Sustainer's glory and praise by night and by day.” S. 40:55 Asad

The Islamic scripture even stresses the fact that Muhammad wasn’t capable of saving anyone since he himself did not know what his deity would eventually do to him:

Say: "I am not the first of [God's] apostles; and [like all of them] I do not know what will be done with me or with you: for I am nothing but a plain warner." S. 46:9 Asad

This explains why Muslims are warned against looking to their prophet as some kind of savior:

AND MUHAMMAD is only an apostle; all the [other] apostles have passed away before him: if, then, he dies or is slain, will you turn about on your heels? But he that turns about on his heels can in no wise harm God - whereas God will requite all who are grateful [to Him]. S. 3:144 Asad

Muhammad condemns those who take the graves of the righteous as places of worship

Moreover, Muhammad strictly forbade his followers from facing graves while praying:

Abu Marthad al-Ghanawi reported Allah's Messenger as saying: Do not sit on the graves and do not pray facing towards them. (Sahih Muslim, Book 004, Number 2121)

Abu Marthad al-Ghanawi reported Allah's Messenger as saying: Do not pray facing towards the graves, and do not sit on them. (Sahih Muslim, Book 004, Number 2122)

He also cursed the Jews and Christians for taking the graves of God’s prophets as places of worship:

Narrated 'Aisha and 'Abdullah bin 'Abbas: When the last moment of the life of Allah's Apostle came he started putting his 'Khamisa' on his face and when he felt hot and short of breath he took it off his face and said, “May Allah curse the Jews and Christians for they built the places of worship at the graves of their Prophets.” The Prophet was warning (Muslims) of what those had done. (Sahih al-Bukhari, Volume 1, Book 8, Number 427)

Narrated Abu Huraira: Allah's Apostle said, “May Allah's curse be on the Jews for they built the places of worship at the graves of their Prophets.” (Sahih al-Bukhari, Book 8, Number 428)

Muhammad’s instructions lead to idolatry and grave worship

It would seem that such instructions would be sure to prevent Muhammad’s followers from worshiping him, or from seeking his help. At the very least, such teachings would definitely prevent Muslims from taking the grave of their prophet as a place of worship, right?


Muhammad actually encouraged the “faithful” to look to him as their savior on the Day of Judgment, going so far as to depict the Islamic deity as a rather angry and frightful being who cannot and should not be approached apart from Muhammad’s mediation:

Narrated Ibn Umar: On the Day of Resurrection the people will fall on their knees and every nation will follow their prophet and they will say, “O so-and-so! Intercede (for us with Allah),” till (the right) intercession is given to the Prophet (Muhammad) and that will be the day when Allah will raise him into a station of praise and glory (i.e. Al-Maqam -al-Mahmud). (Sahih al-Bukhari, Volume 6, Book 60, Number 242)


4435. It is related that Abu Hurayra said, "The Messenger of Allah was given some meat and was offered the leg, which he liked, and ate some of it. Then he said, ‘I will be the master of people on the Day of Rising. Do you know what that will entail? Allah will gather people, the first and the last on the same plain so that an observer will be able to see them and a speaker make them hear. The sun will be brought near to them and people will experience such sorrow and distress that they will not be able to bear or endure it. The people will say, “Do you not see what has come to you? Why do you not look for someone to intercede with your Lord on your behalf?” People will say to one another, “You must have Adam!” They will come to Adam, and say, “You are the father of mankind. Allah created you with His hand and breathed some of His spirit into you and He ordered the angels to prostrate to you. He made you dwell in the Garden. Will you not intercede with your Lord on our behalf? Do you not see what we are suffering?” Adam will say, “My Lord is angry today with such anger as has never existed before nor will again. He forbade me the Tree and I disobeyed. O my soul! My soul! My soul! Go to someone else. Go to Nuh.”

“‘They will go to Nuh and say, “O Nuh! You are the first of the Messengers to be sent to the people of the earth and Allah called you a thankful slave. Intercede with your Lord on our behalf Do you not see what has happened to us?” He will say, “My Lord is angry today with such anger as has never existed before nor will again. I made a supplication on behalf of my people. O my soul! My soul! My soul! Go to someone else! Go to Ibrahim.”

“‘They will go to Ibrahim and say, “O Ibrahim! You are the Prophet of Allah and His close friend among the people of the earth. Intercede with your Lord on our behalf. Do you not see what we are suffering?” He will say to them, “My Lord is angry today with such anger as has never existed before nor will again. I told three lies (And Abu Hayyan mentioned them in the hadith). O my soul! My soul! My soul! Go to someone else. Go to Musa.”

“‘They will go to Musa and say, “O Musa, you are the Messenger of Allah. Allah preferred you with His message and His Word above all other people. Intercede with your Lord for us. Do you not see what we are suffering?' He will say, “My Lord is angry today with such anger as has never existed before nor will again. I killed a soul which I was not commanded to kill. Go to someone else. Go to 'Isa.”

“‘They will go to 'Isa and say, “O 'Isa! You are the Messenger of Allah and His Word which He cast to Maryam and a spirit from Him. You spoke to people while in the cradle. Intercede with your Lord on our behalf. Do you not see what we are suffering?” 'Isa will say, “My Lord is angry today with such anger as has never existed before nor will again,” AND HE DID NOT MENTION A SIN. “O my soul! My soul! My soul! Go to someone else. Go to Muhammad.”

“‘They will come to me and say, “O Muhammad! You are the Messenger of Allah and the Seal of the Prophets. Allah has forgiven you your past and future wrong actions. Intercede with your Lord on our behalf. Do you not see what we are suffering?” I will go and arrive under the Throne and fall down in prostration to my Lord, the Mighty and Exalted. Then Allah will inspire me with some words to praise and laud Him with which He will have inspired no one before me. Then it will be said, “O Muhammad, raise your head. Ask and your request will be granted. Intercede and your intercession will be accepted. Lift your head!” I will lift my head and say, “O my Lord, my community! O my Lord, my community!” It will be said, “O Muhammad, bring in by the right-hand gate of the gates of the Garden those of your community who will not be subjected to any reckoning, and the rest of your community can share the other gates with other people.”’ Then he said, ‘By the One in whose hand my soul is, the distance between the two gateposts of the gates of the Garden is as far as between Makka and Hajar or Makka and Busra.’” (Aisha Bewley, The Sahih Collection of al-Bukhari, Chapter 68. Book of Tafsir; *; bold and capital emphasis ours)

But that’s not all Muhammad did. By encouraging the “believers” to take him as their intermediary, Muhammad’s companions ended up visiting his grave in order to seek his help with Allah!

The Islamic traditions furnish multiple examples of Muslims doing this, some of which we include here.

First Example

The Muslims were experiencing a very severe drought during the caliphate of Umar. This caused a companion of Muhammad to go to his grave and ask him directly to intercede for rain:

(a) Version 1

From the Sahabi Malik al-Dar:

The people suffered a drought in `Umar's khilafa, whereupon a man came to THE GRAVE of the Prophet and said: "Messenger of Allah! Ask for rain for your Community, for verily they have but perished." After this the Prophet appeared to him in a dream and told him: "Go to `Umar and give him my greeting, then tell him that they will be watered. Tell him: Be clever!" The man went and told `Umar. The latter wept and said: "My Lord! I spare no effort except in what escapes my power." (Gibril F. Haddad, Tawassul of `Umar through al-`Abbas; bold and capital emphasis ours)

Haddad then cites specific authorities that classified this as a sound narration, thereby refuting the attempt by so-called “Salafi” Muslims such as al-Albani to weaken it:

Ibn Kathir cites it thus from al-Bayhaqi's Dala'il al-Nubuwwa (7:47) in al-Bidaya wal-Nihaya (Ma`arif ed. 7:91-92=Dar Ihya' al-Turath ed. 7:105) saying: "isnaduhu sahih" and he also declares its chain sound (isnaduhu jayyidun qawi) in his Jami` al-Masanid (1:223) in Musnad `Umar. Ibn Abi Shayba cites it (6:352=12:31-32) with a sound (sahih) chain as confirmed by Ibn Hajar who says: "rawa Ibn Abi Shayba bi'isnadin sahih" and cites the hadith in Fath al-Bari, Book of Istisqa ch. 3 (1989 ed. 2:629-630=1959 ed. 2:495) as well as in al-Isaba (6:164 §8350=3:484) where he says that Ibn Abi Khaythama cited it. It is also thus narrated by al-Khalili in al-Irshad (1:313- 314) and Ibn `Abd al-Barr in al-Isti`ab (2:464=3:1149).

Al-Albani attempted to weaken this report in his Tawassul (p. 120) but was refuted in the lengthy analysis given by Mamduh in Raf` al-Minara (p. 262-278), which refutes other similar attempts cf. Ibn Baz's marginalia on Fath al-Bari, Abu Bakr al-Jaza'iri's tract Wa-Ja'u Yarkudun, Hammad al-Ansari's articles "al-Mafhum al-Sahih lil-Tawassul" also titled "Tuhfat al-Qari fil-Radd `ala al-Ghumari," and other such literature.

Ibn Hajar identifies the man who visited and saw the Prophet in his dream as the Companion Bilal ibn al- Harith, counting this hadith among the reasons for al- Bukhari's naming of the chapter "The people's request to their leader for rain if they suffer drought" in his Sahih, book of Istisqa'. (Bold emphasis ours)

Haddad cites another version of this report:

(b) Version 2 from al-Tabari's Tarikh (2:509):

In the year of the drought called al-Ramada during the successorship of `Umar the Companion Bilal ibn al-Harith, while slaughtering a sheep for his kin, noticed that the sheep's bones had turned red because the drying flesh was clinging to them. He cried out "Ya Muhammadah!" Then he saw the Prophet in a dream ordering him to go to `Umar with the tidings of coming rain on condition that `Umar show wisdom. Hearing this, `Umar assembled the people and came out to pray for rain with al-`Abbas, the uncle of the Prophet.

Second Example

Haddad provides a further illustration of Muslims going to Muhammad’s grave to seek his help for rain:

[6] At any rate the major Sahaba did make tawassul through the Prophet, after his time as established by the report from our Mother `A'isha in al-Darimi's Sunan, in the 15th Chapter of the Introduction (1:43) titled: "Allah's generosity to His Prophet after his death," related from Aws ibn `Abd Allah with a good chain:

"The people of Madina complained to `A'isha of the severe drought that they were suffering. She said: "Go to the Prophet's grave and open a window towards the sky so that there will be no roof between him and the sky." They did so, after which they were watered with such rain that vegetation grew and the camels got fat. That year was named the Year of Plenty."

The reader will find extensive documentation on this report in the Encyclopedia of Islamic Doctrine (4:47-52) and it was declared authentic by all the Sunni experts of hadith, last in date Shaykh Nabil ibn Hashim al-Ghamri in his 1999 10-volume edition of and commentary on al-Darimi titled Fath al-Mannan (1:564-566) where he rejects the objections of al-Albani and his likes to this hadith. (Bold emphasis ours)

Third Example

The following Quranic text prescribes the way a Muslim may obtain forgiveness from his/her god:

We sent no messenger save that he should be obeyed by Allah's leave. And if, when they had wronged themselves, they had but come unto thee and asked forgiveness of Allah, and asked forgiveness of the messenger, they would have found Allah Forgiving, Merciful. S. 4:64 Pickthall

In this passage, Allah makes it clear to his followers that they have to ask Muhammad to intercede for them if they want their sins forgiven.

Now this seems to create a problem in light of the fact that Muhammad died nearly fifteen centuries ago. It would seem that Muslims are incapable of carrying out this rather important injunction seeing that Muhammad is no longer accessible to his community now that he is dead.

Yet looks can be deceiving since Muslims have actually found a way of asking their prophet to pray to his lord to forgive his community.

For instance, Muslim scholar Imam an-Nawawi shows how Muslims carried out this specific injunction even after Muhammad’s death. In his description of the etiquette of visiting the grave of Muhammad after the fulfillment of the pilgrimage in the Book of Hajj in the Adhkar, an-Nawawi states:

[After giving salam to the Prophet, Abu Bakr, and `Umar] Then he [the visitor] returns to his initial station opposite the Prophet's face, and he uses the Prophet as his means in his innermost (fa yatawassalu bihi fi haqqi nafsihi), and seeks his intercession before his exalted and mighty Lord (wa yatashaffa`u bihi ila rabbihi subhanahu wa ta`ala)… and he avails himself of this noble spot, and glorifies and praises and magnifies Allah and invokes blessings on His Messenger. Let him do all that abundantly. (Nawawi, al-Adhkar [Maktabat al-mu'ayyad, Ta’if 1408/1988], p. 262)

An-Nawawi says something similar in the section devoted to visiting Muhammad’s grave that is found in his book on pilgrimage entitled al-Idah fi manasik al-hajj:

[The visitor stands and greets the Prophet, then he moves to greet Abu Bakr and `Umar] Then he returns to his original position, directly in front of Allah's Messenger, and he uses the Prophet as his means in his innermost self (fa yatawassalu bihi fi haqqi nafsihi), and seeks his intercession before his exalted and mighty Lord (wa yatashaffa`u bihi ila rabbihi subhanahu wa ta`ala) and one of the best things that he can say is what has been narrated by our colleagues on al-`Utbi's authority, and they admired what he said:

As I was sitting by the grave of the Prophet, a Bedouin Arab came and said: “Peace be upon you, O Messenger of Allah! I have heard Allah saying: ‘If they had only, when they were unjust to themselves, come unto thee and asked Allah's forgiveness, and the Messenger had asked forgiveness for them, they would have found Allah indeed Oft-returning, Most Merciful”’ (4:64), so I have come to you asking forgiveness for my sin, seeking your intercession with my Lord…” (An-Nawawi, al-Idah fi manasik al-hajj [Dar ibn Khaldun, Damascus, n.d.], p. 144)

An-Nawawi also wrote the following in al-Majmu, in the book of description of Hajj, under the chapter of “Visiting the grave of Prophet”:

The pilgrim should face the shrine of the Messenger of Allah, make him a means (tawassul) towards reaching Allah and seek his wasilah as intercession (shafa'at), in the same manner as the Bedouin who visited the Prophet's shrine and standing beside it said: Peace unto you O Messenger of Allah, I have heard that Allah has said:

... Had they, when they had wronged themselves, come to you and asked Allah's forgiveness and the Apostle had asked forgiveness for them, they would certainly have found Allah Most-Propitious, Most-Merciful. (Holy Qur'an 4: 64).”

Therefore, I have come to you for forgiveness of my sins and seeking your intercession with Allah. (Al-Majmu', Volume 8, p. 274; Fayd al-Qadir, vol. 2, p. 134; I'anah al-Talibiyyin, p. 315)

An-Nawawi wasn’t the only scholar to narrate this tradition. Here are a couple of others:

(In this Qur'anic verse) Allah is exhorting the sinners and evildoers that when they commit sins and errors they should call on the Messenger of Allah and ask forgiveness from Allah. They should also request the Messenger of Allah to pray for them. When they do so, Allah will turn to them and forgive them and He will show mercy to them. That is why He used the words la-wajadullaha tawwaban-rahima (they (on the basis of this means and intercession) would have surely found Allah the Granter of repentance, extremely Merciful). Many have stated this tradition. One of them is Abu Mansur al-Sabbagh (some manuscripts say Abu Nasr) who writes in his book Al-Shamil Al-Hikayat-ul-mashhurah that, according to ‘Utbi, once he was sitting beside the Prophet’s grave when a bedouin came and he said, “Peace be on you, O Allah’s Messenger. I have heard that Allah says: ‘(O beloved!) And if they had come to you, when they had wronged their souls, and asked forgiveness of Allah, and the Messenger also had asked forgiveness for them, they (on the basis of this means and intercession) would have surely found Allah the Granter of repentance, extremely Merciful.’ I have come to you, asking forgiveness for my sins and I make you as MY INTERMEDIARY before my Lord and I have come to you for this purpose.” Then he recited these verses: “O, the most exalted among the buried people who improved the worth of the plains and the hillocks! May I sacrifice my life for this grave which is made radiant by you, the one who is of mercy and forgiveness.” Then the bedouin went away and I fell asleep. In my dream I saw the Holy Prophet. He said to me: O ‘Utbi, the bedouin is right, go and give him the good news that Allah has forgiven his sins. (Tafsir Ibn Kathir, 1:519-20)


It is related from Abu Sadiq that Imam Ali said: “Three days after burying the Prophet, an Arab came and threw himself on the grave of the Prophet, took the earth and threw it on his head. He said: ‘Ya Rasulallah! You did speak and we did hear, you learned from Allah and we did learn from you. Between those things which Allah did send you, is the following… Q. 4:64). I am the one who is a sinner and now I did come to you, so that you may ask for me.’ After that a call FROM THE GRAVE came: ‘There’s no doubt, you are forgiven!’” (Tafsir al-Qurtubi, Volume 6, p. 439)

Other Muslim authorities that quoted this same hadith include the following:

Bayhaqi in Shu‘ab-ul-iman (3:495-6, Number 4178).

Ibn Qudamah in al-Mughni (3:557).

Ibn ‘Asakir in Tahdhib tarikh Dimashq al-kabir, popularly known as Tarikh/Tahdhib Ibn ‘Asakir as quoted by Subki in Shifa’-us-siqām fi ziyarat khayr-il-anam (pp. 46-7).

Ibn Hajar Haythami in al-Jawhar-ul-munazzam (p. 51). (Dr. Muhammad Tahir-ul-Qadri, Islamic Concept of Intermediation – Tawassul, Chapter Five, Section Three, 2. Forgiveness through the means of the holy Prophet)

Abu Hamid Al-Ghazali is another renowned Muslim scholar who used Q. 4:64 to prove that it was perfectly alright to visit Muhammad’s grave in order to ask him for his intercession:

The Prophet should be made the means (wasilah) and the intercessor (shafi'), and with face turned towards the tomb, the pilgrim should implore Allah for the sake and position of the Prophet with the words:

“O Allah, indeed You have said, ‘Had they, who had wronged themselves, come to you and asked Allah's forgiveness and the Apostle had asked forgiveness for them, they would have certainly found Allah Most-Propitious, Most-Merciful’ (Q. 4:64); O Allah, surely we have heard Your words and we obey Your command, by coming to Your Prophet to seek his intercession with You for our sins; how burdensome and heavy (are sins) on our backs! We repent of slipperiness, we confess our wrongs and our faults, accept our repentance for his sake, make your Prophet intercessor for us, and exalt us for the sake of his position and his rights with You.”


It is recommended the pilgrim should go daily to the Baqi‘ cemetery and after saluting the Prophet, make pilgrimage to the tombs of Hasan ibn 'Ali, 'Ali ibn al-Husayn, Muhammad ibn 'Ali and Ja'far ibn Muhammad, and also perform the salat in the mosque of Fatimah. (Ihya' 'Ulum al-Din, Volume 1, pp. 258-261; bold emphasis ours)

The following Muslim authority also encouraged “believers” to seek their prophet’s intercession by going to his gravesite:

Stand beside the tomb of the Prophet, and say: I have come to YOU for forgiveness of my sins and to seek YOUR intercession with Allah. (Ibn Qudamah Hanbali, Al-Mughni ma' al-Sharh, Volume 3, p. 588; al-Sharh al-Kabir ma' al-Mughni, Volume 3, p. 494; capital emphasis ours)

Fourth Example

According to certain narrations, the Abbasid caliph Mansur al-Dawaniqi came to Malik ibn Anas (the founder of the Maliki madhab or school of Islamic jurisprudence) and asked him whether he should turn towards the grave of Muhammad or face the Qiblah when supplicating. Malik responded by asking him:

“Why do you want to turn away from the Prophet when he is the wasilah (means) for you and for your father Adam, towards Allah on the Day of Resurrection. Turn to him and seek his intercession (shafa'at).” (Sharh al-Mawahib, Volume 8, pp. 304-5; Wafa' al-Wafad, Volume 4, p. 1371; al-Qawanin al-Fiqhiyyah, p. 148; Sharh Ibn al-Hasan 'ala al-Risalah al-Qirwani, Volume 12, p. 478; bold emphasis ours)

Williams’ Dilemma

With the foregoing in perspective, it is clear that Muhammad’s sunna has not only led his followers to seek his mediation, it has also caused them to visit his gravesite in order to invoke him to pray for their forgiveness and to assist them in their hardships. In so doing, Muhammad is directly responsible for causing Muslims to commit shirk in their worship, e.g. joining an imperfect creature with Allah in the worship which is to be given to him alone.

This contradicts the very passage that Williams cited which emphatically commands the so-called believers to worship and seek the help of Allah ALONE! Here it is again:

Thee ALONE do we worship; and unto Thee ALONE do we turn for aid. S. 1:5 Asad

Muhammad’s teachings have also resulted in Muslims taking his grave as a masjid, or place of worship, despite the fact that he clearly prohibited them from doing so, going even so far as to curse the Jews and Christians for doing the same thing!

Hence, contrary to the propaganda of Islamic apologists such as Williams, Muslims do not worship Allah alone nor do they only seek his help. Muhammad’s followers are guilty of committing the heinous transgressions of grave worship and necromancy, e.g. contacting the dead to help them, something expressly condemned in God’s true Word, the Holy Bible:

“When you enter the land which the LORD your God gives you, you shall not learn to imitate the detestable things of those nations. There shall not be found among you anyone who makes his son or his daughter pass through the fire, one who uses divination, one who practices witchcraft, or one who interprets omens, or a sorcerer, or one who casts a spell, or a medium, or a spiritist, or one who calls up the dead. For whoever does these things is detestable to the LORD; and because of these detestable things the LORD your God will drive them out before you. You shall be blameless before the LORD your God. For those nations, which you shall dispossess, listen to those who practice witchcraft and to diviners, but as for you, the LORD your God has not allowed you to do so.” Deuteronomy 18:9-14

“When they say to you, ‘Consult the mediums and the spiritists who whisper and mutter,’ should not a people consult their God? Should they consult the dead on behalf of the living? To the law and to the testimony! If they do not speak according to this word, it is because they have no dawn.” Isaiah 8:19-20

So much for the Islamic religion being a pure monotheistic faith.

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