Question: In our country, a celebration called `Urs is held every year around the grave of a man whom people claim was one of the Awliyaa` (pious people). Since the purpose of such celebrations is to grant the deceased a reward, people slaughter cows and sheep and feed everyone. However, the so-called `Urs is not only an invitation to have food but a way to draw closer to Allaah through Tawassul (supplicating to Allaah through a means) by the deceased.
All the graves of the Awliyaa’ are lit up with colored lamps during the celebration. Leveled graves and their surroundings are decorated with marble and cement. People, media and journalists are invited to join in the celebration. Incense sticks are lit, the birthday of the Prophet (peace be upon him) is celebrated, and people invoke Allaah’s peace and blessings on the Prophet loudly while standing and sitting. They chant songs of thanking and praising Allaah (Exalted be He) with and without using musical instruments. People call the foregoing: Thikr Jalee (apparent Remembrance of Allaah). They touch the graves claiming that they get blessed by doing so, and they recite the Qur’aan around the graves and perform Salaah (Prayer) beside them.
During this celebration both gifts and money are accepted and the latter is spent on buying courtyards, constructing houses for visitors to stay in, or building Masjids (mosques) over or above the graves. The visiting men, women, and children hope for Allaah’s Mercy and ask Him to grant them children and wealth, relieve their distresses, and cure their sick. The bereaved family or the organizer of the celebration calls on the visitors to give their pledge of allegiance that they will follow the tradition of the deceased. This is the main aim of the whole celebration because people believe that this pledge of allegiance leads to right guidance and they use it for making Tawassul. People undertake long distance journeys to visit the graves. Some people come from outside the country so that photos and the news of their arrival are published in newspapers, saying: “The servant of Ajmeer Al-Shareef has arrived to India… From Dacca or Karachi…” People are called to hasten to give gifts and money. They are also urged to accept the gifts that the organizers of the celebration give to them before leaving. Visitors usually receive gifts of flowers from the grave of the deceased, his garden, or the garden of the person who looks after the grave.
Moreover, the organizers of this celebration send out printed letters to different people around the world including the people of the holy cities of Makkah and Al-Madeenah. This is something that I have personally seen. Some of these letters have been written to Bangladeshi and Pakistani Muslims in their languages and sent to them in Saudi Arabia where they live and work. The letters that I have seen were sent by a representative called Ajmeer Al-Shareef who wrote from India explaining the rituals of the celebration, i.e. The way and time of doing (Tawaaf, circumambulation around the grave) and the way and time on which the (door of Jannah; Paradise) – that is claimed to be by the end of the grave’s site – is open. We seek refuge with Allaah from all this.
Anyway, the organizers encourage people to send gifts along with the addresses of their friends, whatever they might be, to be contacted by them. They also warn people that they will receive a divine punishment if they do not send gifts or do what they are ordered. Thus, people yield to such commands lest they should be punished thinking that they are doing good. Also, in our country there is a stream beside the grave of a pious man who passed away seven hundred years ago. This man was Daa’iyah (One who calls people to Islaam). His name was Shah Jalaal Al-Yamanee (may Allaah be merciful to him) who lived in Salmat and is historically famous. However, the fish of this stream are said to be holy so when it dies people perform Funeral Prayer for it and bury it. Moreover, most of the people of this region do not eat pigeons; or rather, they are prevented from eating them for some people claim they are ascribed to that righteous man. Some people believe that the pigeons of this region areowned by Shah Jalaal so they do not eat them. Moreover, in our country a turtle is claimed to be holy and there are some other things that are very lamentable.
To give an example, a very strange thing happened earlier this week. A man, who follows a shaykh about whom we know nothing, announced that he will do `Urs for his shaykh. Thus, he imported 25 camels from Pakistan (camels are very rare in our country and we only read about them in stories about the desert and the Arabs). He bought thousands of cows and sheep and put them in exhibitions in the capital so that the people could see them. He marked and garlanded all those animals. The people were fascinated by this. They came to these exhibitions in huge numbers with tanks and vehicles running in rows in front of and behind the animals. Hundreds of thousands of common people joined this `Urs, which continued for three days. It was also attended by a large number of heads of state and high military and civilian authorities both inside and outside the government who came by car and helicopter. The guiding representative took the pledge of allegiance from them all. By Allaah this abominable incident actually happened! We have never seen the like of it before. We are afraid that this is an indication that our Eemaan (faith) may be weak, as people always follow the way of their kings; or that our leaders reflect the level of our weak Eemaan. May Allaah forgive us for, verily, He is the Oft-Forgiving, the Most Merciful.
People are still building new graves here and there, and inviting others to these deviated celebrations. They call themto spend money on such things, and encourage and warn them with false stories about the majesty and greatness of the deceased or the Waliy (pious man). Thus, cars and processions stand beside the graves and people simply throw money there or greet the deceased. Consequently, these graves have turned into sources of making money, we seek refuge with Allah from that.
Please give us a detailed Fatwaa regarding all these things in the light of the Book of Allaah, the Sunnah (whatever is reported from the Prophet), and the Ijmaa` (consensus) of the Muslim scholars, so as to clear away misconceptions. Success is only from Allaah (Exalted be He). We put our trust in Allaah and ask Him to protect us from bad deeds, Shirk (associating others with Allaah in His Divinity or worship), and Bid`ah (innovation in religion). We ask Allaah to help us to worship Him alone and follow the Sunnah of the Prophet (peace be upon him). May He guide the Muslims, especially those in our country, Bangladesh and in all other Muslim countries. Our Eemaan is weak and many of us cannot resist the temptations of this world. Please tell us about our duties concerning the religious crisis mentioned above. Your Fatwaa is very important. Please answer us soon because the Kuffaar (disbelievers) and devils are very quick towards Kufr (disbelief), Shirk, and Bid`ah, while we are heedless of these dangers! May Allaah forgive us all.
Answer: All the things mentioned in the question are undoubtedly practices of Munkar (that which is unacceptable or disapproved of by Islaamic law and Muslims of sound intellect), Bid`ah, and deviation… read more here.