Contents > Chapter 4: Life of the Barzakh > Veneration of Graves led the Past Nations Astray


Veneration of Graves led the Past Nations Astray

“Verily, We have sent among every nation a messenger (proclaiming): ‘Worship Allah (Alone), and avoid (or keep away from) Tagoot (all false deities, etc.).”[1]


Allah, the Most Merciful, sent Messengers with the pure message of Tawheed to every nation for their guidance. They called their nations towards abandoning of Shirk and returning to Allah in repentance. However, as time passed, Shirk gradually crept into the beliefs of the people, and teachings of the Prophets were either changed or lost. One of the major avenues, by which Shaytaan was successful in leading people astray, was through veneration and exaggeration in the honor and respect of pious people. Shaytaan inspired the people to build idols and memorials, and subsequently led them to the worship of the dead.


The prominent commentator of the Qur’aan, Abdullah Ibn Abbas (radhi allahu anhu)[2] said regarding the verse, “They said to each other: ‘Do not leave your gods! Do not give up Wadd and Suwaa, nor Yaghooth, Ya’ooq and Nasr!”[3] (he said): “These (Wad, Suwaa’, Yaqhoot, Ya’ooq and Nasr) were among the idols of Prophet Nooh’s (alaihi as-salaam) nation, which in time ended up among the Arabs… These idols were named after some righteous men among Nooh’s people. When these righteous men died, Shaytaan inspired the people to make statues of them, named after them. These statues were placed in their favorite meeting places as reminders of righteousness, and no one of that generation worshiped them. However, when that generation died off, the purpose of the statues was forgotten. The following generation from then on started to worship them.”[4]


Ibn Jarir at-Tabaree (the author of the famous Tafseer at-Tabaree) mentions the explanation of Mujahid about the verse, “Have you then considered al-Lat and al-Uzza. [5][6] “He (al-Laat) used to serve the pilgrims by preparing Seewaq (fine flour of barley or wheat mixed with water and ghee) for them. After his death, the people began to stay and confine at his grave for the purpose of reward.”[7]


Imam Ibn Katheer (rahimahullah) mentions in Qasas al-Ambiya: “Ibn Abi Hatim related this story, “Waddan was a righteous man, who was loved by his people. When he died, they withdrew to his grave in the land of Babylonia and were overwhelmed by sadness. When Iblees (name of Shaytaan) saw their sorrow caused by his death, he disguised himself in the form of a man saying, ‘I have seen your sorrow because of this man’s death; can I make a statue like him which could be put in your meeting place to make you remember him?’ They said: ‘Yes.’ So, he made a statue like him. They put it in their meeting place in order to be reminded of him. When Iblees saw their interest in remembering him, he said: ‘Can I build a statue of him in the home of each one of you so that he would be in everyone’s house and you could remember him?’ They agreed. Their children learned about and saw what they were doing. They also learned about their remembrance of him, until they took him to be a deity and worshiped him instead of Allah. So, the first to be worshiped instead of Allah was Waddan, the idol which they named thus.”[8]


This shows that exaggeration in love for the righteous led to the veneration of their graves, and in turn became the first step towards open idol worship.

[1] Soorah an-Nahl (16): 36.

[2] Abdullah Ibn Abbas is one of the prominent commentators (Mufassiroon) of the Qur’aan among the Sahabah (radhi allahu anhu). The Prophet (sallallahu alaihi wa-sallam) once embraced Abdullah and said, “O Allah, give him a deep understanding of the Religion and make him skillful in Tafseer (interpretation).” [Saheeh al-Bukharee (Eng. Trans.) vol. 1, no: 10, Saheeh Muslim (Eng. Trans.) vol. 4, no: 6055] In spite of Ibn Abbas’s youth, the Prophet (sallallahu alaihi wa-sallam) conferred on him the title of “Tarjumaan al-Qur’aan” (Explainer of the Qur’aan) [Saheeh al-Bukharee (Eng. Trans.) vol. 1, no: 75 and vol. 5, nos: 100-101]

[3] Soorah Nooh (71): 23.

[4] Saheeh al-Bukharee (Eng. Trans.) vol.6, p.414-415, no.442. Also see Kitaab al-Waseelah by Shaikh ul-Islaam, Ibn Taymiyyah (p.238).

[5] Al-Lat and al-Uzza were two idols of righteous people.

[6] Soorah an-Najm (53): 19.

[7] Kitaab at-Tawheed by Shaikh Muhammad Ibn Abdul Wahhab (Eng. Trans.) p.86.

[8] Stories of the Prophets (Qissas al-Ambiyaa) (Eng. Trans.) p.39.