Centuries Before The Dawn Of ‘Wahhabism’: Sunni Scholar Mar’i al-Karmi Lambasts The Grave Worshippers

By Ebn Hussein

About The Author

Mar’i Ibn Yusuf al-Karmi (d. 1033 AH/1623 CE) was a Shami (Palestinian) Hanbali scholar and top teacher in al-Azhar during the Ottoman era.

Ibn Humaid said: “He was a scholar, the most knowledgeable person, a researcher, an interpreter of the Qur’an, a narrator of Hadith, an Islamic jurist, al-Usuli, a grammarian and one of the most prominent Hanbalis in Egypt.”

Ibn Badran said: “One of the most prominent scholars of this doctrine in Egypt (i.e. the Hanbali Madhab).”

Abu Zayd said: “The scholar and an Islamic jurist.”

Mar’i Ibn Yusuf al-Karmi is among the pillars of the Hanbali school and the author of two mu’tamad (official) texts of the school (Dalil al-Talib and Ghayat al-Muntaha).

In his work Shifa al-Sudur, he presents many rulings pertaining to istighathahtawassul through the dead, etc. If you were to remove his name from his books, the Quburis would mistake him with Muhammad Ibn ‘Abdul-Wahhab.

Shifa al-Sudur fi al-Ziyarah al-Mashahid wa al-Qubur ( شفاء الصدور في زيارة المشاهد والقبور ), which can be translated to ‘The Healing Of The Chests Concerning The Visitation Of The Shrines And Graves’, is a treatise written Mar’i Ibn Yusuf al-Karmi al-Hanbali in which he clarifies matters related to grave visitation as the name of the book reveals.

The entire treatise lambasts the grave venerators and grave worshippers for every single of their violation against the Shari’ah.

Al-Karmi quotes extensively Shaykh al-Islam Ibn Taymiyyah in his treatise in support of his own beliefs regarding the mother of all shirk i.e. Ghuluw about the saints and graves. Just a look at the table of contents of his book reveals his pure Sunni Athari ‘aqidah.

Here are some screenshots from relevant sections of his book (a dedicated one of the longest chapters of one of his most acclaimed books in refutation of grave veneration and the heretical practice of invoking the saints for the fulfillment of needs and in times of need):

Mar’i Ibn Yusuf al-Karmi – quoting Ibn Taymiyyah – divides the Quburis into several categories.

Category #1

  • Those Quburis who invoke their buried saints for that which only Allah must be invoked for. This includes: removal of illness, protection, etc. (it is not uncommon that Quburis seek madad and protection from their saints).
  • The statements he quotes condemn such practices as clear-cut shirk and the person who utters such statements as a disbelieving apostate who must repent or else will be killed (by the authorities of course).

Comment: Many of today’s Quburis invoke their saints exactly how Muslims invoke Allah. They literally implore them directly for all their needs and fulfillment of their wishes, often without even mentioning Allah (e.g. ‘Ya Ali/Jilani/Badawi/Fatimah madad’).

Category #2

  • Those Quburis who invoke their buried saints with the excuse that due to the closeness of the saints to Allah, their prayers might be answered faster when they are invoked, are mushriks (polytheists).
  • The Quburis draw an analogy between a king and his ministers and Allah and the saints (same fallacious arguments one can hear from the Rafidah and the Sufis in our age).
  • The Quburis are guilty of practicing shirk and kufr. Verses that were revealed about the polytheists are applied upon the Quburis (We don’t worship them except to bring us closer to Allah).
  • The Quburis have fallen into the polytheism and kufr of the Nasara (‘Christians’) who do not just worship Jesus (peace be upon him) but also call upon his mother and their Church Fathers and saints for the fulfillment of their needs.
  • The Quburis are guilty of one of the worst types of shirk ( أعظم الشرك ) which is to invoke the saints in supplication (du’a i.e. worship) for the removal of hardship during duress (عند المصائب والشدائد).

Comment: There is no doubt that the extremist Quburis do exactly what Mar’i Ibn Yusuf al-Karmi (by quoting Ibn Taymiyyah) described. They are referred to as mushriks whose religion is more similar to that of the polytheists than Islam. No word is mentioned about the get-out-clause of the Quburis i.e. their excuse that favourite buried saints cannot pssibily be demigods as independency (the Istiqlal excuse) is not attributed to them.

Also, notice how verse 39:3 is applied upon the Quburis. The same Quburis today claim that the ‘Khawarij Wahhabis’ apply verses that were revealed about the polytheists on the ‘believers’. Wasn’t al-Mar’i, the Hanbali giant aware of that when quoting Ibn Taymiyyah?

The simple truth is that the Quburis have indeed fallen into the paganism and ghuluw of the saint-invoking Ahl al-Kitab. As for individual takfir: that is a different matter. Nobody claims that every grave venerator is a mushrik (polytheist). However, the extremist amongst them are certainly guilty of shirk.

Furthermore, here is a full translation of some excerpts of Mar’i Ibn Yusuf al-Karmi’s Shifa al-Sudur:

“And as for requesting supplications from the dead, whether they be prophets, righteous, or other than them, then that is not legislated. It is not legislated for us to say to the dead, ‘Ask your Lord for us,’ or statements similar to that as none of the Sahabah nor Tabi’un engaged in such practices.”

(Shifa al-Sudur by Mar’i Ibn Yusuf al-Karmi)

Mar’i Ibn Yusuf al-Karmi then continues arguing like a ‘Wahhabi’, employing the very statements of Shaykh al-Islam Ibn Tayimiyyah, illustrating a legitimate ( شرعي ) form of tawassul such as that of ‘Umar (may Allah be pleased with him) and his tawassul through al-ʿAbbas (may Allah be pleased with him). It is emphasised that the Sahabah never invoked the Prophet () in times of need in their supplications (neither during his lifetime nor after he passed away). The Sahabah always invoked Allah alone and when they visited his grave they greeted the Prophet () i.e. invoked Allah alone to send his peace and blessings upon him and then they departed. Period. It is also stressed that the belief that prayers are more likely answered at the graves of the saints has no basis in Islam.

There is also a quote from al-Karmi himself in the very same book:

والذي ينبغي للعلماء نشر هذه الأحكام، وإذاعتها بين العامة، خصوصًا الوعاظ والخطباء، فقد قام بنفوس غالب العامة من تعظيم المشاهد والقبور ما قام بنفوس الرافضة، وأشكل على كثير من المسلمين في هذه المسألة التمييز بين مذهب أهل الحق والباطل ولا حول ولا قوة إلا بالله

“The scholars, especially those who give public speeches and sermons, must spread and widely disseminate these rulings between the masses. For venerating shrines and graves has become deeply entrenched in the hearts of a large section of the masses in a way similar to that (entrenched in) the Rafidah, and it has become very difficult for many Muslims to distinguish between the madhab of the people of truth and falsehood in these matters. And there lies no might nor power save with Allah”.

(Shifa al-Sudur by Mar’i Ibn Yusuf al-Karmi)

Comment: Al-Karmi compares those who venerate the grave and call upon the saints with the Rafidah polytheists, the most mendacious and the most shirk-practicing of all sects, as stated by his role model Ibn Taymiyyah.

Doubts concerning al-Karmi’s view clarified by a Hanbali scholar

Shaykh Karim Helmy (كريم حلمي), a well respected Hanbali scholar and researcher in Egypt.

Shaykh Karim Helmy is an Egyptian Hanbali scholar whose interview can be found on this website. He was asked about those who cast doubt on the views of Shaykh al-Karmi. Here are some quotes:

RAMEEZ: How do the modern Hanbali scholars who allow requesting supplications from the dead respond to the explicit words of Sh. Mar’i b. Yusuf al-Karmi?

SH. KAREEM: To be honest, I am not a good follower of these disputes, however, there are two famous responses regarding it:

  1. Sh. Mar’i b. Yusuf al-Karmi is only conveying and summarizing Ibn Taymiyyah’s statements on the matter and he is not determining the position of the school. We can respond to this by saying that in reality Sh. Mar’i b. Yusuf al-Karmi was clarifying the position of the school in different issues and he indicates objections to Ibn Taymiyyah’s positions when he differs with him, therefore, even if he was just conveying and summarizing his position, the fact that he is silent about it shows that he agreed with him on this point and that he did not view it as something outside of the school. Several years ago, I responded to some brothers who were doing the same thing with Iqna‘ and its explanation. They would say the author of the text is only conveying and summarizing Ibn Taymiyyah’s position and not endorsing it, however, this was wrong as I showed at that time.
  2. Sh. Mar’i b. Yusuf al-Karmi mentioned this in a specific compilation and not in any official text of the school or its explanation, therefore, it is not expressive of the school. It’s just his opinion on the matter. What counts is what is in the mu’tamad books of the school that are taught, read, used in fatwas and judiciary matters. We can respond to this by saying how strange is this that those who follow this view themselves rely on books outside of the mu’tamad when they want to permit istighatha! They go to treatises, poems, explanations, etc. that are not even part of the mu’tamad works!

However, we need to ask ourselves a very important question. What appears to be the biggest obstacle, the statement of Ibn Taymiyyah or Sh. Mar’i? It is not correct that we agree to abstain from opposing Sh. Mar’i while making it easy to oppose Ibn Taymiyyah! The actions of al-Hajjawi, Sh. Mar’i, and others in our school indicate that every choice of Ibn Taymiyyah in which he is not opposed by our scholars nor does he contradict their usool, then that is the Hanbali school in a nutshell! I am saying this even though I do not blindly follow Ibn Taymiyyah or Sh. Mar’i in determining the Hanbali school. I differ with both of them on various issues.

اللهم لك الحمد وإليك المشتكى وأنت المستعان وعليك التكلان ولا حول ولا قوة الا بالله والصلاة والسلام على رسول الله