In times of calamities and disasters, some people invoke the Messenger of Allah and the Awliya' (pious people). Also, if they are afflicted with illness, they visit the graves of the Awliya' and seek help from them.
Such people claim that Allah (Exalted be He) removes affliction by virtue of the dead who are buried in these graves. They allegedly ask their help only as a means while keeping in mind that Allah (Exalted be He) has control over everything. Is such an act counted as Shirk (associating others with Allah in His Divinity or worship)? It is important to note that those people offer Salah (Prayer), recite Qur’an and do other good deeds.
What these people are doing is Shirk, similar to that practiced by the people of Jahiliyyah (pre-Islamic time of ignorance), who used to invoke and seek help from idols such as: Al-Lat, Al-‘Uzza, Manat and others, which they glorified, hoping that they would bring them nearer to Allah (Exalted be He). (Part No. 1; Page No. 150) They used to justify these acts saying (as the Noble Qur’an relates, what means),
We worship them only that they may bring us near to Allâh.
These are our intercessors with Allâh.
The Prophet (peace be upon him) stressed that Du‘a’ (supplication) is an act of worship that should not be made to anyone except Allah (Exalted be He). Moreover, Allah forbids making Du‘a’ to anyone other than Him. Allah (Exalted be He) says,
"And invoke not besides Allâh, any such that will neither profit you nor harm you, but if (in case) you did so, you shall certainly be one of the Zâlimûn (polytheists and wrong-doers)."
And if Allâh touches you with harm, there is none who can remove it but He, and if He intends any good for you, there is none who can repel His Favour which He causes it to reach whomsoever of His slaves He wills. And He is the Oft-Forgiving, the Most Merciful.
The Muslims are enjoined to say,
You (Alone) we worship, and You (Alone) we ask for help (for each and everything).
In every Rak‘ah (unit) of Salah, as a constant reminder that worship should only be directed to Allah alone, and that help should be sought from Him alone; not from prophets or any other righteous people who have already passed away. You should not be deceived by the much praying, fasting and reciting of the Qur’an that these people do. Their efforts have gone astray in this worldly life, while they think that they are doing good. And because their worship is not based on pure Tawhid (monotheism), it will be gone to waste. There is a lot of proof from the Book of Allah and the Sunnah asserting that such acts are Shirk and that their deeds are rendered fruitless. For more details, you may refer to the Qur’anic Ayahs, the authentic Sunnah and the books of Ahl-ul-Sunnah (Adherents to the Sunnah). May Allah grant us all guidance.