Skeptics accuse Shias of ‘worshipping’ shrines. They take visitation of shrines of holy personalities (a.s.) i.e. Ziyarat, as polytheism and are quick to brand Shias as polytheists (mushrik).
The charge of these so-called Muslims against Shias is similar to the claims of non-Muslims who accuse Muslims of idolatry for visiting the Holy Kaaba and circling it (tawaaf) as if it were an idol.
The accusations of the skeptics against Ziyarat are likewise baseless and only goes to show that they have no understanding of monotheism and polytheism. They issue edicts of disbelief based on their narrow and inaccurate interpretation of Islam. Had they been present in the time of Prophet Adam (a.s.) and Prophet Yaqoob (a.s.) they would have condemned both the divine Prophets (a.s.) for prostrating to other than Allah!
There is an interesting anecdote between the Saudi king and a Shia scholar on the subject.
Sayyid Sharaf al-Deen, a famous Shia scholar and author of such books as ‘Al-Muraajeaat’ and ‘Al Nass wa al-Ijtehaad’, went on pilgrimage to the Holy Kaaba during the time of King Abdul Aziz Ibn Saud.
He was among the scholars invited to the King’s palace to celebrate Eid al-Azha in accordance with the customs there. When his turn came to shake the King’s s hand, Sayyid Sharaf al-Deen presented him with a leather-bound Holy Quran. The King took the Book of Allah, placed it on his forehead and kissed it in reverence.
Sayyid Sharaf al-Deen asked, “O King! Why do you kiss and revere the cover which is only made out of goat’s skin?”
The King answered, “I meant to revere the Holy Quran, not the goat’s skin.”
Sayyid Sharaf al-Deen replied, “You are right, O King! We do the same when we kiss the window or the door of the Holy Prophet’s (s.a.w.a.) chamber. We know it is made of iron and cannot harm or render a benefit but our reverence is directed behind the iron and wood. We intend to glorify the Messenger of Allah (s.a.w.a.) in the same way as you meant with the Holy Quran when you kissed the goat’s skin cover.”
Impressed by the Sayyid’s argument, the audience exclaimed, “You are right!”
The King was forced to allow the pilgrims to ask for blessings from the Holy Prophet’s (s.a.w.a.) relics, until the order was reversed by the successor of that king.