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Islam’s Scholars Emphasizing the Prohibition of Istighatha

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http://www.ilmgate.org/the-ruling-on-istighathah/

The Ruling on Istighathah

Mohammed Ehsai: "He is the Merciful" (2007 Iran)

Photo Mohammed Ehsai

By Allamah Zafar Ahmad al-Uthmani

Seeking help from other than Allah is unanimously allowed in some situations, like asking for help from able-bodied living persons in matters ordinarily in their control, with the belief that the being from whom help is sought is only a means and a tool and is not independent of Allah in that action. Similarly, it is disallowed unanimously in certain situations, like seeking help with the belief that the one asked for help has permanent and independent powers in which he is not always dependent on the will of Allah. The ruling of seeking help from other than Allah, or istighathah, therefore, depends on the belief of the person seeking help, and the situation or context of the act.

By way of summary, the idolaters of the Prophet’s time would believe about their idols, or rather the persons represented by the idols, that they were given certain extraordinary abilities by Allah, after which they became independent in those powers, without needing permission from Allah in each and every moment of executing those powers. Such a belief is, no doubt, the highest form of shirk. Based on this belief, the idolaters would ask help of the idols and worship them. Shah Wali Allah said: “From amongst the major sins is associating partners with Allah (Exalted is He) in terms of worship and asking for help in sustenance, cure and so on, and there is an indication to repentance from them in His (Exalted is He) statement: ‘You alone we worship and You alone we ask for help.’” (al-Qawl al-Jamil, Lahore, p. 42)

فمنها (أي من الكبائر) الإشراك بالله تعالى عبادة واستعانة فى الرزق والشفاء وغيرهما وإلى التوبة منهما الإشارة في قولة تعالى: إياك نعبد وإياك نستعين 

If a Muslim were to render those acts performed by the idolaters in service to their idols to a prophet or a saint, by asking him for help in those things that are not normally in a person’s ability, it would either be with the same belief or without the same belief.

  1. If it is with the same belief – that Allah granted him extraordinary powers after which he became independent –, it is, of course, major shirk.
  2. If, however, it is without this belief, but with the belief that he has discretionary powers in which he is always dependent on Allah, or his position is only that of an intermediary (tawassul) in supplication to Allah, it would not be major shirk (although the first is a corrupt and sinful belief, and the second is acceptable). However, because it resembles the ways of the idolaters of old and it creates a suspicion of shirk, this has been regarded by the scholars as forbidden, in order to block the means to shirk, just as the Prophet (peace and blessings be upon him) forbade some things for the very same reason, like taking oaths in the name of a being besides Allah.

From these two situations, the first type is true shirk. The second type is a practical expression of shirk, or behaviour resembling shirk in a way that makes the common people susceptible to shirk. More detail on these two types of shirk, and the evidential basis for them, are discussed in the treatise, Nihayat al-Idrak fi Aqsam al-Ishrak, by ‘Allamah Zafar Ahmad al-‘Uthmani and Hakim al-Ummah al-Thanawi, a translation of which is available here: http://www.deoband.org/2013/01/aqida/allah-and-his-attributes/the-peak-of-comprehension-on-the-categories-of-polytheism/

The forms of istighathah that are forbidden according to the righteous scholars, which include asking help from living people in things that are ordinarily out of their hands (like producing rain) or asking dead people for things that are ordinarily out of their hands (like money, or children), are always shirk, whether true shirk or apparent shirk. However, the first takes one out of Islam and the second only makes one sinful and disobedient. There are a few exceptions to this rule, like words used sentimentally and figuratively, which are discussed below.

‘Allamah Zafar Ahmad al-‘Uthmani, student and nephew of Hakim al-Ummah Mawlana Ashraf ‘Ali al-Thanawi, wrote a fatwa on the question of istighathah in which he discusses the different forms of seeking help from other than Allah and their respective rulings. I will present below the translation of a few sections from this fatwa dealing specifically with the ruling of istighathah, leaving out his replies to particular objections mentioned by the questioner. I will then quote statements of earlier scholars for further support of this ruling. The respected Mawlana said:

The confusion which entered [the mind] of the questioner from the aforementioned citations stems from probably having not come across the different types of istighathah bi al-ghayr (seeking help from other than Allah), or he has come across them but he thinks the ‘ulama’ of Ahl al-Sunnah consider all forms [ofistighathahshirkkufrharam and impermissible, though this assumption is incorrect.

Thus, before all else, we want him to understand the different types of istimdad and isti‘anah bi al-ghayrand their respective rulings. The explanation of this is that istimdad and isti‘anah bi al-ghayr is either:

  1. With the belief that someone besides Allah is independent (mustaqill) and has intrinsic power (qadir bi al-dhat), meaning – Allah forbid –, when asking help from such-and-such a person, it is believed that he has innate ability to do whatever he wants and this power was not given to him by Allah;
  2. Or it is not with the belief that his power to provide is innate and independent, but in doing so it is believed that Allah has bestowed it on him, and it is believed that once he acquired the power from Allah (Exalted is He), he has now become independent, and can do whatever he wants, whenever he wants; he gives to whoever he wants and he withholds from whoever he wants; and once the Generous Lord granted him this total power, now submitting requests, making supplications and asking for needs become specific to him, or it is not specific to him, but even when asking Allah, that [being] besides [Allah] is the one who grants, because Allah has authorised him with it.

The first being clear disbelief is not doubted by any Muslim because such a belief was not even held by the disbelievers and idolaters of Mecca about their objects of worship. They also believed only Allah was independently and intrinsically powerful. Thus, in the Jahili times the disbelievers of Mecca would recite Talbiyah as follows:

“Here I am, O Allah! Here I am! Here I am! You have no partner except a partner that belongs to You. You possess him and what he possesses.”

Moreover, in the various places of the Qur’an where their statements are quoted, the first thing that is realised is that they never believed that their objects of worship have intrinsic power. “They say: these are our intercessors with Allah.”  (10:18) “We do not worship them except to draw us nearer to Allah.” (38:3)

Although apparently the second form is less [serious] than the first, but the Islamic Shari‘ah has also determined this as shirk and kufr as this was the belief the idolaters and disbelievers had with respect to their objects of worship. Their belief was that Allah (Exalted is He) is intrinsically powerful, but He gave power to those idols from Himself, after acquiring which they became independent, having the ability to do whatever they wish and give benefit to whoever they wish. And since this task was entrusted to them, even if supplication is directed to Allah, He will pass this request on to them, just like the kings of the world entrust some matters to their subservient rulers so that in those areas, requests will be presented to the subservient rulers. And if someone, without taking an intermediary, were to send a request directly to the king with respect to these areas, that king will send that request back to his subservient rulers, claiming that I have done what concerns me in this task, and the decision is to be made there.

The Islamic Shari‘ah states clearly that Allah does not have such subservient rulers working under Him who after having received volitions from Allah become independent themselves.

The worldly kings require such deputies because of their weaknesses. Allah has no such need. All matters are in His hands. Nothing is in the hand of another in an independent fashion.

“Sovereignty belongs to none but Allah. He has ordained that you shall not worship anyone but Him.” (Qur’an, 12:40)

“There is none in the heavens and the earth but comes unto the Beneficent as a slave. Assuredly He has comprehended them and counted them a full counting. And each one of them will come unto Him on the Day of Resurrection, alone.” (Qur’an,19:93-5)

“In His hand lies the kingdom of everything. He grants protection, and none is protected from Him.” (Qur’an, 23:88)

“Verily, Allah is Provider, Owner of power, Firm.” (Qur’an, 51:58)

“Who is the one who intercedes with Him except with His permission?” (Qur’an, 2:255)

The Prophet (Allah bless him and grant him peace) said: “None of you will be admitted to paradise by your works.” They said: “Even you, O Messenger of Allah?” He said: “Even I, unless Allah enshrouds me in forgiveness and mercy.”

He (Allah bless him and grant him peace) said: “O Banu ‘Abd Manaf! Save yourself from the Fire, I avail you nothing of Allah. O Banu ‘Abd al-Muttalib! Save yourself from the Fire, I avail you nothing of Allah. O Fatimah, daughter of Muhammad! Save yourself from the Fire, I avail you nothing of Allah. O Safiyyah, aunt of the Messenger of Allah! Save yourself from the Fire, I avail you nothing of Allah.”

He (Allah bless him and grant him peace) said: “O Allah! There is none to withhold that which You give, and none to give what You withhold. And no one can turn back what You have decreed. And the owner of fortune will not be availed of You by [his] fortune.”

He (Allah bless him and grant him peace) said: “I am but a distributer, and it is Allah that gives.”

Allah said: “Whatever blessing Allah opens for the people, there is none to hold it back, and whatever He holds back, there is none to release it thereafter.” (Qur’an, 35:2)

And He (Exalted is He) said: “Verily, you do not guide who you love but Allah guides whoever He wishes.” (Qur’an, 28:56)

“Most of the people are not going to believe despite your strong desire for it.” (Qur’an, 12:103)

“Is it they who allocate the mercy of your Lord? We have allocated among them their livelihood in the worldly life, and have raised some of them over others in ranks, so that some of them may put some others to work.” (Qur’an, 43:32)

“And you do not will, unless it be that Allah wills.” (Qur’an, 81:29)

Thus, many [Qur’anic] texts and verses indicate that in the Divine kingdom, no prophet or saint is innately independent and free.

However, just as Allah (Exalted is He) granted the ability of some actions to the generality of mankind, due to which the Shari‘ah ascribes those actions to the slave and counts them amongst his deeds, in which after having acquired the ability they are still utterly and completely dependent on Allah (Exalted is He), like eating, drinking, going to and fro, trading and working, etc.; similarly, in order to manifest themu‘jizat and karamat of the prophets and saints, they were [at times] given certain abilities beyond that of general people, in which they are merely a means and a representative, not an independent and free actor.

Thus, one form of istimdad and isti‘anah is that isti‘anah is sought from other than Allah in those matters which according to the apparent norms are included in the control of people, but they are only considered a tool, means and representative. Such istimdad with a living person is permissible by consensus.

Since after dying, people do not [normally] maintain power over even these ordinary matters, seeking help from them, even with the belief that they are only a means and a tool is impermissible, because in this situation, a doubt may be created that he has independence and volition, and the Shari‘ah has even put a stop to the doubt of independence.

However, after the death of a prophet or saint, it is permissible to seek his help in acquiring spiritual benefits, because according to proofs established from spiritual unveiling (kashf), even after their death they maintain this faculty just as in life they had power over ordinary bodily functions.

Another form of isti‘anah is that a prophet or saint, living or dead, is asked for help in such matters that are ordinarily outside of human capacity, like asking for children, rain and so forth, or requesting cure [from illnesses]. This is completely impermissible because in this [form of] isti‘anah there is a strong doubt that he has independence and innate volition. [This is the case] even if the person doing isti‘anahdoes not have this belief because the Islamic Shari‘ah has forbidden anything that is suggestive of kufrand shirk. Thus, taking an oath by other than Allah, or keeping the picture of an animate being in the house, is forbidden for this reason, that they are suggestive of shirk, even if there is no belief in shirk[1].

However, taking an intermediary (tawassul) through prophets and saints, whether in ordinary or extraordinary matters, is permissible. Meaning, supplicating to Allah (Exalted is He): “My Lord! Through the blessing of so-and-so prophet or saint, fulfil this need.” According to the verifiers, there is no harm in this, whether the tawassul is through a living person or a dead person.

Another form of isti‘anah is that at a particular time, in order to make his mu‘jizah or karamah apparent, a certain prophet or saint, with divine permission, tells a certain person or group, that whichever person or a specific person asks of me for whatever need at a certain time, it will be fulfilled, or I will fulfil it; and the objective is that Allah (Exalted is He) will fulfil this need in order to make my miracle manifest. In this situation, if that specific person or specific group with respect to whom this statement was made, he/they request their need from him, and they consider this prophet or saint merely a tool and representative and they believe the real fulfiller of needs is Allah (Exalted is He), then this form is also allowed. Since inmu‘jizah or karamah, there is a manifestation of things against ordinary norms, this is why there is no interference of human capacity in them. The action is purely from Allah (Exalted is He), as a mu‘jizah orkaramah, emerging from Him. The prophet or saint has no involvement in them. However, by means of them the integrity of the prophet or saint and their closeness to Allah become manifest. Moreover, since continuity is not a requirement of miracles, this is why such isti‘anah is not permissible continuously.

The summary of this is that there are eight forms of isti‘anah and istimdad bi al-ghayr:

  1. Seeking help from someone besides Allah, whoever he may be, with the belief that he has intrinsic power.
  2. It is not believed that he has intrinsic power, but that Allah gave him this power, and after acquiring the power from Allah, he has become independent and self-sustaining, and can do whatever he wants.
  3. It is believed he is only a tool and means, and that only Allah (Exalted is He) fulfils one’s needs. This has several forms. The first is that this belief is held with respect to a living person in ordinary maters (which ordinarily and in the Shari‘ah are included in man’s actions) and one asks his help, saying, “O so-and-so, do this work of mine” or, “Give me some Rupees.”
  4. In extraordinary matters (which are not included in the power of people ordinarily or in the Shar‘iah and are not counted as his actions), one seeks help. For example, one says: “O guide! Grant me children.”
  5. Seeking help in acquiring spiritual benefit from a certain saint or prophet after death.
  6. Asking help in extraordinary means or in such ordinary means that are outside of a dead person’s ability from him after death, for example saying: “O prophet or saint! Assist me in my trial,” or, “Cure my illness,” or, “Grant me children,” etc. etc.
  7. Doing tawassul through a prophet or saint in ordinary or extraordinary matters when making du‘a [to Allah]; or requesting their du‘a and intercession.
  8. When any prophet or saint, by way of miracle, says to someone: “Ask what you want,” at that time he asks him his need, whether it is from ordinary matters or extraordinary matters.

The ruling of these forms is that the first and second are shirk, and the third form is by agreement of the people of verification permissible, and the fourth form is impermissible. However, the moment of manifesting a miracle is an exception to this, as occurs in number 8, and the fifth form is by agreement permissible, and the sixth form is impermissible and the seventh is permissible according the verified view, and the eighth form is also allowed.

Thus, four forms are permissible and four forms impermissible, and those forms that are permissible are permissible with the condition that it is believed Allah (Exalted is He) fulfils one’s needs, and the prophet or saint is deemed a tool and means. In the same way, there is detail in calling on other than Allah:

  1. Calling a living person that is close by.
  2. Calling an absent person, which has two forms: first it is done as mere longing and love, and the intent is not to call upon [another].
  3. Or the belief is that he can hear from far.

The first two forms are permissible and the third impermissible. There is [the following] detail in calling after death:

  1. Going to the grave of a prophet or saint and calling him.
  2. Calling him from far, but the objective is not to call, but transpires merely due to an outburst of love and longing.
  3. The belief is that he hears from far.
  4. Or one calls from far but the objective is not to call and is not due to an outburst of longing and love, but in a certain supplication his name has been mentioned in the vocative case, so understanding it as a [transmitted] du‘a, he reads it.

From these, the first form is by agreement of the verifiers, permissible, with the condition that when coming to the grave, the forbidden isti‘anah is not intended, the details of which have passed above, rather a call was made only for the purpose of salutation etc. The second form is also permissible by agreement, and the third form is impermissible as it is a belief in shirk[2], and the fourth form is permissible with the condition that the vocative case is transmitted in some verses or hadiths, like intashahhud, “Peace be on you, O prophet,” is mentioned in the vocative case.

It is hoped by this explanation that the doubts of the questioner will be dispelled. For further satisfaction, I will discuss all the specific citations which caused him confusion. But by way of introduction, I want to make it clear in the mind of the questioner that the istimdad and isti‘anah bi al-ghayr which we disallow is that a prophet or saint is asked: “You fulfil this need of mine,” “You complete this work of mine,” and if he does not say this but supplicates to Allah through their intermediary (tawassul), or asks them to supplicate to Allah (Exalted is He) on their behalf, since his ability to supplicate is observed or established by explicit text, this istimdad is not impermissible in our view. In truth, even calling it istimdadis metaphorical. In reality, this form is categorised as tawassul, which no one regards as impermissible.

It is in al-Durr al-Mukhtar that to say, while supplicating: “By the seat of glory from Your throne,” is forbidden. ‘Allamah Shami wrote beneath it: “Because the mere suggestion [of an incorrect meaning] is sufficient to prohibit saying such a statement, even if it bears a correct meaning.” (Fatawa Mawlana ‘Abd al-Hayy, 4:331)

The respected questioner is probably not unaware that nowadays little by little the general people have become embroiled in beliefs that reach shirk[3] and kufr in doing isti‘anah and istimdad from other [than Allah]. In this situation, how can permission be given to such words, the outward [meaning] of which suggests disbelief? Thus, our position is that we deem the isti‘anahistimdad and call [from afar] that is widespread in the present age impermissible for the common people and the elite, but we say tawassulis allowed. (Maqalat Usmani, 2:280-309)

Some Statements of Prominent Scholars on Isitghathah

As ‘Allamah Zafar Ahmad al-‘Uthmani said, the scholars forbade istighathah of the dead and the living in those things that are ordinarily out of their hands, even without believing they have independent power, because it resembles the outward behaviour of the idolaters, creates a suspicion of shirk and makes the ignorant laypeople susceptible to true shirk and corrupt beliefs. Below are some statements from accepted scholars supporting this central claim.

1) Shaykh Muhammad ibn Tahir ibn ‘Ali al-Fattani (913 – 986 H) said:

لفظ الزيارة صار مشتركا بين ما شرع وما لم يشرع فإن منهم من قصد بزيارة قبور الأنبياء والصلحاء أن يصلي عند قبورهم ويدعو عندها ويسألهم الحوائج وهذا لا يجوز عند أحد من علماء المسلمين فإن العبادة وطلب الحوائج والإستعانة حق لله وحده

“The word ‘visit’ (ziyarah) has become a common word for that which is established in the Shari’ah and that which is not established in the Shari’ah. For indeed, there are from them those who intend by visiting the graves of the prophets and the righteous to pray near their graves and supplicate near them, and ask them for needs, and this is not permissible according to any of the ‘ulama’ of the Muslims, for indeed worship and asking for needs (talab al-hawa’ij) and seeking help (isti’anah) is the right of Allah alone.” (Majma‘ Bihar al-Anwar, vol. 2, p. 73)

2) Shaykh Muhammad ibn Pir ‘Ali al-Birgivi (929 – 981 H) said:

 أما الزيارة البدعية فزيارة القبور لأجل الصلوة عندها والطواف بها وتقبيلها واستلامها وتعفير الخدود عليها وأخذ ترابها ودعاء أصحابها والاستغاثة بهم وسوالهم النصر والرزق والعافية والولد وقضاء الديون وتفريج الكربات وإغاثة اللهفان وغير ذلك من الحاجات التى كان عباد الأوثان يسألونها من أوثانهم فليس شيء من ذلك مشروعا باتفاق أئمة المسلمين إذ لم يفعله رسول الله صلى الله عليه وسلم ولا أحد من الصحابة والتابعين وسائر أئمة الدين بل أصل هذه الزيارة الشركية البدعية مأخوذة من عباد الأصنام

“As for the innovated visit, it is to visit the graves with the purpose of praying near them and circumambulating them and kissing them and saluting them and getting dust on the cheeks from them and taking their dirt and calling their inhabitants and seeking their help and asking from them help, provision, good health, children, fulfilment of debts, relieving distress, aiding grief and other such needs which the idol worshippers would ask of their idols. None of this is established in the Shari‘ah by consensus of the imams of the Muslims, since the Messenger of Allah (Allah bless him and grant him peace) did not do it, nor any of the Sahabah and Tabi‘in and all the imams of religion. Rather, the basis of this idolatrous and innovated visit is derived from the idol worshippers.” (Ziyarat al-Qubur, pp. 534-5)

3) Shaykh Ahmad al-Rumi (d. 1043 H) said:

المجلس السابع عشر في بيان عدم جواز الصلوة عند القبور والاستمداد من أهلها واتخاذ السروج والشموع عليها

“Session Seventeen on Explaining the Impermissibility of Praying near Graves and Seeking Help (istimdad) from their Inhabitants and Placing Saddles and Candles thereon.” (Majalis al-Abrar, p. 123)

العبادات مبناها على الاستنان والاتباع لا على الهواء والابتداع فإن المسلمين أجمعوا على ما علموا من دين نبيهم أن الصلوة عند المقبرة منهي عنها لأن فتنة الشرك بالصلوة فيها ومشابهة عبادة الأصنام أعظم كثيرا من مفسدة الصلوة حين طلوع الشمس وحين غروبها وحين استوائها فإنه عليه السلام نهى عن تلك المفسدة سدا لذريعة التشبه التي لا تكاد تخطر ببال المصلي فكيف بهذه الذريعة التي كثيرا ما تدعو صاحبها إلى الشرك بدعاء الموتى وطلب الحوائج منهم واعتقاد أن الصلوة عند قبورهم أفضل من الصلوة فى المساجد وغير ذلك مما هو محادة ظاهرة لله ولرسوله

“The basis of ritual worship is imitation and adherence, not passion and innovation, and indeed the Muslims have agreed on what they know from the religion of their Prophet that prayer at the graveyard is forbidden because the temptation of shirk by praying therein and resemblance of idol-worship is far greater than the corruptive act of praying at sunrise, sunset and zenith, for indeed he (upon him peace) forbade that corruptive act [of praying at sunrise, sunset and zenith] in order to block the means to that resemblance [i.e. of sun worship] which probably will not even cross the mind of the worshipper, so what about this means [i.e. praying near graves] which often invites its performer to shirk by supplicating to the dead and requesting needs from them and believing that prayer at their graves is better than prayer in mosques and other than this which is in clear opposition to Allah and His Messenger?” (ibid. pp. 124-5)

4) ‘Allamah Sun‘ Allah al-Halabi (d. 1120 H) said:

قد ظهر الآن فيما بين المسلمين جماعات يدعون أن للأولياء تصرفات في حياتهم وبعد الممات ويستغاث بهم فى الشدائد والبليات وبهممهم تنكشف المهمات فيأتون قبورهم وينادونهم في قضاء الحاجات مستدلين على أن ذلك منهم كرامات وقررهم في ذلك من ادعى العلم بمسائل وأمدهم بفتاوى ورسائل…وهذا كما ترى كلام فيه تفريط وإفراط وغلو فى الدين بترك الاحتياط بل فيه الهلاك الأبدي والعذاب السرمدي لما فيه من روائح الشرك المحقق ومصادرة الكتاب العزيز المصدق ومخالفة لعقائد الأئمة وما اجتمعت عليه هذه الأمة

“Nowadays, multitudes amongst the Muslims have emerged claiming that the saints (awliya’) have discretions (tasarrufat) in their life and after death, and through them help is sought (yustaghathu bihim) in difficulties and calamities, and by their aspirations, matters of concern are resolved, so they come to their graves, call to them to fulfil their needs, adducing as evidence for [this practice] that these are miracles (karamat) from them. [Some] who claim knowledge of juristic issues reinforce this for them, and support them with fatwas and treatises…This, as you see, is speech containing negligence and excess, and extremism in the religion due to abandoning precaution (tark al-ihtiyat). Rather, therein is eternal damnation and infinite punishment, due to what it contains of the odours of actual shirk, and of contending with the authoritative Mighty Book and opposition to the beliefs of the Imams, and that which this ummah has agreed upon.” (Sayf Allah ‘ala man Kadhaba ‘ala Awliya’ Allah pp. 22-3)

 والاستغاثة تجوز فى الأسباب الظاهرة العادية من الأمور الحسية في قتال أو إدراك عدو أو سبع ونحوه كقولهم يا لزيد يا لقومي يا للمسلمين كما ذكروا ذلك في كتب النحو بحسب الأسباب الظاهرة بالفعل. أما الاستغاتة بالقوة والتأثير أو فى الأمور المعنوية من الشدائد…فمن خصائص الله

“Seeking aid (istighathah) is permissible in ordinary outward means (al-asbab al-zahirat al-‘adiyyah) from tangible matters, of fighting or catching an enemy or a predator and its like, like their statement: ‘O Zayd!’ ‘O my people!’ or ‘O Muslims!’ as they mentioned them in the books of Nahw in accordance with actual (bi l-fi’l) outward means. However, seeking aid by potential and effective [means] or in intangible matters of difficulties…these are exclusive to Allah.” (ibid. p. 51)

Sometimes “istighathah” was not used literally by the scholars but in the meaning of “taking an intermediary” (tawassul)[4]. ‘Allamah al-Halabi asserts that those scholars who permitted “istighathah” meant tawassul, not asking for help.

وما قيل من أنه يجوز الاستغاثة بالأنبياء والصالحين فإنما المراد به التبرك بذكرهم والتوسل بهم بلا إمداد منهم

“And what has been said [by some scholars like al-Subki and Ibn Hajar al-Haythami] that istighathahthrough the prophets and pious is permissible, the intent is only taking blessing through their mention and tawassul through them, not [seeking direct] assistance from them.” (ibid. pp. 49-51)

5) Shah Wali Allah (1114 – 1176 H) said:

ومنها أنهم كانوا يستغيثون بغير الله في حوائجهم من شفاء المريض وغناء الفقير وينذرون لهم يتوقعون إنجاح مقاصدهم بتلك النذور ويتلون أسماءهم رجاء بركتها فأوجب الله تعالى عليهم أن يقولوا في صلاتهم: “إياك نعبد وإياك نستعين” وقال تعالى “فلا تدعوا مع الله أحدا” وليس المراد من الدعاء العبادة كما قال المفسرون بل هو الاستغاثة

“And from these [embodiments and forms of shirk] is that they would seek help from other than Allah for their needs, of healing the sick and enriching the poor, and they would vow to them expecting the fulfilment of their objectives through those vows, and they would recite their names hoping for their blessing. So Allah made it obligatory on them to say in their Salah: ‘You alone we worship and You alone we ask for help.’ (Qur’an 1:5) And He, Exalted is He, said: ‘And do not call on any besides Allah.’ (Qur’an 72:18) The meaning of ‘call’ is not worship as the exegetes have said but is asking for help (istighathah).” (Hujjat Allah al-Balighah, 1:120-1)

تفهيم – كل من ذهب إلى بلدة أجمير أو إلى قبر سالار مسعود أو ما ضاهاها لأجل حاجة يطلبها فإنه أثم إثما أكبر من القتل والزنا. ليس مثله إلا مثل من كان يعبد المصنوعات أو مثل من كان يدعو اللات والعزى إلا أنا لا نصرح بالتكفير لعدم النص من الشارع في هذا الأمر المخصوص. كل من عين حيوان الميت وطلب منه الحوائج فإنه آثم قلبه داخل في قوله تعالى ذلكم فسق

“Instruction: Anyone who goes to the town of Ajmer [to the grave of Khawaja Mu’in al-Din Chishti] or to the grave of Salar Mas’ud, or to any such place, for a need he requests of them, indeed he has committed a sin more grievous than murder and adultery. His likeness is not but like those who worship the creation or like those who call on Lat and ‘Uzza [for help]. However, we do not state explicitly that he has disbelieved due to the absence of a text from the Lawgiver in this specific matter. Anyone who assigns life to the dead and requests his needs from them, ‘his heart is surely sinful’ (Qur’an, 2:283), and [this act] is included in His statement (Exalted is He), ‘that is iniquity’ (Qur’an, 5:3).” (al-Tafhimat al-Ilahiyyah, 2:45)

6) Muhammad ibn Sulayman al-Kurdi al-Shafi‘i (d. 1194 H) said:

وأما التوسل بالأنبياء والصالحين فهو أمر محبوب ثابت في الأحاديث الصحيحة وقد أطبقوا على طلبه، بل ثبت التوسل بالأعمال الصالحة وهي أعراض فبالذوات أولى، أما جعل الوسائط بين العبد وبين ربه، فإن كان يدعوهم كما يدعو الله تعالى في الأمور ويعتقد تأثيرهم في شيء من دون الله فهو كفر، وإن كان مراده التوسل بهم إلى الله تعالى في قضاء مهماته مع اعتقاده أن الله هو النافع الضارّ المؤثر في الأمور فالظاهر عدم كفره وإن كان فعله قبيحاً

“Regarding tawassul through the Prophets and pious, it is a liked matter, established in authentic hadiths. Its desirability is agreed-upon. In fact, tawassul is established through good deeds, and they are a‘rad (fleeting accidents); thus, with dhawat (substances) a fortiori. Regarding making intermediaries between the slave and His Lord:

“If he asks them [i.e. the intermediaries] like he asks Allah in matters [i.e. directly], believing that they bring about effects in a matter and not Allah, then that is disbelief. And if the intention is tawassul through them to Allah, the Exalted, in the fulfilment of important matters, while believing that Allah is He who causes all benefit and harm in matters, and the one who brings about effects in matters, then apparently this is not disbelief, although his action is despicable.” (Bughyat al-Mustarshidin, p. 308, 369)

7) Qadi Thana Allah Panipati (d. 1225 H) said:

“Ruling: It is not permissible to make supplications to the pious who have passed away or are living or to the noble prophets (upon them peace). The Messenger of Allah (Allah bless him and grant him peace) said that supplications are the core of worship, and then he recited this verse: ‘Your Lord has said, ‘Call Me, I will respond to you. Definitely those who show arrogance against worshipping Me shall enter Hell with disgrace.’ (Qur’an, 40:60) And that which the ignorant say: ‘O Shaykh ‘Abd al-Qadir al-Jilani! [Give me] something for the sake of Allah,’ and: ‘O Khawajah Shams al-Din Panipati! [Give me] something for the sake of Allah,’ is not permissible. In fact, [for many of the common people] they are shirk and kufr. But if someone says: ‘Oh my Lord! Through the intermediary of Khawajah Shams al-Din Panipati, fulfil this need of mine,’ then there is no harm.” (Irshad al-Talibin, p. 18, Mujtaba’i Press, Delhi, 1915; taken fromIkhtilaf e Ummat aur Sirat e Mustaqim, p. 55)

 

8) Shah ‘Abd al-‘Aziz (1159 – 1239 H) said:

“Or isti‘anah is with such a thing that the assumption (tawahhum) of independence will settle in the minds of the idolaters, like isti‘anah of spirits (arwah) or an astronomical spirituality (ruhaniyyat falakiyya) or an elemental spirituality (ruhaniyyat ‘unsuriyya) or of free souls (arwah sa’irah), like Bahwani, Shaykh Sadad and Zayd Khan, and the likes of these. This type [of isti‘anah] is precisely shirkand contrary to the pure [monotheistic] faith.” (Tafsir ‘Azizi; taken from Sabil al-Sadad fi Mas’alat al-Istimdad, p. 40)

9) Shihab al-Din Sayyid Mahmud al-Alusi (d. 1270) said:

إن الناس قد أكثروا من دعاء غير الله تعالى من الأولياء الأحياء منهم والأموات وغيرهم مثل سيدي فلان أغثني وليس ذلك من التوسل المباح في شيء واللائق بحال المؤمن عدم التفوه بذلك وأن لا يحوم حول حماه وقد عده أناس من العلماء شركا وإن لا يكنه فهو قريب منه ولا أرى أحدا ممن يقول ذلك إلا وهو يعتقد أن المدعو الحي الغائب أو الميت المغيب يعلم الغيب أو يسمع النداء ويقدر بالذات أو بالغير على جلب الخير ودفع الأذى وإلا لما دعاه ولا فتح فاه وفي ذلكم بلاء من ربكم عظيم فالحزم التجنب عن ذلك وعدم الطلب إلا من الله تعالى القوي الغني الفعال لما يريد. ومن وقف على سر ما رواه الطبراني في معجمه من أنه كان في زمن النبي صلى الله عليه وسلم منافق يؤذى المؤمنين فقال الصديق رضي الله عنه: قوموا بنا نستغيث برسول الله صلى الله عليه وسلم من هذا المنافق فجاؤوا إليه فقال: إنه لا يستغاث بي إنما يستغاث بالله تعالى لم يشك في أن الاستغاثة بأصحاب القبور – الذين هم بين سعيد شغله نعيمه وتقلبه فى الجنان عن الالتفات إلى ما في هذا العالم وبين شقي ألهاه عذابه وحبسه فى النيران عن إجابة مناديه والإصاخة إلى أهل ناديه – أمر يجب اجتنابه ولا يليق بأرباب العقول ارتكابه؛ ولا يغرنك أن المستغيث بمخلوق قد تقضى حاجته وتنجح طلبته فإن ذلك ابتلاء وفتنة منه عز وجل وقد يتمثل الشيطان للمستغيث في صورة الذى استغاث به فيظن أن ذلك كرامة لمن استغاث به؛ هيهات هيهات! إنما هو شيطان أضله وأغواه

“Indeed the people have increased in calling on other than Allah (Exalted is He), from the saints, the living of them and the dead, and other than them, like: ‘O my master so-and-so! Aid me.’ That is not from the permissible [form of] tawassul at all, and it befits the condition of a believer to avoid saying this and avoid roaming around its boundary. Men from the ‘ulama’ have considered it shirk, and if it is not so, then it is close to it. I have not seen any of those who say this except he believes that the one called, whether an absent living person or a dead person, knows the unseen or hears the call and is able, intrinsically or extrinsically, to bring benefit and repel harm; otherwise he would not call him or open his mouth. In this is a great trial from your Lord! It is obligatory to stay away from that and not seek [help] except from Allah (Exalted is He), the Strong, the Independent, the Doer of what He wills. And whoever comes across the secret of what al-Tabrani narrated in his Mu‘jam that there was in the time of the Prophet (Allah bless him and grant him peace) a hypocrite harming the believers, so al-Siddiq (Allah be pleased with him) said: ‘Come with us, we will seek help from the Messenger of Allah (Allah bless him and grant him peace) against this hypocrite,’ and they came to him and he said: ‘Verily, help is not sought from me, it is sought only from Allah (Exalted is He),’[5] he will not doubt that seeking help from the occupants of graves – who are either fortunate, so his blessings and life in the gardens occupy him from turning to this world, or miserable, so is distracted by his punishment and his imprisonment in the Fire from answering his callers or listening to his people – is a matter which must be avoided and it is unfitting for people of intellect to perpetrate it. Let it not delude you that the one seeking help from creation often has his need fulfilled and his objective accomplished, for indeed that is a trial and a tribulation from Him (Great and Glorious is He). Often the devil takes the form to the one asking help of the one he asked help from, so he believes that is a miracle of the one he asked help from. Far, very far! Indeed, it is only the devil misguiding him and turning him astray.” (Ruh al-Ma‘ani, 6:128-9)

10) Mawlana ‘Abd al-Hayy al-Laknawi (d. 1304 H) wrote regarding the statement, “O Shaykh ‘Abd al-Qadir! [Give me] something for the sake of Allah”:

“Second, such recitation consists of calling on the dead from a distance and it is not established in the Shari‘ah that saints have the power to listen to a call from a distance. However, it is established that the dead hear the salutation of the visitors to their graves. But to believe that anyone beside Allah (Glorified is He) is present and seeing and aware of the hidden and evident at all times is shirk. In Fatawa Bazaziyyah it is written that if one marries without witnesses and says that I make Allah, His Messenger and the angels witnesses, ‘he has disbelieved because he believed that the Messenger and the angel know the unseen, and our ‘ulama’ have said that whoever says that the souls of the saints are present and knowing has disbelieved.’ Although Hazrat Shaykh ‘Abd al-Qadir is one of the great saints of the Muhammadan nation and his merits and virtues are innumerable, but it is not established that he hears the distressed caller from a distance. And the beliefs that he is aware of his disciple’s affairs all the time, and hears their calls, are beliefs of shirk. And Allah knows best.” (Mujmu’ah al-Fatawa, 4:331; extracted from Maqalat Usmani, 2:307)

 

——————————

Footnotes:

[1] Another example of this is what al-Tahawi, Ahmad and others narrated with a hasan chain (according to Shu‘ayb al-Arna’ut) that a man came to the Prophet (peace be upon him) and in conversation said: “What Allah wills and you will.” The Messenger of Allah (Allah bless him and grant him peace) said: “Do you make me an equal with Allah?! Do not [say this], but [say]: What Allah alone wills.” (Sharh Mushkil al-Athar, no. 235) There are many corroborants (shawahid) of this report. Thus, words that are even suggestive of shirk are forbidden.

[2] If the belief is that the person hears from far independently of Allah it is major shirk. And if it is believed he hears from far while always dependent on Allah in this hearing, it is not major shirk, but a corrupt and sinful belief that may lead to kufr.

[3] Like the belief in saints having acquired permanent and independent powers.

[4] In his treatise on istighathah, Mawlana Murtada Hasan Chandpuri (1868 – 1951 CE), showed that this was the case with ‘Abd al-Haqq Muhaddith al-Dihlawi (Sabil al-Sadad fi Mas’alat al-Istimdad, pp. 49-60)

[5] Nur al-Din al-Haythami said of this hadith: “Al-Tabrani narrated it and its men are the men of theSahih besides Ibn Lahi‘ah whose hadiths are hasan.” (Majma‘ al-Zawa’id, Darwish ed. 10:246

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