The third accusation Mawlana Nu’mani addresses in his book (pp. 56-69) is the accusation that Shah Isma’il considered the prophets and angels, and in particular the Prophet (sallallahu ‘alayhi wasallam), to be lower than a cobbler. A summary of his reply is as follows:
The passage this is in reference to is the following:
After quoting the verse, “when Luqman said to his son while he admonished him: O my son! do not associate aught with Allah; most surely polytheism is a grievous injustice” (31:13), Shah Isma’il stated in Taqwiyat al-Iman:
ya’ni Allah ta’ala neh Luqman ko ‘aql mandi di thi; so unho neh is se sumjha ke be insafi yehi he keh kesi ka haq kesi ko pukra dena; aur jisne Allah ka haq is ki makhluq ko diya to bure se bure ka haq zalil se zalil ko de diya; jese badshah ka taj ek chamar ke sur pur rukhe de jie is se bure be insafi kiya hogi? Aur yeh yaqin jan lena chahiye keh hurr makhluq bura ho ya chota ho woh Allah ki shan ke age chamar se bhi zalil he
Translation: “Meaning, Allah gave Luqman wisdom, so he understood that injustice is one taking the right of another, and the one who gives Allah’s right to creation, he has given the right of the greatest of greatest to the lowest of lowest, just like the one who puts the crown of a king on a cobbler. What is more unjust than this? This should be held with certainty that all creation, great or small, before the greatness of Allah, is less than even a cobbler.”
Mawlana Nu’mani first mentions that it should be noted that no prophet or saint is mentioned in this sentence nor are they mentioned as groups, rather it was made in a general way (“all creation, great or small, before the greatness of Allah, is less than even a cobbler”). He then says in many cases a summary statement and a specific statement are very different; e.g. the Qur’an says human beings are created from a despicable fluid, but although prophets are included in this statement, it would not be appropriate to specify them in this ruling.
The passage is about the great divide between the Creator and creation, not about the ranks amongst creation. The basic gist of what he said is just as a cobbler is lower than a king in greatness so it would be a great injustice to put his crown on him, all creation is much lower compared to the greatness of Allah than a cobbler is to a king; and this is undeniably true.
It is narrated in a hadith from Sahih al-Bukhari that Khidr said to Musa (‘alayhi al-salam): “My knowledge and your knowledge with respect to the knowledge of Allah is not but as [much as] this sparrow took from the ocean in its beak.” Can it now be said Khidr compared the knowledge of Musa to the water a sparrow carries in its beak?
In sum, Mawlana Nu’mani says, to belittle the prophets and saints is clear disbelief, but to consider them small in relation to Allah is a requirement of faith. ‘Allamah Zurqani says precisely this in Sharh al-Mawahib al-Ladunniyyah on the definition of tasawwuf:
“It is stripping away the heart for Allah [alone] and considering all besides Him insignificant in relation to His greatness (Glorious is He), for otherwise belittling the like of a prophet is disbelief.”
هو تجريد القلب لله واحتقار ما سواه بالنسبة لعظمته سبحانه وإلا فإحقار نحو نبي كفر
This statement from Taqwiyat al-Iman was only to demonstrate the enormity of shirk, that it is giving what is the right of the utmost greatest being to something that is completely insignificant in comparison to Him. Mawlana Nu’mani mentions that the mistake of the innovators who throw this accusation at Shah Isma’il is twofold: 1. to not distinguish between a summary-statement (ijmali) and a detailed/specific one (tafsili); and 2. to not distinguish between insignificance in the presence of Allah and in comparison to Allah.
Next, he quotes several statements from the ‘ulama and Sufis of the past who made similar statements to that in question from Taqwiyat al-Iman. The last one he quoted is cited and translated below from Imam ‘Abd al-Qadir al-Jilani’s Futuh al-Ghayb, and he asks, should the fatwa of kufr be placed on him as he considers all creation – from whom are the prophets and angels – as insignificant – in comparison to Allah – as a man crucified to a tree?!
“Consider all of creation like a man whose hands are tied behind his back by a sultan whose kingdom is immense, his condition is severe and his power and control is terrifying; and then he puts chains around his neck and legs, and he crucifies him to a large tree to the side of a sea which’s waves are immense, its width is vast, its depth is deep, and its flow is harsh; then the sultan sits on his stool which’s stature is immense, its firnament is high, and its reach is far; and he leaves to his side bundles of arrows and spears and various kinds of weapons and bows and from that which’s vastness is not comprehended except by him; and he begins to throw at the crucified person whatever he wishes from those weapons. Would it be regarded as praiseworthy for the one who sees this to not look to the sultan and fear him and have hope in him, and [instead] look to the one who is crucified and fear him and hope in him? Is not the one who does this called in the decree of the mind an insane and senseless madman, and an unhuman animal?” (Futuh al-Ghayb)
اجعل الخليقة أجمع كرجل كَتَّفَهُ سلطان عظيم ملكه شديد أمره, مهولة صولته وسطوته, ثم جعل الغل في رقبته ورجليه, ثم صلبه على شجرة الأرزة، على شاطىء نهر عظيم موجه, فسيح عرضه, عميق غوره, شديد جريه, ثم جلس السلطان على كرسيه, عظيم قدره, عال سماؤه, بعيد مرامه ووصوله, وترك إلى جنبه أحمالاً من السهام والرماح والنبل وأنواع السلاح والقسى ومما لا يبلغ قدرها غيره, فجعل يرمي إلى المصلوب بما شاء من ذلك السلاح, فهل يحسن لمن يرى ذلك أن يترك النظر إلى السلطان والخوف منه والرجاء له وينظر إلى المصلوب ويخاف منه ويرجوه, أليس من فعل ذلك يسمى في قضية العقل عديم العقل والحس مجنونا. بهيمة غير إنسان؟