[Following is a translation of a letter of ‘Allamah Shah Isma’il Shahid to Mulla Sayyid ‘Abd Allah al-Baghdadi. Mulla Baghdadi wrote a letter to ‘Allamah Shahid while he was in Kanpur asking for clarification on certain points. ‘Allamah Shahid sent his reply to Delhi. Mulla Baghdadi read out this letter to Mawlana Muhmmad Ya’qub Dahlawi [brother of ‘Allamah Muhaddith Shah Ishaq Dahlawi] because he lived at his madrassah. Some of those present in the gathering made a copy of this letter.]
Translated by Zameelur Rahman
[‘Allamah Shahid writes]
“We praise the One Who is in unique in [the quality of] beginninglessness, for all things that is besides Him was preceded by nonexistence. He has no partner in creation and administration. There is no volition for anyone in His dominion to [the extent of] a speck (naqir) and the membrane of a date stone (qitmir), so even the prophets do not intercede except after His permission. And there is no salvation for anyone except by His grace and His favor. And we send blessings on the best of creatures, the intercessor of nations, were it not for whom the world would not have been brought out of nonexistence, and the one who taught us the proofs of divine oneness and Islam, and brought us out of the darkness of idolatry and the worship of idols; and on his progeny, and his companions and on the one who helps his religion and loves him.
The person who ascended the stairways of Islam, the offspring of the beloved Jaylani Sayyid, Sayyid ‘Abd Allah al-Baghdadi, the learned scholar, has [my] special greeting and salutation.
It is not hidden to you that when I saw the common Muslims of India were immersed – due to their ignorance – in idolatry and innovations (bid‘at), and they adhered to flimsy doubts, and they began to worship graves and their inhabitants, and asked their needs from them – the small of them and the big of them – I composed a treatise in refutation of associating [partners] with Allah, and I adduced 26 verses from the speech of Allah as proof, and I translated them into Hindi [Urdu], in order to make it easy for them to benefit [from it] and to uncover the veil from the ugliness of their supports and their proofs; thus, with praise to Allah, thousands of women and men were guided; and none hesitated therein except some obstinate ignoramuses. It has reached me that this treatise was read before you, and you said: “[This is all] true except making idols and all people and prophets equal in the chapter of createdness and non-volition, which although true and part of faith, it is a form of disrespect that must have support or proof, because an idol is impure so how can it be mentioned along with the master of the pure ones (Allah bless him and grant him peace)?”
I say, and accordance is from Allah:
This passage occurs in my treatise in refutation of the doubt of the commoners, since they say: “Seeking help and worship and prostration are only banned for idols, not the noble prophets and great saints,” so I said: “True seeking of help (al-isti‘anah al-haqiqiyyah) is not permissible according to the intellect except from the one who has volition in the administration of the cosmos, and it is established in decisive Qur’anic texts that there is no volition for other than Allah. So in this particular matter, I mean of deserving prostration and sending down rain and giving children, there is no preference of prophets and saints over idols and all people. As for the nearness of the Prophets in Allah’s presence (Exalted is He) and their perfections and virtues – to the pavilions of which other than them do not reach – [this is] accepted, and it is another matter which has no bearing on lordliness and divinity.”
It is extremely strange from your respected self that you conceded that this matter is true and part of faith, and then you said that it is disrespect. Would that I knew! When a matter is established from the proofs and included in faith, how can it be conceived that it is disrespect? So your speech indicates towards a combination of two opposites. And proof is sought for that which is established by proof, while this matter is established in general in the Qur’an, so what harm is there in elaborating the generality? Despite this, indeed Allah (Exalted is He) said to His Prophet (Allah bless him and grant him peace) in the Qur’an: “Say: Verily, I am only a man like you; it is revealed to me that your God is only One God.” (Qur’an 18:110). And it is not hidden that those addressed by his saying: “Verily, I am only a man like you” were idolaters. Thus, [it may be asked:] why did Allah (Exalted is He) liken – in terms of humanity – His Prophet to the idolaters whose impurity is established in the Qur’an where Allah (Exalted is He) said: “Verily, the idolaters are only filth, so they must not come near the Sacred Mosque” (Qur’an 9:28)? While, idols, from the perspective that they are stones and inanimate objects, there is no impurity in them, for otherwise it would imply all stones are impure. The impurity in them is a result of the idolaters who fashioned them and assigned them as objects of worship. Thus, the idolaters are filthier than the idols. So, understand and deliberate! If it is said: “Although this matter is established, but what is the need to mention it?” I say: The need to mention it is to refute the commoners since they claim that the prophets and saints freely dispose (yata-sarrifun) in the world, doing whatever they wish.
[Having said] this, it has been proven to me that the Punjabi man is whispering to you, but dear shaykh, you are unaware of his condition, for indeed he is a man with a disordered intellect, defective senses, stupid, and ignorant, and claims for himself that he an experienced learned scholar, [yet he] does not know the right from left, since he is in reality a deputy of Dajjal; because sometimes he says I am slave (‘abd) of Mahbub Subhani and sometimes he says that ‘Abd al-Qadir is the Sustainer (al-raziq) – we seek protection from Allah from these heretical words which the ignorant do not allow let alone the scholars. Thus, it is asked from your esteemed presence to not assent to his speech regarding my affair because he is a deceptive man – may Allah guide him to the Straight Path, and keep us and you firm on His upright religion, and may Allah send blessing on our master and our leader and our intercessor, Muhammad, the Chosen One, and on his family, the suns of guidance, and his companions, the full-moon in the darkness.”
This letter was completed when I was residing in Kanpur in the year 1240 to Sayyid al-Baghdadi when the ignoramuses whispered to him. Then after reading this letter of mine, he came to me remorsefully, and he said: “I agreed with what was composed in your treatise, and what I said concerning you was due [only] to not grasping your speech, because your speech in your treatise was in Urdu, and I am an Arab, and do not understanding Urdu, and the Punjabi man had concocted [lies] against you and made many errors in translation, so do not be angry.”
(Taqwiyat al-Iman ma’ Tazkir al-Ikhwan, p.392-398)