Mawlana Idris Kandhlawi (1899-1974), a teacher of tafsir at dar al-ulum Deoband who wrote valuable books on aqida like ilm al-kalam wrote a bit on the ruling of those who call others than Allah. He can easibily considered as one of the akaabirin of Deoband.
He says in his tafsir ma’aarif al-qur’an (1/21-24) that there are different types of isti’ana. A short summary of his words:
– Seeking help (isti’ana) from others than Allah is not absolutely forbidden. In some cases it is kufr and shirk, while in some cases it is permissible.
– There is no doubt of the kufr one seeks help with the belief that someone else than Allah is considered a faa’il mustaqill and qaadir bi l-dhat, or with the belief that this is granted by Allah and delegated to him and so, he is now consider qaadir and mukhtaar.
– Or he holds not the belief of something being influencable through mustaqill bi l-dhaat or mustaqill bi l-‘arad, but others have the wahm of his case being istiqlaal, then this type of seeking help is impermissible and haraam. In some cases, there is fear for kufr and shirk.
– In the first case, there is no confusion of the belief being shirk. In the sevcond case, he does not holds the belief of qaadir bi l-dhaat, but he does considered it granted by Allah, and believes Allah has granted to him this qudra and ikhtiyar, which does not fall under human capabilities. He holds the belief of tasarruf, he can distribute it to whoever he wants in whatever way, like a king who has delegated some of his ministers some of his posts, and after this is granted, it is considered mustaqill. In the same way, Allah has granted some ikhtiyarat to his prophets and awliya’ and after being granted by Allah, they are mustaqill and mukhtar. The mushrikeen of Arab held the same belief about their idols and angels.
– In the third case, one holds not the belief of mustaqill bi l-dhat nor mustaqill bi l-‘arad, but he acts the same way like one has the belief of mustaqill bi l-dhat, like performing sajda near the grave, or having vows in his name: this is haram and shirk, but this is not shirk in belief but rather in deed. The one who is guilty of this will not be considered out of the fold of Islam.
– In the fourth case, there is eehaam of being istiqlaal, like when help (madad) is sought through spirituality, even though it is not considered as mustaqill, but since the mushrikeen sought help from the souls with the belief of these soulds being faa’il mustaqill. So seeking help from souls is absolutely haraam. There is no doubt of this act being haraam. There is only hesitation (taraddud) whether this person is considered outside of the fold of Islam. Because of this deed being the manifestation of shirk, so there is strong fear that this person is outside of the fold of Islam.
– Summary of this text is that in the first two cases, it is absolutely kufr and shirk, and the penetrator is considered outside of the fold of Islam. In the last two cases it is absolutely haraam. There is only hesitation whether or not this person will be considered an unbeliever and outside of the fold of Islam. But if help is sought from something, which is from amongst the symbols of the unbelievers and the mushrikeen,then in such a case if a faqeeh or a mufti rules such a person as an unbeliever from the outward, like the person who wears a cross, then there is nothing wrong (mudhaaiqa) with this.