Al-Shihāb al-Thāqib on Saying “Yā Rasūlallāh”


While detailing the differences between Wahhabīs and the Akābir of Deoband, Mawlānā Ḥusayn Aḥmad Madanī (1296 – 1377 H/1879 – 1957 CE) writes:

Likewise, in the matter of calling out (nidā) to the Messenger of Allāh (Allāh bless him and grant him peace), the Wahhābīs make it totally prohibited. These respected ones [i.e. the Akābir of Deoband] make full distinctions, and state that the expression, “yā Rasūlallāh” (upon him peace):

  1. If it emerges in the manner that people call out to their mothers and fathers at the time of calamities and difficulties, without thinking of the meaning, then without doubt it is permissible.
  2. Likewise, if thinking of the meaning, it is said in Durūd Sharīf, then too it will be permissible.
  3. Likewise, if it emerges from one’s overpowering love, intense emotion and overflowing passion, then too it is permissible.
  4. And if it is said with the belief that Allāh (Exalted is He) will, by His grace and generosity, make my call reach Ḥuḍūr Akram (Allāh bless him and grant him peace), although making it reach [him] is not always necessary, but with this hope one uses these words, then there is no harm in this also.
  5. Likewise, those [angels], pure of soul and clean in spirit, for whom distance of location and density of body are not obstacles to making one’s calls reach [the Prophet], in [hopes of] this too, there is no reprehensibility.

However, these last two methods should not be employed before the ‘awāmm (common peope) because, as a result of their lack of understanding, they will be prone to the belief about Ḥuḍūr Akram (Allāh bless him and grant him peace) that, just as all things, visible and non-visible, are not hidden to the Revered Creator (Exalted is His Name), and all things in every place are present, known and heard by Him, in this manner, all things are known to Rasūl Maqbūl (Allāh bless him and grant him peace), and they will begin to consider him ‘Ālim al-Ghayb, while being ‘Ālim al-Ghayb wa l-Shahādah are qualities exclusive to the Revered Creator (Exalted is His Name). To call upon Ḥuḍūr in this manner, that is with the belief that he is aware of the call of every caller, is impermissible.

Wahhabīs do not exclude [only] this scenario, but forbid all types [of calling]. Thus, it was heard from the tongues of the Arab Wahhābīs that they would strongly prohibit “الصلاة والسلام عليك يا رسول الله”, and would strongly revile the people of the two Ḥarams for this call and address, and would mock them, and would use inappropriate words, while our respected elders of religion regard this form and all forms of Durūd Sharīf, even if it is in the form of a call and address, as good and desirable, and they instruct their associates thus. They have described these distinctions in various writings and fatwās. Thus, they are described in detail in Barāhīn Qāṭi‘ah… (al-Shihāb al-Thāqib, p. 243-4)

Mawlānā Ẓafar Aḥmad al-‘Uthmānī (1310 – 1394 H/1892 – 1974 CE) provides a similar explanation as follows:

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

  1. Seeking help from someone besides Allāh, whoever he may be, with the belief that he has intrinsic power.

 

  1. It is not believed that he has intrinsic power, but that Allāh gave him this power, and after acquiring the power from Allāh, he has become independent and self-sustaining, and can do whatever he wants.

 

  1. It is believed he is only a tool and means, and that only Allāh (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/in the Sharī‘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.”

 

  1. In extraordinary matters (which are not included in the power of people ordinarily/in the Shar‘iah and are not counted as his actions), one seeks help. For example, one says: “O guide! Grant me children.”

 

  1. Seeking help in acquiring spiritual benefit from a certain saint or prophet after death.

 

  1. 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.

 

  1. Doing tawassul through a prophet or saint in ordinary or extraordinary matters when making du‘a [to Allah]; or requesting their du‘ā’ and intercession.

 

  1. 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 Allāh (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 Allāh:

  1. Calling a living person that is close by.

 

  1. 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].

 

  1. Or the belief is that he can hear from afar.

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.

 

  1. Calling him from afar, but the objective is not to call, but occurs merely due to an outburst of love and longing.

 

  1. The belief is that he hears from afar.

 

  1. Or one calls from afar 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‘ā’, 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‘ānah 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 [1], and the fourth form is permissible with the condition that the vocative case is transmitted in some verses or hadiths, like in tashahhud, “Peace be on you, O prophet,” is mentioned in the vocative case. (Maqālāt Usmānī, 2:286-8)

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

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