Shāh Waliyyullāh Dehlawī: Asking Needs (Istighāthah) from the Dead is Impermissible and Kufr


Shāh Waliyullāh Dehlawī (1703 – 1762) states:

Realise that asking needs from the dead, [even] while recognising that this is a means to having it fulfilled, is kufr. It must be avoided. This kalimah (i.e. the shahādah) forbids it, and yet people today are engrossed in it.” (al-Khayr al-Kathīr, al-Majlis al-‘Ilmī, p. 105)

Note that while he considers it kufr, this does not necessarily mean he will make takfīr of individuals/people engaged in it, as kufr can be averted based on ignorance or ta’wīl. The reason this is kufr is it apparently ascribes powers of an immaterial nature to other than Allāh, while such powers are exclusive to Him.*

Shāh Waliyyullāh further says:

All who go to the city of Ajmer or the grave of Sālār Mas‘ūd or anything similar to them for the purpose of a need he requests [from them], he has committed a sin graver than murder and adultery. He has no likeness but the likeness of one who worships creatures or the likeness of those who would call Lāt and ‘Uzzā, although we do not make explicit takfīr [of an individual] due to the absence of a text from the lawgiver on this specific matter [and thus ta’wīl being possible]. Everyone who specifies life in the deceased and requests needs from him his heart is sinful.” (Al-Tafhīmāt al-Ilāhiyyah, al-Majlis al-‘Ilmī, 2:45)

He also says:

“Further, the definition of shirk with Allāh in worship is to glorify other than Allāh seeking thereby to get near to Allāh (Exalted is He) and salvation in the next life. Amongst the greatest illnesses of this time of ours is their worship of their shuyūkh, whether living, or of their graves when dead. The ignorant copy the disbelievers of India in worshipping their idols in their practices.  The definition of shirk with Allāh in seeking help is to seek one’s need from another while believing he has the power to accomplish it by applying a powerful will, like curing the sick, giving life and death, giving provision and creating a child, and other things that are included within the Names of Allāh (Exalted is He). The definition of shirk with Allāh in calling out is to mention other than Allāh (Glorified is He) while believing this action of his will benefit him in his afterlife or in coming closer to Allāh, just as they mention their shuyūkh when waking up in the morning.” (Al-Tafhīmāt al-Ilāhiyyah, al-Majlis al-‘Ilmī, 2:63-4)

Shāh Waliyyullāh explains in a statement of ‘aqīdah:

“[Allāh] has no partner in the necessity of existence nor in deserving worship nor in creation and administration. None deserves worship, i.e. the furthest extent of glorification, besides Him. None heals the sick, provides provision and alleviates harm besides Him, in the sense of saying to a thing Kun and it happens, not in the sense of outward ordinary causation as is said: ‘The doctor healed the sick person’, ‘the commander provided the army’…” (al-Tafhīmāt al-Ilāhiyyah, al-Majlis al-‘Ilmī, 1:144-5)

Shāh Waliyyullāh makes the same point in his well-known work Ḥujjatullāh al-Bālighah (Dārul Jīl, 1:117):

It is fine to take material assistance within the material world Allāh has created, or from what we learn via revelation is available for assistance. Outside of this, any event/help is from kharq al-‘ādāt (breaking of the norm) which is exclusively the activity of Allāh (even if apparently done on the hand of a creature), so none besides Him is to be asked for them. See Rāh e Hidāyat of Mawlānā Sarfrāz Khān Ṣafdar for more detail.

Shāh Waliyyullāh also says in Ḥujjatullāh al-Bālighah:

“This concept [i.e. shirk] has various embodiments and forms, and the divine law only discusses embodiments and forms of it which the people practice with the intention of shirk, so that they become anticipated sources (maẓinnah) of shirk and customarily inseparable from it. This is similar to the practice of the divine law in establishing the causes that entail good or evil actions as being tantamount to those acts themselves. We want to alert you to those things which Allāh, may He be Exalted, has made anticipated sources (maẓinnāt) of shirk in the divine law brought by Muḥammad, may there be peace and blessings upon the one who brought it, so that he forbade them…Among them is that they used to request assistance (yasta’īnuna) with their needs (fi ḥawā’ijihim) such as in curing the sick and meeting the needs of the poor, from other than Allāh. They would make vows to them expecting the accomplishment of their purposes through these vows, and they would recite their names, hoping for their blessing. Therefore, Allāh, may He be Exalted, made incumbent upon them that they say during their prayers: ‘You alone do we worship, You alone do we seek for help’ (Qur’ān, 1:4).” (Ḥujjatullāh al-Bālighah, Dārul Jīl, 1:120)

Recall also that one of Shāh Waliyyullāh’s prominent students Qāḍī Thanā’ullāh Pānipatī also condemned istighāthah, as documented here.

Barelwīs who assert that such teachings and such opposition to istighāthah originated in India with Shāh Ismā‘īl Shahīd are, as usual, lying.

* Mawlānā Idrīs Kāndhlewī explains this as follows: “The fourth scenario is when in asking for help from other [than Allah], it is suggestive of the independence of this [entity] other [than Allah], like asking help from spirits. Even though this person does not believe them to be independent, nonetheless, since the idolaters ask help from the spirits believing them to be independent, this is why asking help from spirits is absolutely haram. There is no doubt over it being haram. The doubt is whether this person will come out of the fold of Islam or not? Since this action is a complete manifestation of shirk, this is why there is strong fear of him coming out of the sphere of Islam.” (source)

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