Barelwi ulama attempt to avert difficult accusations of shirk by using the ‘ata’i (God-given) excuse.* A common person would tire himself finding the root of such belief. If we do find a trace of this belief in history then surely it will be among the pagan mushrikin Arabs who would declare belief in one supreme god, along with tens of other gods by way of ‘ata (God-given powers). The Noble Qur’an called this belief shirk.
(Extracted from Mutala‘a Barelwiyyat V.5 Pg.161, Dr Allama Khalid Mahmood)
* Aḥmad Riḍā Khān for example states: “Allāh Ta‘ālā is the ‘intrinsic assister’ (bizzāt madadgār) and this characteristic does not belong to any other. The Messenger and Awliyā of Allāh are assisters via Allāh giving them the power. All praise to Allāh!…Allāh Subḥānahū intrinsically waives harm while the Prophets and Awliyā (upon them blessing and praise) by God’s bestowal [waive harm].” (al-Amn wa l-‘Ulā, Fayḍān e Madīnah Publications, p. 125)
He further states: “Allāh’s deputy [i.e. Rasūlullāh ṣallallāhu ‘alayhi wasallam], on Allāh’s behalf, has the authority of complete discretion (taṣarruf) in Allāh’s kingdom.” (ibid. p. 136)
He states further: “The entire workshop of taking and giving from the Divine Court are in the hands of Muḥammad Rasūlullāh ṣallallāhu ‘alayhi wasallam.” (ibid. 102)
He describes the “keys the Owner of the Kingdom, the King of Kings, the All-Powerful, Jalla Jalāluhu, gave to his greatest deputy and most eminent representative ṣallallāhu ‘alayhi wasallam: keys to treasures, keys to the earth, keys to the world, keys of aid, keys of benefit, keys of paradise, keys of hellfire, keys of everything.” (ibid. 142-3)
How does he get around this belief amounting to shirk? He says: “When it is accepted that [the powers] are God-given, what is the meaning of shirk?” (ibid. p. 72)
Describing this Barelwī belief, Amjad ‘Alī A‘ẓamī (1882 – 1948), one of Aḥmad Riḍā Khān’s closest disciples and successors, wrote while describing “true Islāmic beliefs” (this being the 50th belief regarding nubuwwah): “Ḥuḍūr Aqdas (Allāh bless him and give him peace) is the absolute deputy of Allah ‘azza wa jall. The entire universe has been put under the control (taṣarruf) of Ḥuḍūr. He may do as he desires, give to whomsoever he wishes, take from anyone whatever he desires. None in the universe can turn back his rulings. The entire universe is under his governance and he is under the authority of none except Allāh. He is the owner (mālik) of all humans. Anyone who does not accept him to be his owner (mālik) remains devoid of the sweetness of the Sunnah. All the earth is his property. The entire paradise is his estate. The kingdom of earth and the sky are under Ḥuḍūr’s command. The keys to paradise and hell have been given to him in his holy hand. Sustenance, goodness and other types of blessings are distributed from his noble office. This world and the hereafter is a portion of his blessings. The rulings of Shari‘ah have been delegated to his authority. He may make impermissible (ḥarām) for anyone whatever he decides. Similarly, he may make permissible (ḥalāl) whatever he wishes and exempt whatever obligation (farḍ) he desires.” (Bahār e Sharī‘at, p. 42-3)
For a thorough refutation of such false belief, see Dil Kā Surūr (written in 1951) of Mawlānā Sarfrāz Khān Safdar.