Ruling on seeking help from the Creation

April 25, 2012

Compiled by Saad Khan

Allah Most High says in the Qur’an,

“You alone do we worship, and from You alone do we seek aid.” (Al-Fatihah, 5)

‘Allamah Husayn bin Mas’ud Baghawi al-Shafi’i (d.516 AH) writes in the commentary of this verse, “We seek assistance from You in Your ‘ibadah (worship) and in all of our affairs. If it is said, ‘Why was ‘ibadah mentioned before isti’anah (beseeching for help) even though help is sought before ‘ibadah?’ By this those who believe ability (istita’ah) occurs before an action are defeated. But we, by the grace of Allah, believe accordance and seeking help (isti’anah) occur simultaneously with an action, so there is no difference between placing [isti’anah] before and placing [it] after [‘ibadah]. It was [also] said: Isti’anah is a type of ‘ibadah, so it is as though ‘ibadah as a whole was mentioned first, and then one of its particular types [i.e. isti’anah] was mentioned.” (Ma’alim al-Tanzil, 1:53)

Therefore it can be seen that istighathah/isti’anah is a form of worship.

Verdicts on seeking aid from the creation:

[1] The author of the well-known work I’la’ al-Sunan, `Allamah Zafar Ahmad ‘Uthmani (d.1394 AH), has discussed the issue of istighathah in detail in his treatise Al-Irshad fi Mas’alah al-Istimdad. He has divided istighathah into several categories for a better and a clearer understanding. The summary of which is:

[a] To call a prophet or a saint (dead or alive) from nearby or at their grave.

[b] To call them from a distant place when the purpose is not to address them directly, such as when their name is called out due to overwhelming [emotion and] rapture of their love [as sometimes done in poetry].

[c] To call them [with the intention of addressing them] and with the belief that they can hear from far.

[d] To call them in their absence, not to address them, [seek aid from them] or due to overwhelming rapture [emotion], but rather as a recitation of a supplication (du’a) which contains their name as being addressed (ba sighah al-nida’).

[The ruling on the above mentioned points:]

[a] It is permissible according to the agreement of the research scholars (muhaqqiqin). This is provided that isti’anat (help) being sought is not haram, [such as] asking those alive for things that are considered umur ghayr `adiyyah[1] (those things that are `adatan -according to natural disposition – or shar’an – as per Shari’ah – outside the power (qudrah) of humans and are not considered their actions – [also referred to as ma fawq al-asbab]) like saying, ‘O shaykh, give me children’.

Or to ask those in the grave for things that are either umur ghayr `adiyyah or things that are considered umur `adiyyah (those things are that `adatan or shar’an within the power of humans and are considered their actions – [also referred to as ma taht al-asbab]) but become umur ghayr `adiyyah after death, like asking for help in a trial, or asking for sustenance, children, rain, cure from disease, etc.

[b] It is permissible.

[c] It is shirk.

[d] It is permissible provided that this supplication (du’a) is present in the Qur’an or hadith, like in tashahhud where `al-salamu `alayka ayyuhannabiy’ is reported with sighah al-khitab. (For more see: Maqalat ‘Uthmani, 2:287-288)

[2] Shaykh ‘Abd al-Fattah Abu Ghuddah al-Halabi (d.1417 AH) was falsely attributed with having supported istighathah. He clarified his stance by stating, “I, by the grace and guidance of Allah Most High, His favor and help, did not commit any of the matter which they [falsely] claimed. I subscribe to that which the great scholars and pious predecessors [have already] determined in the past, like Imam Ahmad and other imams (may Allah have mercy on them) who said: ‘It is unlawful to seek aid (istighathah) from the creation; it is impermissible to seek aid from anyone other than Allah in matters which are not in the power (qudrah) of anyone except Allah’. [Thus] I acted upon the clear texts [which] prevailed in the Qur’an and Sunnah of the Messenger (Allah bless him and give him peace). I have no need to provide the texts here, since my purpose here is not to prove and provide evidence for this, but to expose slander and oppression.” (Kashf al-Abatil, p.36)

It is clear from the above statement of Shaykh ‘Abd al-Fattah that to seek aid above the means (ma fawq al-asbab) is not permissible under any condition, and he attributes this principle to Imam Ahmad bin Hanbal.

[3] Imam Muhammad bin Pir ‘Ali al-Birgivi al-Hanafi (d.981 AH), the famous Ottoman scholar and author of Tariqah al-Muhammadiyyah, writes in Ziyarat al-Qubur while discussing visitations to graves that are not deemed permissible according to the  Shari’ah, “Visiting graves to offer prayers by them, circumambulate them, kiss them, brush up against them, rub cheeks on them; take their dust, supplicate to their occupants, seek their aid (isti’anah), ask from them help, sustenance, well being, children, fulfillment of debts, removal of difficulties, help with sorrows and other needs which the worshippers of idols used to ask their idols – none of this is sanctioned in Shari’ah according to the consensus of the imams of Muslims, because neither the Messenger of Allah (Allah bless him and grant him peace) did this nor did any of the Companions and Followers and the imams of the faith did this. Rather, the basis of this heretical (bid’ati), polytheistic visit has been derived from the worshippers of statues.” (Ziyarat al-Qubur, p.18)

He further writes while responding to one of the arguments used by the proponents of istighathah and describing how Satan deceives them, “There are stories narrated by them about the people in graves: A man performed istighathah to a certain grave in intensity, so he came out of it [i.e. came out of his difficulty]. Another person called the dead person or supplicated to him in need, so his need was fulfilled. Likewise, a person was afflicted with a trouble, so he beseeched a certain dead person in the grave, and his trouble was removed. These priests and grave-worshippers have many such incidents to report; if we mention all of them, the chain will be too long. They are the worst liars of Allah’s creatures from the living and the dead. They are bent to fulfilling their needs and removing their harms, so when they hear that the grave of a person is an antidote they tend to it and the Satan acts gently to invite them. Satan first invites the person to pray near it. Thus, the person prays there with earnestness and humbleness and Allah accepts his prayers due to his humbleness, and devotion and not because of the grave. Had he called Allah in a bar, wine shop, bathroom or a market, Allah would have responded to his call. As a result, the ignorant has a false impression that the grave has some effect in the acceptance of the prayers. And Allah accepts the prayers of the helpless even if he is a disbeliever (kafir). Therefore, it is not necessary that Allah is pleased with the one whose prayers are responded to or He loves him or He approves of his actions, as Allah accepts the prayers of the righteous and the dissolute and of the believer and disbeliever.” (Ziyarat al-Qubur, p.31-32)

 [4] ‘Allamah Taqi al-Din Subki (d.756 AH) writes, “This [i.e. hasr (restriction)] only appears in [the verse]: ‘You alone we worship, and You alone we ask for help’ because of the certainty that none is [rightfully] worshipped except Allah, and help is sought from none save Him.” (Fatawa al-Subki, 1:13)

[5] Imam Shah Waliullah Muhaddith Dahlawi (d.1174 AH) has at length refuted the practice of seeking aid from the dead. He writes regarding those people who visit the graves of the saints in order to present their needs, “Tafhim (Instruction): Anyone who goes to the town of Ajmer [to the grave of Khawaja Mu’in al-Din Chishti] or to the grave of Shaykh Salar Mas’ud Ghazi (may Allah have mercy on them), or to any such place, in order to ask [them] for his needs (hajat), [his going] is indeed a sin more grievous than murder and adultery. He is not but like those who worship the creation or like those who call on Lat[2] and ‘Uzza [for help]. However, we do not [explicitly] declare disbelief [upon him] due to the absence of a text from the Lawgiver in this specific matter. Anyone who assigns life to the dead and requests his needs from them, ‘his heart is surely sinful’ (Qur’an, 2:283), and [this act] is included in His statement (Exalted is He), ‘that is iniquity’ (Qur’an, 5:3).” (Tafhimat al-Ilahiyyah, 2:45)

Shah Waliullah writes at another place, “Some of them [Mushrikin] believe that Allah alone is Noble and the Master, and He alone has influence over the world, but [they also believe that] sometimes He grants some servants the garment of highness and majesty and provides them with power and discretion (tasarruf) in certain matters of the world, just like the emperors give some of their slaves the robe of ruling and set them as rulers of some parts of their empires… And this is the illness of the majority of the Jews and Christians, and the idolaters, and some of the extremists of the hypocrites of the religion of Muhammad (Allah bless him and give him peace) in today’s time.” (Al-Budur al-Bazighah, p.123-124)

‘Allamah Muhammad Sarfaraz Khan Safdar writes in Tanqid-i-Matin bar Tafsir Na’im al-Din, p.27, that from the above quote of Shah Waliullah it becomes clear that the polytheists used to seek help from entities other than Allah, even though they did not seek their help considering them as independent, rather they considered them phenomena (mazhar) of Allah’s help and aid. And this is the reality of polytheism; there is no polytheist in the world who believes that anyone besides Allah is the real helper in the sense of considering him ‘necessary per se and an independent source of power. Instead the polytheists used to seek help [from other entities] under the gifted power [which they believe was gifted to them by Allah].

Shah Waliullah writes while explaining the principles of religion, “Besides, the rejection of polytheism in relation to Him in worship, in seeking aid, in remembrance, in sacrifice, and in vows and oaths is among the principles of this religion.” (Al-Budur al-Bazighah, p.251)

And he writes while distinguishing between various types of hypocrites, “People who have been prevailed upon by paralogism [their bad knowledge about Allah]… are like the hypocrites of the Muslim community. They follow the religion of Islam and conceal in their hearts others who they associate with Allah in their worship, as in their asking others besides Allah for help (isti’anah). They have thought that the pleasure of God is confined to the pleasure of His worshipping devotees.” (Al-Budur al-Bazighah, p.202)

The clever amongst those who propagate seeking aid from the dead say, ‘when we ask the dead for help, we merely use them as a means; it is no different from taking medicine when sick’. Shah Waliullah Muhaddith Dahlawi refutes their deception by stating, “And you should know that seeking to fulfill needs (hajat) through the dead with the belief that they are [merely] a means to fulfillment is disbelief (kufr) which must be avoided; the Kalimah Shahadah regards it as prohibited, but nowadays people are excessively involved in these things.” (Al-Khayr al-Kathir, p.105)

Shah Waliullah writes in Al-Qawl al-Jamil, p.46 – a book on the Sufi practices of the four major tariqahs of tasawwuf, “Explanation of Major Sin: Among the major sins is ascribing partners with Allah in worship and in seeking aid [in a matter that is not established by the natural means (asbab) or established in the Shari‘ah] for livelihood, cure, and other such things. And an indication to repent from these two [ascribing partners in worship and in seeking aid] is His utterance (Exalted be He) ‘It is You we worship and You we ask for help’ (verse five of Surah Fatihah).”

[6] Shaykh Khurram ‘Ali al-Balhuri[3] (d.1271 AH) writes while commenting on the above quote of Shah Waliullah from Al-Qawl al-Jamil, “Mawlana [Shah ‘Abd al-‘Aziz Dahlawi ] wrote in the footnote of this book [i.e. Al-Qawl al-Jamil] that it is common in our age to seek aid in acquiring livelihood and cure through graves and the dead.

The translator [Shaykh Khurram ‘Ali] says that ‘ascribing partners in worship’ is to perform practices to other than Allah which were specifically meant for Allah or the House of Allah. These include fasting [in the name of] Sayyiduna ‘Ali al-Murtada (may Allah be pleased with him), or prostrating to someone, or calling someone other than Allah with a name of Allah, or circumambulating around graves just like the tawaf of Ka’bah. As far as the indication of repenting from ascribing partners in worship and in seeking aid (as in verse five of Surah Fatihah) is concerned, it is because advancing the maf’ul (object) on the fi’l (verb) is useful in creating emphasis and stress, i.e. “You alone [and only You] do we worship, and from You alone [and only You] do we seek help”. So, when worship and isti’anah (seeking aid) have been established to be exclusive for Allah, it is absolutely unlawful to worship ghayrullah or to seek aid, ask for livelihood or cure, etc. from them. The reason for specifying worship is obvious. As for the reason for specifying isti’anah, it is that helping depends on three qualities: [1] knowledge (‘ilm), [2] power (qudrah) and [3] mercy (rahmah). [The reason for knowledge] is that one who is unaware of the other’s needs, how can he help him? And if he has the knowledge, but does not have the power, then how can he assist his needs? And if knowledge and power both are present, but he does not have mercy and compassion, then why would he help the needy one? So, these three qualities are exclusive to Allah alone, who is All-Knowing, All-Powerful and Very Merciful; therefore seeking aid from other than Allah is unlawful. Some grave-worshipers say that Allah has bestowed knowledge and power to awliya’ so seeking aid will not be prohibited from them. The response to them is that if they are truthful in their claim, they should prove from the Qur’an or Hadith or Ijma‘ (consensus) of the Ummah that the awliya‘ have such vast knowledge that the far and near as well as the ghayb (unseen) and shahadah (seen) are equal for them, and in every moment [these awliya‘] are aware of the needs of the entire world and have the power to remove their troubles. But this is absolutely impossible to establish. Therefore, their unfounded notions are not worth paying any attention. May Allah grant us through His generosity correct understanding and protect us from misguidance and misunderstanding. Amin!” (Shifa’ al-‘Alil, p.46-47)

[7] Imam Rabbani Mawlana Rashid Ahmad Gangohi (d.1323 AH) writes while discussing the issue of seeking aid from the prophets and saints with the belief that they are merely a means (sabab), “Although it seems the fulfillment of needs is through instruments, to supplicate and seek aid from the instruments is shirk. This is because leaving the Powerful Creator and seeking aid from an instrument is not free from the resemblance of shirk. Supplicating and calling is something else as it requires the one being called to have knowledge and discretion (tasarruf), while being a means is something else because it indicates that it is a medium and accepted before Allah, and there is a vast difference between the two! For example, the sun provides light, but seeking light from the sun is shirk.” (Rasai’il Rashidiyyah, p.93)

[8] ‘Allamah Mansur ibn Yunus al-Bahuti[4] (d.1051 AH) in Kashaf al-Qina’, 5:145, and ‘Allamah Mustafa Suyuti al-Rahbani (d.1243 AH) in Matalib Uli al-Nuha Sharh Ghayat al-Muntaha in the chapter ‘Ruling of the Apostate’ have also refuted this notion of using the dead as intermediaries for seeking aid. They state, “The Shaykh said: [The ruling of apostasy is given towards one who] has an aversion towards the Messenger or what he came with, according to consensus. He added: [This ruling also applies if] he took intermediaries between himself and Allah, relying on them and supplicating to them, according to consensus. [Such belief] is infidelity (kufr) since it resembles the acts of the idolaters who say: ‘We worship them for no other reason but because they would bring us near to Allah’.”

[9] Imam Shah `Abd al-`Aziz Muhaddith Dahlawi (d.1239 AH), the son of Shah Waliullah, while discussing the permissible and impermissible types of istimdad at the grave, writes, “Seeking help is of two types. Firstly, a creation (makhluq) seeks help from another created being, like servants and beggars asking the rich and the kings for help in their needs. [This is permissible when the ones being asked are alive, since after death this ability is beyond their means – as was explained above and will be explained later]. And [as for the] general public, requesting the saints to pray to Allah regarding their needs – this type of request is allowed in Shari’ah, be it from the dead or those who are alive.

He continues:

“Secondly, to request the creation for matters which are permanently exclusive to Allah – like giving children or sending rain or curing diseases or increasing the lifespan and other similar things which are invoked and asked only from Allah, this type [of istimdad] is not only absolute haram, but rather disbelief (kufr). And if anyone from among the Muslims asks for this type of help from the saints of his madhhab, dead or alive, he is outside the fold of Islam.” (Fatawa ‘Azizi, 1:35)

From the above it also becomes evident that to ask aid above the means (ma fawq al-asbab), from the dead or alive, is not permissible.

Shah ‘Abd al-‘Aziz Dahlawi further writes while discussing deviant beliefs, “…Or elevates the status of the imams and saints to the level of the prophets and messengers, and establishes for the prophets and messengers divine characteristics (lawazim al-Uluhiyyat) such as knowledge of the unseen (‘ilm al-ghayb), answering the invocation (faryad) of anyone from anywhere and having power over everything…” (Tafsir `Azizi, 1:40)

The three beliefs refuted by Shah `Abd al-`Aziz, [i] ‘ilm al-ghayb, [ii] hadir nadir, and [iii] mukhayyir al-kull, make the backbone of the beliefs of the innovators of our time. The innovators assume that prophets and saints have ‘ilm al-ghayb and are aware of everything that goes on in the universe, and they are able to hear us when we call upon them because of them being hadir nadir. And since they can hear our needs, they can also help us by their authority of discretion (tasarruf) in the matters of the universe because they are mukhayyir al-kull.

Shah ‘Abd al-‘Aziz mentions that being aware of everything that goes on the tongues or in the hearts of the creation is only the special quality of Allah Most High, and the creation has no authority in this matter. He mentions that the polytheists and some so-called Muslims affirm this for the saints and seek aid from them with this belief that they are aware of our states at all times.

He writes in an explanation of the “drawing close” mentioned in the hadith: ‘My slave shall continue drawing close to me’, “However, this way of closeness (taqarrub) is particular to Allah Almighty. If someone wishes to seek closeness to any of the creation in this way, it is not possible and applicable. The reason for this is that, in this type of relationship, the one being approached one must have two qualities:

[a] The first is the encompassing knowledge of the verbal and mental dhikr of the dhakirin (those who remember) despite of being in different places and at different times, and being varied in intellectual capacities and languages, so that he could know the verbal and mental dhikr of every dhakir.

[b] The second is the power of being close, and the intruding in place and covering it, and creating such a condition which, in terminology of Shari’ah, is known as ‘dunu’, ‘tadalli’, ‘nuzul’ and ‘qurb’ (nearness, coming closer, descending, closeness).

Both these qualities are special to Allah Almighty alone; none of the creation shares these qualities. Yes, some of the disbelievers establish the first matter for some of their deities while some among the Muslims who worship the saints also affirm the same for their saints, and at times of need seek aid (istia’nat) from them with this belief. (He continues)… And this applies to all created things, even if they have souls, because they firstly do not have encompassing knowledge that allows them to know of the dhikr of everyone who is doing dhikr.” (Tafsir ‘Azizi, Juz 29, p.18, from Itmam al-Burhan fi Rad Tawdih al-Bayan, ‘Allamah Sarfaraz Khan Safdar)

Shah ‘Abd al-‘Aziz Dahlawi writes while discussing different types of shirk, “The fourth type is worshipers of saints (pirs) [who] say that when a saint becomes in the sight of Allah mustajab al-da’awat (whose du’a is accepted) and maqbul al-shafa’ah (whose intercession is approved) because of his spiritual exercise and effort (mujahidah) [and then he] leaves this world, his soul acquires great power and immense expansion. So if one envisions (tasawwur) him, or prostrates at his place of residence or grave and expresses full humility, then [the saint’s] soul comes to know of that because of its expansion and freedom, and then intercedes on his behalf in this world and the hereafter.” (Tafsir ‘AziziSurah Baqarah, p.127)

Shah ‘Abd al-‘Aziz writes in the commentary about Wadd, Suwa’, Yaghuth, Ya’uq and Nasr mentioned in Surah Nuh, “In short, all these five are the names of the five sons of Sayyiduna Idris[5] (may the peace of Allah be upon him) and all of them were men.” (Tafsir `Azizi, p.131)

The people of Sayyiduna Nuh (may the peace of Allah be upon him) considered these saints as phenomena and manifestations of Allah’s help, and referred to them with titles such as dafi’ al-bala’ (remover of distress). The leaders among his people urged their public not to leave these saints.

Shah ‘Abd al-‘Aziz continues, “Yaghuth, who is [considered to be] the phenomena of giving aid and resolving difficulties, was created in the form of a horse by the people of Sayyiduna Nuh (may peace be upon him); this was so because the horse symbolized running, rushing, and helping. And as per the Shari’ah, this attribute is called ghiyath al-mustaghithin (fulfilling the need of help-seekers) and mujib da’wat al-muztarrin (answerer of the supplications of the afflicted), and in Hindi language this phenomenon is called indar. [And they said] not to leave Ya’uq either, who is the phenomena of protection and removal of troubles, and in Islam this attribute is called kashif al-dhur (warder of harm) and dafi’ al-bala’ (remover of affliction).” (Tafsir `Azizi, p.131, from Itmam al-Burhan, ‘Allamah Sarfaraz Khan Safdar)

[10] ‘Allamah Ahmad Din Bughwi al-Lahori[6] (d.1286 AH) wrote Dalil al-Mushrikin on the enormity of shirk. In there he states, “Shirk fi ‘l-isti’anah (shirk in seeking aid): Committing shirk in seeking help and seeking the fulfillment of one’s needs through the dead, and committing shirk in directing one’s attention towards them, is the most heinous form of shirk[7]. Do you not see that ‘ibadah (worship) and isti’anah (seeking aid) are specific for Allah as in Surah al-Fatihah: ‘You alone do we worship, and from You alone do we seek help,’ (1:4). In every Salah we admit and acknowledge in Surah al-Fatihah,O Allah! We make our worship for You [and You alone]. And we do not seek help from anyone other than You. And all of our needs we ask help from You alone. We neither worship any other than You, nor do we ask help from any other than You [in matters that are ma fawq al-asbab]. And look, Allah Most High has in the Holy Qur’an rejected asking for help and aid from other than Him: ‘Other than Allah, you have neither a patron, nor a helper’ (2:107). Likewise, He also negated Shifa’ah [from other than Allah]: ‘Other than Him, there is neither a guardian for you, nor an intercessor,’ (32:4). And Allah has limited help to His own self: And help is not except from Allah, the All-Powerful, the All-Wise,’ (3:126). And Allah is sufficient for being a guardian and helper: ‘Allah is enough as a friend, and Allah is enough as a supporter,’ (4:45).”  (Dalil al-Mushrikin, p.107-108)

He further writes, “This issue has been mentioned in the treatise of Hafiz Hamid al-Qari al-Lahori: ‘If anyone says while boarding a ship, ‘Appear, O Khidr!’ and he believes that Khidr (peace be upon him) is aware of his affairs, then he will turn kafir. Likewise, if someone says, ‘O Farid Ganj Shakar, or O Nizam al-Din help me in my affair’, and he believes that they are aware of his affairs and matters, he will become kafir. The proof is that if the belief that the Holy Prophet – who is the best and the most knowledgeable of the creation – knows the ghayb is kufr, as the Qur’an says: ‘With Him [Allah] are the keys of the Unseen’ (6:59), and: ‘If I [the Messenger of Allah] had the knowledge of the Unseen, I would have accumulated a lot of good things,’ (7:188). When the Messenger of Allah himself does not know the knowledge of the unseen, what can we say about others? And this issue has been mentioned in Nafi’ al-Muslimin and Fatawa al-Muhit that one who believes that the Messenger of Allah (Allah bless him and give him peace) or the angels knows the ghayb will become kafir. This is because supplicating and invoking them [the prophets, angels, etc.] entails that they are aware of these prayers and invocations. This is prohibited and not supported by any proof, ‘surely, conjectures are of no avail in the matter of truth at all,’ (10:36). And even if one does not believe that they are hadhir nadhir, it will be sheer nonsense and still considered haram [to ask and supplicate from them].” (Dalil al-Mushrikin, p.85-86)

‘Allamah Bughwi al-Lahori continues while distinguishing between istighathah and tawassul, “However, if in both the cases [whether near the grave or far from it], he says, [for example]: ‘O Prophet of Allah’! or, ‘O Martyr! give me children, memory of knowledge, or cure my patient, or fulfill my such-and-such need, [and so on,]’ then in this situation saying thus will clearly be kufr. This is because he denies the Qur’an: ‘Other than Allah, you have neither a patron, nor a helper,’ (2:107). He has clearly denied an explicit verse therefore it is kufr. And if he says before the grave: ‘O so and so! Ask Allah to give me children, or memory of knowledge, or to fulfill my such and such need, or to cure my patient,’ then supplicating like this is disputed among the scholars. Some regard it unlawful [while others regard it lawful]. But the unlawfulness is before the graves of those who are other than those we have mentioned [i.e. making such du’a is not lawful at the graves of people other than the prophets, the martyrs and those who have been given the glad tidings of Paradise by Allah and his Messenger].” (Dalil al-Mushrikin, p.111)

And he writes while discussing the severity of seeking aid from the dead, “And Shaykh ‘Abdullah al-Multani writes: ‘When a man directs his attention away from Allah Most High and towards some other being and he knows that his need would be fulfilled by this other being, his need is fulfilled quickly. The angels submit before Allah Most High, ‘The person did not put his request before You, yet You hurriedly granted his request. What is the wisdom behind that?’ Allah Most High replies that this person has sold his iman (faith) and I have taken it from him, so why should I not hurry to fulfill his need?” (Dalil al-Mushrikin, p.152)

Lastly, he answers an objection by the proponents of istighathah. They say, “If it is said that all these verses are about idols and statues, then how, from these verses, do you negate power (qudrah) and discretion (tasarruf) for the awliya’ who spent their lives in following His orders and carrying out His commands?’ The Shaykh replies, ‘First, this statement is not worthy of accepting that these verses were exclusively meant for idols. Instead, as we have mentioned in the commentary and explanation of these verses, these verses are general, and include angels, saints, prophets, jinns idols, and the rest of the creation. Associating anything in the worship of Allah Most High has been negated. Second, if, suppose we do say that these verses were exclusively for the idols, even then the statement is not worthy of accepting because it is an established principle of Usul al-Fiqh (principles of jurisprudence) that the generality of the words will be considered. The specificity of the cause is not considered. If the specificity of the cause is considered and the rulings are limited [to that specific cause], then the teachings of the Qur’an will no longer be general and common, which is against the promise made by the Qur’an: ‘It is nothing but a reminder for all the [people of the] worlds,’ (12:104)].” (Dalil al-Mushrikin, p.68-69)

[11] ‘Allamah Sun’ Allah bin Sun’ Allah al-Makki[8] (d.1120 AH) wrote a treatise Sayfullah ‘ala man Kadhiba ‘ala Awliya’ Allah – The Sword of Allah against one who attributes lies toward the friends of Allah. In it, he has refuted the practice of istighathah and other deviant beliefs prevalent among the ignorant masses. He writes on pp.22-3, “Nowadays, multitudes amongst the Muslims have emerged claiming that the saints (awliya’) have discretion (tasarrufat) in their life and after death, and through them help is sought (yustaghathu bihim) in difficulties and calamities, and by their aspirations, matters of concern are resolved, so they come to their graves, call to them to fulfil their needs, adducing as evidence for [this practice] that these are miracles (karamat) from them. [Some of those] who claim knowledge of [juristic] issues reinforce this for them, and support them with fatwas and treatises…This, as you see, is speech containing negligence and excess, and extremism in the religion due to abandoning precaution (tark al-ihtiyat). Rather, therein is eternal damnation and infinite punishment, due to what it contains of the odors of actual shirk, and of contending with the authoritative Mighty Book and opposition to the beliefs of the Imams, and that which this ummah has agreed upon.”

He further writes on p.36-38, “Whoever attributes lies to His friends (awliya’), it is as if he attributes lies to Allah and takes his desires as his god. ‘They [shall] have shackles around their necks,’ (13:5). ‘They are like cattle. Rather, they are more astray.’ (7:179). As far as what they say regarding the saints (awliya’) having discretion (tasarruf) in their lives and after death, it is rejected by His (Exalted is His Mention) saying: ‘Is there any god along with Allah?’ (27:60). ‘Know that to Him belongs the creation and the command,’ (7:54). ‘To Him belongs what is in the heavens and the earth,’ (31:26). ‘To him belongs the dominion of the heavens and the earth,’ (25:2).

And there are many other similar verses which state that Allah alone has the attributes of creation, discretion (tasarruf) and predestination without any kind of partnership with anyone. So, everything is under His dominion and control, in discretion and ownership, in giving life and death, and in creation. This was accepted by the predecessors and their successors, and it was agreed upon by all Muslims and they believed it as they believed in ‘la ilaha illallah’.

 Many verses of the Qur’an praise Allah Most High for His singularity in His dominion and power [in the universe], like His saying: ‘Is there any creator except Allah?’ (35:3). ‘Only He created everything,’ (25:3). ‘We created everything with measure,’ (54:49). ‘That is Allah, your Lord, the Creator of everything,’ (40:62). ‘Is then the One who creates [everything] equal to one who does not create?’ (16:18). ‘Show me what they have created from the earth; Or have they a share in [the creation of] the heavens?’ (35:40). ‘And those whom you invoke besides Him do not own even the membrane on a date-stone,’ (35:13). ‘Say: call upon those whom you claim besides Allah. They do not possess [anything] even to the measure of a particle, neither in the heavens nor in the earth. They have no share at all in them,’ (34:22). ‘Surely, those whom you invoke beside Allah are slaves [of Allah] like you,’ (7:194). ‘Those whom you call beside Him cannot help you, nor can they help themselves,’ (7:197). ‘That is because Allah is the truth and that whatever they invoke besides Him is false and that Allah is the High, the Great,’ (22:62).

There are uncountable verses containing the same meaning. In all these verses His saying ‘min dun Allah (other than/besides Allah) means [all] other than Him Most High, as it is general including within it those you believe to be a satan and a saint from whom you seek help. One who has no power to help himself [i.e. ghayrullah], how can he render help to others?”

‘Allamah Sun’ Allah al-Halabi writes on p.40, “As far as the belief that after death they have discretion (tasarruf) in matters, it is more heinous than saying they have discretion in their lifetime.”

He further writes on p.45-47 while explaining the correct understanding of miracles,  “As for their support that these powers are from their karamat [and at their discretion], it is fallacious, because karamah is something that originates from Allah by which He honors (yukrim) His friends and prophets, without their intention, challenge, power and knowledge, as in the matter of Maryam bint ‘Imran[9], Usayd ibn Hudayr[10], Abu Musa al-Khawlani, and those that are like them as you will soon learn. Thus it can’t be said that they are from their powers and [nor can it] be unqualifiedly said of them what they say of tasarruf (discretion). ‘Undoubtedly they utter an evil word and a lie’ (58:2) and the sincere Muslims are free from such things.

As for as their statement: ‘through them help is sought in difficulties and calamities, and by their aspirations, matters of concern are resolved’, this is worse and strange, and more abominable and repulsive, because this contradicts the Qur’an: ‘Or the One who responds to a helpless person when He prays to Him and removes distress, and who makes you vicegerents of the earth? Is there any god along with Allah? (27:62). ‘Say, Who is the One who delivers you from the darkness of the land and the sea? Say, Allah delivers you from it and from every pain,’ (6:64). ‘Whatever blessing you have is from Allah. Then, once you are touched by distress, to Him alone you cry for help,’ (16:53). ‘Say, call those whom you assume [to be gods], besides Him, while they have no power to remove distress from you, nor to change it,’ (17:56). ‘Then, tell me about those whom you invoke other than Allah, if Allah intends to cause some harm to me, are they [able] to remove the harm caused by Him? Or if He intends to bless me with mercy, are they [able] to hold back His mercy [from me)]’ (39:38). ‘If Allah causes you harm, there is no one to remove it except He Himself; and if He causes you good, then He is powerful over everything,’ (6:17).

And there are other similar verses in which Allah Most High declared that no one is the remover of harm but He and only He can remove distress and pain and He alone grants the supplications of the distressed ones and no one but He is called for help. He is all Powerful to do good and He alone can do so. Since He [Allah] was indeed meant [in these verses], the ghayr (others) – like the angels, prophets, saints and so on – were automatically negated, as was explained in the Holy Qur’an: ‘Say, call those whom you assume, besides Him, while they have no power to remove distress from you, nor to change it,’ (17:56) with further argument from the following verse: ‘Those whom they invoke, do themselves seek the means of access to their Lord as to which of them becomes the closest, and they hope for His Mercy and fear His punishment. The punishment of your Lord is really something to be feared,’ (17:57). The verse declares clearly that the prophets do not have power to remove harm from anyone, so how can the others who are even lower in rank than them do so? But, ‘whomsoever Allah lets to go astray, for him you will find no one to help, [and] no one to lead,’ (18:17).”

‘Allamah Sun’ Allah al-Makki answers a misconception of the proponents of istighathah, on p.49-51, “What has been said [by some scholars] of istighathah through the prophets and saints being permissible, the meaning of it is only attaining blessing (tabarruk) through their mention, and tawassul through them, and not seeking assistance (imdad) from them.[11]

So, beware, and then again, beware, with respect to your condition of the fallacy of your brethren!

O Allah! Cleanse us from this ignominy and protect us from suspicion of that in which is destruction [i.e. shirk].”

‘Allamah Sun’ Allah continues while distinguishing between help that is within the means and that which is above the means, “Seeking aid (istighathah) is permissible in the ordinary outward means (al-asbab al-zahirat al-‘adiyyah), of fighting or catching an enemy or a predator and the like of this like their statement: ‘O Zayd!’ ‘O my people!’, or ‘O Muslims!’ as they mentioned them in the books of Nahw in accordance with actual (bi l-fi’il) outward means.[12] However, seeking aid by potential [means] (bi l-quwwah) or in intangible matters of difficulties, of sickness, fear of drowning, distress, poverty; and seeking provision and its like; these are from the exclusive qualities of Allah and no one besides Him can be invoked with regards to them.

Allah, Glorious is His Mention, states: ‘And when you face a hardship at sea, vanished are those whom you used to invoke, except Him ,’ (17:67). Thus He negated the invocation of other than Him, so His uniqueness in this is stipulated. Thus, hold to such belief, and do not be of those who deviated due to his reason, ‘when shackles will be round their necks, and chains they will be dragged into the hot water after which they will be thrown into the Fire as fuel,’ (40:71-72).

As for their condition of coming to their [i.e. saints] graves and calling them to fulfill their needs, deducing as evidence that this is from their karamat; then, if their arrival is with the intention to supplicate near their grave and tawassul through them, there is no harm, just as ‘Umar (may Allah be pleased with him) performed tawassul through Sayyiduna Al-‘Abbas (may Allah be pleased with him), because there is success in supplication in the places of the righteous.

As for their condition of believing in effectuation (ta’thir) from them, and that they have discretion in fulfilling their needs, as the pre-Islamic Arabs and ignorant Sufis do, while calling them and seeking aid from them, this is from the abominable acts because when discretion is negated from the living – as has preceded – how can it be established for the dead?!”

[12] ‘Allamah Muhammad Kamil ibn Mustafa al-Tarabulusi al-Ash’ari al-Shadhili[13] (d.1315 AH) writes in his fatawa, “I was asked about a common occurrence among the masses with regards to the vow of a goat or cow for dead awliya saying: ‘O Shaykh! O Badawi! If I get relief, or if my patient is relieved or if my lost item returns, then I will owe you a ram or a bull or a sheep’. Is this lawful or not?

The answer is: It is not lawful. It is mentioned in Al-Durr al-Mukhtar under the discussion of vows in the Book of Fasting: ‘And know that indeed the vows (nadhr) made to the dead by the majority of the lay-masses and what dirhams, candles, oil and their likes are taken at the mausoleums of the noble awliya to gain proximity to them, this is baseless and haram by consensus, as they don’t intend to spend them on needy people. People are heavily involved in such practices, especially in our times.’ The commentator of Al-Durr al-Mukhtar, Ibn ‘Abidin says [quoting Al-Bahr al-Ra’iq]: ‘[[His saying: this is baseless and haram]] on account of a few reasons. Among them is that it is a vow to the creation and a vow to the creation is not permissible because this is a [form of] worship and worship should only be for the creator; and among them is that the person being promised is dead and the dead cannot own; and among them is that  he thinks that the dead person has discretion (tasarruf)  in issues beside Allah Most High. And his belief in that is kufr, oh Allah, except if he says, “Oh Allah, surely I promise you — if you cure my illness, or return me my lost possession, or fulfill my need — that I shall feed the poor, who are at the door of Sayyidah Nafisah, or Imam Shafi’i, or Imam Layth, etc,” from among those things in which there is benefit for the poor, and the vow (nadhr) is to Allah Most High, then such a vow will be valid. The Shaykh mentioned that this is subject to the vow being diverted to those deserving of it who live in its rabat, so it is permissible by this consideration. Later, he transmitted consensus (ijma’) on the prohibition of making a vow to creation, that it will not take place and it will not occupy one’s responsibility. The complete [discussion] can be found therein [Hashiyah Ibn ‘Abidin], referencing Al-Bahr al-Ra’iq [of ‘Allamah ibn Nujaym al-Misri]. And Allah knows best!

Note: That which the masses and the rural scholars do is shirk. That is, taking oath on the grave of a wali with the belief that if one takes an oath on it, and breaks [it], [the wali] will take recompense from his body, wealth and children. This is just as the idolaters used to believe that whoever takes an oath on idols and breaks [the oath], they will harm him and do with him what they will do. May Allah protect us! The jurist who instructs [the one taking an oath] to do this with the belief in what was mentioned, he falls under the [same] ruling as the one who took the oath [i.e. shirk]. We seek Allah’s safety. [It is found] in the noble hadith, according to what [Shah Wali Allah] al-Hindi quoted in Hujjat Allah al-Balighah, ‘One who swears by anyone except Allah has committed shirk.’ [Shah Wali Allah] said: ‘Some people have understood it as a severity and harshness in warning; but the reality is that it applies to those who from amongst them believe in the causative effect [of such an oath], for thereupon he will be a true polytheist – and there is no power, nor might, but with Allah!’”  (Fatawa Kamiliyyah, p.241 – Provided by Mufti Husain Kadodia)

He writes at another place, “I say: it is not hidden what has been the consequence of the common people revering the graves of awliya’ and drawing covers over them of great harm to their beliefs. They believe with respect to the saints in their power to cause effect along with Allah, so much so that they stopped making vows for Allah, despite this being something established., and [instead], they increasingly began making vows for saints and seeking their closeness, and they abandoned taking oaths on Allah until this practice became almost nonexistent amongst them, and they do not dare take an oath on them [i.e. the saints] because they believe that if one will not fulfill his oaths taken in the name of a wali, he will cause harm to his body, wealth and children. This is shirk, may Allah protect us! Do you not see what the author of Hujjat Allah al-Balighah [Shah Waliullah al-Dahlawi] reported, that the Prophet (Allah bless him and give him peace) said: ‘Whoever takes an oath for other than Allah then indeed he has committed shirk’. He said: ‘Some of them have understood it as a warning and emphasis. But it is not so, as the hadith is upon its apparent meaning when they take an oath with the belief that the saint can cause them harm in their bodies and wealth.’

I heard some knowledgeable and pious Ottoman qadis saying: ‘If I had the power to demolish the domes of saints, I would have demolished them entirely,’ as did Sayyiduna ‘Umar bin al-Khattab (may Allah be pleased with him) with the tree under which Ba’yat [al-Ridwan] took place, when it was reported to him that some people visit it and pray near it, for he uprooted it from its root, lest the common people get affected by it. It is mentioned in the Sahih from Sayyiduna Ibn ‘Umar (may Allah be pleased with him) that the identity of the tree was concealed. They [the scholars] said: [this was] so that people do not fall into temptation because of it after the goodness that occurred beneath it. Had it remained, it would not be safe from the ignorant masses revering it until they may believe that it possesses the power to benefit and harm, just like we observe now in that which is less than it. Sayyiduna Ibn ‘Umar alluded to this in his statement: ‘It was kept hidden as a mercy from Allah Most High.’ Ibn Sa’d narrated with an authentic chain from Nafi’ that it was reported to Sayyiduna ‘Umar (may Allah be pleased with him) that some people visit the tree and pray near it. He warned the people and later ordered it to be chopped off, and so it was done.” (Fatawa Kamiliyyah, p.264-265 – Provided by Mufti Husain Kadodia)

[13] And Imam Shah Rafi’ al-Din Muhaddith Dahlawi (d.1233 AH), the son of Shah Waliullah Dahalwi, writes in refutation of the polytheistic practices, “And Mushrikin resort to polytheistic acts in the matter of [assigning] partial control (juzwi tasarruf) of the universe [to the prophets, saints, etc.] such as increasing sustenance, bestowing children, averting sickness, making the souls subservient and things of that sort. This is nothing but clear shirk – there cannot be an excuse [for such beliefs].” (Fatawa Shah Rafi al-Din, p.7, from Tanqid Matin, Sarfaraz Khan Safdar)

[14] Hafiz Ibn Rajab al-Hanbali (d.795 AH) writes in his book Kalimat al-Ikhlas, “The analysis of this meaning and its explanation is that the saying of the servant ‘there is no god but Allah’ requires that there is no god for him but Allah. And a god is one who is obeyed and not disobeyed; due to His lofty status, He is honored, loved and feared; He is one from whom one hopes, trusts or places reliance on;  He is one who is invoked (su’al) and to Whom supplication (du`a)  is made – and no one deserves all these things save Allah. Therefore, if anyone ascribes any partner in any of these matters which are exclusive to Allah alone (Khasa’is al-Uluhiyyah), it will prove that his sincerity in saying ‘there is no god but Allah’ is stained and his tawhid is defective.” (Kalimat al-Ikhlas, p.18)

It therefore becomes manifest that to make du’a to the creation – the key component in istighathah – is akin to making the creation partners in attributes which are exclusive to Allah (Khasa’is al-Uluhiyyah) alone.

[15] Hakim al-Ummah Mawlana Ashraf ‘Ali Thanawi (d.1362 AH) writes, “[Kufr and shirk is] to ask someone for the fulfillment of one’s needs, sustenance and children… To implore someone from a great distance and to think that he must have definitely come to know of it… To recite the name of a particular saint in the form of remembrance or incantations… To say that if Allah and His Messenger (Allah bless him and give him peace) wish such and such a thing, it will be done…” (Bahishti Zewar, section on Beliefs)

Mawlana Thanawi mentioned in relation to the verse 45 of Surah al-Zumar:

And when Allah is mentioned alone, the hearts of those who do not believe in the Hereafter shrink with aversion, but when those [worshipped] other than Him are mentioned, immediately they rejoice.

“Similar to it is the condition of some ignorant claimant of tasawwuf. That is, at the mention of pure/authentic tawhid they are sickened. And [are delighted to] do istighathah with the awliya’.” (Masa’il al-Suluk min Kalam Malik al-Muluk, p.468)

[16] Dr. Wahbah Mustafa al-Zuhayli, a contemporary Syrian Shafi’i Ash’ari scholar writes in his treatise entitled Al-Bida’ al-Munkarah (Reprehensible Innovations), “One of the more widespread innovations amongst the Muslim laity is seeking istighathah and madad from other than Allah, the Most Exalted, such as the person who says, ‘Oh Rifa’i, Oh Badawi, assist me, or Oh so-and-so, come to my aid’. All of this is a reprehensible innovation, due to the statement of Allah, the Most Exalted, ‘So do not call upon, instead of Allah, that which can neither benefit nor harm you. If you do so, then you are certainly from amongst the wrongdoers’. (Yunus,106)

And [it is further supported by] the statement of the Prophet, may Allah bless him and grant him peace, as reported by Ibn ‘Abbas, may Allah be pleased with him:

‘He said, I was behind the Prophet, may Allah bless him and grant him peace, on a donkey called Ya’fur, and he said to me, ‘Young man, I shall teach you some words [of advice]: Be mindful of Allah, and Allah will protect you. Be mindful of Allah, and you will find Him in front of you. If you ask, ask of Allah, and if you seek help, seek help from Allah.’” (Musnad Ahmad, Sunan Tirmidhi)

After imploring and seeking help has been restricted to being directed only towards Allah in such a manner, how then can it be said, ‘I beseech so-and-so for help’. The condition of the ignorant and the laity is indeed strange.

Istighathah is not the same as tawassul (intercession), for it is seeking from the Creation that which only the creator is capable of, and tawassul is seeking from Allah by means of His creation. The tawassul that is established from the sunnah is through the living and not the dead, and through one’s righteous deeds, as is the meaning of Allah, the Most Exalted’s, statement, ‘Oh you who believe, be conscious of Allah and seek means (wasilah) towards him’. (Al-Ma’idah, 35) An example of this is the story of the three people who were trapped in a cave when a boulder descended from the mountain and blocked the entrance of their cave, so they supplicated to Allah by means of their righteous deeds, and a third of the boulder budged at the end of each man’s supplication until the entrance was open, allowing them to exit. (Sahih Muslim)” (Al-Bida’ al-Munkarah, p.31-32)

[17] ‘Allamah Qadi Thana’ullah Panipati (d.1225 AH) writes, “To prostrate before the graves of the prophets and saints, to circumambulate around them, to invoke them [for help], or to make offerings to the inhabitants of graves is haram; rather some of these matters lead to kufr. The Messenger of Allah, may peace and blessings of Allah be upon him, cursed the people who do such things and forbade the Ummah from doing them, and ordered us not to make his grave an idol.” (Ma la Budda Minhu, p.80)

He writes at another place, “It is recommended to go to Uhud early on Thursday and to visit its martyrs and to begin with the grave of Hamzah, may Allah be pleased with him, the uncle of the Prophet, and leader of the martyrs. During his visit, an intelligent person should be careful to avoid innovations in greetings, like touching and kissing the grave, walking in a circle around it, asking from the person buried there, and praying at it because what is prescribed is supplication and asking forgiveness for them. As for asking for something from them and taking oaths by them to Allah Almighty; that is misguidance and innovation (by the agreement of the Imams of the believers). None of the Companions did that. The Imams agree that when one wants to make supplication, he should face the qiblah and not face the grave.” (Ma la Budda Minhu, p.215)

[18] Imam Shah ‘Abd al-Qadir Muhaddith Dahlawi (d. 1242 AH), the son of Shah Waliullah Dahlawi, defines shirk, saying, “Shirk is to ascribe any attribute of Allah to anything else, such as believing that someone knows everything or has [been given] the ability to do whatever he wants or that our benefit or harm is in his control, or prostrating to someone and asking him to fulfill one’s needs, believing he has [been given] the ability to do so.” (Mawdah al-Qur’an, p.22)

In this quote he has refuted the deviant concepts of istighathah, hadir nadir, ‘ilm al-ghayb and mukhayyir al-kull.

[19] ‘Allamah ‘Abd al-Rahman Abu Shamah al-Shafi’i (d.655 AH), the teacher of Imam Nawawi (d.676 AH), writes in his book Al-Ba’ith ala’ Inkar Al-Bid’ah wa ‘l-Hawadith, p.100-101, “…Then these innovations and ugly invented matters are of two types.  The first is that which the laymen and the specialists both understand to be an innovated matter.  It could be an unlawful act or an undesired act. The other type is that which most people – excluding those who are protected by Allah – consider to be an act of worship, getting close to Allah, obedience, and a Sunnah.  We will not spend a lot of time discussing the first type because there is no need for a lengthy discussion when the participant already knows that this is not an established practice of Islam.  However, we will give a few examples of the second type in which many ignorant laymen have fallen in.  These people have discarded the divine code of Islam and have abandoned following the scholars of Islam… Other examples of this type include the widespread practice which Satan has beautified for the masses in which they make walls, pillars, and lanterns in specific places in a city.  A person tells them that he saw in a dream that a pious person and a friend of Allah is buried there. They start honoring these pious people and being particular about this, despite the fact that they are neglecting the obligations of Islam and the Sunnah practices.  They believe that they are doing good by venerating these pious people. Then, they take this to a more extreme level until the veneration of these places overcomes their hearts.  Thereafter, they start honoring the places themselves and they begin hoping that sick people will be cured and their needs will be fulfilled by making oaths at these places.  These areas tend to be between fountains, trees, walls, and rocks.

In the city of Damascus – may Allah preserve it – there are many such places, including a specific spring near the Tawma gate, a specific pillar near the ‘small gate,’ and the accursed dry tree near Bab al-Nasr – may Allah facilitate the cutting of this tree and uproot it. How similar are these places to the thorn tree which is mentioned in the books of hadith related to the battle of Hunayn.”

[20] ‘Allamah Murtada al-Zabidi al-Bilgrami (d.1205 AH ), a student of Imam Shah Waliullah Dahlawi, said, “It is atrocious for believers to present their needs to [anyone] other than Allah Most High despite their knowledge of His Oneness and His uniqueness in [the attribute of] Lordship, and they hear His Most High saying: ‘Is Allah not enough for His slave?’ (39:36).” (Ithafus Sadah Al-Muttaqin, 9:498)

[21] Shaykh Sayyid  ‘Abd al-Rab Husayni al-Dahlawi (d.1305 AH), a khalifah of ‘Allamah Shah Ishaq Muhaddith al-Dahlawi[14] (d.1263 AH) and founder of Madrasah ‘Abd al-Rab in Delhi, writes, “… Now, for him to take the name of tariqah is haram. Does he believe that listening to flutes in the ‘urs [annual festivals held at the shrines to commemorate the death anniversaries of Sufi saints] and falling unconscious in them; prostrating to, kissing and circumambulating the graves of the pious; becoming the murid of a drum-beating faqir; having faith that the souls of the pious are hadir nadir; and to seeking aid from them is tariqah? I seek refuge with Allah. I seek forgiveness from Allah. There is no power to do good or evil except with Allah, the High, the Great. This is the deception of the accursed Satan, the vanity of the disobedient soul. It is haram for such a person to take the name of haqiqah and ma’rifah (gnosis) because he has not recognized Godly Glory nor recognized the Muhammadan Reality. How can such a person be bestowed with irfan?” (Risalah Irshad-i-Pir, from Hayat Shah Ishaq, p.173)

[22] Shaykh Sayyid Ahmad al-Rifa’i al-Husayni (d.578 AH) writes in Al-Burhan al-Mu’ayyad, p.6, “The worst of whims is to see others [besides Allah] and to busy oneself from the Creator with creation. According to a sane person, what is busying oneself in other than Him? Believing that others have influence in matters, whether little or much, partial or whole, is polytheism. The Prophet (Allah bless him and give him peace) said to `Abdullah ibn ‘Abbas (may Allah be pleased with him): ‘Oh child! I will teach you some words: Be mindful of Allah and He will be mindful of you. Be mindful of Allah, and you will find Him in front of you. When you ask, ask Allah and when you seek help, seek help from Allah. Know that if the whole community were to gather together to help you with something, they would not help you but with something Allah had written for you. And if they were to gather together to harm you with something, they would not harm you except with something Allah had written for you. The pens have been lifted and the pages have dried’.”

And he writes on p.28-29, “When you seek aid (ista’antum) from the servants of Allah and His friends (awliya’), do not acknowledge help and aid from them as it is polytheism (shirk), but ask [Allah] to fulfill your needs through His love for them. There are many unkempt and dusty people with rags who are pushed aside from doors; if they swear by Allah, Allah will fulfill their promise. Allah empowered them in the existents, and overturned for them the entities, and He made them say by His permission to something ‘be’ and it would occur – kun fayakun. ‘Isa, peace be upon him, created birds out of clay with Allah’s permission and made the dead alive with Allah’s permission. The trunk [in the mosque] yearned for our beloved and our Prophet, the master of the chiefs of the prophets, upon him the best of blessings and peace; the stones saluted him and Allah united in him the miracles which were dispersed in the [earlier] prophets and messengers; and the secrets of his miracles continue in the awliya’ of his Ummah. Thus, for the awliya’ they are karamat that continue. The miracle of the Prophet (Allah bless him and give him peace) also continues. O my son, O my brother, when you say: ‘O Allah, I beg You through Your mercy,’ it is as though you said: ‘I beg you through the wilayah of your servant Shaykh Mansur and other awliya,’ because wilayah is a specialty with which He favors by His mercy whomever He likes.”

[23] Shaykh Bayazid al-Bastami (d.261 AH) is reported to have said, “One created being calling another such being for help is just like a prisoner calling his inmate for help.” (Ruh al-Ma’ani, 6:128)

[24] Responding to those who declare the hadith of Sayyiduna Ibn Umar[15] a fabrication only because some innovators use it as a proof for seeking aid from the creation, ‘Allamah Habib al-Rahman al-A’zami (d.1992 C.E) writes, “In particular, some innovators (mubtad’iah) present it as a proof that istighathah from ghayrullah is valid. And whatever is presented by the innovators as proof of istighathah, we see it imperative that you say: it is fabricated!” (Al-Albani Shudhudhuh wa Akhta’uh, p.41)

[25] ‘Allamah ‘Abd al-Haq Haqqani Dahlawi (d.1336 AH) writes, “Fiqhi Issues: From this verse [You alone do we worship, and from You alone do we seek aid], this point is established that worshiping any other than Allah is haram whomsoever it may be, and neither is prostrating to someone permissible, nor bowing down. The Companions (Allah be pleased with them) submitted, ‘O Messenger of Allah! We wish to prostrate to you but you have forbidden us.’ (Mishkat) And neither is it lawful to fast with someone’s name nor is it permissible to give charity in the name of other than Allah. Neither is it lawful to circumambulate any other house like the Ka’bah nor is to head to it wearing ihram. It is even impermissible to slaughter an animal with the name of other than Allah. And similarly, seeking aid [above the means] from other than Allah is unlawful, as well as considering someone as fulfiller of needs (qadi al-hajat) and remover of afflictions (dafi’ al-baliyyat).” (Tafsir Haqqani, 2:33)

[26] ‘Allamah Ibrahim Bin Mar’i al-Maliki (d.1106 AH) writes, “[The Prophet’s (upon him peace) saying:] ‘When you seek help,’ i.e. you seek help in a matter from the matters of the world or religion – for this [reason], the object [of the verb] is omitted which indicates generality. [His saying:] ‘then, seek help from Allah,’ as He has power over all things, while [all] besides Him have no power over anything. Help is sought from one who is able to give help. And as for the one who is dependent on his master, unable to implement what he wishes for his own self, let alone others, how can he be worthy of being asked for help or his means relied upon? One who is unable to benefit and repel harm from himself, he is even more incapable [of benefitting or repelling harm] from others. If only man would humble himself! Thus, [the example of] a creation seeking help from another creation is like a prisoner seeking help from another prisoner. So, do not seek help but from your Master, for He [alone] is your Guide in your latter and former [lives]. How can you seek help from a slave despite your knowledge of his helplessness? How can a person who is unable to save himself from calamity save others of the children of his genus from it?  Do not seek assistance from anyone besides Allah, for indeed He is the Protector and Helper. Do not hold fast [to anything] besides His rope as He is the Mighty and Powerful.” (Futuhat al-Wahbiyyah bi Sharh al-Arba’yan Nawawiyyah, p.184)

[27] We will close by presenting the verdict of Shaykh ‘Abd al-‘Aziz bin Dabbagh[16] – who is held in high regard by the proponents of istighathah – on this topic.

Shaykh Ahmad bin Mubarrak al-Lam’ati (d.1156 AH) asked his teacher Shaykh ‘Abd al-`Aziz bin Dabbagh (d.1132 AH) concerning the people who ask the saints for help as is mentioned in Ibriz[17], p.249-250,

“And I asked him: ‘Why do people seek aid (yastaghithuna) by mentioning the pious ones instead of [turning to] Allah?  [And] when a person is keen in swearing an oath; you observe him say: ‘By the right of Sayyidi So-and-So!’ like Sayyidi `Abd al-Qadir al-Jaylani or Sayyidi Ya’zi or Sayyidi Abu ‘l-`Abbas Sabti and others – may Allah benefit us through them! And if one wishes to have someone swear an oath and to confirm his oath, he says: ‘Swear to me by Sayyidi So-and-So!’ And if he is afflicted by some loss and he wishes to implore, like those who undertake to beg from the people, he invokes the name of Sayyidi So-and-So. In doing all this they are cut off from Allah— mighty and glorious is He —and if it’s said to them: ‘Call upon Allah as your intermediary or swear oaths by Him’ or something to that effect, these words make no impression on them. So what’s the reason for this?’

In response, he [‘Abd al-‘Aziz bin Dabbagh] said, may Allah be pleased with him, “The people of Diwan from the friends of Allah did this deliberately due to the intense darkness of [people’s] essences, and because of the great number of those cut-off  from Allah— mighty and glorious is He —whose essences have become wicked. The friends of Allah love that the essences of those who remember their Master and their Lord, the Most High, are pure. This is because Allah, the Exalted, answers the one who supplicates while he is devoted completely to Him inwardly at the time of supplication. The supplication is answered in two ways: either He gives him what he asked, or he is shows the secret of the [divine] decree of rejection if it is withheld. This latter happens only to the true friends of Allah and not to the deprived and distant ones. For if the gloom-laden essence were to turn towards Allah the Sublime with all its vessels and all its substances and it asked Him for something which He refused and He didn’t inform it about the secret of the divine decree behind the refusal, it might experience doubt concerning Allah the Sublime’s existence and fall prey to something more calamitous and more bitter than not having its request fulfilled. Therefore, it is of great benefit what the people of Diwan resorted to by linking people’s thoughts to the pious individuals. Should they then experience doubt about whether the upright are friends of Allah, this would not harm them.

Explaining this further, he said (may Allah be pleased with him), “Another indication for you of the large number of people cut off from Allah, and the great amount of darkness in their essences, is that you observe, for example, a person leaves his house and takes about twenty mauzunahs to a grave of a saint in hopes that his requests are answered. How many needy and poor persons, in their way to the grave, asked him for help for Allah’s sake and he did not give them even a single dirham, but he proceeds to the friend of Allah and places the money by his head. Now this is one of the ugliest things that occur. The reason for this is that the charity was not intended for Allah the Most High and, had this been the case, he would have given it to every needy person he met. But since the incentive for them and the motive for bestowing them was the intention of profit for himself and the fulfillment of his own purposes and allotments, he singled out one particular place for them because he imagined profit was attached to that place in both presence and absence.

He also added, may Allah be pleased with him, that I am a witness of what has been gifted to the righteous people from the entrance of Tilimsan to Saqiya al-Hamrah, which was 80 dinars, three hundred and sixty sheep, two cows and seventy bulls, all donated in one day to the pious people, but not even ten dirhams were donated for the sake of Allah the Exalted [i.e. to the poor].

He further explained, may Allah be pleased with him, that this a cause from the causes leading to disconnection from Allah the Most High which has overcome this Ummah without most of them realizing it. There are a total of 366 causes which all derail people from their Lord.

I said:  Do you remember some of these causes now?

He responded saying: Write [this] down:

The first: Gifting to the dead saints, as we stipulated above, and not [giving for] the sake of Allah— mighty and glorious is He.

Second: Taking an intermediary to the righteous through Allah – mighty and glorious is He – so that they fulfill one’s wish. The visitor to the tomb says: ‘I’ve come to you, Oh Sayyidi So-and-So by Allah’s glory, that you fulfill my need (hajat) for me!’ This also causes separation from Allah as the visitor to the tomb has distorted what is required and reversed the matter. He should have taken a means to Allah – mighty and glorious is He – through His friends and not the reverse [i.e. asking directly].

Third: Visiting [the graves of] saints, while the visitor has not done all the obligatory prayers incumbent on him. It is obvious that abandoning what is to be done for Allah to visit a saint is a manifest darkness and an act of disconnection from Allah…”

Dr. ‘Allamah Khalid Mahmud has explained the above quote in Mutali’ah Barelwiyyat. The summary of which is that, according to Shaykh ‘Abd al-‘Aziz bin Dabbagh, many of the ignorant from Ahl al-Bid’ah, with darkness in their hearts, were on the verge of leaving Islam, and they did not have anything that would have them labeled a Muslim, but it was not the will of Allah that these people leave Islam openly and become Hindu, [etc]. Therefore, they were left aside not to convert from Islam openly, nor to have the honor of calling Allah the Sublime, since only the one who is pure-hearted receives such a blessing. But those who devour unlawful wealth and who are inherently wicked, they keep on invoking the ones in graves. This is the punishment for those who go astray from the path of tawhid. The people of Diwan, according to Shaykh ‘Abd al-‘Aziz bin Dabbagh, had the innovators turn towards the graves and domes so they do not leave Islam openly and nor does the light of tawhid enter their hearts. These people, with darkness in their hearts, if they were to ask Allah directly and their supplication was not answered, it was feared that they would lose hope in Allah Most High and have doubts about Allah’s existence. Instead, they were turned towards the graves for the fulfillment of their needs, and if their supplication was not answered, they would have doubts about the saints and not Allah Most High, and this was thought to be less harmful than doubting Allah, even though it led people to deviation.

See: Istighathah by Ismaeel Nakhuda

See: Istighathah: Seeking aid from other than Allah by Saad Khan


Aap kay Masa’il awr un ka Hal – Shaykh Yusuf Ludhianwi Shahid

Fatawa Rashidiyyah – Imam Rashid Ahmad Gangohi

Guldastah-i-Tawhid – ‘Allamah Sarfaraz Khan Safdar

Itmam al-Burhan fi Radd Tawdih al-Bayan – ‘Allamah Sarfaraz Khan Safdar

Maqalat ‘Uthmani – ‘Allamah Zafar Ahmad ‘Uthmani

Rasa’il Chandpuri – ‘Allamah Sayyid Murtada Hasan Chandpuri

[1] Shaykh Yusuf Ludhianwi Shahid (d.1421 AH) writes, “To consider prophets or saints mutasarrif in umur ghayr ‘adiyyah is shirk.” (Aap kay Masa’il awr un ka Hal, 1:43) ‘Allamah Sayyid Murtada Hasan Chandpuri (d.1370 AH), who Shaykh Zahid al-Kawthari referred to as ‘the eminent teacher’ (al-ustad al-jalil), mentions that to affirm the qudrah and tasarruf of anyone besides Allah in umur ghayr ‘adiyyah is shirk, regardless of whether or not one believes that this was bestowed by Allah. (See: Tawdih al-Murad li man Takhabbat fi ‘l Istimdad, p.611)

[2] According to Sayyiduna Ibn ‘Abbas (may Allah be pleased with him), Lat was a pious and generous person who used to mix and give barley (Sattu) to the pilgrims. When he died, people started to gather at his grave and began to worship him. (Bukhari, 2:761; Tafsir Ibn Kathir, 253) What kind of worship was it? Shah Waliullah writes, “And they would ask him for help (yasta’inuna) in the time of hardships.” (Al-Budur al-Bazighah, p.126) Shah Waliullah further writes that this was the reason Allah has declared the polytheists of Makkah as infidels.

[3] He studied the traditional books under the sons of Shah Waliullah, and then became a disciple of Imam Sayyid Ahmad Shahid. He translated sections of Al-Durr al-Mukhtar on Hanafi fiqh, called Ghayat al-Awtar, which was then completed by other ‘ulama after his death. He translated Mashariq al-Anwar by ‘Allamah al-Saghani and he translated Al-Qawl al-Jamil of Shah Wali Allah and called it Shifa al-‘Alil. He has a popular work called Nasihat al-Muslimin similar to ‘Allamah Shah Isma‘il’s Taqwiyat al-Iman (Nuzhat al-Khawatir, p. 963)

[4] See Mansur ibn Yunus al-Bahuti

[5] According to Tafsir Ibn Kathir, however, Wadd was the name of Sayyiduna Sheeth (Seth) (may the peace of Allah be upon him) and the other four were his sons.

[6] He is Ahmad Din (1217 AH – 1286 AH) bin Hafiz Nur Hayat bin Hafiz Muhammad Shifa’ bin Hafiz Nur Muhammad Bughwi. He traveled to Delhi, at the age of eight, with his elder brother, ‘Allamah Ghulam Muhyi al-Din Bughwi (1203 AH – 1273 AH), for higher learning. There they studied under the likes of Imam Shah ‘Abd al-‘Aziz Dahlawi and ‘Allamah Shah Ishaq Muhaddith Dahlawi. He is the author of many books like Hashiyyah Jalali, Hashiyyah Sharh Mulla, Mas’alah Ghina’, and Dalil al-Mushrikin (on the enormity of shirk). (Hada’iq al-Hanafiyyah, p.504-505) Mawlana Faqir Muhammad Jhelumi writes in Hada’iq al-Hanafiyyah, p.504, “However, the extent of the spread of the rational (ma’qul) and transmitted sciences (manqul) in Punjab was not done by anyone as much as by these brothers. Thousands of people graduated and received benefit at their hands. It seemed as if no person of knowledge remained deprived of being their student, some of them directly and others by being connected to their students.”

[7] ‘Allamah Ahmad Din Bughwi has divided shirk into 20 types. (1) Shirk  fi ‘l-dhat. (2) Shirk fi ‘l-‘ilm. (3) Shirk fi ‘l-mashiyyat. (4) Shirk fi ‘l-tasarruf. (5) Shirk fi ‘l-qudrah. (6) Shirk fi ‘l-‘ibadah. (7) Shirk fi ‘l-‘adat. (8) Shirk fi ‘l-nazr. (9) Shirk fi ‘l-tasmiyyah. (10) Shirk fi ‘l-half. (11) Shirk fi ‘l-zabh. (12) Shirk fi ‘l-tathir. (13) Shirk fi ‘l-isti’anah (seeking aid). (14) Shirk fi ‘l-nida’ (calling). (15) Shirk fi ‘l-bismillah. (16) Shirk fi ‘l-tayrah. (17) Shirk fi ‘l-akhbar. (18) Shirk fi ‘l-tasawwur. (19) Shirk fi ‘l-tama’im wa ‘l-raqi. (20) Shirk al-asghar.

[8] He is Sun’ Allah bin Sun’ Allah al-Halabi al-Makki al-Hanafi. He is an orator, jurist and muhaddith of high stature. He has a number of authorizations to narrate hadith. He authored Sayfullah ‘ala man Kadhiba ‘ala Awliya’ Allah and Iksir al-Tuqa ‘ala Sharh al-Multaqa. (Hadiyyat al-‘Arifin, 1:428; Mu’jam al-Mu’allifin, 5:24)

[9] As Allah Most High said: “Whenever Zakariyya visited her at the place of worship, he found food with her. He said: ‘Maryam, from where did you have this?’ She said: ‘It is from Allah. Surely, Allah gives whom He wills without measure,’ (3:37).”

[10] This is mentioned in Sahih al-Bukhari (3805), chapter of the Merit of Sayyiduna Usayd bin Hudayr and Sayyiduna ‘Abbas ibn Bishr (may Allah be pleased with them). Sayyiduna Anas (may Allah be pleased with him) narrates: ‘Usayd bin Hudhayr and a man from Ansar (the Helpers) went out in a very dark night, when suddenly there was a light in front of them, and when they parted, the light also parted’. Imam Muslim narrated a hadith in the virtue of Sayyiduna Usayd bin Hudayr in his Sahih (796), chapter: ‘Descent of peace while reciting the Qur’an’. The Prophet (Allah bless him and give him peace) said: ‘You should have kept on reciting, Ibn Hudhayr.’ The angels descended like a canopy with what seemed to be lamps in it, and he  (Allah bless him and give him peace)  said: “Those were the angels who listened to you; and if you had continued reciting, the people would have seen them in the morning and they would not be hidden from them’. The original story was quoted in Sahih al-Bukhari (5011), Chapter of the Virtue of Al-Kahf (the cave), but the hadith of Bukhari (5018) says clearly that he would recite Surah al-Baqarah. Hafiz Ibn Hajr explained it that the incident might have taken place more than one time. (Fath al-Bari, 9:57)

[11] This was also elucidated by others such as Imam Rashid Ahmad Gangohi, Mawlana Sayyid Murtada Hasan Chandpuri, etc. It says in Fatawa Rashidiyyah, p.200, “Since istimdad is a mushtarik (common) word, some adopted one [meaning] while others opted for the other.” Meaning that sayings such as, ‘O, so and so, please make du’a to Allah concerning my needs’; certain scholars referred to this as istighathah/istimdad. ‘Allamah Ibn Hajr Makki (d.974 AH), ‘Allamah Taj al-Din Sukbi (d.771 AH), etc. can be cited here as an example. They never endorsed directly seeking aid from the creation.

[12] The author distinguishes between actual (bi l-fi’l) means and potential (bi l-quwwah) means. The first is where the means are directly accessible, and can be utilized to attain the objective. Potential means are also effective means but they are not directly accessible in the circumstance. The author says that only actual means can be asked for help, but potential means cannot be asked for help.

[13] He is Muhammad Kamil ibn Mustafa ibn Muhammad al-Tarabulusi al-Ash’ari al-Shadhili, a jurist from amongst the people of western Tripoli and one of the most outstanding scholars of Libya. He was born in Tripoli in the year 1244 AH and studied in Jam’iah al-Azhar. There he studied the three madhahib other than the Hanbali madhhab in depth. Likewise, he benefited from the senior scholars of Al-Azhar, like Shaykh Muhammad ‘Illish, Shaykh Hasan al-‘Adawi (d.1882 AH), and Shaykh Ahmad ‘Abd al-Rahim al-Tahtawi (d.1885 AH). He assumed responsibility for giving fatwa in Tripoli and he taught there, until a large number of students graduated at his hands. He died in Tripoli in the year 1315 AH. He has a super commentary on Tafsir al-Baydawi entitled Majmu’ah al-‘Abd al-Dhalil ‘ala rub’ Anwar al-Tanzil, and other works, including Fath al Wadud fi hall Nazm al-Maqsud, Kulliyat fi ‘l-Mantiq, and others.

[14] ‘Allamah Shah Ishaq Muhaddith al-Dahlawi has divided shirk into 13 categories. (1) Shirk  fi ‘l-dhat. (2) Shirk fi ‘l-‘ibadah. (3) Shirk fi ‘l-isti’anah (seeking aid). (4) Shirk fi ‘l-‘ilm. (5) Shirk fi ‘l-qudrah. (6) Shirk fi l’-tasarruf. (7) Shirk fi ‘l-khalq. (8) Shirk fi ‘l-nida’ (calling). (9) Shirk fi l’-qawl. (10) Shirk fi ‘l-tasmiyyah. (11) Shirk fi ‘l-zabh. (12) Shirk fi ‘l-nazr. (13) Shirk fi ‘l tafwidh umur al-khala’iq. (Risalah Shu’ab al-Iman, from Hayat Shah Ishaq, p.142)

[15] Sayyiduna Ibn ‘Umar had numbness in his leg, whereupon a man said to him: “Remember the most beloved of people to you”, so he said: “Ya Muhammad”. (Adab al-Mufrad, hadith No. 964)

[16] According to the chronicler, Shaykh Al-Qadiri (d.1187 AH), a student of Shaykh Ahmad al-Lam’ati, Shaykh Al-Dabbagh was unschooled (ummi), though not illiterate, and yet, he was significantly devoid of madrasah education. Moreover, it was claimed that he [Al-Dabbagh] received training from shaykhs that no one is acquainted with, shaykhs that neither we nor anyone else we have come across.  (See Introduction to English translation of Al-Ibriz by John O’ Kane and Bernd Radtke, Brill – Boston.)

[17] Translation compared with English translation of John O’ Kane and Bernd Radtke, Brill – Boston.