Istighathah: Seeking aid from other than Allah

October 1, 2012

Du’a (supplication and invoking aid) is worship (‘ibadah). Allah Most High says in the Qur’an,

“And your Lord says, ‘Call upon Me; I will respond to you’. Indeed, those who disdain My worship will enter Hell [rendered] contemptible.” (Al-Ghafir, 60)

In this verse Allah has equated du’a to worship.

The Messenger of Allah (Allah bless him and give him peace) is reported to have said, “Du’a is worship, and then he recited the following verse of the Qur’an, ‘And your Lord says, Call upon Me; I will respond to you. Indeed, those who disdain My worship will enter Hell [rendered] contemptible’.” (Sunan Al-Tirmidhi, 2:173; Sunan Abi Dawud, 1:208; Sunan Ibn Majah, p.208; Musnad Tayalisi, p.108; Al-Mustadrak, p.491; Al-Adab al-Mufrad, p.105; Tafsir Ibn Kathir; under 40:60)

It also comes in another hadith, “Nothing is dearer to Allah than du’a.” (Al-Mustadrak, p.490; Al-Adab al-Mufrad, p.105) It is mentioned in another narration, “The noblest act of worship (‘ibadah) is du’a.” (Al-Adab al-Mufrad, p.105) The Messenger of Allah (Allah bless him and give him peace) said, “One who doesn’t call (yad’u) Allah, He gets angry with him.” (Al-Mustadrak, p.491) And it comes in another version, “Allah is angry with someone who does not ask (yus’al) of Him.” (Al-Mustadrak, p.491)

Yet in another narration it says, “Du’a is the weapon of the believer and the pillar of the religion.” (Al-Mustadrak, p.492 – Al-Hakim and Al-Dhahabi have classified this narration as authentic)

Sayyiduna ‘Abdullah ibn ‘Abbas (may Allah be pleased with him) said, “The most excellent worship is du’a.” (Al-Mustadrak, p.491 – classified as authentic by Al-Hakim and Al-Dhahabi)

It is apparent from the clear verse of the Qur’an and authentic narrations mentioned above that to make du’a to the creation (i.e. istighathah) is not permissible, since to make du’a is worship and indeed worship is only the right of Allah. It is therefore clear that that Allah is the sole Being deserving of du’a and indeed all worship.

Thus the practice of istighathah – which is to call for such help from the creation, which is beyond their natural means – would be impermissible and a possible cause of shirk. And this is because asking such help from the creation, which is not in the ambit of natural means or proven through authentic texts, implicitly attributes such qualities to the creation that in reality solely belong to Allah.

‘Allamah Sarfaraz Khan Safdar (d. 1430H / may Allah have mercy on him) mentions that seeking help is of two types: (a) Within the means (ma taht al-asbab) and (b) beyond the means (ma fawq al-asbab).

Regarding the difference between help which is within the normal means and beyond normal means, he explains that while the first type is established through the Qur’an, hadith, the Companions (Sahabah) and the Pious Predecessors (Salaf), the second type has no basis in Islam and has been declared haram and shirk in Shari’ah by jurists.[1] The seeking of the latter type of help is only restricted to Allah. (Guldastah Tawhid, p.135. Also see his Tafsir lecture of Surah Fatihah)

Similarly, Shaykh Abu Bakr bin Muhammad ‘Ali Khawqir (d. 1349H / may Allah have mercy on him) writes, “Shirk is the belief that those besides Allah have an effect [ability] on things above the normal capabilities granted to them by Allah and also that something possesses a power which is beyond the capabilities of the normal creation.” (Ma la Budda Minhu fi Umur al-Din, p .11, from Tanqid-i-Matin, Sarfaraz Khan Safdar)

Shaykh Khawqir has thus shown that shirk is the belief that something other than Allah has an effect beyond that which Allah has granted him from the apparent means, and that something possesses a power outside the realm of the abilities of created beings.

In this article we will address the claim of some of those who practice istighathah that they do not intend to attribute independence or the status of godhead to saints but rather to Allah. We will show that this in reality is not much different than the mentality of the idolaters of Makkah. They too did not attribute independence or status of deity to their idols but rather used them as a means to gain closeness to Allah.

We will secondly demonstrate that such calling on the deceased for help implies several forms of shirk such as assuming that they are present and seeing (hadhir and nadhir), possess knowledge of the unseen (‘ilm al-ghayb), etc. – attributes that are unique to Allah and not established for anyone else. We will thirdly present the verdicts of some leading scholars on the practice of istighathah.

Lastly, we will conclude by exonerating Shaykh ‘Abd al-Qadir Jaylani from the claims of some that he permitted the practice of istighathah, and we will show that, to the contrary, he rather promulgated strict tawhid.

[1] Imam Shah Waliullah Muhaddith Dahlawi (d. 1174H / may Allah have mercy on him) has extensively refuted the practice of istighathah in his numerous works. He writes while distinguishing between ma taht al-asbab and ma fawq al-asbab, “He [Allah] is Everlasting, All-Hearing, All-Seeing;[2] He has no match and peer. He has no partner in necessary per se (wujub al-wujud) neither in deserving worship nor in creating and managing (tadbir), so none deserves worship, i.e. highest reverence, but He, and none cures an ill, supplies livelihood, removes distress, but He, in a sense that He addresses the thing with kun fayakun (Be! and it becomes). This is different than in the sense of usual causation (tasbib), as it is said that the physician cured the patient, the emir gave livelihood to the soldiers; so this is different though they are similar in wording.” (Tafhimat al-Ilahiyyah, 1:145)

‘Allamah Sarfaraz Khan Safdar writes in Tanqid-i-Matin bar Tafsir Na’im al-Din, p.25, while explaining the above quote, that it is clear that seeking outward help with means is lawful, as [is shown] when Sayyiduna Dhu ‘l-Qarnayn (may Allah be pleased with him) approached the place of the dam, he heard people complaining about the destruction by Gog and Magog and was requested to build a dam across the pass so that they could be protected against their plundering. They offered him financial help as well. Sayyiduna Dhu ‘l-Qarnayn said he did not need money; Allah had given him plenty. Rather he asked them to provide him with physical help. This is not the [type of] help that those who perform istighathah seek from the prophets, saints and martyrs, who are neither alive in this world nor near. He further says that it is not befitting for scholars to use such examples to prove istimdad since such examples involve asking for help from the living which is within the normal means of the creation.

Many among the proponents of calling the dead for help believe or unintentionally imply that the prophets and saints have the power of kun fayakun (Be! and it becomes) and ask them for help with this belief. Imam Shah Waliullah Dahlawi writes in refutation of these extremists, “Shirk is to affirm the special attributes of Allah (Exalted is He) for [those] beside Him, such as free-disposal (tasarruf) in the affairs of the universe with the intention expressed as kun fayakun… [The polytheists] used to ask those close (mutaqarribin) to Allah for help in important matters under the power (qudrah) of kun fayakun and the polytheists used to carve their images from stone, copper, glass, etc. and make the souls of the dead the focus of their deep attention.” (Al-Fawz al-Kabir fi-Usul al-Tafsir, p.3-4)

[2] Imam Ahmad bin Idris Shihab al-Din Qarafi al-Maliki (d. 684H / may Allah have mercy on him) has also refuted those Sufis who assign the power of kun fayakun to the creation. He writes, “The second type is that a person making du’a (supplication) is extremely stupid and daring, leading him to ask Allah to grant him special powers for running the universe which are exclusively under the power and will of Allah, such as creation, annihilation, and predestination. Common sense and logic indicate that it is impossible for these divine powers to be for anyone besides Allah. This means that such a request is in fact asking for partnership with Allah in his kingdom and this is akin to disbelief (kufr). Many ignorant Sufis have fallen into this trap and they claim that so-and-so was given the word ‘kun‘ (Be!) and they ask to be given this divine command, which Allah mentions in the Qur’an, ‘Our command for a matter when we will it is to say to it ‘be’ and it becomes’. They do not understand the meaning of this phrase in the speech of Allah and they also do not understand the meaning of this divine phrase being ‘given’ to someone, if that could be possible. This is a matter that is impossible to achieve according to the qualified scholars, let alone the concocting Sufis. This causes these Sufis to be destroyed in a way that they do not even realize. They believe that they are among those close to Allah, when in reality they are far from Him. May Allah save us from evil trials and those things that lead up to them. May Allah save us from ignorance and that which leads to it.” (Anwar al-Buruq fi Anwa’ al-Furuq, 4:446)

[3] It may be said that those who perform istighathah do not consider the power and ability of the saints from whom du’a is sought to be equal to Allah, but rather they believe that their ability is given to them by Allah. This claim is not sufficient to justify istighathah since the polytheists of Makkah also never held their deities as equal to Allah. They too believed that the power of their deities was bestowed to them by Allah.

Imam Fakhr al-Din al-Razi (d. 606H / may Allah have mercy on him) writes regarding this notion, “Know that there is no one in the whole universe who ascribes a partner with Allah who is at the same level with Allah in existence (wujud), power (qudrah), knowledge (‘ilm), or wisdom (hikmah). Not one person until today has been found [who believes that anyone is on the same level as Allah] except the Zoroastrians…” (Tafsir al-Kabir, 2:112, from Itmam al-Burhan fi Rad Tawdih al-Bayan, Sarfaraz Khan Safdar)

Imam Shah ‘Abd al-’Aziz Dahlawi (d. 1239H / may Allah have mercy on him) writes, “It should be kept in mind that there is not one person in the universe who associates anyone with Allah at the same level in existence (wujud), knowledge (‘ilm), power (qudrah), and wisdom (hikmah).” (Tasfir-i-’Azizi, p.162)

Imam Shah Waliullah Dahlawi writes in his magnum opus Hujjat Allah al-Balighah, chapter 74 titled “The explanation of what had been the condition of the People of Jahiliyyah which the Prophet (Allah bless him and give him peace) reformed”, “Among the principles agreed upon among them [the people of the Ignorant Age] was the belief that God, may He be exalted, had no partner in the creation of the heavens and the earth and the substances in them, and that He had no partner in managing the great affairs and that no one could reject His order nor frustrate His decree once it had become settled and decided, and this is [proven by] His saying, may He be exalted, ‘If you asked them who created the heavens and the earth they would answer Allah’, [31:25], and His saying, ‘If God’s chastisement comes upon you, will you call upon any other than God, if you speak truly? No; upon Him you will call, and He will remove that for which you call upon Him if he wills, and you will forget whatever partners you associated with Him,’ [6:41-42], and His saying, ‘All upon whom you call for help lose their way except Allah.’ [That is, these others fail in times of crisis or disaster] but it was due to their deviance in religion that they held that there were personages among the angels and the sprits who could manage [the affairs of] the people of the earth, except for the major matters…”[3]

Shah Waliullah further writes about the beliefs of early polytheists in chapter 37 titled Tawhid, “[The second group] are polytheists… They also said that these beings [righteous servants of God] hear, see, intercede for their worshipers  manage their affairs, and give them help; and they carved stones in their names and made the stones a focus for directing their worship towards these beings.”[4]

Hafiz Ibn Kathir (d. 774H / may Allah have mercy on him) writes, “And yet, they have associated partners with Him in divinity (ilahiyyah), so they worshiped others with Him in spite of their admission that those whom they worshiped will not be able to create a thing, they do not own anything and do not domineer anything, but they believed that these idols take them closer to Him.” (Tafsir Ibn Kathir, 5:488)

‘Allamah Muhyi al-Din Shaykh Zadah (d. 951H / Allah have mercy on him) writes, “I.e. the idols are not equal to Allah, neither in reality which is obvious, nor according to their beliefs; since they believe that these [idols] are intermediaries taking them nearer to Allah as per their belief, not that they are adversary equals [to Allah].” (Hashiyyah ‘ala al-Baydawi, 1:383)

According to Islamic theologians, the polytheists of Makkah didn’t believe that idols were gods but merely referred to them as such. Imam al-Mutakallimin ‘Allamah Sayyid Sharif Jurjani al-Hanafi (d. 816H / may Allah have mercy on him) writes, “Know that there is no opposition regarding this issue except that of the sanawiyyah (Zoroastrian dualists), not the wasniyyah (idol-worshipers). Verily they [the polytheists] do not believe that there are two necessarily-existent deities, nor do they ascribe the attributes of divinity (ilahiyyah) to the idols even though they referred to them with the word ‘aalihah‘ (deities), rather they adopted them as statues of the Prophets or the pious or the angels or the celestial objects, and adopted revering them in a manner of worship, using them as a means of reaching the One who is actually Divine [Allah].” (Sharh al-Mawaqif, p.580)

[4] ‘Allamah ‘Abd al-Hayy Lakhnawi[5] (d. 1304H / may Allah have mercy on him) was asked, “What is the ruling regarding that person who thinks that saints know and hear the call from far and near and [he] seeks their help with the wording which are used for those present and make vows for them and says that my vow is for them?”

He replied, “The belief of this person is corrupt (fasid) and there is fear of disbelief (kufr) of that person because the hearing of saints from far is not proven [in Shari’ah]. And knowledge of all of the matters (juziyat) at all times is only specific to Allah Most High. It is stated in Fatawa Bazzaziyyah that whoever says that souls of the pious (mashayikh) are hadhir is a disbeliever (kafir), and it is written in the same book that whoever performed nikah by making Allah and His Messenger to be witnesses become kafir. [This is] because he assumed that the Holy Prophet (Allah bless him and give him peace) is knower of the unseen…” (Majmu’ah al-Fatawa, 1:46-47)

It was further asked, “It is the practice of the general public of this city that in the time of distress they call upon the prophets and saints for help (madad) from far, and believe that they are hadhir and nadhir, and when we call them they hear us and make du’a concerning our needs. Is this [type of istimdad] permitted or not?”

At this the reply came, “This type [of seeking aid] is not merely haram but also shirk as in this [asking for such help] is considered [i.e. implied] that those besides Allah have knowledge of the unseen (‘ilm al-ghayb) and this belief is manifest shirk. Because in Shari’ah, shirk is to associate anyone with Allah in His essence (dhat) and specific attributes (sifat), and knowledge of the unseen (‘ilm al-ghayb) is the specific attribute of Allah as it is mentioned in the books of ‘Aqa’id…” (Majmu’ah al-Fatawa, 1:45-46)

Another such query stated, “If a person believes that Shaykh ‘Abd al-Qadir Jaylani (may Allah have mercy on him) has the power to hear anyone who calls him from anywhere and turns his attention towards his [the caller’s] situation. How is this belief according to the principles of Shari’ah?”

The answer came, “This belief is not only against the ‘aqa‘id of the people of Islam but leads to shirk…” (Majmu’ah al-Fatawa, 1:73)

And he wrote in a reply to a question regarding seeking aid with the wording, “Ya Shaykh ‘Abd al-Qadir shayy’an lillah“,

“It is binding and necessary (wajib) to abstain from these sort of recitations. Firstly, [because] this recitation consist of the wording ‘shayy’an lillah‘ and certain jurists consider these wording disbelief (kufr)…

Secondly, such recitation consists of calling on the dead from a distance and it is not established from the Shari’ah that saints have the power to listen to a call from far distance. However, it is established [from Shari’ah] that the people of the grave hear the salam of the visitors to their graves. But to consider that anyone beside Allah is hadhir nadhir at all times and is aware of the evident and hidden, is shirk… And our ‘ulama have said that anyone who believes that the souls of the saints are hadhir and ‘alim (knowing), is a kafir. Although, Shaykh ‘Abd al-Qadir Jaylani (may Allah have mercy on him) is one of the great luminaries of the Ummah al-Muhammadiyah (Allah bless him and give him peace) and his virtues and excellent qualities are innumerable, but it is not established that he hears the distressed caller from a distance. And to hold a belief that he is aware of his disciple’s affairs all the time and hear their calls, is shirk.” (Mujmu’ah al-Fatawa, 2:189-190)

[5] Hakim al-Ummah Mawlana Shah Ashraf ‘Ali Thanawi (d. 1362H / may Allah have mercy on him) writes in Bawadir al-Nawadir, p.706, his last book, “The detail [with regards to this issue] is that tawassul through a creation was explained in three ways: First is to make du’a and seek aid (istighathah) in the way that it is in the religions of the polytheists. This is forbidden by consensus (ijma’). As to whether it is manifest (jali) shirk or not, then its criterion is [that if] the person doing it has the belief that the person being called upon has istiqlal in bringing about an effect, then this is shirk that constitutes kufr…

And second is to request him [the person being called upon to make du’a to Allah], and this is permissible through those from whom it is possible to seek for du’a, but such possibility is not proven through any evidence for those who have passed away. So we shall restrict this type of tawassul to those who are alive.

And the third is to make du’a to Allah through the blessing (barakah) of an accepted (maqbul) creation and this is allowed according to the majority of scholars…”

From the above it is clear that according to Mawlana Thanawi istighathah from the creation is, at minimum, haram by consensus under all circumstances, and disbelief with the belief of istiqlal. It is a clear rebuttal of those circles who try in vain to highjack the verdicts of righteous scholars to suit their fancies.

Explaining istiqlal, ‘Allamah Sarfaraz Khan Safdar writes in Izalat al-Rayb ‘an ‘Aqidah ‘Ilm al-Ghayb from Fatawa Rashidiyyah, “Knowledge of the unseen sometimes is available to the prophets, it is also from the same kind, i.e. it is not derived from any power and ability gifted to these holy men, rather it is an effect of the exclusive attribute of Allah that He manifested there, like the movement of the pen is due to the movement of the writer.” (Fatawa Rashidiyyah, 3:23)

He adds from Fatawa Rashidiyyah, “As far as terms like ‘personal knowledge’ (‘ilm al-dhati) and ‘free choice’ (tasarruf istiqlal), etc. in relation to the disbelievers in the writings of scholars like Shah Waliullah Dahlawi and Shah ‘Abd al-’Aziz Dahlawi are concerned, this usage was to relay that the disbelievers used to establish the same power and choice (for the idols) through Allah which was the causative factor of their polytheism; otherwise the Arab polytheists believed that the idols and their attributes were created by Allah, and they were granted power and choice from Him, as we have elaborated before. As far as using the word ‘free choice’ is concerned it is obvious that the polytheists, due to their belief in the entrusting of power and choice, maintained that these acts of divine characteristic are included in actions and matters coming under one’s power, and that the self-determined actions of servants come under the regulation of freewill and thus they deserve praise and criticism, though all actions of servants are based upon the power gifted by Allah.” (Fatawa Rashidiyyah, 3:24)

‘Allamah Sarfaraz writes while explaining the above quotes, “It is very clear that by ‘personal’ and ‘independent’ it is meant that human beings have independent power on good and bad, belief and disbelief, obedience and disobedience, etc. on which they deserve praise and condemnation as well as reward and punishment. Likewise, the polytheists believed that Allah Most High grants attributes of ghayb (unseen) to some of his servants and they are independent in acting freely therein just like the self-determined actions (af’al ikhtiyariyyah).” (Izalat al-Rayb, p.33)

He further writes distinguishing between istiqlal and ghayr istiqlal, “By given (a’tai) and dependent (ghayr mustaqil), they mean that like mu’jizaat and karamaat, they need the power of Allah in partial matters as well; even in these matters they do not have such a power as they have in the normal actions of the servants (af’al ikhtiyariyyah). For example, a pen writes in the hand of a writer, but it requires the movement of the writer in writing each single word. In other words, it can be said that the writer has manifested his action of writing through the pen, not that the pen has got power of writing like a man; since a pen cannot be a writer unless it carries the human characteristics… Except human actions, since human beings have independent (mustaqil) and inherent power, though this power and choice is gifted by Allah.” (Izalat al-Rayb, p.34)

It is clear that mustaqil (istiqlal) is used in the same sense as normal everyday actions (af’al ikhtiyariyyah) while ghayr mustaqil for mu’jizaat and karamaat in the statements of scholars.

Some circles, in desperation, use poetry as their last resort to prove or disprove ‘aqa‘id. Mawlana Ashraf ‘Ali Thanawi was asked about a qasidah by Mawlana Ilahi Bakhsh Kandhalwi (d. 1245H / may Allah have mercy on him), produced in the book Shiyam al-Habib fi Zikr Khasa’is al-Habib, which innovators use to prove istimdad, etc. Mawlana Thanwi replied about this notion, “[Uttering such statements] with the intention of isti’anat and istighathah or with the belief of hadhir nadhir is impermissible. And without any of these [above mentioned] beliefs if it is solely to display one’s desire and delight it is permissible. This permissibility is granted because the purpose of reading poetry is usually to display one’s desire and delight. However, in places where things are seen contrary to it, this permissibility will cease.” (Imdad al-Fatawa, 5:385)

[6] Mufti Muhammad Shafi’ (d. 1396H / may Allah have mercy on him) has refuted the practice of seeking aid from the creation at numerous places in his marvelous tafsir, Ma’arif al-Qur’an. He has equated istighathah with prostrating (sajdah) to the creation. Under the verse – “And that masajid (mosques) belong to Allah; so, do not invoke anyone along with Allah.” (72:18) – he writes, “And therefore we are not permitted to call on anyone for help beside Allah, like the Jews and Christians [who] commit shirk in their places of worship… The word masajid could also have another sense. It could be the plural of masjad, with the letter jim carrying fath, in which case it would be masdar mimi (a type of infinitive) and means ‘to prostrate or prostration’. The verse in this sense would signify that worship is reserved exclusively for Allah. It is not permitted to prostrate to anyone, and if he calls on anyone else besides Allah for help (i’anat), it is as though he is prostrating to him which must be avoided.”

[7] ‘Allamah Ahmad bin ‘Abd al-Qadir al-Rumi (d. 1041H / may Allah have mercy on him), an erudite scholar from the people of Akhisar in present-day Turkey, also addressed this issue in Majalis al-Abrar wa Masalik al-Akhyar.[6] He writes in chapter three concerning how Satan tricks those who ask the creation for help, “…And there are those people who perform istighathah from the creation, regardless of whether they are alive or dead, Muslim or non-Muslim. And Satan takes the form of the person whose help has been sought and fulfills the need of the person who has sought help. So, these Muslims think that Satan is the same person who they called for help. However, it is not as they believe. In reality, it is Satan who misguides them when they assign a partner to Allah. For, Satan leads astray the children of Adam (may the peace of Allah be upon him) according to his ability. So, when Satan helps them according to their needs, he is harming them much more than he can benefit them. Hence, that person who is a Muslim, when he seeks aid from those mashayikh who he believes in, Satan comes to him in the shape of that shaykh because Satan often takes the forms of the pious but he does not have the power to take the form of the Prophet of the Cherisher of the Worlds (Allah bless him and give him peace). Then, indeed that shaykh whose help has been sought, if he is from among those of knowledge then the Satan will not inform him of the saying of his companions who sought his help. And if he is from those who have no knowledge he informs him [the shaykh] of what they said and he [Satan] relays to them the shaykh’s speech. So those ignorant people think that indeed the shaykh has heard their voices and answered them in spite of the long distance, whereas it is not the case. This is only done through the medium of Satan. And it has been narrated from some mashayikh who have experienced such [events] through unveiling (kashf) and mukhatabah, they say that: ‘I see something shiny like water or glass, and in it that news which I seek appears and so I inform people of it. And through it the speech of those who seek my aid from my companions reaches me and so I answer them and my response reaches them’.

And these types of things of the extraordinary (khawariq) happen to many of the mashayikh who do not know the Qur’an and Sunnah, and do not act upon them. For indeed, Satan plays with people a lot and shows them things that are false in the appearance of the truth. So, he who has the insight (basirah) of the realities of faith (iman) and knows the Shari’ah of Islam, he knows that it is the deception of the Satan and he seeks aid with Allah Most High from him.” (Majalis al-Abrar wa Masalik al-Akhyar, p.24)

[8] ‘Allamah Muhammad ibn Muflih al-Maqdisi (d. 762H) in Al-Furu’, 6:165, and ‘Allamah ‘Ala al-Din al-Mardawi (d. 885H / may Allah have mercy on them) write in Al-Insaf, in the chapter “Ruling of the Apostate”, “He said: Or he made between him and Allah intermediaries on whom he places his trust, to whom he supplicates (yad’u) and asks for help. While some said: Or he prostrated before the sun or the moon.”

[9] ‘Allamah Sharf al-Din al-Hijawi (d. 960H / may Allah have mercy on him) stated in his book Al-Iqna‘, 4:285, in the chapter ‘Ruling of the Apostate’, “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: or he took intermediaries between himself and Allah, relying on them and supplicating to them, according to consensus. Or, he prostrated before idols or the sun or the moon.”

[10] ‘Allamah Khayr al-Din Sayyid Nu’man Alusi (d. 1317H) ibn Sayyid Shihab al-Din Mahmud Alusi al-Hanafi (d. 1270H / may Allah have mercy on them) has quoted Shaykh Muhammad Amin al-Suwaydi al-Shafi’i (d. 1246H) on the prohibition of istighathah. Shaykh Amin’s father, Mulla ‘Ali al-Suwaydi (d. 1237H / may Allah have mercy on them), was the teacher of the author of Ruh al-Ma’ani. He states in Jala’ al-’Aynayn fi Muhakamat al-Ahmadayn,[7] “Shaykh Muhammad Amin al-Suwaydi al-Shafi’i stated: None can regard it lawful except one who is ignorant of the traditions of the Messenger (Allah bless him and give him peace). This was the reason that seeking help from the dead spread among the people during times of trouble and discord. They beseech the dead and supplicate to them, as if what they do with them is greater than their worship of Allah and their belief in the Lord of the Heavens.”

[11] Dr. Wahbah Mustafa al-Zuhayli, a contemporary Syrian Shafi’i Ash’ari scholar, was asked, “What is the ruling regarding istighathah (calling for assistance) that [some] Naqshbandis engage in after completing al-rabitah with the wording, ‘Oh my teachers extend your aid towards us’ and ‘Oh my shaykhs, help us’ and ‘Oh my masters, help us’ and ‘Oh my guides, help us’?”

He replied, “These types of istighathah, in their apparent meanings, are haram, because they amount to seeking help from other than Allah, and help (madad) is granted by Allah alone, although the intercession (tawassul) of other than Allah from amongst the prophets and righteous people is correct according to Ahl al-Sunnah…”[8]

He further answered in a reply to an objection on visiting the graves, “Visiting graves is licit according to the wording of the hadith ‘alaa fazuruhaa’, and there is no connection to evil in that, because we visit graves as an admonishment and a lesson, we do not seek anything except from Allah, and we do not draw near to shirk, even by a hair-length.”[9]

[12] Shaykh Wahbi ibn Sulayman al-Ghawji Albani, another contemporary Ash’ari scholar, writes, “After this introduction I want to mention some of the bid’ahs upon which the ‘ulama and propagators of the religion need to agree as being prohibited since these are blameworthy innovations concerning which there cannot be silence: … (8) “Of the bid’ah is that which some of the ignorant people do when visiting the grave: They ask the dead to cure them of their illnesses and to fulfill their needs. They tie strings of material to the material of the graves of saints and pious people, with the intention of making barren women fall pregnant or that an estranged husband should return to his wife and love her again, and other examples like this. But if these ignorant people were to be asked in a mild tone: ‘Do they really believe that a pious man has power over anything after he has returned to the Mercy of Allah?!’ The answer to them is: ‘No, we believe that nobody else besides Allah Most High causes any real benefit or harm – none being able to cause such in their life or after their death. But this pious man is blessed, in that he has an honorable position in the sight of Allah and we are asking him because of that’. The truth is with those who teach and say to them: ‘Ask Allah the One. And it is acceptable if you ask Allah through the piety of that Friend of Allah (wali), or through the religious uprightness of the devout pious man that Allah fulfills your needs. By the Will of Allah they will return to the lawful commands. They are thus being returned to something permissible, and they will be so returned, InshAllah.”[10]

[13] Sayyid al-Ta’ifah Shaykh ‘Abd al-Qadir al-Jaylani (d. 561H / may Allah have mercy on him) said, “Follow [the Qur’an and Sunnah] and do not indulge in innovation (bid’ah). Remain in conformity and do not disagree. Remain obedient and not be disobedient. Be sincere and do not commit shirk. Declare Allah Most High to be One, and do not leave His door. Ask Him and do not ask anyone apart from Him. Seek aid from Him and do not seek aid from anyone apart from Him. Rely on Him and do not rely on anyone apart from Him.” (Al-Fath al-Rabbani, p.313)

And he further writes, “You must carry out His commandments, observe His prohibition, comply with His decree, and keep your outer and inner calmly speechless in His presence, then you will experience what is good in this world and the hereafter. Do not ask creatures for anything for they are weak and poor, incapable of bringing harm or benefit to themselves or anyone else.” (Al-Fath al-Rabbani, p.325)

When Shaykh ‘Abd al-Qadir al-Jaylani was in the throes of the illness in which he died, he gave the following advice to his son ‘Abd al-Wahhab, “… Do not rely on anyone but Him, address all your requests to Him (Exalted is He), and put your trust in no one other than Allah (Glory be to Him). Affirm His Oneness. All is contained within the affirmation of His Oneness.” (Futuh al-Ghayb, p.185)

Some circles have brought forward a statement attributed to Shaykh al-Jaylani from a book titled Bahjat al-Asrar in support of istighathah. However, this particular quote attributed to Shaykh al-Jaylani is contrary to what we find in his books. Shaykh al-Jaylani never endorsed istighathah as is evident from his books from which the above mentioned quotes have been produced. Furthermore, Bahjat al-Asrar has been declared unreliable by senior scholars.

For example, Imam Shams al-Din al-Dhahabi (d. 748H / may Allah have mercy on him), the great master in the science of analyzing the reliability of narrators (rijal), writes regarding the author of Bahjat al-Asrar, “He had great love for Shaykh ‘Abd al-Qadir al-Jaylani. He compiled events of his life and his virtues in about three volumes and wrote in it all narrations from various people, both worthy and unworthy. Thereby, he spread many false stories about him.” (Ma’rifat al-Qurra’ al-Kibar, p.721)

Hafiz Shams al-Din Muhammad Jaz’ari al-Shafi’i (d. 833H / may Allah have mercy on him) has also brought forward this quote of Imam al-Dhahabi in his Tabaqat al-Qurra’, 1:261.

Hafiz Ibn Rajab al-Hanbali (d. 795H / may Allah have mercy on him) writes, “It [the book Bahjat al-Asrar] deals with the life-events and merits (manaqib) of Shaykh ‘Abd al-Qadir Jaylani in three volumes. He has filled it with everything, big and small. It is sufficient for one to be called a liar when he narrates everything he hears. I have seen a portion of this book and my heart does not feel secure in accepting or relying on anything in it, or relating anything from it, except that which is famous and well-known from other books, because of an excess of narrating from unknown individuals, deviations, major errors, [unfounded] claims, and false speech, such that it cannot be considered, nor is it appropriate to attribute such things to Shaykh ‘Abd al-Qadir al-Jaylani.” (Tabaqat al-Hanabilah, 2:194)

The historian Khayr al-Din Zirikli (d. 1396H) quotes a verdict of Hafiz Ibn Hajr al-’Asqalani (d. 852H / may Allah have mercy on them) regarding this book, “Ibn Hajr said that many strange and odd stories are mentioned in it by him [the author] and many people have objected [criticized] to many chains of narration and stories narrated in it.” (Al-A’lam, 5:34) This quote is mentioned in Al-Durar al-Kaminah fi A’yan al-Mi‘a al-Thaminah, 3:142, of Hafiz Ibn Hajr.

‘Allamah Zayn al-Din ibn al-Wardi al-Shafi’i (d. 749H / may Allah have mercy on him) said, “Verily, there are many incorrect things and great exaggerations in this book [Bahjat al-Asrar] concerning the status of ‘Abd al-Qadir al-Jaylani that is only appropriate for divinity (rububiyyah).” (Kashf al-Zunun, 1:25)

Shaykh Sayyid Muhammad Abu ‘l-Huda ibn Wadi al-Sayadi al-Rifa’i[11] (d. 1328H / may Allah have mercy on him) writes regarding Bahjat al-Asrar, “There are many things written in the above mentioned book, Al-Bahjat, attributing which to Shaykh [‘Abd al-Qadir al-Jaylani] al-Gawth [al-A’zam], may he enjoy the pleasure of Allah, is incorrect. Many stories and untrue things were spread on his behalf. And numerous astonishing sayings were transmitted from a group of elders. Some defiant and bold people – and Allah’s refuge is sought – even fabricated many false traditions and attributed them to the Prophet (Allah bless him and give him peace).” (Tariqah Rifa’iyyah, p.16)

He further writes, “As for the stories, words, and fabricated traditions written in the book named Bahjat al-Asrar by [Abu ‘l-Hasan ‘Ali] Al-Shattanawfi (d. 713H) regarding the merits of Shaykh ‘Abd al-Qadir, may Allah sanctify his pure secret, the elders have raised objections to these [stories], some of whom have accused Al-Shattanawfi  of lying and opportunism. Amongst them is Hafiz Ibn Rajab al-Hanbali, may Allah bless his soul, as is mentioned in Tabaqat al-Hanabilah under the biography of Qutb al-Jili, may Allah benefit us with his assistance and knowledge, while some others said that he spread many stories, and they seem to have attributed to him stupidity and accepting [both] that which is accurate and that which is not.” (Tariqah Rifa’iyyah, p.59)


[1] This has also been elucidated by many scholars, such as Shaykh Sun’allah al-Halabi Hanafi (d. 1120H), Shaykh ‘Abd al-Fattah Abu Ghuddah (d. 1417H), Shaykh al-Qur’an Mawlana Husayn ‘Ali Wanbacharan al-Punjabi (d. 1363H), ‘Allamah Zafar Ahmad ‘Uthmani (d. 1394H), Mawlana Sayyid Murtada Hasan Chandpuri (d. 1370H), Hafiz al-Hadith Mawlana ‘Abdullah Darkhawasti (d. 1994AD), Shaykh Sayyid Abu ‘l-Hasan ‘Ali Nadwi (d. 1420H), Mufti Sa’id Ahmad Palanpuri, and Mufti Zar Wali Khan (may Allah have mercy on them), just to name a few. [↩]

[2] The Grand Mufti of Hind Mufti Muhammad Kifayatullah al-Dahlawi (d. 1372H / may Allah have mercy on him) writes regarding Shirk fi ‘l-’Ilm and Shirk fi ‘l-Sam‘ wa ‘l-Basr, “To attribute Allah’s power of knowledge to others. For example, to say that a prophet or a pious man has the knowledge of the unseen, knows everything, is aware of all of our affairs, or can tell what is happening far and near; all this is Shirk fi ‘l-’Ilm. Shirk fi ‘l-Sam‘ wa ‘l-Basr is to attribute Allah’s powers of seeing and hearing to others. For example, to believe that a certain prophet or a pious person could hear things far and near, or could see all of our acts.” (Ta’lim al-Islam, 4:15) [↩]

[3] Quote taken with permission from the English translation of Hujjat Allah al-Balighah by Marica K.Hermansen. [↩]

[4] Ibid [↩]

[5] Shaykh ‘Abd al-Fattah Abu Ghuddah writes, “Imam Muhammad Zahid al-Kawthari would always recommend and advocate the works of Imam Lakhnawi.” And Shaykh Kawthari himself said, “Shaykh Muhammad ‘Abd al-Hayy al-Lakhnawi was the most erudite of his era in traditions pretaining to judicial rulings.” (Bid’ah and the Salaf’s Worship, p.xvi) [↩]

[6] Imam Shah ‘Abd al-’Aziz Dahlawi praised Majalis al-Abrar in these words, “The book, Majalis al-Abrar, includes much beneficial discourses regarding the secrets of Islamic law, fiqh, suluk, refutation of bid’ah and reprehensible customs. We have no knowledge of the author in terms of his piety, godliness, depth in the sciences of Shari’ah, except that which this book reveals regarding him.” (Mu’jam al-Matbu’at al-’Arabiyyah, 1:388) And ‘Allamah ‘Abd al-Hayy Lakhnawi writes regarding Majalis al-Abrar, “And it is an excellent and reliable book.” (Iqamah al-Hujjah, p.19) [↩]

[7] Imam Sayyid Anwar Shah Kashmiri (d. 1352H / may Allah have mercy on him) mentioned that one of his hadith teachers was Shaykh Muhaddith Muhammad Ishaq Kashmiri (d. 1322H / may Allah have mercy on him) who is a student of Khayr al-Din Sayyid Nu’man Alusi, and he in turn of his father the author of Ruh al-Ma‘ani. Imam Kashmiri mentioned that Shaykh Nu’man Alusi is the author of many valuable books like Jala’ al-’Aynayn fi Muhakamat al-Ahmadayn and Al-Jawab al-Fasih li ma lafaqqah ‘Abd al-Masih. (Malfuzat Muhaddith Kashmiri, p.334) [↩]

[8] See fatwa of Dr. Zuhayli [↩]

[9] See fatwa of Dr. Zuhayli [↩]

[10] A guiding, knowledgeable word regarding bid`ah and its rulings by Shaykh Wahbi Sulayman al-Ghawiji, translated by IPSA students under the guidance of Shaykh Mahdi Hendricks. [↩]

[11] It says in Al-A’lam, 6:94, regarding Shaykh al-Sayadi al-Husayni, “He is the most famous of all scholars in his age, born in Khan Shaykhun (in the district of al-Ma’arrah) and educated at Aleppo and there he was with entrusted the responsibility of the Association of Ashraf. Later, he stayed at Astanah (Istanbul) and came in contact with the Ottoman Sultan ‘Abd al-Hamid II, who gave him the post of Mashayikhat al-Mashayikh. He won his confidence and became one of his most trusted men and continued serving this post for around thirty years…” [↩]


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.