Introduction | Part 1 | Part 2 | Part 3 | Part 4 | Part 5

In this series of articles, Br. Yayha Whitmer and I will shed some light on the sad phenomenon of Muslims invoking other than Allah for their needs. Making du'a to other than Allah is a matter that so clearly violates the message of the Qur'an, and even the testimony of faith, that its mere existence amongst those who subscribe to Islam, and its justification by people of knowledge, continues to boggle the minds of those Muslims who remain upon the fitrah. 

While many of the other theological innovations of non-Orthodox Islamic groups are truly not as relevant to our modern society, and can for the most part be ignored in public discourse, it is this 'line in the sand' that we strongly believe cannot be crossed.  Anyone who propagates the permissibility of making du'a to other than Allah has violated the most basic message of Islam, and fallen into the essence of shirk that our Prophet ṣallallāhu 'alayhi wa sallam (peace and blessings of Allāh be upon him) came to eradicate. It does not matter what pseudo-Islamic arguments, or perverted understandings of the Scriptures,  are employed in attempting to justify this travesty against Allah. The fact remains that turning to other than Allah with the goal of using these beings as intermediaries to get to Allah is the very religion of the pagan Jahili Quraysh that the Qur'an was revealed to eradicate.

This article serves as the Introduction to a series of other articles. Most will be written by our dear brother, Ustadh Yahya Whitmer (who studied a few years with our teacher Sh. Muhammad b. Salih Ibn Uthaymin, and whom I befriended while studying with the Shaykh as well). A few will be written by myself. Ustadh Yahya has asked that I read over and comment on the series, and graciously insisted that I be listed as co-author, even though (unless otherwise noted) he is the primary author of these articles.

May Allah cause these series to have a positive effect on the Ummah!
–  Yasir Qadhi 

by Yahya Whitmer

I­­­­ remember the moment very clearly. It occurred 15 years ago and though a whirlwind of events have happened in my life since then, the resonance of this memory has not faded. It was the first time that I felt the fear of God. Not the fear of an unidentified spiritual being, but a very defined and focused fear of my Creator, who existed above and beyond me. This was especially remarkable because at the time I was an avowed and belligerent atheist, who relished debate and criticizing various religions. I was 18. I had been born into a non-practicing Christian family and by the age of 16 I had become convinced that Christianity and all its variations were nothing more than a mix of plagiarized mythologies, oppressive social control, and perhaps a bit of historic truth involving a seemingly noble person. By extension and analogy, I assumed all other religions to be the same, Islam included. I attended an international school in my youth and many of its students were from the Middle East, so I had seen enough examples of Muslim debauchery and hypocrisy to know that they were no different from anyone else. So it was with great consternation, during my first year of college, that I received the news that a young man in my dorm had converted to Islam. I had thought that he was like me: worldly, liberal, educated, and rational (yes, at 18 I thought I was pretty hot stuff). He had come from an elite prep school, he was popular, charismatic. So, what the heck was he doing?! The notion that a person from such a background could readily, of his own free will, adopt such an odd and particularly oppressive religion (so I thought) truly bewildered me.

So it began: debate, questioning, and research. Islam, aside from a nod from Malcolm X, seemed to have little validity or modern resonance. But then this person gave me a copy of the Qur'an and upon reading it my world view began to tilt and pivot; my awareness went in directions I was completely unprepared for. I remember one particular session of reading the Qur'an; the verses had thundered at me, declaring that I must submit to the One True God. Over and over, the Qur'anic message challenged me, demanding that I think, that I search, that I recognize that there is a Creator who deserved my allegiance, that living my life without concern for His wishes was not only inherently wrong and ungrateful, but would result in severe consequences. Never had I heard a call so pure. Although the Qur'anic message was expressed in a variety of ways throughout its thousands of verses, the essence of its call was clear, even to my arrogant 18 year old mind: there was a Creator, whose influence and control permeated every nook and cranny of the world, and I was meant to know Him in a more intimate and direct manner than anything I had ever conceived: He knew my heart, He saw my actions, and no one and no thing stood between us. There was no place to hide. The only option was submission, change, saying that I was sorry, and working to better myself. This was the spiritual mandate, the personal covenant that I understood from the Qur'an, and it rocked my world.

Until Islam, the concepts of God that I had encountered were comical, pitiful, fractured. He had created Adam and Eve and then lost sight of them in Eden. He had been a partisan deity, almost like a servant to the people that believed in Him. Or He looked like a giant old man with a long beard. Or He was irrelevant and salvation lied in extinguishing and controlling the self. Or he was splintered into multiple incarnations, 3 or hundreds. Or my relationship with Him occurred through a multitude of human proxies. Or my salvation could be purchased through the church. Or someone else had taken responsibility for my sins. But the Islamic concept of God was different. The Qur'an informed me that God was absolute, undeniable, irresistible. Nothing happened except by His will. He was above and beyond and yet He was close and aware. Nothing was like Him, yet He was described in terms that I could comprehend. He was Merciful and Just and demanded that we live with each other in mercy and justice as well. And finally, this Ultimate Being wanted to deal with me personally. Through submission, recognition, reflection, and prayer I could be in His presence and required no intermediary. I was promised that through embracing this relationship I would know true peace, but it was still my responsibility and my choice to make.

Something long dead inside me stirred. Though I obstinately clung to my atheism, a cognitive awakening had occurred and a question began to creep its way up to the forefront of my consciousness. It was the most basic of questions, but it had been submerged in years of self-indulgence and petty distraction. Finally, one day, as I was heading back to my dormitory, I looked up into the sky and asked myself, sincerely and for the first time, “Was God really there?” And in that moment I knew fear. I knew fear because the simple answer was, “Of course.” My own soul had answered me, my fiṭrah, my innate human nature. The sublime beauty and unified order of the natural world had answered me. The absolute uniqueness and power of the Qur'anic verses had answered me. God was there. I had lived 18 years completely ignoring Him and had planned to live the rest of my life in a similar fashion, but that wouldn't work anymore. This God, the God that the Qur'an described to me, could not be ignored. And He did not deserve to be either.

I became a Muslim approximately 6 months after that incident. There are many things about those sequences of events that I need to be thankful for, but my main purpose in narrating this story is to say that the essence of Islam has always been clear, pure, and simple: A one on one relationship with the Creator of the heavens and the earth. He alone will take us to account and it is our hearts and our deeds that He will judge and only His Mercy that will save us. It is to this message that my soul responded and continues to respond. My studies at an Islamic University in Saudi Arabia, my time spent with Shaykh Muhammad ibn Salih Al-Uthaymeen, my readings of the works and collected statements of the earliest and best generations of Islam, all testify, agree, support, and expound on this concept. This is Islam.

Until I learned that it wasn't, at least for a significant segment of the Muslim community.

I generally do not bother myself with what other Muslims are supposedly doing wrong, unless it is directly affecting me and my family. My own flaws tend to cause me more problems than the mistakes of others. However, due to several recent personal events, I felt a responsibility to investigate a particular brand of Sufism … but let me be clear: I abhor blind sectarianism. It is a waste of time in the best of cases and an impediment towards embracing the truth in the worst of cases. But because people I knew and cared for seemed to be heavily influenced by this ideology I felt compelled to investigate it. On one of their primary websites I found what I feared to find: to call upon other than Allah was not a problem, the website said. It was not only your actions that drew you close to Allah, but people as well; through invoking them, you could gain favor with God and your prayers might be answered. It was not singularity (tawḥīd) of worship that Allah required from us, only singularity in recognizing Allah as the Creator.

I was unnerved. Did people really see Islam this way? Did they not realize that through these amendments, these exceptions, the purity of the relationship between Creator and creation was compromised? Is not duʿāʾ the essence of worship, as the Prophet taught us? Was worship not for Allah alone? Were my hopes, my prayers, my salvation subject to the influence of other than God? Then to how many beings may my heart be attached? To how many other beings may a Muslim's heart turn to in times of need?!

As naïve as it may seem to some readers, discovering these fatāwa, reading their justifications, and considering the spiritual implications truly disturbed me. I was familiar that concepts such as these existed in some Sufi traditions, but here it was at my doorstep, affecting people I knew and in many ways admired. Yet the difference between day and night paled in comparison to how different our views of Islam were.

This discussion about the true spirit of Islam is not irrelevant or superficial. I truly understand that we have many pressing social issues that need to be addressed. Education, spousal relations, parenting, personal and community finances, all of these are immensely important. But this issue is one that defines Islam, it is at the heart of what it means to be a servant of God. This is what opens or closes the gates of Heaven and Hell. It is the first building block of a personal relationship with the Creator; the first step towards true love and loyalty, or the first step towards infidelity and ingratitude. Even at the community level, this is relevant because unity is only achieved through a common sense of purpose. The Muslim ummah is not different from other communities because of its Arab origins or its specific rituals. It is different and defined by the message, “Lā ilāha illa Allāh” and discussion about what that really means will never be inconsequential.

Unlike previous explorations of similar topics, I intend to not just discuss whose evidence is stronger and more convincing, but also the spiritual implications of the two opposing viewpoints. The decisions you make about how you interact with your Creator are not detached intellectual choices, rather they have a direct and immediate impact upon your soul. What happens to your personal sense of responsibility, your spiritual work ethic, if you believe in direct intercession? What does it mean to believe that your actions are your only means (waṣīlah) to God's Mercy? Are the pious a model to be imitated or something else? What of praise, what of love and attachment? Questions like these define the servant's path to his Creator.

My ultimate goal in writing this series is not condemnation, but dialogue. Shaykh Ibn Uthaymeen had a very specific method for dealing with differences within the Islamic ummah. He insisted that only the opinion and its evidences be discussed without mentioning the name of the person whom he disagreed with. By doing this, he was able to maintain focus on analyzing the strength of each argument and minimize individual reasoning from being clouded due to personal attachments. Following in the footsteps of my mentor, I will only be discussing the opinions, through direct quotation and minimal paraphrasing, and I will not mention names. I will also not pass judgment, implied or otherwise, on any person, no matter how vehemently I disagree with them. As a student of knowledge, I am equipped to discuss concepts, but judging individuals and their creed is far beyond my capabilities or responsibility.

Compassion, wisdom, and patience were the hallmarks of the Prophet's call and so should they be with us. The people of the Qiblah have done enough to deserve such courtesy. My only request of any person who reads this series and disagrees with me is that s/he make the arguments and implications of each opinion the primary criteria, not the people who hold the opinions. Allah sent us this Book, this Messenger, and this Message, in Truth and it is to the Truth that we are ultimately obligated.

In this series, Shaykh Yasir Qadhi and I will discuss 4 main domains, where the evidences, conclusions, and implications of the 2 opposing viewpoints will be contrasted:

1. The Jamāʿah. What is this “main body” of Muslims that the Prophet (peace be upon him) has instructed us to adhere to?

2. Tawaṣṣul and Waṣīlah. What are the “means of approach”, the ways in which we may seek closeness to our Creator?

3. Tawḥīd. What does this word really mean and which interpretation of it is represented by “Lā ilāha illa Allāh”?

4. What now? Equipped with the information presented, what should a Muslim do? What attitude should he/she take with people that disagree? What other insights are needed to keep this message relevant and compelling? And how should it affect his/her relationship with Allah?

My secondary goal is to inspire a deeper appreciation of the tenets of Islam that I believe in. There is an old Arabic saying, bi-ḍiddi yatabayyanu al-ashyāʾ (by opposites things become clear); in comparing the differing opinions, I have grown in gratitude and love for the concepts that provide the foundation for my faith; I have a greater realization of how deep their roots grow and of how firm they stand in the face of challenges and opposition… much like a blessed tree. I hope that the reader may find similar or greater inspiration.

I pray that Allah pours His Mercy upon all my teachers, both living and dead, and I pray that you find true benefit in what I have written. And Allah knows best.

45 Responses

  1. Javad Ayaz

    Have you actually attended a gathering of sufis? It may change your perspective, although I do agree that some people may go over the top and commit shirk.

    Becoming a Sufi has changed my life. The Shaykh commands that you recite 150000 “La ila illala” a day as a bare minimum a day.  This along with the mandatory regular daily prayers.

    Indeed Islam for a substantial time during the time of the Prophet SAW was dhikr of the Almighty.

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    • Yahya Whitmer

      Yes, I have attended Sufi gatherings and personally know some of the big names in the Western Sufi scene. As I mentioned in the article, there are many things that I respect and admire about these various brothers, but this particular issue is something that I cannot ignore. I never would have become a Muslim if not for the purity of worship to the Creator alone. A central theme in this series is to explore what “La Ilaha Ill Allah” really means. I’m sure you can appreciate that it is just as important for its meaning to be clear in the heart and then implemented through daily life, as it is to say the blessed Kalimah.

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      • Javad Ayaz

        Indeed it is their lack of knowledge that leads people to such practices but I also believe Islam is as much spiritual as it is ritualistic. 
        La Ilaha Ill Allah and Huwa Hu ( He who is) are the essence of all life.

        I am familiar with both eastern and western Sufi gatherings and it is indeed us Easterners who kind of go overboard with this. In my experience, reverts are much more rational thinking when it comes to Sufi practices.

        Many Sufi’s ( African for example) incorporate the singing and dancing which is perhaps debateable.

        May I ask which of the Sufi’s gathering you attended?

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      • Yahya Whitmer

        I think it’s best not to mention names or even the specific tareeqa. And to tell you the truth, the practices of the various gatherings is not even my concern at the moment, but rather whether or not they consider dua to anyone other than the Creator to be shirk.

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      • Javad Ayaz

        I can only speak for my own tariqa and can confirm I have never heard of the instances you have mentioned…Alhamdullilah

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      • Yahya Whitmer

        Alhamdulillah, yes thankfully many Sufis reject these types of practices.

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    • Yahya Whitmer

      Yes I have been to Sufi gatherings and personally know some of the big names in the Western Sufi scene. As I mentioned, there are many things that I respect and admire about these brothers, but this issue is something that cannot be sidelined. I never would have become a Muslim were it not for the purity of worship to Allah alone. One of the main themes of this series is to explore what “La Ilaha Ill Allah” means. I’m sure you can appreciate that it is just as important to have the Kalimah’s meaning clear in the heart and implemented in everyday life, as it is to say it on a regular basis.

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  2. siraaj

    Salaam alaykum Sh Yahya,

    Jzk for this introduction, and I’m looking forward to reading the rest of this series.  I personally cannot see the logic in calling out to other than Allah for help.  However, I do realize that humankind has a general problem of emotionally affiliating itself with groups, organizations, individuals, leaders, political parties, and so on in varying degrees and within the muslim religious community, it sometimes manifests itself in madhab followers in one madhab denouncing others (eg hanafis vs shafi’ees) or making up stories about the piety of the individual followed.

    on the more extreme side, I do see how this over-emotional attachment can morph from devoted student / follower to something beyond which is undesirable.  I think this characteristic is generally problematic among all muslim groups, especially when you have different groups with different paradigms in approaching a problem converse with one another (they dont really “converse”, they fight, and by they, I mean the followers, and to a certain extend, their leaders), and while it may be irritating, at least on a theological level it can be tolerated, but when it crosses into something similar to roman catholic sainthood, I believe we’ve now gone too far across the line.

    Siraaj

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  3. Umm Zahrah

    alHamdulillah, I was so happy to see the start of this series, may Allah bless this effort. 

    I remember attending a sisters’ social on dealing with depression and the one thing that kept going through my mind as I listened to the stories was that this is a problem with Iman.  And indeed, at the heart of so many social issues is this, this relationship with Allah which has suffered so much and it reverberates throughout every other aspect of our worldly life.  And I’m not just referring to repenting for our sins, but the whole concept of submitting one’s self to Allah completely and calling upon none other than Him. 

    If this one, simple act was rectified, so many other problems would be easily solved. Every single time I get a question about or request for advice from sisters regarding any issue, I would turn back to calling upon Allah alone and Tawheed.  Immediately, it’s as if something inside these sisters clicks and they realize the true reality of their affairs and they no longer need advice.  They only need to remain firm on the straight path.

    May Allah bless this effort, and bring the much needed clarity our Ummah needs, Ameen!

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    • Yahya Whitmer

      The barakah of a pure and personal relationship with Allah is truly limitless, thanks for commenting.

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  4. Salman Muhammad

    I used to be fascinated with sufism long time ago but soon abandoned it after discovering that it had far too many Greek and Christian philosophical concepts which are foreign to what I understand about Islamic faith.  My original fascination was due to Al Ghazali books, first Ihya and then his memoir Munqih.  Alas, most sufi books that I read thereafter were different from Al Ghazali’s. 

    Further, central to sufism of Al Ghazali is zuhud, but I soon to find out that most sufis I know lead the kinds of lives far from being zuhud.  Many, in fact, appear to live the opposite way.

    For the last few decades I have been more interested in seerah, history and fiqh, which appear to make more sense to me. 

    You have made a nice introduction, a sort of a preamble to what you are going to say.  I shall be looking forward to next entries. 

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  5. Ssa227

    This looks like a very interesting series. I will also be following this closely. I have many friends who are staunchly Sufi and these are some of the thoughts I also have.

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  6. abu Rumaysa

    as one who comes from a background of sufi tradition and one who entered into the fold of Islamic orthodoxy and had to deal with the subsequent confrontations with influential family members, I can directly relate to this article… i do recall that for most evidences provided, they would essentially have their own interpretations and I guess being a lone “baby” sheep, my words had little or no influence…

    now that I look back in hindsight, I recall that good character and patience  were primarily the keys in keeping those relationships healthy and provided fruition in the struggle for clarifying those issues…mind you this all took place over many years….

    I also think that due to the lack of due attention and due consideration of Allah’s attributes and Tawheed itself, many well known leaders sometimes cross lines (either explicitly or in-explicitly), may Allah ta`ala guide and forgive us and them..ameen..

    for instance if a well known leader in our times here in the west tries to justify the following statement made by a “saint”: 
    “If you ( O my followers/students, fall into a calamity, call unto me and I will come to your aid”)

    or 
    another well known leader tells his congregation about his own particular experiences of being in a life threatening situation and he called on to the jinn to help him…

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  7. Gibran Mahmud

    Assalamualaikum wa rahmatullahi wa barakatuh

    “non-Orthodox Islamic groups”Now you are becoming more like Orthodox Jews. This is a fulfilment of the Prophecy. We are literally following these men into the lizard hole.Don’t use the word “orthodox”. Just say “pseudo-Islamic groups”.

    We are called Muslims and our religion is Islam. We do not need to call ourselves Sunni-the Quran and Sunnah are what we hold onto to keep aright. The Shias are exactly that-sect of Ali RA(in their distorted version). Hadith rejectors are just that. Ahlul Bidah is just that.Lets let someone else follow them into the Lizard Hole. What do we have Surah Al Fatiha for? Samina wa ata’na. We hear and we obey.

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  8. Hassan

    Assalam-o-Alaikum. I have a question to the respected shyookh about the naming “Orthodox Muslims”.

    Now from previous articles and discussion, it seems scholars of muslimmatters were trying to get away from labels. Is that my correct understanding? If they were indeed trying to get away from the labels (like salafis, wahabis, deobandis etc), then may I humbly ask if calling oneself Orthodox muslims would create a new label? Of course I do not know details of what/how they categorize orthodox muslims (like what sort of belief to be held etc), but it definitely seems that you are calling yourself a new name distinguished form names used in past.

    And if that was not the intention (trying to get away from labels), rather you felt that there is no proper name to classify the ideologies you hold, and hence you described yourself as orthodox muslim, may I ask the details of it. (from outside it seems somewhere between salafis and ikhwanis).

    I am sorry this question may have not be relevant directly to the topic, but I been thinking about it for a while, and there is always been debate here and there about calling oneself something other than muslim.

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  9. Naimabrobert

    A compelling introduction, masha Allah. Will be following with interest…

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  10. Mohammed

    asSalamu `alaykum

    Please have a listen to what the science of tasawwuf is truly about. They are a bit long but they are worth every second, alhamdulillah.

     http://www.sacredlearning.org/tasawwuf

    Also, you can a better understanding through this site insha’Allah:
    http://tasawwuf.org/

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    • Omar

      Wa alaykum Assalam,

      I personally used to listen to the speaker on that website. His name is sh Hussein if I remember correct. One thing which didn’t sit well with me and eventually made me stop listening to his lectures completely was that far too often he would say “my sheikh said the prophet sws did..”. Maybe he has that much trust for his sheikh but for me personally, I would much rather have heard the reference for the Hadith as opposed to these vague references. After stopping listening to him I have learnt more and there are other mistakes in his methodology which I am able to identify, but due to my lack of knowledge I don’t trust myself to articulate clearly, so I’ll leave that to anyone else who may have also heard some of this speaker’s recordings.

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  11. Dawud Israel

    EDIT THIS (in my last comment): The dua came from the means, so you invoke that means, that is the Prophet (salallahu alayhi wasalam). 

    TO READ AS THIS: The dua came and was taught by the means (the Prophet salallahu alayhi wasalam), so you invoke that means (the Prophet salallahu alayhi wasalam) in making dua to Allah. It is like the hadith: Abu Umamah (May Allah be pleased with him) reported: The Messenger of Allah (sallallaahu ’alayhi wa sallam) made many supplications which we did not memorize. We said to him: “O Messenger of Allah! You have made many supplications of which we do not remember anything.” He said, “Shall I tell you a comprehensive prayer? Say: `Allahumma inni as’aluka min khairi ma sa’alaka minhu nabiyyuka Muhammadun sallallahu `alaihi wa sallam. Wa `a`udhu bika min sharri mas-ta`adha minhu nabiyyuka Muhammadun sallallahu `alaihi wa sallam. Wa Antal-Musta`anu, wa `alaikal-balaghu, wa la hawla wa la quwwata illa billah (O Allah, I beg to You the good which Your Prophet Muhammad (sallallaahu ’alayhi wa sallam) begged of You; and I seek refuge in You from the evil where from Your Prophet Muhammad (sallallaahu ’alayhi wa sallam) sought refuge. You are the One from Whom help is sought and Your is the responsibility to communicate (the truth). There is no power or strength except with Allah the Exalted, the Great.”’[At-Tirmidhi]

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  12. Yahya Whitmer

    This not a point by point response to your comment, just an answer to some of your more salient points:1.In regards to your accusation of attempting to stir up controversy for the sake of publicity, I ask you to please not interpret people’s intentions. You can’t demand honesty and fair conduct when you undermine those very principles yourself. Take everything at face value and leave our intentions to God. And besides, to use the names of the Sufi scholars, label them and their followers with the most inflammatory titles possible, and engage in personal attacks and accusations would have been a better recipe for publicity.2.This debate is indeed old, going back to the time of Nuh (alayhis-salam). I believe that every generation of revelation concerns itself with this topic and I am attempting to follow in that path.3. The term “Tawassul” is ambiguous and has many different interpretations and implementations. There is only one interpretation that I am addressing in this article: supplications(du’a) directed to other than Allah. The tawassul via Abbas (May Allah be pleased with him) was not of this type, as Abbas himself proceeded to make du’a to Allah.4. Your accusation of placing “my own understanding above that of Allah, His Rasul (salallahu alayhi wasalam) and his Companions” is extraordinarily presumptuous. You are again presuming to know my internal state. I kindly request that you adhere to the common etiquette of debate, as exemplified by the likes of Al-Shafi’i and Abu Haneefah.5. I am unfamiliar with the book that you have mentioned, but I am familiar with the general arguments and interpretations that you have presented to justify your position. They will be addressed soon in sha Allah.6. I am unfamiliar with the class you are referring to that was taught by Yasir Al Qadhi, but I do know Yasir to some degree and I believe that he addresses topics with an academic rigor and fairness that is rarely found in modern Islamic discourse.7. I strongly disagree that Judaism, Christianity represent Tawhid. Please continue to be a part of this discussion as we will address this topic in detail later. The Tawhid that the Messengers taught, singularity in worship, is only currently manifested in the world by true Islam. It is very interesting that you consider religions that permit the worship of created beings to represent Tawhid, but your belief is in accordance with what we understand about this brand of Sufi theology; it espouses that Tawhid only represents a recognition of singularity in Creation and Control. We contend that Tawhid also demands singularity of worship.8. I strongly disagree that da’wa fails when the focus is solely on Tawhid, but again, our interpretations of that word differ radically. My interpretation involves a strengthening of every aspect of the intimate and direct relationship with the Creator, both internally and externally. It involves knowing His names and attributes and recognizing and praising the manifestations of those attributes throughout the created world. It involves absolute trust in my unseen Lord, a trust possible only through faith and contemplation of his signs and verses. It involves admitting my deepest fears and darkest sins to the only being who has been with me through every moment of my life, and the only being in whose strength, mercy, and forgiveness I can truly rely. I am very sorry that you find this to be unfullfilling.Please realize that you have described Tawhid as being an inadequate platform upon which to base da’wah. Your opinion is in direct contradiction with the wisdom of the Creator Himself and every generation of messenger that He has sent, including our Prophet Muhammad(peace be upon him). It is in direct contradiction with the path “of those whom You have favored” (as is referenced in Al Fatiha). I’m sorry friend, but it is hard for me to imagine a clearer indicator that there is something very wrong with your perception of fundamental principles of Islam. I hope that you take time to reflect upon this point. Surah Al A’raf is particularly relevant.

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    • Yahya Whitmer

      ugh. I apologize for the poor formatting. I would delete and redo if I could.

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  13. Yahya Whitmer

    This not a point by point response to your comment, just an answer to some of your more salient points:
    1.In regards to your accusation of attempting to stir up controversy for the sake of publicity, I ask you to please not interpret people’s intentions. You can’t demand honesty and fair conduct when you undermine those very principles yourself. Take everything at face value and leave our intentions to God. And besides, to use the names of the Sufi scholars, label them and their followers with the most inflammatory titles possible, and engage in personal attacks and accusations would have been a better recipe for publicity.

    2.This debate is indeed old, going back to the time of Nuh (alayhis-salam). I believe that every generation of revelation concerns itself with this topic and I am attempting to follow in that path.

    3. The term “Tawassul” is ambiguous and has many different interpretations and implementations. There is only one interpretation that I am addressing in this article: supplications(du’a) directed to other than Allah. The tawassul via Abbas (May Allah be pleased with him) was not of this type, as Abbas himself proceeded to make du’a to Allah.

    4. Your accusation of placing “my own understanding above that of Allah, His Rasul (salallahu alayhi wasalam) and his Companions” is extraordinarily presumptuous. You are again presuming to know my internal state. And I’m not sure if you realize it, but you are accusing me of Kufr. I kindly request that you adhere to the common etiquette of debate, as exemplified by the likes of Al-Shafi’i and Abu Haneefah.

    5. I am unfamiliar with the book that you have mentioned, but I am familiar with the general arguments and interpretations that you have presented to justify your position. They will be addressed soon in sha Allah.

    6. I am unfamiliar with the class you are referring to that was taught by Yasir Al Qadhi, but I do know Yasir to some degree and I believe that he addresses topics with an academic rigor and fairness that is rarely found in modern Islamic discourse.

    7. I strongly disagree that Judaism, Christianity represent Tawhid. Please continue to be a part of this discussion as we will address this topic in detail later. The Tawhid that the Messengers taught, singularity in worship, is only currently manifested in the world by true Islam. It is very interesting that you consider religions that permit the worship of created beings to represent Tawhid, but your belief is in accordance with what we understand about this brand of Sufi theology; it espouses that Tawhid only represents a recognition of singularity in Creation and Control. We contend that Tawhid also demands singularity of worship.

    8. I strongly disagree that da’wa fails when the focus is solely on Tawhid, but again, our interpretations of that word differ radically. My interpretation involves a strengthening of every aspect of the intimate and direct relationship with the Creator, both internally and externally. It involves knowing His names and attributes and recognizing and praising the manifestations of those attributes throughout the created world. It involves absolute trust in my unseen Lord, a trust possible only through faith and contemplation of his signs and verses. It involves admitting my deepest fears and darkest sins to the only being who has been with me through every moment of my life, and the only being in whose strength, mercy, and forgiveness I can truly rely. I am very sorry that you find this to be unfullfilling.

    Please realize that you have described Tawhid as being an inadequate platform upon which to base da’wah. Your opinion is in direct contradiction with the wisdom of the Creator Himself and every generation of messenger that He has sent, including our Prophet Muhammad(peace be upon him). It is in direct contradiction with the path “of those whom You have favored” (as is referenced in Al Fatiha). I’m sorry friend, but it is hard for me to imagine a clearer indicator that there is something very wrong with your perception of fundamental principles of Islam. I hope that you take time to reflect upon this point. Surah Al A’raf is particularly relevant.

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    • Abu Musa

      MashAllah – I was looking forward to this piece before i read the Ustadh’s response to brother Dawud – NOW I AM REALLY LOOKING FORWARD TO IT!
      Many sufi groups inherently claim adab, ikhlaas etc..but the manor in which the Ustadh responded to the presumptuous nature of the post is MashAllah a clear indication that no one can claim a mononpoly on those qualities.
      Well answered, balanced and void of emotional baggage – MashAllah.

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      • BintKhalil

        Assalamu alaikum

        Indeed Dawud Israel’s comment shows just how needed this series is.

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    • Sarmd

      Salam Br. Yahya,

      You wrote “he (Shaykh Ibn Uthaymeen) was able to maintain focus on analyzing the strength of each argument and minimize individual reasoning from being clouded due to personal attachments.”

      This statement sound fine.  In fact, it easier said than done.  Shaykh Ibn Uthaymeen’s (RA) ideas issued from a certain Islamic prespective. Like others he didn’t begin from a clean slate.  He was one of the leaders of the Wahabi/Salafi perspective.  I hasten to add that I am not using the word ‘Wahabi’ in a deragotary way.  I see it as one of the legitimate view points within Islam.  Just as the ‘Sufis’ for example, do not get mad when they are labelled ‘Sufis’, the Wahabis should not when they are labelled ‘Wahabis’.  The label doesn’t mean much, what matters are the contents.

      I understand that you studied in Saudi Arabia.  I did too. But my major was not in Islamic Studies but in Mathematics.  I obtained by BS from King Saud University. However, I attende many of the teaching majalis of the Shaykh.  I am sure we were not there at the same time because I left Riyadh in 1986.  I respected the Shaykh a lot and still do.  But I came to know later that the Shaykh’s belief regarding Tawasul was not only in the minority but is at odds with, even,  Imam Ahmad’s belief.

      It is not easy to brand muslims mushrikiin because they beleive in the efficacy of Tawasul, espicailly when the vast majority of the ulama accepted it. Of course, calling others mushrikin will not do them any harm, but will come to haunt the caller a Day when it is too late to rectify. Why would one put oneself in such a position?

      Wassalam

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      • Yahya Whitmer

        Wa alaikum assalam wa rahmatullah Br. Sarmd,

        I appreciate your comments and understand where you are coming from. Thank you for your genuine concern. Indeed labeling anyone a mushrik is an ENORMOUS issue, it’s truly hard to express just how serious it is. Thankfully the ability and responsibility to do that are not a part of my life. This article has not and will not (by the grace of God!) make a declaration of kufr/shirk on any person of the Qibla.

        Please bear in mind that there are many interpretations of the term tawassul, some of which are agreed upon by all generations of scholars, some of which there is legitimate difference and discussion, and some of which are an absolute aberration, only rearing its head in the late part of the third Hijri century, after the passing of the three blessed generations that the Prophet (alayhis-salam) had mentioned. This form of tawassul involved Direct Invocation of the “pious”. This is shirk,  a betrayal of the Creator’s divine right and that is why we are attempting, to the best of our ability, to address this issue. In our theology, where we believe that Allah alone has the right to be worshiped (and du’a is the essence of worship!) this is an issue that simply cannot be ignored for the sake of unity. 

        Interestingly enough, I started my personal journey from several “dirty” slates. I was heavily prejudiced against Islam, but its light pushed through all that grime. After becoming a Muslim, I was heavily influenced by Sufi figures and in all fairness I can say that they had my emotional loyalty more than Salafism. It was a great struggle to overcome that emotional attachment and realize that the simple principles of following the sunnah/evidence and singularity of worship were the true spirit of Islam that deserved my dedication.

        To see that spirit for yourself, please reflect upon Islam’s darkest hour. After the passing of the beloved, a man who was loved in ways that the human heart could never feel towards any other person, in that moment where the greatest flame flickered and went out from the world, leaving it in darkness… how did the light return? What were the words that were said that rekindled the light of Islam and that did justice to the life, legacy, and mission of the Prophet? What did Islam’s first Caliph say? “Who ever used to worship Muhammad, let him know that Muhammad has died. And who ever worships Allah, let him know that Allah is the Ever Living!” We were not told to assuage our despair by making dua to or through the Prophet (alayhis-salam), but rather to re-devote ourselves to the direct and intimate relationship with our Ever Living Creator.

        Thanks for your time and concern.

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    • Dawud Israel

      “Text without context is pretext.” 

      Re-read my comment because it seems you are, again, cherry-picking or read quickly edited
      Addressing what you said… 

      #4 is not what I was saying about your internal state, just the general thought process and mentalities that manifest in these discussions. I am calling that tendency out before it falls into that state. My point was about ISTIHSAN and arbitrary understanding as opposed to the understanding Qur’an/Sunna/Ijma makes clear. 

      #5 As I said, my views are my views, they are NOT representative of the ideas in that book. I STRONGLY suggest you read that book. If you disagree, then mashallah, Allah wills it, and that is definitely your free choice, but at least understand the topic entirely before you talk about it like you are an expert. I mean, claiming objectivity and then proceeding with complete bias is shameless. Be just. Be honest. If you are scared of the idea that you might be wrong and won’t read the other viewpoint, then you aren’t loyal to ‘ilm, but you are loyal to your own ideas. Where is the sacrifice? 

      If you have the courage and fairness to read the book, then do so, if not, then I know this conversation and discussion will not bear fruit and despite your hardest efforts, you will be frustrated. You have to be honest and actually understand what most Muslims think of when they say tawassul/istighata, not what you or a few new Muslims think of when tawassul/istighata are mentioned. Its one thing to be told, “someone told me the sufi people believe this…” and arguing against that, basically attacking a straw man and its another thing to go and learn. We have to verify our sources and that is also part of our deen with the isnad. Hearsay has no isnad and that is why it has no basis in our religion. 

      #6 Make no mistake, I have a lot of respect for sh. Yasir Qadhi. I am just pointing out the deficiencies I’ve seen in approaching this topic in the past, namely cherry-picking quotations in the LUL course. I think he unknowingly did that so I am not casting aspersions, but it sets a precedent that if one side cherry picks (knowingly or unknowingly) then so does the other-side and it becomes a cherry-picking contest and truth is lost. Showing half the picture is not like showing the whole picture and so we have to strive to get the whole picture. And again, text without context, is pretext. 

      The problem is when you don’t know that you don’t know. Meaning, its not like so-and-so is concealing something intentionally, but it is probably that they think they have a complete understanding but don’t know that they actually have an incomplete understanding due to their lacking exploration of Sunni Islam. That is why I suggested reading that book; if there is something you don’t know you don’t know, it will become clear. And Islam is a religion of clarification as the Quran is kitabil mubeen. #7/#8 Semantics. I am using the term tawhid broadly, to mean monotheism. Tawhid as per Islam is something else and that is what we both treasure and value. What makes this umma unique is sayyidina Muhammad (salallahu alayhi wasalam) and the Qur’an was given to him, not Moses. If Moses and Muhammad (salallahu alayhi wasalam) lived at the same time, Moses would have to follow Muhammad (salallahu alayhi wasalam). That needs to be underlined. Don’t cherry-pick my statements, because you expose your own competency. 

      di. 

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      • Hassan

        Wow, you did not use to be arrogant and disrespectful before, what has happened to you?

        This article is just introduction to actual series of articles, I would suggest you point out opposing view on each point that you disagree, you are refuting things even before the articles are published.

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  14. Regular Baba

    Salam Bro Dawud,

    One comment here about this statement:  “Tawhid and dawa fails when it focuses solely on tawhid”.  I’m sorry I don’t understand how you can make such a statement.  Allah SWT says in the Quran that the ONLY sin He does not forgive is shirk.  To me, that means that if a muslim neglects every single thing in his deen, but keeps his tawhid, then there is still a chance for him.  But if a muslim obeys Allah SWT in every single matter, but somehow falls into shirk, then there is absolutely no chance for him whatsoever.  The Quran was revealed by Allah SWT to be read and pondered upon not just by non muslims but by muslims.  Why does the topic of tawhid come again and again and again in the Quran?  To me, it’s clear why : because there are traps of shirk which muslims can fall into, and as a muslims we must take great care to watch out for those traps.  Honestly bro, your statement reminds me of what many Christians say, when they say that believing in Jesus is more important for them than tawhid.  Without 100% absolute, correct tawhid, there is NO ISLAM.

    One thing which I have never understood about those people who claim that you can call to others than Allah is that the Prophet(SAW) warned us to stay away from doubtful things.  Many such people take this to be stuff like the food of the people of the book (which is actually explicitly stated as being HALAL in the Quran), but somehow seem to allow doubtful things when it comes to tawhid.  At a very minimum, calling on someone other than Allah is surely a big question mark.  That being the case, why not regard it as being from the doubtful things and staying away from it?

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    • Dawud Israel

      Wa aleikum salam wa rahmatullah, 

      “One comment here about this statement:  “Tawhid and dawa fails when it focuses solely on tawhid”.  I’m sorry I don’t understand how you can make such a statement.  Allah SWT says in the Quran that the ONLY sin He does not forgive is shirk.  To me, that means that if a muslim neglects every single thing in his deen, but keeps his tawhid, then there is still a chance for him.  But if a muslim obeys Allah SWT in every single matter, but somehow falls into shirk, then there is absolutely no chance for him whatsoever.  The Quran was revealed by Allah SWT to be read and pondered upon not just by non muslims but by muslims.  Why does the topic of tawhid come again and again and again in the Quran?  To me, it’s clear why : because there are traps of shirk which muslims can fall into, and as a muslims we must take great care to watch out for those traps.  Honestly bro, your statement reminds me of what many Christians say, when they say that believing in Jesus is more important for them than tawhid. Without 100% absolute, correct tawhid, there is NO ISLAM.”

      So, where do you get “100% absolute, correct tawhid” from? Where did you get it from? Did you talk to Jibril? Did you find a ladder to the heavens and get it directly from Allah? You got it from Rasulullah (salallahu alayhi wa alihi wasalam). Without Rasulullah (salallahu alayhi wasalam) your Islam is nothing. In fact even your dua is nothing. 

      This hadeeth was narrated by al-Tirmidhi (486) from ‘Umar ibn al-Khattaab (may Allaah be pleased with him) who said: “Du’aa’ is suspended between heaven and earth and none of it is taken up until you send blessings upon your Prophet (peace and blessings of Allaah be upon him).” Ibn Katheer said: Its isnaad is jayyid. It was classed as hasan by al-Albaani in Saheeh al-Tirmidhi. 

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      • Regular Baba

        So, where do you get “100% absolute, correct tawhid” from?

        From the Quran and Sunnah.  And one thing that is crystal clear FROM THOSE SOURCES is what Brother Yahya is planning to address, that calling upon others than Allah is shirk, plain and simple. 

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      • Skillh

         Dear sheikh yasir qahdi and Yahya Whitmer can you please in the follow up articles go in depth in the defintion of Ilah?

        The Asharis/sufis have a problem with the Definition of Ilah as  being something worshipped…

        “The Ash`ari definition of ilah, which,Fakhr al-Din al-Razi, means ‘the
        one who can independently create’. Hence, if you don’t believe your dead
        Shaykh can create life or give you sustenance himself, but rather does
        so by a power given to him by Allah, this would not be shirk according
        to that definition.”

         He, i.e. Ibn Jareer Al-Tabari, then went on to
        say a couple of lines down;

         “If it is said; And what proves that uluhiyyah
        means worship and that an Ilah “إله” is one that is worshipped and that it has an
        originality in “Fa’al and yaf’al” “فعل, يفعل”(i.e. it being an Arabic verb)” .

        And then he went on to prove it with
        an Arabic poem said by Ru’bat Ibn Al ‘Ajaaj. And then he brought the
        interpretation of Ibn Abbas on the verse in Surah Al’Araf, verse 127 where
        Allah says, “And the chiefs of Pharaoh’s people said: Do you leave Musa and his
        people to make mischief in the land and to forsake you and your gods? He said:
        We will slay their sons and spare their women, and surely we are masters over
        them”, but Ibn Abbas used to read the verse differently by reading وإلاهتك instead of وآلهتك and he’d say upon
        interpreting the word وإلاهتك which is the way he’d read it, he’d say; “i.e.
        your worship”.

          So the verse will mean according to the
        interpretation of Ibn Abbas “And the chiefs
        of Pharaoh’s people said: Do you leave Musa and his people to make mischief in
        the land and to forsake you and your worship? He said: We will
        slay their sons and spare their women, and surely we are masters over them”.

         So this is a clear indication that the word
        Ilah means worship since Ibn Abbas interpreted وإلاهتك to mean “And your worship”, and
        he said (i.e. Ibn Abbas) in support to his interpretation by saying as Ibn
        Jareer Al-Tabari supplies in his tafseer;

         “Forsake you and your worship; Only Pharaoh was worshipped and he
        never worshipped. And that’s how Ibn Abbas and Mujahid used to read this verse.
        On the authority of Mujahid in the (interpretation of the verse), “Forsake you
        and your uluhiyyah” i.e. your worship”

         

        Ibn
        Jareer then says;

         “And there’s no doubt that Al-Ilahah “الإلاهة” – according to how Ibn Abbas and
        Mujahid interpreted it – is from the source of the saying of one; so and so has
        divined Allah a divinity. Like it is said so and so worshipped Allah a worship
        and he interpreted the dream an interpretation. It indeed became clear from the
        words of Ibn Abbas and Mujahid that “Aliha” “أله” means worshipped and
        that “الإلاهة” “Al-Ilaha” is its
        source”. [End quote].

          So you see here
        that a verse was interpreted with another verse and the saying of a companion
        was transmitted with the linguistic meaning of the word touched upon at great
        lengths. So the one who strips his eyes from blind-following and throwing
        unfound accusations towards the people of knowledge would submit to the
        interpretation of Ibn Abbas, Mujahid and Ibn Jareer Al-Tabari to the word
        “Ilah” and that it means one that is worshipped.

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      • Yahya Whitmer

        Absolutely, that is one of the sub-topics that we will address. It’s awesome to see people showing such insight into the deep rooted nature of the problem. As you mentioned, certain theological schools define a “god” as a being capable of creation. All of this is a result of their interaction with Greek philosophy. The Arabic/Quranic definition of “god/ilah” is a being that is worshiped. The ramifications are just as you mentioned and this is not empty theory either. Yasir had a frank conversation with one of the greatest living classical Asharite scholars, who said that to call upon the Awliyaa was haram, but not Shirk. Subhan Allah wa la ilaha illa Huwa. Allah bless.

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      • Skillh

         Jazakallah khair dear brother looking forward to it also It would be greatly appreciated that you talk about the issue of affirmation and negation regarding the shahada which is also linked to this topic.

        You stated brother
        “Tawḥīd. What does this word really mean and which interpretation of it is represented by “Lā ilāha illa Allāh”

        We know that in the Shahada we have to Negate and then Affirm but different sects have a different opinion specially ashari/sufis and shia

        The Hanbali/Salafi/Athari Negation is:

        “Kufr bi Taghoot”

        Then Hanbali/Salafi/Athari Affirmation is:

        “There is only one God worthy of worship”

        But Ashari/Sufi/ Shia see it different they say:

        The Negation is Hasr Meaning  the negation we are negating everything other then god”

        And they say the Affirmation is:

        “No God but Allah”

        So because of this Negation and Affirmation Difference they see no wrongs in the actions when they go to the graves and ask for intercession and to them it doesn’t violate the kalimah.

        This is the Root of Wasila/tawasuul etc as well as the issue of Ilah. I hope you and Sheikh Yasir Qahdi give insightful view on why many islamic sects follow the above?

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  15. siraaj

    Dawud, I considered offering a response to your comments, but then someone went and wrote this article:

    http://muslimmatters.org/2012/03/19/a-muslims-guide-to-facebook-arguments-and-online-ridiculousness-in-general/

    and I laughed, remembering I didn’t want to return to these types of online “discussions” I left behind years ago :)

    You’ve written some pages-worth of critical material in this discussion without having read the body of Sh Yahya Whitmer’s work.  I would suggest / request that you extend him the courtesy that you requested for the book you asked him to read, that you read his articles in full, and then discuss your disagreements.

    You almost seem guilty of what you condemn.

    I’d also ask for a sampling of quotes out of context from LUL with (in your estimation) full context.  One or two of the more egregious misreadings should suffice.

    Siraaj

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  16. none

    This series will not eradicate extreme sufism, shirk or grave worship or do justice to the call of Imam Muhammad ibn Abdul Wahhab (rahimullah), Abdul Qadir Al-Jilani (rahimullah). These factions are here to stay as long as Allah wills, as a means for the people of Tawheed to improve their ibadaah and their imaan and to worship Allah alone properly as commanded. However we all fall into traps and learning about it will inshaAllah have an impact on us. We need to better understand these concepts to protect ourselves, not necessarily to put down others, but to save ourselves from falling into the traps of Shaytan. May Allah bless the effort and allow us sinners to benefit from it and repent to Him. 

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  17. wir349

    Alhumdulilah, another Aqeedah article. What I like best about these articles is not only do we learn about Aqeedah but the discussion that follows has many lessons about how people think, how to give Da’wah, differing viewpoints  and lessons of Adaab. Really beneficial.

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    • Yahya Whitmer

      Glad to have you aboard, the continuing conversation is a big part of what keep me interested as well. I have learned alot.

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