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Aqeedah and Fiqh

Line in the Sand | Part 2: Definitions Matter

Published

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

Thankfully, this series has generated a healthy amount of dialogue regarding its central theme. Many people recognize the gravity of the topic and understand the need for it to be addressed decisively. I am glad to say that I have learned a lot from the reader responses. Their input and insights have helped to flesh out the details of this debate tremendously and have revealed nuances that I was not fully aware of. I am very happy that this series is becoming a vehicle for a live and continuing conversation.

In light of reader suggestions, a few key phrases need to be precisely defined. This installment will focus on defining these terms in the context of the Sharīʿah, as ambiguity in the interpretation of these concepts is one of the factors that allow the directing of duʿāʾ to other than Allah seem legitimate in the minds of many Muslims. While I addressed the correct interpretation of these terms in the first installment to varying degrees, I think it is useful to dedicate an article solely to defining them.

Duʿāʾ

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Translated as “prayer”, “invocation”, or “supplication”; Abū Sulaymān Al-Khattabi (a 4th-century scholar of fiqh, ḥadīth, and literature) defines it as:

“A servant’s calling upon his Lord for help. It’s reality is an expression of poverty to and need of Allah and admitting one’s lack of influence and power. It is a personification of servitude and recognition of the humbleness of mankind, and it implies praise of Allah and acknowledgement of His generosity”.

Ibn Manẓūr, the author of one of the definitive dictionaries of the Arabic language, Lisān Al-ʿArab, simply defines it as: “an expression of hope in Allah”.

Therefore duʿāʾ is more than just a request for help. It is an expression of a person’s deepest hopes and faith.  We can see the veracity of the Prophet’s words ṣallallāhu 'alayhi wa sallam (peace and blessings of Allāh be upon him) when he called duʿāʾ “the essence of worship” (al-Tirmidhī).

What is observable from the actions of those who call upon other than Allah is that they direct these feelings of servitude, need and poverty to beings they call awliyāʾ. Their supplications are fervent and passionate, and they are often overwhelmed with tears, calling out in desperate hope, affection, and longing. They term it tawaṣṣul and justify it via an abstract intellectual caveat “but we know that only Allah answers ” akin to calling murder “collateral damage” or cheating on one’s spouse but justifying it by saying “I was actually thinking of him/her”.  It is an evil act made more brazen by the audacious excuse.

ʿIbādah

Translated as ‘worship’; the famous linguist Ibn Al-Anbari said, “A worshipper is one who is humble before his Lord, submissive and compliant with His commands.” Ibn Fāris, one of the earliest and greatest scholars of Arabic said that the root of the Arabic term (ʿ–b–d) indicates softness, compliance, and humbleness, and gave the example of a domesticated camel (baʿīr muʿabbad). Ibn Taymiyyah said, “it is an all-encompassing term for the actions that please Allah, whether internal (via the heart) or external (through the limbs and tongue)”. Such absolute submission and humility is only achievable through a deep and personal understanding of Allah’s infinite grace and glory. May Allah grant us all such a blessing.

Tawaṣṣul/waṣīlah

Tawaṣṣul means “to gain closeness to something via a specified means”. Waṣīlah is “the means through which closeness is achieved”.

This term occurs in the Quran: Allah advises us to seek a means of gaining His favor and mercy, “O you who believe, do your duty to Allah and seek a waṣīlah to Him” (5:35)

Ibn ʿAbbās explained “waṣīlah” as “to become close”. His student Qatādah, further clarified, saying that it meant “to draw near to Allah by obeying Him and doing deeds which are pleasing to Him.” Imam Al-Ṭabarī explained it in similar terms in his great tafsīr, Jāmiʿ Al-Bayān: “Seek closeness to Allah by doing deeds that please Him.” Ibn Kathīr mentions that the Imāms of Tafsīr do not differ in their interpretation of this verse.  None of the scholars from Islam’s earliest and greatest generations interpreted tawaṣṣul to mean invoking the Awliyāʾ in need. Rather they interpreted it as being the good deeds that Revelation encourages us to do. And that these deeds serve as a means of gaining God’s mercy.

Thus, most forms of tawaṣṣul – as interpreted by the earliest generations – involve one’s own worship of God. The Quran and Sunnah display various manifestations of this:

To beseech Allah through His names and attributes:

 “And to Allah belong the most beautiful names, so call upon Him by them” (7:180).

To profess our weakness and need. For example, the Prophet Zakariya, whilst longing for a son to carry on the legacy of Prophethood, invoked Allah with the following:

“My Lord! Indeed my bones have become feeble and my head glistens with white hair ”(19:4).

To mention Allah’s blessings and generosity, as the Prophet Yūsuf did in the culmination of the Quranic account of his dramatic story:

“O My Lord! You have bestowed upon me a portion of the dominion and the interpretation of dreams. Creator of the Heavens and Earth! You are my Protector in this world and the hereafter. Let me die as one who submits to You and unite me with the righteous” (12:101).

To reference our own good deeds in prayer,

“O Our Lord! Indeed we have believed, so forgive us our sins and protect us from the punishment of the Fire” (3:16).

To acknowledge and seek repentance for our sins, as Ādam and Hawwa did,

“O Our Lord! We have wronged ourselves! If You do not forgive us and bestow upon us Your Mercy, we shall surely lose everything” (7:23).

These are all very moving examples of how a person may draw closer to Allah (i.e. perform tawaṣṣul as per the Quranic definition) by invoking the very intimate details of the personal relationship that exists between the humble servant and the ever-present Creator.

Tawaṣṣul through another person

As for tawaṣṣul involving the actions of another person, the authentic narrations [cited below] show that it is only allowed to ask others to pray on your behalf with the condition that they be alive and present during the time of asking. (I find it disturbing that I have to list these [what should be] obvious caveats – Islam came to do away with such blatant, superstitious folly):

The ḥadīth of ʿUthman Ibn Ḥunayf, declared authentic by Al-Tirmidhī, Al-Ṭabarānī, Al-Ḥākim, Al-Dhahabī, and Ibn Khuzaymah.

A blind man came to the Prophet and said: “Pray to Allah to cure me.” The Prophet said, “If you wish I will pray and if you wish you may be patient and that will be better for you.” He said, “Pray to Him.” The narrator said, “So the Prophet instructed him to make ablution, and then supplicate with this prayer: ‘Oh Allah, I ask You and turn to You through Your Prophet Muḥammad, the Prophet of Mercy. I turn through you, O Muhammad, to my Lord in this need of mine, that it be fulfilled. O Allah, grant him intercession for me.” 

This ḥadīth indicates that it was permissible to directly ask the Prophet ṣallallāhu 'alayhi wa sallam (peace and blessings of Allāh be upon him) to pray on one’s behalf as a form of intercession during his life. No analogy can be made to extend this in the Prophet’s absence or after his death. As ʿAlī (raḍi Allāh ʿanhu) noted, analogies are not  permitted in matters of worship, let alone ʿaqīdah, “If the religion were based on opinion, it would be more logical to wipe the underpart of the shoe than the upper but I have seen the Messenger of Allah ṣallallāhu 'alayhi wa sallam (peace and blessings of Allāh be upon him) wiping over the upperpart of his shoes.” (Abū Dāwūd).  And even the attempt at analogy is in contradiction with the spirit of ikhlāṣ (pure and uncontaminated sincerity and devotion) to the Ever-Living Creator. Ponder the words of Islam’s first Caliph, who responded to the Ummah’s darkest hour with the following words, forever reminding us all about the true spirit of our religion: “Whosoever worshipped Muḥammad, Muḥammad is dead. Whosoever worships Allah, then He is Ever-Living and does not die.” These were the words that pierced the darkest clouds of sorrow and reminded the noblest generation of their mission and purpose, and enabled them to move on after their immeasurable loss.

All other authentic implementations of this type of tawaṣṣul are identical: requesting duʿāʾ from an esteemed living pious person in the hopes that Allah will answer their prayer. As narrated in Ṣaḥīḥ Al-Bukhārī, “Whenever drought threatened the Muslims, ʿUmar bin Al-Khaṭṭāb, used to ask Al-ʿAbbās bin ʿAbd al-Muṭṭalib to invoke Allah for rain. He would say, ‘O Allah! We used to ask our Prophet to invoke You for rain, and You would bless us with rain, and now we ask his uncle to invoke You for rain. O Allah! Bless us with rain.’ And it would then rain.”

During the period of ʿUmar’s reign, his sense of duty and responsibility for Islam and its followers was unparalleled. Were it permissible to invoke the Prophet ṣallallāhu 'alayhi wa sallam (peace and blessings of Allāh be upon him) or ask the Prophet to pray on one’s behalf, there is no doubt that ʿUmar would have done so. Yet the narration clearly indicates that asking or invoking the Prophet was no longer an option and in acknowledgement of the unavailability of this option, ʿUmar turned to the Prophet’s living relative asking him to make the duʿāʾ for rain instead. Were ʿUmar to be somehow mistaken in his interpretation, another ṣaḥābī, perhaps Al-ʿAbbās himself, would have steered him towards invoking the Prophet, but there is no record of that.

Amongst the Ṣaḥābah, all recorded manifestations of this type of tawaṣṣul were similar: requesting that an esteemed and present pious person make du‘ā’ for the benefit of others. “The sky withheld rain, so Muʿāwiyah Ibn Abī Sufyān and the people of Damascus went out to pray for rain. When Muʿāwiyah sat upon the minbar he said: ‘O Allah! We are today asking the best and most noble amongst us to supplicate to You for us, O Allah, today we put Yazīd Ibn al-Aswad al-Jurashī forward to supplicate to You for us.’ Then Yazīd raised his hands and so did the people [and he supplicated for rain], and it rained until people could hardly reach their houses.” (Narrated by Ibn Asakir in his book of history).

There are no authentic narrations demonstrating that the Ṣaḥābah performed tawaṣṣul via the absent or the dead. However, there does exist a variation of the ḥadīth mentioned above in which ʿUthman Ibn Ḥunayf teaches another man to make an invocation after the Prophet’s death:

“A man repeatedly visited ʿUthmān ibn ʿAffān concerning something he needed, but ʿUthmān paid no attention to him or his need. The man met Ibn Ḥunayf and complained to him about the matter. Ibn Ḥunayf said to him: ‘Go to the place of ablution and perform ablution (wuḍūʾ), then come to the mosque, perform two rakʿahs of prayer therein, and say: “O Allah, I ask You and turn to You through our Prophet Muḥammad, the Prophet of mercy; O Muḥammad, I turn through you to my Lord, that He may fulfill my need,” and mention your need. Then come to me so that I can go with you to the caliph ʿUthmān.’

So the man left and did as he had been told, then he went to the door of ʿUthmān ibn ʿAffān, and the doorman came, took him by the hand, brought him to ʿUthmān ibn ʿAffān, and seated him next to him on a cushion. ʿUthmān asked, ‘What do you need?’ and the man mentioned what he wanted, and ʿUthmān accomplished it for him, then he said, ‘I hadn’t remembered your need until just now,’ adding, ‘Whenever you need something, just mention it.’ Then, the man departed, met ʿUthmān ibn Ḥunayf, and said to him, ‘May Allah reward you! He didn’t see to my need or pay any attention to me until you spoke with him.’ ʿUthmān ibn Ḥunayf replied, ‘By Allah, I didn’t speak to him, but I have seen a blind man come to the Messenger of Allah and complain to him of the loss of his eyesight. The Prophet said, “Can you not bear it?” and the man replied, “O Messenger of Allah, I do not have anyone to lead me around, and it is a great hardship for me.” The Prophet told him, “Go to the place of ablution and perform ablution (wuḍūʾ), then pray two rakʿahs of prayer and make the supplications.”’ Ibn Ḥunayf went on, “By Allah, we didn’t part company or speak long before the man returned to us as if nothing had ever been wrong with him.” 

Only one person, Shabīb Ibn Saʿīd, reports this version of the narration. He is considered a trustworthy narrator (ṣadūq) with a weak memory and in this case he contradicts more reliable narrators who do not mention this incident which occurs after the Prophet’s death. (A detailed discussion of the chain of narration can be found in the corners of the Internet and in the books of the muḥaddithīn, if anyone is interested.) However, the details and intricacies of the arguments make the discussion irrelevant except to well-trained students of ḥadīth. For the majority of Muslims, the issue will simply devolve into a matter of taqlīd. What is undisputed, however, is that there is but one, single narration that reports this incident that occurs after the Prophet’s death and that this narration has not been authenticated by the likes of Al-Bukhārī, Muslim, Al-Dhahabī, Ibn Khuzaymah, Ibn Ḥajr,  etc., scholars known for their deep and rigorous insight into the science of authenticating Prophetic narrations. As for Imām Al-Ṭabarānī’s previously mentioned declaration of “ṣaḥīḥ”, then it is in reference to the original narration which does not mention this extra story.

In determining your stance on this issue, consider the following:

1. The doubt that surrounds this narration
2. The lack of authentic supporting evidence
3. Its contradiction with the actions of the Prophet’s companions
4. Other narrations that warned against praying at the graves of prophets (“Allah’s curse be upon the Jews and Christians for taking the graves of their prophets as places of worship” – al-Bukhārī and Muslim), let alone actually directing prayer to them.
5. Its contradiction with the spirit of Islam, as embodied by the muḥkamāt of the Quran, which guide us to direct all hope and trust in Allah alone.

In light of these points, supporting the notion of making duʿāʾ to the Prophets or the Awliyāʾ based upon this singular evidence is a frail argument indeed. As Allah says, “those who take other than Allah as their Awliyāʾ are like the spider and its home; surely the frailest of all dwellings is the spider’s home, if only they truly knew” (29:41). They hang their hopes, prayers, and even their entire religion on very, very thin strands.

Shifāʾah (Intercession)    

Translated as “intercession;” within an Islamic context it means “to beseech Allah for the sake of another person”. Al-Khalīl, author of the first dictionary of the Arabic language, Kitab Al-ʿAyn, defines an intercessor as “one who requests on behalf of another”. In an authentic ḥadīth transmitted by Imām Muslim, the Prophet ṣallallāhu 'alayhi wa sallam (peace and blessings of Allāh be upon him) said, “There is no Muslim who dies and his funeral is attended by forty men, none of whom associate partners with Allah in any way, except that Allah will accept their intercession for him”. As is obvious from the observable practice of the ṣalāt al-janāzah (funeral prayer), the form of this intercession is the duʿāʾ made on behalf of the deceased (may Allah grant us this mercy!).

The ḥadīth above sheds light upon how one may be granted this type of intercession. The text of the ḥadīth, in complete coherence with the muhkamāt of Allah’s revelation, tells us that this intercession is granted as a reward for the worship of Allah alone. It is an honor granted to the intercessors and a mercy for the recipient, both parties are being blessed with this because of their worship of Allah. In another ḥadīth transmitted by Imām Muslim, the Prophet is asked, “Who is the one that will most enjoy your intercession, O Messenger of Allah?” The Prophet ṣallallāhu 'alayhi wa sallam (peace and blessings of Allāh be upon him) replied, “The one who says lā ilāha illa Allah with absolute purity (khāliṣan) of heart.” Ikhlāṣ is a very powerful word, indicating something free of any contamination, free of anything mixing with it and diminishing its purity. Imagine new fallen snow or the purest gold and you will have a good visual representation of ikhlāṣ. The objective of the sacred kalimah is to achieve this type of purity in one’s relationship with the Creator: complete devotion, absolute love, constant obedience, unwavering hope, and full submission, undiluted with excessive attachment to anything or anyone else. Islam’s laws, its myriad forms of worship, the revolutionary information and exhortations of the Quran, and the example of the Prophet and his companions all serve this extraordinary goal. Now contrast this with the act of directing one’s prayer towards someone other than Allah (regardless of what interpretive justification is offered for it); the very definition of aberration.

Ilāh

Commonly translated as “god”, in the Arabic language (and hence in its Quranic usage) ilāh refers to “something that is worshipped,” whether justifiably or not. In Lisān Al-ʿArab, Ibn Manẓūr says, “Ilāh refers to Allah and anything other than Him that is taken as an object of worship. That thing [the object of this worship] is termed the ilāh of the worshipper”. Fakhr Al-Dīn al-Rāzī, a famous scholar and mufassir, defined ilāh as:  “something worshipped, whether in truth or in falsehood” in adherence with the word’s linguistic roots. In numerous places in the Quran, Allah conveys the words of the pagan Arabs describing their idols as ālihah (plural of ilāh), for instance: “And they said: Will we forsake our gods (ālihah) for the sake of a mad poet?” (37:36).

The blessed kalimah: ‘lā ilāha illa Allāh’, contains only four words, so it is extremely significant to understand what each one of them means. The word ilāh appears to be the only one for which there exists conflict amongst the People of the Qiblah in regards to its interpretation, and the consequences of misunderstanding this single word are profound. If understood according to classical Arabic as established here, the kalimah can be translated as: “There is no being worthy of worship except Allah”. If its interpretation is subject to the influence of theological discourse originating in Greek philosophy, we find that many (but not all) Islamic theologians from the schools of Kalam (Speculative Theology) interpret ilāh as “a being capable of creation”. Thus, the kalimah will be interpreted as: “There is no being capable of creation other than Allah”.

Any worshipper of God not afflicted with spiritual apathy will recognize that the difference between these two interpretations is enormous. The first is a mandate that all devotion, love, and worship must be directed singularly to the One, unique God and the latter simply requires that one not recognize any other being as sharing in the creation or control of the world around us. As has been established in the first installment of this series, even the pagan Arabs recognized that Allah alone was Lord and Creator of the universe, yet that conviction did nothing to lift the charge of “shirk” from them. It was only through rejecting the worship and adulation of all beings except Allah that they were able to escape this colossal sin and be accepted into the fold of Islam.

In addition, the evidence supporting the correct interpretation of the kalimah is not limited to just a series of statements from various scholars, but also includes two decades of struggle between the Prophet and his followers and those who chose to reject his message. Any and all Sīrah books (and the Quran is the most profound conveyor of the Prophet’s life and mission) will attest that the pagan Arabs did not attribute the creation and control of the world to their idols and jinn, but rather that they worshipped these things in the belief that they would intercede for them:

“And those who take Awliyāʾ besides Allah say: We worship them only that they may bring us nearer to Allah. Indeed, Allah will judge between them in that wherein they differ. Indeed, Allah does not guide those who are false and ungrateful” (39:3)

Mujāhid, one of the most accomplished and renowned students of Ibn ʿAbbās, said in regards to this verse: “This is how Quraysh feel about their idols, and others feel the same about the angels, or ʿĪsā  the son of Mary, or Uzayr”.

Thus the nature of the relationship between the pagan Arabs and their gods was that they worshipped them in the name of intercession. Yet, these were understood to be their taken gods (as the Quran itself attests) despite the fact that they did not assign the status of Creator or Sustainer to these idols.

As Allah has promised, His book delivers clear and pure guidance to anyone who truly seeks it. Wa-l-ḥamdu li’llāh.

Shirk

According to Ibn Fāris, one of the greatest Arabic linguists our Ummah has ever produced, the word shirk indicates a coupling of two things and is the opposite of “uniqueness” and “singularity”. The common translation of “to make partners with Allah” seems to be universally accepted. The problem occurs when certain sects of Islam choose to limit the generality of this term, saying that the label of shirk only applies when it concerns one’s belief about creation or sustenance or control of the world. There is no evidence for this modification, no reason to limit the vastness of this word and its implications. Linguistically, its ability to encompass every variation of the theme “making partners with Allah” is spiritually profound. To fear something as one fears God, to obey someone as one obeys God, to love and adore another as one loves and adores the Creator, all fall under the shadow of the all-encompassing term that is  shirk. To escape it, a person has to liberate his heart from attachment to the creation and re-focus all the deepest manifestations of his humanity on the unseen Creator. This is true faith and is only achievable by deeply imbibing the Prophetic legacy. This journey is the journey of Islam itself, the Straight Path.

There is no doubt that Islam’s earliest and greatest generations interpreted shirk in this all-encompassing way, making it applicable to worship, belief, love, obedience, and other actions. Limiting the concept of shirk to only matters of belief  in rubūbiyyah is in direct contradiction with Allah’s words:

“And most of them believe not in Allah except that they attribute partners unto Him (mushrikūn)”(12:106)

Ikrimah, another of Ibn ʿAbbās’ notable students of tafsīr, said the following in regards to this verse: “If asked who created them and who created the heavens and the earth, they will say “Allah,” and that is their belief in Allah, though they worship others alongside him”. Ikrimah has clearly interpreted that second half of the verse, in which these people are referred to as mushrikūn, as being shirk that occurs via worship.

Another Quranic verse that condemns the association of partners with God in any way can be found in Sūrah al-Baqarah:

And do not assign rivals (andād) unto Allah whilst you know the truth” (2:22)

We again find that the scholars of Islam’s best generations embraced a general understanding of this concept. ʿAbd al-Raḥmān ibn Zayd ibn Aslam, an imām of Tafsīr and a freed servant of ʿUmar ibn al-Khaṭṭāb, explained that the “Rivals” mentioned in the verse are the gods that the pagans worshipped, offering to them the same kind of devotion that they were offering to Allah. Ibn Jarīr al-Tabarī, the Imām of the mufassirīn and the author of Islam’s greatest collection of tafsīr, Jāmiʿ al-Bayān, said in regards to this verse: “they make partners in their worship of Allah, worshipping alongside Him their idols and gods, though these false gods have created nothing and have not provided their worshippers with anything, rather Allah alone is responsible for creation and sustenance, yet these people commit shirk by worshipping others alongside Him.” This is a testament from someone who is arguably Islam’s greatest scholar of Tafsīr (after the likes of Ibn ʿAbbās and Ibn Masʿūd) that shirk occurs via worship. The fact that the pagan Arabs and others like them recognize Allah as the sole Creator and Sustainer of the universe, yet still direct their devotion and worship to other beings is something that adds to the magnitude of their ingratitude and infidelity.

And how could things like love be excluded from this conversation when Allah says:

“Yet of mankind are those who set up rivals to Allah, loving them as only Allah should be loved. Those who believe are more fervent in their love of Allah” (2:165).

And finally, the Messenger himself ṣallallāhu 'alayhi wa sallam (peace and blessings of Allāh be upon him) clarified the nature of shirk with the following ḥadīth: Nawfal al-Ashja’i said, “Oh Messenger of Allah, teach me what to say when I lie down to sleep. He said, Read Qul yā ayyuha al-kāfirūn (Surah al-Kāfirūn), then sleep after completing its recitation, for it is liberation from shirk.” (Narrated by Aḥmad, Abū Dāwūd, Al-Tirmidhī, declared Ṣaḥīḥ by al-Ḥākim and Al-Dhahabī).  Thus, the Prophetic prescription to free oneself of shirk is found in Sūrah al-Kāfirūn, a chapter of the Quran solely dedicated to the concept of worshipping Allah alone. How then, can any supposed scholar or school of Islam limit the concept of shirk to belief in Rubūbiyyah alone (Creation, Sustenance, and Control)?

May the greatest blessings of God be upon the man who delivered the Creator’s final revelation with such clarity and certainty.

Tawḥīd

Linguistically derived from the word wāḥid (the Arabic word for “one”), tawhīd means “to recognize” or “affirm something as being singular”. Ibn Fāris says that roots of this term indicate singularity. When this term is applied to the rights of the Creator, it gains a vastness that is beyond limit and means “to give unto God all that He is due, recognizing that only the Creator deserves our deepest devotion and that only He can fulfill our deepest needs”. Remembrance, devotion, worship, love, adulation, hope, and trust; these are all manifestations of the true servant’s tawḥīd. They are all steps along the Straight Path. And it is simply amazing, an honor beyond description, that Allah wants us to have such a relationship with Him.

Again, there is no evidence (and even less need) to limit the scope of this concept in relation to Allah, the Exalted. The idea that tawḥīd is restricted to only beliefs regarding creation and dominion of the world (often referred to as rubūbiyyah) is simply ludicrous. This limitation has no support from the Arabic language, it is directly contradicted by the words and actions of Islam’s greatest generations, and spiritually, it is a crippling interpretation of God’s divine right.

As we mentioned earlier, the Arabic word ilāh refers to a “worshipped being”. The scholars of Islam, reaching back to its earliest generations, refer to something called tawḥīd al-ulūhiyyah, a term derived from the word ilāh. This phrase means “affirming the singularity of Allah’s right to be worshipped” and it is by no means new. Once again we turn to Imām al-Ṭabarī, whose tafsīr contains the greatest known collection of interpretations of the Quran from Islam’s noblest generations. Here is how this true Imām of the Quran explains lā ilāha illa Allah:

“(Through this phrase) Allah informs us that al-ulūhiyyah (the right to be worshipped) is His alone and is not permitted for other gods and rivals (that men have created), that only He is deserving of worship since He is alone in Rubūbiyyah (creation and dominion of the world) and He is alone in Ulūhiyyah (the right to be worshipped), and all things besides Him are His creation and He has no partner in His dominion…”

The above interpretation of the sacred kalimah, which I have done my meager best to support throughout this entire series, comes from an undisputed Imām of tafsīr, who drank more deeply from the wisdom and insight of the Ṣaḥābah and Tābiʿīn than any mufassir that came after him. It is the interpretation that fully utilizes the richness and power of the Arabic language and it refuses any artificial intellectual constraint. The āyāt that support it are truly countless, and can be found in the words of Allah and His Messenger, as well as the wonder of Allah’s creation; for they all point to the unseen Creator as the only being worthy of our deepest affections and worship.

And Allah knows best.

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I was an 18 year old beliigerent atheist when the Quran entered my life and rocked my world. Reading the Seerah later sealed the deal. I studied Arabic everywhere I could, from America to the Levant and somehow an invitation to study with Muhammad Ibn Salih Al Uthaymeen landed in my lap, may Allah have mercy on his soul. I went, I met, I sat, I studied, and words simply can't do justice to the privilege and the experience. I am still trying to figure out how to be thankful for it. I live in the States, I work in IT, and I have two boys who I am trying to help to grow into admirable men.

38 Comments

38 Comments

  1. ahmed

    July 20, 2012 at 8:50 AM

    Very nice article mashaAllah. I was just taught the hard way recently that no matter how much someone studies this subject, they always need to go back, review, study in more depth, and never stop learning.

    jazakum Allahu khairan

  2. Abu Yahya

    July 21, 2012 at 9:03 PM

    Masha’Allah, a very significant article.

  3. Hamza

    July 21, 2012 at 10:18 PM

    An amazing much needed Article jazakallah khair.

  4. Yahya Whitmer

    July 22, 2012 at 1:40 AM

    Thanks for the encouragement everyone. This article will probably be “lost” in the influx of Ramadhan media and that’s cool. I just wanted to do my duty to explain and explore this topic in a thorough manner so that it could be a future resource for anyone that has to tackle with this serious issue. More installments to come, in sha Allah.

    • Hamza

      July 28, 2012 at 4:41 PM

      Brother Yahya Here is a bit more Insight for Dialouge on the Sufi Understanding of this issue…..

      “No sufi holds Prophets or saints to be the creator, so how is their
      testification of the kalimah negated by calling upon creation for help when they believe that their ability
      to help is entirely dependent on Allah? You may say the mushrikeen were upon tawheed ur-Rabubiyyah,
      but remember this, they also violated Rabubiyyah, ilahiyyah, Asma was-Sifaat,
      Hukmiyyah and Khaliqiyyah by explicitly admitting their worship of stone idols. They believed
      that these stone idols were equal to Allah, and that Allah was only a head of the pantheon of
      dieites. The Salafi defintion of ilah is simply something that is worshipped. So whilst
      the Sufi says there is no ilah except Allah, the Salafi says There is none worthy of worship
      but Allah. The Sufi negates all possibility of other gods whereas the Wahhabi is saying
      implicitly that other gods exist, yet we only single out Allah for worship. You will find the Ibn
      Mandhur quote to be in full accordance with the Sufi understanding. Which is in-fact the classical
      understanding of

      the first three generations.”

      • Yahya Whitmer

        July 28, 2012 at 5:24 PM

        This difference is beyond Salafi and Sufi, so I’ll ignore those classifications for now. It is suffice to say that the Quran, the Sunnah, and the earliest generations of Mufassireen all made repeated references to idols and other things that are worshipped (including Eesa and his mother) as Alihah or “gods” – thus affirming that the correct definition of this term is : a being that is worshiped, whether justifiably or not. The Kalimah is then an affirmation that only Allah deserves worship. Nowhere in the Quran does it say that the pagans believed that stone idols were equal to Allah. Rather it affirms, time and time again, that these idols were worshiped as a means to gain closeness to Allah – “Is it not to Allah that sincere devotion is due? But those who take for protectors other than Allah (say): “We only serve them in order that they may bring us nearer to Allah.” Truly Allah will judge between them in that wherein they differ. But Allah guides not such as are false and ungrateful.” (Zumar, verse 3).

        There is a very insidious implication that can result from the interpretation that this person has put forth. By saying that the Kalimah means there is no Creator or Sustainer other than Allah, praying to other beings is harmless so long as one’s prayers do not involve one believing that this other being is equal to Allah. It’s an absurd interpretation that limits the scope of Allah’s rights and is contradiction of the old and true adage, “actions speak louder than words”

  5. Ahsan Arshad Ali

    July 26, 2012 at 11:56 AM

    The only thing I dont like about these articles is that they are published late (shaykh explained in previous comments that he needs time to research and I appreciate that). I just learned that the word ilah has such two diverse interpretations and similarly the word shirk…definitions really matter here.
    I wanted to question the shaykh yahya about tafsir at tabari. I am taught that it is not a great resource for a layman since contains inauthentic narrations?

    • Yahya Whitmer

      July 28, 2012 at 5:08 PM

      Yes, I apologize for the lateness of this article. Some delays occurred in the editing process and I took quite a while to write the article as well. Balancing between work, family, and da’wah is a difficult but rewarding process, please bear with me. As for Tafsir Al Tabari, it is the only window that we have into how the earliest and best generations of Islam understood the Quran. Its value and importance simply cannot be qualified. Here is a brief excerpt from the Wikipedia article, which you can refer to for more information: “Jami al-Bayan is an important source for attaining information about older commentaries which have not survived to the present. Its rich content which encompasses dictionaries, historical notes, law, recitation, theology and Arabic literature has made it a highly referenced book throughout history, creating a long list of editions. It is also a good example of reasoning in a tafsir by a widely accepted scholar, giving it a value of diraya.
      It was marked by the same fullness of detail as his other work. The size of this work and the independence of judgment in it seem to have prevented it from having a large circulation, but scholars such asBaghawi and Suyuti used it largely; Ibn Kathir used it in his Tafsir ibn Kathir. Scholars including Suyuti have expressed their admiration towards this tafsir, regarding it as the most valuable of commentaries,[8] and most notably the words of Theodor Nöldeke;
      If we had this book [fully] in our hands, we would not need anything else written after it”[9]

      I hope that answers your questions and I apologize again for the delay.

  6. Muhammad

    July 29, 2012 at 7:44 PM

    How about this evidence?

    From the Sahabi Malik al-Dar:

    The people suffered a drought in `Umar’s khilafa, whereupon a man came to the grave of the Prophet sallAllahu `alayhi wa- Alihi wa-Sallam and said: “Messenger of Allah! Ask for rain for your Community, for verily they have but perished.” After this the Prophet appeared to him in a dream and told him: “Go to `Umar and give him my greeting, then tell him that they will be watered. Tell him: Be clever!” The man went and told `Umar. The latter wept and said: “My Lord! I spare no effort except in what escapes my power.”

    Ibn Kathir cites it thus from al-Bayhaqi’s Dala’il al-Nubuwwa (7:47) in al-Bidaya wal-Nihaya (Ma`arif ed. 7:91-92=Dar Ihya’ al-Turath ed. 7:105) saying: “isnaduhu sahih” and he also declares its chain sound (isnaduhu jayyidun qawi) in his Jami` al-Masanid (1:223) in Musnad `Umar. Ibn Abi Shayba cites it (6:352=12:31-32) with a sound (sahih) chain as confirmed by Ibn Hajar who says: “rawa Ibn Abi Shayba bi’isnadin sahih” and cites the hadith in Fath al-Bari, Book of Istisqa ch. 3 (1989 ed. 2:629-630=1959 ed. 2:495) as well as in al-Isaba (6:164 §8350=3:484) where he says that Ibn Abi Khaythama cited it. It is also thus narrated by al-Khalili in al-Irshad (1:313- 314) and Ibn `Abd al-Barr in al-Isti`ab (2:464=3:1149).

    • Yahya Whitmer

      July 30, 2012 at 2:16 AM

      Both Ibn Kathir and Ibn Hajir used this as evidence for asking the Imam of the Muslim community to make istisqaa, not as a justification for making du’a to the Prophet (alayhis-salam). Alhamdulillah. Again, no problem here.

      • Muhammad

        July 31, 2012 at 4:04 AM

        Thanks brother Yahya. Neither Ibn Hajar nor Ibn Kathir in their books reprimanded the Companion Bilal bin al-Harith of committing shirk when he went to the grave of the Prophet (peace and blessings upon him) to ask the Prophet to ask Allah for rain. And neither did the Prophet (peace and blessings be upon him) reprimand Bilal that he did something wrong. And no report exists from other Companions reprimanding Bilal who would certainly have done so had Bilal been wrong. What is your understanding of Bilal ibn al-Harith’s request to the Prophet (peace and blessings upon him) at his noble grave?

        • Yahya Whitmer

          July 31, 2012 at 4:58 AM

          Dear brother, I believe a comprehensive look at the related narrations will clarify this. Ibn Abdul Barr, the great Imam of Al Magrib reported the following variation in “Al Ist’ab fee Ma’rifati Al Ashab”: The people suffered a drought during the time of ‘Umar (his khilafah), whereupon a man came to the grave of the Prophet (sallallahu alayhi wa sallam) and said:”O Messenger of Allah, ask for rain for your Community, for verily they have but perished,” after which the Prophet appeared to him in a dream and told him: “Go to ‘Umar and tell him to do istisqa’ (ask Allah for rain) for the people, and that they will be watered. And tell him: You must be clever, you must be clever!” So, the man went and told ‘Umar, and Umar cried and said “O my Lord, I spare no effort except in what escapes my power!”

          In this narration, it clearly indicates, without a shadow of a doubt, that the Prophet himself (alayhis-salam) is guiding the person to seek the prayer of one that is living and present instead of seeking prayer from the Prophet after his passing. That is why Ibn Hajr in Fath Al Bari mentions these narrations in the context of asking the Imam to make istisqaa. So, we have the Prophet’s own directions delivered via a true dream, plus the actions of the Sahabah, plus the understanding of the Imams of Islam, all indicating that this type of tawassul should be asked of those who are alive (as Umar was) and present (hence the command to “go” to him). Alhamdulillah.

          And just for clarification, this series was never meant to address issues like this. Invocations such as “Oh Allah, I ask you by your Prophet” or “Oh Prophet, I ask you to ask Allah” are outside the scope of these articles. It is only the direct invocations, such as “Oh Prophet, give me sustenance” or “Oh Wali, heal my sickness” that we are concerned with addressing. But your contribution has enabled us to address this particular nuance, so thanks again, wa jazak Allahu khairan.

          • Muhammad

            July 31, 2012 at 5:47 PM

            Brother Yahya, my question is: In spite of your interpretation of the narration above, why did Bilal bin al-Harith do what he did in the first place?

            Bilal, a Companion, went to the grave of Prophet Muhammad (peace and blessings upon him) to ask the Prophet to make du’a for them. You have not discussed this specific act and the fact that it was not condemned by anyone — not by other Companions, not by Ibn Kathir or Ibn Hajar of other scholars familiar with this narration, or by the Prophet (peace and blessings upon him) himself in the narration.

            Had it been shirk or reprehensible in any other way, all of the aforementioned would have severely reprimanded Bilal ibn al-Harith or at least opposed it in some way. None did.

            Therefore, in spite of the interpretation you have, there is no evidence that condemns the specific act that Bilal ibn al-Harith did at the Prophet’s grave (peace and blessings upon him). If none condemned this act, it must be a permitted act.

          • Yahya Whitmer

            July 31, 2012 at 6:06 PM

            Assuming the narrations are authentic, the instructions of the Prophet, the actions of his companions, and the interpretations of the Imams of Islam are all crystal clear on this: Make tawassul through the living and present. The narrations do not indicate that the Prophet affirmed Bilal ibn Al Harith’s act and that he agreed to pray to Allah in response to Bilal’s request. Instead the dream instructed him to go to Omar. There’s no approval anywhere, from the Prophet, the companions or Ibn Kathir or Ibn Hajr, and approval is what is required to make it a part of the Shari’ah. This is an act of worship, and worship is only permitted via means affirmed by the Prophet (alayhis-salam). This is not mu’amalat.

          • Yahya Whitmer

            July 31, 2012 at 6:13 PM

            Why insist on doing something the Prophet guided you away from? It’s perplexing to me.

          • Muhammad

            July 31, 2012 at 6:24 PM

            The Prophet (peace be upon him) did not condemn this act of Bilal ibn al-Harith and neither did other Companions. This is the point. It is clear that had Bilal ibn al-Harith been doing shirk — something completely unlawful and blasphemous — he would have been stopped, don’t you think? And why wouldn’t he have been stopped by anyone if he was so extremely wrong? This is simple. If there is no explicit condemnation of this act by the Prophet, Companions, or the Imams, then we accept it, even if we accept your interpretation of asking the living and present. In other words, one cannot logically deduce that if the Prophet (pbuh) says to go to Omar in this narration that it necessarily means not to go to the Prophet or anyone else in at their grave. Unless there is evidence to substantiate the latter, then Bilal’s action at the grave of Prophet Muhammad (pbuh) is legitimate and permissible. Do you have evidence that Prophet Muhammad (pbuh), the Companions, or the classical scholars of Ahl al-Sunnah condemned the act of Bilal ibn al-Harith as shirk or reprehensible?

          • Yahya Whitmer

            July 31, 2012 at 6:32 PM

            It’s not shirk. Never said it was. It is also not an approved means of worship, since Prophetic approval is required for affirming any act as a valid means of worship.

  7. Muhammad

    July 29, 2012 at 8:12 PM

    Brother Yahya,
    Regarding the hadeeth of the man in need (via Uthman ibn Hunayf), you said:

    “Only one person, Shabīb Ibn Saʿīd, reports this version of the narration. He is considered a trustworthy narrator (ṣadūq) with a weak memory and in this case he contradicts more reliable narrators who do not mention this incident which occurs after the Prophet’s death.”
    Rather, Shabib is deemed as trustworthy. Regarding what you say about Shabib, let us look at the authentication [ta’dil] of Shabib amongst the Ulema:

    Ibn Hajar in Tahdhib al-Tahdhib (vol. 4, no. 534) mentioned Shabib as follows:

    [ 534 ] خ خد س البخاري وأبي داود في الناسخ والمنسوخ والنسائي شبيب بن سعيد التميمي الحبطي أبو سعيد البصري روى عن أبان بن أبي عياش وروح بن القاسم ويونس بن يزيد الأيلي وغيره وعنه بن وهب ويحيى بن أيوب وزيد بن بشر الحضرمي وابنه أحمد بن شبيب قال بن المديني ثقة كان يختلف في تجارة إلى مصر وكتابه كتاب صحيح وقال أبو زرعة لا بأس به وقال أبو حاتم كان عنده كتب يونس بن زيد وهو صالح الحديث لا بأس به وقال النسائي ليس به بأس وقال بن عدي ولشبيب نسخة الزهري عنده عن يونس عن الزهري أحاديث مستقيمة وحدث عنه بن وهب بأحاديث مناكير وذكره بن حبان في الثقات قلت وقال بن يونس في تاريخ الغرباء مات بالبصرة سنة ست وثمانين ومائة فيما ذكره البخاري وقال الدارقطني ثقةونقل بن خلفون توثيقه عن الذهلي ولما ذكره بن عدي وقال الكلام المتقدم قال بعده ولعل شبيبا لما قدم مصر في تجارته كتب عنه بن وهب من حفظه فغلط ووهم وأرجو أن لا يتعمد الكذب وإذا حدث عنه ابنه أحمد فكأنه شبيب آخر يعني يجود وقال الطبراني في الأوسط ثقة

    Shabib in Ta’rikh al-Kabir of Imam al-Bukhari (vol. 4)

    [ 2628 ] شبيب بن سعيد نا يونس بن يزيد وعن محمد بن عمر روى عنه عبد الله بن وهب وابنه أحمد البصري

    Shabib ibn Sa’eed in Thiqat of Ibn Hibban

    [ 13614 ] شبيب بن سعيد الحبطي أبو سعيد من أهل مصر يروى عن محمد بن عمرو ويونس بن يزيد الأيلي روى عنه بن وهب وابنه أحمد بن شبيب وهو الذي يروى عن شعبة وروح بن القاسم

    Shabib in al Jarh wa Ta’dil (4/359, no. 1572) of Ibn Abi Hatim al Razi

    [ 1572 ]
    شبيب بن سعيد أبو سعيد التميمي والد أحمد بن شبيب بن سعيد البصري

    روى عن روح بن القاسم ويونس بن يزيد ومحمد بن عمرو

    روى عنه عبد الله بن وهب وابنه أحمد بن شبيب بن سعيد سمعت أبى يقول ذلك وسألته عنه فقال كان عنده كتب يونس بن يزيد وهو صالح الحديث لا بأس به نا عبد الرحمن قال سمعت أبا زرعة يقول شبيب بن سعيد لا باس به بصرى كتب عنه بن وهب بمصر

    From the above it can be collated that the following made Tawthiq on Shabib :

    Ibn al-Madini said: Thiqa – Trustworthy

    Abu Zur’a: La Ba’sa bi-hi – There is no harm in him

    Abu Hatim: Wa huwa sâlih al-Hadith la ba’sa bihi: He is passable in Hadith, there is no harm in him

    Nasa’i: Laysa bihi ba’s – There is no harm (in his reports)

    Ibn Hibban listed him in his book on Thiqat (trustworthy narrators)

    Daraqutni: Thiqa – Trustworthy (This tawthiq from al-Daraqutni was reported by his pupil, Abu Abdullah al-Hakim in his Sawalat (no. 353) )

    Al-Dhuhli made Tawthiq (declared him Thiqa)

    Tabarani declared him Thiqa in al-Awsat (and in his al-Saghir, no. 509)

    Bukhari listed him in his Ta’rikh al-Kabir and made no disparagement on him at all, even though he mentioned that Ibn Wahb narrated from Shabib. We also know that Al-Bukhari narrated via him in his Sahih.

    We also know that: Al-Hakim in his Mustadrak (1/526) declared Shabib to be Thiqa Ma’mun – Trustworthy and reliable – which is a high form of making tawthiq on a narrator.

    So, from what was mentioned by Sh. Mamduh and provided by Sh. Abul Hasan above we conclude the following:

    The following ulema have declared Shabib to be utterly reliable / THIQA:

    Ali Ibn al-Madini,

    al-Dhuhli,

    al-Daraqutni,

    al-Tabarani,

    Ibn Hibban,

    and Imam al-Hakim (1:526=1:707) who actually said THIQA MA’MUN, which is even stronger.

    • Yahya Whitmer

      July 30, 2012 at 2:14 AM

      Thanks for sharing. As you may well know, the strength of a narration is not merely dependent on the status of the individual narrators, but also depends on the relationship between the narrators. Shabib’s narrations are particularly strong when transmitted by his son Ahmad, because they were written down (these are the narrations that Imam Al Bulkhari used and those are the narrations that Ibn Al Madeeni approved of). Ibn Hajr also mentions this and goes onto say the Shabib’s narrations, when transmitted by Ibn Wahb (as is the case with the narration that has the questionable content) are problematic. This information can be found in his book Taqreeb. Ibn Adiy’, who is the author of the massive and authoritative book Al Kamil fee Al Jarh wa Ta’deel, explicitly mentions that Shabib’s narrations as transmitted by Ibn Wahb are weak and contain reprehensible things. Alhamdulillah, no problems here. I wanted to avoid an in depth discussion about the narrators because it isn’t relevant for most readers, but I’m glad to engage with you. Thanks again.

      • Muhammad

        July 31, 2012 at 4:32 AM

        Thanks brother Yahya. The same hadeeth we are discussing was deemed “sahih” by Imam al-Baihaqi in his “Dala’il Nubuwah”. The hadeeth isnad is as follows:

        Ya‘qub ibn Sufyan who said that Ahmad ibn Shabib ibn Sa‘id reported to me that his father [Shabib] reported to him from Rauh ibn al-Qàsim from Abu Ja‘far al-Khatami from Abu Usamah ibn Sahl ibn Hunaif that a man was going to ‘Uthmàn ibn ‘Affàn and he mentioned the story in its entirety.

        Note that the chain above does NOT contain the narrator Ibn Wahb, so no problem with the hadeeth or narrators. Therefore, we accept the hadeeth as valid and authentic. Thanks for the discussion.

        • Yahya Whitmer

          July 31, 2012 at 5:30 AM

          I don’t see Bayhaqi’s declaration of Saheeh for that particular chain. In fact he mentions that this extra content (ziyadah) was added during Ramadhan 44 A.H. I’m not sure of the exact context for that comment.

          • Muhammad

            July 31, 2012 at 12:40 PM

            Al-Baihaqi reported the hadith in his “Dalà’ilu al-Nubuwah”, p. 166, vol. 6, and in his al-Da‘wat al-Kabir. He classified it as Sahih.

          • Yahya Whitmer

            July 31, 2012 at 2:13 PM

            In Dala’il An-Nubuwwah and Al-Da’wat, the only narration that Al Bayhaqi explicitly mentions as being Saheeh is the one that does not contain the incident that occurs after the Prophet’s death, just as Al Tabarani did.

          • Muhammad

            July 31, 2012 at 5:35 PM

            Brother Yahya, thanks. For clarity purposes, can you please quote the part of the hadeeth that you said Imam Bayhaqi and Tabarani deemed “Sahih”? I want to make sure I’m following you without confusion. Thanks.

          • Yahya Whitmer

            July 31, 2012 at 5:49 PM

            It is the actual hadeeth, the incident involving the Messenger and the blind man and does not contain the story that occurs after the Prophet’s passing. Here is Bayhaqi’s text:

            أَخْبَرَنَا أَبُو عَبْدِ اللهِ الْحَافِظُ، حَدَّثَنَا أَبُو الْعَبَّاسِ مُحَمَّدُ بْنُ يَعْقُوبَ، حَدَّثَنَا الْعَبَّاسُ بْنُ مُحَمَّدٍ
            الدُّورِيُّ، وَأَنْبَأَنَا أَبُو بَكْرٍ أَحْمَدُ بْنُ الْحَسَنِ الْقَاضِي، حَدَّثَنَا أَبُو عَلِيٍّ حَامِدُ بْنُ مُحَمَّدٍ الْهَرَوِيُّ، حَدَّثَنَا مُحَمَّدُ بْنُ يُونُسَ، قَالَا: حَدَّثَنَا عُثْمَانُ بْنُ عُمَرَ، حَدَّثَنَا شُعْبَةُ، عَنْ أَبِي جَعْفَرٍ الْخَطْمِيِّ، قَالَ: سَمِعْتُ عُمَارَةَ بْنَ خُزَيْمَةَ بْنِ ثَابِتٍ، يُحَدِّثُ عَنْ عُثْمَانَ بْنِ حُنَيْفٍ، أَنَّ رَجُلًا ضَرِيرًا أَتَى النَّبِيَّ صَلَّى اللهُ عَلَيْهِ وَسَلَّمَ، فَقَالَ: ادْعُ اللهَ لِي أَنْ يُعَافِيَنِيَ، قَالَ: «فَإِنْ شِئْتَ أَخَّرْتُ ذَلِكَ فَهُوَ خَيْرٌ لَكَ، وَإِنْ شِئْتَ دَعَوْتُ اللهَ» ، قَالَ: فَادْعُهُ قَالَ: فَأَمَرَهُ أَنْ يَتَوَضَّأَ فَيُحْسِنَ الْوُضُوءَ، وَيُصَلِّيَ رَكْعَتَيْنِ وَيَدَعُوَ بِهَذَا الدُّعَاءِ: «اللهُمَّ إِنِّي أَسْأَلُكَ وَأَتَوَجَّهُ إِلَيْكَ بِنَبِيِّكَ مُحَمَّدٍ صَلَّى اللهُ عَلَيْهِ وَسَلَّمَ نَبِيِّ الرَّحْمَةِ، يَا مُحَمَّدُ إِنِّي أَتَوَجَّهُ بِكَ إِلَى رَبِّي فِي حَاجَتِي هَذِهِ فَتَقْضِيهَا لِي، اللهُمَّ شَفِّعْهُ فِيَّ وَشَفِّعْنِي فِي نَفْسِي» هَذَا لَفْظُ حَدِيثِ الْعَبَّاسِ، زَادَ مُحَمَّدَ بْنَ يُونُسَ فِي رِوَايَتِهِ، قَالَ فَقَامَ وَقَدْ أَبْصَرَ، وَرَوَيْنَاهُ فِي كِتَابِ الدَّعَوَاتِ بِإِسْنَادٍ صَحِيحٍ عَنْ رَوْحِ بْنِ عُبَادَةَ، عَنْ شُعْبَةَ، فَفَعَلَ الرَّجُلُ فَبَرَأَ، وَكَذَلِكَ رَوَاهُ حَمَّادُ بْنُ سَلَمَةَ، عَنْ أَبِي جَعْفَرٍ الْخَطْمِيِّ

  8. Muhammad

    July 31, 2012 at 5:29 AM

    Dear brother Yahya, I will continue our discussion on the matters below.

    It is interesting to know what Shaykh Al-Albani said:

    “Imaam Ahmad allowed tawassul by means of the Messenger alone, and others such as Imaam ash-Shawkaanee allowed tawassul by means of him and other Prophets and the Pious.” [al-Albani, At-Tawassul p. 38]

    Also:

    Imam Ahmad and Tawassul:( المرداوي في الإنصاف ( 2:456
    “… يجوز التوسل بالرجل الصالح على الصحيح من المذهب، وقيل:
    يُستحب. قال الإمام أحمد للمروذي : يتوسل بالنبي صلى اله عليه وسلم في دعائه
    وجزم به في المستوعب وغيره..”Al-Mardawi said: “The correct position of the [Hanbali] madhhab is that it is permissible in one’s du`a to use as one’s means a pious person (saalih), and it is said that it is desirable (mustahabb). Imam Ahmad said to Abu Bakr al-Marwazi: ‘Let him use the Prophet as a means in his supplication to Allah.’” (Al-Insaf 2:456) This is also cited by Ibn Taymiyyah in Majmu’ Al-Fatawa (1:140).
    Imam Shawkani and Tawassul:قال الشوكاني في تحفة الذاكرين:
    “وفي الحديث دليل على جواز التوسل برسول الله صلى اله عليه وسلم إلى الله عز وجل
    مع اعتقاد أن الفاعل هو الله سبحانه وتعالى، وأنه المعطي والمانع ما شاء.(10/ كان وما لم يشأ لم يكن” (تحفة الأحوذي 34Al-Shawkani said, in Tuhfatul Dhakireen:
    “And in this hadith is proof for the permissibility of tawassul through the Prophet [s] to Allah, with the conviction that the [actual] doer is Allah, and that He is the Giver and the Withholder. What He wills is, and what He does not will, will never be.”
    Imam Nawawi on Tawassul:النووي في المجموع شرح المهذب (كتاب الحج):
    ثم يرجع إلى موقفه الأول قبالة وجه رسول الله صلى اله عليه وسلم ويتوسل به في حق
    نفسه، ويستشفع به إلى ربه سبحانه وتعالى[The pilgrim] should then face the shrine of the Messenger of Allah (s) , make him an intermediary [to Allah], and intercede through him to Allah… (Majmu’ Sharh Al-Madhhab – Kitab Al-Hajj)
    Imam Ibn Khuzaymah and Tawassul:( 7/ ابن حجر في تهذيب التهذيب ( 339قال (الحاكم النيسابوري) وسمعت أبا بكر محمد بن المؤمل بن الحسن
    بن عيسى يقول خرجنا مع امام أهل الحديث أبي بكر بن خزيمة وعديله
    أبي علي الثقفي مع جماعة من مشائخنا وهم إذ ذاك متوافرون إلى زيارة
    قبر علي بن موسى الرضى بطوس قال فرأيت من تعظيمه يعنى ابن خزيمة
    لتلك البقعة وتواضعه لها وتضرعه عندها ما تحيرنا.
    Ibn Hajar (Tahdhib 7:339) narrates the account of the Imam of Ahlul-Hadith Ibn Khuzaymah, under the entry of the same Ali bin Musa Al-Ridha. He relates that Ibn Khuzaymah also performed tawassul at the grave of Al-Ridha.
    Ibn Hibban and Tawassul: ( 8/456/ ابن حبان في كتابه الثقات ( 14411
    مات على بن موسى الرضا بطوس من شربة سقاه إياها المأمون فمات من
    ساعته وذلك في يوم السبت آخر يوم سنة ثلاث ومائتين وقبره بسناباذ
    خارج النوقان مشهور يزار بجنب قبر الرشيد، قد زرته مرارا كثيرة وما
    حلت بي شدة في وقت مقامى بطوس فزرت قبر على بن موسى الرضا
    صلوات الله على جده وعليه ودعوت الله إزالتها عنى إلا أستجيب لي
    وزالت عنى تلك الشدة وهذا شيء جربته مرارا فوجدته كذلك أماتنا
    الله على محبة المصطفى وأهل بيته صلى الله عليه وعليهم أجمعين.
    In his Rijal book Al-Thuqat (8:456:14411), under the entry of Ali bin Musa al-Ridha, Ibn Hibban relates his own account of going to Al-Ridha’s grave, performing tawassul through him and states that whenever “I was afflicted with a problem during my stay in Tus, I would visit the grave of Ali bin Musa (Allah’s blessings be upon his grandfather and him) and ask Allah to relieve me of that problem and it (my dua) would be answered and the problem alleviated. And this is something I did, and found to work, many times …”
    The `Ulema have allowed tawassul when asking Allah through an intermediary is not present or alive. It is inconceivable that the `Ulema above did not understand their religion properly, and their understandings also contradict the understanding that you have tawassul. Thanks for sharing and I enjoy our tolerant discussion. Take care.

    • Yahya Whitmer

      July 31, 2012 at 5:46 AM

      Again, tawassul is an ambiguous term, you’re going to have to define what you mean by it. In the story above, the author (and I have no idea if its is Ibn Hibban or someone else) does not mention invoking anybody in their du’aa, only that they used to pray to Allah at their graves. The Prophet prohibited and warned of the curse of God upon anyone who took the graves of the Prophets as a place of worship, as found in narrations by Muslim and Imam Ahmad. That instruction and the obvious scenarios that can be derived from that instruction are enough for me. And yes, there are several Ulama of the earliest generations that allowed tawassul through the Prophet alone (not extending it to Awliyaa or others). Again, their interpretation of tawassul was often of the type: “Oh Allah I ask you through your Prophet” and never, ever a direct request to the Prophet for aid and succor (alayhis-salam).

      • Muhammad

        July 31, 2012 at 11:42 AM

        Dear brother Yahya, thanks again for your kind response.

        Just so I understand your perspective clearly and do not misunderstand you, are you saying that asking ‘Allah’ through an intermediary who is absent or living the life of barzakh is okay? For example, “Oh Allah I ask you through your Prophet”. It seems from your answer above that this is agreeable to you, and that the direct invocation is problematic, i.e. “Oh Prophet of Allah, Oh Shaykh Abdal-Qadir Jeelani, etc.”. Am I correct? If yes, then you are in agreement with Imams Nawawi and Imam Ahmed ibn Hanbal.

        Again, please note Imam Nawawi’s comment:
        النووي في المجموع شرح المهذب (كتاب الحج):
        ثم يرجع إلى موقفه الأول قبالة وجه رسول الله صلى اله عليه وسلم ويتوسل به في حق
        نفسه، ويستشفع به إلى ربه سبحانه وتعالى
        [The pilgrim] should then face the shrine of the Messenger of Allah (s) , make him an intermediary [to Allah], and intercede through him to Allah… (Majmu’ Sharh Al-Madhhab – Kitab Al-Hajj).

        Also, again please note the Hanbali madhab’s position on tawassul, as well as Imam Shawkani’s position. Shaykh al-Albani also confirmed this to be the case as stated in his book, “Tawassul”.

        JazakAllahu-khayr and thank for being so open and interested in discussing this matter. I greatly appreciate it and May Allah Bless you.

        • Yahya Whitmer

          July 31, 2012 at 5:44 PM

          As far as I know, the early scholars who permitted tawassul limited it to the Prophet alone, at least in the Hanbali mathhab. Their interpretation of tawassul involved asking Allah while mentioning the station of the Prophet (alayhis-salam). It never involved directing asking the Prophet for aid and even this type of tawassul is a point of contention withing the Hanbali mathhab because of the lack of supporting evidence from the actions of the Sahabah and Tabi’een and conflicting narrations from Imam Ahmad. In any case, it is a minority opinion amongst early scholars, meeting with especially stiff opposition from Abu Haneefah.

          Extending this tawassul to other people in the state of Barzakh is most definitely not the opinion of Imam Ahmad.

          I adhere to the opinion of the majority of early scholars in this issue in that it is not a recommended practice.

          The issue that we are trying to address is the act of praying to the Creation. This is often done under the guise of “tawassul” but is in reality dua’ to the creation and thus Shirk. For instance “Oh Prophet, grant me sustenance” or “Oh Ali, protect me”. This is not tawassul or shifa’ah, but rather direct invocation and Shirk.

  9. Yahya Whitmer

    July 31, 2012 at 7:59 PM

    Thanks for the information. In sha Allah, I will look into this later when I have the chance. As I mentioned earlier, this form of tawassul (through the Prophet, after his death) are not at all the subject of this series and I recognize that there is legitimate difference of opinion between the early scholars regarding it. My purpose in introducing the concept of tawassul in this installment was to make readers aware that this term is sometimes used to describe the direct invocation (Such as: “Oh Wali, save me!”) of created beings and that this is a false pretense.

  10. Tims

    August 12, 2012 at 5:41 PM

    What a joke

  11. Tims

    August 14, 2012 at 1:00 AM

    What a joke

  12. Harun

    August 15, 2012 at 9:26 PM

    Dear Br. Yahya,
    A short investigation has revealed that Muhammad is simply quoting the web-sites of people who enjoy calling on other than Allah and try to furnish proofs in its favor. It would not be useful to have a dialogue with him keeping this in mind.

  13. Dawud Israel

    October 30, 2012 at 11:19 PM

    Salam aleikum Yahya,

    Belated Eid mubarak.

    I almost forgot about this series of posts. I didn’t want to make the same mistake I made with the first post, which was being presumptuous in anticipating what sort of approach you were going to take and being unfair in letting you explain your understanding, so I thought I would wait for some more posts in your series. Its not the fastest series of posts…but hey, take your time! :)

    Re: Tawassul via the Prophet (salallahu alayhi wasalam) in Life AND Death

    I think for this one has to simply look at Rasulullah (salallahu alayhi wasalam) getting assistance from Musa (alayhi salam) on Isra wa’l Miraaj to lower the number of salat we have to perform. We all know Musa (alayhi salam) had been dead for probably hundreds of years and yet everybody knows this story of clear tawassul.

    Re: Calling on the Dead

    This is not prohibited per se on its own, since it has to include intention. I think thats important to stress and emphasize. We know Rasulullah would call upon the defeated dead on Day of Badr, “O Utba! O Shayba!” and when Hamza (radiallahu anhu) died, he (salallahu alayhi wasalam) called on him weeping, “O Hamza! O Uncle of the Messenger of Allah! O Lion of Allah!” Does these dead men were gods being worshipped by being called out to?

    Furthermore, we have other examples in our history such as Sayyidina Umar (radiallahu anhu) writing a letter to the Nile River commanding it to flow, or when Sayyidina Umar (radiallahu anhu) talked to the Black Stone, an inanimate object about how it is merely a rock. Writing letters to rivers and calling out to rocks…doesn’t that sound like what an idol-worshipper would do?

    So what is the difference between this and what you are speaking about?

    Re: Praying at Graves

    Imam Nawawi’s Riyadus-Saliheen has this chapter on visiting graves and making dua to Allah at graves, which the Prophet (salallahu alayhi wasalam) would do for many of the shuhada among the Sahaba. My Dar as-Salam translation of Riyadus Saliheen however, has this chapter removed from it and I think this is where the misunderstanding comes from. We all know the Prophet forbade the visitation of graves initially because the Muslims were still young in the deen and jahiliyya was still strong, but when eman had set in their hearts, he told them to visit the graves because they remind one of death. Another thing the believers found was that their duas to Allah would be quickly answered at certain times and places, and one of these places are the graves of the righteous.

    “The grave of Sayyidina Musa al-Kadhim is a tried prescription (mujarab).” – Imam al-Shafi’i

    The Maliki madhhab says it is permissible (or praiseworthy) to pray salah near a grave because the grave of 70 Prophets are buried at the Kaaba, including Ismail (alayhi salam) and his blessed mother Hajar. Praying BY a grave is different from praying TO a grave, the latter which we all know is explicitly prohibited and shirk. The only way for us to make this distinction clear and preventing shirk is by educating people about the deen.

    Their are other things and stronger proofs I would bring up but I think I will leave it at that. Most of the thing I mentioned I was not aware of, until perhaps a year ago, but the more I learn about the Seerah and Tafsir, and the more I think about it, the more I find tawassul misunderstandings a distorted anachronism of the past and a consequence of our own unwillingness to fully immerse ourself in studying Islam to discover what Allah has intended for us by it, not as how we want it to be understood. I think if we have ikhlas, inshallah these issues will be clarified.

    di.

    • Mahmud

      December 10, 2012 at 8:53 PM

      Assalamualaikum wa rahmatullahi wa barakatuh

      “Prophet forbade the visitation of graves initially because the Muslims were still young in the deen and jahiliyya was still strong, but when eman had set in their hearts, he told them to visit the graves because they remind one of death.”

      There is a WHOLE difference between visiting a grave and taking a grave as a place of worship. Whoever takes a grave as a place of worship has disobeyed Allah and His Messenger even if he did not commit shirk.

  14. 1234

    May 12, 2014 at 3:48 PM

    Assalamoalaikum,
    I just wanted to add the commentary of Imam Yusuf Salihi–that he established a chapter saying “Tawassul after the Death of Prophet Muhammad s.a.w” — and after that he gave that hadith the one found in al-Tabarani’s book.. which deals with the “man in need”–
    This is what is said in Sabl al-Hadi– (12/407):
    الباب الخامس في ذكر من توسل به- صلى الله عليه وسلم- بعد موته
    روى الطبراني والبيهقي- بإسناد متّصل ورجاله ثقات- عن عثمان بن حنيف أن رجلا كان يختلف إلى عثمان بن عفّان في حاجة، فكان عثمان لا يلتفت إليه ولا ينظر في حاجته، فلقي عثمان بن حنيف فشكا إليه ذلك، فقال له عثمان بن حنيف: ائت الميضأة، فتوضأ ثمّ ائت المسجد فصلّ فيه ركعتين، ثم قال: اللهم إني أسالك وأتوجّه إليك بنبينا محمد- صلى الله عليه وسلم- نبي الرحمة، يا محمّد إني أتوجّه بك إلى ربي فتقضي حاجتي، وتذكر حاجتك، ورح حتى أروح معك، فانطلق الرجل فصنع ما قال له، ثم أتى باب عثمان، فجاءه البواب حتى أخذ بيده، فأدخله على عثمان، فأجلسه معه على الطّنفسة، فقال: ما حاجتك؟ فذكرها له، وقال له: ما ذكرت حاجتك حتى كان الساعة، وقال: ما كانت لك من حاجة فاذكرها، ثم إن الرجل خرج من عنده فلقي عثمان بن حنيف، فقال له: جزاك الله خيرا ما كان ينظر في حاجتي ولا يلتفت إلى حتى كلمته
    _____________
    *He also classes this hadith as Sahih…
    * The hadith doesn’t ‘contradict’ with the other hadith of the “blind man” – instead doesn’t it actually go ‘in line’ with that hadith because the companion that tells the man after his need is fulfilled that “I saw the messenger of Allah (s.a.w) instruct a man do the same”..

  15. 1234

    May 12, 2014 at 4:30 PM

    (1/64) #29—العدة للكرب والشدة لضياء الدين المقدسي
    قَالَ الطَّبَرَانِيُّ : لَمْ يَرْوِهِ عَنْ رَوْحِ بْنِ الْقَاسِمِ ، إِلَّا شَبِيبُ بْنُ سَعِيدٍ أَبُو سَعِيدٍ الْمَكِّيُّ ، وَهُوَ ثِقَةٌ . وَقَدْ رَوَى هَذَا الْحَدِيثَ شُعْبَةُ ، عَنْ أَبِي جَعْفَرٍ الْخَطْمِيِّ ، وَاسْمُهُ عُمَيْرُ بْنُ يَزِيدَ ، وَهُوَ ثِقَةٌ ، تَفَرَّدَ بِهِ عُثْمَانُ بْنُ عُمَرَ ، عَنْ شُعْبَةَ ، وَالْحَدِيثُ صَحِيحٌ . رَوَاهُ التِّرْمِذِيُّ مُخْتَصِرًا ذِكْرَ الدُّعَاءِ . وَالنَّسَائِيُّ فِي عَمَلِ يَوْمٍ وَلَيْلَةٍ ، جَمِيعًا عَنْ مَحْمُودِ بْنِ غَيْلَانَ ، عَنْ عُثْمَانَ بْنِ عُمَرَ ، عَنْ شُعْبَةَ ، عَنْ أَبِي جَعْفَرٍ ، عَنْ عُمَارَةَ بْنِ خُزَيْمَةَ بْنِ ثَابِتٍ ، عَنْ عُثْمَانَ بْنِ حَنِيفٍ . وَقَالَ : حَدِيثٌ حَسَنٌ صَحِيحٌ غَرِيبٌ . وَرَوَاهُ أَيْضًا ابْنُ مَاجَهْ ، كَذَلِكَ عَنْ أَحْمَدَ بْنِ مَنْصُورِ بْنِ سَيَّارٍ ، عَنْ عُثْمَانَ بْنِ عُمَرَ ، بِإِسْنَادِهِ نَحْوَهُ .
    _______________________________________
    -Isn’t he–Tabarani– classing both of these ‘sahih’
    -Imam Bayhaqi mentions this hadith In his Dlail al Nubuwwa at– (6/168) #2429
    -Also check Imam Mubarapuri’s commentary on Tirmidhi’s Hadith #3578–where he cites this hadith and also shows Imam Shawkani’s position on this matter.

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