Beseeching for Help (Istighathah)

Justification of Istighathah after death

Some people, in spite of their awareness of the injunctions of Qur’ān and sunnah and the practice of the Companions, believe that it is possible to help one another in the earthly world and therefore, it is valid to seek and extend help, but after death the creature has no control over his body, so how can help be sought from him? Since it is beyond his control to help others, seeking help from him is a form of disbelief.

     This pig-headedness needs a twofold elaboration. First of all, it is an established fact that the creature, whether he is alive or resting in his grave, has absolutely no control over his body in both cases. These powers are only conferred on him by Allāh, which we exercise during our worldly existence to handle a variety of matters. It, in fact, is Allāh’s blessing on the creature and, if Allāh decides to withdraw it from him during his earthly life, he will be deprived even of the capacity to pull a straw. So, just as in this world of cause-and-effect, Allāh has absolute control over all the powers of the creature, and yet it is not a kind of disbelief to seek help from him, similarly Allāh does not condemn it as disbelief if someone seeks help from another creature after death. Just as in life it is disbelief to regard the creature as the real helper but his help can be derivatively invoked, similarly it is quite valid to regard the prophets and saints, as derivative helpers after death and to beseech them for help. Disbelief whether it is associated with a living person or a dead person remains disbelief. But to seek help from someone in his derivative capacity whether he is dead or alive is quite valid and does not amount to disbelief. Islam does not believe in double standards that an act is a form of belief if you perform it in a mosque and it turns into disbelief if you perform it in a temple. Islamic injunctions and the consequences that follow from them display a consistent pattern. Thus, if we treat a medical expert as the true helper and seek his assistance, it will be considered a form of disbelief. On the other hand, if we regard Allāh as the true helper and seek the help of a virtuous person as a form of treatment, it is quite valid and is in no way inconsistent with Islamic sharī‘ah.

          The real purpose of a man’s life is to be included among the favourites of God and to acquire as much knowledge of the divine springs of Power as is consistent with human limitations. Therefore, to realise this purpose, human beings rely on the saints and the virtuous people because they not only themselves have cultivated divine consciousness but also develop it in those who are closely associated with them. This is the reason we find Ibrāhīm(عليه السلام) praying to God to include him among His favourites so that he could persuade his followers to pursue a similar goal:

          O my Lord! Make me perfect in knowledge and conduct and include me among those whom You have rewarded with Your nearness.[1]

          Here, the word hukman means the acme of human capacity for knowledge and conduct. Qādī Thanā’ullāh Pānīpatī says:

          That is, to bring knowledge and conduct to such a climactic point that one develops the complete ability to represent the sublime office of divinity and to provide unflawed guidance and political leadership to humanity.[2]

          Imām Rāzī writes:

          “When acquisition of knowledge as the meaning of hukman has been established, it is equally established at the same time that he (the Prophet Ibrāhīm) prayed to Allāh for the kind of knowledge that guaranteed his total absorption in the divine qualities and attributes, a knowledge whose purity serves as a self-adjusting filter to drive out all impurities.”

He further comments:

          And this knowledge proves that the divine knowledge or consciousness develops in the heart of a creature by Allāh’s will and Ibrāhīm’s supplication ¾ and include me among those whom You have rewarded with Your nearness ¾ is a pointer to the fact that for a creature to be saintly or virtuous is exclusively the outcome of Allāh’s will.[3]

          Therefore, the acquisition of divine knowledge is made possible only by means of the virtuous and pious people. To be associated with them and to acquire divine knowledge through their mediation has been the practice of the prophets. And any creature who desires the favour of Allāh through the means of the pious and the saintly people, never feels frustrated and his prayer is invariably granted, and he is included among the virtuous people. Then he attains divine consciousness as is declared by Allāh:

          And surely (even) in the Hereafter, they will be in the ranks of the righteous.[4]

          There is irrefutable evidence of reliance on these righteous people for the fulfilment of their needs and the relief of their pains and troubles. In its support, the Qur’ānic verse in which Allāh is commanding the believers to associate themselves with the righteous is quite sufficient and conclusive. Allāh says:

          O believers! Fear Allāh, and remain in (the company of) the truthful.[5]

          In this verse, Allāh, on the one hand, is instructing the believers in the uniqueness and immutability of His Power; on the other hand, He is enjoining upon them to adopt the company of the truthful in order to elevate themselves to a position which the truthful have already attained. At another place, Allāh says:

          And follow the path of the (person) who turned towards Us.[6]

          Similarly, the prophet Yūsuf’s supplication is also recorded in the holy Qur’ān:

          Take my soul at death as a Muslim and unite me with the righteous.[7]

          The holy Prophet (صلى الله عليه وآله وسلم) himself prayed to Allāh using similar words.[8]

          Some people might object to the authenticity of the tradition, picking out flaws in its chain of transmission or coming out with some other frivolous remarks, but no believer can deny the credibility of the supplication by Yūsuf (عليه السلام) as it is recorded in the holy Qur’ān which is nothing but absolute truth. Thus it is established that it has been the practice of the prophets to mediate their supplications through the virtuous and the righteous. The recording of these forms of supplication in the Qur’ān is most probably intended to persuade the believers to follow the practice of the prophets.

          Ibn-ul-Firāsī narrates that Firāsī said to the Prophet(صلى الله عليه وآله وسلم): ‘O Messenger of Allāh! Shall I beg you for something?’ He replied:

          No, and if you can’t help begging, then you should beseech the pious and the righteous (for help).[9]

          Some people believe that the supplication of the pious and the virtuous is granted during their lifetime, but after death they cannot help anyone, as they themselves are helpless. They believe that the righteous are a source of help but only during their earthly existence, and it is disbelief to rely on them for help after their death.

          The supporters of this view are victims of a grave misunderstanding because the reality is just the reverse. It is true as the green of the grass and the blue of the sky that Allāh is the only source of blessing and no creature can arrogate this exclusively divine prerogative to himself. If he does so, he is committing unabashed disbelief. Therefore, to think that the supplication is mediated through one of His favourites in his life and He turns a cold shoulder to his supplication when he is dead smacks of a self-contradiction, as it tends to identify the saint with Allāh as the source of help. The fact is that God Alone has the power to fulfil the needs of the creatures through the mediation of the saints whether they are dead or alive.

          Those who object to making saints and the pious as means of help and assistance after death are obviously in the wrong groove. They are only fumbling in the dark and smashing their cluttered heads against the slippery walls of an unlighted tunnel, which leads into an even darker dungeon. Their objections are grounded in the misconception that reliance on the saints and the pious for the acquisition of Allāh’s blessing is contingent on their manifest life while Allāh’s dispensing of His blessings to His creatures through the saints and the pious is absolutely unrelated to the fact of their being dead or alive. The traditions and the quotes of the Companions that follow are purported to eliminate the doubts raised by these deniers. A wide spectrum of evidence is marshalled to prove the fact that it is not only valid to rely on the saints and the pious for help after their death but it has also been the practice of the prophets and Allāh’s favourites. These are the people who can truly guide us and lead us to our salvation. Ibn Taymiyyah sums up the controversy at the end of his book al-‘Aqīdat-ul-wāsitiyyah:

          Ahl-us-Sunnah wal-Jamā‘ah are aligned (cling) to the faith of Islam, guarding themselves gingerly against all forms of doctoring. This includes the truthful, the martyrs and the pious (according to their grades). It also includes the people who are the source of guidance and the minaret of light. These are the people who have achieved distinction on the basis of a consistently virtuous mode of living. The Substitutes and the Imāms of dīn also belong to this category who rallied the Muslims to (the path of) their guidance. This is the group who received divine patronage to remain (truthful) and it was about this group that the holy Prophet(صلى الله عليه وآله وسلم) had said: ‘a group of my Community, who have been divinely guided to stick to the path of truth, will not cease to exist till the Day of Judgement, and those who oppose them or degrade them will never be able to do them any harm.’[10]

          The second point revolves around the objection that the dead lack the capacity for help. This conclusion is also based on perverse reasoning. Allāh Himself has referred to the purgatorial life of His favourites at various places in the Qur’ān. There is no difference of opinion among the followers of any ideology or religion about the life of the martyrs. What luxuries must grace the purgatorial life of the Prophet (صلى الله عليه وآله وسلم) whose most lowly follower is guaranteed not only life till the Day of Judgement if he dies a martyr but who also receives all the requisite divine blessings! Therefore, by regarding the Prophet (صلى الله عليه وآله وسلم) as a derivative helper, it is quite valid to seek his help and assistance after his death as it was valid during his earthly existence. Rather, his purgatorial life is as active and dynamic as his other life because his followers are sending salutations on him in a spirit of matchless devotion and angels have been appointed to convey these messages of sincerity and deep attachment to the Prophet(صلى الله عليه وآله وسلم). This symphony of sound and voice, which his followers play every second and every minute is a living proof of the blessings Allāh has conferred on him even in his purgatorial life.

          If the acts of intercession, beseeching the Prophet’s help and his mediation were acts of disbelief, then they should be indiscriminately pronounced as forms of disbelief everywhere; they should apply equally to his earthly existence, purgatorial life and his life in the Hereafter, because disbelief is condemned by Allāh in every colour and hue. But the facts point in the opposite direction: Islamic teachings unambiguously reveal that the Companions beseeched the Prophet (صلى الله عليه وآله وسلم) for help and relied on his mediation at various occasions in their life and besought him for help and they will also seek his help and intercession even on the Day of Judgement, and as a result of this reliance on his means and appeal for help, the Prophet (صلى الله عليه وآله وسلم) will reward his followers by interceding before Allāh for their salvation. Thus, when it is valid during the earthly life and after-life of the Prophet (صلى الله عليه وآله وسلم) how can it be declared invalid and a form of disbelief during his purgatorial life?


Proof of purgatorial life

The teachings of Qur’ān and sunnah prove the reality of life after death or life in the grave as clearly as they depict the reality of resurrection of the dead on the Day of Judgement. Allāh says in the holy Qur’ān:

          How can you reject the faith in Allāh? Seeing that you were without life, (and) He gave you life; then He will cause you to die and will again bring you to life; then again to Him will you return.[11]

          The Qur’ānic verse makes an explicit reference to two kinds of death, two kinds of life and finally the return of all mankind to Allāh on the Day of Judgement. In the light of the holy verse, the first kind of death was our state of non-existence when we had not stepped into the world of existence. The life that followed this state is our life on earth. Then death will overreach us and people will accordingly perform our funeral rites and bury us. The life that will follow is called the purgatorial life, which is given to man in the grave or in his capacity as a dead person. The angels interrogate him and open a window in the grave leading either to Paradise or Hell. After the second life, we will be returned to God Almighty on the Day of Resurrection. Thus the purgatorial life spans the arrival of the angels in the grave for interrogation and the divine breath blown into the dead bodies for their resurrection. This relates to the purgatorial life of an ordinary human being whether he is a believer or a non-believer.

Now let us examine another verse about the life of the martyrs:

          And say not of those who are slain in the way of Allāh that they are dead, (they are not dead) but they are living though you are not conscious (of their life).[12]

          The same theme is expressed in different words:

          And those who are slain in the way of Allāh, do not (even) think of them as dead. But they live in the presence of their Lord, they find their sustenance (in the blessings of Paradise).[13]

          The followers of all religious sects believe in the life of the martyrs. However, besides the Qur’ānic verses, a number of traditions draw our attention to the fact that there is life after death even for the non-believers and infidels and they are endowed with the capacity to respond to the words of the living. For example, after the battle of Badr, the Prophet (صلى الله عليه وآله وسلم) himself called the slain infidels by their names and asked them:

          Surely, we found the promise of our Lord absolutely true. (O infidels and non-believers!) Did you also find the promise of your lord true?

          At this juncture ‘Umar bin al-Khattāb said to the Prophet (صلى الله عليه وآله وسلم): ‘O Prophet! You are addressing bodies which have no soul in them.’ To make it clear, the Prophet(صلى الله عليه وآله وسلم) addressed the Companions:

          I swear by the Power Who has in His control the life of Muhammad! The words I am speaking to these (infidels and non-believers), they far excel you in their power to listen to them.[14]

          This agreed-upon tradition attests not only to the purgatorial life after death of the infidels and non-believers, but it also attests to their power of listening which excels even that of the Companions.

          Similarly, the Prophet (صلى الله عليه وآله وسلم) taught every person passing by a graveyard of the Muslims to address the residents of the grave by the particle “yā (O)” and send salutations on them. This is the reason that Muslims teach their children to say as-salāmu ‘alaykum yā ahl-al-qubūr (O residents of graves, peace be on you) whenever they pass by a graveyard.

          When the life of the infidels and non-believers, the life of the ordinary believers, and the life of the martyrs and the saints have been confirmed by the Qur’ān and the sunnah, how is it possible to deny the life of the prophets, particularly the life of the holy Prophet (صلى الله عليه وآله وسلم)? Especially, when he himself has repeatedly and explicitly declared:

          Allāh has declared it forbidden for the earth to eat the bodies of the prophets. So the prophets are living and they regularly receive their sustenance.[15]

          This sahīh (sound) tradition conclusively proves that the absolute and incomparable power of Allāh keeps the prophets alive in their graves. Another tradition records that the affairs of the Ummah are regularly presented to the Prophet (صلى الله عليه وآله وسلم) who expresses his gratitude to Allāh for their good deeds and prays to Allāh to forgive their misdeeds. The words of the tradition are as follows:

          Your deeds are presented to me. If they are good, I express my gratitude to Allāh, and if the deeds are not good, then I pray to Allāh for your forgiveness.[16]

          The Lord, who has the power to give life and sustenance to the whole mankind both in this world and the Hereafter, also has the power to keep the prophets alive in the graves and give them sustenance. The unnatural and unscientific Greek philosophical discussions, which have percolated into Islamic literature, are no match to the natural and immutable principles of Islam. The injunctions of Islam clearly explain different kinds of life and the modes of addressing people in their purgatorial life and declare categorically that the prophets, martyrs, saints and ordinary Muslims, even infidels and non-believers, are alive in their graves. As far as the martyrs are concerned, the Qur’ān itself is a witness that they regularly receive their sustenance. Therefore, those who acknowledge appeal for help and intermediation in the earthly existence as valid but treat it as invalid, even as a form of disbelief after death, should remember that death is the taste of a moment, which passes away. According to Iqbāl, death is “a message of awakening behind the smokescreen of dream.”

          Purgatorial life is a midway house between the earthly life and the life after death, which will be conferred on people on the Day of Judgement. Just as it is valid to beseech the help of a person during his earthly life and during his life after death, it is also an equally valid act to beseech his help and to rely on his means in his purgatorial life. This does not border on disbelief, because in all the three kinds of life, earthly, eternal and purgatorial, Allāh is the real Helper and the creature whose help is being sought is the derivative helper. This is in consonance with the Islamic teaching and does not even remotely smack of disbelief. To treat the creature as the real helper in all the three categories of life is tantamount to disbelief. It should be noted that the cause of disbelief is not located in the categories of life but in the division of real and derivative.


The life and capacity of the soul

After a logical and categorical proof of the reality of the purgatorial life of human soul, it is sheer irrational stubbornness to deny the reality of seeking help from others after their death. To beseech help and assistance from the souls of the prophets and the saints is as justified as to seek help from living persons or the angels. When we seek help from a living being we are, in fact, seeking help from his soul. The human body is the dressing of the real man ¾ soul. After death, when the soul is liberated from the material constraints of the body and, on account of its freedom from impurities of the flesh, then, like the angels, even more than them, it has the power to perform non-material acts. The soul is independent of the rules and regulations of the phenomenal world because her world ¾ the world of command ¾ is different from the cause-and-effect world of the body. Allāh highlights this reality in the holy Qur’ān:

          And these (infidels) ask you questions about the soul. Tell them that the soul is by the command of my Lord.[17]

          The souls are blessed with a greater capacity of action and performance in their purgatorial life than they had enjoyed in conjunction with their bodies. They live in the world of command and can come more easily to the assistance of those who implore them for help. If beseeching the prophets and saints for help is confined only to a string of sensations and observations, it will be in conflict with the spirit of faith and merely an expression of philosophical speculation. Old philosophical reflections cannot lead us to the secrets of faith because they operate within entirely rational grooves and hopelessly lack the spiritual apprehension. The unfolding of the secrets of faith requires love and deep emotional concern. It is not just to scratch the surface but to delve into the abyss. It may be noted that the prophets and the saints pray to Allāh for the petitioners, and in response to their supplication, Allāh fulfils the need of the concerned person. The problem is that those who deny life to the residents of the graves believe that the dead are not in a position to pray. But the true Islamic belief is that they are alive and recognise their visitors in proportion to their consciousness and understanding. The soul’s awareness grows even more acute after it has been separated from the body, and by jettisoning its physical inhibitions, it is made even more powerful.

          Another way to understand the meaning of seeking help from others is that the power whose help is being sought is Allāh. But the petitioner says that he covets Allāh’s help through the mediation of the holy Prophet(صلى الله عليه وآله وسلم) for the fulfilment of his need. He implores Allāh through His favourites. He says to Allāh: ‘I am from among the favourites of these saints, therefore, show special mercy to me as I am very close to them and love them immensely.’ Thus Allāh condones his sins for the sake of the holy prophets and also on account of his close association with the saints and fulfils his need.

          The people who gather to offer the funeral prayer of a person pray for his forgiveness by Allāh on a similar basis. They, in fact, serve as a means of forgiveness for the dead person and also act as his helpers.


The dead as a source of benefit for the living

The final shot fired by these deniers of seeking help from the saints and the pious is that the dead cannot benefit the living because they lack the power even to shoo away a fly sitting on their body. How is it possible that a dead person, shorn of physical power, can help the living and that the living turn to him for help?

          This hypothetical objection is actually based on their unawareness of the Prophet’s traditions and teachings of the religious leaders. As we have already explained, the people who die and leave this worldly life, do not in fact die, but enter another life (purgatorial life). Though they are dead in our eyes, they are not actually dead, only their mode of life has changed as they have been transferred from one kind of existence to another kind of existence.

          This can be explained by another example. Suppose there are two tube lights in a room. One of them is white and the other is blue. The light of the white tube is spreading all around while the blue tube is off. Now what will happen if the off-button of the white tube is pressed and precisely at that moment the on-button of the blue tube is also pressed? The room is the same, all the things in it are in their proper place, its doors, windows and curtains, etc., are also intact, but there is a change in the inner ambience of the room, that is, in the earlier state, everything appeared in the white light in its original colour, and now everything in the room appears to wear a different complexion on account of the colour radiated by the blue tube. Now the question is: ‘has the colour of everything in the room really changed? Has the material composition of the objects changed?’ The answer is in the negative. Every object is present in its original state. The difference lies only in our perception. The same applies to the dead people. When the light of their worldly life is put out, we think they are dead, while, in reality, the tube light of their purgatorial life is put on. Just as the saints and the pious are relied upon during their earthly life ¾ while the real source of help is Allāh ¾ similarly, they can be relied upon as a means of help to fulfil our needs and to seek the nearness of Allāh even when they have left this material world.

          Suyūtī has copied in his book Sharh-us-sudūr bi-sharh hāl-il-mawtā wal-qubūr (pp.257-9) fifteen traditions bearing on this theme, and furnishing a proof of the reality of purgatorial life, he has affirmed that the dead can benefit the living.

          Ibn-ul-Qayyim has written an exhaustive book on “the soul” which is the most authentic book on this subject. At one place he has reported from ‘Abdullāh bin Mubārak that Abū Ayyūb al-Ansārī said:

          The deeds of the living are presented to the dead. If they see virtuous (deeds), they are pleased and rejoiced, and if they see (evil) deeds, they say: ‘O Allāh! Return them.’[18]

          Narrating another tradition, Ibn-ul-Qayyim writes:

          “‘Ibād bin ‘Ibād called on Ibrāhīm bin Sālih and at that time Ibrāhīm bin Sālih was the ruler of Palestine. ‘Ibād bin ‘Ibād said to him: give me some advice. Ibrāhīm bin Sālih said:

          What should I advise you? May God make you a pious man! I have received the news that the deeds of the living are presented to their dead relatives. Now you just reflect on your deeds which are presented to the Messenger of Allāh (صلى الله عليه وآله وسلم).

          After relating this, Ibrāhīm bin Sālih cried so bitterly that his beard became wet.”[19]

          In addition, there are many other traditions which prove that the deeds of the living are presented to the dead. Therefore, people, who are the victims of doubt, should study them to correct their faith which, according to Ibn Taymiyyah, is the faith of Ahl-us-Sunnah wal-Jamā‘ah as has already been explained, which leads one to the straight path and brings one increasingly closer to the pleasure of the Lord. Exclusive reliance on reason can prove disastrous as reason is a deceptive chameleon and puts on a variety of guises to deceive its own followers; it is totally undependable and those who rely on it for true enlightenment, can never be blessed with guidance as misguidance is their destiny. According to Iqbāl:

Move beyond reason because this light is only the candle on the way; it is not the destination.


Love of the friends of Allāh is an integral part of faith

We seek help from the prophets, the righteous and the saints and offer them as a means of access to Allāh on account of our limitless love and devotion for them. The choice of means is justified only by the presence of love. It is also an established fact that to love those who are near and dear to Allāh is in itself a virtuous act and this is obviously an argument, which cannot be rebutted by any other argument, no matter how subtle or elaborate or tantalising it may be.


1. Love of Allāh’s favourites is a virtuous deed

The petitioner is acting for himself because he loves those whom Allāh loves. He is in fact saying: ‘O Lord, I love Your friend, the holy Prophet (صلى الله عليه وآله وسلم), and I love the orthodox Caliphs, the Companions, the Successors and their followers, the saints and the righteous. I offer this love to You as means so that You grant my prayer and fulfil my need.’ It means love of Allāh’s favoured ones becomes a means of the supplication’s acceptance. There is no doubt that love of Allāh’s favourites is not only the fulfilment of a divine command but is also a great virtuous deed. It is narrated by Abū Hurayrah:

          Allāh’s Messenger (صلى الله عليه وآله وسلم) said: when Allāh loves some person, He sends for Jibrīl and commands him: verily, I love such and such person; you should also love him, so Jibrīl loves him as well. Then Jibrīl proclaims in the heavens that Allāh loves such and such person; you should also love him. Then the residents of the heavens love him as well. Then his love is sent down to the earth (the world).[20]

          First of all, Allāh elevated His Own obedient servant to the status of His beloved, then He commanded Jibrīl and all other angels that they should love His servant. The angels, following the divine command, also made him their beloved. In this all the heavenly creatures shared the divine love for His beloved servant. But the matter does not end here. Allāh descended this love for His servant down on this earth and then created a niche for the love and popularity of His servant in every heart and every creature fell in love with him. It follows that to love those who are loved by Allāh is a divine command. From this point of view this act of loving is in itself a virtuous act in which Allāh is not only Himself included but He has also included His angels as well as the creatures of the earth. When this act is endorsed not only by the practice of the prophets but also a popular act performed by the creatures of the earth and the heavens, then what could be a better virtuous act in favour of the petitioner.


2. Reciprocal nearness of lover and beloved on the Day of Judgement

True love is that virtuous act which draws the lover increasingly closer to the beloved. It is narrated by Anas bin Mālik:

          A person called on the Prophet (صلى الله عليه وآله وسلم) and said to him: ‘O Messenger of Allāh, when is the Hour (the Day of Judgement)?’ The Holy Prophet (صلى الله عليه وآله وسلم) stood up for prayer. After performing the prayer he said: ‘where is the person who had asked about the Hour?’ That person replied: ‘O Messenger of Allāh, I am here.’ He said: ‘what preparation have you made for that (Hour)?’ He submitted: ‘O Messenger of Allāh, I have offered neither many prayers nor kept many fasts, but I know that much that I love Allāh and His Messenger (صلى الله عليه وآله وسلم).’ On hearing this, Allāh’s Messenger (صلى الله عليه وآله وسلم) commented that (on the Day of Judgement) a person will be with him whom he loves and you will be judged along with him. It is reported that, after accepting Islam, this made the Muslims happier than anything else had made them in the past.[21]

          This tradition proves that whereas prayer, fast, zakāt and hajj are virtuous acts and their performance entitles a man to a set of rewards, similarly love is also an act of virtue, which results in nearness to his beloved. The words of the tradition themselves endorse love as a virtuous act. When the Holy Prophet (صلى الله عليه وآله وسلم) asked the petitioner: ‘what preparation have you made for the Day of Judgement?’ He replied: ‘O Messenger of Allāh! My acts do not include big-ticket deeds like prayer and fast, but the act of loving Allāh and His Messenger (صلى الله عليه وآله وسلم) is one of my deeds.’ The Prophet (صلى الله عليه وآله وسلم) replied that as each act has a reward, similarly the act of loving has also a reward. A person will be judged along with the man he loves and you will be judged on the Day of Judgement along with the man you love.’ It means that this man, simply on account of his love for the Holy Prophet (صلى الله عليه وآله وسلم), will be judged with him. He will be in the Prophet’s company and this is a promise made by the Prophet (صلى الله عليه وآله وسلم) himself and this is Allāh’s promise as well. Besides, this promise is not restrictive; it has a general application; it applies to the Companions, the Successors, their followers, even the entire Muslim community.

          Love of Allāh’s Messenger (صلى الله عليه وآله وسلم) is an act, which not only earns the lover a number of blessings through the agency of his beloved on this earth but also brings him closer to his beloved in the next world. Since the word hubb (love) here is used in a generic sense, it equally applies to all forms and grades of love. Its litmus test is sincerity as insincere love is a travesty of true love and, therefore, not only repulsively hideous but also morally revolting. This comment is vindicated by the words of Anas bin Mālik that after accepting Islam, he had never found the Muslims happier than he found them on hearing this explanation.

          This tradition conclusively proves that the love of Allāh’s favoured people serves as a means for divine blessings. And when the servant prays to Allāh, he, in fact, is saying: ‘my Master, the love I have for Your beloved Prophet (صلى الله عليه وآله وسلم), and the love I have for the Companions, the Successors and the righteous on account of You, I offer this act of love as mediation to You and request You to grant my such and such need for their sake.’ The servant’s love for Allāh’s favoured ones is an act that enjoys Allāh’s blessings and this very act becomes a means for the servant.


3. Love for Allāh’s lovers is the cause of divine love

The servant, following the divine commands, performs all kinds of worship: he offers prayer, keeps fast, performs hajj and pays zakāt. In short, he fulfils all his obligations. These acts have twofold significance: on the one hand, he is implementing the divine commands; on the other hand, he earns the reward for these acts. The range and scope of these rewards include a place in Paradise for him. But the highest and the most cherished prize is the pleasure of Allāh. To secure this prize, he spends every moment of his life in divine love. And he does not restrict his remembrance of Allāh only to a specific schedule or timetable but it straddles his entire life. No matter where he is, or what he is doing, he never forgets the Lord. The focus of his love or enmity is Allāh alone. The following tradition is about such lovers of Allāh:

          It is narrated by Mu‘ādh bin Jabal that he heard the Messenger of Allāh (صلى الله عليه وآله وسلم) saying:

          Allāh the Exalted and Almighty said: ‘My love has been made obligatory for those two persons who love each other on My count and spend time together for My sake, and see each other for My sake and give money to each other generously for My sake.’[22]

          Now a petitioner loves the holy Prophet (صلى الله عليه وآله وسلم), members of the Prophet’s family, the Companions, the saints and the righteous people simply because the basis of his love is the love of Allāh. By loving these people, he himself in return is loved by Allāh. Thus all these forms are various links in the chain of love, which is ultimately the love of Allāh, and these expressions and acts of love eventually draw him closer to Allāh and he acquires a favoured status. Thus the petitioner’s act of love is regarded by Allāh as a virtuous as well as a favourite act and it is graded higher than other virtuous acts mainly because in this act the Lord Himself is one of the participants and it is uncertain whether the other acts will find divine acceptance or not. But love of the saints and the favourites of Allāh is an act, which transforms the petitioner into Allāh’s beloved. In this way its acceptance is guaranteed.


4. Love for the sake of Allāh results in higher grades

Love of the servants of Allāh brings one not only nearer to Him but also helps one in securing higher grades.

          It is narrated by ‘Umar bin al-Khattāb that the Prophet(صلى الله عليه وآله وسلم) said:

          Among Allāh’s servants there are some who are neither prophets nor martyrs but on the Day of Judgement the prophets and the martyrs will envy their grades. The Companions asked: ‘O Messenger of Allāh, tell us, who are those people?’ He replied: ‘those are the people who love one another on Allāh’s count. They are neither related to one another nor do they have any property to exchange. I swear on Allāh that they will have faces of light, they will be on pulpits of light. They will not have any fear when others will be afraid, they will not have any grief when others will be aggrieved.’ Then he recited the verse: Beware! No doubt, there is no fear for the friends of Allāh nor shall they be sad and sorrowful. [Qur’ān (Yūnus, Jonah) 10:62.][23]

          The tradition has clearly established the fact that people who love one another simply because they love Allāh deserve high rewards and grades on the Day of Judgement and they will receive these precious gifts through the mediation of Allāh’s favourites because their love of these intimate friends is based fundamentally on their love of Allāh from which basic source it draws its strength and influence.


5. Love of Allāh’s friends is the cause of Allāh’s love

Love of holy men and saints is an act which earns the servant not only the love of Allāh but also draws him closer to Him.

          It is reported by Abū Hurayrah that the Messenger of Allāh (صلى الله عليه وآله وسلم) said:

          If two persons love each other on Allāh’s count, and if one of them is in the east and the other in the west, Allāh will bring them together on the Day of Resurrection and He will say: ‘this is the man you loved on my count.’[24]

          It is now established that intermediation through the prophets, the holy persons and the saints and to seek help from them is quite valid whether it is by invoking their name in prayer, or by physical presence in their companionship or through expressions of love for them. These acts of istighāathah and intermediation are correct and legally permissible.

[1]. Qur’ān (ash-Shu‘arā’, the Poets) 26:83.

[2]. Qādī Thanā’ullāh Pānīpatī, at-Tafsīr-ul-mazharī (7:72).

[3].   Rāzī, at-Tafsīr-ul-kabīr (24:148).

[4].   Qur’ān (al-Baqarah, the Cow) 2:130.

[5].   Qur’ān (at-Tawbah, Repentance) 9:119.

[6].   Qur’ān (Luqmān, Luqmān) 31:15.

[7].   Qur’ān (Yūsuf, Joseph) 12:101.

[8].   Ahmad bin Hambal transmitted it in his Musnad (5:191); Hākim, al-Mustadrak (1:516); Tabarānī, al-Mu‘jam-ul-kabīr (5:119,157 #4803,4932); and Haythamī in Majma‘-uz-zawā’id (10:113).

[9].   Abū Dāwūd narrated it in his Sunan, b. of zakāt (obligatory charity) 2:122 (#1646); Nasā’ī, Sunan, b. of zakāt (5:95); Ahmad bin Hambal, Musnad (4:334); Bukhārī, at-Tārīkh-ul-kabīr [7:138 (4/1/138)]; Bayhaqī, as-Sunan-ul-kubrā (4:197); Ibn ‘Abd-ul-Barr, at-Tamhīd (4:107); and ‘Alī al-Hindī in Kanz-ul-‘ummāl (6:502#16721).

[10].  Muhammad Khalīl Harās, Sharh al-‘Aqīdat-ul-wāsitiyyah (p.153).

[11].  Qur’ān (al-Baqarah, the Cow) 2:28.

[12].  Qur’ān (al-Baqarah, the Cow) 2:154.

[13].  Qur’ān (Āl ‘Imrān, the Family of ‘Imrān) 3:169.

[14].  Bukhārī narrated it in his as-Sahīh, b. of maghāzī (military expeditions led by the Prophet) ch.7 (4:1461#3757); Muslim, as-Sahīh, b. of jannah wa sifat na‘īmihā wa ahlihā (Paradise, attributes of its and natives) ch.17 (4:2203#77/2874); Ahmad bin Hambal, Musnad (3:145; 4:29); Tabarānī, al-Mu‘jam-ul-kabīr (5:96#4701); Baghawī, Sharh-us-sunnah (13:384#3779); Ibn Kathīr, al-Bidāyah wan-nihāyah (1:210); ‘Asqalānī, Fath-ul-bārī (7:301); and Haythamī in Majma‘-uz-zawā’id (6:90-1).

[15].  Ibn Mājah narrated this sahīh (sound) hadīth in his Sunan, b. of janā’iz (funerals) ch.65 (1:524#1636-7), b. of iqāmat-us-salāt was-sunnah fīhā (establishing prayer and its sunnahs) ch.79 (1:345#1085); Abū Dāwūd, Sunan, b. of salāt (prayer) 1:275 (#1047); Nasā’ī, Sunan, b. of jumu‘ah (Friday prayer) 3:92; Ahmad bin Hambal, Musnad (4:8); Ibn Hibbān, as-Sahīh (3:191#910); Dārimī, Sunan (1:307#1580); Ibn Khuzaymah, as-Sahīh (3:118#1733); Ibn Abī Shaybah, al-Musannaf (2:516); Hākim, al-Mustadrak (1:278); Tabarānī, al-Mu‘jam-ul-kabīr (1:217#589); and Bayhaqī in as-Sunan-ul-kubrā (3:249).

[16].  Haythamī transmitted it in Majma‘-uz-zawā’id (9:24) and said that that tradition had been reported by Bazzār (in his Musnad) and its sub-narrators are all of sahīh (sound) hadīth. ‘Irāqī has confirmed the soundness of its chain of transmission in his book Tarh-ut-tathrīb fī sharh-it-taqrīb (3:297). Ibn Sa‘d has recorded it in at-Tabaqāt-ul-kubrā (2:194). Qādī ‘Iyād has inscribed this tradition in ash-Shifā (1:19); and Suyūtī, recording it in al-Khasā’is-ul-kubrā (2:281) and Manāhil-us-sifā fī takhrīj ahādīth ash-Shifā (p.3), has commented that Ibn Abī Usāmah in his Musnad has reproduced it through Bakr bin ‘Abdullāh al-Muzanī and Bazzār in his Musnad who have relied on its narration by ‘Abdullāh bin Mas‘ūd with a sound chain of transmission. It has been endorsed by Khafājī and Mullā ‘Alī Qārī in their commentaries on ash-Shifā, i.e. Nasīm-ur-riyād (1:102) and Sharh ash-Shifā (1:36) respectively. Hadīth-scholar Ibn-ul-Jawzī has reproduced it in al-Wafā bi-ahwāl-il-mustafā (2:809-10) from Bakr bin ‘Abdullāh and Anas bin Mālik. Subkī has copied this tradition in Shifā’-us-siqām fī ziyārat khayr-il-anām (p.34) from Bakr bin ‘Abdullāh al-Muzanī, and Ibn ‘Abd-ul-Hādī in as-Sārim-ul-munkī (p.266-7) has authenticated its veracity. Bazzār’s tradition has also been recorded by Ibn Kathīr in al-Bidāyah wan-nihāyah (4:257). ‘Asqalānī narrated it through Bakr bin ‘Abdullāh al-Muzanī in al-Matālib-ul-‘āliyah (4:22-3#3853). ‘Alī al-Hindī copied Ibn Sa‘d’s tradition in Kanz-ul-‘ummāl (11:407#31903) and from Hārith (#31904). Nabhānī related it in Hujjatullāh ‘alal-‘ālamīn fī mu‘jazāt sayyid-il-mursalīn (p.713).

[17].  Qur’ān (al-Isrā’, the Night journey) 17:85.

[18].  Ibn-ul-Qayyim, Kitāb-ur-rūh (p.13).

[19].  Ibn-ul-Qayyim, Kitāb-ur-rūh (p.13).

[20]. Muslim transmitted it in his as-Sahīh, b. of birr was-silah wal-ādāb (virtue, joining of the ties of relationship and good manners) ch.48 (4:2030#157/2637); Bakhārī narrated it at three places in his as-Sahīh: b. of bad’-ul-khalq (beginning of creation) ch.6 (3:1175#3037), b. of adab (good manners) ch.41 (5:2246#5693), and b. of tawhīd (Islamic monotheism) ch.33 (6:2721#7047); Ahmad bin Hambal in Musnad (2:413); Mālik bin Anas in al-Muwattā, b. of sha‘ar (hair) ch.5 (2:953#15); and Khatīb Tabrīzī in Mishkāt-ul-masābīh, b. of ādāb (good manners) ch.16 (3:74#5005).

[21]. Tirmidhī narrated it in al-Jāmi‘-us-sahīh, b. of zuhd (piety) ch.50 (4:595#2385), and graded it sahīh (sound); Ahmad bin Hambal in Musnad (3:104, 168, 178, 200); Ibn Hibbān, as-Sahīh (1:182, 308-9#8,105; 16:345#7348); Baghawī, Sharh-us-sunnah (13:60-4#3475-9). Bukhārī also narrated it with different words in his as-Sahīh, b. of fadā’il-us-sahābah (merits of the Companions) ch.6 (3:1349#3485), b. of adab (good manners) ch.95, 96 (5:2282-3#5815-9), and b. of ahkām (judgements) ch.10 (6:2615#6734); Muslim in as-Sahīh, b. of birr was-silah wal-ādāb (virtue, joining of the ties of relationship and good manners) ch.50 (4:2032-3# 161-4/2639); Ahmad bin Hambal in Musnad (3:110,165, 167,172,173,207,208,255,276); ‘Abd-ur-Razzāq, al-Musannaf (11:199#20317); Humaydī, Musnad (2:502# 1190); Ibn Abī Shaybah, al-Musannaf (15:169#19407); Abū Ya‘lā, Musnad (5:144#2758; 6: 36,256#3280-1, 3557); Ibn Hibbān, as-Sahīh (2:323-4#563-5); Tabarānī, al-Mu‘jam-ul-kabīr (3:183#3061); Bayhaqī, Shu‘ab-ul-īmān (1:380,387 #462,498; 2:130-1#1379); and Khatīb Tabrīzī in Mishkāt-ul-masābīh, b. of adab (good manners) ch.16 (3:75#5009).

[22]. This sahīh (sound) hadīth narrated by Mālik bin Anas in al-Muwattā, b. of sha‘ar (hair) ch.5 (2:954#16), and Ibn ‘Abd-ul-Barr said its chain is good. Ahmad bin Hambal also transmitted it in his Musnad (5:233); Hākim in al-Mustadrak (4:169), who graded it sahīh, and also confirmed by Dhahabī; Baghawī in Sharh-us-sunnah, (13:49-50#3463); Khatīb Tabrīzī in Mishkāt-ul-masābīh, b. of ādāb (good manners) ch.16 (3:75#5011).

[23]. Abū Dāwūd, Sunan, b. of ijārah (wages) 3:288 (#3527); Bayhaqī, Shu‘ab-ul-īmān, (6:486#8998,8999); Khatīb Tabrīzī, Mishkāt-ul-masābīh, b. of adab (good manners) ch.16 (3:75-6#5012).

[24]. Bayhaqī, Shu‘ab-ul-īmān, (6:492#9022); Khatīb Tabrīzī, Mishkāt-ul-masābīh, b. of ādāb (good manners) ch.16 (3:77#5024); ‘Alī al-Hindī, Kanz-ul-‘ummāl (9:4#24646).

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