Beseeching for Help (Istighathah)

Smoothing out the Wrinkles

Though beseeching the prophets, the saints and the martyrs for help and assistance is quite appropriate and is proved both by Qur’ān and the sunnah, some of its denigrators have castigated it as an act of disbelief on the basis of self-concocted reasons. In this chapter we propose to review these objections one by one and rebut them on the basis of proofs furnished by the Qur’ān and the traditions.


First objection: Appeal for help is in itself an act of worship

In order to declare appeal for help to someone other than Allāh as a form of disbelief, they, first of all, identify it with worship. Since it is an act of disbelief to worship anyone except Allāh, therefore, to appeal to someone except Allāh for help and assistance is a kind of disbelief. They put forward a battery of arguments to prove their contention:

  1. Rather, who is the one who grants the supplication of a person in distress when he calls Him and relieves the trouble?[1]

  2. And those whom these (polytheists) worship besides Allāh can create nothing and have themselves been created. (They) are dead, lifeless, and they do not know (even this much) as when (people) will be raised up. [2]

  3. And those you invoke besides Him, their power is even lesser than the skin of a date-stone. Even if you invoke them, they will not be able to listen to your call, and if (as a supposition) they do listen, they cannot answer your call and on the Day of Judgement they will deny your partnership, and will not tell you any news like the One Who is acquainted with all things. [3]

  4. And who is more astray than the one who invokes, besides God, such (gods) as will not answer him to the Day of Judgement and who in fact are unconscious of their call. [4]

  5. That (person) calls on such deities, besides God, as can neither hurt nor profit him.[5]

  6. Nor worship besides Allāh any (idols): such will neither profit you nor hurt you. Then if you did so, you will certainly be among those who do wrong. And if God hurts you, there is none except Him who can remove it.[6]

  7. He worships him whose hurt is nearer than his profit.[7]

They rely on these Qur’ānic verses and assert that anyone who invokes any other person besides Allāh should be condemned. They argue on this basis that invoking help and seeking assistance is reserved only for Allāh. Therefore, any appeal for help to anyone else besides him is a form of disbelief. This kind of reasoning is actually based on misconception and perverse logic. In the following pages an attempt is made to pick out flaws in this mode of reasoning and to present a sound and clear picture of the true position.


Each appeal for help is not an act of worship

In these Qur’ānic verses the word du‘ā’ has been used in the sense of worship. But the holy Qur’ān does not interpret the word du‘ā’ as worship in all contexts, otherwise minds which have gone astray will not refrain from casting stones even on the prophets and will marshal assorted evidence in a futile effort to prove their point of view. Allāh says in the holy Qur’ān:

  1. Say: Come! Let us call (together) our sons and your sons. [8]

  2. Then (after a little while) a (girl) out of the two came to him who was walking with modesty. She said: ‘my father is calling you to remunerate you for the (labour) you have done for us by feeding water (to) our (goats).’[9]

  3. Then (after slaughtering them), put a portion of them on every hill and call to them, they will come to you with speed.[10]

  4. When we shall call together all factions of human beings with their leaders.[11]

          The comments made by ‘Abdullāh bin ‘Abbās on this Qur’ānic verse are as follows:

Here the leader or Imām means the person whose invitation the people have followed, whether this invitation leads them to evil or guidance. [12]

          It means that each community will gather around its leader whose commands it followed during its earthly sojourn and Allāh will call them by this specific label: ‘O followers of such and such leader, your fate will be decided along with him.’

          In short, if we interpret the word du‘ā’ in these verses as worship, we are more likely to open the window of disbelief rather than close it. Therefore it seems logical to conclude that if the word du‘ā’ is linked with an infidel or a non-believer, it will mean an act of worship, otherwise its meaning will change with the change of context. In the verses cited against the justification of appeal for help as arguments the word du‘ā’ is directed at the infidels, therefore, in these situations it will mean an act of worship, but they do not disacknowledge the validity of appeal for help because the favourites of Allāh whose help is being sought are not entitled to be worshipped.


Second objection: Appeal for help is a form of disbelief in supernatural matters

This objection is based on a particular division. Mattes are generally divided into two categories on the basis of causes:

  1. Ordinary matters
  2. Extraordinary matters

According to this division, it is valid to seek the help of others in ordinary matters because they fall under natural causes but it is invalid in extraordinary matters because they fall under supernatural causes and therefore is a form of disbelief. Matters of cause-and-effect are generally handled on this level, but if this pattern is discarded and appeal is made through other causes, it is called appeal for help through supernatural causes, and if reliance is made only on cause-and-effect, it is called appeal for help through natural causes. The means for help adopted in this case are generally compatible with the matters for whom help is being implored. It should be kept in mind that in their opinion it is appeal for help through natural causes to cooperate with one another in worldly matters, and therefore it is a valid act as Allāh says:

And help one another in (acts of) righteousness and piety.[13]

          Though they treat appeal for help through natural causes in ordinary matters as a valid act, they deny its validity in extraordinary matters.


Intellectual settlement of the objection

First point: The division into appeal for help through natural and supernatural causes (relating to ordinary and extraordinary matters) declares the latter as an invalid act, while the holy Qur’ān makes no reference to this distinction tending to justify one and condemn the other. This is a self-fabricated division and is the result of specious logic and flawed reasoning. No Qur’ānic verse can be cited to support this division.

          We should also keep in mind that extraordinary matters are engineered by factors which can be explained by some level of reasoning. But, with the exception of kun fayakūn (be! and it is) no event is motivated by supernatural causes. Since the causes of some phenomena are not apparently known to us, we tend to explain them through supernatural causes.

Second point: The verse in sūrah al-Fātihah, which is regarded as the fundamental link in their reasoning, makes no mention of the causes under which this division has been forged, while the words iyyāka nasta’īnu (we seek help only from You) are being used in the absolute sense. The rule is that the absolute has a continuous sway in its area of application, that is, the absolute cannot tolerate any fluctuation in its range of reference. This is what fundamentally differentiates the absolute from the relative, the real from the contingent, the categorical from the conditional. Therefore we cannot clamp on it self-invented meanings. We cannot say: ‘O Allāh! We seek Your help only in extraordinary or supernatural matters because no one else except You can help us in these matters. As far as ordinary or worldly matters are concerned, we have no need to seek Your help because there are countless other sources which could be tapped for the acquisition of help.’ A division on these lines is nothing but a reflection of their lack of knowledge and stupidity and is a one-way ticket to disbelief. Thus their own perverse reasoning boomerangs on them; they themselves are guilty of the disbelief of which they have accused others.

Third point: All division and classification presuppose differentiation. But the question is that in the case of iyyāka nasta‘īnu there is no need for such differentiation as the absolute is categorical and indivisible. Any effort to divide it is self-frustrating. They have divided it despite the glaringly obvious fact that it is both unjustified and unwarranted. Besides, it clearly reveals that their own thesis is marked by an inherent contradiction as they justify appeal for help through natural causes while denying it through supernatural causes. It is, in fact, nothing but a highly distorted reflection of their own squint-eyed vision. The division can be vindicated only if we think of the dichotomy in terms of real help and derivative help, which in reality, amounts to no division. If all help derives from the absolute, then the power of the derivative source of help is only contingent, and it acquires substance only through the willingness of the real helper. Thus the only sensible way is in terms of real and derivative and not whether one kind of appeal for help is justified  and the other is unjustified.

In the words of iyyāka nasta‘īnu the creature is imploring Allāh. He is, in fact, saying: ‘O Allāh! No matter which external source we tap for the relief of our immediate need, we do not regard this source of relief and help as the real helper. We treat only You as the true and real Helper because, if Your support and willingness is lacking and if Your consent is missing, no one else has the power to help us out of our trouble.’ This is the unwavering core of our faith whether we are recovering through the medicine of a doctor or through the supplication of a saint; we do not consider them the real helpers. Therefore in any case and under all circumstances, Allāh alone is our real Helper because the assistance of all others is predicative, that is, it is predicated only on Allāh’s pleasure and willingness. For us both the medicine and the supplication, the doctor and the saint, are only means and this is their only significance because Allāh alone is the real Helper.

Fourth point: In some cases, however, it appeals to our common sense to uphold the division between natural causes and supernatural causes, and its relevance is found only in terms of their application and not on the basis of their inherent differentiation. Some acts are resolved by natural means while a supernatural solution has to be explored for other acts. The causes are present in both cases. The only difference is that in the case of natural acts, the causes are visible while in the case of supernatural acts the causes are generally invisible. The natural causes may be called external and material while the supernatural causes may be called internal and spiritual, and this classification sounds more appropriate. Though material causes are discarded in the case of supernatural acts, their presence, however, cannot be denied. It means that acts are not supernatural in the absolute sense. The only difference is that the causes of natural acts are external which are visible to the common man or perceivable by him, while the causes of supernatural acts, on account of their non-material complexion, are not visible to the common eye.

          When the prophets, the saints, the pious people or any other individual is implored for help within the scope of the world of cause-and-effect, the words used as a means of help will possess real meaning but even in this case the real helper will be Allāh alone. But when help is being implored in a world beyond cause-and-effect, the words used for help will have only derivative value because even in this situation the real helper is Allāh alone, that is, in both cases, the real meaning is lacking. The only difference is that the use of words in the natural context was based on fact while in the supernatural context, the entertainment of real meaning was objectionable, therefore, the word itself was shorn of real meaning. In short, both in terms of semantics and faith, the word real is exclusively reserved for Allāh.


Division between real and derivative is inevitable

A group, who denies the relevance of beseeching help from any quarter besides Allāh, however, believes that it is valid in natural matters, while there is no need to stress its real and derivative components. Now we would like to ask these people that if appeal for help through natural means and the division between the real and the derivative is disacknowledged, then who will be the real helper in natural matters? Is the real helper the doctor who is prescribing medical treatment for the patient or Allāh? If the answer is that even in worldly affairs the real helper is Allāh, then why should we retain the distinction between the natural and the supernatural means or sources of help? Why should it be allowed through the operation of natural causes and declared a kind of disbelief when it operates through supernatural causes? How is it possible to resolve the contradiction between belief in Allāh as the true helper and seeking help from others besides Allāh, without acknowledging the distinction between the real and the derivative? The Qur’ān says:

And our Lord is infinitely Merciful and His help alone is sought against the (vexing) words (O non-believers,) you utter.[14]

          On the other hand, if the answer is that in ordinary matters the true helper is not Allāh but man, it creates duality, which is a negation of belief that the helper in ordinary matters is the creature but the helper in extraordinary matters is the Creator. On the basis of this duality, if we admit the creature as the true helper, it will amount to the same kind of disbelief as was practised by the infidels of Makkah that in ordinary affairs they relied on men as helpers and in other affairs beseeched Allāh for help. If it is admitted that Allāh is also the Helper in worldly affairs, then how is it correct to seek the help of someone who is not-God.

          The conclusive argument is that Allāh is the only Helper even in ordinary matters, and help from the creatures is implored only in the derivative sense, not in the real sense ¾ then the question arises if beseeching others for help besides Allāh in ordinary matters is valid where it is only derivative, then how can it be declared invalid in extraordinary matters where its derivative status is established beyond doubt. The contradiction is simply incomprehensible.


Justification of help from derivative source in supernatural matters

Reliance on the derivative source of help in supernatural matters is justified in the sense that, though apparently, the source is other than God, actually it is God whose help is being coveted. In addition, the word help is used in its derivative sense at many places in the Holy Qur’ān. The frequency with which it is used is amazing. In the following pages, a few examples from the Qur’ān will be given to wash out the misconception in the minds of the believers and to bring home to them the dire consequences if the distinction between the real and the derivative is blotted out:


Allegation of disbelief against Jibrīl (عليه السلام)?

When Jibrīl (عليه السلام), with Allāh’s consent, appeared before Maryam (Mary) in the shape of a human being to convey to her the news of the birth of ‘Īsā (عليه السلام), he said:

I have only been sent by your Lord. (I have come because) I should bless you with a pure son.[15]

          In this Qur’ānic verse the statement by Jibrīl (عليه السلام) borders on the supernatural because the birth of a son without marital consummation is impossible in the world of cause-and-effect, and, to convey the news of the birth of a son to a chaste, unmarried woman is a graphic Qur’ānic illustration of help in supernatural matters, which is simply inconceivable without the interpolation of material causes.

          The point to be noted is that if a person beseeches a saint or one of Allāh’s favourites for help only as a means, some of our ignorant friends instantly clamp on him the allegation of disbelief, while if some non-God ¾ Jibrīl(عليه السلام) ¾ says, “I bless you with a pure son,” and Allāh Himself mentions it in the holy Qur’ān, why don’t they call it disbelief because both situations are substantially identical? In the case of beseeching help the petitioner is essentially a human being and remains so under all the circumstances, but the statement “I bless you with a pure son” is an encroachment on the divine powers if it is not interpreted derivatively; if it is interpreted in the real sense, then the angel acquires the status of God which is nothing but disbelief. To bless someone with a child is a divine act and the duty of a creature is only to seek His blessing. If a person’s act of beseeching help from non-Allāh is an act of disbelief, then the statement by a non-Allāh that “I bless you with a pure son” amounts to even a higher form of disbelief. The question is that Jibrīl (عليه السلام) did not commit disbelief despite his statement apparently bordering on disbelief; rather his statement proved truthful. Then how could we vindicate his statement that apparently seemed to defy the powers of divinity, as nobody has dared call him (may God forbid) a disbeliever?

Though the statement, “I bless you with a pure son,” apparently belongs to Jibrīl (عليه السلام), but the “son” actually refers to the son Allāh is about to bless her with, and the angel is only a cause, a means for the act which is, in essence, divine. Thus the Qur’ānic verse (19:19) embodies only an act of help which is really an act of intermediation only and is a superb example of derivative help furnished by the Qur’ān itself.

          Some people raise objection against the translation of the verse. They opine that the subject of the verb li-ahaba (I should bless) is Allāh Himself and Jibrīl (عليه السلام) said it reportedly. While in another recitation of the verse the verb is li-yahaba (He (Allāh) should bless).

          The deniers accept these two translations because they cater to their temperament and pamper their mood. And they reject the preferred one that is in the holy Qur’ān and recited accordingly. So what hindrance remains there to accept the preponderant recitation and meaning of the verse that has also been narrated by the exegetes of great repute? The same meaning that we narrated is printed in the translation of the holy Qur’ān in Urdu published by Shāh Fahad Qur’ān Karīm Complex, Saudi Arabia.


Allegation of disbelief against ‘Īsā (عليه السلام)?

When ‘Īsā (عليه السلام) articulated the divine truth publicly and tried to invite the members of his community to divine unity and dissuade them from committing disbelief, he showed a number of miracles to them. His invitation has been phrased in the holy Qur’ān in these words:

Surely, I have come to you, with a sign from your Lord that I make for you, out of clay, the (figure of a) bird, and breathe into it and it becomes instantly a flying bird by God’s leave. And I heal those born blind, and the lepers, and I quicken the dead by God’s leave, and I declare to you (all) that you eat, and that you store in your houses. Surely in that there is a sign for you if you are believers.[16]

          This Qur’ānic verse relates five miracles performed by ‘Īsā (عليه السلام):

  1. to make a flying bird out of clay
  2. to heal a person who is born blind
  3. to heal leprosy
  4. to quicken the dead
  5. to reveal news from the unseen

Allāh had blessed ‘Īsā (عليه السلام) with five miracles which he used to openly declare his faith and which have been endorsed by God Himself in the Holy Qur’ān. In this Qur’ānic verse, ‘Īsā (عليه السلام) says: ‘I have come to you, with a sign from your Lord that I make for you, out of clay, the (figure of a) bird.’ The word akhluqu (I create) has been used instead of the word aj‘alu (I make). A little reflection will show you that the whole debate revolves around the distinction between real and derivative, the power that is self-generated and the power that is generated by the other’s will, the non-contingent and the contingent.

In this Qur’ānic verse, the real helper is not ‘Īsā (عليه السلام), but Allāh Himself. The debate is, in fact, verbal because the words have been used not in their essential meaning, but only in their borrowed sense. Though the mode of address is vocative, the real Helper is Allāh Himself and what the Prophet (عليه السلام) is performing has the divine sanction behind it. This is a fine example of the verbal distinction between the real and the non-real furnished by the Qur’ān.

One can say that the entire episode relates to the miracle performed by ‘Īsā (عليه السلام) and a miracle is irrelevant to a discussion of appeal for help. The simple answer is that “the miracle is the healing of the sick and not the arrogation of divine powers to himself.” The fact is that the supernatural acts performed by the Prophet (عليه السلام) possess only a derivative meaning because both disease and its recovery are from Allāh. When it is an immutable fact that Allāh alone heals a leper and a person who is born blind, then why did Īsā (عليه السلام) say, “I heal.” In principle, he should have said that ‘though I cast my hand over a leper and a blind person, I do not heal them; it is, in fact, Allāh who heals them.’ It would not have reduced the impact of the miracle in any sense but he only derivatively arrogated it to himself.

          The fourth statement he made was “And I quicken the dead, by God’s leave.” This is really an extreme case. He is not saying: ‘you bring a dead person, then I shall pray to Allāh and He, on account of my prayer, shall bring him to life.’ But he said, “I bring the dead to life by God’s leave.” It means that the use of words and the specific mode of address are only derivatively attributed to the creature, and not in the real sense. It is quite valid in the case of ‘Īsā (عليه السلام) because it is being used only in a reflective sense through the words bi-idhn Allāh (by God’s leave) he is declaring only Allāh as the true Helper.

          The fifth statement made by him says, “And I declare to you (all) that you eat, and that you store in your houses.” He does not say that he is doing so because he has been informed by God; on the other hand, he says, “I give you the news.” These words clearly embody an aspect of knowledge of the unseen because information about what someone has eaten falls within the realm of the unseen and is known to Allāh alone. ‘Īsā (عليه السلام) does not say, “God informs me,” though the fact is that it is Allāh Who is informing him but he has not expressed it in his words and has only derivatively attributed it to himself which clearly reveals that the knowledge of the unseen can be derivatively claimed by non-Allāh, and it is valid otherwise a Messenger of Allāh would never have committed such an act.

          The statement publicly made by ‘Īsā (عليه السلام) must border on disbelief in the eyes of our modern scholars who do not tire of trumpeting their faith in divine unity. Such a mode of thinking will not even exempt the prophets from the stigma of disbelief. No sane believer will subscribe to their distorted point of view because to accuse the prophets of disbelief is in itself a kind of disbelief. Therefore, this trend of speculation may prove hazardous for the entire world of Islam as it will not even spare the prophets who devoted their lives to win Allāh’s pleasure and favour.


Allegation of disbelief against Allāh?

The specific verse of sūrah Āl ‘Imrān records the words uttered by ‘Īsā (عليه السلام), “I bring the dead to life by God’s leave and I breathe life into the figures of birds made out of clay, etc,” but in the following verse, Allāh Himself is supporting his words:

And when you, by My leave, made (the figure) like that of a bird out of kneaded clay. [17]

          Allāh has not declared: ‘O ‘Īsā! I made for you birds of clay and brought them to life, for you I gave sight to the persons born blind and healed the lepers.’ Allāh could have done so for the sake of His favourites because He knew that nothing could shake them in their belief in Him.

It is an admitted fact that breathing life into something and making it alive is exclusively an act of the Creator of the universe. But for ‘Īsā (عليه السلام) He Himself declared:

          Then you breathed into it, so (the figure) became a bird by My leave, and when you healed the persons born blind and the lepers by My leave, and when you by My leave made the dead (alive by) taking them out (of their graves and) made them (stand up).[18]

The verse makes it clear that these words are only derivatively applied to non-Allāh and this mode of application is valid. These words were uttered by Allāh Himself and were also used by the prophets though there was no compulsion for them to make use of such words. Their derivative use in the Holy Qur’ān by Allāh is not only the greatest justification of their delegated meaning but is also an attestation of their validity.

          This discussion also furnishes a specific code for internal and external causes, that is, in supernatural causes, even though the words are directly attributed to the creature, the real driving force behind these words is Allāh Himself because He is the only real Helper and supporter.


Third objection: Beseeching someone other than God for help smacks of his invisible power

Beseeching someone other than God is a form of disbelief because to seek help from a remote distance falls under supernatural causes, and this is the third reason in their armoury of arguments. Since the person whose help is being implored appears to be at an invisible distance, we invest him with supernatural power, which is only Allāh’s prerogative. Through this act, we also invest him with absolute power. Since only Allāh possesses absolute power, it is a form of disbelief to invest not-God with such power. This, in fact, amounts to creating partners for Allāh, which is a glaring negation of divine unity and therefore, in conflict with the most fundamental article of our faith which proclaims divine indivisibility.


Rebuttal of the self-concocted belief

Self-concocted theories make the confusion worse confounded and therefore, ask for their instant elimination. This is entirely wrong that such persons possess power of the unseen. It is, in fact, a kind of spiritual quality, which Allāh confers on His chosen creatures. To call this spiritual power, which Allāh Himself has given to His special people, absolute is to create discord among the believers. Besides, even the non-believers seem to possess this kind of power and this does not transform them into godheads. If the non-believers can claim this virtue, why should the believers be deprived of its benefit who have a greater claim on Allāh’s favours. The reference to internet, which is the latest symbol of modern scientific progress, seems to be the most appropriate way to illustrate our point. In this scientific world of material progress, where the human concept of a global village has now become a reality, distances have shrunk in the computer world. The internet has reduced the world to the level of a grain of rye. The state of progress allows man to sit in a closed room and to be in touch with the latest developments in the outside world. The question arises: ‘do the internet and the computers linked with it possess the power of the unseen?’ This reveals the fundamental contradiction in their line of reasoning. They do not label the computers and their mode of work as a form of disbelief, but it is difficult for them to swallow the operations of the spiritual power, which Allāh has given to His favourite people, and they dub it unashamedly as a form of disbelief. If the outcome of scientific progress has made the impossible as possible and given birth to instant communication where an event happening in one corner of the world is instantly splashed across the whole world, and it does not clash with the concept of divine unity, then how can an expression and manifestation of spiritual causes be tagged as a kind of disbelief. If the inventions of the disbelievers and the infidels, and the invisible powers they seem to project, do not amount to disbelief, then why should the spiritual powers enjoyed through divine consent by the prophets, the pious and the saints be equated with disbelief. This, in fact, is the highest form of perversion. We do not denigrate the modern inventions and the power with which they have invested mankind, but they are no match for the spiritual power and enlightenment with which Allāh has blessed His own favourites; the prophets, the saints and the righteous. This spiritual power has been expressed by Shaykh ‘Abd-ul-Qādir Jīlānī in these words:

I see all the countries of Allāh simultaneously as if they are like a grain of rye on my palm (in my eye).[19]

Some people suffer from the doubt that when we call someone from a distance, it means that the one who is being called knows who the caller is, that is, he, in fact, knows the caller very well. On this basis, he seems to possess knowledge of the unseen, and since knowledge of the unseen also implies absolute power, therefore, on account of these two ingredients, it is a kind of disbelief as well as an illegal act. The answer to this perverse reasoning is quite simple. In this age of scientific progress, both these aspects are present in the human knowledge derived from modern inventions, while Qur’ān, the Word of God, has already anticipated and confirmed it, but being divine in origin, it is free from all pollution. The Qur’ān carries information about remote knowledge and the power over acts and phenomena. Sulaymān (عليه السلام) said during the dialogue with his courtiers:

You chiefs! Which of you can bring me her throne before they come to me in submission.[20]

          The throne of queen Balqīs was at a distance of 900 miles from Sulaymān’s court which none of the courtiers had seen. In spite of it, none of them asked him: ‘O Prophet, the throne is at a distance of hundreds of miles, placed behind an invisible curtain and you are demanding that it should be brought to you immediately. Do you entertain the belief on our behalf that we, sitting here, possess knowledge of remote objects?’


Can creatures have remote knowledge?

If Sulaymān (عليه السلام) had believed that his courtiers had no knowledge of the location of the throne placed at a distance of 900 miles and of carrying it over such a vast distance, he would never have asked who would bring it. On the contrary, he would have implored Allāh: ‘O Allāh! Send to me the throne of queen Balqīs because You are the only one who possesses absolute power.’

          In short, we learn from the Qur’ān that knowledge of distant objects does not constitute disbelief. Sulaymān(عليه السلام) did not commit disbelief because he was exercising the invisible powers delegated to him by Allāh Himself. Similarly, if the present-day Muslims adopt the belief that ‘Alī Hujwīrī, ‘Abd-ul-Qādir Jīlānī, Sultān Bāhū and the other saints and virtuous people know us and possess the God-given power to help us out of our problems, they cannot be guilty of perpetrating an act of disbelief and are not out of the fold of Islam. Just as it was not disbelief in the case of Sulaymān (عليه السلام), similarly, it is absolutely valid in their case, because the saints are as divinely inspired as were the courtiers of Sulaymān(عليه السلام), more particularly Āsif bin Barakhyā. In both cases, these special people are blessed by Allāh to possess these powers, and the exercise of these powers is divinely sanctioned. When Allāh alone has the absolute power, His laws are eternal and cannot be modified by the vagaries of time and space or selectively applied on the basis of individual fluctuation or change in circumstances. If they were applied in the past, they can be applied even now. If they did not constitute disbelief during the time of Sulaymān (عليه السلام), how can they do so in the modern times? Human power wavers but God’s power is absolute.


‘Umar Fārūq’s inspiration

The unknown is revealed to the chosen people of Allāh whom He has invested with special spiritual powers. It was a proof of these spiritual benefits that the Companions directly groomed by the holy Prophet (صلى الله عليه وآله وسلم) himself could issue instructions directly to their commanders in the battlefield over a distance of thousands of miles without using material means. Once, the Islamic army was arrayed in battle against their enemies under the command of Sāriyah bin Jabal. The enemy made a clever tactical move and the Islamic forces were completely besieged by them. Precisely at that time, ‘Umar Fārūq was delivering the Friday sermon from the pulpit at Medina. On account of his spiritual concentration, the battle scenario was right before his eyes. During the sermon, he proclaimed loudly:

O Sāriyah! Go behind the mountain![21]

          After saying this, he resumed delivering the sermon. He was performing two acts simultaneously: he was delivering the Friday sermon at the Prophet’s Mosque, and at the same time he was directly issuing instructions to his commander at the battlefield. He neither possessed the radar system nor the mobile phone, which could inform him about the events at the battlefield. It was a miracle of the spiritual power Allāh had blessed him with, which helped his inner eye to survey all that was happening at such a vast distance. Sāriyah bin Jabal actually received the message from ‘Umar Fārūq and immediately led his force behind the mountain and achieved victory over the enemy. The enemy attack fizzled out, and when the Islamic forces hit back, the enemy was trounced.


Difference between spiritual inspiration and knowledge of the unseen

Another misconception needs to be removed which tends to confuse inspiration with invisible knowledge. The two phenomena are, in fact, poles apart. As opposed to knowledge of the unseen, divine inspiration is a kind of revelation; it means to unravel something that is concealed; it is a curtain-raiser as it lifts the curtain on something that is hidden, and it applies only to the creatures. Allāh transcends these reservations as He embodies in Himself the knowledge of the unseen. Since nothing is hidden from Him, the question of raising the curtain or lifting the veil does not arise in His case. It is the prerogative of the saints of Allāh, which He Himself has awarded to them. It is by virtue of this power that the secrets of hidden things are revealed to them and this knowledge does not amount to disbelief because it comes about in exercise of the power conferred on them by Allāh Himself. The curtain is raised on hidden things for the saints and Allāh lifts their veils and this strikes the saints with the force of revelation. Here the two powers merge: the direct and original power of Allāh and the indirect and reflected power of the saint, but the merger cannot be willed by the saint as it can be sanctioned by Allāh alone. This is what the concept of divine unity boils down to. The allegation of disbelief can be justified only if we arrogate the attributes of Allāh to not-Allāh. There is nothing in the depths of the earth and the immensities of the heavens that is hidden to Allāh. He knows everything that is unknown to His creatures, and He knows all that is revealed to them too. The Lord says:

Surely, there is nothing on the earth and in the heavens that is hidden to Allāh![22]

          This Qur’ānic verse expressly states that to attribute inspiration to Allāh who is the source of all inspiration is to limit the divine powers and to confine knowledge of the unseen within narrow grooves, which certainly violates the concept of divine unity because kashf means to unravel what is hidden while nothing is hidden to Allāh. Since things are concealed to human beings, Allāh conferred on His chosen people, as a mark of their distinction, the power of inspiration, which revealed to them the near and distant objects. [For a detailed study of the unseen, please refer to our Urdu book ‘Aqīdah ‘ilm ghayb (Doctrine of the Knowledge of the Unseen).]


The Prophet’s question is an argument for the power of the questioned

In the event related in the holy Qur’ān, Sulaymān (عليه السلام) had conveyed his wish to the courtiers to bring to him the throne of queen Balqīs, and qualified it by the condition “before they come to me in submission.” Queen Balqīs and a number of other people along with her had already set out to visit Sulaymān’s court with a view to embracing Islam, but he was insisting that the throne must be brought to him before their arrival.

          If Sulaymān (عليه السلام) had not possessed the belief in the knowledge of distant things for not-Allāh and the requisite power to transform this knowledge into reality, he would never have asked such a question. The courtiers would also have spoken out: ‘O Prophet! How is it possible for the creatures to perform such an act? You turn to Allāh and beseech Him for help as He alone has the power over this supernatural matter.’ But none of the courtiers dared ask the question, but in response to the question, one of the jinns stood up and said:

I can bring it to you before you rise from your place and indeed I am powerful (to bring) it (and) I am trustworthy.[23]

          It may also be noted here, how can something that is valid for the jinns, turn into an article of disbelief for the favourite people of Allāh who constantly bow before Him. Disbelief is actually predicated on those attributes and qualities specifically associated with Allāh and are not available to others. It will be disbelief only if they attribute to themselves these specific divine qualities which is obviously inconceivable for a true believer because it is equivalent to a negation of their faith.

          Sulaymān (عليه السلام) did not accept the offer made by that jinn. Then one among the men stood up who possessed knowledge of the Book. He was among the knowledgeable and the spiritualists. He said to Sulaymān (عليه السلام) while standing:

I can bring it to you before your eye returns to you (this is, in the twinkling of an eye), then when (Sulaymān) found that (throne) placed before him, he said: ‘this is by the grace of my Lord.’[24]

          The denigrators say that Sulaymān (عليه السلام) was the person who brought the throne. While the celebrated and well-known view is that it was his writer or minister who brought the throne to Sulaymān (عليه السلام) and his name was Āsif bin Barakhyā.

          Imām Qurtubī writes:

Most exegetes agree upon it that surely the person who had the knowledge of the Book was Āsif bin Barakhyā, and he was truthful. He knew Allāh’s ism-ul-a‘zam (exalted name) that whenever he was asked for something he gave through it and whenever he was called he answered through it. And ‘Ā’ishah narrated: the Prophet (صلى الله عليه وآله وسلم) said, “Ism-ul-a‘zam of Almighty Allāh through which Āsif bin Barakhyā prayd is yā hayy (O, the Living!) yā qayyūm (O, the Self-Subsistent!).”[25]

          Imām Ibn Kathīr, while commenting on the verse (27:40) writes:

Ibn ‘Abbās said, “And he was Āsif, the writer of Sulaymān (عليه السلام).” And similarly Muhammad bin Ishāq narrated through Yazīd bin Rūmān, “Certainly he was Āsif bin Barakhyā, and he was truthful and knew ism-ul-a‘zam.” And Qatādah said, “He was a believer from human beings and his name was Āsif.” Similarly, Abū Sālih, Dahhāk, and Qatādah said that he was a human being. Qatādah added that he belonged to Banī Israel. Mujāhid said, “His name was Ustūm.” And Qatādah said in another tradition that his name was Balīkhā. And Zuhayr bin Muhammad said, “He was a man from human being and called Dhū an-Nūr.” And ‘Abdullāh bin Lahī‘ah supposes that he was Khadir (عليه السلام) but this (assumption) is extremely unfamiliar.[26]

          Ibn Kathīr mentioned the topic in his al-Bidāyah wan-nihāyah (1:472) and said:

“The well-known fact is that he was Āsif bin Barakhyā and he was the cousin of Sulaymān (عليه السلام). And it is also said that he was a jinn believer as it is said about him that he knew ism-ul-a‘zam. And it is said that he was a scholarly man from Banī Israel and it is also said that he was Sulaymān (عليه السلام), but this is extremely unfamiliar. And Suhaylī weakened this statement because it is not according to the context.”

          Ibn ‘Abbās narrated the same point in Tanwīr-ul-miqbās (p.318).[27]

          The Qur’ānic verse furnishes a contrastive study of two kinds of creatures: on the one hand are the jinns who pride in their extraordinary power, on the basis of which he expresses his sense of determination to bring to him the throne placed at a distance of hundreds of miles before the rising of the council; and on the other hand is being described the glory and nature of the man of Allāh who possesses the power to perform this job in the blinking of an eye. In this situation, Sulaymān (عليه السلام) speaks up:

          So that He should test me whether I am grateful or ungrateful, and whosoever expressed gratitude (to Allāh), so he offers gratitude for his personal benefit, and whosoever was ungrateful, then my Lord is All-Transcending, Merciful.[28]

          Their goony explanation of the unseen sometimes takes on a different configuration. They say that it is not valid to demand from a creature the performance of an act which is beyond his creaturely status. In order to justify their contention they suggest that to demand from the prophets, the saints and the pious something, which is not in their control and which is only in Allāh’s control is an expression of disbelief. The answer to this question has already been provided at length. The fact is that this mode of reasoning is based on a misunderstanding of the meaning of the word istighāthah. No Muslim, when he is beseeching the prophets and the saints for help, believes in his heart that our helpers (the prophets and the saints) will help us on their own, but we believe that they will serve only as a means of fulfilling our needs before Allāh, as has been explained in the case of the blind Companion and the request for rain. The Companions in these traditions had based their appeal for help on the absolute power of Allāh and mediated it through the qualities and attributes of the Prophet (صلى الله عليه وآله وسلم). And as a result, the Prophet (صلى الله عليه وآله وسلم) who was, better groomed in the secrets of divine unity, did not discourage them by saying that in this way they were committing disbelief but prayed for them and, Allāh in response to his supplication, fulfilled their needs. If beseeching help from not-Allāh had been disbelief, then,

first, the Companions would never have implored the Prophet (صلى الله عليه وآله وسلم) to perform this act,

second, the Prophet (صلى الله عليه وآله وسلم) would have discouraged them by telling them it was disbelief, and would have forbidden them to press him with such imploring,

third, Allāh would have forbidden His beloved to help them and protected him against committing disbelief.

          The Companions, beseeching the Prophet (صلى الله عليه وآله وسلم) for help, the act of the Prophet (صلى الله عليه وآله وسلم) and Allāh’s approval of the act ¾ all these three factors collectively prove that istighāthah is not only valid, but is a practice of the Companions and popular with Allāh. Demand for miracles also falls in this category. When the non-believers and the infidels demanded from the holy Prophet (صلى الله عليه وآله وسلم) a miraculous expression of his power, he did not call it disbelief. Instead, he performed the required miracles with his hand (splitting the moon etc). If these supernatural acts had been disbelief, how could the Prophet (صلى الله عليه وآله وسلم) have possibly perpetrated them? When the act of the Prophet(صلى الله عليه وآله وسلم) does not amount to disbelief (even to think of it expels one from the fold of Islam), then how can the act of Ummah, in conformity to the practice of the Companions, be declared a form of shirk (polytheism).

          The Muslims only expect mediation for help from the saints and the prophets, and not their help because Allāh is the only true Helper. They can only recommend us to Allāh, they can’t help themselves. When they do help, it is only with divine sanction behind it and God has given power to His favourites over supplication and recommendation, though this power is only derivatively used, as Allāh says in the holy Qur’ān:

Pure is He Who has created couples of everything which the earth causes to grow.[29]

          Allāh Himself in the Qur’ān has attributed the growth of grass to the earth although to cause the grass to grow is not in earth’s power because in this act of growth it serves only as an instrument and a means. This Qur’ānic verse proves that there is no harm in referring to the means or instrument of mediation as subject because it cannot lead to any misunderstanding or confusion as both the Qur’ān and the traditions contain countless references to the difference between real and derivative power. Statements made by the Muslims in this sense are as devoid of disbelief as are the holy Qur’ān and the traditions of the Prophet (صلى الله عليه وآله وسلم).


Fourth objection: There is no helper except Allāh

They make the Qur’ānic verses which negate the attainment of power and victory through not-Allāh as the basis of their negation of seeking help through any person other than Allāh. It is said that all power and victory flow from Allāh alone and to transfer what belongs only to Allāh to someone else is nothing but disbelief as Allāh has repeatedly declared in the holy Qur’ān:

  1. And except Allāh you have neither a friend nor a helper.[30]

  2. And they shall not find any friend or helper besides Allāh.[31]

  3. And He is the Protector, worthy of all praise.[32]

  4. For you there shall be neither any friend nor any helper to guard you against Allāh.[33]

  5. And Allāh is sufficient (as) Protector and Allāh is sufficient (as) Helper.[34]

  6. And (in reality) there is no help from any (other) place except from Allāh.[35]

  7. And grant me victory and power from Your Own side to aid me.[36]

  8. And your Lord is sufficient to guide and help you.[37]

          In all the Qur’ānic verses they give preference to the figurative meaning over the real meaning, and basing their argument on the figurative meaning they assert that in these verses the words walī (friend), sultān (power), hādī (guide) and nasīr (helper) have been used for Allāh, and to ascribe these attributes to anyone besides Allāh is to commit disbelief.


Fallacious reasoning

If a few words are expressly related to Allāh in the Qur’ān, it does not imply that they cannot be related to anyone else as such a relation will amount to disbelief. A battery of examples can be produced to support this view. So, in the Qur’ān where the words walī and nasīr have been used for Allāh, there Allāh has used these words figuratively for His servants. In order to short-circuit the debate, we will base our argument on the verses in which the words walī and nasīr are used, while in addition to these, a number of other divine qualities have been jointly used for Allāh and His creature. The Qur'ān states:

  1. And raise for us from You one who will protect, and raise for us from You one who will help.[38]

  2. Indeed, your (helper) friend is only Allāh and His Messenger and (with them) are the believers.[39]

  3. And if you back up each other against the Messenger (if you both behave in a manner that annoys the Prophet) then (remember that) Allāh is his Protector (Helper) and Jibrīl and the righteous believers and after that even the angels will assist him.[40]

  4. And the men who believe and the women who believe are each other’s protectors and helpers.[41]

          These Qur’ānic verses make it clear as daylight that walī, nasīr and other similar words which portray the attributes of Allāh, are used not only for His creatures with identical semantic shade but is also the divine practice and to equate Allāh’s practice with disbelief is a deviation from the cardinal principles of Islamic teaching and Islam does not permit it.


Fifth objection: Begging and beseeching help from Allāh alone is valid

To negate the validity of beseeching others than Allāh for help is based on a fallacious deduction from a tradition narrated by ‘Abdullāh bin ‘Abbās as an argument in their favour in which it is enjoined upon the believers to beg only Allāh for help. The words of the tradition are as follows:

When you beg you should beg it from Allāh alone, and when you ask for help, you should ask it from Allāh alone, and note that even if the entire Ummah collectively wishes to benefit you, it cannot do so against what is predestined. (Similarly) if the entire Ummah collectively wishes to harm you, it cannot succeed against what is predestined (because) the pens (of the writer of fate) have been taken away and the writings have dried up.[42]

          We will elaborate in the following pages that to conclude from this tradition that begging and beseeching Allāh for help is valid and begging and beseeching not-Allāh for help is invalid, sounds perverse.


Begging for help is Allāh’s command

This false reasoning is a complete negation of all that is fundamental to Islam and is a clumsy attempt to impose the principles of some alien faith on the simple and straight tenets of Islamic faith. This kind of reasoning betrays a glaring unawareness of the Qur’ān and the sunnah, lack of understanding of the purpose of revelation of the Qur’ān, and a superficial study of Islamic teachings. Its primary motive is to accuse the collective Muslim Ummah of disbelief and infidelity. The actual position is that the purpose of the tradition is not to dissuade people from seeking help from others except Allāh, as it appears at first glance; but its real purpose is to deflect the attention of the creature from the causes and direct it to the Creator of those causes so that the creature, embroiled in the convolutions of causes, may not lose sight of the real Helper. So the actual meaning of this tradition, in the light of Islamic teachings, may be summed up in these words: ‘O man! When you beg and beseech anyone of Allāh’s creatures for help and assistance, you should have complete faith in the glory and power of Allāh, and beg for help regarding Allāh as the real Helper lest these secondary causes should divert your attention from the Creator and become the stumbling blocks for you.’ The Prophet (صلى الله عليه وآله وسلم), endorsing the contents of the tradition said that there is no help against Allāh’s will but it does not negate the act of beseeching someone’s help to persuade Allāh to fulfil one’s need. There is a huge difference between acts, which are incompatible with Allāh’s will and those, which are compatible with His will. The last words of the tradition (the pens have been taken away and the writings have dried up) clearly point out that beseeching not-Allāh for help against God’s will is forbidden but it, in no way forbids the act of begging and beseeching help from others because seeking the help of others has been endorsed by Allāh Himself. For example:

So you should ask people of knowledge if you yourselves do not know (about something).[43]

          In this Qur’ānic verse the believers are being urged to ask those who possess knowledge. A large number of other traditions support the contents of this verse that the words ‘when you beg you should beg it from Allāh alone,’ do not forbid the act of seeking help from others absolutely. On the contrary, it means that the believers should not beg the rulers and the affluent, out of sheer greed, to help them financially or socially. They should beseech Allāh’s blessings alone. To infer from this tradition that it is invalid to beseech the help of others than Allāh is an unfair inference. These words do not argue against beseeching the help of others than Allāh. On the contrary, a large number of traditions clearly suggest that the Prophet (صلى الله عليه وآله وسلم) himself prompted the Companions to beg from him and then responded to them. (The details with examples have already been given in the earlier pages.) If begging help from others is regarded as disbelief, then a large number of routine affairs which form the basis of practical life will be declared forbidden, for example, a student asking a teacher for explanation, a patient soliciting treatment from a doctor, a needy person begging help from a person of means and a creditor demanding his money back from someone who has borrowed it from him.


Ask for some more

One of the fortunate Companions, Rabī‘ah bin Ka‘b, one evening called on the Prophet (صلى الله عليه وآله وسلم). He filled water for his ablution and helped him perform the ablution. Pleased with his solicitude, the Prophet (صلى الله عليه وآله وسلم) said to him: ‘ask for anything you want.’ Overwhelmed by such a big offer, the Companion asked for his eternal companionship, which the Prophet (صلى الله عليه وآله وسلم) readily agreed to. Rabī‘ah bin Ka‘b relates in his own words:

I spent a night with the holy Prophet(صلى الله عليه وآله وسلم) (and towards the tail-end of the night) I brought water for his ablution and toilet. He said: ‘ask (for) whatever you want.’ I said: ‘I want your (eternal) companionship in Paradise.’ He said: ‘anything else?’ I said: ‘this is sufficient.’ He said: ‘then help me with plenty of prostration.’[44]

          In this tradition the Prophet (صلى الله عليه وآله وسلم) himself commanded the Companion to beg from him. If begging for help from not-Allāh were forbidden, the greatest champion of divine unity would never have done it. In the last words of the tradition, the Prophet (صلى الله عليه وآله وسلم) himself begged him to help him with greater frequency of prostrations. This proves that begging help from someone other than Allāh is quite consistent with the Prophet’s practice and anyone who levels allegations of disbelief against him is himself violating his belief in divine unity. Such religious concepts are in fact a product of ignorance about the universal message of Islam.


Beseeching help from others is Islamic command

It is Allāh’s command to seek help from Him through His favourite servants for the fulfilment of needs and the relief of worries and problems, which constantly nag one’s mind and cannot be resolved by ordinary means or by one’s personal efforts. A few examples from the Qur’ān and the Prophet’s traditions are given below:

1.       The Qur’ān says:

And seek (Allāh’s) help through patience and prayer.[45]

          Here it is Allāh’s command to seek help and support by means of the virtuous acts of patience and prayer. These acts are only the means because it is Allāh alone who can help us out of our troubles and tribulations. But the act of begging for help through these means is being issued as a divine command.

2.       Similarly, here is another verse from the Qur’ān in which Allāh commands to seek help for fighting equipment and for the preparation of jihād:

And (O Muslims!), to (fight) them you should keep ready the force (of weapons and other instruments of war) as much as possible and (a large number of) tied horses.[46]

3.       In addition, the Qur’ān is a witness to the help which Dhū al-Qarnayn sought from his nation to fight the enemy:

You should help me with the might of your arm, (that is, with labour and rigorous, hard work).[47]

4.       Similarly, it is narrated by ‘Abdullāh bin ‘Abbās that Allāh’s Messenger (صلى الله عليه وآله وسلم) said:

          Undoubtedly, there are some of Allāh’s angels on the earth who are in addition to the guardian angels. They note down each leaf that falls down from a tree. If anyone of you is being tortured in the jungle, you should cry, ‘O servants of Allāh, help me.’[48]

          Here, the Prophet (صلى الله عليه وآله وسلم) instructs the Muslims to seek angels’ help. He is advising us not to delink ourselves from those who not only believe in Allāh but also practice their belief. In case there is no human figure to come to your rescue, you should call angels for help. They will fulfil your need. This universe is not a meaningless vacuum as many atheists in their ignorance tend to assume; it is filled with flights of angels though they remain invisible to the naked eye and whenever human beings under duress invoke the help of Allāh, the angels practically demonstrate the merciful presence of Allāh by meeting human exigencies. Thus the words falyunād a‘īnū ‘ibād Allāh are a clear proof that to call someone for help is permissible.

5.       Salāt-ul-khawf (fear prayer) also implies seeking help from others for the elimination of fear.

6.       In a number of his sayings, the Prophet (صلى الله عليه وآله وسلم) has urged the believers to help one another:

Anyone who is busy in fulfilling the need of his brother, Allāh Himself fulfils his need.[49]

7.       The same theme is stressed in another tradition:

And Allāh is busy in helping His creature as long as he is busy helping his brother.[50]

8.       Imām Hākim has recorded a tradition in his al-Mustadrak (4:270) in which the Prophet (صلى الله عليه وآله وسلم) has commanded the believers to help one another and to relieve the needs of others and then he has also stressed the importance of this noble act:

If anyone of you goes out with his brother to help him, it is better than the two months’ seclusion in my mosque.[51]

9.       Allāh has created a special class of creatures to help the people in fulfilling their needs, relieving their problems and helping them in every possible way. The holy Prophet (صلى الله عليه وآله وسلم) said:

Allāh has created a class of creatures for the fulfilment of people’s needs so that people turn to them for (the fulfilment of) their needs. These creatures are immune to Allāh’s punishment.[52]

          In this tradition, the Prophet’s words that ‘people should turn to them for the fulfilment of their needs’ deserve special attention. The Prophet (صلى الله عليه وآله وسلم) is himself recommending the people’s act of seeking help from others. Therefore, those who call it disbelief appallingly lack an understanding of their own religion.

10.     Another tradition related to this theme is as follows:

Allāh has blessed His servants with (a large reservoir of) His blessings. These servants are engaged in fulfilling the needs of the people until they are weary of them. And when they wear out, (the same duty) is assigned from them to others.[53]

11.     ‘Abdullāh bin Mas‘ūd has narrated that the Prophet(صلى الله عليه وآله وسلم) said:

          When you lose your means of transport in a jungle, you should call: ‘O creatures of Allāh! Help me, recover my transport! O creatures of Allāh! Help me, recover my transport!’ There are many of Allāh’s creatures on this earth. They will help you recover it.[54]

          Mahmūd Sa‘īd Mamdūh writes in Raf‘-ul-minārah (p.225):

          “The tradition, being narrated from different quarters, transformed itself from a weak tradition into a sound one which the Muslims have invariably followed.”

          The traditions prove that it is quite compatible both with the will of Allāh and the Prophet (صلى الله عليه وآله وسلم) to seek help from other creatures and to help others in their hour of trouble and distress whenever they beseech you for help. So when Allāh and the Prophet (صلى الله عليه وآله وسلم) have approved it, who are we to disapprove it, and to label it as a form of disbelief and condemn it. The point to be noted here is that these verses and traditions are not only a justification for beseeching help from others; they are in the nature of commands and therefore, like other commands, they should be strictly followed by all the believers. Those who not only disregard them but also condemn them as self-fabricated innovations are automatically out of the fold of Islam.


Sixth objection: Negation of beseeching the holy Prophet (صلى الله عليه وآله وسلم) for help

During the earthly life of the Prophet (صلى الله عليه وآله وسلم) a hypocrite used to torture the Muslims and spared no opportunity to tease them. Abū Bakr said to the Companions: ‘let’s collectively beseech the holy Prophet (صلى الله عليه وآله وسلم) for help and assistance against this hypocrite.’ When the Prophet (صلى الله عليه وآله وسلم) heard this, he said:

Appeal for help is not made to me and appeal for help is made only to Allāh.[55]

          Some people have misinterpreted this tradition as a negation of beseeching help from anyone except Allāh on account of their ignorance and unawareness of its background. Basing their conclusion on a misunder-standing of its meaning, they believe that beseeching help from not-Allāh is disbelief because the Prophet (صلى الله عليه وآله وسلم) himself has condemned it as an un-Islamic act.


Correct meaning of the tradition

If we only confine ourselves to this tradition and its decontextualised meaning, then we will have to discard a large number of other verses and traditions in which both Allāh and the Prophet (صلى الله عليه وآله وسلم) have stressed the need and relevance of seeking the help of others in trouble and distress. Besides, to focus exclusively on this tradition and to sweep all other traditions under the carpet will violate the basic principles of interpretation and inference. It is an established legal principle that any tradition negating what is affirmed by other traditions must be placed in perspective because a final inference is drawn only through a coordination and collation of their meaning and substance to abrogate the discordant elements. The same principle must be followed here to bring out the correct meaning of this tradition.

          The tradition means to affirm the reality of divine unity as part of true faith. That is, it seems to suggest that the real Helper is Allāh alone and the creature is only a means in seeking help from Allāh.

          The tradition does not argue in favour of seeking help only from the living, as is erroneously supposed by some people. On the contrary, it does not discriminate between the living and the dead and stresses the fact that it is forbidden to beseech anyone for help except Allāh as we have already discussed in the early pages. Imām Ibn Taymiyyah has also mentioned it in his Fatāwā (1:110) and has made it clear that some people draw wrong conclusions from the divine injunctions and the sayings of the Prophet (صلى الله عليه وآله وسلم) when other contexts seem to refute their conclusions. The hypocrite’s torment and Abū Bakr’s beseeching the Prophet’s help against him fall into this category. If this tradition is not explained away, it will throw a negative light on other Qur’ānic verses and traditions as well as the acts of the Companions. It is recorded at various places in books of tradition that the Companions requested the Prophet (صلى الله عليه وآله وسلم) to supplicate for them, offered prayer for rain through his mediation and they excelled all the other followers in beseeching his help in a variety of situations. ‘Abdullāh bin ‘Umar’s statement is recorded that at many occasions when he looked at the Prophet’s face, he used to remember Abū Tālib’s verse which means that whenever he prayed for rain, the rain water started flowing from the gutters before he came down the pulpit. The verse is as follows:

And that handsome (person), by means of whose radiant face, rain is implored, and who is the guardian of orphans and the support of widows.[56]

          The fact that ‘Abdullāh bin ‘Umar hummed out this verse on many occasions shows the Companions’ intensity of love for the Prophet (صلى الله عليه وآله وسلم). Whenever they were in trouble or faced a calamity, they were involuntarily drawn towards him to beseech his help. When the conduct of the Companions is belying the content of this different tradition, and it is also in consonance with the teachings of the Qur’ān and the sunnah, then how can we agree with the explanations and interpretations of these ignorant friends as confirmations of divine unity, which in fact border on disbelief. The Qur’ānic concept of divine unity does not permit it that we should focus only on one exceptional tradition and accuse the entire Ummah of disbelief, while casting aside all other Qur’ānic verses and traditions which attest to the reality of beseeching help from others as a valid act and which is explicitly urged by both the Qur’ān and the sunnah.


[1].   Qur’ān (an-Naml, the Ants) 27:62.

[2].   Qur’ān (an-Nahl, the Bee) 16:20-1.

[3].   Qur’ān (Fātir, the Originator) 35:13-4.

[4].   Qur’ān (al-Ahqāf, the Sand-dunes) 46:5.

[5].   Qur’ān (al-Hajj, Pilgrimage) 22:12.

[6].   Qur’ān (Yūnus, Jonah) 10:106-7.

[7].   Qur’ān (al-Hajj, Pilgrimage) 22:13.

[8].   Qur’ān (Āl ‘Imrān, the Family of ‘Imrān) 3:61.

[9].   Qur’ān (al-Qasas, the Narratives) 28:25.

[10].  Qur’ān (al-Baqarah, the Cow) 2:260.

[11].  Qur’ān (al-Isrā’, the Night journey) 17:71.

[12].  Baghawī narrated it in Ma‘ālim-ut-tanzīl (3:126).

[13].  Qur’ān (al-Mā’idah, the Feast) 5:2.

[14].  Qur’ān (al-Ambiyā’, the Prophets) 21:112.

[15].  Qur’ān (Maryam, Mary) 19:19.

[16].  Qur’ān (Āl ‘Imrān, the Family of ‘Imrān) 3:49.

[17].  Qur’ān (al-Mā’idah, the Feast) 5:110.

[18].  Qur’ān (al-Mā’idah, the Feast) 5:110.

[19].  Shaykh ‘Abd-ul-Qādir Jīlānī, Qasīdah ghawthiyyah.

[20].  Qur’ān (an-Naml, the Ants) 27:38.

[21].  Abū Nu‘aym narrated it in Dalā’il-un-nubuwwah (p.507); Khatīb Tabrīzī, Mishkāt-ul-masābīh, b. of fadā’il (virtues) ch.8 (3:318#5954); Ibn ‘Asākir in Tahdhīb tārīkh Dimashq al-kabīr generally known as Tārīkh/Tahdhīb Ibn ‘Asākir; Ibn Kathīr in al-Bidāyah wan-nihāyah (5:210-1) and declared its chain of authorities as excellent and fair (jayyid hasan); ‘Asqalānī graded its chain of transmission hasan (fair) in al-Isābah fī tamyīz-is-sahābah (2:3); ‘Alī al-Hindī, Kanz-ul-‘ummāl (12:571,572,573 #35788-91); ‘Ajlawnī, Kashf-ul-khifā’ wa muzīl-ul-ilbās (2:514#3172); and Albānī in Silsilat-ul-ahādīth-is-sahīhah (#1110).

[22].  Qur’ān (Āl ‘Imrān, the Family of ‘Imrān) 3:5.

[23].  Qur’ān (an-Naml, the Ants) 27:39.

[24].  Qur’ān (an-Naml, the Ants) 27:40.

[25].  Qurtubī, al-Jāmi‘ li-ahkām-il-Qur’ān (13:204).

[26].  Ibn Kathīr, Tafsīr-ul-Qur’ān al-‘azīm (3:364).

[27] The following scholars also narrated that Āsif bin Barakhyā had the knowledge of the Book and he brought the throne of Queen Balqīs to Sulaymān (عليه السلام):

  1. bn Abī Hātim Rāzī, Tafsīr-ul-Qur’ān al-‘azīm (9:2885-6#16376-16381).

  2. Ibn Jarīr Tabarī, Jāmi‘-ul-bayān fī tafsīr-il-Qur’ān (19:103).

  3. Ibn-ul-Jawzī, Zād-ul-masīr fī ‘ilm-it-tafsīr (6:174).

  4. Baydāwī, Tafsīr (3:280).

  5. Rāzī, at-Tafsīr-ul-kabīr (24:197).

  6. Tha‘ālabī, Jawāhir-ul-hisān fī tafsīr-il-Qur’ān (3:162).

  7. Nasafī, al-Madārik (3:213).

  8. Khāzin, Lubāb-ut-ta’wīl fī ma‘ānī at-tanzīl (3:385-6).

  9. Abū Hayyān Andalusī, Tafsīr-ul-bahr-il-muhīt (7:75).

  10. Mahallī, Tafsīr-ul-jalālayn (p.320).

  11. Suyūtī, ad-Durr-ul-manthūr (5:109).

  12. Sābūnī, Qabas min-nūr-il-Qur’ān al-karīm (9:176).

  13. Ibrāhīm bin ‘Umar Biqā‘ī, Nazm-ud-Durar fī tanāsub-il-āyāt was-suwar (14:164-5).

  14. Abū Sa‘ūd ‘Amādī, Irshād-ul-‘aql-is-salīm ilā mazāyā al- Qur’ān al-karīm (6:287).

  15. Ismā‘īl Haqqī, Tafsīr rūh-ul-bayān (6:349).

  16. Shawkānī, Fath-ul-qadīr (4:139).

  17. Qadī Thanā’ullāh Pānīpatī, at-Tafsīr-ul-mazharī (7:117).

  18. Zamakhsharī, al-Kashshāf ‘an haqā’iq ghawāmid-it-tanzīl (3:289).

  19. Khatīb Shurbīnī, as-Sirāj-ul-munīr (3:60).

  20. Ālūsī, Rūh-ul-ma‘ānī (19:203).

[28].  Qur’ān (an-Naml, the Ants) 27:40.

[29].  Qur’ān (Yāsīn, Yāsīn) 36:36.

[30].  Qur’ān (al-Baqarah, the Cow) 2:107.

[31].  Qur’ān (al-Ahzāb, the Confederates) 33:17.

[32].  Qur’ān (ash-Shūrā, Consultation) 42:28.

[33].  Qur’ān (al-Baqarah, the Cow) 2:120.

[34].  Qur’ān (an-Nisā’, Women) 4:45.

[35].  Qur’ān (al-Anfāl, Spoils of war) 8:10.

[36].  Qur’ān (al-Isrā’, the Night journey) 17:80.

[37].  Qur’ān (al-Furqān, the Criterion) 25:31.

[38].  Qur’ān (an-Nisā’, Women) 4:75.

[39].  Qur’ān (al-Mā’idah, the Feast) 5:55.

[40].  Qur’ān (at-Tahrīm, Prohibition) 66:4.

[41].  Qur’ān (at-Tawbah, Repentance) 9:71.

[42].  Tirmidhī transmitted it in al-Jāmi‘-us-Sahīh, b. of sifat-ul-qiyāmah (the description of the Day of Judgement) ch.59 (4:667#2516) and graded it hasan (fair) sahīh (sound). Ahmad bin Hambal narrated it in his Musnad (1:293, 303, 307); Tabarānī, al-Mu‘jam-ul-kabīr 12:184-5#12988-9); Bayhaqī, Shu‘ab-ul-īmān (1:217#195); Ibn-us-Sunnī, ‘Amal-ul-yawm wal-laylah (p.136#419); and Mizzī in Tuhfat-ul-ashrāf bi-ma‘rifat-il-atrāf (4:382#5415).

[43].  Qur’ān (an-Nahl, the Bee) 16:43.

[44].  Muslim narrated it in his as-Sahīh, b. of salāt, (prayer) ch.43 (1:353#226/489); Abū Dāwūd, Sunan, b. of salāt, 2:35 (#1320); Nasā’ī, Sunan, b. of iftitāh (opening) 2:227-8; Ahmad bin Hambal, Musnad (4:59); Bayhaqī, as-Sunan-ul-kubrā (2:486); Tabarānī, al-Mu‘jam-ul-kabīr (5:56#4570); Baghawī, Sharh-us-sunnah (3:149#655); Mundhirī, at-Targhīb wat-tarhīb (1:249); Khatīb Tabrīzī, Mishkāt-ul-masābīh, b. of salāt (prayer) ch.14 (1:271#896); Haythamī, Majma‘-uz-zawā’id (2:249); Mullā ‘Alī Qārī, Mirqāt-ul-mafātīh sharh Mishkāt-ul-masābīh (2:323); and ‘Alī al-Hindī in Kanz-ul-‘ummāl (7:306#19006).

[45].  Qur’ān (al-Baqarah, the Cow) 2:145.

[46].  Qur’ān (al-Anfāl, Spoils of war) 8:60.

[47].  Qur’ān (al-Kahf, the Cave) 18:95.

[48].  Haythamī narrates it in Majma‘-uz-zawā’id (10:132) and says that its men are trustworthy.

[49].  Bukhārī narrated it in his as-Sahīh, b. of mazālim (oppressions) ch.4 (2:863#2310), b. of ikrāh (coercion) ch.7 (6:2550#6551); Muslim, as-Sahīh, b. of birr was-silah wal-ādāb (virtue, joining of the ties of relationship and good manners) ch.15 (4:1996#58/2580); Tirmidhī, al-Jāmi‘-us-sahīh, b. of hudūd, ch.3 (4:35#1426); Abū Dāwūd, Sunan, b. of adab (good manners) 4:273 (#4893); Ahmad bin Hambal, Musnad (2:91, 4:104); Bayhaqī, as-Sunan-ul-kubrā (6:94, 201; 8:330), Shu‘ab-ul-īmān (6:104#7614); Tabarānī, al-Mu‘jam-ul-kabīr (12:222#13137); Baghawī, Sharh-us-sunnah (13:98#3518); Mundhirī, at-Targhīb wat-tarhīb (3:389); ‘Asqalānī, Fath-ul-bārī (5:97; 12:323); and ‘Alī al-Hindī in Kanz-ul-‘ummāl (6:444#16463).

[50].  Muslim narrated it in his as-Sahīh, b. of dhikr wad-du‘ā’ wat-tawbah wal-istighfār (remembering (Allāh), invocation, repentance and seeking forgiveness) ch.11 (4:2074#38/2699); Tirmidhī, al-Jāmi‘-us-sahīh, b. of hudūd, ch.3 (4:34#1425), b. of birr was-silah (virtue and joining of the ties of relationship) ch.19 (4:326#1930), b. of qirā’āt (recitations) ch.12 (5:195#2945); Abū Dāwūd, Sunan, b. of adab (good manners) 4:287 (#4946); Ibn Mājah, Sunan, al-muqaddimah (preface) ch.17 (1:82#225); Ahmad bin Hambal, Musnad (2:252, 274, 500, 514); Ibn Abī Shaybah, al-Musannaf (9:85,86#6617-8); Ibn Hibbān, as-Sahīh (2:293#534); Baghawī, Sharh-us-Sunnah (1:273# 127); Abū Nu‘aym, Hilyat-ul-awliyā’ wa tabaqāt-ul-asfiyā’ (8:119); and Mundhirī in at-Targhīb wat-tarhīb (3:390).

[51].  Hākim narrated it in al-Mustadrak (4:270). Haythamī transmitted it with different words in his Majma‘-uz-zawā’id (8:192) and said, “Tabarānī narrated it in al-Mu‘jam-ul-awsat (8:160#7322) and its chain of authorities is excellent (isnāduhū jayyid).” Mundhirī also narrated it in at-Targhīb wat-tarhīb (3:391).

[52].  Haythamī narrated it in Majma‘-uz-zawā’id (8:192); and Mundhirī in at-Targhīb wat-tarhīb (3:390).

[53].  Tabarānī narrated it in al-Mu‘jam-ul-awsat (9:161#8346); Mundhirī, at-Targhīb wat-tarhīb (3:390); and Haythamī in Majma‘-uz-zawā’id (8:192).

[54].  Tabarānī narrated it in al-Mu‘jam-ul-kabīr (10:217#10518); Abū Ya‘lā, Musnad (9:177); Ibn-us-Sunnī, ‘Amal-ul-yawm wal-laylah (p.162#502); Haythamī, Majma‘-uz-zawā’id (10:132); and ‘Asqalānī in al-Matālib-ul-‘āliyah (3:239#3375).

[55].  Related by Haythamī in Majma‘-uz-zawā’id (10:159).

[56]. Bukhārī narrated it in his as-Sahīh, b. of istisqā’ (to invoke Allāh for rain at the time of drought) ch.3 (1:342#963); Ibn Mājah, Sunan, b. of iqāmat-us-salāt was-sunnah fīhā (establishing prayer and its sunnahs) ch.154 (1:405#1272); Ahmad bin Hambal, Musnad (2:93); Bayhaqī, as-Sunan-ul-kubrā (3:352), Dalā’il-un-nubuwwah (6:143); Ibn Hishām, as-Sīrat-un-nabawiyyah (1:281); Subkī, Shifā’-us-siqām fī ziyārat khayr-il-anām (p.127); Ibn Kathīr, al-Bidāyah wan-nihāyah (4:471); Mizzī, Tuhfat-ul-ashrāf bi-ma‘rifat-il-atrāf (5:359#6775); ‘Aynī, ‘Umdat-ul-qārī (7:29); ‘Asqalānī, Fath-ul-bārī (2:494); Qastallānī, al-Mawāhib-ul-laduniyyah (4:271); and Zurqānī in his Commentary (11:140).

Copyrights © 2024 Minhaj-ul-Quran International. All rights reserved