It is an established fact that on account of the distinction Allah has conferred on His favourites and the blessings He has showered upon them, it has been the practice of our religious leaders and scholars to rely on them to resolve their worldly problems, attain salvation in the Hereafter, make their graves and tombs the focus of their supplications and seek help and assistance from the chosen people of Allah who are buried in them and seek their help for spiritual and inner benefits and blessings. These acts, which shaped the conduct and mode of living of the saints and the scholars in the past are now the granite foundation of the concepts and beliefs of Ahl-us-Sunnah wa al-Jamā‘ah. Moreover, they had not moulded their attitudes and deeds on a superficial, unconscious or sentimental basis. A great deal of reflection and reasoning laced these modes of conduct and were framed by comprehensive experimentation, observation and practical orientation. Therefore, on the basis of investigation, and not mere sentiment, it can be affirmed that their statements were sound and authentic and on account of their immunity from doubt and ambiguity, they furnish a cogent argument for all those believers who are blessed with sufficient wisdom and intelligence to appraise the depth and truth of these statements.
Religious scholars, enlightened saints and our spiritual leaders have pronounced the tombs of these favourites of Allah as inexhaustible fountain-heads of light and blessing where our supplications are acknowledged and robed as destinies. Reliance on these sanctified persons opens the shuttered avenues of success. Their attention and response unravels the tangles of the Hereafter and their spiritual help serves as a source of salvation for our worries and all forms of distress. To cap it all, their statements are consistent with the criterion of experience and observation, which is the basis of the modern inductive method of all scientific progress. Therefore, they cannot be brushed under the carpet as mere hearsay and deserve our positive response as they are grounded in facts and proved by experience.
This world is inhabited by two sets of people. The first set of people are those who are rebellious and disobedient, and on account of their law-breaking tendencies, they form a coterie of persons who are hell-bent to protect and promote the interests of the devil and are a cause of constant torture for Allah’s creatures. On the other hand are those who are good-natured, pure, and well-behaved and with a positive outlook and are determined to promote the welfare of the people. Such noble persons and untainted souls form their own fraternity and come closer to one another through mutual interaction, following the axiomatic principle that “birds of a feather flock together.” These courageous, highly determined and spiritually motivated people, through sheer hard work and concentration, leave behind indelible tales of sincerity and honesty, patience and steadfastness, love and sacrifice that the readers are simply stunned by their exceptional nature.
These holy personages have graced every period of human history. Outwardly, they live on the sidelines but they are easily placed on account of their habits and manners, their character and mode of conversation. Their love and concern for the creatures of Allah is so gushing that it cannot be contained like the perfume of flowers. The chain of their blessing is continuous, because it goes against the divine grain that His creatures are deprived of the benefit and blessing of His chosen people in any era of human history. Therefore, these favoured servants of Allah are not only a source of blessing for the people in their manifest life but also benefit them after death; rather their blessings acquire greater frequency and intensity when they are transferred to another mode of existence after leaving this phenomenal world. They bless the seekers of their help as effectively as they did during their earthly sojourn. The one who seeks their help instinctively knows that he has been helped by them. In the context of intermediation and help, we propose to cast a cursory glance at the conduct, experiences and observations of these righteous people who have provided glimmers of light and guidance to the creatures of Allah groping in the amorphous shades of darkness and depression.
Imam Zayn-ul-‘Ābidīn supplicates to the Holy Prophet (صلى الله عليه وآله وسلم) for help and intercession in these words:
O mercy of the worlds! You are
the intercessor for the sinners.
On account of your infinite generosity, mercy and magnanimity, intercede for us on the Day of Judgement.
O, who has come to all the worlds as a source of mercy! Help Zayn-ul-‘Ābidīn.
Who is confined by the party of the oppressors (and beseeches your help).
Imam Mālik’s prominence as one of the four jurists of Islam is well-established. Once caliph Abū Ja‘far Mansūr visited Medina and he asked Imam Mālik: “While supplicating, should I turn my face to the prayer niche [and turn my back to the Holy Prophet (صلى الله عليه وآله وسلم)] or should I turn my face to the Holy Prophet (صلى الله عليه وآله وسلم) (and turn my back to the prayer niche)?” On this interrogation, Imam Mālik replied: “(O caliph!) Why do you turn your face from the Holy Prophet (صلى الله عليه وآله وسلم), as he is the source of mediation for you and for your ancestor Adam (عليه السلام) on the Day of Judgement? Rather you should (pray and supplicate by) turning towards the Prophet (صلى الله عليه وآله وسلم) and seek his intercession so that he intercedes for you before Allah on the Day of Judgement. Allah has declared:
(O beloved!) And if they had come to you, when they had wronged their souls, and asked forgiveness of Allah, and the Messenger also had asked forgiveness for them, they (on the basis of this means and intercession) would have surely found Allah the Granter of repentance, exteremely Merciful.
This incident has been narrated by Qādī ‘Iyād in his ash-Shifā (2:596) with a sound chain of transmission. Besides, it has been related by a number of other traditionists of impeccable credibility. Subkī in Shifā’-us-siqām fī ziyārat khayr-il-anām, Samhūdī in Khulāsat-ul-wafā, Qastallānī in al-Mawāhib-ul-laduniyyah, Ibn Jamā‘ah in Hidāyat-us-sālik and Ibn Hajar Haythamī in al-Jawhar-ul-munazzam.
He has mentioned intermediation in the interpretation of the verse 64 of surah an-Nisā’ in his al-Jāmi‘ li-ahkām-il-Qur’ān (5:265-6).
In his book al-Mustadrak (2:615) he has mentioned the tradition relating to Adam’s intermediation through the holy Prophet (صلى الله عليه وآله وسلم) and has pronounced it as sound.
He has related in his book Dalā’il-un-nubuwwah (5:489) the tradition in which Adam (عليه السلام) relied on the mediation of the Holy Prophet (صلى الله عليه وآله وسلم). He has painstakingly avoided reference to any disconfirmed (mawdū‘) tradition in his book.
Imam Bayhaqī in his book Dalā’il-un-nubuwwah (6:166-7), has also recorded a tradition attributed to ‘Uthmān bin Hunayf. In addition, in the same book (p.147) and in as-Sunan-ul-kubrā (3:352) he has also narrated the incident of ‘Umar bin al-Khattāb seeking ‘Abbās’s mediation for rain.
He has, in his book, ash-Shifā (1:227-8) narrated Adam’s intermediation through the Holy Prophet (صلى الله عليه وآله وسلم) with the help of sound and famous traditions. In addition, in the chapters on ‘visiting the Prophet’s grave,’ ‘virtues and merits of the Prophet (صلى الله عليه وآله وسلم)’ and in many other chapters in his book he has referred to the qualities and attributes of the Holy Prophet (صلى الله عليه وآله وسلم).
Imam Nawawī in the sixth chapter of his book al-Īdāh has mentioned the issue of intermediation. Besides, he has recorded in al-Adhkār a number of supplications which prove the reality of intermediation.
Ibn Taymiyyah in his book Qā‘idah jalīlah fit-tawassul wal-wasīlah, commenting on the Qur’ānic verse:
O believers! Fear Allah and seek means (of approach to) His (presence and to His nearness and accessibility).
“Offering mediation in the court of Allah springs from one’s faith in the Holy Prophet (صلى الله عليه وآله وسلم) and in his obedience. And it is by virtue of this obedience and faith that it is obligatory for every believer under any circumstances, outwardly or inwardly, during and after the Prophet’s life, and during his presence or absence. Once this condition is laid down, it cannot be voluntarily discontinued by any person on any excuse or pretext. And the only way to escape the divine wrath and punishment is to make the Holy Prophet (صلى الله عليه وآله وسلم) a means of salvation by obeying him and by reposing his trust in him, because the Prophet (صلى الله عليه وآله وسلم) is the owner of the highest station of distinction in Paradise and he is the intercessor for his followers and the former and the latter ones will envy his position. His stature is the highest in the court of Allah and he is the greatest among the intercessors. Allah has declared about Mūsā (عليه السلام):
And with Allah, he was highly dignified (and respectable).
And about ‘Īsā (عليه السلام) Allah has declared:
He will enjoy respect and status (both) in this world and the Hereafter.
“While the Holy Prophet (صلى الله عليه وآله وسلم) is blessed with the highest distinction among the prophets, his supplication and intercession will benefit only the person for whom he will pray and intercede. When he prays and intercedes for a person, he will make his prayer and intercession a source of mediation in the presence of Allah, as was the practice of the Companions.”
Once he was questioned whether it was valid or invalid to depend on the mediation of the Prophet (صلى الله عليه وآله وسلم), he replied:
“All praise for Allah! By the consensus of the Muslims it is quite valid and proper to rely on the means of faith in the Prophet (صلى الله عليه وآله وسلم), his obedience, his remembrance, his supplication and intercession, similarly his deeds and the deeds of his followers, which they have performed in obedience to the Prophet’s commands. And the Companions used to depend on his mediation during his life on earth and after his death, they depended on the mediation of his uncle, ‘Abbās as they used to rely on his mediation during his earthly life.”
He has discussed at length the question of intermediation in his book Shifā’-us-siqām fī ziyārat khayr-il-anām and has proved its relevance as a vibrant concept in Islam, as we have mentioned at different places in the course of the book.
Imam Ibn Kathīr has commented on verse 64 of surah an-Nisā’ in his book Tafsīr-ul-Qur’ān al-‘azīm (1:519-20) and raised the issue of intermediation. He has not levelled any objection against ‘Utbī’s tradition in which a Bedouin supplicates at the Prophet’s tomb for his intercession. In his book al-Bidāyah wan-nihāyah (1:131; 2:291-2) he has related the event of Adam’s reliance on the Prophet’s mediation and expressed no reservations about the tradition. Imam Ibn Kathīr has related in al-Bidāyah wan-nihāyah (5:167) the episode of the man who visits the Prophet’s grave and prays for rain through his means and he has pronounced this tradition quite sound. In addition, he has also related in the same book (5:30) that during the battle of Yamāmah, the battle-cry of the Muslims was yā Muhammadāh (O Muhammad! Help us).
He has in his books al-Isābah fī tamyīz-is-sahābah (3:484) and Fath-ul-bārī (2:495-6) narrated the incident of the man who visited the Prophet’s grave for rain through his mediation.
He enjoys enviable reputation in the fields of poetry, mysticism, philosophy and tradition. Besides, his burning and yearning love for the Prophet (صلى الله عليه وآله وسلم) bubbles up in his verses. He expresses his faith in intermediation in these words:
It was the manifestation of the blessing of the Prophet’s name that Adam (عليه السلام) received pardon and Nūh was saved from the devastating impact of the tempest.
He has related the tradition of Adam’s intermediation in ad-Durr-ul-manthūr (1:58) and al-Khasā’is-ul-kubrā (1:6) in addition to narrating it in ar-Riyād-ul-anīqah fī sharh asmā’ khayr-il-khalīqah where he spells out its soundness by endorsing the view expressed by Bayhaqī.
The qualities and accomplishments of a special group of saints are recorded in the traditions. The blessing of their supplication causes rain and brings victory and triumph to the Muslims. Qastallānī’s views about them are given below:
When ordinary people fall into trouble, first of all, the Heralds supplicate for them, then turn by turn the Nobility, Substitutes, the righteous and the ministers (supplicate for them). If their supplication is granted, well and good, otherwise, the saint of the highest rank, ghawth (who is all the time engrossed in Allah’s worship,) supplicates for them, and before he winds it up, his prayer is granted. (This is Allah’s special blessing on them.)
Qastallānī has also mentioned intermediation in the beginning of al-Mawāhib-ul-laduniyyah.
Ahmad Shihāb-ud-Dīn Ibn Hajar Haythamī Makkī, who possesses an eminent position among experts on Islamic jurisprudence and tradition, has proved on the basis of the experience and observation narrated by Abū ‘Abdullāh Qurayshī that Allah’s favourites help people after death as they help them during life and the value of their benefit is not in the least reduced. Produced below is an incident attributed to Abū ‘Abdullāh Qurayshī:
A severe drought had enveloped Egypt in its grip and the people’s distress caused by hunger and thirst remained unrelieved inspite of their prayers and supplications:
So I journeyed towards Syria, when I reached near Allah’s friend (Ibrāhīm’s) tomb, he met me on the way. I said to him: ‘O Messenger of Allah! I have come as a guest. You should show your hospitality in the form of a supplication for the natives of Egypt.’ He prayed for them, so Allah drove their famine away from them.
In this extraordinary reference, the description of the face-to-face meeting with Ibrāhīm (عليه السلام) has been commented upon by Imam Yāfi‘ī in these words:
The statement made by Abū ‘Abdullāh Qurayshī that he had a face-to-face meeting with the Friend is based on truth. Only an ignorant person can deny it who is unaware of the mode of living and status of the saints because these people observe the earth and the heavens and see the prophets in their living condition.
In addition, Ibn Hajar Haythamī has penned down a special treatise al-Jawhar-ul-munazzam on the theme of intermediation. On its page 61, he has spelled out intermediation through the holy Prophet (صلى الله عليه وآله وسلم) as a fair (hasan) act.
He is generally known as Mullā ‘Alī Qārī. He has discussed this issue in his book Sharh ash-Shifā.
Khafājī has justified intermediation in Nasīm-ur-riyād, an exegesis of ash-Shifā.
He has proved the relevance of this issue in his Commentary (1:118-20; 12:220-3).
Shawkānī has expressed the relevance of intermediation through the Holy Prophet (صلى الله عليه وآله وسلم) in his book Tuhfat-udh-dhākirīn (p.195).
The reputation of Ibn ‘Ābidīn Shāmī as an eminent religious scholar has spread far and wide. His intellectual subtlety and juristic expertise have added many extra feathers to his illustrious cap. His intellectual and investigative masterpiece Radd-ul-muhtār ‘alā Durr-il-mukhtār provides food for thought even today for scholars in the form of its hefty volumes and reveals his analytical vision. A number of traditions relate that when he decided to take up the burden of such a stupendous work, which amounts to enclosing an ocean within a teapot, he, instead of relying on his invaluable intellectual ability and subtlety, prayed to Allah through the mediation of the Holy Prophet (صلى الله عليه وآله وسلم). His mode of presentation was as follows:
And I beg Allah through the means of His exalted Prophet (صلى الله عليه وآله وسلم), His high-ranking obedient servants, and especially the truthful Imam A‘zam (Abū Hanīfah) that he should ease my problem by His kindness and enable me to complete it.
This form of supplication proved so effective and the blessing of mediation gave him such power that he composed the record-breaking book on Islamic law. It is so authentic and so well-documented that no other book has excelled it in repute and popularity.
The encouraging factor in this context is that it is an exegesis of the book called Durr-ul-mukhtār and before he started writing the book, he had written its holy pages relating to Jibrīl (عليه السلام) after he received permission from the Prophet (صلى الله عليه وآله وسلم) which Ibn ‘Ādidīn Shāmī has mentioned in these words:
And the exegete had clearly received the Prophet’s permission either in the form of an inspiration or a dream. It was by virtue of the Prophet’s blessing that this exegesis edged out the interpretations of others.
If we reflect on the backdrop of these events, we will find that it is more a product of faith than labour, obedience than hardwork.
Commenting on the earlier verses of surah an-Nāzi‘āt, he explains in these words the justification of reliance on Allah’s favourites and seeking help and support from them:
It is said: In the introductory sentences of this surah, the separation of the souls of pious persons from their bodies at the time of death is described and Allah has sworn by these different states of the souls. These souls have to be wrenched out of the bodies because, on account of their long and deep association with their bodies, they are disinclined to leave them. The reason for this disinclination is that, in order to earn virtues, the body acts as a means of transport, and it is on this count that there is a greater possibility of adding to the score of one’s virtues. Then these souls fly to the world of angels and reach the sanctuary of purity, and on account of their force and nobility, they blend with the elements that help decide the destinies of the creatures, that is, they are included among the angels, or they acquire administrative capability. That is why it is said: ‘when you are invaded by troubles, you should seek help from the residents of the tombs, that is, from the favourites of Allah who are embodiments of virtue and purity, and those who have left us.’ There is no doubt that a person who visits their tombs, receives spiritual help by virtue of their blessings, and on many occasions, the knots of difficulties unwind through the mediation of honour and reverence they enjoy.
It is also said that in these sentences Allah has sworn by these good-natured people, who step into the field of virtue and sanctity and try to purify both the inner and the outer self through worship, persistent practice and a concerted confrontation with the evil and, as a result, are permeated with immediate divine consciousness. (These sentences may be applied to these holy persons in the sense that) they control their own instinctive cravings and concentrate all their energies on the world where holiness prevails, and finally achieve perfection after passing through the evolutionary phases so that they can guide those who are stuck up in their flawed schedules and invest their lives with a sense of purpose and direction.
Shāh ‘Abd-ul-Haqq Muhaddith Dihlawī comments in his exegesis of Shaykh ‘Abd-ul-Qādir Jīlānī’s book Futūh-ul-ghayb that when the saints cross into the area of divine knowledge and consciousness, which is immune to the exigencies of mortality, they are blessed with a special power which enables them to perform acts unmediated through external causes, and they are transformed into embodiments of exceptional light and cognizance as they have arrived from the mortal world into the the world of immortality. In this way they achieve that level of perfection which the common believers will receive in Paradise.
In his Maqālāt, he has dilated upon the theme of intermediation and proved its practice and efficacy by refuting the objections of those who are opposed to it. In his view, intermediation through the prophets and saints during their lives and after their death is not only valid but dates back to the days of early Muslims whose integrity was inviolate and whose understanding of the faith was unquestionable.
Mawlānā Ashraf ‘Alī Thānwī, commenting on the blessings of the holy Prophet (صلى الله عليه وآله وسلم) in his book Nashr-ut-tīb, writes: It was transparently reflected from the foreheads of his ancestors. It was his universal light that persuaded Allah to accept Adam’s repentance; again it was his light that salvaged Nūh (عليه السلام) from the tempestuous waves and transformed the glowing coals of fire into the blossoms of flowers for Ibrāhīm (عليه السلام).
The panegyric that his uncle ‘Abbās composed in his praise has some of the verses as follows:
And you were with Allah’s Friend
when he faced the ordeal of the fire. How could your light in his back
burn him out?
And when you were born, The earth was lighted up and the cosmos turned into a place of radiance.
So we in this light And illumination are passing through the way of guidance.
The holy Prophet (صلى الله عليه وآله وسلم) listened to these verses by ‘Abbās with rapt attention and expressed his appreciation instantly. If they were grounded in mere fantasy, he would have stalled him in his tracks. Since he did not do so, it proves that he was in agreement with the substance of the verses and therefore, this is a form of tradition which is embodied in the form of address or delivery.
Besides, Mawlānā Ashraf ‘Alī Thānwī, has named the thirty-eighth part of his book as “intermediation through the Prophet (صلى الله عليه وآله وسلم) at the time of supplication.” In this part, after mentioning a tradition attributed to ‘Uthmān bin Hunayf, he writes: “It proves that just as intermediation through someone’s supplication is valid, similarly, reliance on someone in the supplication for intermediation is also valid.” When during the period of ‘Uthmān bin ‘Affān, ‘Uthmān bin Hunayf asked a petitioner to utter the same supplication which the Prophet (صلى الله عليه وآله وسلم) has taught to the blind Companion, Mawlānā Ashraf ‘Alī Thānwī makes it the basis of establishing the validity of intermediation after death. In addition, he has proved the relevance of intermediation through someone other than a prophet (عليه السلام) by ‘Umar’s intermediation through ‘Abbās. Mawlānā Thānwī has also declared the act of intermediation through the Prophet’s grave during the time of ‘Ā’ishah as valid. Finally, after reproducing ‘Utbī’s tradition in which a bedouin had called on the Prophet’s grave for the repentance of his sins, as we have explained in reference to the 64th verse of surah an-Nisā’ in the 3rd section of chapter five, he writes: “As it happened in the early days, and there is no contradiction of it, it has acquired the status of a proof.
A Makkan jurist of Muslim law, Ahmad bin Zaynī Dahlān in his journal Fitnat-ul-Wahhābiyyah, has established the legality of intermediation, beseeching the prophets and saints for help and intercession, and he has cogently refuted the doubts and allegations of those who are opposed to these perfectly legal acts.
A well-known contemporary religious scholar posted at Makkah Muhammad bin ‘Alawī al-Mālikī in his book Mafāhīm yajib an tusahhah has conducted well-documented research on the concept of intermediation. In addition, in his book Shifā’-ul-fu’ād bi-ziyārat khayr-il-‘ibād he has proved the relevance of intermediation in a comprehensive manner.
He is a famous contemporary religious scholar and he has written a book comprising seven volumes Encyclopedia of Islamic Doctrine on the beliefs of Ahl-us-Sunnah wa al-Jamā‘ah. In the fourth volume of his book he has justified the belief in intermediation on the basis of a vast array of historical and rational arguments.
He has compiled a book on the genesis and exegesis of a large number of traditions relating to the theme of intermediation. It is called Raf‘-ul-minārah. He has established the truth of intermediation by refuting the objections of its denigrators in reference to the sound traditions they have adduced against the relevance of intermediation.
The secrets of the worlds of purgatory, angels and divinity are revealed to Allah’s saints in a manner and style that is denied to the common run of people. Their opinion is authentic in all human and non-human fields of activity and it can neither be challenged nor any flaws found in its inherent cogency. Therefore, it is quite rational, and a recognition of human limitations, to believe in their opinions because their statements are not based on any inanity or triviality but have been derived through extra-ordinary observation and supported by the ballast of divine sanction, as no one can deny that “what is heard cannot equal what is seen.”
Given below are some of the experiences of the great saints who have attaind Allah’s pleasure through worship, concentration and exceptional deeds of piety and human services:
Umm Harām bint Milhān accompanied the Muslim army that invaded Cyprus. The Prophet (صلى الله عليه وآله وسلم) had predicted that she would participate in the naval war. It so happened that she fell down from a horse boarding a ship or just her foot slipped and she died as a martyr and she was buried at that spot and her blessings were revealed to the people. Her grave came to be known as the grave of a pious woman, and people supplicate at her grave, their supplications are granted by Allah and people also supplicate for rain through her mediation.
He was one of the great Companions. He took part in the battle of Constantinople. Near the enemy border he fell ill. As the illness grew worse, he dictated his will as follows:
When I die, take my dead body with you, when you line up against the enemy, bury me in your feet.
So, acting on his will, the Islamic soldiers buried him at the foot of the fort and warned the enemies that in case they tried to desecrate his grave, no church in the Islamic country would remain safe. Thus, even the enemies were forced to revere his grave, and people soon came to know the blessings emanating from the grave. Whatever they prayed for at the grave was immediately granted.
And Abū Ayyūb’s grave lies near the ramparts of the fort and everybody knows it... When people pray for rain there, it starts raining.
Whenever there is famine, people expose the grave, so it starts raining.
The famous traditionist Ibn Abū Hātim Rāzī has recorded his observation about the tomb of Imam ‘Alī bin Mūsā Radā:
Whenever I was staying in the city of Tūs and had a problem, I called on the tomb of Imam ‘Alī bin Mūsā Radā and prayed to Allah to solve that problem, the prayer was invariably granted and the problem was solved. And this is an experience I have had repeatedly.
Imam Shāfi‘ī describes his own experience about the blessings of the tomb of Imam Abū Hanīfah:
I derive blessing from the person of Imam Abū Hanīfah and I visit his grave everyday. When I face a problem, I offer two optional cycles of prayer and visit his grave and (while standing) I pray to Allah to solve my problem. And I have not even left the place that my problem is solved.
This was the statement and practice of such a great Imam whose status and scholarly stature had been acknowledged by the entire world of Islam. His conceptual and intellectual integrity was simply unassailable. When he himself is saying that visiting the tombs of Allah’s favourites is a source of blessing, then there is hardly any justification for denying its credibility.
Shāh ‘Abd-ul-Haqq Muhaddith Dihlawī has reproduced a statement by Imam Shāfi‘ī in his book Ashi‘‘at-ul-lam‘āt (2:923):
“The lighted grave of Mūsā Kāzim is a patent antidote for the acceptance of prayer.”
It was Imam Shāfi‘ī’s practice that he called on the tombs, supplicated extensively and his supplications were accepted. From this he drew the correct inference that these places were patent or elixir for the acceptance of prayer. That is why he pronounced the tomb of Imam Mūsā Kāzim as a patent antidote.
In the biography of saints Sifat-us-safwah (2:266), he writes about Ibrāhīm bin Ishāq Harabī:
And his grave is open to everyone. People receive blessing from it.
He has also described Adam’s intermediation through the holy Prophet (صلى الله عليه وآله وسلم) in the first chapter of his book al-Wafā bi-ahwāl-il-Mustafā (1:33).
A swelling appeared on the upper side of his arm. He rubbed the affected part against the grave of Imam Ahmad bin Hambal and the swelling subsided.
Muhammad Zāhid Kawtharī says: “This incident is recorded in Diyā’ Maqdisī Hamblī’s book al-Hikāyāt-ul-manthūrah and I have seen it in his handwritten manuscript.
He is included among the great mystics and traditionists. In the third and fourth centuries he acted as a source of inspiration for scholars and intellectuals. He has described his personal experience of the famous saint Ma‘rūf Karakhī in these words:
He was one of the eldest holy persons and his supplication was unexceptionally granted. Even now supplication is offered while standing by his grave for recovery from an illness. The natives of Baghdad say: Ma‘rūf (Karakhī’s) grave is patent medicine.
Mujaddid Alf Thānī mentions one of his own perplexities:
“I was involved in a problem but there seemed to be no way out. A considerable period of time elapsed but the problem refused to be solved. A worry constantly niggled me that I may not be held accountable for this lapse, therefore, I should try to get rid of it as soon as possible. I felt quite uncomfortable and I prayed to Allah repeatedly to help me out of this state of anxiety.” His own words are as follows:
By chance, I happened to pass by the tomb of a relative, and I also sought his help in this matter. Meanwhile Allah’s blessing also helped me and the reality of the matter was unravelled, and the spiritual relation I have with the holy Prophet (صلى الله عليه وآله وسلم) stood me in good stead and consoled a sorrowful heart.
He was one of those great saints who, on account of his God-given vision and divine knowledge, could see the inner reality with his naked eye and then proclaimed it publicly. He has written a matchless book Fuyūd-ul-haramayn based on observations. The gist of its ninth and tenth chapters is as follows. He says:
"We called at Medina, and we
clearly saw with our own eyes the soul of the holy Prophet (صلى الله عليه وآله
and on that day this reality was revealed to us that the pure soul can also be
seen like the body and the secret of the life of prophets after death was also
disclosed to us.
On the third day we called and sent salutations on the Prophet (صلى الله عليه وآله وسلم), and also visited the graves of Abū Bakr as-Siddīq and ‘Umar Fārūq.
Then we humbly submitted: we have called on you with great expectations to receive your mercy and blessing. Have mercy on us."
The holy Prophet (صلى الله عليه وآله وسلم) expressed great joy and I felt that the sheet of his kindness had wrapped and covered me. Then he embraced me, and appeared before me, disclosed many secrets and personally informed me and briefly helped me and told me how I could seek his help for my needs.
These are a few of the observations and experiences which span centuries of human existence. They clearly prove that the graves and tombs of the chosen people of Allah are a steady source of divine blessings and benefits for mankind. The discerning persons do not treat these spots of the saints as worthless or as mere heaps of mud and mortar; rather they believe that they are men of distinction and Allah has specially rewarded them for their piety and human service. Some of these saints are looked upon as ultra-magnanimous. Therefore, no one should entertain any doubt or reservation about their purity and exceptional status.
A person, who himself is stripped of spiritual vision, has no right to misguide people about these favourites of Allah. He has no right to say that these people are dead, lying inert and lifeless in their graves, and therefore, lack the power and the energy to help anyone. His statement is completely baseless and is justified neither by historical precedent nor by rational argument.
An important point to be noted in this context is that only those residents of the tombs deserve our reverence who had attained access to the nearness and the pleasure of Allah and whose pious acts and virtuous deeds had made them popular during their lives. Only such persons are to be implored for help. This point has been clarified by Shāh ‘Abd-ul-‘Azīz Muhaddith Dihlawī in unmistakable terms. He says:
Help should be sought only from the famous saints.
as the public opinion is the litmus test of the popularity or unpopularity of a saint. He has also prescribed a method for discovering the stature of a saint and for seeking help from him. This can be looked up in Fatāwā ‘Azīzī.
In the earlier pages we have established the reality of intermediation with cogent reasoning and solid evidence from the Qur’ān and the Sunnah. The evidence, and a rational interpretation of the evidence, clearly prove that intermediation is a correct, valid and legal way to attain access to Allah’s favour and for the instant acceptance of our supplications. The evidence is mainly drawn from the Qur’ān and the Sunnah, which are the basic dependable sources of knowledge for the believers. Allah and His beloved Prophet (صلى الله عليه وآله وسلم) have commanded us to seek means of help and assistance. From the time of the Companions to the present-day, the Muslims collectively relied upon all the valid forms of intermediation, and to cap it all, the Companions themselves relied on the Prophet’s mediation. He never discouraged them or told them at any occasion: ‘you are indulging in innovation or disbelief on account of intermediation as it violates the basic principle of your faith.’
On the other hand, to suit their needs, he himself encouraged and persuaded them to rely on his mediation, as we have described the incident of the blind Companion in a tradition attributed to ‘Uthmān bin Hunayf whose eyesight had instantly returned through the mediation of the holy Prophet (صلى الله عليه وآله وسلم) along with many other irrefutable examples.
It has been the cherished practice of the early believers, the Companions, the Successors and their Companions to rely on the intermediation through the holy Prophet (صلى الله عليه وآله وسلم) and the great Companions. If someone denies intermediation and tries to misinterpret the statements and acts of the Prophet (صلى الله عليه وآله وسلم), he should keep in mind the Prophet’s saying in which he had pronounced his Companions as the most honoured ones among the believers. He said:
The best people are those who are in my time, then the people who will come after them, (and) then the people who will come after them.
The tradition clearly indicates that the act of the Companions, Successors, and then their Companions, the early believers and the religious leaders is far more reliable, dependable and commendable than the act of those who deny the relevance of intermediation and cook up spurious explanations to refute its legality. Obviously, the denier, like the proverbial liar, has no legs, not even the crutches, to stand upon because props of sand are no substitute for the staves of ballast and concrete which derive their strength not only from correct faith but also from its equally sensible and rational interpretation.
It is also quite true that Allah is even closer to us than our main artery, and anyone who denies this reality in fact denies a Qur’ānic injunction. But, along with it, we should also concentrate on His Sunnah. If Allah had willed, He could have sent His Word and commands, unmediated and unfiltered, but He has not opted for this course of action or mode of revelation. He chose His revered prophets as the carriers of His Message. This is the established divine practice. Then how is it possible to attain access to Him or win His pleasure by ignoring His practice, that is, without relying on the means of His prophets and messengers? Is it possible without them to act on His revealed commands in the way He desires us to act? If Allah had desired that His creatures should have direct access to Him and witness His blessings upfront, He would never have sent the honoured messengers and commanded the believers through the holy Qur’ān to seek means of help and support.
This can be illustrated by a simple example. Dams generate electricity but from there it cannot be directly supplied to houses and factories. If anyone tries to obtain electricity directly from a dam, he will be burnt into cinders. First of all, electricity is supplied to the grid stations from the power station and then it is supplied to different places in varying voltage with the help of a variety of transformers. People do not rely on this alone, but they use other gadgets, like stabilizers etc., to make its domestic and industrial supply as safe and secure as possible. All these precautions are taken to ensure regular supply and minimize risk.
When we cannot operate our domestic and electric outfits by obtaining electricity directly from the power station, how is it possible to draw Allah’s blessings directly from Him. How is it possible for us sinners to have unveiled and unscreened access to the glory of Allah when His honoured Prophet Mūsā (عليه السلام) and his seventy Companions could not stand even a reflection of His glimpse? Mūsā (عليه السلام) fell unconscious while his seventy Companions, overawed and overdazzled, collapsed dead as doornails on the spot, as it is revealed in the fifty-fifth verse of surah al-Baqarah. When His own chosen Psrophet (عليه السلام) fell unconscious by the sight of even the faintest reflection of His splendour and seventy of His Companions lost their lives, how is it possible for us creatures of sin and guilt of the fifteenth century to even dream about an access to His uncurtained glory?
Unfortunately, today, we have tailored religious injunctions to our nature and convenience. Whatever caters to our temperament and pampers our mood is faith; and whatever goes against our grain and is in conflict with our liking and inclination, even though it is established by sound traditions and the practice of the favourites of Allah, we throw it into the dustbin as a piece of discarded toast. This is sheer expediency and fundamentally incompatible with the universal principles of our faith. Therefore, the imperative need of the times is not to follow a calculus of compromise but to understand the essence of our faith, which is the faith of Ahl-us-Sunnah wa al-Jamā‘ah, and follow its principles without any attempt at self-indulgence and self-gratification.
May Allah bless us with the power and ability to understand our faith correctly!
. Qur’ān (an-Nisā’) 4:64.
. see p. 212.
. see p. 147.
. see p. 148.
. see p. 180.
. see p. 325.
. see pp. 150-1.
. see p. 213.
. see p. 212.
. Qur’ān (al-Mā’idah) 5:35.
. Qur’ān (al-Ahzāb) 33:69.
. Qur’ān (Āl-i-‘Imrān) 3:45.
. Ibn Taymiyyah, Qā‘idah jalīlah fit-tawassul wal-wasīlah (pp.5-6).
. Ibn Taymiyyah, Majmū‘ fatāwā (1:140).
. see p. 208.
. see p. 148.
. see p. 230.
. see p. 32.
. see p. 230.
. see p. 151.
. Qastallānī, al-Māwāhib-ul-laduniyyah (2:726); Zurqānī, Commentary (7:487).
. see p. 149.
. Ibn Hajar Haythamī, al-Fatāwā al-hadīthiyyah (pp.255-6).
. Ibn Hajar Haythamī, al-Fatāwā al-hadīthiyyah (p.256).
. see p. 179.
. Ibn ‘Ābidīn Shāmī, Radd-ul-muhtār ‘alā Durr-il-mukhtār (1:3).
. Ibn ‘Ābidīn Shāmī, Radd-ul-muhtār ‘alā Durr-il-mukhtār (1:9).
. Mahmūd Ālūsī, Rūh-ul-ma‘ānī (30:27-8).
. Mahmūd Ālūsī, Rūh-ul-ma‘ānī (30:28).
. Ibn Kathīr, al-Bidāyah wan-nihāyah (5:235).
. Ibn ‘Abd-ul-Barr, al-Istī‘āb fī ma‘rifat-il-ashāb (1:404-5).
. Ibn ‘Abd-ul-Barr, al-Istī‘āb fī ma‘rifat-il-ashāb (1:405).
. Ibn ‘Abd-ul-Barr, al-Istī‘āb fī ma‘rifat-il-ashāb (4:6).
. Ibn Abū Hātim Rāzī, Kitāb-uth-thiqāt.
. Khatīb Baghdādī has related the incident with a sound chain of transmission in his Tārīkh Baghdād (1:123); Ibn Hajar Haythamī, al-Khayrāt-ul-hisān fī manāqib-il-imām al-a‘zam Abū Hanīfah (p.94); Muhammad Zāhid Kawtharī, Maqālāt (p.381); and Ibn ‘Ābidīn Shāmī in Radd-ul-muhtār ‘alā Durr-il-mukhtār (1:41).
. see p. 149.
. Muhammad Zāhid Kawtharī, Maqālāt (p.381).
. Abū al-Qāsim Qushayrī, ar-Risālat-ul-qushayriyyah (p.41); Khatīb Baghdādī, Tārīkh Baghdād (1:122); Ibn-ul-Jawzī, Sifat-us-safwah (2:214).
. Majaddid Alf Thānī, Maktūbāt Imam Rabbānī (3:149#220).
. Bukhārī related it in his as-Sahīh, b. of shahādāt (witnesses) ch.9 (2:938#2509), b. of fadā’il-us-sahābah (virtues of the Companions) ch.1 (3:1335#3451), b. of riqāq (softening of hearts) ch.7 (5:2362#6065); and Tirmidhī graded it hasan (fair) sahīh (sound) in his al-Jāmi‘-us-sahīh, b. of manāqib (merits) ch.57 (5:695#3859).
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