In modern times Istigatha (i.e. seeking Aid from other then Allah (SWT)) has become one of the key differentiators between "Traditional Islam" and Salafi Dawah with extensive debates and discussions. The truth of the matter is that firstly, there is no division in Islam along the lines of traditional, classical, orthodox etc and in the only "Islam" which was revealed by Allah (SWT) 1400+ years there is no room for the practise of Istigatha.
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Du'a (supplication and invoking aid) is worship ('ibadah). Allah Most High says in the Qur'an,
"And your Lord says, 'Call upon Me; I will respond to you'. Indeed, those who disdain My worship will enter Hell [rendered] contemptible." (Al-Ghafir, 60)
In this verse Allah has equated du'a to worship.
The Messenger of Allah (Allah bless him and give him peace) is reported to have said, "Du'a is worship, and then he recited the following verse of the Qur'an, 'And your Lord says, Call upon Me; I will respond to you. Indeed, those who disdain My worship will enter Hell [rendered] contemptible'." (Sunan Al-Tirmidhi, 2:173; Sunan Abi Dawud, 1:208; Sunan Ibn Majah, p.208; Musnad Tayalisi, p.108; Al-Mustadrak, p.491; Al-Adab al-Mufrad, p.105; Tafsir Ibn Kathir; under 40:60)
It also comes in another hadith, "Nothing is dearer to Allah than du'a." (Al-Mustadrak, p.490; Al-Adab al-Mufrad, p.105) It is mentioned in another narration, "The noblest act of worship ('ibadah) is du'a." (Al-Adab al-Mufrad, p.105) The Messenger of Allah (Allah bless him and give him peace) said, "One who doesn't call (yad'u) Allah, He gets angry with him." (Al-Mustadrak, p.491) And it comes in another version, "Allah is angry with someone who does not ask (yus'al) of Him." (Al-Mustadrak, p.491)
Yet in another narration it says, "Du'a is the weapon of the believer and the pillar of the religion." (Al-Mustadrak, p.492 – Al-Hakim and Al-Dhahabi have classified this narration as authentic)
Sayyiduna 'Abdullah ibn 'Abbas (may Allah be pleased with him) said, "The most excellent worship is du'a." (Al-Mustadrak, p.491 – classified as authentic by Al-Hakim and Al-Dhahabi)
It is apparent from the clear verse of the Qur'an and authentic narrations mentioned above that to make du'a to the creation (i.e. istighathah) is not permissible, since to make du'a is worship and indeed worship is only the right of Allah. It is therefore clear that that Allah is the sole Being deserving of du'a and indeed all worship.
Thus the practice of istighathah – which is to call for such help from the creation, which is beyond their natural means – would be impermissible and a possible cause of shirk. And this is because asking such help from the creation, which is not in the ambit of natural means or proven through authentic texts, implicitly attributes such qualities to the creation that in reality solely belong to Allah.
'Allamah Sarfaraz Khan Safdar (d. 1430H / may Allah have mercy on him) mentions that seeking help is of two types:
a Within the means (ma taht al-asbab) and
b beyond the means (ma fawq al-asbab).
Regarding the difference between help which is within the normal means and beyond normal means, he explains that while the first type is established through the Qur'an, hadith, the Companions (Sahabah) and the Pious Predecessors (Salaf), the second type has no basis in Islam and has been declared haram and shirk in Shari'ah by jurists. The seeking of the latter type of help is only restricted to Allah. (Guldastah Tawhid, p.135. Also see his Tafsir lecture of Surah Fatihah)
Similarly, Shaykh Abu Bakr bin Muhammad 'Ali Khawqir (d. 1349H / may Allah have mercy on him) writes, "Shirk is the belief that those besides Allah have an effect [ability] on things above the normal capabilities granted to them by Allah and also that something possesses a power which is beyond the capabilities of the normal creation." (Ma la Budda Minhu fi Umur al-Din, p .11, from Tanqid-i-Matin, Sarfaraz Khan Safdar)
Shaykh Khawqir has thus shown that shirk is the belief that something other than Allah has an effect beyond that which Allah has granted him from the apparent means, and that something possesses a power outside the realm of the abilities of created beings.
In this article we will address the claim of some of those who practice istighathah that they do not intend to attribute independence or the status of godhead to saints but rather to Allah. We will show that this in reality is not much different than the mentality of the idolaters of Makkah. They too did not attribute independence or status of deity to their idols but rather used them as a means to gain closeness to Allah.
We will secondly demonstrate that such calling on the deceased for help implies several forms of shirk such as assuming that they are present and seeing (hadhir and nadhir), possess knowledge of the unseen ('ilm al-ghayb), etc. – attributes that are unique to Allah and not established for anyone else. We will thirdly present the verdicts of some leading scholars on the practice of istighathah.
Lastly, we will conclude by exonerating Shaykh 'Abd al-Qadir Jaylani from the claims of some that he permitted the practice of istighathah, and we will show that, to the contrary, he rather promulgated strict tawhid.
1 Imam Shah Waliullah Muhaddith Dahlawi (d. 1174H / may Allah have mercy on him) has extensively refuted the practice of istighathah in his numerous works. He writes while distinguishing between ma taht al-asbab and ma fawq al-asbab, "He [Allah] is Everlasting, All-Hearing, All-Seeing; He has no match and peer. He has no partner in necessary per se (wujub al-wujud) neither in deserving worship nor in creating and managing (tadbir), so none deserves worship, i.e. highest reverence, but He, and none cures an ill, supplies livelihood, removes distress, but He, in a sense that He addresses the thing with kun fayakun (Be! and it becomes). This is different than in the sense of usual causation (tasbib), as it is said that the physician cured the patient, the emir gave livelihood to the soldiers; so this is different though they are similar in wording." (Tafhimat al-Ilahiyyah, 1:145)
'Allamah Sarfaraz Khan Safdar writes in Tanqid-i-Matin bar Tafsir Na'im al-Din, p.25, while explaining the above quote, that it is clear that seeking outward help with means is lawful, as [is shown] when Sayyiduna Dhu 'l-Qarnayn (may Allah be pleased with him) approached the place of the dam, he heard people complaining about the destruction by Gog and Magog and was requested to build a dam across the pass so that they could be protected against their plundering. They offered him financial help as well. Sayyiduna Dhu 'l-Qarnayn said he did not need money; Allah had given him plenty. Rather he asked them to provide him with physical help. This is not the [type of] help that those who perform istighathah seek from the prophets, saints and martyrs, who are neither alive in this world nor near. He further says that it is not befitting for scholars to use such examples to prove istimdad since such examples involve asking for help from the living which is within the normal means of the creation.
Many among the proponents of calling the dead for help believe or unintentionally imply that the prophets and saints have the power of kun fayakun (Be! and it becomes) and ask them for help with this belief. Imam Shah Waliullah Dahlawi writes in refutation of these extremists, "Shirk is to affirm the special attributes of Allah (Exalted is He) for [those] beside Him, such as free-disposal (tasarruf) in the affairs of the universe with the intention expressed as kun fayakun... [The polytheists] used to ask those close (mutaqarribin) to Allah for help in important matters under the power (qudrah) of kun fayakun and the polytheists used to carve their images from stone, copper, glass, etc. and make the souls of the dead the focus of their deep attention." (Al-Fawz al-Kabir fi-Usul al-Tafsir, p.3-4)
2 Imam Ahmad bin Idris Shihab al-Din Qarafi al-Maliki (d. 684H / may Allah have mercy on him) has also refuted those Sufis who assign the power of kun fayakun to the creation. He writes, "The second type is that a person making du'a (supplication) is extremely stupid and daring, leading him to ask Allah to grant him special powers for running the universe which are exclusively under the power and will of Allah, such as creation, annihilation, and predestination. Common sense and logic indicate that it is impossible for these divine powers to be for anyone besides Allah. This means that such a request is in fact asking for partnership with Allah in his kingdom and this is akin to disbelief (kufr). Many ignorant Sufis have fallen into this trap and they claim that so-and-so was given the word 'kun' (Be!) and they ask to be given this divine command, which Allah mentions in the Qur'an, 'Our command for a matter when we will it is to say to it 'be' and it becomes'. They do not understand the meaning of this phrase in the speech of Allah and they also do not understand the meaning of this divine phrase being 'given' to someone, if that could be possible. This is a matter that is impossible to achieve according to the qualified scholars, let alone the concocting Sufis. This causes these Sufis to be destroyed in a way that they do not even realize. They believe that they are among those close to Allah, when in reality they are far from Him. May Allah save us from evil trials and those things that lead up to them. May Allah save us from ignorance and that which leads to it." (Anwar al-Buruq fi Anwa' al-Furuq, 4:446)
3 It may be said that those who perform istighathah do not consider the power and ability of the saints from whom du'a is sought to be equal to Allah, but rather they believe that their ability is given to them by Allah. This claim is not sufficient to justify istighathah since the polytheists of Makkah also never held their deities as equal to Allah. They too believed that the power of their deities was bestowed to them by Allah.
Imam Fakhr al-Din al-Razi (d. 606H / may Allah have mercy on him) writes regarding this notion, "Know that there is no one in the whole universe who ascribes a partner with Allah who is at the same level with Allah in existence (wujud), power (qudrah), knowledge ('ilm), or wisdom (hikmah). Not one person until today has been found [who believes that anyone is on the same level as Allah] except the Zoroastrians..." (Tafsir al-Kabir, 2:112, from Itmam al-Burhan fi Rad Tawdih al-Bayan, Sarfaraz Khan Safdar)
Imam Shah 'Abd al-'Aziz Dahlawi (d. 1239H / may Allah have mercy on him) writes, "It should be kept in mind that there is not one person in the universe who associates anyone with Allah at the same level in existence (wujud), knowledge ('ilm), power (qudrah), and wisdom (hikmah)." (Tasfir-i-'Azizi, p.162)
Imam Shah Waliullah Dahlawi writes in his magnum opus Hujjat Allah al-Balighah, chapter 74 titled "The explanation of what had been the condition of the People of Jahiliyyah which the Prophet (Allah bless him and give him peace) reformed", "Among the principles agreed upon among them [the people of the Ignorant Age] was the belief that God, may He be exalted, had no partner in the creation of the heavens and the earth and the substances in them, and that He had no partner in managing the great affairs and that no one could reject His order nor frustrate His decree once it had become settled and decided, and this is [proven by] His saying, may He be exalted, 'If you asked them who created the heavens and the earth they would answer Allah', [31:25], and His saying, 'If God's chastisement comes upon you, will you call upon any other than God, if you speak truly? No; upon Him you will call, and He will remove that for which you call upon Him if he wills, and you will forget whatever partners you associated with Him,' [6:41-42], and His saying, 'All upon whom you call for help lose their way except Allah.' [That is, these others fail in times of crisis or disaster] but it was due to their deviance in religion that they held that there were personages among the angels and the sprits who could manage [the affairs of] the people of the earth, except for the major matters..."
Shah Waliullah further writes about the beliefs of early polytheists in chapter 37 titled Tawhid, "[The second group] are polytheists... They also said that these beings [righteous servants of God] hear, see, intercede for their worshippers, manage their affairs, and give them help; and they carved stones in their names and made the stones a focus for directing their worship towards these beings."
Hafiz Ibn Kathir (d. 774H / may Allah have mercy on him) writes, "And yet, they have associated partners with Him in divinity (ilahiyyah), so they worshiped others with Him in spite of their admission that those whom they worshiped will not be able to create a thing, they do not own anything and do not domineer anything, but they believed that these idols take them closer to Him." (Tafsir Ibn Kathir, 5:488)
'Allamah Muhyi al-Din Shaykh Zadah (d. 951H / Allah have mercy on him) writes, "I.e. the idols are not equal to Allah, neither in reality which is obvious, nor according to their beliefs; since they believe that these [idols] are intermediaries taking them nearer to Allah as per their belief, not that they are adversary equals [to Allah]." (Hashiyyah 'ala al-Baydawi, 1:383)
According to Islamic theologians, the polytheists of Makkah didn't believe that idols were gods but merely referred to them as such. Imam al-Mutakallimin 'Allamah Sayyid Sharif Jurjani al-Hanafi (d. 816H / may Allah have mercy on him) writes, "Know that there is no opposition regarding this issue except that of the sanawiyyah (Zoroastrian dualists), not the wasniyyah (idol-worshipers). Verily they [the polytheists] do not believe that there are two necessarily-existent deities, nor do they ascribe the attributes of divinity (ilahiyyah) to the idols even though they referred to them with the word 'aalihah' (deities), rather they adopted them as statues of the Prophets or the pious or the angels or the celestial objects, and adopted revering them in a manner of worship, using them as a means of reaching the One who is actually Divine [Allah]." (Sharh al-Mawaqif, p.580)
4 'Allamah 'Abd al-Hayy Lakhnawi (d. 1304H / may Allah have mercy on him) was asked, "What is the ruling regarding that person who thinks that saints know and hear the call from far and near and [he] seeks their help with the wording which are used for those present and make vows for them and says that my vow is for them?"
He replied, "The belief of this person is corrupt (fasid) and there is fear of disbelief (kufr) of that person because the hearing of saints from far is not proven [in Shari'ah]. And knowledge of all of the matters (juziyat) at all times is only specific to Allah Most High. It is stated in Fatawa Bazzaziyyah that whoever says that souls of the pious (mashayikh) are hadhir is a disbeliever (kafir), and it is written in the same book that whoever performed nikah by making Allah and His Messenger to be witnesses become kafir. [This is] because he assumed that the Holy Prophet (Allah bless him and give him peace) is knower of the unseen..." (Majmu'ah al-Fatawa, 1:46-47)
It was further asked, "It is the practice of the general public of this city that in the time of distress they call upon the prophets and saints for help (madad) from far, and believe that they are hadhir and nadhir, and when we call them they hear us and make du'a concerning our needs. Is this [type of istimdad] permitted or not?"
At this the reply came, "This type [of seeking aid] is not merely haram but also shirk as in this [asking for such help] is considered [i.e. implied] that those besides Allah have knowledge of the unseen ('ilm al-ghayb) and this belief is manifest shirk. Because in Shari'ah, shirk is to associate anyone with Allah in His essence (dhat) and specific attributes (sifat), and knowledge of the unseen ('ilm al-ghayb) is the specific attribute of Allah as it is mentioned in the books of 'Aqa'id..." (Majmu'ah al-Fatawa, 1:45-46)
Another such query stated, "If a person believes that Shaykh 'Abd al-Qadir Jaylani (may Allah have mercy on him) has the power to hear anyone who calls him from anywhere and turns his attention towards his [the caller's] situation. How is this belief according to the principles of Shari'ah?"
The answer came, "This belief is not only against the 'aqa'id of the people of Islam but leads to shirk..." (Majmu'ah al-Fatawa, 1:73)
And he wrote in a reply to a question regarding seeking aid with the wording, "Ya Shaykh 'Abd al-Qadir shayy'an lillah",
"It is binding and necessary (wajib) to abstain from these sort of recitations. Firstly, [because] this recitation consist of the wording 'shayy'an lillah' and certain jurists consider these wording disbelief (kufr)...
Secondly, such recitation consists of calling on the dead from a distance and it is not established from the Shari'ah that saints have the power to listen to a call from far distance. However, it is established [from Shari'ah] that the people of the grave hear the salam of the visitors to their graves. But to consider that anyone beside Allah is hadhir nadhir at all times and is aware of the evident and hidden, is shirk... And our 'ulama have said that anyone who believes that the souls of the saints are hadhir and 'alim (knowing), is a kafir. Although, Shaykh 'Abd al-Qadir Jaylani (may Allah have mercy on him) is one of the great luminaries of the Ummah al-Muhammadiyah (Allah bless him and give him peace) and his virtues and excellent qualities are innumerable, but it is not established that he hears the distressed caller from a distance. And to hold a belief that he is aware of his disciple's affairs all the time and hear their calls, is shirk." (Mujmu'ah al-Fatawa, 2:189-190)
5 Hakim al-Ummah Mawlana Shah Ashraf 'Ali Thanawi (d. 1362H / may Allah have mercy on him) writes in Bawadir al-Nawadir, p.706, his last book, "The detail [with regards to this issue] is that tawassul through a creation was explained in three ways: First is to make du'a and seek aid (istighathah) in the way that it is in the religions of the polytheists. This is forbidden by consensus (ijma'). As to whether it is manifest (jali) shirk or not, then its criterion is [that if] the person doing it has the belief that the person being called upon has istiqlal in bringing about an effect, then this is shirk that constitutes kufr...
And second is to request him [the person being called upon to make du'a to Allah], and this is permissible through those from whom it is possible to seek for du'a, but such possibility is not proven through any evidence for those who have passed away. So we shall restrict this type of tawassul to those who are alive.
And the third is to make du'a to Allah through the blessing (barakah) of an accepted (maqbul) creation and this is allowed according to the majority of scholars..."
From the above it is clear that according to Mawlana Thanawi istighathah from the creation is, at minimum, haram by consensus under all circumstances, and disbelief with the belief of istiqlal. It is a clear rebuttal of those circles who try in vain to highjack the verdicts of righteous scholars to suit their fancies.
Explaining istiqlal, 'Allamah Sarfaraz Khan Safdar writes in Izalat al-Rayb 'an 'Aqidah 'Ilm al-Ghayb from Fatawa Rashidiyyah, "Knowledge of the unseen sometimes is available to the prophets, it is also from the same kind, i.e. it is not derived from any power and ability gifted to these holy men, rather it is an effect of the exclusive attribute of Allah that He manifested there, like the movement of the pen is due to the movement of the writer." (Fatawa Rashidiyyah, 3:23)
He adds from Fatawa Rashidiyyah, "As far as terms like 'personal knowledge' ('ilm al-dhati) and 'free choice' (tasarruf istiqlal), etc. in relation to the disbelievers in the writings of scholars like Shah Waliullah Dahlawi and Shah 'Abd al-'Aziz Dahlawi are concerned, this usage was to relay that the disbelievers used to establish the same power and choice (for the idols) through Allah which was the causative factor of their polytheism; otherwise the Arab polytheists believed that the idols and their attributes were created by Allah, and they were granted power and choice from Him, as we have elaborated before. As far as using the word 'free choice' is concerned it is obvious that the polytheists, due to their belief in the entrusting of power and choice, maintained that these acts of divine characteristic are included in actions and matters coming under one's power, and that the self-determined actions of servants come under the regulation of freewill and thus they deserve praise and criticism, though all actions of servants are based upon the power gifted by Allah." (Fatawa Rashidiyyah, 3:24)
'Allamah Sarfaraz writes while explaining the above quotes, "It is very clear that by 'personal' and 'independent' it is meant that human beings have independent power on good and bad, belief and disbelief, obedience and disobedience, etc. on which they deserve praise and condemnation as well as reward and punishment. Likewise, the polytheists believed that Allah Most High grants attributes of ghayb (unseen) to some of his servants and they are independent in acting freely therein just like the self-determined actions (af'al ikhtiyariyyah)." (Izalat al-Rayb, p.33)
He further writes distinguishing between istiqlal and ghayr istiqlal, "By given (a'tai) and dependent (ghayr mustaqil), they mean that like mu'jizaat and karamaat, they need the power of Allah in partial matters as well; even in these matters they do not have such a power as they have in the normal actions of the servants (af'al ikhtiyariyyah). For example, a pen writes in the hand of a writer, but it requires the movement of the writer in writing each single word. In other words, it can be said that the writer has manifested his action of writing through the pen, not that the pen has got power of writing like a man; since a pen cannot be a writer unless it carries the human characteristics... Except human actions, since human beings have independent (mustaqil) and inherent power, though this power and choice is gifted by Allah." (Izalat al-Rayb, p.34)
It is clear that mustaqil (istiqlal) is used in the same sense as normal everyday actions (af'al ikhtiyariyyah) while ghayr mustaqil for mu'jizaat and karamaat in the statements of scholars.
Zameelur Rahman writes, "The meaning of "mustaqill," 'Allamah Sayyid Murtada Hasan Chandpuri explains, is a continuous ability in which one has volition and free choice, just as healthy animals have the continuous ability to see, hear, eat, drink and touch. This ability can either be believed to be intrinsic – i.e. not granted by Allah – or extrinsic – i.e. granted by Allah. Since even the mushrikun did not believe their idols to be intrinsically mustaqill, but mustaqill by the granting of Allah, the intent here is granted istiqlal, just as living human beings have been granted volition in for example, choosing to see what they want to see and avoid seeing what they do not want to see.
Thus, here, the intent is the belief that these souls that are asked for help were granted continuous powers of discretion to grant what is asked or withhold from granting in just the same way healthy animals have been granted continuous powers of discretion to see what they want and avoid seeing what they want. If this doubt even comes to the mind of the mushrikun regarding the object of isti'anah, that isti'anah constitutes shirk according to Imam Shah 'Abd al-'Aziz. Moreover, Mawlana Chandpuri quotes a passage from Shaykh 'Abd al-Haqq Muhaddith al-Dahlawi (d. 1052 H) which illustrates many Muslims believe in istiqlal of the saints and prophets who were asked for help, let alone the mushrikun. This clearly proves therefore that there is certainly a presumption and doubt of istiqlal of the prophets and dead saints when they are called for help, and for this reason, according to Shaykh 'Abd al-'Aziz al-Dihlawi, such isti'anah is shirk. Although such istiqlal of powers over the cosmos when believed to be granted by Allah is not a direct ascription of divinity to them, but this leads to giving reverence to these beings in the manner of worship (i.e. utmost reverence), having full reliance and fear of them, instead of directing these to Allah, because these objects are now believed to have full authority and discretion. Furthermore, such istiqlal is negated for all creation in the Qur'an as 'Allamah Zafar Ahmad 'Uthmani shows in his Maqalat (2:282-5)."
Some circles, in desperation, use poetry as their last resort to prove or disprove 'aqa'id. Mawlana Ashraf 'Ali Thanawi was asked about a qasidah by Mawlana Ilahi Bakhsh Kandhalwi (d. 1245H / may Allah have mercy on him), produced in the book Shiyam al-Habib fi Zikr Khasa'is al-Habib, which innovators use to prove istimdad, etc. Mawlana Thanwi replied about this notion, "[Uttering such statements] with the intention of isti'anat and istighathah or with the belief of hadhir nadhir is impermissible. And without any of these [above mentioned] beliefs if it is solely to display one's desire and delight it is permissible. This permissibility is granted because the purpose of reading poetry is usually to display one's desire and delight. However, in places where things are seen contrary to it, this permissibility will cease." (Imdad al-Fatawa, 5:385)
6 Mufti Muhammad Shafi' (d. 1396H / may Allah have mercy on him) has refuted the practice of seeking aid from the creation at numerous places in his marvellous tafsir, Ma'arif al-Qur'an. He has equated istighathah with prostrating (sajdah) to the creation. Under the verse – "And that masajid (mosques) belong to Allah; so, do not invoke anyone along with Allah." (72:18) – he writes, "And therefore we are not permitted to call on anyone for help beside Allah, like the Jews and Christians [who] commit shirk in their places of worship... The word masajid could also have another sense. It could be the plural of masjad, with the letter jim carrying fath, in which case it would be masdar mimi (a type of infinitive) and means 'to prostrate or prostration'. The verse in this sense would signify that worship is reserved exclusively for Allah. It is not permitted to prostrate to anyone, and if he calls on anyone else besides Allah for help (i'anat), it is as though he is prostrating to him which must be avoided."
7 'Allamah Ahmad bin 'Abd al-Qadir al-Rumi (d. 1041H / may Allah have mercy on him), an erudite scholar from the people of Akhisar in present-day Turkey, also addressed this issue in Majalis al-Abrar wa Masalik al-Akhyar. He writes in chapter three concerning how Satan tricks those who ask the creation for help, "...And there are those people who perform istighathah from the creation, regardless of whether they are alive or dead, Muslim or non-Muslim. And Satan takes the form of the person whose help has been sought and fulfils the need of the person who has sought help. So, these Muslims think that Satan is the same person who they called for help. However, it is not as they believe. In reality, it is Satan who misguides them when they assign a partner to Allah. For, Satan leads astray the children of Adam (may the peace of Allah be upon him) according to his ability. So, when Satan helps them according to their needs, he is harming them much more than he can benefit them. Hence, that person who is a Muslim, when he seeks aid from those mashayikh who he believes in, Satan comes to him in the shape of that shaykh because Satan often takes the forms of the pious but he does not have the power to take the form of the Prophet of the Cherisher of the Worlds (Allah bless him and give him peace). Then, indeed that shaykh whose help has been sought, if he is from among those of knowledge then the Satan will not inform him of the saying of his companions who sought his help. And if he is from those who have no knowledge he informs him [the shaykh] of what they said and he [Satan] relays to them the shaykh's speech. So those ignorant people think that indeed the shaykh has heard their voices and answered them in spite of the long distance, whereas it is not the case. This is only done through the medium of Satan. And it has been narrated from some mashayikh who have experienced such [events] through unveiling (kashf) and mukhatabah, they say that: 'I see something shiny like water or glass, and in it that news which I seek appears and so I inform people of it. And through it the speech of those who seek my aid from my companions reaches me and so I answer them and my response reaches them'.
And these types of things of the extraordinary (khawariq) happen to many of the mashayikh who do not know the Qur'an and Sunnah, and do not act upon them. For indeed, Satan plays with people a lot and shows them things that are false in the appearance of the truth. So, he who has the insight (basirah) of the realities of faith (iman) and knows the Shari'ah of Islam, he knows that it is the deception of the Satan and he seeks aid with Allah Most High from him." (Majalis al-Abrar wa Masalik al-Akhyar, p.24)
8 'Allamah Muhammad ibn Muflih al-Maqdisi (d. 762H) in Al-Furu', 6:165, and 'Allamah 'Ala al-Din al-Mardawi (d. 885H / may Allah have mercy on them) write in Al-Insaf, in the chapter "Ruling of the Apostate", "He said: Or he made between him and Allah intermediaries on whom he places his trust, to whom he supplicates (yad'u) and asks for help. While some said: Or he prostrated before the sun or the moon."
9 'Allamah Sharf al-Din al-Hijawi (d. 960H / may Allah have mercy on him) stated in his book Al-Iqna', 4:285, in the chapter 'Ruling of the Apostate', "The shaykh said: [The ruling of apostasy is given towards one who] has an aversion towards the Messenger or what he came with, according to consensus. He added: or he took intermediaries between himself and Allah, relying on them and supplicating to them, according to consensus. Or, he prostrated before idols or the sun or the moon."
10 'Allamah Khayr al-Din Sayyid Nu'man Alusi (d. 1317H) ibn Sayyid Shihab al-Din Mahmud Alusi al-Hanafi (d. 1270H / may Allah have mercy on them) has quoted Shaykh Muhammad Amin al-Suwaydi al-Shafi'i (d. 1246H) on the prohibition of istighathah. Shaykh Amin's father, Mulla 'Ali al-Suwaydi (d. 1237H / may Allah have mercy on them), was the teacher of the author of Ruh al-Ma'ani. He states in Jala' al-'Aynayn fi Muhakamat al-Ahmadayn, "Shaykh Muhammad Amin al-Suwaydi al-Shafi'i stated: None can regard it lawful except one who is ignorant of the traditions of the Messenger (Allah bless him and give him peace). This was the reason that seeking help from the dead spread among the people during times of trouble and discord. They beseech the dead and supplicate to them, as if what they do with them is greater than their worship of Allah and their belief in the Lord of the Heavens."
11 Dr. Wahbah Mustafa al-Zuhayli, a contemporary Syrian Shafi'i Ash'ari scholar, was asked, "What is the ruling regarding istighathah (calling for assistance) that [some] Naqshbandis engage in after completing al-rabitah with the wording, 'Oh my teachers extend your aid towards us' and 'Oh my shaykhs, help us' and 'Oh my masters, help us' and 'Oh my guides, help us'?"
He replied, "These types of istighathah, in their apparent meanings, are haram, because they amount to seeking help from other than Allah, and help (madad) is granted by Allah alone, although the intercession (tawassul) of other than Allah from amongst the prophets and righteous people is correct according to Ahl al-Sunnah..."
He further answered in a reply to an objection on visiting the graves, "Visiting graves is licit according to the wording of the hadith 'alaa fazuruhaa', and there is no connection to evil in that, because we visit graves as an admonishment and a lesson, we do not seek anything except from Allah, and we do not draw near to shirk, even by a hair-length."
12 Shaykh Wahbi ibn Sulayman al-Ghawji Albani, another contemporary Ash'ari scholar, writes, "After this introduction I want to mention some of the bid'ahs upon which the 'ulama and propagators of the religion need to agree as being prohibited since these are blameworthy innovations concerning which there cannot be silence: ... (8) "Of the bid'ah is that which some of the ignorant people do when visiting the grave: They ask the dead to cure them of their illnesses and to fulfill their needs. They tie strings of material to the material of the graves of saints and pious people, with the intention of making barren women fall pregnant or that an estranged husband should return to his wife and love her again, and other examples like this. But if these ignorant people were to be asked in a mild tone: 'Do they really believe that a pious man has power over anything after he has returned to the Mercy of Allah?!' The answer to them is: 'No, we believe that nobody else besides Allah Most High causes any real benefit or harm – none being able to cause such in their life or after their death. But this pious man is blessed, in that he has an honorable position in the sight of Allah and we are asking him because of that'. The truth is with those who teach and say to them: 'Ask Allah the One. And it is acceptable if you ask Allah through the piety of that Friend of Allah (wali), or through the religious uprightness of the devout pious man that Allah fulfils your needs. By the Will of Allah they will return to the lawful commands. They are thus being returned to something permissible, and they will be so returned, InshAllah."
13 Sayyid al-Ta'ifah Shaykh 'Abd al-Qadir al-Jaylani (d. 561H / may Allah have mercy on him) said, "Follow [the Qur'an and Sunnah] and do not indulge in innovation (bid'ah). Remain in conformity and do not disagree. Remain obedient and not be disobedient. Be sincere and do not commit shirk. Declare Allah Most High to be One, and do not leave His door. Ask Him and do not ask anyone apart from Him. Seek aid from Him and do not seek aid from anyone apart from Him. Rely on Him and do not rely on anyone apart from Him." (Al-Fath al-Rabbani, p.313)
And he further writes, "You must carry out His commandments, observe His prohibition, comply with His decree, and keep your outer and inner calmly speechless in His presence, then you will experience what is good in this world and the hereafter. Do not ask creatures for anything for they are weak and poor, incapable of bringing harm or benefit to themselves or anyone else." (Al-Fath al-Rabbani, p.325)
When Shaykh 'Abd al-Qadir al-Jaylani was in the throes of the illness in which he died, he gave the following advice to his son 'Abd al-Wahhab, "... Do not rely on anyone but Him, address all your requests to Him (Exalted is He), and put your trust in no one other than Allah (Glory be to Him). Affirm His Oneness. All is contained within the affirmation of His Oneness." (Futuh al-Ghayb, p.185)
Some circles have brought forward a statement attributed to Shaykh al-Jaylani from a book titled Bahjat al-Asrar in support of istighathah. However, this particular quote attributed to Shaykh al-Jaylani is contrary to what we find in his books. Shaykh al-Jaylani never endorsed istighathah as is evident from his books from which the abovementioned quotes have been produced. Furthermore, Bahjat al-Asrar has been declared unreliable by senior scholars.
For example, Imam Shams al-Din al-Dhahabi (d. 748H / may Allah have mercy on him), the great master in the science of analyzing the reliability of narrators (rijal), writes regarding the author of Bahjat al-Asrar, "He had great love for Shaykh 'Abd al-Qadir al-Jaylani. He compiled events of his life and his virtues in about three volumes and wrote in it all narrations from various people, both worthy and unworthy. Thereby, he spread many false stories about him." (Ma'rifat al-Qurra' al-Kibar, p.721)
Hafiz Shams al-Din Muhammad Jaz'ari al-Shafi'i (d. 833H / may Allah have mercy on him) has also brought forward this quote of Imam al-Dhahabi in his Tabaqat al-Qurra', 1:261.
Hafiz Ibn Rajab al-Hanbali (d. 795H / may Allah have mercy on him) writes, "It [the book Bahjat al-Asrar] deals with the life-events and merits (manaqib) of Shaykh 'Abd al-Qadir Jaylani in three volumes. He has filled it with everything, big and small. It is sufficient for one to be called a liar when he narrates everything he hears. I have seen a portion of this book and my heart does not feel secure in accepting or relying on anything in it, or relating anything from it, except that which is famous and well-known from other books, because of an excess of narrating from unknown individuals, deviations, major errors, [unfounded] claims, and false speech, such that it cannot be considered, nor is it appropriate to attribute such things to Shaykh 'Abd al-Qadir al-Jaylani." (Tabaqat al-Hanabilah, 2:194)
The historian Khayr al-Din Zirikli (d. 1396H) quotes a verdict of Hafiz Ibn Hajr al-'Asqalani (d. 852H / may Allah have mercy on them) regarding this book, "Ibn Hajr said that many strange and odd stories are mentioned in it by him [the author] and many people have objected [criticized] to many chains of narration and stories narrated in it." (Al-A'lam, 5:34) This quote is mentioned in Al-Durar al-Kaminah fi A'yan al-Mi'a al-Thaminah, 3:142, of Hafiz Ibn Hajr.
'Allamah Zayn al-Din ibn al-Wardi al-Shafi'i (d. 749H / may Allah have mercy on him) said, "Verily, there are many incorrect things and great exaggerations in this book [Bahjat al-Asrar] concerning the status of 'Abd al-Qadir al-Jaylani that is only appropriate for divinity (rububiyyah)." (Kashf al-Zunun, 1:25)
Shaykh Sayyid Muhammad Abu 'l-Huda ibn Wadi al-Sayadi al-Rifa'i[ (d. 1328H / may Allah have mercy on him) writes regarding Bahjat al-Asrar, "There are many things written in the abovementioned book, Al-Bahjat, attributing which to Shaykh ['Abd al-Qadir al-Jaylani] al-Gawth [al-A'zam], may he enjoy the pleasure of Allah, is incorrect. Many stories and untrue things were spread on his behalf. And numerous astonishing sayings were transmitted from a group of elders. Some defiant and bold people – and Allah's refuge is sought – even fabricated many false traditions and attributed them to the Prophet (Allah bless him and give him peace)." (Tariqah Rifa'iyyah, p.16)
He further writes, "As for the stories, words, and fabricated traditions written in the book named Bahjat al-Asrar by [Abu 'l-Hasan 'Ali] Al-Shattanawfi (d. 713H) regarding the merits of Shaykh 'Abd al-Qadir, may Allah sanctify his pure secret, the elders have raised objections to these [stories], some of whom have accused Al-Shattanawfi of lying and opportunism. Amongst them is Hafiz Ibn Rajab al-Hanbali, may Allah bless his soul, as is mentioned in Tabaqat al-Hanabilah under the biography of Qutb al-Jili, may Allah benefit us with his assistance and knowledge, while some others said that he spread many stories, and they seem to have attributed to him stupidity and accepting [both] that which is accurate and that which is not." (Tariqah Rifa'iyyah, p.59)
 This has also been elucidated by many scholars, such as Shaykh Sun'allah al-Halabi Hanafi (d. 1120H), Shaykh 'Abd al-Fattah Abu Ghuddah (d. 1417H), Shaykh al-Qur'an Mawlana Husayn 'Ali Wanbacharan al-Punjabi (d. 1363H), 'Allamah Zafar Ahmad 'Uthmani (d. 1394H), Mawlana Sayyid Murtada Hasan Chandpuri (d. 1370H), Hafiz al-Hadith Mawlana 'Abdullah Darkhawasti (d. 1994AD), Shaykh Sayyid Abu 'l-Hasan 'Ali Nadwi (d. 1420H), Mufti Sa'id Ahmad Palanpuri, and Mufti Zar Wali Khan (may Allah have mercy on them), just to name a few.
The Grand Mufti of Hind Mufti Muhammad Kifayatullah al-Dahlawi (d. 1372H / may Allah have mercy on him) writes regarding Shirk fi 'l-'Ilm and Shirk fi 'l-Sam' wa 'l-Basr, "To attribute Allah's power of knowledge to others. For example, to say that a prophet or a pious man has the knowledge of the unseen, knows everything, is aware of all of our affairs, or can tell what is happening far and near; all this is Shirk fi 'l-'Ilm. Shirk fi 'l-Sam' wa 'l-Basr is to attribute Allah's powers of seeing and hearing to others. For example, t believe that a certain prophet or a pious person could hear things far and near, or could see all of our acts." (Ta'lim al-Islam, 4:15)
Quote taken with permission from the English translation of Hujjat Allah al-Balighah by Marica K.Hermansen.
Shaykh 'Abd al-Fattah Abu Ghuddah writes, "Imam Muhammad Zahid al-Kawthari would always recommend and advocate the works of Imam Lakhnawi." And Shaykh Kawthari himself said, "Shaykh Muhammad 'Abd al-Hayy al-Lakhnawi was the most erudite of his era in traditions pretaining to judicial rulings." (Bid'ah and the Salaf's Worship, p.xvi)
Imam Shah 'Abd al-'Aziz Dahlawi praised Majalis al-Abrar in these words, "The book, Majalis al-Abrar, includes much beneficial discourses regarding the secrets of Islamic law, fiqh, suluk, refutation of bid'ah and reprehensible customs. We have no knowledge of the author in terms of his piety, godliness, depth in the sciences of Shari'ah, except that which this book reveals regarding him." (Mu'jam al-Matbu'at al-'Arabiyyah, 1:388) And 'Allamah 'Abd al-Hayy Lakhnawi writes regarding Majalis al-Abrar, "And it is an excellent and reliable book." (Iqamah al-Hujjah, p.19)
Imam Sayyid Anwar Shah Kashmiri (d. 1352H / may Allah have mercy on him) mentioned that one of his hadith teachers was Shaykh Muhaddith Muhammad Ishaq Kashmiri (d. 1322H / may Allah have mercy on him) who is a student of Khayr al-Din Sayyid Nu'man Alusi, and he in turn of his father the author of Ruh al-Ma'ani. Imam Kashmiri mentioned that Shaykh Nu'man Alusi is the author of many valuable books like Jala' al-'Aynayn fi Muhakamat al-Ahmadayn and Al-Jawab al-Fasih li ma lafaqqah 'Abd al-Masih. (Malfuzat Muhaddith Kashmiri, p.334)
A guiding, knowledgeable word regarding bid'ah and its rulings by Shaykh Wahbi Sulayman al-Ghawiji, translated by IPSA students under the guidance of Shaykh Mahdi Hendricks.
It says in Al-A'lam, 6:94, regarding Shaykh al-Sayadi al-Husayni, "He is the most famous of all scholars in his age, born in Khan Shaykhun (in the district of al-Ma'arrah) and educated at Aleppo and there he was with entrusted the responsibility of the Association of Ashraf. Later, he stayed at Astanah (Istanbul) and came in contact with the Ottoman Sultan 'Abd al-Hamid II, who gave him the post of Mashayikhat al-Mashayikh. He won his confidence and became one of his most trusted men and continued serving this post for around thirty years..."