Delivered on 1 July 2016 by Mowlana Syed Aftab Haider at the Ahlul Bait (a.s) Islamic Centre, Ottery, Cape Town
Verse 68 says:
الَّذِينَ لاَ يَدْعُونَ مَعَ اللَّهِ إِلَهًا آخَرَ وَلاَ يَقْتُلُونَ النَّفْسَ الَّتِي حَرَّمَ اللَّهُ إِلاَّ بِالْحَقِّ وَلاَ يَزْنُونَ وَمَن يَفْعَلْ ذَلِكَ يَلْقَ أَثَامًا
“And those who do not call with Allah any other god, and do not slay the soul which Allah has forbidden except for just cause, nor commit fornication, and whosoever does this shall find a requital of the sin.”
In the last lecture we were discussing how the Servants of Rahman are pure monotheists and how in our time this concept has been exploited by some Muslims who are absolutist in their outlook and regard Tawassul to be shirk.
As we said yesterday, in Islamic terminology, Tawassul refers to when you use an in between medium to get closer to Allah.
GOOD DEEDS AS A MEDIUM
The call to get closer to Almighty Allah through a medium is actually a Quranic call in principle.
Thus Surah Maida Verse 35 says:
ا أَيُّهَا الَّذِينَ آمَنُواْ اتَّقُواْ اللّهَ وَابْتَغُواْ إِلَيهِ الْوَسِيلَةَ وَجَاهِدُواْ فِي سَبِيلِهِ لَعَلَّكُمْ تُفْلِحُون
“O you who have Faith! Be conscious of Allah, and seek the means (of nearness) to Him”
So getting close to Allah can be direct or via a means. The question is what is this means?
Those who do not really believe in Tawassul as we believe in it, they say this verse is saying that your get closer to Almighty Allah through your good deeds.
And this argument certainly has merit and nobody disputes it.
However, the “means” referred to in this verse is not limited to our good deeds.
Sometimes your means to achieving closeness to Allah is the Pious Servants of Allah.
And the eternal question is always whether this is permissible or not such that it results in shirk?
UNIVERSE IS CREATED THROUGH A SYSTEM OF “MEDIUMS”
Almighty Allah has established this universe based on a system of cause and effect. The cause of any phenomenon has a chain of causes that precedes it.
Example, we are an effect of our parents who are our cause. And they are an effect of their parents and this chain goes all the way back to Almighty Allah effectively.
So if you ask “who brought you into this world” and you answer “Allah”, then your answer is correct, but if your answer is that your “parents” brought you into this world, then your answer is also correct.
But are Allah and your parents “partners” in your creation?? No!
Parents are the “medium”, not the real cause as the final cause is Allah. Understand this!
And the same goes for “rizq” (sustenance) – Allah provides rizq. So why do you go to work everyday? Because Allah provides rizq through a medium.
And the same goes for “shafaa” (healing) when you get sick? Who heals you? The Quran very clearly says it is Allah. But if that is the case, then why do you go to a doctor or drink medicine? Because it is the system of Allah to provide everything to you through a medium.
So if in life we are compelled to go through mediums to achieve something, then what is the problem spiritually if we go through mediums like the Prophet (sawa) and Ahlul Bait (a.s) to achieve closeness to Allah?
THE MEDIUM IS NOT INDEPENDENT
So after demonstrating the above mentioned principle that everything in this universe comes into being through a medium, the issue of shirk is not related to the existence of a medium at all but is related to how you view that medium as a medium cannot do something for you independently.
Thus it is shirk to think that in the material world the medium that we use actually provides us good health independently by itself like a doctor, or that your boss who pays you gives you rizq independently by himself. This is shirk!
And consequently, when you ask from the Prophet (sawa) or Ahlul Bait (a.s) and believe that they can help you out of their own – that is shirk!
But we don’t believe like this! We believe that Allah gave them this special status as they are “Servants of Rahman” and thus we ask them through this status that Allah gave them – we don’t ask them independently.
THOSE CLOSE TO ALLAH ALWAYS CAUTIONED US OF THEIR DEPENDENCE
The Servants of Rahman always cautioned us regarding their dependence on Almighty Allah. Even when Prophets performed miracles, they would remind us that it is by the permission of Allah that they do these extraordinary things and that they are thus dependent beings.
Thus for example, Prophet Isa (a.s) is reported to have said in Surah Aali Imran Verse 49:
أَنِّي أَخْلُقُ لَكُم مِّنَ الطِّينِ كَهَيْئَةِ الطَّيْرِ فَأَنفُخُ فِيهِ فَيَكُونُ طَيْرًا بِإِذْنِ اللّهِ وَأُبْرِئُ الأكْمَهَ والأَبْرَصَ وَأُحْيِـي الْمَوْتَى بِإِذْنِ اللّهِ
“I will make for you like the figure of a bird out of clay, then I will breathe into it, and it shall become a bird by Allah’s permission; and I will (also) heal the blind and the leprous and will raise the dead to life by Allah’s permission”
And while we say that seeking nearness to Almighty Allah through the medium of his Pious Servants is permissible (provided we always remember that they are dependent on Allah), nothing prevents us from approaching Almighty Allah directly through our duas as the Quran also says that Allah is closer to us than our jugular vein.
Thus various Duas we recite are of this nature, like Dua Kumayl on a Thursday night or Dua Jawshin al-Kabier which is primarily calling upon the Divine Names of Allah.
BUT while nobody said it is compulsory to make tawassul, it is certainly helpful to go through tawassul to reach Allah sooner!
CAN WE MAKE TAWASSUL THROUGH OUR ANCESTORS
A common question that we receive from those familiar with African culture is whether it is permissible to make tawassul through your ancestors as is a common practise in their culture.
In light of the earlier discussion, in answering this question we ask where do the ancestors get their status from? Most of them are ordinary people like me and you and subject to err and even may have lived a bad life.
So how is it that simply through their death they are assumed to have a special status with Allah such that we can make tawassul through them.
In Hindu tradition there is the concept of reincarnation whereby once you leave this life, you return in a higher form and thus it is hypothesized that they now have new and greater powers that living human beings do not have.
Now without it explicitly being stated like that, it could be that the idea of making tawassul through your ancestors has this type of philosophy hidden in it.
Of course we do not believe in reincarnation being possible and thus tawassul from this perspective is not possible.
Then, even if people make tawassul through their ancestors, the question is what type of help do they expect from their ancestors? If they believe that their ancestors have an independent power to now assist you, then that is considered shirk.
However, simply making tawassul through your ancestors is considered to be an error, but it is not shirk as you do not consider them independent.
But Ahlul Bait (a.s) are alive and undoubtedly have more stronger souls and existence than ours, thus it makes rational sense to seek tawassul through them. This strength is due to their closeness to Allah, not out of their own.
Thus there are narrations in Sunni and Shia books that indicate that the Prophet (sawa) advised us to make dua by saying: “O Allah I ask you for the sake of your Prophet, the Prophet of mercy…….”
FORMATS OF TAWASSUL
Sometimes we ask Allah for the sake of these good people. In this case you not asking them but Allah direct using their name as a medium.
Sometimes we ask these deceased Pious Servants to pray for us. For example you say “O Prophet (sawa) please ask Almighty to forgive me.”
And there’s nothing wrong with this either, in fact the Quran encourages this.
Surah al-Nisa Verse 64 says:
وَمَا أَرْسَلْنَا مِن رَّسُولٍ إِلاَّ لِيُطَاعَ بِإِذْنِ اللّهِ وَلَوْ أَنَّهُمْ إِذ ظَّلَمُواْ أَنفُسَهُمْ جَآؤُوكَ فَاسْتَغْفَرُواْ اللّهَ وَاسْتَغْفَرَ لَهُمُ الرَّسُولُ لَوَجَدُواْ اللّهَ تَوَّابًا رَّحِيمًا
“and had they, when they were unjust to themselves, come to you and sought forgiveness of Allah and the Messenger ( also) had asked forgiveness for them, they would certainly have found Allah forgiving, Merciful”
In this verse we are encouraged to ask the Prophet (sawa) to pray for our forgiveness.
Those who say that this is only valid while the Prophet (sawa) was alive do not realise that the Prophet (sawa) is alive even though he has left this world.
It is well known that the Quran says all martyrs are alive. That is simply due to having achieved the status of martyrdom.
So how about Imam Hussain (a.s) who is the chief of martyrs – what kind of life does he not have.
And then the greatest of creation which is the Prophet (sawa) has a life incomparable to any one.
So without doubt we can ask the pious to pray for us, especially the Prophet (sawa) and the Ahlul Bait (a.s).
But when one calls upon the pious and ask them to help you, it becomes problematic. Example if you say “Oh Ali help me” – this format is the problematic one for most people.
In Bukhari, Anas ibn Maalik reports that there was a drought in Madina and a man called upon the Prophet (sawa) while he was reading the khutbah of jumuah by saying “Yaa Rasulullah help us.” And the Prophet (sawa) did not object to this manner of asking.
Because the important distinction again is that he is not asked and thought of as being independent.
And if people again think that this is valid only when Prophet (sawa) was alive, then we know the narration in Mustadrak that Adam (a.s), after making a mistake, prayed to Allah to forgive him for sake of Muhammad (sawa)! How about this tawassul – Prophet (sawa) was not even born into this world, but Tawassul was made through him.
To be continued……..