Could you Comment on the Recent Discussion Surrounding Istighatha?
In the name of Allah the Most Gracious the Merciful, Prayers and Peace be upon the Prophet, his family, companions and those who follow him until the end of time.
Istighātha in Arabic means to seek help and aide; and when used in the Islamic sciences there is no difference in meaning.
There are a number of close synonyms to istighātha such as istikhāra [seeking a decision] and isti’āna [seeking help]. However, as noted by the scholars of language, Istighātha is used when one is under a state of duress.
Scholar of Islam gave four rulings for istighātha:
- Permissibility- It is permissible to help from others and, at times it can be recommended. This applies to asking one’s brothers to pray for him asking Allah to bless him and raise his status; and, if there is a need, its is permissible to seek one’s aide physically. However, there is an important etiquette noted by the Ulema, one should not do so with a humble voice and awe mimicking the way one would ask Allah the Most High.
- Recommended- This is related to asking Allah the Most High by His blessed names and attributes.
- Obligation- If one was facing certain death or about to perish, then it is an obligation upon him to beseech the aide and assistance of one who could help him.
- Forbidden- If one were to ask from those who have no power or ability to help him believing at the time he sought such aide that the power came from the one questioned [the prophet, or prophets, saint or others] and not Allah then this is forbidden by the consensus of jurists.
Istighātha (Supplicating and Calling) on Allah:
It is recommended to do so as was noted in the Qur’anic verse, “When you sought the help of your Lord and He answered you.” Surah al-Anfāl. Anas bin Malik related that the Prophet (pbuh) said, “Oh the Living The Sustainer which your mercy I beseech support.”
Istighātha (calling on and suplicating to) Other than Allah
As for istighath with the dead or anyone else for that matter, thinking that they can come out of their grave and bring assistance, then there is no question about the forbidden nature of this action. May Allah guide us.
Tawassul with the Prophet (pbuh)
This relates to three scenarios:
- During his life time- Scholars agreed that it was permissible to do so based on a number of Qu’ranic verses and prophetic traditions.
- After his death [see below]
- To make tawassul to Allah by mentioning the Prophet seeking to draw nearer to Allah (pbuh). “Oh Allah I see to draw nearer to you with [our faith in] our Prophet Muhammad (pbuh).” [see below]
Addressing the Above
Perhaps one of the greatest issues dealt with in recent times was the contention of drawing near to Allah by mentioning the greatness of the Prophet (pbuh) or a righteous person. “Oh Allah I ask you by the greatness of the Prophet (pbuh) for such and such.” Here the scholars of Islamic law noted that the person is asking Allah alone. Thus the fuqaha agreed that such a person is not a mushrik nor out of Islam; and regarding its ruling they mentioned three opinions:
- It is permissible to do so with the Prophet or a righteous person whether living or dead- This was the opinion of some scholars. There are a good number of proofs which support this contention such as the supplication of the Prophet when he asked Allah, “I ask you by the right of those who ask [you].” On the night of Mi’raj the Prophet passed by Musa who was praying in his grave and the hadith of the blind man who beseeched Allah to return his sight by the Prophet. However, Sh. Dido noted that in the latter hadith there are four weaknesses, two in chain and two in the actual texts and Allah knows best.
- Permissible with a Prophet or righteous person as long as her/she was alive- This is one of the opinions attributed to ̔Izz al-Din ‘Abdul al-Salam and others. They mention the same proofs as those above as well as the hadith which Imam al-Bayhaqī autenticated that mentions a blind man who came to the Prophet asking if the Prophet would pray for him to be cured. The Prophet offered him the option of have sabar with is affliction or being cured and the man took the latter. The Prophet ordered him to make wudu and upon finishing told him to say, “Oh Allah I turn to you with your beloved one, Muhammad (pbuh). Oh Muhammad I turn to your lord with you regarding my need…Oh Allah cure him.” After that the man stood and his sight was returned.
- It is completely forbidden to do so save with Allah (swt)– This was the opinion of Sh. al-Islam ibn Tamiyyah, those who followed him and a large group of contemporary scholars based on their questioning the validity of the hadiths used by groups 1 and 2 and the following: Imam al-Tabarānī relates on behalf of ‘Ubadah bin Sāmit that a hypocrite used to bother the companions of the Prophet (pbuh). One some of the companions said, “Let us go and beseech the Prophet’s aide to help us against this hypocrite. Upon hearing this Prophet (pbuh) said, “Indeed, no one beseeches me for help, but should only beseech Allah.” I follow the opinion of Sheikh al-Islam Ibn Taymiyyah as taught to me by my first teacher Sheikh Ahmed inidiya who I memorized Quran with of Senegal, Sheikh Abdullah Hamod of Yemen and articulated by Sh. Dido in his answer.
Thus, this is an issue in which the Muslims should not busy themselves, nor declare each other as deviants our out of Islam. As al-Shaf’i noted that such issues are not to be denounced with the hand. I would encourage us to live with these opinions in harmony and not allow them to divide us or create hatred in our hearts. Let me clarify that my statement regarding actions done in churches was not related to this at all but to a cultish following, slandering one’s brother without reason and worshiping one’s priests.