Du`a' (Supplication) FAQs & Fatwas

Could you Comment on the Recent Discussion Surrounding Istighatha?

The Question

Could you Comment on the Recent Discussion Surrounding Istighatha?

The Answer

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:

  1. 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.
  2. Recommended- This is related to asking Allah the Most High by His blessed names and attributes.
  3. 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.
  4. 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:

  1. During his life time- Scholars agreed that it was permissible to do so based on a number of Qu’ranic verses and prophetic traditions.
  2. After his death [see below]
  3. 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.

About the author

Suhaib Webb

Suhaib Webb

Suhaib Webb is a contemporary American-Muslim educator, activist, and lecturer. His work bridges classical and contemporary Islamic thought, addressing issues of cultural, social and political relevance to Muslims in the West. After converting to Islam in 1992, Webb left his career in the music industry to pursue his passion in education. He earned a Bachelor’s in Education from the University of Central Oklahoma and received intensive private training in the Islamic Sciences under a renowned Muslim Scholar of Senegalese descent. Webb was hired as the Imam at the Islamic Society of Greater Oklahoma City, where he gave khutbas (sermons), taught religious classes, and provided counselling to families and young people; he also served as an Imam and resident scholar in communities across the U.S.

From 2004-2010, Suhaib Webb studied at the world’s preeminent Islamic institution of learning, Al-Azhar University, in the College of Shari`ah. During this time, after several years of studying the Arabic Language and the Islamic legal tradition, he also served as the head of the English Translation Department at Dar al-Ifta al-Misriyyah.

Outside of his studies at Al-Azhar, Suhaib Webb completed the memorization of the Quran in the city of Makkah, Saudi Arabia. He has been granted numerous traditional teaching licenses (ijazat), adhering to centuries-old Islamic scholarly practice of ensuring the highest standards of scholarship. Webb was named one of the 500 Most Influential Muslims in the World by the Royal Islamic Strategic Studies Center in 2010.


  • Asalaamu alaykum,

    Jazakullah khair for writing this. Helped clear some confusion up.

    One thing I don't understand is what exact category would this act go under? Is this an issue of fiqh or aqeedah or something else?

    Also, did anyone else besides Ibn Tamiyyah and other contemporary scholars follow the opinion it is forbidden?

    (and I don't know what you mean by the church statement)

  • Wa alaykum as-salam,

    I just want to be very clear on this issue: one must always direct du'a to Allah [swt] alone. The disputed opinion which you are talking about is with regard to tawassul, NOT istighatha. In other words, some scholars allowed a person to say “Ya Allah, I ask you by the Prophet” or “Ya Allah, I ask you by the right of the Prophet”. Notice here that the du'a is still directed to Allah [swt].

    So the difference of opinion has NOTHING to do with calling on other than Allah [swt] for divine aid.

    You may already know this, so forgive me if I am being redundant.

    Fi aman Allah,

  • Salam

    Jazak Allah Harun for posting that link. Many years ago, my opinion of a 'good' scholar was one who was ultra strict and talked about the 'deviants'. Alhamdolillah, Allah has softened my heart over the years, and made me realize that a scholar like Imam Suhaib, who RESPECTS everyone out there – but without compromising on those aspects of the deen that shouldn't be compromised – is the kind of scholar we should look upto.

    Another aspect of this whole issue…. the Prophet(SAW) said to leave the doubtful. Many muslims bend over backwards to avoid, say, doubtful food, even if scholars have said that there is nothing wrong with eating the food of the people of the book. But what about the doubt of tawheed? Surely anything which may cast doubt on tawheed should be left more strongly than something like food? I mean what's the worse sin, eating haram or making shirk?

  • Brother Realist, that is a very excellent post! May Allah [swt] reward you.

    I wholeheartedly agree with your first AND second paragraph. I too have gravitated towards soft scholars like Imam Suhaib….and it is a very good point you bring up that there are people out there who won't eat a food item because it contains E30420414a, because of the doubt in it…yet, they will be lax in the doubtful matters (and even the not-so-doubtful matters) when it pertains to shirk!

  • You are to the majority of us in America. A brother once tried to give me a litmus test and ask me “Who do you consider the Ulema?” and I responded with “In which area?” Alhumdulillah.

  • As salaamu 'alaykum Imam Suhaib:

    I hope you and your family are in the best of health and Iman, insha'Allah. JazakAllahu Khair dear brother for writing up this post. I just wanted to share a few thoughts if you don't mind, insha'Allah.

    I became Muslim about 7 years ago, alhamdulillah. Before that I was raised as a Roman Catholic (Christian) in my later years, and before that as a somewhat non-denominational Christian. Anyway brother, wallahi, over the last few years, I have noticed that there are so, so many 'ulema saying that you can call on others besides Allah (swt), and may Allah (swt) forgive me if I am exaggerating, but this seems to me like the MAJORITY (!) of 'ulema saying this, and this is just too hard to believe.

    And when I say calling on others besides Allah (swt), I am NOT talking about asking a pious person whom is alive to pray for you, or when the RasoolAllah (saws) was alive asking him to pray for you (that is, asking a person while he is obviously alive, and they are “in person” to hear you ask them). NO, what I'm talking about is going to the grave of a righteous person (a so-called “saint”) and asking this person to make dua to Allah (swt) for you, or going to the grave of RasoolAllah (saws) and asking him to make dua to Allah (swt) for you, or from anywhere on the earth and asking rasoolAllah (saws) to make dua to Allah (swt) for you, whether you are in North America, Asia, or the North Pole, etc.

    And alhamdulillah, when I first became Muslim, I may have heard about some stories regarding Muslims saying this was OK, but I knew with my natural Fitrah (and also from what I read about the true, correct teachings of Islam), that this was VERY wrong, unnatural, and seemed to go TOTALLY, absolutely, 100% against the very essence of pure Tawheed. (On a side note, of course, and it goes without saying, this is why so many non-Muslims revert (convert) to Islam, and are attracted and drawn to Islam because as human beings, we are in need for the pure, unadulterated Tawheed, something that only al-Islam offers)

    And the thing that these many 'ulema are saying is that, they of course ALSO believe in pure Tawheed, and that they only worship Allah (swt) directly, etc. Wallahi, then, and they say this many times in the next sentence (!) (in their fatwa or opinion), that they are only asking the dead righteous person, the so-called “saint,” or the RasoolAllah (saws), to make dua or supplicate to Allah (swt) and that there is NO contradiction in doing this, and with pure Islamic monotheism/Tawheed!

    SubhanAllah, myself as a former Christian, and growing up around Christians, and in a so-called “Christian” Western country, what do you think this sounds like to me?! I mean, do they have any objections on Christians making dua, or calling on Jesus son of Mary (as) to pray or make dua to Allah (swt)? If they do, why?! Why would they say that this is not permitted, or “haraam”? (Heck, why can't Muslims call on Jesus son of Mary (as) using their “logic”?) What about the Catholics calling on Mary mother of Jesus (as), or their various other “saints” asking them to make dua, or to pray to God? Why would they consider this to be “haraam”? (using their “logic”) Of course these questions are rhetorical.

    Anyway, dearest brother, I had to write down my thoughts, because I had a lot going through my head, and of course mashaAllah, May Allah (swt) reward you, you really wrote a very easy to understand, thorough, and clear post on the various practices that Muslims call to, and the various practices which are halaal, allowed, and acceptable for Muslims to do, and the ones which are haraam and unacceptable for Muslims to do. Sorry for such a long post, and May Allah (swt) forgive me if I said anything wrong.

    As salaamu 'alaykum

    Your brother in Islam

    • Salamu alaikum ya akhi Farouq,

      I agree with you to the letter. From a monothiestic standpoint, it would seem that seeking a ways of approaching God through mediums (in this case righteous humans) is the exact practice that the pagans of pre Islamic Arabia indulged in. How can tawheed be deemed compatible by some Scholars (Hafidhahullah) whilst existing with what you and I believe (and I am sure many others) to be shirk?

      That being said, the distinction to be made here is not with what the supplicants BELIEVE that they are doing because we assume they are ultimately asking God; but the ACTIONS by which they try to reach God (via dead individuals) SEEMS at odds with orthodox Islam…

      Perhaps Imam Suhaib (Hafidhahullah) can elucidate this issue for us inshallah.

  • As-Salaamu ‘Alaykum,

    I think just to be fair here and I hope that the respected Imaam Suhaib Webb will not censor my post is that there are Sunni scholars that did hold the opinion that it was permissible to seek aid and assistance from the Prophet Muhammad Pbuh and Awliyaa (whether they are alive or dead) directly by saying for example “madad yaa rasool-allaah!” (help me O Messenger of Allaah!) and their argument is that the Prophets, Awliyaa, and Martyrs are alive in their graves and that the miracles of the Prophets and the karamaat of the Awliyaa do not sever upon their physical deaths thus they (i.e. the Prophets and Awliyaa) still possessing the ability to perform miracles and karamaat while in their graves (i.e. that is the ability to perform miracles or karamaat even after their physical deaths), and these scholars quote evidences supporting this from the Quraan and Sunnah. In other words these scholars say that the Prophets and Awliyaa are alive in a way that we can not conceive, comprehend or understand, their lives being in the intermediary realm which is between this world and the next. Even Ibn al-Qayyim RA illustrated this in his book Kitaab ar-Rooh in how the dead can perceive and sense and even benefit those whom are in this world. But one has to understand this within the context that all primary causes and affects come from Allaah SWT and generally speaking these causes and affects manifest through the secondary causes, the secondary causes being the creation (its important to note that these secondary causes fully depend on the primary cause, i.e. Allaah SWT and that they do not posses anything independently intrinsic in their nature). For example when you take a knife and cut an apple in half the reality is that it is Allaah SWT that has cut the apple in half by bringing into existence the action of cutting through the instrument which is also created (i.e. the knife), that is Allaah SWT being the primary cause and the cutting action of the knife being the secondary cause. We know that all actions in reality come from Allaah SWT and that the secondary causes have nothing independently intrinsic in their nature or in other words can not harm or benefit without Allaah SWT giving the command to do so. To put it in another way the secondary causes (i.e. the creation) are not independent from the Power and Will of Allaah SWT as Allaah SWT is the Sole Creator of all things and actions. The Sunnah of Allaah SWT is that He SWT executes His Will and Power through the means that He SWT has created such as the tasks He SWT gave the angels to execute such as the Angel of Death taking the souls of humans in the moment of death, although He SWT is not in need of these means; He SWT can do all this without the means just as He SWT brought sustenance to our Mother Marry AS while she was secluded in her mirhaab and just as He SWT made the fire cool for Prophet Ibraheem AS. As you can see, in the above cases, Allaah SWT wants to show us that the means are just an illusion and that He SWT is the Sole Power and Strength — laa hawla wala quwwata illa billaah (There is not strength or power except with Allaah SWT). So within this context the Awliyaa and Prophets are secondary causes and if they actually do help or assist the person (that called upon them) then this has to be understood as a miracle or karamaa that Allaah SWT has allowed to materialize for that individual (in this case it would be a great honor or blessing for that individual). There are actually many authentic mutuwaatir accounts of this happening to many individuals, scholars, mujahideen, and laity. But as the scholars have mention there are conditions to this practice of istighaatha:

    a. That the caller has the firm belief in his heart that it is Allaah SWT who is the Real cause behind everything and nothing can happen except by Allaah’s SWT permission.

    b. That the caller not believe that the one called upon is independent of Allaah SWT or that he has powers or abilities like Allaah SWT, otherwise the opposite of this would be kufr and shirk thus the individual apostating (and Allaah SWT is our refuge!)

    The reason why many contemporary Muslims have a difficult time accepting this is due to not knowing the realities of the Prophets and Awliyaa, especially their states and capabilities in the intermediary realm and as well not understanding the concept of waseela (means) or secondary causes. As for the mushrikeen (idolaters) they claimed that they use the idols as an intermediary between them and Allaah SWT but the truth is that they have taken these idols as gods with Allaah SWT which is a huge crime and an unforgivable sin but this can not be equated with tawassul and istighaatha as this is something that is entirely different and is not anywhere near shirk, actually it is an actualization of tawheed.

    A good book that deals with this subject in detail is Notions That Must Be Corrected that can be purchased online at Sunni Pubs and as well their are many articles that deal with this subject in detail at the Marifah website and Allaah SWT Knows Best.

  • Abdullah,

    You said:

    “there are Sunni scholars that did hold the opinion that it was permissible to seek aid and assistance from the Prophet Muhammad Pbuh and Awliyaa (whether they are alive or dead) directly by saying for example ‘madad yaa rasool-allaah!’ (help me O Messenger of Allaah!)”

    It is not a *valid* difference of opinion. There is room for disagreement on this topic, because it negates the entire religion, which is based on the idea that all ibaadah is for Allah [swt], and du’a is the essence of ibaadah.

    “Even Ibn al-Qayyim RA illustrated this in his book Kitaab ar-Rooh in how the dead can perceive and sense and even benefit those whom are in this world.”

    This is a deceptive and sneaky use of an authoritative name, trying to fool the reader. Even if Ibn al-Qayyim [ra] believed that the dead can “perceive and sense and even benefit hose whom are in this world,” did he ever say that you can make du’a to them?

    Sh. Ibn Abdul Wahhab replied to this argument of yours in Kashf al-Shubuhat by saying:

    “Now if he argues with you and says: ‘Do you deny the intercession of the Prophet, and free yourself from it?’ Then respond to him: ‘I do not deny it, nor free myself from it. Rather, he [the Prophet] is the intercessor, and the one whose intercession will be accepted. And I pray [to Allah alone] that I too will be able to attain his intercession. But the right of intercession belongs solely to Allah, as He says: ‘Say: To Allah belongs all intercession, all of it.’ (Surah al-Zumar, 44)

    “And so it will not occur except after Allah allows such intercession on his behalf, as He states: ‘And they will not intercede except on behalf of those whom He is pleased with.’ (Surah al-Ambiya, 28) And Allah will never be pleased except with a person upon tawhid, as He states: ‘So whoever desires as a religion other than Islam, it will never be accepted of Him.’ So if the right of intercession belongs only to Allah, and will only take place after He allows it, and neither the Prophet [s] nor anyone else will intercede unless Allah allows them to intercede on his behalf, and Allah will not allow this intercession except for the people of tawhid, then it is clear that the whole concept of intercession belongs to Allah.

    “Therefore I will Him for it [i.e. intercession], so I say: ‘O Allah, Do not prohibit me from his intercession. O Allah, cause him [s] to intercede for me.’ And I make similar du’as [to Allah alone], in this fashion.

    “…Indeed the Prophet [s] has been given the right of intercession by Allah and at the same time, Allah has prohibited you from asking the Prophet [s] for it. Allah [swt] states: ‘Then do not call anyone besides Allah.’ …So if you wish to pray to Allah to grant [the Prophet’s] intercession for you, then obey Him when He says: ‘Then do not call on anyone besides Allah.'”

    Sh. Yasir Qadhi adds:

    “This du’a is asked of Allah [alone!], and not of the Prophet!!! …The Prophet [s] himself pointed out the best way that a person can strive to ensure that he be granted his intercession on the Day of Judgment. Abu Hurayra asked him: ‘O Messenger of Allah, who will have the greatest chance to gain your intercession on the Day of Judgment?’ The Prophet [s] replied: ‘The one who has the greatest chance to be granted my intercession will be he who says: La ilaha illa Allah, sincerely from his heart.’

    “The irony of all this is that those who commit these acts of shirk with pious saints and the Prophet [s] (by invoking upon them as intercessors) do it with the excuse that they want to gain the intercession of the Prophet [s], and yet their action automatically disqualifies them from his intercession because of their shirk [because the Prophet cannot intercede on behalf of mushriks who call on other than Allah].”

    The point is that even if the Prophet [s] could benefit you–or your dead saints–then you cannot pray to THEM for this benefit, as you must direct all du’as to Allah [swt]. EVEN if they could help you from their graves, you would be blocking your access to this help by calling on them, since in that case they could only help those who call Allah [swt]. (Although it is not correct that they can help you from their graves, but even if they could, this argument would negate what you said.)

    The rest of your post uses the same arguments of the mushrikeen of pre-Islamic Arabia, who also used to believe that Allah [swt] is the source of all power.

    “a. That the caller has the firm belief in his heart that it is Allaah SWT who is the Real cause behind everything and nothing can happen except by Allaah’s SWT permission.”

    Even the Arab mushrikeen believed this.

    “b. That the caller not believe that the one called upon is independent of Allaah SWT or that he has powers or abilities like Allaah SWT”

    The Arab mushrikeen believed this as well.

    “As for the mushrikeen (idolaters) they claimed that they use the idols as an intermediary between them and Allaah SWT”

    Just as you have claimed that the Prophet [s] and saints are intermediaries to Allah [swt]. What is the difference?

    “but the truth is that they have taken these idols as gods with Allaah SWT which is a huge crime and an unforgivable sin”

    The only deity worthy of worship is Allah [swt]. This is our belief. Can someone–based on your reasoning–say that I worship the Saudi king, but it is OK to do so because I don’t believe the Saudi king is a god!!!!

    Of course you would reject this belief. So you are agreed that worship (ibaadah) cannot be directed to anyone other than Allah [swt], even if you don’t believe that person to be human and not a god. And du’a is worship (ibaadah), so this is a no way out for you.

    Al-Shaykh says:

    “The crux of the matter is that, if he tells you, ‘I don’t commit shirk with Allah,’ then ask him, ‘What is the meaning of committing shirk with Allah? Explain it to me!’

    “And if he responds to that by saying, ‘It is the worshiping of idols,’ then ask him, ‘And what does it mean to ‘worship’ idols? Explain it to me!’

    “And if he responds by saying, ‘But I only worship Allah!’ then ask him ‘And what does it mean to ‘worship’ Allah? Explain it to me.'”

    So explain to me what you mean by worship Allah [swt]. Is not du’a a part of worship? The essence of worship?

    “istighaatha…actually it is an actualization of tawheed.

    Ahh, a bit of comedy to brighten the mood, right? 🙂

    Fi Aman Allah,

  • As-Salaamu ‘Alaykum,

    @ J

    My intention was not to debate but to merely show that there were many mainstream Sunni scholars that did hold the view of the permissibility of istighaatha to Prophets and Awliyaa, and the fact is that they have an ocean of scholarship to support this view. With all do respect you are free to hold on to your stance and that is fine but if you are interested to broaden your understanding in this area you are free to do your own personal research on this subject. I would recommend to read Notions That Must Be Corrected and to visit websites such as Living Islam and Marifah, as these websites contain a wealth of information on this topic from classical Sunni sources.

  • Abdullah

    Asalamu alaykum wa rahmatullahi wa barakatuh,

    I pray you are well akhi and want to thank you for stopping by and commenting with such adab and a healthy spirit of fraternity. I certainly don’t agree with you, but hold you as a dear brother and appreciate your commenting. If my reply offends you, please know that it was not my intention.

    There are numerous verses in the Qur’an and statements of the Prophet (Allah’s peace and blessing be upon him) that are definitive in nature. What the scholars of Usol call “al-Nas.” All-Baydawi writes in his Manjah, “A Nas is a definitive text which does not allow for interpretation.”

    In other words, there is secondary meaning or understanding- it is what it is. For that reason the scholars of Usol coined the famous phrase, ‘la ijtihada bi wujud al-nas.” (There is no ijtihad with the existence of a definitive text.)

    The verse:

    “And (your are forbidden) to call on anything other than Allah.”
    Is such a text and to make ijtihad regarding it goes against the very principles of fiqh and usol. Tasawwuf, as some have termed, is the experimental relationship with Allah. For that reason, scholars noted that it can be dangerous if one allows the experimental to take over and push aside the usol. Further more the Qur’an’s definitive nature will not allow us to exchange practicing and living according to this verse in exchange for weak narrations or the opinions of a few scholars. If the Malikis don’t consider washing one’s mouth for Wudu a wajib because it is not mentioned in the Qur’anic verse that instructs us on the obligations of Wudu, one could only wonder what would be said in front of a definitive text met with weak hadiths, unfounded stories and the opinions of a few latter scholars far removed from the age of the salaf?

    Sidi Zarouq said, “The Faqih can be free of tasawwuf, but the sufi can never be free of the faqih.” Imam al-Junayd said, as realted by al-Samarqandi, “If you see a man flying in the sky, don’t follow him until you see how he acts in front of the orders and prohibitions” and “Our way, the way of tasawwuf, is rooted in the Book and Sunna. Whoever doesn’t memorize the Qur’an and write hadith is not from us.” The great scholars Abdul Wahab al-Sh’arani notes, “There is a binding consensus that one who hasn’t mastered the outer cannot venture into the inner.”

    So this verse is a Nas and there is not ijtihad here. Thus, the idea that one can call upon the dead, as noted by al-‘Allamah al-Qaradawi, is not something found amongst the early generations, the four Imams, some weak reports and their students, and would result in one ignoring the definitive nature of this verse. Allah says, “Follow what was sent to you” and the Prophet {sa} said, “I’m leaving you two things. You will never go astray as long as you cling to them, the Book and my Sunna.”

    The verse itself is very powerful so let’s walk through its gardens and partake of its fruit:

    Allah says, “You are forbidden”
    لا this type of “no” is special because it is the no of prohibition, meaning absolute prohibition. Thus, the action mentioned in connection with it is haram according to the usol.

    Ahadan is an indefinite article used here to illustrate two important points “Universiality” and “Comprehensivness.” This is important because it implies that you are not to call upon anything, human, non-Human, prophet, saint, celebrity with Allah.

    As for tawassul with the Prophet, I will agree that it is a disputed issue as mentioned by Sh. Abdul Wahab himself and noted by the majority that, “It is not an issue of Aidah, but one of fiqh.” For that reason there should be no inkar upon the one who does it.

    As for your quote of Ibn al-Qayyim in al-Ruh, it does not serve you well because, while he held that the dead could benefit from the reading of the Qur’an, he did not agree that one could call upon them and seek their aid. Thus, that quote is against you and not in support of you.


    I would advice you to use a more brotherly tone. It is not correct that you question Br. Abdullah’s intentions. His right upon you as that you are kind but firm on your position exercising love and mercy towards him as a brother.

    Allah knows best


  • As-Salaamu ‘Alaykum Brother Suhaib Webb,

    Baarakallaahu feek for your kind reply and not at all do I take it to offense as I’m certain you mean well by it and may Allaah SWT continue to foster and strengthen our unity and compassion for one another as brothers of faith, fraternity, and good will. As an admirer of your da’wah efforts I really enjoy visiting your blog and I find your articles beneficially engaging and filled with goodly reminders and gems!

    As to your reply I must say that I do concur with most of your reasoning however I feel compelled to say that the verse that you were quoting “And (your are forbidden) to call on anything other than Allah” has to be understood within the context of worship (i.e. the verse is specific in stating that it is a calling of a worship kind directed ONLY to Allaah SWT).

    I’m sure that you are well aware that the scholars have stated that there are 2 types of calling:

    a. The first type is a calling only to be directed to Allaah SWT (i.e. that would be the du’as that we do to Allaah SWT) and to do this to any other besides Allaah SWT is shirk.

    b. The second is the general calling that can be done to the creation (i.e. it is a calling that is not of the worship kind). Some examples are being stranded in the middle of no where and calling out loud for help hoping that someone will hear and respond by coming to your assistance, or requesting someone to help you to change your tire, or a calling of child to its mother when it is in distress or pain, etc.

    Therefore if we were to take that verse literally in the most absolute way and if were not to distinguish between the 2 types of calling that I made above, then life would become extremely difficult and I would not be able to call on anyone for aid or assistance as according to your logic it would be forbidden.

    As for quoting Ibn al-Qayyims RA statement it was only to show that the Matryrs, Awliyaa, Prophets, etc. are indeed alive, can hear and sense and are not really dead but in reality their souls have transmigrated to a world that is between ours and the next; and as you are well aware the earth has been made forbidden to consume the bodies of the Prophets and if Allaah SWT wishes He SWT can preserve the bodies of the Matryts and Awliyaa after their physical deaths.

    As I have mentioned earlier that the miracles and karamaat of Prophets and Saints do not sever upon their physical deaths therefore according to logical proofs that are within the realm of possibilities they (the Prophets and Awliyaa) can indeed hear, aid and help (both spiritually and even physically) the one that is calling on their assistance (this type of calling would fall under the 2nd type I mentioned above), and if this actually materializes then this a karamaa or miracle on behalf of the Prophet or Saint (Wali).

    So I fail to see how this is anywhere near shirk because istighaatha is simply calling for aid or assistance, nothing more or nothing less, and it is irrelevant whether the Wali or Prophet is alive in this life or the intermediary realm as this does not hinder his being able to give assistance. The Prophets and Awliyaa can assist due to their capabilities of performing miracles or karamaats which Allaah SWT has bestowed upon them in this life, and in which they continue to carry on to the next stage of their lives, i.e. the life of the intermediary realm.

    I will end by sharing with you a fatwaa on istighaatha (of many faatawa that exists on this subject) by Imam Shihab al-Din al-Ramli who is was a great Sunni Shafii jurist from Egpyt:

    Fatwa on Istighātha [1]

    From Imām Shams al-Dīn al-Ramlī’s [2] collection of his father, Imām Shihāb al-Dīn al-Ramlī’s Fatāwa

    Released by Marifah.net 1428 H

    The Imām was asked: Regarding what occurs amongst the awwām who when in distress say “ya shaykh fulān” and “ya Rasūlullāh” and things like this from seeking aid (istighātha) with the Prophets and the Awliyā, the ‘Ulemā and the righteous, is this permitted or not? And do the Messengers, Prophets, Awliyā, the righteous, and the Mashayekh possess the ability to assist others after their deaths, and what strengthens that view? He replied:

    Istighātha (seeking aid) with the Prophets and Messengers, the Awliyā, the ‘Ulemā and the righteous is permitted. The messengers, Prophets and the Awliyā have [the ability to] assist after their death because the miracles of the Prophets and Awliyā are not severed following their death. As for the Prophets, then they are alive in their graves praying and doing hajj as it has come in the reports. So assistance from them will be a miracle on their behalf; and the martyrs are also alive, and have been seen, openly killing the kuffār.

    And as for the Awliyā, then it is a karama from them. The people of the truth believe that this occurs from the Awliyā both with intention, and without intention-things that sever the customary manner of phenomenal reality (khariqa lil ādah), that Allah the Exalted brings forth through them. The proof for these things is that they are matters that are (intellectually) possible and the permissibility of their occurrence does not necessitate anything that is impossible. So everything that is in this realm, then it is possible to occur. (An example) of its occurrence is the story of Maryam and how the provision came to her from Allah – as stated in the revelation, and the story of Abū Bakr and his guests as appears in the sahīh, and the gushing (flowing forth) of the Nile river due to the letter of ‘Umar, and him seeing, while on the minbar in Medina, the army (being approached for a sneak attack), till he said to the Amīr of the army: “O Sariya, the mountain!”, warning him of the enemy behind the mountain. And Sariya heard his speech even though there was a great distance between them – the distance of two months journey. Khalīd Ibn Walīd drank poison without it harming him.

    Khawāriq (matters that customarily go against the rules of phenomenal reality) have occurred by the hands of the companions, the followers, and those after them. It is not possible to deny this due to the fact that taken as a whole; they are at the level of tawātur. So, in general, what is possible to be a miracle (mu’jiza) for a Prophet, is possible to be a karama for a Walī. There is no distinction between them except in the area of provocation. [3]

    [1] This article has been translated from the book titled Fatāwa al-Ramlī (http://feqh.al-islam.com/Bookhier.asp?Mode=0&DocID=63&MaksamID=1), Imām Shams al-Dīn al-Ramlī’s collection of his father, Imām Shihāb al-Dīn Ramli’s fatāwa.

    [2] He is Shams al-Dīn Muhammad ibn Ahmad. He was born in Ramla, a village near Manūfiyya in Egypt, in 919AH. He was the son of the famous Shāfi’ī faqīh and mufti, Shihāb al-Dīn al-Ramlī. His teachers include his father, Shaykh al-Islām Zakariyya al-Ansārī and al-Khatīb al-Shirbīnī. After his father’s death he became the chief Shāfi’ī mufti in Egypt. Such was his eminence that many came to identify him as the mujaddid of his century. His works include ‘nihāyat al-muhtāj’, a commentary on al-Nawawī’s ‘minhāj’, ‘ghayat al-bayān’, a commentary on Ibn Ruslān’s ‘zubād’, a commentary on Shaykh al-Islam’s (Zakariyya al-Ansārī) ‘tahrīr’, a commentary on al-Nawawī’s ‘idāh fī manāsik al-hajj’, a collection of his father’s fatwas. He died in the year 1004AH in Cairo. (Cited from ‘Ibn Hajar al-Haytami and Imām Ramli’ by Shaykh Taha Karaan. http://www.islam.tc/ask-imām/view.php?q=13545)

    [3] This means that there is no difference except that the mu’jiza was in response to a tahaddī, a challenge from the mushrikūn saying that he was a liar.

    • Asalamu alaykum,

      Dearest Abdullah:

      There are a number of points you make above that require a much more detailed response than I have time for. However, one that stands out is your using the incident of ‘Umar as a proof.

      It is well known that the report is weak since all of its chains, save one, have someone who is matruk (abandoned) such as al-Waqidi or a liar such as Saif bin Umar. As you well know, chains that have a person who is matruk or a liar cannot be strengthened or strengthen another chain [see Nukhbar al-Fikar with the Sharh of Ibn Hajar (ra)].

      1. The first chain has Ayob bin Khawat and he is abandoned
      2. The second chain has Saif bin ‘Umar who is labeled as a liar
      3. The third chain has al-Waqidi who is labeled a liar
      4. The fourth has Farat bin al-Saib and he is also weak

      The only chain which is free from such persons is that of Ibn ‘Ijlan who Ibn Hajar criticized as “at times mixing reports” and Yahya bin Ayob al-Ghafiqi who is considered suduq, but his apt to make mistakes- Imam Ahmed criticized him and al-Hafidh Ibn Hajar as well.

      The other problem with this chain is that it was related by these people only (without any liars or abandoned narrators) and this is not the norm for an event that would have taken place on the Mimbar of the Prophet. Meaning the scholars of hadith noted that such an event with people like Ibn Umar present as well as Naf’I and other notable scholars would have reached us through more than just one report. And that makes it suspect. Thus, such events are termed as kharij ‘an al-‘Adah and, when coupled with two narrators that could make mistakes, are rejected and considered weak since the presence of an ‘ila is probable.

      I would encourage you to be careful what you mention and quote from the net. My experience shows me that research on the net tends to get sloppy and, because of ideological slants, tends to lack the maturity and sabar needed for sound results.

      As Ibn al-Qayyim noted, one of the common traits of the people of innovation is to rely upon weak reports, strange opinions or outlandish interpretations. Perhaps this will open a door for you to return to calling upon Allah alone and following your Prophet who said to a 13 year old boy, “If you seek help, seek the help of Allah (alone)” and, something that we read in every prayer, “You alone, we worship and You alone we seek for help.”

      All the best

  • As-Salaamu ‘Alaykum,

    I also forgot to mention that istighaatha to the Prophets and Awliyaa would fall under the 2nd type of calling and Allaah SWT Knows Best.

  • Brother Abdullah,

    You said:

    “life would become extremely difficult and I would not be able to call on anyone for aid or assistance as according to your logic it would be forbidden.”

    The issue is simple. When we say that one may only call upon Allah for help, we are talking about *divine* help/aid. We are talking about *supernatural* help/aid.

    You said:

    “has to be understood within the context of worship (i.e. the verse is specific in stating that it is a calling of a worship kind directed ONLY to Allaah SWT).”

    What does this even mean? The way you are defining worship makes it such that one cannot commit shirk! It is a circular definition you have given!

    Let me ask you, brother. You say: “Ya Allah madad (O God, help me!)” Is this worship? Yes or no?

    If you say “yes,” and surely you must, then why is it suddenly *not* worship when you say “Ya Jesus madad” or “Ya Nabi madad”?

    Fi Aman Allah,

  • As-Salaamu ‘Alaykum,

    The fatwaa is clear for those whom have been blessed with the deep insights and a superlative understanding of the Deen. If you are having a difficult time in understanding istighaatha then in your case it would be best for you to leave it but at the same time you can not censor those who practice it since they have a strong basis for its validity within the Shariah, the Quraan and Sunnah, and the scholarship of the Ahl As-Sunnah Wa al-Jamaa’ah.

    you said:

    The issue is simple. When we say that one may only call upon Allah for help, we are talking about *divine* help/aid. We are talking about *supernatural* help/aid.

    My reply is excactly, Allaah SWT is the One and Only that can only give divine help as He is the One and Only Ilaah/God. As for the Awliyaa it is within our ‘Aqeedah to believe in them and their *supernatural* abilities which we call karaamat (supernatural gifts that Allaah SWT has blessed His Awliyaa with) as stated by Imaam Tahaawi and his famous book of creed The Tahawi Creed:

    99. We believe in what we know of the *karamat* or *marvels* of the awliya’ and in the authentic stories about them from trustworthy sources.

    [taken from the Living Islam website]

    It is impossible for the Awliyaa to perform these karamaat independent of Allaah SWT as these marvels can only manifest by the permission of Allaah SWT. In reality, like I said before, it is Allaah SWT that is acting like everything else that happens in existence, nothing is independent of Him SWT and everything is under His Command, Will and Power.

    you said:

    Let me ask you, brother. You say: “Ya Allah madad (O God, help me!)” Is this worship? Yes or no?

    If you say “yes,” and surely you must, then why is it suddenly *not* worship when you say “Ya Jesus madad” or “Ya Nabi madad”?

    My reply is that the word madad simply means to seek help or assistance and one can seek help from Allaah SWT *and* from the creation. Within this context it is *not* shirk. It only becomes shirk if one has the *conviction* that the one he is seeking aid from is *independent* of Allaah SWT or is *like* Allaah SWT or gives *divinity* to that individual then of course this is shirk. If someone thinks Abdul-Qaadir al-Jilaani RA is independent of Allaah SWT or that he is like Allaah SWT then this individual has not realized tawheed and has associated partners with Allaah SWT. The fact is there is no Muslim on the face of the earth that has this belief or else they wouldn’t be Muslim if they did.

    Like I said before dear brother you do not have to split your hairs over this, my intention was to merely show that there were Sunni scholars that permitted istighaatha and they have their proofs. May Allaah SWT guide as all and bless us with the superlative understanding of our Deen. Ameen.

  • As-Salamu ‘Alaykum Brother Suhayb Webb

    Your article is well written, Mashallah, but I noticed that you said regarding tawassul through the Prophet or righteous person whether alive or dead, that “This was the opinion of some scholars”. Isn’t it that Majority of the Ulema allowed tawassul, including Imam Ahmed (to which Ibn Taymiyya admits)? And even the Hanbalis who adored and took greatly from Ibn Taymiyya such as Saffarini, Abdul Baqi Taghlabi, Ibn Balban (all three Hanbalis) and others did tawassul and had no problems.

    Do Comment, at least through the email.
    Awaiting Response
    Wa ‘Alaykumus Salam

  • salaam,

    I have been following discussions on the topic of istighatha for a while and i am sympathetic to concerns on both sides of the dividing line. It would be interesting to see what type of well grounded reply could be made against al_ramli’s fatwa. That’s not to say that one could take a different position and maintain that Istighatha through the creation is haram, but as for the bold comments of shirk, would the brothers be confident enough to say for example that “if this fatwa is actually from al-Ramli and is taken upon its apparent meaning … then Sh. al-Ramli is a mush…”.

    As for personal practice and cautiousness, a lot of the advice has been relevant, but as far as a scholarly discussion is concerned, there is a plethora of information pertinent to the discussion. One point i will take offence to is brother Suhaib’s comment from Ibn al-Qayyim on innovators relying upon weak reports which seems to be a dig at the other side. The prominent scholars who speak in favour of this matter are not prone to the use of weak and spurious hadith. The irony is only further drawn out by the criticism levelled gainst ibn al-Qayyim himself as well as other ultra-hanbali scholars for the use of weak and fabricated hadith in defending their positions.

    No offence inteneded in anything i said

  • From my research all the scholars of 4 madhabs ie hanafi, shafi, maliki, humbli, have not issued any SHIRK fatwa on Istighatha, I would be gratefull if you could provide shirk fatwa from the following schools, hanafi, shafi and malikis of TODAY, i’m sure today we still have great scholars in hanafi, shafi, maliki, please provide me the names of the scholars and their books. Please don’t quote me what imam abu hanifa, imam shafi etc said, I want fatwa going back few years on this TOPIC.

    I’m waiting for the response

    • liaqat, you state that you want contemporary `ulamaa’s verdicts upon the matter, and seem to refuse accepting the classical scholar’s approach regarding the matter.

      With all due respect, that seems to me, like someone saying, “I don’t want the As’haab’s view on the matter, instead, I want to hear what the people from the last century have said upon the matter.

      If this understanding of mine is correct, then unfortunately it seems that it is a flawed approach.

      If one wishes to learn Islaam, as the Prophet SallaaAllaahu `alayhi wa Sallam has taught it, then one must look for the opinions closer to his period.

      The further one strays from the source, the more one will be hearing ‘Chinese Whispers’. If you live in the States, then the game ‘Telephone’ is what I am talking about.

      Google it.

      note: I an not the isa that has the wordpress link attached to his name.

  • السلام عليكم يا إمام

    What books of aqeedah would you recommend for those who know Arabic؟

    جزاكم الله خيرا

    • Salam sidi Suhaib, jazakAllahu khayran for this website.

      I have some questions conserning the verse cited above.

      I wonder if this verse is really considered a nass without possible interpretation? I’m mainly asking for knowledges sake and not for taking part in the actual issue on any side.

      Why I ask is because the comprehensiveness of the verse can be specified with for instance calling upon living persons or able persons for help. Does this not specify its comprehensiveness and open up the door for further specification (with proof of course)and also ijtihad?

      Also, is there not a discussion among the scholars on the actual ruling of the nahy, even though the strongest opinion is that its basic nature prohibitive there are many scholars that differ on the issue. How would this affect the definite nature of the verse?

      The above of course is if we take the word tad’u to mean call upon in a linguistic sense. However the context of the verse seems to mean (you know better) a legalistic meaning of supplication or worship, as is interpreted by for instance Imam al-Baydhawi.

      Concerning the “with Allah(ma’Allahi)”, could it not also affect the meaning and strengthen the idea that its dealing with worshiping others than Allah.
      If that is so does not the question go back to what this calling in “istighatha” is?

      1. Is it supplicating someone besides and independently of Allah, giving him abilities belonging only to Allah and hence commit shirk?

      2. Or is it calling upon someone who is believed to have an ability given from Allah similar to, or according to some maybe even greater than, a living person?

      I think what is meant by the one permitting the action is the second, and the question is therefore, do they (through ijtihad) consider that they have a legal basis for believing that a person in a grave (with or without coming out of it) can assist as a living person can in any way?

      I also think that the ones making it impermissible or shirk imply the first meaning, and I don’t think any muslim can disagree of it being impermissible and shirk.

      Can’t one then say that the difference between the two groups come back to a difference mainly (but not only since we have the issue of the range of ability of the dead) in definition?

      One can also ask, what is the REAL ability of a living in relation to a dead, does anyone believe that the living can do anything independently from Allah?

      I hope I get some thoughts around the questions put forward even if they are a few.

      Jazakumullahu khayran

      Wa alaykum assalam

  • Salam Sheikh Suhaib,
    I don’t know about the chain of the Umar (RA) Hadith about him shouting from the pulpit, but I do know that a number of Hadith scholars declared the Hadith hasan, such as Sheikh Abd al-Qadir Isa. I can get the references to others if someone wants them.
    Furthermore Imam Ramli is a high calibre scholar who would have known if its blatantly weak.
    But Alhamdulillah that Hadith doesn’t even need to be used as proof about hearing from afar. There are many narrations that are authentic about the Awliya hearing and helping from far. Its mentioned about Sheikh Ahmed ar-Rifa’i from his two nephews although its discussed here:
    I can provide the chain.
    Its also mentioned from Sheikh Ibn Ajiba about himself in his own autobiography. Its also
    You might agree that we should go for the strongest or most reliable opinions of the different madhabs.
    The famous Muhaddith Sheikh Shah Wali Ullah Dihlawi said in his Anfas al Arifin about his father’s miracle:
    “He said: Muhammad Fazil wanted to send his son to Ajmer and due to the presence of danger of the route also wanted to go with him. When he came to bid farewell I said to him: “Your going is not necessary because he will return safely, yes however two stops (manzil) from Ajmer bandits will attack the caravan and his protection is our responsibility. But explain to him that at this time to move his cart to one side”.

    When this time came Hazrat focussed towards there and during his focus discomfort was evident on his body. Those present all asked so he replied that an arduous journey of some days has tired me.

    When that boy returned he informed that there were bandits there, I moved my cart to one side, there the image of Hazrat’s form was present. The bandits looted the whole caravan but my cart was protected.”

    There are many about other miracles about other Awliya too like Imam Ibn Ata Illah
    So if you follow the Maliki madhab, what does the madhab say? Its shown by Imam Yusuf Ad-Dijwi, the great Azhari Maliki of the early 1900′s:

    Of course if you don’t trust the net, you can see the original sources.

    We know that for the Shafi’is, its Imam Nawawi:
    [The pilgrim] should then face the shrine of the Messenger of Allah (s) , make him an intermediary [to Allah ], and intercede through him to Allah … (Majmu’ Sharh Al-Madhhab – Kitab Al-Hajj)

    For the Hanbali madhab its
    Imām Ibn Qudāmah al-Maqdisī (ra), in his encyclopaedic work; al-Mughnī,(3/588), in the section concerning visitation of the Prophet’s (alayhi salaat wa salaam) grave: Then you go to the grave[of the prophet(alayhi salaat wa salaam)] and say: “ Indeed, I have come to you seeking forgiveness for my sins and seeking intercession through you unto my Lord.”This is also mentioned in ash-Sharh al-Kabīr.

    Also the Hadith master Sheikh al Ghumari’s analysis of the Hadith of tawassul is excellent.

    Allah knows best

    Wa salam
    Request of your duas

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