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Lesson 6: The Justifications of the Sufi Grave-worshippers
We have already shown that the categories of Tawheed were not something invented from the minds of the scholars rather, they were derived from proofs and evidence, established from the Qur’an and the Sunnah.
This leads us to the next chapter, where we shall discuss the affair of Tawheed as understood by Mutakallimeen (people of rhetoric) who judge the religion based upon false, foreign and innovated ideologies. So, this is Tawheed in the mindset of the innovators who return the affairs of Religion and belief back to their corrupted intellects ―these are the Sufis, the Ash’aris, the Māturīdees, the Mu’tazilah, the Deobandis, etc. Tawheed in the view of these innovators is a singular category only and that is Tawheed Ar-Rubbūbiyyah, the Tawheed of Allah’s Lordship.
As mentioned before, the polytheists of Makkah held to one category of Tawheed, the Tawheed of Rubbūbiyyah: meaning that they affirmed that Allah is the Lord, the Creator, the Sustainer, the Giver of life, the Giver of death, the One who sends down the rain, the Controller of the creation and so on. This encompasses the Lordship of Allah, Tawheed Ar-Rubbūbiyyah.
The Mushrikeen (polytheists) of Makkah affirmed this category as we mentioned previously. Allah has stated in the Qur’an,
قُل لِّمَنِ الْأَرْضُ وَمَن فِيهَا إِن كُنتُمْ تَعْلَمُونَ
سَيَقُولُونَ لِلَّهِ ۚ قُلْ أَفَلَا تَذَكَّرُونَ
قُلْ مَن رَّبُّ السَّمَاوَاتِ السَّبْعِ وَرَبُّ الْعَرْشِ الْعَظِيمِ
سَيَقُولُونَ لِلَّهِ ۚ قُلْ أَفَلَا تَتَّقُونَ
قُلْ مَن بِيَدِهِ مَلَكُوتُ كُلِّ شَيْءٍ وَهُوَ يُجِيرُ وَلَا يُجَارُ عَلَيْهِ إِن كُنتُمْ تَعْلَمُونَ
سَيَقُولُونَ لِلَّهِ ۚ قُلْ فَأَنَّىٰ تُسْحَرُونَ
Say: “Whose is the earth and whosoever is therein if you know?”
They will say: “It is Allah’s.”
Say: “Will you not then be reminded [of the truth]?”
Say: “Who is the Lord of the seven heavens, and the Lord of the Great Throne?”
They will say: “Allah.”
Say: “Will you not then fear Allah and be dutiful.”
Say “In Whose Hand is the sovereignty of everything? And He protects all, and against Whom there is no protector if you know?”
They will say: “All that belongs to Allah.”
Say: “How then are you deceived and you turn away from the truth?” (Surah al-Mu’minūn 23:84-89)
Tawheed Ar-Rubbūbiyyah is to affirm that Allah (the Most High) is Al-Khāliq, Al-Rāziq, Al-Muhyi, Al-Mumeet, i.e. that He is the Creator, the Provider, the Giver of Life, the Giver of Death ―these are the actions of Allah.
The scholars of Kalām (theological rhetoric) who have founded their ‘Aqeedah upon their deficient and faulty intellect ―meaning that they establish their religion and their belief based on what their mind and reason dictates, you will only find in their books the affirmation of the Tawheed Ar-Rubbūbiyyah. According to them, whoever believes and affirms that Allah is the Creator, the Sustainer, the giver of life and death is a Muwahhid, i.e. that he is a person of Tawheed (monotheism).
In their viewpoint, there is no such thing Tawheed Al-Ulūhiyyah or Tawheed Al-Asmā was-Sifāt – there is no Tawheed of singling out Allah alone as the sole deity worthy of worship or to single out Allah alone with His beautiful Names and His lofty Attributes. They do not see a need for it, and therefore do not affirm those two categories of Tawheed. Therefore, it stands to reason that they do not consider the worship of the deceased in the graves, seeking intercession through them and supplicating to them as shirk (polytheism). The Sufis say that this is merely talking to (or calling upon) other than Allah (the Most High) and they are taking the dead as intercessors ―they claim it is not polytheism. Some among them admit it is “wrong”, but they will not call it is shirk (polytheism) because they do not see it as a violation of Tawheed.
Many of these misguided innovators claim that the people who call upon the dead in their graves through supplications and seeking rescue are not falling into polytheism because they have not denied the category of Tawheed Ar-Rubbūbiyyah. This is because Tawheed to them is merely one category ―and so long as a person affirms that Allah is the Creator, the Sustainer, the Giver of life and death, then he is a monotheist (Muwahhid). So since those who go to graves and make du’ā to them and call out to them do not believe that the deceased are the creators or the givers of provision, or that they control the universe alongside Allah, then in their view, it is not shirk to call upon them. Instead, they believe that those they are worshipping in the graves are only a means of nearness, merely wasā’il (a means to reach Allah) and they are wasā’it (intermediaries) between themselves and Allah.
So, since they are mere intermediaries, that means they affirm Allah, and if they were asked who the Creator is, they would say, “It is Allah.” So they call upon the inhabitants of the graves because the dead intercede for them with Allah and mediate, and they call this Shafā’ah (intercession) with Allah. This is their claim until this day. This claim of theirs is in reality, the same as that of the idolators when the Prophet (salallāhu ‘alaihi wasallam) used to say to them “Do not worship the idols, do not call upon them, instead call upon Allah alone, your Lord and Creator.” Their response used to be to say, “We only worship them that they may bring us nearer to Allah in rank.”
أَلَا لِلَّهِ الدِّينُ الْخَالِصُ ۚ وَالَّذِينَ اتَّخَذُوا مِن دُونِهِ أَوْلِيَاءَ مَا نَعْبُدُهُمْ إِلَّا لِيُقَرِّبُونَا إِلَى اللَّهِ زُلْفَىٰ
“Unquestionably, for Allah is the pure Religion. And those who take protectors besides Him say, ‘We only worship them that they may bring us nearer to Allah in rank.’” (Az-Zumar, 3)
When the Prophet (salallāhu ‘alaihi wasallam) used to invite the pagans to “call upon Allah, do not call upon the idols”, then it was not that they did not believe that Allah was the Creator and the Sustainer, the Giver of life and death, the One who sends rain down from the sky and who brings out the provisions of the earth – they affirmed all of that, but they called upon the idols claiming, “We do not worship them except that they bring us closer to Allah in rank”. Allah (the Most High) stated:
وَيَعْبُدُونَ مِن دُونِ اللَّهِ مَا لَا يَضُرُّهُمْ وَلَا يَنفَعُهُمْ وَيَقُولُونَ هَٰؤُلَاءِ شُفَعَاؤُنَا عِندَ اللَّهِ ۚ قُلْ أَتُنَبِّئُونَ اللَّهَ بِمَا لَا يَعْلَمُ فِي السَّمَاوَاتِ وَلَا فِي الْأَرْضِ ۚ سُبْحَانَهُ وَتَعَالَىٰ عَمَّا يُشْرِكُونَ
“And they worship besides Allah things that hurt them not, nor profit them, and they say: “These are our intercessors with Allah.” Say: “Do you inform Allah of that which He knows not in the heavens and on the earth?!” Glorified and Exalted be He above all that which they associate as partners with Him!” (Yunus: 10:18)
They worshipped the creation instead of Allah or called upon the dead, the Jinn or the idols alongside Allah ―and those things they worshipped could not harm them, nor could they bring them benefit yet they claimed, “We are only calling upon them because they are intercessors between us and Allah, so they will bring us closer to Allah.” This is exactly what the Christians do with their saints. They did not want to call upon Allah directly, so they called upon idols, or the inhabitants of the graves, or saints, or Prophets, or Messengers, or they would call upon the jinn or the angels, and they used to say just as the Sufi grave-worshippers say today, “They are intercessors between us and Allah”. This is something that is a reality and is present in our times.
The heads of Sufism and theological rhetoric (the Ash’aris and Mātureedis) say, “Supplication to the deceased in their graves, seeking rescue with them and seeking from them to intercede, is not shirk.” They claim that this is tawassul, i.e. this is nothing but seeking nearness to Allah and it is only seeking intercession (shafā’ah) with Allah ―i.e. they are calling upon someone who will call upon Allah for them!
They take the “saints” and “peers” and the awliyā as intermediaries between them and Allah (the Most High) but Allah has forbidden them from calling upon those who cannot benefit them nor harm them. So, they assert this is not Shirk because they believe that the ones they are calling upon (in their graves) do not create or provide and they do not control the universe―only Allah does that. Tawheed, to them, is merely the affirmation of the Tawheed of Lordship. They hold what they do at the graves is not be shirk unless one believes that the dead have the ability to create, to provide sustenance and to control the universe alongside Allah.
This is something they mention clearly in their writings and lectures. Some of them may see that the Qur’an forbids their grave-worship so may go as far as to say, “Seeking from the dead is incorrect” but they will not say, “It is major shirk” because of their belief that shirk is to deny that Allah is the Creator. So, they do not forbid their followers from travelling to graves and performing rituals and celebrations at “shrines”. They assert this is merely taking intermediaries and intercessors in a desire to come closer to Allah.
We have not ascribed anything to them that they themselves have not affirmed, we are not putting words into their mouths. This futile belief is present in their books and in their speech where they refute the people of Tawheed and they defend the people of shirk and grave-worship. They defend what is done at the graves such as tawāf, prostration, bowing, raising hands in supplication and calling out the name of the deceased in the grave seeking his aid and intercession ―and when it is said to them “What are you doing? This is major shirk!” They say, “No, it is not shirk because we did not say that the man in his grave created us. We know Allah created us. So how can it be shirk?” So shirk to them is only a violation of the Rubūbiyyah (the Lordship) of Allah―and they believe that Allah can be approached through the intercession of the dead, the Jinn, the Prophets, the Companions, the peers, special animals and so on.
As for violating the Tawheed of Allah in His worship (Ulūhiyyah), they do not consider that to be shirk ―and that is why you find them in their millions visiting the graves of the dead, gathering around soothsayers, secluding themselves at the Baqī’ graveyard in Madinah and at the grave of the Prophet, urging one another to bow in front of the graves ―they seek their aid and assistance and intercession (shafā’ah) and they do not consider that to be Shirk. And that is a calamity because they have not understood the Tawheed that the Messengers came with.
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This series of articles are generally based on Al-Imām Ibn Al-Uthaimeen’s (rahimahullāh) works, “Duroos min al-Qur’ān Al-Kareem” of Al-‘Allāmah Sālih bin Fawzān bin ‘Abdillāh al-Fawzān (hafidhahullāh) and a handful of other scholarly writings.