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Friday, November 16, 2012

Argument No. 2: Search for means of approach is a valid act

The holy Qur’ān has stated in another context:
Those, whom they worship (that is, the angels, jinn, ‘Īsā (عليه السلام) and ‘Uzayr (عليه السلام) etc., - they make their portraits and statues and worship them), they (themselves) seek nearness to their Lord, through those who among them are the nearest (to Allah’s presence), and they (themselves) hope for His mercy, and (themselves) fear His punishment. (Now you tell how can they deserve to be worshipped, they themselves are bowing before the truthful Lord.) Surely, the punishment of your Lord is a thing to be feared.[5]
During the era of ignorance, the non-believers used to worship the angels, the jinn, ‘Īsā (عليه السلام) and ‘Uzayr (عليه السلام) by making their statues and portraits. Before the advent of Islam, the jinn had spared no effort to misguide human beings. They entered the statues and played bizarre tricks. The simple and naive people worshipped the statues when they saw them moving and smiling. But when the light of Islam dawned, the jinn sought forgiveness of Allah for their deeds of deviance and embraced Islam. They discarded their false notions and practices and followed the right path. They turned into loyal and obedient followers of Allah and were constantly in search of finding means of access to Him.
‘Abdullāh bin Mas‘ūd comments that this Qur’ānic verse was specifically revealed in favour of an Arab community who worshipped a particular group of jinn. When these jinn converted to Islam and their worshippers were unaware of the fact of their conversion, Allah reminded them that those they used to worship were now prostrated before Him and were seeking means of approach to gain His nearness.[6]
This elaboration makes it clear that it is valid to rely on those who are near to Allah through their obedience and acts of virtue. And those who are near to Allah further rely on those who are even nearer to Him, and it is a continuous process because the quest for nearness to Allah is an unending process. This also clearly implies that there are different degrees of nearness to Allah, the nearest degree enjoyed by the Holy Prophet (صلى الله عليه وآله وسلم).
This Qur’ānic verse clarifies beyond any particle of doubt that the gods worshipped by the non-believers and who called on them in their hour of distress are not in fact gods because they themselves are busy seeking the pleasure of Allah. If they had been gods themselves, as the non-believers ignorantly believed, they would not have been in need of worshipping someone else to seek his goodwill. In fact, they are as helpless as their worshippers and the obvious proof of their helplessness is their lack of self-reliance. The verse also clarifies the point that to seek access to Allah through those who have already attained nearness to Him is a valid act as this has also been the teaching and practice of these divine favourites. A question arises here how can those who themselves are seeking means of access to Allah possibly serve as means of approach to Him? A reflection on this Qur’ānic verse itself provides the answer: to worship anyone except Allah is forbidden but to rely on Allah’s favourites and to request them to pray to Him for the fulfilment of one’s needs is quite valid. It is a negation of worship, not a negation of means of approach to Allah. While it is valid only to worship Allah and no one else, it is also valid to seek the means of coming close to Him. Allah’s favourites serve only as the means; they are not substitutes for Him. Therefore, it is correct to believe that all favourites of Allah are only means of access to Him as it is Allah Alone Who is to be worshipped.

[5]. Qur’ān (al-Isrā’) 17:57.
[6]. Bukhārī narrated it in his as-Sahīh, b. of tafsīr (interpretation of the Qur’ān) ch.205 (4:1747-8#4437-8); Muslim in as-Sahīh, b. of tafsīr, ch.4 (4:2321#3030); Hākim in al-Mustadrak (2:362); and Baghawī cites it in tafsīr of 17:57 in Ma‘ālim-ut-tanzīl (3:120).