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Friday, November 16, 2012

Argument No. 8: Return of Ya‘qūb’s eyesight through the mediation of Yūsuf’s shirt

Allah says in surah Yūsuf:
(Yūsuf said,) “Take my shirt and lay it on the face of my father (Ya‘qūb), he will regain his sight.”[16]
The Qur’ān has expressed the later development in these words:
When the bearer of glad tidings arrived, he laid the shirt on the face of Ya‘qūb and his sight returned immediately.[17]
This Qur’ānic verse clearly proves that intermediation through any object associated with the prophets and the saints does not negate the Islamic concept of divine unity. In this case the sender of the shirt is a prophet, the one who is benefiting from this act of intermediation is also a prophet and the one who is describing the act, are all parts of a sacred phenomenon authenticated by the Qur’ān itself. Therefore, to express any doubts and reservations about its authenticity is to deny the sanctity of an act which is being sanctified by no less an authority than the Qur’ān. This Qur’ānic verse actually stresses the following points:
  1. First, though from the point of view of jā’-al-bashīr, this form of intermediation is apparently without the direct involvement of a prophet, it actually takes place through the physical use of one of his relics, i.e. one of the objects associated with him.
  2. Second, since the bearer of glad tidings did not utter a word as he laid the shirt on the face of Ya‘qūb (عليه السلام), therefore, the return of the eyesight through the means of the shirt is a form of intermediation without words.
  3. Third, to rely on someone who is not a prophet is also one of the traditional practices of the prophets and to declare the practice of the prophets as a form of disbelief is nothing but a reflection of malice, ignorance and lack of understanding on the part of those who boastfully, and sometimes out of sheer flaunting arrogance, indulge in fabricating such false allegations. In the Qur’ānic verse Allah is expressing the form of intermediation practised by two great prophets, Ya‘qūb (عليه السلام) and Yūsuf (عليه السلام). No Muslim can deny the reality of intermediation in the presence of such a clearly described tradition. If there had been any ambiguity or semantic twist in its expression, they might have had some basis of doubt. But when the argument is so explicit, any doubt about its veracity is nothing but an ugly concoction. Besides, the most significant point stressed by the Qur’ānic verse is that one prophet, Yūsuf (عليه السلام), is issuing the injunction of intermediation and the other prophet, Ya‘qūb (عليه السلام), is receiving the benefit from this act of intermediation. It means the shirt here serves as the source of intermediation. Therefore, if it is valid to practice intermediation through a prophet’s shirt, its practice through the relics of the prophets and the saints is automatically validated.

Real meaning of supernatural causes

It means that if an act takes place without the factors or causes which are necessary for its manifestation or occurrence, it is called a supernatural act, for example, the birth of ‘Īsā (عليه السلام), because the birth of a person is caused by a number of factors. If these factors are absent, the question of birth does not arise. But in the case of the birth of ‘Īsā (عليه السلام), these factors are glaringly absent, i.e. the fact of birth without the presence of the opposite gender and, therefore, it can be explained only as a result of supernatural causes.
It is generally said that mediation for supernatural acts is disbelief while it is permissible in the case of natural acts. This concept derives from the ignorance of people about the true definition of supernatural causes. These people are guided only by a superficial definition, which suggests that any phenomenon that is not adequately explained by the world of causes is supernatural and that which falls within its scope is natural. In order to understand its true nature the example of the return of Ya‘qūb’s eyesight seems to be quite apt. If the restoration of vision comes about as a result of medical treatment or surgical operation, it will fall within the ambit of the causes and if the rehabilitation of eyesight takes place as a result of merely placing the shirt on the face, it will fall beyond the influence of causes which is generally described as a supernatural phenomenon. This brief discussion proves that:
  1. If an effect occurs without causes, it is a supernatural effect.
  2. Intermediation through the supernatural causes is endorsed by the Qur’ān and proved by the practice of the prophets.
  3. Idhhabū bi-qamīsī does not rely on any kind of supplication nor on any medicine; it only records the recovery of eyesight through the physical application of the shirt. Therefore, it provides an illustration of intermediation through the supernatural causes. If this kind of intermediation were a negation of beliefs the Qur’ān would never have permitted it because it condemns all kinds of disbelief.
Here another point is clamouring for our attention, and that is to declare valid an act of intermediation which is engineered by natural cause and to declare it invalid because it is brought about by supernatural causes is in itself a kind of self-invented classification, which is supported neither by the Qur’ānic verses nor by the authentic traditions of the prophets. The correct Islamic belief is that the real cause and helper is Allah Himself. No one shares His qualities and attributes because, in view of His uniqueness, any effort to associate partners with Him is not only impracticable but also inconceivable. Disbelief is disbelief at any place and in any context of situation. Whether you sugar-coat it or present it as an ambiguous temptation, it remains disbelief.
Natural and supernatural causes operate on entirely different planes: while natural causes relate to outward effects, supernatural causes relate to inner and spiritual effects. There are a large number of issues in our lives, which are resolved through natural causes, but there are some issues, which are resolved internally and spiritually without any recourse to outer and material causes. The fact is that no effect is without a cause; only in some cases the cause is manifest while in other cases it remains hidden and it is revealed only to persons with gifted insight. If an act happens without any apparent reliance on visible causes, it is also really not without a cause; only the cause remains generally invisible.
The gist of the discussion is that if we condemn intermediation as a form of disbelief in supernatural matters, it would be a direct violation of the Qur’ānic injunctions and the traditional practices of the prophets. For example, when Jibrīl (عليه السلام) at Allah’s behest, appeared before Maryam in human guise in connection with the birth of ‘Īsā (عليه السلام), he addressed her in these words:
I have been only sent by your Lord. (I have come because) I should bless you with a pure son.[18]
In this Qur’ānic verse Jibrīl (عليه السلام) is attributing to himself the blessing of the son which is absolutely unsupported by external causes, i.e. to bless her with a son without the presence of a father with just a puff of air is only a supernatural act. But in this dialogue, one of Allah’s superior angels is performing the act of intermediation. Therefore, Qur’ānic verses cannot be falsified on the basis of a self-coined belief. Intermediation is a Qur’ānic fact and it is a legal act.

[16]. Qur’ān (Yūsuf) 12:93.
[17]. Qur’ān (Yūsuf) 12:96.
[18]. Qur’ān (Maryam) 19:19.