Fifth objection: Begging and beseeching help from Allāh alone is valid
To negate the validity of beseeching others than Allāh for help is based on a fallacious deduction from a tradition narrated by ‘Abdullāh bin ‘Abbās as an argument in their favour in which it is enjoined upon the believers to beg only Allāh for help. The words of the tradition are as follows:
When you beg you should beg it from Allāh alone, and when you ask for help, you should ask it from Allāh alone, and note that even if the entire Ummah collectively wishes to benefit you, it cannot do so against what is predestined. (Similarly) if the entire Ummah collectively wishes to harm you, it cannot succeed against what is predestined (because) the pens (of the writer of fate) have been taken away and the writings have dried up.
We will elaborate in the following pages that to conclude from this tradition that begging and beseeching Allāh for help is valid and begging and beseeching not-Allāh for help is invalid, sounds perverse.
Begging for help is Allāh’s command
This false reasoning is a complete negation of all that is fundamental to Islam and is a clumsy attempt to impose the principles of some alien faith on the simple and straight tenets of Islamic faith. This kind of reasoning betrays a glaring unawareness of the Qur’ān and the sunnah, lack of understanding of the purpose of revelation of the Qur’ān, and a superficial study of Islamic teachings. Its primary motive is to accuse the collective Muslim Ummah of disbelief and infidelity. The actual position is that the purpose of the tradition is not to dissuade people from seeking help from others except Allāh, as it appears at first glance; but its real purpose is to deflect the attention of the creature from the causes and direct it to the Creator of those causes so that the creature, embroiled in the convolutions of causes, may not lose sight of the real Helper. So the actual meaning of this tradition, in the light of Islamic teachings, may be summed up in these words: ‘O man! When you beg and beseech anyone of Allāh’s creatures for help and assistance, you should have complete faith in the glory and power of Allāh, and beg for help regarding Allāh as the real Helper lest these secondary causes should divert your attention from the Creator and become the stumbling blocks for you.’ The Prophet (صلى الله عليه وآله وسلم), endorsing the contents of the tradition said that there is no help against Allāh’s will but it does not negate the act of beseeching someone’s help to persuade Allāh to fulfil one’s need. There is a huge difference between acts, which are incompatible with Allāh’s will and those, which are compatible with His will. The last words of the tradition (the pens have been taken away and the writings have dried up) clearly point out that beseeching not-Allāh for help against God’s will is forbidden but it, in no way forbids the act of begging and beseeching help from others because seeking the help of others has been endorsed by Allāh Himself. For example:
So you should ask people of knowledge if you yourselves do not know (about something).
In this Qur’ānic verse the believers are being urged to ask those who possess knowledge. A large number of other traditions support the contents of this verse that the words ‘when you beg you should beg it from Allāh alone,’ do not forbid the act of seeking help from others absolutely. On the contrary, it means that the believers should not beg the rulers and the affluent, out of sheer greed, to help them financially or socially. They should beseech Allāh’s blessings alone. To infer from this tradition that it is invalid to beseech the help of others than Allāh is an unfair inference. These words do not argue against beseeching the help of others than Allāh. On the contrary, a large number of traditions clearly suggest that the Prophet (صلى الله عليه وآله وسلم) himself prompted the Companions to beg from him and then responded to them. (The details with examples have already been given in the earlier pages.) If begging help from others is regarded as disbelief, then a large number of routine affairs which form the basis of practical life will be declared forbidden, for example, a student asking a teacher for explanation, a patient soliciting treatment from a doctor, a needy person begging help from a person of means and a creditor demanding his money back from someone who has borrowed it from him.
Ask for some more
One of the fortunate Companions, Rabī‘ah bin Ka‘b, one evening called on the Prophet (صلى الله عليه وآله وسلم). He filled water for his ablution and helped him perform the ablution. Pleased with his solicitude, the Prophet (صلى الله عليه وآله وسلم) said to him: ‘ask for anything you want.’ Overwhelmed by such a big offer, the Companion asked for his eternal companionship, which the Prophet (صلى الله عليه وآله وسلم) readily agreed to. Rabī‘ah bin Ka‘b relates in his own words:
I spent a night with the holy Prophet(صلى الله عليه وآله وسلم) (and towards the tail-end of the night) I brought water for his ablution and toilet. He said: ‘ask (for) whatever you want.’ I said: ‘I want your (eternal) companionship in Paradise.’ He said: ‘anything else?’ I said: ‘this is sufficient.’ He said: ‘then help me with plenty of prostration.’
In this tradition the Prophet (صلى الله عليه وآله وسلم) himself commanded the Companion to beg from him. If begging for help from not-Allāh were forbidden, the greatest champion of divine unity would never have done it. In the last words of the tradition, the Prophet (صلى الله عليه وآله وسلم) himself begged him to help him with greater frequency of prostrations. This proves that begging help from someone other than Allāh is quite consistent with the Prophet’s practice and anyone who levels allegations of disbelief against him is himself violating his belief in divine unity. Such religious concepts are in fact a product of ignorance about the universal message of Islam.
Beseeching help from others is Islamic command
It is Allāh’s command to seek help from Him through His favourite servants for the fulfilment of needs and the relief of worries and problems, which constantly nag one’s mind and cannot be resolved by ordinary means or by one’s personal efforts. A few examples from the Qur’ān and the Prophet’s traditions are given below:
1. The Qur’ān says:
And seek (Allāh’s) help through patience and prayer.
Here it is Allāh’s command to seek help and support by means of the virtuous acts of patience and prayer. These acts are only the means because it is Allāh alone who can help us out of our troubles and tribulations. But the act of begging for help through these means is being issued as a divine command.
2. Similarly, here is another verse from the Qur’ān in which Allāh commands to seek help for fighting equipment and for the preparation of jihād:
And (O Muslims!), to (fight) them you should keep ready the force (of weapons and other instruments of war) as much as possible and (a large number of) tied horses.
3. In addition, the Qur’ān is a witness to the help which Dhū al-Qarnayn sought from his nation to fight the enemy:
You should help me with the might of your arm, (that is, with labour and rigorous, hard work).
4. Similarly, it is narrated by ‘Abdullāh bin ‘Abbās that Allāh’s Messenger (صلى الله عليه وآله وسلم) said:
Undoubtedly, there are some of Allāh’s angels on the earth who are in addition to the guardian angels. They note down each leaf that falls down from a tree. If anyone of you is being tortured in the jungle, you should cry, ‘O servants of Allāh, help me.’
Here, the Prophet (صلى الله عليه وآله وسلم) instructs the Muslims to seek angels’ help. He is advising us not to delink ourselves from those who not only believe in Allāh but also practice their belief. In case there is no human figure to come to your rescue, you should call angels for help. They will fulfil your need. This universe is not a meaningless vacuum as many atheists in their ignorance tend to assume; it is filled with flights of angels though they remain invisible to the naked eye and whenever human beings under duress invoke the help of Allāh, the angels practically demonstrate the merciful presence of Allāh by meeting human exigencies. Thus the words falyunād a‘īnū ‘ibād Allāh are a clear proof that to call someone for help is permissible.
5. Salāt-ul-khawf (fear prayer) also implies seeking help from others for the elimination of fear.
6. In a number of his sayings, the Prophet (صلى الله عليه وآله وسلم) has urged the believers to help one another:
Anyone who is busy in fulfilling the need of his brother, Allāh Himself fulfils his need.
7. The same theme is stressed in another tradition:
And Allāh is busy in helping His creature as long as he is busy helping his brother.
8. Imām Hākim has recorded a tradition in his al-Mustadrak (4:270) in which the Prophet (صلى الله عليه وآله وسلم) has commanded the believers to help one another and to relieve the needs of others and then he has also stressed the importance of this noble act:
If anyone of you goes out with his brother to help him, it is better than the two months’ seclusion in my mosque.
9. Allāh has created a special class of creatures to help the people in fulfilling their needs, relieving their problems and helping them in every possible way. The holy Prophet (صلى الله عليه وآله وسلم) said:
Allāh has created a class of creatures for the fulfilment of people’s needs so that people turn to them for (the fulfilment of) their needs. These creatures are immune to Allāh’s punishment.
In this tradition, the Prophet’s words that ‘people should turn to them for the fulfilment of their needs’ deserve special attention. The Prophet (صلى الله عليه وآله وسلم) is himself recommending the people’s act of seeking help from others. Therefore, those who call it disbelief appallingly lack an understanding of their own religion.
10. Another tradition related to this theme is as follows:
Allāh has blessed His servants with (a large reservoir of) His blessings. These servants are engaged in fulfilling the needs of the people until they are weary of them. And when they wear out, (the same duty) is assigned from them to others.
11. ‘Abdullāh bin Mas‘ūd has narrated that the Prophet(صلى الله عليه وآله وسلم) said:
When you lose your means of transport in a jungle, you should call: ‘O creatures of Allāh! Help me, recover my transport! O creatures of Allāh! Help me, recover my transport!’ There are many of Allāh’s creatures on this earth. They will help you recover it.
Mahmūd Sa‘īd Mamdūh writes in Raf‘-ul-minārah (p.225):
“The tradition, being narrated from different quarters, transformed itself from a weak tradition into a sound one which the Muslims have invariably followed.”
The traditions prove that it is quite compatible both with the will of Allāh and the Prophet (صلى الله عليه وآله وسلم) to seek help from other creatures and to help others in their hour of trouble and distress whenever they beseech you for help. So when Allāh and the Prophet (صلى الله عليه وآله وسلم) have approved it, who are we to disapprove it, and to label it as a form of disbelief and condemn it. The point to be noted here is that these verses and traditions are not only a justification for beseeching help from others; they are in the nature of commands and therefore, like other commands, they should be strictly followed by all the believers. Those who not only disregard them but also condemn them as self-fabricated innovations are automatically out of the fold of Islam.
. Tirmidhī transmitted it in al-Jāmi‘-us-Sahīh, b. of sifat-ul-qiyāmah (the description of the Day of Judgement) ch.59 (4:667#2516) and graded it hasan (fair) sahīh (sound). Ahmad bin Hambal narrated it in his Musnad (1:293, 303, 307); Tabarānī, al-Mu‘jam-ul-kabīr 12:184-5#12988-9); Bayhaqī, Shu‘ab-ul-īmān (1:217#195); Ibn-us-Sunnī, ‘Amal-ul-yawm wal-laylah (p.136#419); and Mizzī in Tuhfat-ul-ashrāf bi-ma‘rifat-il-atrāf (4:382#5415).
. Qur’ān (an-Nahl, the Bee) 16:43.
. Muslim narrated it in his as-Sahīh, b. of salāt, (prayer) ch.43 (1:353#226/489); Abū Dāwūd, Sunan, b. of salāt, 2:35 (#1320); Nasā’ī, Sunan, b. of iftitāh (opening) 2:227-8; Ahmad bin Hambal, Musnad (4:59); Bayhaqī, as-Sunan-ul-kubrā (2:486); Tabarānī, al-Mu‘jam-ul-kabīr (5:56#4570); Baghawī, Sharh-us-sunnah (3:149#655); Mundhirī, at-Targhīb wat-tarhīb (1:249); Khatīb Tabrīzī, Mishkāt-ul-masābīh, b. of salāt (prayer) ch.14 (1:271#896); Haythamī, Majma‘-uz-zawā’id (2:249); Mullā ‘Alī Qārī, Mirqāt-ul-mafātīh sharh Mishkāt-ul-masābīh (2:323); and ‘Alī al-Hindī in Kanz-ul-‘ummāl (7:306#19006).
. Qur’ān (al-Baqarah, the Cow) 2:145.
. Qur’ān (al-Anfāl, Spoils of war) 8:60.
. Qur’ān (al-Kahf, the Cave) 18:95.
. Haythamī narrates it in Majma‘-uz-zawā’id (10:132) and says that its men are trustworthy.
. Bukhārī narrated it in his as-Sahīh, b. of mazālim (oppressions) ch.4 (2:863#2310), b. of ikrāh (coercion) ch.7 (6:2550#6551); Muslim, as-Sahīh, b. of birr was-silah wal-ādāb (virtue, joining of the ties of relationship and good manners) ch.15 (4:1996#58/2580); Tirmidhī, al-Jāmi‘-us-sahīh, b. of hudūd, ch.3 (4:35#1426); Abū Dāwūd, Sunan, b. of adab (good manners) 4:273 (#4893); Ahmad bin Hambal, Musnad (2:91, 4:104); Bayhaqī, as-Sunan-ul-kubrā (6:94, 201; 8:330), Shu‘ab-ul-īmān (6:104#7614); Tabarānī, al-Mu‘jam-ul-kabīr (12:222#13137); Baghawī, Sharh-us-sunnah (13:98#3518); Mundhirī, at-Targhīb wat-tarhīb (3:389); ‘Asqalānī, Fath-ul-bārī (5:97; 12:323); and ‘Alī al-Hindī in Kanz-ul-‘ummāl (6:444#16463).
. Muslim narrated it in his as-Sahīh, b. of dhikr wad-du‘ā’ wat-tawbah wal-istighfār (remembering (Allāh), invocation, repentance and seeking forgiveness) ch.11 (4:2074#38/2699); Tirmidhī, al-Jāmi‘-us-sahīh, b. of hudūd, ch.3 (4:34#1425), b. of birr was-silah (virtue and joining of the ties of relationship) ch.19 (4:326#1930), b. of qirā’āt (recitations) ch.12 (5:195#2945); Abū Dāwūd, Sunan, b. of adab (good manners) 4:287 (#4946); Ibn Mājah, Sunan, al-muqaddimah (preface) ch.17 (1:82#225); Ahmad bin Hambal, Musnad (2:252, 274, 500, 514); Ibn Abī Shaybah, al-Musannaf (9:85,86#6617-8); Ibn Hibbān, as-Sahīh (2:293#534); Baghawī, Sharh-us-Sunnah (1:273# 127); Abū Nu‘aym, Hilyat-ul-awliyā’ wa tabaqāt-ul-asfiyā’ (8:119); and Mundhirī in at-Targhīb wat-tarhīb (3:390).
. Hākim narrated it in al-Mustadrak (4:270). Haythamī transmitted it with different words in his Majma‘-uz-zawā’id (8:192) and said, “Tabarānī narrated it in al-Mu‘jam-ul-awsat (8:160#7322) and its chain of authorities is excellent (isnāduhū jayyid).” Mundhirī also narrated it in at-Targhīb wat-tarhīb (3:391).
. Haythamī narrated it in Majma‘-uz-zawā’id (8:192); and Mundhirī in at-Targhīb wat-tarhīb (3:390).
. Tabarānī narrated it in al-Mu‘jam-ul-awsat (9:161#8346); Mundhirī, at-Targhīb wat-tarhīb (3:390); and Haythamī in Majma‘-uz-zawā’id (8:192).
. Tabarānī narrated it in al-Mu‘jam-ul-kabīr (10:217#10518); Abū Ya‘lā, Musnad (9:177); Ibn-us-Sunnī, ‘Amal-ul-yawm wal-laylah (p.162#502); Haythamī, Majma‘-uz-zawā’id (10:132); and ‘Asqalānī in al-Matālib-ul-‘āliyah (3:239#3375).