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Saturday, November 17, 2012

Second objection: Appeal for help is a form of disbelief in supernatural matters

Second objection: Appeal for help is a form of disbelief in supernatural matters

This objection is based on a particular division. Mattes are generally divided into two categories on the basis of causes:
  1. Ordinary matters
  2. Extraordinary matters
According to this division, it is valid to seek the help of others in ordinary matters because they fall under natural causes but it is invalid in extraordinary matters because they fall under supernatural causes and therefore is a form of disbelief. Matters of cause-and-effect are generally handled on this level, but if this pattern is discarded and appeal is made through other causes, it is called appeal for help through supernatural causes, and if reliance is made only on cause-and-effect, it is called appeal for help through natural causes. The means for help adopted in this case are generally compatible with the matters for whom help is being implored. It should be kept in mind that in their opinion it is appeal for help through natural causes to cooperate with one another in worldly matters, and therefore it is a valid act as Allāh says:
And help one another in (acts of) righteousness and piety.[13]
          Though they treat appeal for help through natural causes in ordinary matters as a valid act, they deny its validity in extraordinary matters.

Intellectual settlement of the objection

First point: The division into appeal for help through natural and supernatural causes (relating to ordinary and extraordinary matters) declares the latter as an invalid act, while the holy Qur’ān makes no reference to this distinction tending to justify one and condemn the other. This is a self-fabricated division and is the result of specious logic and flawed reasoning. No Qur’ānic verse can be cited to support this division.
          We should also keep in mind that extraordinary matters are engineered by factors which can be explained by some level of reasoning. But, with the exception of kun fayakūn (be! and it is) no event is motivated by supernatural causes. Since the causes of some phenomena are not apparently known to us, we tend to explain them through supernatural causes.
Second point: The verse in sūrah al-Fātihah, which is regarded as the fundamental link in their reasoning, makes no mention of the causes under which this division has been forged, while the words iyyāka nasta’īnu (we seek help only from You) are being used in the absolute sense. The rule is that the absolute has a continuous sway in its area of application, that is, the absolute cannot tolerate any fluctuation in its range of reference. This is what fundamentally differentiates the absolute from the relative, the real from the contingent, the categorical from the conditional. Therefore we cannot clamp on it self-invented meanings. We cannot say: ‘O Allāh! We seek Your help only in extraordinary or supernatural matters because no one else except You can help us in these matters. As far as ordinary or worldly matters are concerned, we have no need to seek Your help because there are countless other sources which could be tapped for the acquisition of help.’ A division on these lines is nothing but a reflection of their lack of knowledge and stupidity and is a one-way ticket to disbelief. Thus their own perverse reasoning boomerangs on them; they themselves are guilty of the disbelief of which they have accused others.
Third point: All division and classification presuppose differentiation. But the question is that in the case of iyyāka nasta‘īnu there is no need for such differentiation as the absolute is categorical and indivisible. Any effort to divide it is self-frustrating. They have divided it despite the glaringly obvious fact that it is both unjustified and unwarranted. Besides, it clearly reveals that their own thesis is marked by an inherent contradiction as they justify appeal for help through natural causes while denying it through supernatural causes. It is, in fact, nothing but a highly distorted reflection of their own squint-eyed vision. The division can be vindicated only if we think of the dichotomy in terms of real help and derivative help, which in reality, amounts to no division. If all help derives from the absolute, then the power of the derivative source of help is only contingent, and it acquires substance only through the willingness of the real helper. Thus the only sensible way is in terms of real and derivative and not whether one kind of appeal for help is justified  and the other is unjustified.
In the words of iyyāka nasta‘īnu the creature is imploring Allāh. He is, in fact, saying: ‘O Allāh! No matter which external source we tap for the relief of our immediate need, we do not regard this source of relief and help as the real helper. We treat only You as the true and real Helper because, if Your support and willingness is lacking and if Your consent is missing, no one else has the power to help us out of our trouble.’ This is the unwavering core of our faith whether we are recovering through the medicine of a doctor or through the supplication of a saint; we do not consider them the real helpers. Therefore in any case and under all circumstances, Allāh alone is our real Helper because the assistance of all others is predicative, that is, it is predicated only on Allāh’s pleasure and willingness. For us both the medicine and the supplication, the doctor and the saint, are only means and this is their only significance because Allāh alone is the real Helper.
Fourth point: In some cases, however, it appeals to our common sense to uphold the division between natural causes and supernatural causes, and its relevance is found only in terms of their application and not on the basis of their inherent differentiation. Some acts are resolved by natural means while a supernatural solution has to be explored for other acts. The causes are present in both cases. The only difference is that in the case of natural acts, the causes are visible while in the case of supernatural acts the causes are generally invisible. The natural causes may be called external and material while the supernatural causes may be called internal and spiritual, and this classification sounds more appropriate. Though material causes are discarded in the case of supernatural acts, their presence, however, cannot be denied. It means that acts are not supernatural in the absolute sense. The only difference is that the causes of natural acts are external which are visible to the common man or perceivable by him, while the causes of supernatural acts, on account of their non-material complexion, are not visible to the common eye.
          When the prophets, the saints, the pious people or any other individual is implored for help within the scope of the world of cause-and-effect, the words used as a means of help will possess real meaning but even in this case the real helper will be Allāh alone. But when help is being implored in a world beyond cause-and-effect, the words used for help will have only derivative value because even in this situation the real helper is Allāh alone, that is, in both cases, the real meaning is lacking. The only difference is that the use of words in the natural context was based on fact while in the supernatural context, the entertainment of real meaning was objectionable, therefore, the word itself was shorn of real meaning. In short, both in terms of semantics and faith, the word real is exclusively reserved for Allāh.

Division between real and derivative is inevitable

A group, who denies the relevance of beseeching help from any quarter besides Allāh, however, believes that it is valid in natural matters, while there is no need to stress its real and derivative components. Now we would like to ask these people that if appeal for help through natural means and the division between the real and the derivative is disacknowledged, then who will be the real helper in natural matters? Is the real helper the doctor who is prescribing medical treatment for the patient or Allāh? If the answer is that even in worldly affairs the real helper is Allāh, then why should we retain the distinction between the natural and the supernatural means or sources of help? Why should it be allowed through the operation of natural causes and declared a kind of disbelief when it operates through supernatural causes? How is it possible to resolve the contradiction between belief in Allāh as the true helper and seeking help from others besides Allāh, without acknowledging the distinction between the real and the derivative? The Qur’ān says:
And our Lord is infinitely Merciful and His help alone is sought against the (vexing) words (O non-believers,) you utter.[14]
          On the other hand, if the answer is that in ordinary matters the true helper is not Allāh but man, it creates duality, which is a negation of belief that the helper in ordinary matters is the creature but the helper in extraordinary matters is the Creator. On the basis of this duality, if we admit the creature as the true helper, it will amount to the same kind of disbelief as was practised by the infidels of Makkah that in ordinary affairs they relied on men as helpers and in other affairs beseeched Allāh for help. If it is admitted that Allāh is also the Helper in worldly affairs, then how is it correct to seek the help of someone who is not-God.
          The conclusive argument is that Allāh is the only Helper even in ordinary matters, and help from the creatures is implored only in the derivative sense, not in the real sense ¾ then the question arises if beseeching others for help besides Allāh in ordinary matters is valid where it is only derivative, then how can it be declared invalid in extraordinary matters where its derivative status is established beyond doubt. The contradiction is simply incomprehensible.

Justification of help from derivative source in supernatural matters

Reliance on the derivative source of help in supernatural matters is justified in the sense that, though apparently, the source is other than God, actually it is God whose help is being coveted. In addition, the word help is used in its derivative sense at many places in the Holy Qur’ān. The frequency with which it is used is amazing. In the following pages, a few examples from the Qur’ān will be given to wash out the misconception in the minds of the believers and to bring home to them the dire consequences if the distinction between the real and the derivative is blotted out:

Allegation of disbelief against Jibrīl (عليه السلام)?

When Jibrīl (عليه السلام), with Allāh’s consent, appeared before Maryam (Mary) in the shape of a human being to convey to her the news of the birth of ‘Īsā (عليه السلام), he said:
I have only been sent by your Lord. (I have come because) I should bless you with a pure son.[15]
          In this Qur’ānic verse the statement by Jibrīl (عليه السلام) borders on the supernatural because the birth of a son without marital consummation is impossible in the world of cause-and-effect, and, to convey the news of the birth of a son to a chaste, unmarried woman is a graphic Qur’ānic illustration of help in supernatural matters, which is simply inconceivable without the interpolation of material causes.
          The point to be noted is that if a person beseeches a saint or one of Allāh’s favourites for help only as a means, some of our ignorant friends instantly clamp on him the allegation of disbelief, while if some non-God ¾ Jibrīl(عليه السلام) ¾ says, “I bless you with a pure son,” and Allāh Himself mentions it in the holy Qur’ān, why don’t they call it disbelief because both situations are substantially identical? In the case of beseeching help the petitioner is essentially a human being and remains so under all the circumstances, but the statement “I bless you with a pure son” is an encroachment on the divine powers if it is not interpreted derivatively; if it is interpreted in the real sense, then the angel acquires the status of God which is nothing but disbelief. To bless someone with a child is a divine act and the duty of a creature is only to seek His blessing. If a person’s act of beseeching help from non-Allāh is an act of disbelief, then the statement by a non-Allāh that “I bless you with a pure son” amounts to even a higher form of disbelief. The question is that Jibrīl (عليه السلام) did not commit disbelief despite his statement apparently bordering on disbelief; rather his statement proved truthful. Then how could we vindicate his statement that apparently seemed to defy the powers of divinity, as nobody has dared call him (may God forbid) a disbeliever?
Though the statement, “I bless you with a pure son,” apparently belongs to Jibrīl (عليه السلام), but the “son” actually refers to the son Allāh is about to bless her with, and the angel is only a cause, a means for the act which is, in essence, divine. Thus the Qur’ānic verse (19:19) embodies only an act of help which is really an act of intermediation only and is a superb example of derivative help furnished by the Qur’ān itself.
          Some people raise objection against the translation of the verse. They opine that the subject of the verb li-ahaba (I should bless) is Allāh Himself and Jibrīl (عليه السلام) said it reportedly. While in another recitation of the verse the verb is li-yahaba (He (Allāh) should bless).
          The deniers accept these two translations because they cater to their temperament and pamper their mood. And they reject the preferred one that is in the holy Qur’ān and recited accordingly. So what hindrance remains there to accept the preponderant recitation and meaning of the verse that has also been narrated by the exegetes of great repute? The same meaning that we narrated is printed in the translation of the holy Qur’ān in Urdu published by Shāh Fahad Qur’ān Karīm Complex, Saudi Arabia.

Allegation of disbelief against ‘Īsā (عليه السلام)?

When ‘Īsā (عليه السلام) articulated the divine truth publicly and tried to invite the members of his community to divine unity and dissuade them from committing disbelief, he showed a number of miracles to them. His invitation has been phrased in the holy Qur’ān in these words:
Surely, I have come to you, with a sign from your Lord that I make for you, out of clay, the (figure of a) bird, and breathe into it and it becomes instantly a flying bird by God’s leave. And I heal those born blind, and the lepers, and I quicken the dead by God’s leave, and I declare to you (all) that you eat, and that you store in your houses. Surely in that there is a sign for you if you are believers.[16]
          This Qur’ānic verse relates five miracles performed by ‘Īsā (عليه السلام):
  1. to make a flying bird out of clay
  2. to heal a person who is born blind
  3. to heal leprosy
  4. to quicken the dead
  5. to reveal news from the unseen
Allāh had blessed ‘Īsā (عليه السلام) with five miracles which he used to openly declare his faith and which have been endorsed by God Himself in the Holy Qur’ān. In this Qur’ānic verse, ‘Īsā (عليه السلام) says: ‘I have come to you, with a sign from your Lord that I make for you, out of clay, the (figure of a) bird.’ The word akhluqu (I create) has been used instead of the word aj‘alu (I make). A little reflection will show you that the whole debate revolves around the distinction between real and derivative, the power that is self-generated and the power that is generated by the other’s will, the non-contingent and the contingent.
In this Qur’ānic verse, the real helper is not ‘Īsā (عليه السلام), but Allāh Himself. The debate is, in fact, verbal because the words have been used not in their essential meaning, but only in their borrowed sense. Though the mode of address is vocative, the real Helper is Allāh Himself and what the Prophet (عليه السلام) is performing has the divine sanction behind it. This is a fine example of the verbal distinction between the real and the non-real furnished by the Qur’ān.
One can say that the entire episode relates to the miracle performed by ‘Īsā (عليه السلام) and a miracle is irrelevant to a discussion of appeal for help. The simple answer is that “the miracle is the healing of the sick and not the arrogation of divine powers to himself.” The fact is that the supernatural acts performed by the Prophet (عليه السلام) possess only a derivative meaning because both disease and its recovery are from Allāh. When it is an immutable fact that Allāh alone heals a leper and a person who is born blind, then why did Īsā (عليه السلام) say, “I heal.” In principle, he should have said that ‘though I cast my hand over a leper and a blind person, I do not heal them; it is, in fact, Allāh who heals them.’ It would not have reduced the impact of the miracle in any sense but he only derivatively arrogated it to himself.
          The fourth statement he made was “And I quicken the dead, by God’s leave.” This is really an extreme case. He is not saying: ‘you bring a dead person, then I shall pray to Allāh and He, on account of my prayer, shall bring him to life.’ But he said, “I bring the dead to life by God’s leave.” It means that the use of words and the specific mode of address are only derivatively attributed to the creature, and not in the real sense. It is quite valid in the case of ‘Īsā (عليه السلام) because it is being used only in a reflective sense through the words bi-idhn Allāh (by God’s leave) he is declaring only Allāh as the true Helper.
          The fifth statement made by him says, “And I declare to you (all) that you eat, and that you store in your houses.” He does not say that he is doing so because he has been informed by God; on the other hand, he says, “I give you the news.” These words clearly embody an aspect of knowledge of the unseen because information about what someone has eaten falls within the realm of the unseen and is known to Allāh alone. ‘Īsā (عليه السلام) does not say, “God informs me,” though the fact is that it is Allāh Who is informing him but he has not expressed it in his words and has only derivatively attributed it to himself which clearly reveals that the knowledge of the unseen can be derivatively claimed by non-Allāh, and it is valid otherwise a Messenger of Allāh would never have committed such an act.
          The statement publicly made by ‘Īsā (عليه السلام) must border on disbelief in the eyes of our modern scholars who do not tire of trumpeting their faith in divine unity. Such a mode of thinking will not even exempt the prophets from the stigma of disbelief. No sane believer will subscribe to their distorted point of view because to accuse the prophets of disbelief is in itself a kind of disbelief. Therefore, this trend of speculation may prove hazardous for the entire world of Islam as it will not even spare the prophets who devoted their lives to win Allāh’s pleasure and favour.

Allegation of disbelief against Allāh?

The specific verse of sūrah Āl ‘Imrān records the words uttered by ‘Īsā (عليه السلام), “I bring the dead to life by God’s leave and I breathe life into the figures of birds made out of clay, etc,” but in the following verse, Allāh Himself is supporting his words:
And when you, by My leave, made (the figure) like that of a bird out of kneaded clay. [17]
          Allāh has not declared: ‘O ‘Īsā! I made for you birds of clay and brought them to life, for you I gave sight to the persons born blind and healed the lepers.’ Allāh could have done so for the sake of His favourites because He knew that nothing could shake them in their belief in Him.
It is an admitted fact that breathing life into something and making it alive is exclusively an act of the Creator of the universe. But for ‘Īsā (عليه السلام) He Himself declared:
          Then you breathed into it, so (the figure) became a bird by My leave, and when you healed the persons born blind and the lepers by My leave, and when you by My leave made the dead (alive by) taking them out (of their graves and) made them (stand up).[18]
The verse makes it clear that these words are only derivatively applied to non-Allāh and this mode of application is valid. These words were uttered by Allāh Himself and were also used by the prophets though there was no compulsion for them to make use of such words. Their derivative use in the Holy Qur’ān by Allāh is not only the greatest justification of their delegated meaning but is also an attestation of their validity.
          This discussion also furnishes a specific code for internal and external causes, that is, in supernatural causes, even though the words are directly attributed to the creature, the real driving force behind these words is Allāh Himself because He is the only real Helper and supporter.

[13].  Qur’ān (al-Mā’idah, the Feast) 5:2.
[14].  Qur’ān (al-Ambiyā’, the Prophets) 21:112.
[15].  Qur’ān (Maryam, Mary) 19:19.
[16].  Qur’ān (Āl ‘Imrān, the Family of ‘Imrān) 3:49.
[17].  Qur’ān (al-Mā’idah, the Feast) 5:110.
[18].  Qur’ān (al-Mā’idah, the Feast) 5:110.