Supplication: Through an intermediary

Q630 :In my home country, there are tombs of dead scholars who are considered to be in a favoured position with Allah. People visit their graves to request them to recommend to Allah to accomplish any need or to solve any problem which they may have. Recently, I objected to this practice when it was suggested by a member of my family. However, a relative has given me the reply: "From my experience of religious activists and company with scholars and religious intellectuals, I believe that such past devouts get a special position given them by Allah. We should not ask them to give us anything, but rather ask them to recommend to Allah to grant our wishes. On the basis of my Islamic studies and company of Islamic intellectuals I believe in media through whom Allah accomplishes what He wants.That is analogous to what happens in practice, when you seek the help of a doctor to get treatment for an illness, and when you use your hand to eat. The doctor and the hand are media through which Allah's will is accomplished. Similarly, Allah's revelations were given to the Prophet through the medium of Gabriel, the angel. Likewise those past devouts are a medium to grant us our wishes. It is easy for Allah to cure our illness without the help of a doctor, in the same way as He could have given His revelations to the Prophet without using an angel. If we were to ask those devouts to accomplish something, then that is a form of polytheism, but we are asking them to recommend to Allah to accomplish what we wish." As a result of this argument, I got very confused. I will be grateful if you comment on this and explain what is the actual role of such devouts.

A630 : What I find intriguing in your relative's argument is the fact that he tries to give it a scholarly colour, attributing it to his studies and companionship with scholars. He, however, does not support his argument with any verse from the Qur'an or any Hadith of the Prophet. As you realize, in all religious matters, the source of argument must be derived from the Qur'an and Hadith. Your relative speaks of his companionship with scholars, but does he really mean scholars in the sense that these people have studied Islam in depth and achieve a position of renown in Islamic scholarship? If so, he should have referred you to their works which would have provided a more convincing answer. He does not, however, refer you to any such works. Instead, he supports his argument with his own personal experience. Can somebody else's experience be sound basis for the formulation of our beliefs? I find that in conflict with the Islamic approach. It is indeed the Christian way of thinking. Christians always speak about saying their experience with others in order to preach their faith. But your experience can never give me the same feelings as yours or help me arrive at the same conclusions. Furthermore, when you realize that the same experience can have totally different effects on people, you are bound to conclude that experience is not sufficient to propagate beliefs. In Islam, we have the fundamentals of our faith clearly stated in the Qur'an and elaborated and stressed by the Prophet. When we want to explain our faith to someone, we resort to the Qur'an and the sunnah and we may later supplement the principle with examples of what we may have experienced. The examples presented by your relative are of little value. What he implies is that a medium is essential for the accomplishment of any task, even eating. He considers that using our hands is such a medium That is not true. The basic thing in human life is that things come into being as a result of effort. No one can satisfy his hunger without doing the action of eating. That fits perfectly with the concept of action and reward in the hereafter. A person who makes the effort of eating gets the necessary nourishment and survives. Similarly, the one who takes the trouble of doing good things receives reward in the hereafter. The more conscientious he is in doing his Islamic duties, the close he draws to Allah and the sooner his wishes are granted. That is part of his reward in this life. According to your friend, the mere companionship of a devout person achieves similar results. He forgets that such company does not involve any action. In actual fact, he is requesting those devouts to intercede on his behalf. From another point of view, a doctor is not the medium of curing illnesses. Otherwise, you would have had to go to the doctor for any complaint, even a headache. When you have a headache, you take a couple of pain killer tablets. A short while later, your headache disappears. Had your relative spoken of medicines, rather than medical people as the agent of cure, his argument might have been more consistent. To him doctor is the medium, which is not true. As for the medium of sending down divine revelations, you must not forget that a revelation is a very unique experience. It cannot be compared to ordinary human activities. What we have to consider now is whether such devouts have any role to play after their death. Let us first consider: how does a person acquire this position after his death and how do we know it? If the answer to this question is that his action in his life elevate him to such a position, then we are appointing ourselves as judges of people. We must not forget that Allah alone is the judge, because He knows every action and what was in the person's mind before embarking on such an action. . When the Prophet heard one woman of his own household saying about a person who had just passed away: He is not in a happier place than this life, the Prophet asked her point blank: "How do you know? I am Allah's Messenger and I do not know what He will do to me in the hereafter."Judgement on people's lives and actions is something that Allah has reserved for Himself.How can we claim for certain that any person had the right intention behind every single one of actions? Until we attain that sort of certainty, we cannot judge the fate of others. When people visit the grave of someone in order to ask him, or his spirit, to recommend to Allah to grant us wishes, do they think that the dead person recognizes them, or hears them, or knows the likely results of granting their wishes? If we answer in the affirmative, then we are claiming that the dead person is given something superior to what living people have. Otherwise, on what basis would he recommend to Allah to grant us our wishes? Furthermore, what need is there for such recommendation? Is it needed by Allah or by ourselves? Do not people realize that Allah knows everything about them? If they do their supplications to Him directly and earnestly, believing that He alone can grant their wishes then what use is the recommendation of the dead people. Can anyone claim that Allah needs such a recommendation in order to decide whom He should help? To entertain such a thought even for the briefest of moments is a great affront to Allah. Allah tells us in the Qur'an: " Pray to me and I will answer your prayers." When we pray to Allah to do something for us, we are actually declaring that He is our Lord and the Lord of all worlds. This declaration , when meant seriously and honestly, is sufficient to get our prayers answered. Indeed, Allah answers the prayers of those who do not believe in Him, if they turn to him in sincerity. This is because of the fact that at the moment when they pray to Him, they make a declaration of recognition of his Lordship. This being the case, what use is an intermediary? From another point of view, those devout people are dead. Let us not forget the authentic Hadith which tell us :"When a human being dies, all his actions come to an absolute end except in one of three ways: a continuous act of charity, a useful contribution to knowledge or a dutiful child who prays for him. "If you examine this Hadith carefully, you realize that we are in a position to benefit the dead by praying for them, while they are in no position to benefit us. There is no question about it. When a person visits a tomb of a dead person and asks the deceased to intercede with Allah on his behalf, he is guilty of associating partners with Allah. He is making that dead person a deity, on a junior or senior level. That cannot be countenanced in any way. That is direct opposition to the teachings of the Prophet who has taught us to worship Allah alone and to purge our thoughts, concepts and practices of all traces of polytheism.

Our Dialogue ( Source : Arab News - Jeddah )