Charms and the spread of Islam

Q91 :You have spoken in the past about charms and pronounced them as a form of polytheism. However, in our homeland, we find that Islam was spread by the great Sufis like Khawaja Moinuddin Chishtie, Nizamuddin Aulia and others. These were, no doubt, the true believers in Allah and the Prophet Muhammad (peace be upon him). They adopted the way of Tareeka to spread Islam. When needy people came to them with their personal problems, they provided them with charms, explaining the facts that such charms contained verses from the Qur'an and the name of Allah. People found them effective and were influenced by the power of the name of Allah and the words of the Qur'an. As a result, they embraced Islam. Millions of people in our homeland owe the fact that they are Muslims to this method which induced their forefathers to embrace Islam. In view of the above, could you please explain to what extent is this correct? How could the ways of Tareeka and Sharee'ah concerning charms be reconciled?

A91 : I am not very familiar with the history of the spread of Islam in your part of the world. Indeed, you will find that this is a particularly weak area in the curricula of many institutes which teach Islamic studies. However, I have recently asked an authority on this particular subject, Maulana Abul Hassan Ali Nadwi, and he tells me that Khawaja Moinuddin Chishtie was a dedicated servant of Islam who spread its message in all parts of India and that countless people embraced Islam through his efforts. He concentrated his efforts on teaching people to renounce the temptation of this world and concentrate on repentance and purification of their souls through night worship, fasting and devotion. In volume II of his priceless book, Saviors of Islamic Spirit, Sheikh Nadwi devotes a very long chapter on Nizamuddin Aulia in which he illustrates the type of work undertaken by this [noble] guide [of Islam]. He quotes from the work of celebrated historians of that age, Ziauddin Barni that "Sheikh-ul-Islam Nizamuddin" encouraged the sinners to repent on their sins; and allowed all, the rich and the poor, the king and the slave, the learned and the illiterate, to cleanse their souls through his spiritual guidance. Everyone who pledged allegiance to the Sheikh considered himself spiritually attached to him and gave up many of his vices. If anybody ever committed a sin, the Sheikh allowed him to offer penitence. Thus, all those who took the pledge to walk along the passage of purity were saved from many vices and were gradually led, through emulation of the Sheikh-ul-Islam, to prayers. Every man and woman, whether lean in years or bent with age, regularly offered obligatory prayers and vied with each other in the performance of voluntary devotions. From the city to Ghiyaspur, people had made arrangements for the wayfarers to take rest and offer their prayers. Machinations of the devil were eschewed by the people who took more interest in ascertaining the number of rak'ahs performed on different occasions and the chapters of the Qur'an recited to them by their spiritual mentors. Numerous people have enthusiastically taken to memorize the Qur'an. Sheikh Nadwi devotes 110 pages to the history of Nizamuddin Aulia. At no point, does he mention that Aulia resorted to giving charms to people in order to prove the message of Islam. Had he done so, he would not have achieved the great results with which he was blessed. That is because the writing, using or wearing of a charm is forbidden in Islam. Allah is in no need of proving the power of His name in such a primitive method. Indeed, His power is manifest to everyone who uses his mind. We can see its effects in everything around us. The Qur'an is a cure, as Allah has described it. However, we do not get such benefits from the Qur'an by simply writing down some of its verses and attaching them to our clothes or to our bodies. The Qur'an cures us from doubts and gives us reassurance when we carefully contemplate the meaning of its verses and understand its message. What those two learned gentlemen did was to concentrate on the purification of the soul through prayer and devotion. It is not difficult to understand why they had such a wide appeal. Such a devotion meets a real need in the constitution of human beings, the needs of the spirit. Moreover, the message of Islam gives the human mind a consistent and logical explanation of human existence and the purpose of human life. It helps men understand the nature of Allah, the world and their own nature. When you add this to the spiritual elevation advocated by the two Sheikhs, no wonder that the results of their efforts were tremendous. I can say without hesitation, on the basis of what I have learned from Maulana Nadwi that there is no truth in what you say about the use of charms by these people. They appear to have acquired a good standard of knowledge of Islam. As such, they cannot challenge the Prophet's teachings and earn any favor with Allah. Devoted to the cause of Islam, as they were, they would have clearly abided by its teachings. You speak of the variance between Tareeka and Sharee'ah, I can tell you that any Tareeka, or method, which is not subject to the laws and rules of Sharee'ah is totally unacceptable. If a particular Tareeka allows the use of charms, then it is false and any one who follows it is plainly in error. Tareeka is simply a method of self purification, devotion and renunciation of worldly temptation. All that must be governed by the rules of Islamic law. If it is not, then it indulges into excesses which Islam rejects. When we realize that the Prophet Muhammad (peace be upon him) has forbidden the use of charms, then we have to reject them and reject any teacher who advocates their use. What we have to realize is that a great deal of distortion has crept into the teachings and heritage of people like Moinuddin Chishtie and Nizamuddin Aulia. For example, you have the celebration known as "Urs" organized annually at the grave of Khawaja Moinuddin Chishtie. Scholars of repute in your home country, such as Sheikh Nadwi, denounce these practices. We cannot blame Khawaja Moinuddin Chishtie for what generations of ignorant people have invented and continued to practice at his grave. We blame those who have introduced such practices, because they are un-Islamic. We take from the teachings of any person only what is in total agreement with the Qur'an and Sunnah. Whatever does not seem to have sound basis in the Qur'an and the Sunnah, we simply ignore.

Our Dialogue ( Source : Arab News - Jeddah )