As an introduction, it must be made clear that there are indeed fine details on the subject of calling on someone other than Allah. Of course, not every call (نداء) directed to someone other than Allah is shirk (polytheism) in and of itself.
The learned scholars of Ahlus-Sunnah wa al-Athar have never made such a claim, on the contrary, on the famous Salafi website Islamqa we read:
If a person says “Yaa Muhammad, Yaa ‘Ali,” it may be understood in two ways.1. That it is bringing to mind the one mentioned in this manner, without asking him for anything, such as if he says “Yaa Muhammad” then falls silent, or he says “Yaa Muhammad sall-Allahu ‘alayk (O Muhammad, may Allah send blessings upon you).” This is not shirk, because it does not involve calling upon someone other than Allah, may He be exalted.
Shaykh al-Islam Ibn Taymiyyah (may Allah have mercy on him) said: Saying “Yaa Muhammad, Yaa Nabiy Allah (O Muhammad, O Prophet of Allah)” and the like is a call aimed at bringing to mind the person who is mentioned, like when the worshipper says in the prayer “As-salaamu ‘alayka ayyuha’n-Nabiyyu wa rahmat-Allahi wa barakaatuhu (Peace be upon you, O Prophet, and the mercy of Allah and His blessings). People do this a great deal, addressing someone in their minds, even though that person is not present to hear what is said. End quote from Iqtidaa’ as-Siraat al-Mustaqeem li Mukhaalifat Ashaab al-Jaheem (2/319).
Tawassul is permissible and has been performed and taught by the Prophet (ﷺ), and the Companions and the Salaf, however, unlike misguided people claim, in Islam, we don’t pray to anyone or anything other than Allah under the pretext of ‘intercession’ (Tawassul). This is a misuse of Tawassul.
There is Islamic legitimate Tawassul and there is satanic unlawful Tawassul. No ‘Wahhabi’ opposes the shar’i (Islamic) types of Tawassul which is to ask Allah (alone) in Du’a for things by the one’s love for the Prophet, Awliya`, etc. and good actions (that are created, however, they are for Allah alone).
What is rejected and fought against is the polytheistic type of Tawassul by heretical groups who have mistaken Islam for Catholicism (o saint so-and-so aid me, etc.).
Remembering the deceased VS Invoking/Calling on the deceased
Indeed, there is a fine line between Tawhid (monotheism) and Shirk (polytheism), no learned ‘Wahhabi’ has ever claimed that remembering a beloved deceased one out loud equates to the greatest sin i.e. associating partners with God/Allah. This would be an absurd claim and in fact, proof that the person who charges others with Shirk (on the basis of such wrong premises) does himself not understand what Shirk and Tawhid and ‘Ibadah (worship) is.
For starters, ya (or yā) can be translated to ‘O; hey; you’. It is a vocative particle preceding a noun used in direct address, only rarely omitted in such contexts. It is important to note that it is used figuratively and literally.
Therefore, the call ‘Ya Muhammad’ (or any other person for that matter) is in and of itself is unproblematic, depending on the context. However, this is only the case if it is uttered as a form of expression or supplication for (not to) someone as in ‘Peace be upon you, o ‘Umar al-Faruq’ (السلام عليك يا عمر الفاروق) or you, o ‘Ali ibn Abi Talib (السلام عليك يا علي بن أبي طالب), etc. In both cases, one is praying to Allah alone.
The Arabs (and other nations) mention people whom they love and adore in times of pain and joy, however, they (except the polytheists among them like the Christians and other than them) do not beseech them and ask them for their needs i.e. they do not pray to them and believe that their deceased beloved ones can hear all their prayers and respond to them. These are specific qualities of Allah that the Christians, Rafidah, and other than them gave to their saints/Imams under the pretext of ‘Tawassul/with the permission of God’.
In Saudi Arabia, for example, ‘Ya Muḥammad’ is used to address a stranger (male) in order to begin a conversation. It is considered one of the polite and respectful ways to address a stranger, as Muhammad is considered as the most respectful name anyone can be called, hence its popularity among Muslims worldwide.
In poetry (and anashid, qasa`id, etc.) we also find phrases like ‘Ya Rasulallah‘ (يا رسول الله, O Messenger of Allah) or ‘Ya Yumma‘ (يا يما, O mother!), etc. but these are mere expressions and not invocations to other than Allah (except in polytheistic poetry where phrases like ‘al-Madad Ya Rasulallah, al-Madad Ya Jilani‘, etc. occur). These are innocent expressions thus one will not find anybody literally invoking his mother or the Prophet (ﷺ) for his needs and in time of distress.
To simplify it with some examples:
O Messenger of Allah (I love you)! = Expression of love, not Shirk
O (deceased ) mother (I love you)! = Expression of love, not Shirk
O Jesus son of Mary (I love you)! = Expression of love, not Shirk
O Aba Bakr al-Siddiq, o ‘Ali ibn Abi Talib (I love you) = Expression of love, not Shirk
O Messenger of Allah, al-madad (help, aid), cure me, provide for me, etc. = Expression of Shirk, misuse of Tawassul (satanic/shaytani Tawassul)
O (deceased ) mother, al-madad (help, aid), cure me, provide for me, etc. = Expression of Shirk, misuse of Tawassul (satanic/shaytani Tawassul)
O Jesus son of Mary, al-madad (help, aid), cure me, provide for me, etc. = Expression of Shirk, misuse of Tawassul (satanic/shaytani Tawassul)
O Aba Bakr al-Siddiq, o ‘Ali ibn Abi Talib, al-madad (help, aid), cure me, provide for me, etc. = Expression of Shirk, misuse of Tawassul (satanic/shaytani Tawassul)
It is not very difficult to understand, it only requires sincerity and love for Tawhid and the realisation that Islam did not come to replace ‘Ya Jesus, Mary, saints of the Church, etc.’ with ‘Ya Muhammad, Ali, Jilani, Fatimah, Badawi, Husayn, Rifa’i’, etc. The Prophet (ﷺ) did not fight the polytheists for over 20 years in order to tell them to replace the invocation of their favourite set of saints (they did not just call upon inanimate idols, rather they also called upon angels and pious people whom they turned into idols) with the invocation of his Ahlul-Bayt (family) and Awliya.
Many Shia in their desperation even try to justify their literal invocations of the Imams/Ahlul-Bayt with day-to-day statements of the Prophet (ﷺ)!
For example, they will cite some random narration where the Prophet (ﷺ) addressed ‘Ali (Ya ‘Ali) in battle or elsewhere and then based on that they justify their false and polytheistic rituals and claim that since the Prophet (ﷺ) addressed Ali in so-and-so situation, (or asked him somewhere for help), we can do that too by raising our hands in du’a and asking ‘Ali ibn Abi Talib (may Allah be pleased with him) for all our needs. What a shameless, disingenuous, and fallacious comparison.
According to that logic, we can now pray to hypocrites and even ‘Umar ibn al-Khattab since the Prophet (ﷺ) also often addressed them with ‘ya’.
Sadly, the minute some people with diseases in their hearts see the prefix يا before their favourite saint’s name they become euphoric because they are ignorant of the Arabic language.
It is encouraged to address the deceased directly when:
- Visiting graveyards by saying السَّلامُ عَلَيْكُمْ يا أَهْلَ الدِّيَارِ
- Visiting the three famous graves in Madinah we say:
السلام عليك يا نبي الله، السلام عليك يا أبا بكر، السلام عليك يا عمر
- In the Salah when we directly address the Prophet(ﷺ) in our supplication and ask Allah to bless him i.e. pray for him and not him السلام عليك أيها النبي.
None of the statements includes any type of Shirk (polytheism) and there are examples in the Quran where Allah uses this prefix (يا) to address people and things and it would be blasphemy to say He is calling upon them as in invoking/worshipping/making du’ah to them.
For instance, in our daily prayers, we pray for (not to) the Prophet (ﷺ). Bukhaari (831) and Muslim (402) narrated that Ibn Mas’ood said:
‘When we prayed behind the Messenger of Allah (ﷺ), we used to say: Peace (salam) be upon Allah, peace be upon So and so. The Messenger of Allah (ﷺ) said to us one day: “Allah is as-Salam, so when one of you sits to pray, let him say: at-Tahiyyaatu Lillaahi wa’s-salawaatu wa’t-tayyibaat; as-salaamu ‘alayka ayyuha’n-nabiyyu wa rahmat-Allahi wa barakaatuhu; as-salaamu ‘alayna wa ‘ala ‘ibaad-illaah is-saaliheen (All compliments, prayers and good words are due to Allah; peace be upon you, O Prophet, and the mercy of Allah and His blessings; peace be upon us and upon the righteous slaves of Allah)…’
Only an ignoramus would conflate praying for someone (in form of sending salam and salawat) with praying to someone other than Allah. As Muslims we don’t pray to the Prophet (ﷺ), we don’t ask him for help, aid, and our needs (hajat), on the contrary, we pray for him, because despite his greatness, he is nonetheless needy (like all of the creation), thus we ask Allah to bless him (even more) and to raise his rank (even more). As for addressing him (ﷺ) directly: again, we don’t pray to him (asking him for our needs, ‘Ya Ali madad/help’), we directly address Allah alone, thus saying ‘Ya Muhammad’ is just figurative speech and the evidence for that is that the Apostle of Allah taught us that our salams and salawat (not our pleas!) will reach him via an angel:
It was narrated that Ibn Mas’ood (may Allah be pleased with him) said: The Messenger of Allah (ﷺ) said: “Allah has angels who go around on earth, conveying to me the salam of my ummah.” (Narrated by al-Nasa`i, 1282; classed as sahih by al-Albani in Sahih al-Targheeb, 1664)
It was narrated that Abu Hurayrah (may Allah be pleased with him) said: “The Messenger of Allah (ﷺ) said: “Do not take your houses as graves and do not take my grave as a place of festivity (which you visit repeatedly). Send blessings upon me for your greeting will reach me no matter where you are.” (narrated by Abu Dawood, 2042; classed as sahih by al-Albani in Sahih al-Jami`, 7226)
And from the principles (usool) of Islam is that acts of worship are tawqeefi i.e. it is not permissible to worship Allah, may He be exalted, through any act of worship (or belief) unless this act of worship (or belief) is proven in the shar’i texts (Qur’an and Sunnah) to be an act of worship that was prescribed by Allah.
No act of worship or belief can be sanctioned except on the basis of shar’i evidence to that effect. The Messenger of Allah (ﷺ) informed us that salam and salawat of the believers (who pray to Allah alone) will reach him, he did not mention that the distress calls will reach him, so we stop (make tawqeef) where he (ﷺ) stopped.
The deception of the Quburis is that they conflate the permissible call of remembering a beloved one (by expressing emotions and sentiments for a person) that can be found in various cultures and poetry with the act of literally invoking and praying to the saints which is Shirk as du’a is worship, in fact, it is the essence of worship:
Al-Nu’man ibn Bashir reported: The Prophet, peace and blessings be upon him, said, “Supplication (du’a) is worship itself.” Then, the Prophet recited the verse, “Your Lord says: Call upon Me and I will respond to you. Verily, those who disdain My worship will enter Hell in humiliation.” (40:60) (Sunan al-Tirmidhī 3247, Grade: Sahih (authentic) according to Al-Albani)
And in another narration:
Anas ibn Malik reported: The Prophet, peace and blessings be upon him, said, “Supplication is the essence of worship.”
Source: Sunan al-Tirmidhī 3371
Grade: Hasan li ghayrihi (fair due to external evidence) according to Al-Arna’ut
And in the book of Allah we read:
‘And the mosques are for Allah (Alone), so invoke not anyone along with Allah.’
‘Say (O Muhammad ): I invoke only my Lord (Allah Alone), and I associate none as partners along with Him.’
Shubhah (spurious argument): Ibn ‘Umar called on the Prophet (ﷺ) for madad (aid) and cure
The following is the report that is often misused for the justification of the invocation of the saints/Awliya`/Ahlul-Bayt in du’a comes with different wordings, the most authentic version does not include the prefix ‘Ya’, and yes, other versions of Adab al-Mufrad do include the ‘Ya’ (which doesn’t make a difference anyway)’:
أخرج البخاري في الأدب المفرد (1/335) حدثنا أبو نعيم قال حدثنا سفيان عن أبي إسحاق عن عبد الرحمن بن سعد قال : خدرت رجل بن عمر فقال له رجل اذكر أحب الناس إليك فقال محمد 438 باب . قال الشيخ الألباني في التعليق [ ضعيف ] .
[…] Ibn ‘Umar’s foot became numb so a man advised him, “Remember the person whom you love the most!”. Upon hearing this Ibn ‘Umar said, “Muhammad!” and his foot made an immediate recovery from numbness.”
[Bukhari in his Adab al-Mufrad, the narration is weak]
من حديث أبي شعبة , اخرجهُ إبن السني في عمل اليوم والليلة حدثني محمد بن إبراهيم الأنماطي ، وعمرو بن الجنيد بن عيسى ، قالا : ثنا محمد بن خداش ، ثنا أبو بكر بن عياش ، ثنا أبو إسحاق السبيعي ، عن أبي شعبة ، قال : كنت أمشي مع ابن عمر رضي الله عنهما ، فخدرت رجله ، فجلس ، فقال له رجل : اذكر أحب الناس إليك . فقال : “ يا محمداهفقام فمشى – ابن السني في ” عمل اليوم والليلة ” (رقم/168) وهذا الحديث ضعيف الإسناد
[…] I was walking with Ibn ‘Umar, may Allah be pleased with him, and suddenly his foot became numb (paralyzed) and he sat down. A man advised him, “Remember the person whom you love the most!”. Upon hearing this Ibn ‘Umar said, “Ya Muhammadah!” and got up and started walking.
[‘Amal al-Yawm wal-Laylah by Ibn al-Sunni, report #168 with a weakchain of narration with numerous hidden ‘ilal/defects]
حَدَّثَنَا عَفَّانُ، حَدَّثَنَا شُعْبَةُ، عَنْ أَبِي إِسْحَاقَ، عَمَّنْ سَمِعَ ابْنَ عُمَرَ؛ قَالَ: خَدِرَتْ رِجْلُهُ، فَقِيلَ: اذْكُرْ أَحَبَّ النَّاسِ. قَالَ: يَا مُحَمَّدُ
الحربي في غريب الحديث 2/673
[…] His (Ibn ‘Umar’s) foot became numb so it was said, “Remember the person whom you love the most!”. Upon hearing this Ibn ‘Umar said, “Ya Muhammad!”.
This spurious shubhah (doubt) is, of course, thoughtlessly rehashed by the Quburis (at least some of them use the narration where Abdullah ibn ‘Umar is mentioned and not ‘Amr) for the sake of justifying and sanctifying the Church-like heresy of praying to the saints under the guise of Tawassul (intercession) and love for the Awliyah (saints), Ahlul-Bayt, etc.
Shaykh al-Islam Ibn Taymiyya writes,
In the same way, as ‘Abdullah ibn Umar’s foot became numb and he remembered the one he loves the most, ‘Abdullah Ibn ‘Abbas’s foot also became numb. Someone also advised him to remember the one who he loves the most, whereupon ‘Abdullah Ibn ‘Abbas exclaimed ‘Ya Muhammad’ and his foot immediately recovered from numbness”
[Ibn Taymiyya, Al Kalim al-Tayyib, chapter on ‘Khadirat Rijluhu’]
Merely mentioning the Prophets (ﷺ) is what was meant by some of the scholars who regarded this report as sound in their books, such as Imam an-Nawawi in al-Adhkar, Ibn Taymiyah in al-Kalim at-Tayyib, and others. None of them sanctified the pagan ritual of invoking the Prophet (much less anybody else) for help (al-Madad, ya Muhammad).
It is also mentioned in Bukhari’s Adab al-Mufrad (which is not part of his Sahih) and it comes with various wordings, some authentic ones even include the prefix ‘ya’.
The fact of the matter is, even if one were to concede to the authenticity of the evidence put forward i.e. that ‘Abdullah ibn ‘Umar mentioned the Prophet’s (ﷺ) name after he was told to remember (not pray to!) someone he dearly loves when he was in pain, it would still not prove any of the heretical practice of those who invoke besides Allah for help.
In short: Ibn Umar (may Allah be pleased with him) did not commit any unlawful act, let alone Shirk and it doesn’t require anything more than a sound mind and longing for the truth (wherever it is) rather than trying to defend one’s belief at all cost.
The narration doesn’t include any Shirk not evidence for the practice of those who invoke other than Allah for help, etc. due to the following reasons:
- ‘Abdullah ibn ‘Umar (may Allah be pleased with him) did not call on the Apostle of Allah (ﷺ) as in asking to heal him, otherwise, he would have said ‘يا محمد اشفني’ (o Muhammad, cure me!). That would have been Shirk of the Church, Rafidi, and extreme Sufi kind, and we seek refuge with Allah from it.
- The man in the narration never told ‘Abdullah ibn ‘Umar to commit Shirk by calling on the Messenger of Allah (ادع رسول الله/Ud’u Rasul-Allah), that would have been Shirk without a shred of doubt. Rather, he said ‘mention’ (اذكر/Udhkur…) the most beloved person to you. This is a delicate but important difference.
- The fact that the dearest of people to Ibn ‘Umar, namely our Prophet Muhammad (ﷺ), was mentioned – even if we assume the report is sound – does not mean that it was done by way of calling upon him for help. Rather it was merely mentioning him. There is a huge difference between the two matters.
This way of treating numbness was used by the Arabs in the past; they thought that mentioning the beloved could make the blood flow in the veins and help get rid of the numbness. There are dozens of examples of this in Arabic poetry, which indicates that this was a kind of remedy used by the Arabs. For more information please refer to the book Buloogh al-Arab fi Ma‘rifat Ahwal al-‘Arab by al-Alusi. Al-Raghib al-Isfahani mentioned in his book Muhadarat al-Udaba’, several verses of poetry in which they would mention this. Here is what he reports in his book:
تذكر المحبوب بالاختلاج العارض العرب تزعم أن من خدرت رجله فذكر محبوبه ذهب خدرهاعمر بن أبي ربيعة:إذا خدرت رجلي أبوح بذكرهوقال:إذا مذلت رجلي دعوتك أشتفي … بذكراك من مذلٍ بها فيهون
It is said that remembering the person one loves the most, causes the body to heat and blood to flow in the veins, which relieves the numbness, or something like that. It only shows the customary tradition of Arabs who mention the name of their beloved when they feel numbness.
In a nutshell: the narration itself states “Remember the one whom you love the most”, it does not state ‘ask the Prophet for madad/help and cure.’
Thus, the report has nothing to do with the polytheistic rituals of the Quburiyyah, it was a mere expression that was known among the Arabs as mentioned earlier.
How did the classical scholars of Islam understand the narration?
What they understood from the report is what anybody else who knows about the Arabs and their language would understand. This is that when someone’s leg or earlobe went numb, they would remember/mention their loved ones. This understanding is backed by Arabian poetry and even by the scholars that Quburis (other than the Rawafid) accept:
Imam Nawawi quoted from Ibrahim ibn Mundhar:
قال : أهل المدينة يعجبون من حسن بيت أبي العتاهية : وتخدر في بعض الأحايين رجله فإن لم يقل يا عتب لم يذهب الخدر
The people of Madinah wonder at the beauty of the house of Abu al-‘Atahiyah. At times his leg gets numb, for if he does not say ‘Ya ‘Atab’ [who is a beloved] the numbness does not go [al-Adhkar page 249]
Ayni al-Hanafi said under the commentary of the report of Ibn ‘Umar (may Allah be pleased with him):
وهذا يدل على أن من خدرت رجله اذا ذكر أحب الناس اليه يزول خدره بذلك
العلم الهيب في شرح الكلم الطيب
And this points to that one who has a numb foot when he remembers the one whom he loves the most among people his numbness goes by that (remembering him). [Al-‘Ilm al-Hayyab by ‘Ayni al-Hanafi]
Ibn Hajar al-Haytami (Sufi) the report of Ibn ‘Umar under the chapter:
الفصل السادس في ذكر أمور مخصوصة تشرع الصلاة على النبي صلى الله عليه وسلم فيها
Sixth Chapter: Specific places where one should send peace and blessings on the Prophet (ﷺ)
And then he mentioned twenty-eight places when one should invoke Allah alone (to send) Salawat on the Prophet (ﷺ), including when one’s foot gets numb.
Shaykh al-Islam Ibn Taymiyyah beautifully explains such kind of modes as follows:
وقوله : ” يا محمد يا نبي الله ” هذا وأمثاله نداء يطلب به استحضار المنادَى في القلب ، فيخاطب الشهود بالقلب : كما يقول المصلي : ” السلام عليك أيها النبي ورحمة الله وبركاته ” والإنسان يفعل مثل هذا كثيرا ، يخاطب من يتصوره في نفسه ، وإن لم يكن في الخارج من يسمع الخطاب “
اقتضاء الصراط المستقيم” (2/319)
As for his saying: “O Muhammad”, this and similar sayings are calls by which one makes the one called present in the heart, and he addresses him by witnessing him by the heart, as the praying person says: “Peace be upon you, O Prophet …)” and the human being does such a lot, he addresses those he conceives in his mind, even if there is no one outside his mind that listens to this address. [Iqtidha al-Sirat al-Mustaqim, 2/319]
That is how Ibn al-Jawzi understood it as well as he reports in his book Zaad al-Masir 4/344. Many other scholars can be mentioned here, point is, none of them understood it and/or use it as evidence for Istighathah (seeking aid) from other than Allah in Du’a.
The flimsy chain of the narration of the report
As for its chain of narrations: it is a disputed report, the more authentic versions of the narrations do not even include the prefix يا i.e. they are not qat’i i.e. there is no certainty in their authenticity. So what kind of ‘aqidah is this that is built upon the mutashabih (ambiguous)?
Here a detailed takhrij/analyses of the chains of narrations of the report:
This begs the question: what Muslim bases his creed and worship on a flimsy report (which is not even a Prophetic hadith but rather a report attributed to a companion)? The same deviants who parade such narrations claim that they do not take ahad (solitary hadith) in matters of ‘Aqidah because to them they are based on probability or speculation.
What is worse though is that even if the report of Ibn ‘Umar is taken at face value, it does not justify and legitimise the inherently pagan practice and ritual of calling on the saints for all our needs, however, the deviants are not interested in the truth, anything is better than nothing, so they look for pieces of shreds of evidence (no matter how weak) and even super-impose their corrupt understandings on them, all for the sake of justifying their obsession of calling on other than Allah in du’a (worship).
There’s an old Chinese proverb, ‘Muddy waters make it easy to catch fish’. Flimsy historical reports and other weak and disputed narrations are the bread and butter of the Quburiyyah (grave-worshippers) and their proofs (spoofs) are in reality weaker than a spider-web:
مَثَلُ الَّذِيۡنَ اتَّخَذُوۡا مِنۡ دُوۡنِ اللّٰهِ اَوۡلِيَآءَ كَمَثَلِ الۡعَنۡكَبُوۡتِ ۖۚ اِتَّخَذَتۡ بَيۡتًا ؕ وَ اِنَّ اَوۡهَنَ الۡبُيُوۡتِ لَبَيۡتُ الۡعَنۡكَبُوۡتِۘ لَوۡ كَانُوۡا يَعۡلَمُوۡنَ 29:41
The example of those who take allies other than Allah is like that of the spider who takes a home. And indeed, the weakest of homes is the home of the spider, if they only knew. (Qur’an, 29:41
The report about numbness in the foot of Ibn ‘Umar (may Allah be pleased with him) does not have a sound chain of narration. Even if it was sound (according to a group of scholars), it comes under the heading of bringing to mind a beloved person and it does not imply seeking help from someone other than Allah.
Thus, the report cited by the Quburiyyah is not a hujjah (divine argument) for them and their polytheistic practices (of seeking aid and cure from the Awlia/Ahlul-Bayt, etc.) nor is it a hujjah against Ahlus-Sunnah wa al-Athar in any shape or form whatsoever and whichever way you look at it, or as the Arabs say لا من قريب ولا من بعيد.
The Quburis misuse a plethora of narrations that in essence are not even Shirk and have no correlation with their practice of praying to others besides Allah. Many Quburis like the Rafidah do not just remember ‘Ali ibn Abi Talib (like Sunnis do in poetry), they literally pray to him like Catholics/Orthodox Christians pray to their saints.
If you don’t understand the difference between the act of ‘Abdullah ibn Umar (may Allah be pleased with him and his father) and the brazen Shirk of the following zanadiqah (heretics) then you need to see a doctor:
والحمد لله رب العالمين وصل الله على سيدنا محمد وعلى آله وصحابته أجمعين