By Sam Shamoun
We arrive at the final part of our analysis of Muhammad’s teaching regarding the issue of supplication.
As we saw, the Islamic sources transmit two different and contradictory teachings from Muhammad concerning the permissibility of invoking someone other than Allah for help. On the one hand, there are clear statements where Muhammad taught his followers to pray to him and ask for his help with Allah. At the same time, however, Muhammad explicitly affirmed that supplication is the very heart of worship, and that all help and is to be sought from Allah alone. The Quran even warns that calling upon any one other than Allah in prayer and their service to him is to commit the unpardonable sin of shirk.
The contradictory nature of the Islamic sources over this issue has led to a major rift among those Muslims that self-identify as Sunnis. For instance, there are Sunni Muslims who argue that it is permissible to pray to Muhammad and ask for his help precisely because there are sound narrations attributed to their prophet, which say that they can do so. On the other hand, there are other Sunnis who condemn such a practice as idolatry on the basis of other so-called authentic reports and Quranic texts, which emphatically condemn invoking anyone other than Allah. The following debate perfectly illustrates the major problems that these contradictory traditions pose for Sunni Muslims: “Is seeking help from the Prophet Shirk?”
It is rather unfortunate that neither one of these Muslim groups are able to see that they are both absolutely correct in their respective positions, since the fault lay with their sources of authority, which happen to teach that it is both permissible and impermissible to call upon someone besides or alongside Allah.
These irreconcilable contradictions establish two main facts. First and foremost, they prove that Muhammad was not a prophet, and therefore did not speak by divine inspiration, and that the Quran is not the word of God according to its own criterion. Recall that Q. 4:82 plainly states that finding contradictions and mistakes within the Islamic scripture would automatically falsify it from being a revelation of God. And this is precisely what we find in both the Quran and so-called authentic sunna of Muhammad, namely, gross mistakes that cannot be explained away.
Secondly, by exhorting his followers to pray to him even after his death and burial, Muhammad ended up replacing the idols worshiped by the Arab pagans, since he basically assumed the very role and status that these so-called gods held in the minds of their followers.
The Quran testifies that the reason why the pagans invoked their idols is because they were hoping that they would be a means of getting them closer to Allah:
And they worship besides Allah things that hurt them not, nor profit them, and they say: "These are our intercessors with Allah." Say: "Do you inform Allah of that which He knows not in the heavens and on the earth?" Glorified and Exalted be He above all that which they associate as partners with Him! S. 10:18 Hilali-Khan
Beware! Faith (and religion) made exclusively for Allah is His right. Those who accept patrons other than Allah say, “We do not worship them. But they serve to bring us closer to (and let us concentrate on) Allah.” Allah will settle all matters of dispute between people. Indeed, Allah does not guide any ungrateful liar. S. 39:3 Dr. Munir Munshey
The Islamic sources further claim that the pagans of Mecca would approach the Kabah crying out to Allah, acknowledging both their service to him and his sovereignty over the intermediaries whom they prayed to:
They say that the beginning of stone worship among the sons of Ishmael was when Mecca became too small for them and they wanted more room in the country. Everyone who left the town took with him a stone from the sacred area to do honour to it. Whenever they settled they set it up and walked round it as they went round the Ka‘ba. This led them to worship what stones they pleased and those which made an impression on them. Thus as generations passed they forgot their primitive faith and adopted another religion for that of Abraham and Ishmael. They worshiped idols and adopted the same errors as the peoples before them. Yet they retained and held fast practices going back to the time of Abraham, such as honouring the temple and going round it, the great and little pilgrimage, and the standing on ‘Arafa and Muzdalifa, sacrificing the victims, and the pilgrim cry at the great and little pilgrimage, while introducing elements which had no place in the religion of Abraham. Thus, Kinana and Quraysh used the pilgrim cry: ‘At Thy service, O God [Allahumma], at Thy service!’ At Thy service, Thou without an associate but the associate that Thou hast. Thou ownest him and what he owns.’ They used to acknowledge his unity in their cry and then include their idols with God, putting the ownership of them in His hand. God said to Muhammad: ‘Most of them do not believe in God without associating others with Him,’ i.e. they do not acknowledge My oneness with knowledge of My reality, but they associate with Me one of My creatures. (The Life of Muhammad: A Translation of Ibn Ishaq’s Sirat Rasul Allah, with introduction and notes by Alfred Guillaume [Oxford University Press, Karachi, Tenth impression 1995], pp. 35-36; bold and underline emphasis ours)
7. The Jahiliyyah Arabs cry during Hajj. Ibn ‘Abbas reported that the mushrikun would say (during Hajj): ‘I respond to your call, O Allah, I respond to your call. There is no partner that you have…’ at this, the Prophet would interject and say, ‘Woe to you! Stop (here), stop (here),’ but they would proceed, ‘…except a partner that belongs to you. You control him, and all that he controls.’ They would say this while performing tawaf around the Ka‘bah. In this narration, Ibn ‘Abbas mentions the Prophet’s stance towards their acts of worship during the early days of Makkah. The mushrikun would affirm that Allah has no partners, and the Prophet would try to stop them at this point. However, they would proceed with their cry, and affirm partners who were under the complete control of Allah. So they would affirm the complete Lordship of Allah, and claim that these partners were under Allah’s total control, yet direct acts of worship to these partners. This narration is also explicit in that they ascribed total Rububiyyah to Allah, and believed that these idols did not have any power in and of themselves. Rather, any power that they had, according to them, was derived from Allah’s permission. (An Explanation of Muhammad ibn ‘Abdul Wahhab’s Kashf al-Shubuhat - Critical Study of Shirk, translation and commentary by Abu Ammaar Yasir Qadhi [Al-Hidaayah Publishing & Distribution, Birmingham, UK], 13. An Explanation of Kashf al-Shubuhat, The Clearing of Doubts, p. 88; bold emphasis ours)
At the same time they would also cry out to some of the other gods that they worshiped, such as Manat:
[Azr. i. 73. ‘Amr b. Lu’ayy set up Manat on the sea-shore near Qudayd. Azd and Ghassan went on pilgrimage to it and revered it. When they had made the compass of the Ka‘ba and hastened from ‘Arafat and completed the rites at Mina they did not shave their hair until they got to Manat, to whom they would cry Labbayki… (The Life of Muhammad, p. 39; bold emphasis ours)
Now how is this any different from what Muhammad did in allowing his followers to make him an intermediary between them and their god? After all, don’t Muslims affirm that Allah is sovereign over Muhammad, who completely owns Muhammad and everything he owns? Don’t they also believe that any power Muhammad has to help or benefit them comes directly from Allah, since Muhammad has absolutely no power in and of himself? And isn’t true that the reason why they call upon him now that he is dead in his grave is because they hope that he might be able to bring them closer to Allah?
The fact is that Muhammad’s teachings regarding the (im)permissibility of supplicating him together with Allah have not only brought about such great chaos and confusion to his followers, but his instructions have also led Muslims into committing idolatry. After all, what could be more idolatrous than praying to a dead man, and crying out to him along with God for help?