Can we pray to Imam (a.s.) for our needs?
Occasionally, there are questions that arise in some minds – “Can one seek our desires directly from the Imam?” or “Isn’t the seeking of one’s needs directly from the Imam tantamount to associating aught with Allah and polytheism?” or “Is it not against the concept of monotheism if we ask for our needs directly from Imam (a.s.)?” Here is a review of these questions and also their appropriate replies.
This world – A system of ‘means’ and ‘end’
Allah, the Almighty, has fashioned the world in such a way that everything is achieved through some ‘means’ and ‘causes’. None of our needs are fulfilled directly. Thirst is not quenched by itself. It is done through the medium of water. A child does not come into existence by itself. He is born through its parents. This is true for all other things as well.
Imam Ja’far Sadiq (a.s.) says,
‘The wisdom of Allah does not permit that He completes an affair without means. He has ordained a cause for everything.’
(Al-Kafi; vol. 1, p. 183 H. 7)
Ameerul Momineen Ali Ibn Abi Taalib (a.s.) said,
“There is a means for everything.”
(Ghurar al-Hekam, Saying no 7281)
Allah, the Almighty, while narrating the incident of Hazrat Zulqarnayn (a.s.) in the Holy Quran, says,
“Surely We established him in the land and granted him with the means for every thing.”
(Surah Kahf: Verse 84)
On this basis, it is an established principle of the Holy Quran and traditions that the world is a system of ‘ways’ and ‘means’. The achievement of any work through a medium is a divine law. Thus, it is the duty of every individual who believes in Allah, to tread the divine path and seek the solution to his problems through a medium.
The Creation of the Universe
If we study the traditions regarding the creation of the universe, the reality will emerge that Allah – the High – did not create everything directly and without means. Rather, He only created the pure ‘light’ of the Holy Prophet (s.a.w.a.) and his Ahle Bait (a.s.) through His Will (Masheeyyat). Thereafter, He gave existence to the rest of the creations through the medium of the ‘light’ of the Holy Prophet (s.a.w.a.) and his Ahle Bait (a.s.) For the sake of brevity, we cite a few traditions on this subject:
1. Jaabir Ibn Abdullah Ansari (r.a.) asked the Holy Prophet of Islam (s.a.w.a.), “What was the first creation of Allah? He (s.a.w.a.) replied,
‘O Jaabir! Allah first created the ‘light’ of your Prophet (s.a.w.a.) and then He created all goodness from it.”
(Beharul Anwaar, vol. 57, p. 170)
2. Abbas, the uncle of the Holy Prophet (s.a.w.a.), narrates that he (s.a.w.a.) said,
“O my respected uncle! Allah created us at a time when there was neither sky nor earth, nor Arsh nor Paradise nor Hell. We glorified Allah at the time when no (form of) glorification existed. We revered Him at a time when there was no (idea of) reverence. When Allah intended to create the creation, He split my ‘light’ and created the ‘throne’ (Arsh) from it. The ‘light’ of the ‘throne’ is from my ‘light’ and my ‘light’ is from the ‘light’ of Allah. Hence I am superior to the ‘throne’.
Then Allah split the ‘light’ of Ali (a.s.) and created the angels from it. The ‘light’ of the angels is from the ‘light’ of Ali Ibn Abi Taalib (a.s.). The ‘light’ of Ali Ibn Abi Taalib is from the ‘light’ of Allah and hence Ali is superior to the angels.
Then Allah split the ‘light’ of my daughter Fatima (s.a.) and created the heavens and the earths from it. The ‘light’ of the earths and the skies is from the ‘light’ of my daughter Fatima (s.a.). The ‘light’ of Fatima (s.a.) is from the ‘light’ of Allah and Fatima (s.a.) is superior to the earth and the skies.
Then Allah split the ‘light’ of Hasan (a.s.) and created the sun and moon from it. The ‘light’ of the sun and the moon is from the ‘light’ of Hasan. The ‘light’ of Hasan is from the ‘light’ of Allah and Hasan (a.s.) is superior to the sun and the moon.
Then Allah split the ‘light’ of Husain (a.s.) and created paradise and the wide-eyed houries from it. The ‘light’ of paradise and the houries is from the ‘light’ of Husain (a.s.). The ‘light’ of Husain (a.s.) is from the ‘light’ of Allah and Husain (a.s.) is superior to paradise and the houries.’
(Behaarul Anwaar, vol. 25, pp. 16-17)
3. Imam Jafar Sadiq (a.s.) said,
“Allah the Almighty created us and created us in the best of forms. He fashioned our features and granted us the best characteristics. Then He appointed us as His representatives over His creation. He chose us as His tongue amongst His creation. He selected us as His hand of mercy and kindness amongst His servants; He chose us as the face through which one can recognise Him and His door thorough which one can approach Him. He appointed us the guardian of the treasures in His heaven and the earth.
It is on our account that the trees bear fruit, the fruits ripen and the river flow with abundant water. It is due to us that Allah sends down the rain from the skies and vegetation sprouts from the earth. Allah is (truly) worshipped on account of our worship. If we were absent, Allah would not be worshipped at all.”
(Tauheed of Shaykh Sadooq (r.a.), p. 151, H. 8)
A tradition on this topic has been narrated by Ibn Ya’foor from Imam Sadiq (a.s.) which reinforces the subjects outlined in the above traditions,
“Allah created a creation and entrusted all the affairs of religions to it. We are that creation.”
(Tauheed of Shaykh Sadooq (r.a.), p. 152, H. 9)
There are several narrations on this topic in books of traditions. For further study, one can refer to the traditions reported in Beharul Anwaar volumes 35 and 57, Ehqaqul Haq volumes 9 and 15, Usoole’ Kafi volume 1, etc.
These traditions clarify the point completely that Allah the Almighty created this universe through the means of Muhammad (s.a.w.a.) and the Ahle Bait (a.s.). In fact, one can say that He created the entire universe through their ‘light’.
Bounties on account of Ahle Bait (a.s.)
Allah the Almighty created the universe through the ‘light’ of the Holy Prophet (s.a.w.a.) and his blessed family (a.s.). Even today whatever bounties are granted to this universe, it is on account of the Ahle Bait (a.s.). This means that the role of the Ahle Bait (a.s.) was not limited only to the original creation of this universe. It is not that the universe, after its creation by the ‘light’ of the Ahle Bayt (a.s.), has become independent and that there is no role of the Ahle Bait (a.s.) in its continued existence. Rather, just as the universe is obliged to the Ahle Bayt (a.s.) for its creation, it is dependent upon them (a.s.) for its continued existence as well.
Abu Hamza al-Thumaali (r.a.) says that that once I asked Imam Ja’far Sadiq (a.s.), “Can this earth survive without the presence of an Imam?” He (a.s.) replied,
“If the earth is devoid of the Imam (a.s.), it will cave in and collapse.”
(Al-Kafi, vol. 1, p. 179, H. 10)
Imam Muhammad Baqir (a.s.) said,
“If the earth is devoid of the presence of the Imam (a.s.), even for a single moment, it will consume all its inhabitants, just as the sea swallows the people.”
(Al-Kafi, vol. 1, p. 179, H. 12)
Ziyaarat-e-Jaameah al-Kabeerah is a highly authentic and reliable ziyaarat. This ziyaarat is an ocean encompassing the merits and virtues of the Ahle Bayt (a.s.). Imam-e- Zamana (a.s.) has emphasised the regular recitation of this ziyaarat. Difficulties are solved through this ziyaarat and it is a tried and tested supplication for the removal of worries. The phrases of this ziyaarat clearly emphasis that in this age and every era, whatever bounties are bestowed by Allah upon this universe, it is solely on account of Ahle Bayt (a.s.). In this age, the Ahle Bait (a.s.) are represented by the holy personality of Imam-e-Zamana (a.s.). Thus, whatever divine bounties are being received by an individual in this era, it is entirely due to the grace and benediction of Imam-e-Zamana (a.t.f.s.)
Let us reflect on the sentences of this ziyaarat. “May my father, mother, children, possessions and I be sacrificed upon you! Whosoever desires nearness to Allah must commence with you. Whosoever professes the Unity of God learns it from you. Whosoever desires proximity to Allah must turn towards you. O my master! Neither can I enumerate your virtues nor can I fathom your merits. I’m powerless in mentioning your noble attributes. You are the light of the virtuous, the guide of the pious and the proof of the Omnipotent (Lord). Allah created you first, and through you He shall conclude the creation. On account of you, He sends down abundant and wide-spread rain and due to you the sky is prevented from falling down over the earth (else this world would have been destroyed). Due to you, He drives away troubles and dismisses hardships.”
The above sentences reinforce the point that the Ahle Bait (a.s.) are not only the source of all worldly benefits, but also the origin and the fountainhead of all spiritual benefits. The first of the five foundations of Islam is the Unity of Allah (Tauheed). It would not be wrong to say that the belief in the Unity of Allah is correct only for that person who acquires this belief from the Ahle Bait (a.s.). Consequently, the one who acquires this belief from someone other than the Ahle Bait (a.s.), his belief would be defective and worthless. For, none other than the Ahle Bait (a.s.) is blessed with the correct recognition of Allah. Therefore, the beliefs of only that individual will be acceptable before Allah who submits himself wholly to the Imamate and leadership of the Ahle Bait (a.s.).
Apart from spiritual bounties, the Ahle Bait (a.s.) are also the source of all material bounties. The falling of rain from the skies, the continued existence of this earth and the dispelling of difficulties and problems are all worldly bounties that materialise only due to the Ahle Bait (a.s.). It has been mentioned earlier that, in this age, Imam-e-Zamana (a.t.f.s.) is the ‘most perfect’ individual from among the Ahle Bait (a.s.) on this earth. Hence, while reciting Ziyaarat-e-Jaameah al-Kabeerah, it should be borne in mind that all the merits and virtues mentioned therein are relevant to only one person on this earth and that individual is none other than Imam-e-Zamana (a.t.f.s.) This, despite the fact that we are deprived of meeting him on account of our sins.
The sentences of Dua’e Adeelah regarding Imam-e-Zamana (a.t.f.s.) inform us –
“After Hazrat Imam Askari (a.s.), the representative of Allah is the Qaem, the Awaited, the Mahdi (a.s.) – whose reappearance is anticipated with hopeful eyes; the world is stable due to his presence; the creation receives its sustenance due to him and it is on account of his presence that the skies and the earth are intact”
(Dua-e-Adeelah, Mafaatihul Jinaan)
When Allah has Himself ordained that all spiritual and material bounties will flow to His creations through the medium of the Imam (a.s.), then how can the act of seeking one’s desires from Allah through the Imam (a.s.) or even directly from the Imam (a.s.) be termed as Shirk (polytheism)? Those unwilling to acknowledge the medium of the Ahle Bait (a.s.) and regard it as polytheism (God forbid), are in fact rebelling against the divine arrangement. For such people, the fire of Hell is the only abode.
Mastership in the World of Creation (Wilayat-e-Takveeni)
Occasionally, one hears that it is fine to seek help through the position of the Ahle Bait (a.s.) or that it is acceptable to consider them as a medium before Allah. However, it is inappropriate to seek help from Ahle Bait (a.s.) directly or to call to them by saying “Ya Muhammad” or “Ya Ali.” Calling out to them in this manner is against the belief in Unity of Allah. This view is expressed in several ways and shockingly, is considered as a sign of enlightened thinking.
The people who discuss such ideas are neither aware of the nuances of the Holy Quran, nor are they familiar with traditions on this subject. Every Muslim acknowledges the fact that the Majestic Quran is the word of Allah and whatever is narrated therein is the absolute truth. It is also unanimously accepted by all Muslims that none can surpass the Prophets of Allah (a.s.) in monotheism. Their actions are proofs and an ideal for each and every Muslim. While even a single instance may be sufficient to authenticate our point, the Noble Quran narrates numerous incidents of divine Prophets (a.s.), who sought help not from Allah, but directly from someone other than Allah. Let’s pay attention to the following examples.
Prophet Sulayman (a.s.) and the Throne of Queen Bilqees
In the episode of Prophet Sulayman (a.s.), the hoopoe bird narrated the incident of the Queen of Saba to him (a.s.). Subsequently, he (a.s.) wrote a letter to the Queen. In reply to the letter, the Queen sent some gifts to Sulayman (a.s.) to assess whether he desired her kingdom for his own self or for the sake of Allah.
Prophet Sulayman (a.s.) returned all the gifts and addressed his army,
‘He said: “O chiefs! Who among you can bring to me her throne before they submit to me voluntarily?” One courageous one among the jinn said: “I will bring it to you before you rise up from your place; and most surely I am strong (and) dependable for it.” One who possessed a fraction of the knowledge of the Book said: “I will bring it to you in the twinkling of an eye.” Then when he (a.s.) saw the throne right next to him, he (a.s.) said: “This is of the grace of my Lord…”
(Surah Naml: Verses 38-40)
If we pay close attention to the above incident, we find that Sulayman (a.s.) put forth his question directly to the commanders of his army. He did not say, “O Lord! Do make the throne of Bilqees available to me.” Moreover, the one who was granted the knowledge of the Book (Asif Ibn Barkhiya) and volunteered to bring the throne to Prophet Sulayman (a.s.) did not say that “I will pray before my Lord and that if Allah wishes the throne of Bilqees will come here.” Rather he asserted, “I will bring it to you in the twinkling of an eye.” He related the act of bringing the throne to himself, saying “I will bring it for you…”
Prophet Isa (a.s.) would enliven the dead
All Muslims are unanimous in their belief that life and death is solely in the hands of Allah the All-Powerful. The Holy Quran reminds us,
“But Allah is the Guardian, and He gives life to the dead, and He has power over all things.”
(Surah Shura: Verse 9)
However, there are two instances in the Majestic Quran where Allah (s.w.t.) has attributed the power of giving life to Prophet Isa (a.s.). For the sake of brevity, we present only the translation of these verses –
“…. I have come to you with a sign from your Lord, that I mould for you out of dust like the form of a bird, then I breathe into it and it becomes a bird with Allah’s permission and I heal the blind and the lepers, and bring the dead to life with Allah’s permission and I inform you of what you shall eat tomorrow and what you have stored in your houses; most surely there is a sign in this for you, if you are believers.”
(Surah Ale Imran: Verse 49)
The above verse draws our attention to the point that throughout the verse, Prophet Isa (a.s.) attributes the acts to himself. He says that “I give life to the birds made from dust; I heal the blind; I bring the dead to life…” He does not say “I will pray to Allah and due to my supplication Allah grants vision to the blind.” Nor does he say “Due to my prayers, Allah grants life to the birds as well as to the dead…” Rather he ascribes every action to himself saying “I give life; I heal the blind.” That all these powers are not the inherent powers of Prophet Isa (a.s.) is an accepted fact. It is granted to him by Allah; which is why it is mentioned “with Allah’s permission.” But this verse does bring out the aspect that to attribute any action performed by the permission of Allah to towards oneself is a practice outlined by the Holy Quran. It is neither polytheism nor an innovation in religion. These were the words spoken by Prophet Isa (a.s.). It is interesting to note that even when Allah (s.w.t.) narrates these words in his Book, He attributes the action to Isa (a.s.) and not to Himself. He does mention that the action is performed with His permission, yet ascribes the act to Prophet Isa (a.s.).
The Majestic Quran mentions in Surah Maaedah, Verse 110, thus,
‘When Allah will say: “O Isa son of Mariam! Remember My favour on you and on your mother, when I strengthened you with the holy Spirit, you spoke to the people in the cradle and in your old age, and when I taught you the Book and the wisdom and the Torah and the Injeel; and when you created out of clay a thing in the form of a bird by My permission, then you breathed into it and it became a bird by My permission, and you healed the blind and the lepers by My permission; and when you brought forth the dead by My permission; and when I protected you from the children of Israel when you came to them with clear arguments; but those who disbelieved among them said: This is nothing but clear enchantment.’”
Please pay attention to the above verse minutely. Allah says that “you created; you healed the blind, you granted life to the dead”. Allah (s.w.t.) does not say that “I created through you, I granted vision to the blind through you.” No, it is not like that. All the actions are attributed directly to Prophet Isa (a.s.).
Now if a blind person, after hearing about the miracles of Prophet Isa (a.s.), approaches him directly and says, “O Isa Ibn Maryam! Grant me vision.” – will this tantamount to polytheism? If a mother, devastated by the death of her young son approaches Isa (a.s.) and implores him to grant life to her son, then will this act be prohibited and bidah?
How often have we seen this in our daily lives that a destitute approaches a prosperous believer and seeks his needs from him?
“I am in great difficulty and in debt. Allah has granted you sufficient means. Please help me to repay my debt.” The person replies, “Yes, I will help you.”
Then the needy person says, “I have another request. My daughter’s marriage has been finalised and the date for the marriage has been set. Yet, I have been unable to collect any amount for the same.” The believer replies “Don’t worry. I will arrange the amount for you.”
The poor person says, “You have done so much for me, I have one final request. My son has completed his education, but has not secured a job as yet.”
He replies, “You don’t worry about that. Just send your son tomorrow to my office.”
Are all these actions polytheism? The person who has alleviated three difficulties of the needy person, then is he not in the literal sense the fulfiller of his needs (“Qaazil Haajaat”)? “Qaazi” means the “one who fulfils” and “Haajaat” implies needs. The collection of at least three needs is called as Haajaat. Will it be wrong if this needy person refers to his benefactor as Qaazil Haajaat? Of course not! On account of the bounties granted to him by Allah that this wealthy believer is Qazial Haajaat.
In short, if a needy person approaches an individual and seeks help from him due to the bounties granted to him by Allah, then it is NOT polytheism (shirk). On the contrary, it is the recommended practice of the Holy Quran.
The Secret of Wilyat-e-Takweeni
What is the secret of the power of Asif Ibn Barkhiya and Prophet Isa (a.s.)? What is the element granted to these honourable individuals on the basis of which the throne of Bilqees was brought forth in the twinkling of an eye or the dead are brought back to life?
Dua-e-Semaat discusses the concept of the Great Names of Allah (Asmaa-e-A’zam) and some of their special characteristics.
“If you request to enliven the dead to life (through the Ism-e-A’zam), they will (certainly) rise from their graves.”
Numerous such extraordinary effects are mentioned in this supplication. The supplication for the eve of Arafah mentions 33 effects of Ism-e-A’zam. These Great Names are the keys to solving all problems and difficulties. Those who have been granted these Asmaa-e-Aa’zam by Allah have been given the keys to the universe. So the secret behind Wilayat-e-Takweeni is Ism-e-A’zam. These Asmaa-e-A’zam are granted by Allah alone. It is not within the power of an ordinary human to acquire these by his own efforts.
The Great Names and the Ahle Bait (a.s.)
Since the Asmaa-e-A’zam are the keys to the universe, it is needless to say that the more an individual is granted from its treasures, the more extensive will be his powers and authority. For those who have been granted higher powers, when needs are addressed to them directly, they are permitted to respond to those requests in proportion.
Jaabir Ibn Abdullah Ansari (r.a.) narrates that Imam Muhammad Baqir (a.s.) said,
“Allah has ordained 73 Asmaa-e-A’zam. Janab Asif Ibn Barkhiya had only one Ism-e-A’zam. When he uttered it, the entire earth shrunk and the throne of Bilqees came forth. He just had to stretch his hand and the throne was in his grasp. Then the earth returned to it original state. We have been granted 72 Asmaa-e-A’zam. There is only one Isme’ Aa’zam which Allah has retained with Himself.”
(Al-Kafi, vol. 1, p. 330, H. 1)
Imam Jafar Sadiq (a.s.) said,
“Allah had granted Isa (a.s.) with only two Ism-e- A’zam through which he was able to perform all the actions. Musa (a.s.) was granted four and Hazrat Ibrahim (a.s.) was granted eight Asmaa-e-Aa’zam. Nuh (a.s.) was granted the knowledge of 15 Asmaa-e-A’zam while Adam (a.s.) was bestowed with 25 Asmaa-e-A’zam. All of these were granted to Muhammad Mustafa (s.a.w.a.). Allah ordained 73 Asmaa-e-A’zam of which the knowledge of 72 was granted to Muhammad Mustafa (s.a.w.a.). He has retained one Ism-e- A’zam exclusively with Himself.”
(Al-Kafi, vol. 1, p. 330, H. 2)
Janab Muhammad Ibn Muslim narrates ‘I once heard Imam Muhammad Baqir (a.s.) say,
“Jibraeel presented himself before the Holy Prophet (s.a.w.a.) with two pomegranates from the side of Allah. On the way, he met Ameerul Momineen Ali Ibn Abi Taalib (a.s.). He (a.s.) asked Jibraeel, what are these pomegranates? He replied, one of them is concerned with Prophethood, which is not related to you. The other is concerning knowledge. Then, he met the Messenger of Allah (s.a.w.a.). The Holy Prophet (s.a.w.a.) divided the pomegranate equally. He (s.a.w.a.) ate half of it and offered the other half to Ali (a.s.) saying, ‘You are a partner in my knowledge while I am partner in your knowledge’. Then the Imam (a.s.) continued, “Whatever knowledge Allah the Almighty granted to the Holy Prophet (s.a.w.a.), he (s.a.w.a.) transferred the entire treasure to Ali (a.s.). And it has continued in this manner till it has reached us today.” And then Imam (a.s.) pointed to his heart.’
(Al-Kafi, vol. 1, p. 263, H. 3)
Apart from this, there are other traditions that inform us that the knowledge of the past prophets (a.s.) is with the Ahle Bait (a.s.). Interested readers can refer to more traditions in Usool-e-Kafi, vol 1, pages 221, 223 and 227. These traditions make it amply clear that the knowledge of the previous prophets and that of the Holy Prophet (s.a.w.a.) is with the Imams (a.s.). They are the true inheritors of their possessions, books and collections. In the present era, Hazrat Hujjat Ibnil Hasan, Wali-e-Asr (a.t.f.s.) is the inheritor of this knowledge and perfections. He possesses the knowledge of 72 Asmaa-e-A’zam. Who can estimate the extent of his authority and influence upon the universe? If one Ism-e- A’zam can bring forth the throne of Bilqees in the blink of an eye, then it should come as no surprise that the possessor of 72 Asmaa-e-A’zam can resolve difficulties in the twinkling of an eye. If Sulayman (a.s.) can seek the assistance of Asif Barkhiya on the basis of one Ism-e- A’zam, then to seek help directly from the one who has the knowledge of 72 Asmaa-e-A’zam, to call “O Mahdi, help me”, or “O Mahdi assist me” etc is certainly not Shirk. Rather, it is the tradition of the prophets.
It should be borne in mind that all those who seek the solution of their problems directly from the Imams (a.s.), do not consider the Imams (a.s.) as an independent power alongside the authority of Allah. Rather it is their firm conviction that whatever is granted by the Imams (a.s.) is due to the powers bestowed upon them by Allah the Almighty. Allah has granted them authority and to seek from the Imams (a.s.) on account of the powers bestowed by Allah is equivalent to seeking from Allah Himself. Therefore, seeking one’s desires directly from Imam-e-Zamana (a.s.) is not polytheism. Rather, it is completely legitimate and a custom endorsed by the verses of the Noble Quran. To deny this or to harbour doubts is tantamount to refuting the verses of the Majestic Quran and rebelling against divine custom. To refute the verses of the Holy Quran and to rebel against divine custom is indeed not monotheism. On the contrary, it is polytheism.