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  • 10/8/2011

Peshawar Nights: Hidden polytheism

Third Session-part 4


*Offerings in the name of Allah

*Hidden polytheism: making a display of prayers

*Polytheism regarding causation

*Why Prophets sought help from people

*The Holy Ahle Muhammad (descendants of the Prophet) are means of divine bounty



If we make an offering not in the name of Allah, but for someone else, whether he be dead or alive, or if we include him with the name of Allah, even if he is an Imam or his son, the offering is not valid. If this is done deliberately and knowingly then it is evident polytheism, as is clear from the verse, "...and not join anyone in the service of his Lord." (18:110) Shia jurists agree that to make an offering in the name of any person, including Prophets or Imams, is wrong. If it is done intentionally, it is polytheism. An offering must be made in the name of Allah, although we are authorized to do it whenever we like. For instance, if someone in the name of Allah takes a goat to a particular house or place of worship or to the tomb of an Imam or son of an Imam and sacrifices it, there is no harm in it. Also, if he pledges and gives money or clothes in the name of Allah to a certain Seyyed, a descendant of the Prophet, or gives alms to an orphan or beggar, there is no harm in it. Of course, if he pledges to make an offering simply for the sake of the Prophet or an Imam, a son of an Imam, or for some other person, it is forbidden. If done intentionally, it is polytheism. It is the duty of every prophet or religious authority to admonish people as the Holy Qur'an says, "Say: Obey Allah and obey the Apostle; but if you turn back, then on him rests that which is imposed on him and on you rests that which is imposed on you...." (24:54)

It is people's duty to hear what the Prophet of Allah says and to act upon it. If, however, someone does not care to follow divine precepts and does not act on them, it does not harm the faith or the principles in which the faith is founded.



The second kind of polytheism is hidden polytheism, such as making a display of our prayers or other forms of obedience to Allah. The difference between this polytheism and polytheism in prayers is that in the case of polytheism in prayers we associate some other thing or being with Allah. If someone directs his attention towards anything other than Allah, in the ritual prayer, or if, by the suggestion of shaitan, he has a picture of a false deity in his mind, or if his guide is the center of his attention, then he is a polytheist. Nothing except Allah, should be the object of attention in our worship. The Prophet said that if someone does a good deed and makes someone else a partner with Allah in it, then his whole deed is for the partner. Allah hates that action as well as its doer. It has also been reported that the Holy Prophet said that if someone offers the ritual prayer, observes a fast, or performs the Pilgrimage and has the idea that by his doing so the people will praise him, "then verily, he has made a partner with Allah in his action."

It has also been reported from Imam Ja'far Sadiq that if someone performs an action for fear of Allah, or for the recompense in the hereafter, and includes in it the pleasure of a human being, then the doer of that action is a polytheist.


One kind of polytheism is that which relates to causation since most people base their hopes and fears on secondary causes. This is also polytheism, but it is pardonable. Polytheism means to think that power lies intrinsically in secondary causes. For instance, the sun nourishes many things in the world, but if one considers this power to be inherent in the sun, then this is polytheism. However, if we believe that the power of the sun is given to it by Allah, and that the sun is only a secondary means of His munificence, then this is never polytheism. It is rather a form of worship since to pay attention to the signs of Allah is a prelude to attending to Allah. A reference has been made in the verses of the Holy Qur'an to the fact that we should ponder the signs of Allah since this leads the attention toward Allah. In the same way, reliance on secondary causes (a tradesman's attention to trade, or a farmer's attention to his farm) make one a polytheist if he thereby diverts his attention from Allah.

Based on the above explanation of polytheism, which of the examples cited do you consider to be applicable to Shias? In what way, from the point of view of prayer, faith, or the Shia traditions that you have seen, can they be charged with polytheism?

Hafiz: I admit that all you have said is correct, but if you would just take the trouble to think for a moment, you will agree that to rely on the imams is polytheism. Since we should not seek any human means of approach to Allah, we should invoke Allah directly for help.



Well-Wisher: It is strange that you ignore what I have been saying here all along. Is it polytheism to make requests of other people for the fulfillment of our desires? If this were true, the whole of humanity is polytheistic. If to seek help from others is polytheism, why did the Prophet seek help from people? You should study the verses of the Holy Qur'an so that you may know what is true and correct. The following verses are worth attention: "He said: 'O chiefs which of you can bring to me her throne before they come to me in submission?' One audacious among the Jinn said: 'I will bring it to you before you rise up from your place; and most surely I am strong (and) trusty for it.' One who had the knowledge of the Book said: 'I will bring it to you in the twinkling of an eye.' Then when he saw it settled beside him, he said: 'This is of the grace of my Lord....'" (27:38-40)

The bringing of the throne of Bilqis (Queen of Sheba) to Solomon was impossible for every creature. Admittedly, it was unusual, and the Prophet Solomon, despite his knowing that it required divine power, did not ask Almighty Allah to bring the throne but asked mere creatures to help him. This fact shows that seeking others' help is not polytheism. Allah, the first cause, is the Creator of the causes of this world. Polytheism is a matter of the heart. If a man asks for someone's help and does not consider him Allah or His partner, it is not forbidden. This situation is common everywhere. People go to the houses of others and ask them for help without taking the name of Allah. If I go to a physician and ask him to cure me, am I a polytheist? Again, if a man is drowning, and he cries for help, is he a polytheist? So please be fair and do not misconstrue facts. The whole Shia community believes that if anyone considers the descendants of the Prophet as being Allah or partners in His Self, he is surely a polytheist. You might have heard Shias in trouble crying, "O Ali, help me!" "O Husain, help me!" This does not mean that they are saying "O Allah Ali, help me!" "O Allah Husain, help me!" But the fact is that since the world is a house of secondary causes, we consider them the means of deliverance from troubles. We seek the help of Allah through them.

Hafiz: Instead of invoking Allah directly, why do you invoke the means?

Well-Wisher: Our permanent attention regarding our desires, distresses, and anguish is fixed upon Allah, the Absolute. But the Holy Qur'an says that we should reach Almighty Allah, through some means of approach. "O you who believe! Do your duty to Allah and seek the means of approach to Him." (5:35)



We Shias do not regard the descendants of the Prophet as the solution to all our problems. We regard them as the most pious of the servants of Allah and as a means of divine bounty. We attach ourselves to that exalted family according to the injunction of the Prophet.

Hafiz: Why do you say that the words "means of approach" in the above verse refer to the descendants of the Holy Prophet?

Well-Wisher: In many hadith, the Prophet recommended to us that in our troubles we invoke his descendants as a means of approach to Allah. Many of your ulema, like Hafiz Abu Nu'aim Isfahani, in his Nuzulu'l-Qur'an fi Ali (Revelations in the Qur'an about Ali), Hafiz Abu Bakr Shirazi in his Ma Nazala mina'l-Qur'an fi Ali and Imam Ahmad Tha'labi in his Tafsir (Commentary) say that wasilat (means of approach) in the above verse means the descendants of the Prophet. This reference has been apparent from many hadith of the Prophet. Ibn Abi'l-Hadid Mu'tazali, one of your respected ulema, says in his Sharhe Nahju'l-Balagha, Volume IV, page 79, that Bibi Fatima Zahra referred to the meaning of this verse in the presence of the Muhajirs and Ansars, while delivering her address in connection with the usurpation of her estate of Fadak, in these words:

"I praise Allah for Whose Dignity and Light the residents of the skies and the earth seek means of approach towards Him. Among His creation we are the means of approach."

Source: al-islam.org

Other Links:

Pishawar Nights (perface)

Peshawar Nights: first session-part 1

Peshawar Nights: first session-part 2

Peshawar Nights: Second Session-part 1

Peshawar Nights: Second Session-part 2

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