Many of you might have heard this argument that if we consider xyz (other than Allah) to be hearing at every place, knowing every matter, controlling every single atom in the universe, and even creating the heavens and the earth, all of that will not be considered Shirk, so long as the belief is that the xyz entity is dependent upon Allah.
A very simplistic version of this argument can be formulated as follows:
1. Allah has knowledge and power.
2. We also have some knowledge and power.
3. Prophets or Angels of have much greater degrees of knowledge and power than us.
4. Therefore, the quantity or degrees of knowledge or power cannot be the differentiation criteria between how Allah’s knowledge or power is understood.
5. The differentiating criteria between divine knowledge/divine power and the knowledge or power of created beings must then be independence.
6. Therefore, the mistake in ascribing degrees of power can never lead to Shirk, it can at maximum be wrong or misguided belief.
Meaning, that if someone actually believes that Allah(swt) first created Ali(ra) and then gave dependent ability to Ali(ra) to create heavens and the earth, that will not constitute Shirk.
Lineage of the argument
Classical Shi’a sect:
This particular scenario as actually not an entirely made up scenario, there was a sect of Shia known as the مفوضة (Mufawwidha), this sect arose in the time Ja’far al-Sadiq, which held the belief that Allah first created Ali(ra) and gave him the powers to create the heavens and the earth and he created everything. It is also known by the name of مفوضلية or جناحية, based on the alleged originator of the creed named “Ibn Umar al-Mufadhil”. Ahmad Al-Katib has some research on this sect.
The exact same argument can be found in Catholic vs Protestant polemics. Whereby the Catholics have argued that if it is possible that God can give degrees of power and knowledge to Angels and Mary(as) is greater in status than Angels, then why is it wrong to consider that she can hear all invocations and act as a perfect intercessor. The exact replica of same argument is utilized by Hatim al-Awni, albeit with a difference that they utilize this argument to negate such beliefs to contain Shirk, while they still affirm textual impermissibility of such beliefs.
The Church exhorts her children not only to honor the Blessed Virgin, but also to invoke her intercession. It is evident from Scripture, that the Angels and Saints in heaven can hear our prayers, and that they have the power and the will to help us . Now if the angels are conversant with what happens on earth ; if the prophets, even while clothed in the flesh, had a clear vision of things which were then transpiring at a great distance from them ; if they could penetrate into the future, and foretell events which were then hidden in the womb of time, shall we believe that God withholds a knowledge of our prayers from Mary, who is justly styled the Queen of Angels and Saints ? For, as Mary’s sanctity surpasses that of all other mortals, her knowledge must be proportionately greater than theirs, since knowledge constitutes one of theThe American Catholic Quarterly Review: Volume 3, 1878, pg (608-609) The Position of the Blessed Virgin Mary in Catholic Theology: Why We Invoke Her ? https://www.google.de/books/edition/The_American_Catholic_Quarterly_Review/CZkNAQAAIAAJ?hl=en&gbpv=0
sources of celestial bliss.
Jesus and his Sahabi Analogy
This was an analogy given by Dr. Qadhi in his video lecture, he utilizes the so called “scale-up” argument. He first starts from the case of a man asking Jesus(as) to raise up his mother with the belief that the ability is granted by Allah(swt), then differentiates it with a Roman soldier asking the same thing with the belief of divinity of Jesus. After merely scaling one step up, he stops his analysis at the exact same point after which the analogy gets problematic. Then Dr. Qadhi derives his conclusion, which I find intellectually dishonest.
From left to right, I show how powers to Jesus(as) are scaled up and right shows the most extreme case. Dr. Qadhi should have first analyzed the case on the extreme left and then the case on the extreme right. I will describe what goes wrong in his analogy in the most extreme case. The most extreme case is that Jesus(as) is deemed the dependent creator of heavens and the earth, manager, knower of everything in Universe, giver of life and death, and controller of everything. Ofcourse, dependently on Allah.
A Kalami critique of this argument
Here I will attempt one simple Kalaami critique against this argument and further cement is using the scripture and other evidences. This critique goes as follows:
Is it not deficient for Allah to give completely dependent powers of creation to someone who then goes on to create the heavens and the earth, control everything, etc. It is not leading to a deficient God in Istiqlaali thought, as long as God does not withdraw from his domain and everything is dependent upon the God.
Is it not deficient that Allah gives dependent powers to the being to give dependent powers to another being to create the Universe ? By Istiqlaali doctrine, it is not deficient.
The chain of dependent beings, each being completely power and knowledgeable over universe, while being completely dependent on Allah can go ad-infinitum.
At this point, the identity of the true independent being goes into an infinite regress. It will be possible to believe that there is only one true independent being, but it will not be possible to say which one is that, is that the 1st in the chain or the 100th or millionth ?
So if there are N possible beings and one 1 of them is independent, but all of them can do the same things, same acts with respect to us, the probability of finding the True God is 1/N. However, when the number of beings goes to infinite, the probability of identifying true God is ZERO. Thats exactly what Imaam Al-Raazi says under the verse where Ibrahim(as) told Nimrod to take sun out from the West, this is explained below.
Thus the identity of Allah becomes impossible to establish and if the identity is impossible to establish, he is impossible to be worshiped. Acts of worship cannot be directed to him. When his identity goes into an infinite regress, it is impossible from Him to be an Ilaah.
How is that analogous to Mormonism ?
Mormons believe in an infinite gods controlling infinite universes. In their view, the god of this Universe was once a man who followed his god perfectly and ended up as a god. Mormons believe that they too would end up creating their universes and end up as gods. Now Mormon church does not have a belief regarding the start of this god generation chain, but if we were only to make two modifications, it will pass as non-Shirki belief in Istiqlaali paradigm, i.e., there would be no deficiency that will be attributed to the independent God. These modifications are:
- Consider that the mormon god generation process was started by a true independent being.
- Consider that all these “gods” are not independent gods, but fully dependent beings, who derive their dependent powers from a single independent beings before them.
Therefore, in some sense, the Istiqlaali doctrine justifies the most polytheistic religion ever.
Shah Waliullah’s analysis of Shirk
The Imaam of Hind Shah Waliullah addresses this specific point in my opinion, in his magnus opus—Hujjatullahil Baaligha. Firstly, he describes how the source of Shirk is that people mistake the miracles and higher levels of knowledge that Allah gives to some among men and confuse that with matters that are unique to Allah.
He then describes two types of Mushrikeen who fall into this error:
- Among them are those who totally forget the majesty and power of God so that they begin to worship only those others whom they associate with God and they raise their needs only to them, not turning to God at all, although they know by demonstrative proof that the chain of being terminates with God.
- Among them are those who believe that Allah is the master and Manager but that He has bestowed on certain of His servants the mantle of nobility and deification, and He has given them the right to do tasarruf in certain matters, and He accepts the intercession for His servants in a way that a king sends a a governor to a part of his kingdom, … .
[Source; The Conclusive Argument from God: Concerning the True Nature of Shirk]
Point to note is that while (2) is the case of Shirk where Istiqlaalis can argue, that it is fulfilling their understanding, but what is (1) that Shah Waliullah talks about ? This is exactly the case, where the God is rendered completely irrelevant, while still considering everything dependent upon Him.
That is the whole point that if it is considered that God has given dependent abilities to another being such that he has hearing, knowledge, ability to grant salvation for eternity, ability to fulfill needs, etc, then there is no need of someone to pray even once to Allah or do any act of worship for Him.
Infact, with this belief, Istiqlaalis cannot even assert from attributes of Allah (they can only affirm due to Allah informing them as such) that the God of Quran is the real God, or the God infront of whom they will stand on the day of judgement is the real God, or Muhammad(sa) was the messenger of the real independent God or was he a messenger of a dependent being or a local god.
How the case of Mu’tazillah exposes incoherence of Istiqlaalis
Central to the istiqlaali argument is a presupposition that when we “scale-up” from lets say a miniscule “super-natural” power like a superman or a spiderman to someone creating heavens and the earth, the difference is not of non-divine to divine. Because that difference cannot be in quality, it has to be binary.
I will say that in that case, you will have to affirm that one Mu’tazilite asking another Mu’tazilite for a piece of bread is major Shirk. Because Mu’tazilite believed that humans are autonomous creators of their own actions, ofcourse they did affirm that humans are contingent beings and autonomy is granted by Allah, but so did the pagans for their deities. So the difference between Mu’tazilites and the Pagans is only of “scaling up” of knowledge and ability. If you say that Mu’tazilites are Mushrikoon, then you have exposed your philosophy to be completely made up and unprecedented, if you do not affirm that Mu’tazilites are Mushrikoon, then you have the problem of telling us what do you exactly mean be “independence”, and your criteria is internally incoherent.
The differentiating criteria between divine knowledge/power and other
If you have observed, the criteria to differentiate these two levels of attributes is not extracted from the scripture at all in Istiqlaali creed. But what I will show is that the answer to the predicament of Istiqlaalis lies in Surah Al-Hadid:3. There are many special and unique points about this verse.
- There is Hasan narration that among the Musabbihaat—the surah that start with tasbih of Allah, there is one verse better than a thousand verses. The Tasbih essentially means separation of Allah from everything else.
- Mulla Ali Al-Qari and Ibn Kathir and others consider Surah Hadid:3 to be this verse.
- This verse contains four names of Allah without a conjugation, which is unique in the whole Quran.
- The names in this verse can only be understood with reference to creations.
These four names are:
1. الأول (the first).
2. الآخر (the last).
3. الظاهر (the obvious/dominant/apparent).
4. الباطن (the hidden).
The name of Allah الظاهر demands that it is impossible for Allah (in light of his attributes) to give such powers to one creation over another creation such that the identity of Allah is compromised.
The attribute of Allah الباطن demands that it is impossible for Allah (in light of his attributes) to even give dependent knowledge to a Prophet that is equal to His knowledge.
Likewise, we must affirm that Allah is omnipotent and omniscient with no beginning and no end., because Allah is الأول and الآخر. We cannot say that any other being can have any power before Allah or after him, even while we may affirm Allah to be omnipotent in the present time instance.
Likewise, we have to affirm that Allah is الباطن, which implies that his knowledge and power encompass every one else’s, so no one can have same knowledge as Allah. Likewise, Allah is الظاهر, which implies that Allah dominates everything in a manner that makes Him obvious. This is only possible, if with respect to every creation, Allah has domination that is not shared by another being, even dependently.
Why Dua constitutes worship ?
This means that the domination of Allah has to be uniquely affirmed in case of human beings as well, that is precisely the reason that considering that someone can fulfill all your needs, hear all your duas, in every possible way, this is defacto making that person divine.
In istiqlaalism, dua is not the essence of worship, it is independence that is the essence of worship.
Because the typical dua that constitutes worship will be made to a person who can do anything possibly imaginable by a human being, when that is ascribed to someone other than Allah even dependently, the identity of Allah is compromised.
Shah Rafiuddin, son of Shah Waliullah writes that believing someone could do tasarruf in Universe and provide Rizq, give children, cure people, this is explicit Shirk, and no excuse is acceptable in this regard.
Shah Abdul Aziz, son of Shah Waliullah writes
(It is from Shirk to believe) that Prophets have the necessary aspects of Uloohiyyah (divinity), such as knowing unseen or being able to listen everyone from everywhere or believing that someone has authority everything.
Shah Abdul Qadir, son of Shah Waliullah says:
Shirk is to consider that someone else has attributes of Allah and to believe that someone can know anything and do anything, or that our good and bad are in his control and to spend the veneration exclusive to Allah on someone else, for example, prostrate to someone while asking for needs believing an entity to by ``Mukhtar'', being able to do anything.
Mulla Ali Al-Qari says: “Whoever believes in the equality of the knowledge of Allah (Exalted is He) and His messengers, he is a disbeliever by consensus.”
The Abarahamic Understanding
Freeing someone from all limitations == making him divine. Someone being able to know all, hear all, do all, make any laws, dependence cop-out or others will never be an impediment in making that being divine.
Lets take a look at how Ibrahim(as) understood Allah(swt):When Ibrahim(as) argued with Nimrod, he(as) said that my Allah(swt) gives life and death, Nimrod brought two guys and killed one of them and left the other, arguing that he can also give life and also give death.
If there was an Istiqlaali there, he would say, well Mr. Nimrod, I am sorry, but you only killed one guy because God gave you that power, you don’t have it independently of God. Show me how you have power independent of God.
But Ibrahim(as) was khalil, knowing fully, understanding fully, who Allah(swt) is, the close companion of Allah(swt), so he knew that all of Allah’s(swt) creations are limited and their limitations are evident, and it cannot be otherwise, if it was otherwise, Allah(swt) would be ambiguous.
So he simply said “bring sun from the west”. Khalas, the kaffir was dumbfounded.
أَلَمْ تَرَ إِلَى الَّذِي حَاجَّ إِبْرَاهِيمَ فِي رَبِّهِ أَنْ آتَاهُ اللَّهُ الْمُلْكَ إِذْ قَالَ إِبْرَاهِيمُ رَبِّيَ الَّذِي يُحْيِي وَيُمِيتُ قَالَ أَنَا أُحْيِي وَأُمِيتُ ۖ قَالَ إِبْرَاهِيمُ فَإِنَّ اللَّهَ يَأْتِي بِالشَّمْسِ مِنَ الْمَشْرِقِ فَأْتِ بِهَا مِنَ الْمَغْرِبِ فَبُهِتَ الَّذِي كَفَرَ ۗ وَاللَّهُ لَا يَهْدِي الْقَوْمَ الظَّالِمِينَ``Have you not considered the one who argued with Abraham about his Lord [merely] because Allah had given him kingship? When Abraham said, "My Lord is the one who gives life and causes death," he said, "I give life and cause death." Abraham said, "Indeed, Allah brings up the sun from the east, so bring it up from the west." So the disbeliever was overwhelmed [by astonishment], and Allah does not guide the wrongdoing people. ''
Imaam Al-Raazi says that:
لا سَبِيلَ إلى مَعْرِفَةِ اللَّهِ تَعالى إلّا بِواسِطَةِ أفْعالِهِ الَّتِي لا يُشارِكُهُ فِيها أحَدٌ مِنَ القادِرِينَ "There is no way to know Allah except through acts in which no other person can share."
If we consider Istiqlaali narrative, there is not a single act that is unique, an infinite amount of beings can perform all the tasks, except that one of them is independent and all other are dependent.
Argument via Corner Cases is rejected
The corner cases of what if someone believes the person in grave can hear and he will request Allah or that the request will be carried by an Angel to the soul of a dead person, who will pray to Allah, these do not change the basic principle that dua is the very essence of worship. That is why Rasulullah(sa) called dua as the very essence of worship.
Likewise they throw the cases of a superman flying around, does belief that someone is a superman constitute Shirk ? We would say “no”, and an essential difference happens between considering someone a superman and considering someone the creator of heavens and the earth. Only a foolish person would not understand that difference. Najdis may use their wrong criteria to call it Shirk, but we do not consider such cases to be major Shirk.
The route of Majaaz Aqli is proof against Istiqlaali doctrine, not for it
The Majaaz Aqli excuse is the standard excuse given to those misguided muslims who call upon others for help beyond means. This excuse is that the person might internally believe that his request will be forwarded by an Angel to the soul that is called upon, this soul will then ask Allah for help. Allah then has complete discretion whether to accept that or not. Likewise the one who is calling still worships Allah, prays, and also makes his own Dua, does not deem the soul to be either a necessary intercessor or a perfect intercessor, in this case, this has been deemed lesser than major Shirk.
However, the very fact that this route has been utilized by Subki, Haythami or Sulayman ibn Abdul Wahhaab, and others, this demonstrates that Istiqlaali doctrine is unprecedented in main stream Sunnism, even amongst those with inclinations towards AhlulBid’ah. The Istiqlaali view is that someone could be considered personally able to create everything, hear everywhere and control everything dependently, that won’t be considered Shirk.
Addressing the argument from the Hadith of calling Angels when way is lost
Some of the Istiqlaalis have argued that Imam Ahmad acted upon a weak hadith that if anything of you is lost, then ask Angels around. We would infact agree with Istiqlaalis here that such abilities are not Shirk. Najdis are wrong in their understanding, if they deem Imam Ahmad to have mistakenly fallen into major Shirk after acting on a weak hadith. Imam Ahmad was wrong, but he did not fall into major Shirk.
There is a fundamental difference between believing that some angels (each in a different place) can see one specific think and ask them on that matter, and between believing one single entity to be creator and able to do hear your inner most thoughts, know your Qadr, give you heavens or hellfire for eternity, etc.
Addressing the Kufr copout
Some of the Istiqlaalis resort to the Kufr copout that believing someone is creator of heavens and the earth dependently, that could be Kufr but not Shirk. This means that they do not affirm the implications of the name of Allah, الظاهر. They believe that erosion of identity of Allah is same as rejecting that Salah is obligatory. Whereas, belief that someone is creator of heavens and the earth dependently, that completely negates the name of Allah, that He is الظاهر. Istiqlaalis cannot take Kufr copout.
- The Istiqlaali criteria is shown to be borrowed from earlier Mushrikoon with the caveat of that being Haram.
- It is shown to be logically necessitate an ambiguous God.
- It is shown to justify Mormononism in some sense.
- It is shown to be logically incoherent.
- It is shown to be against the understanding of Shah Waliullah and all his family.
- It is shown that Dua is essence of worship and corner cases do not change that fact. It is shown that Majaz Aqli excuse is a proof against Istiqlaali doctrine, not for it.
- It is shown to be against essential attributes of Allah mentioned in one of the most important verses about Allah, i.e., Surah Hadid:3.