Ibn Taymiyyah on Istighatha and Tawassul

I recently wrote a detailed piece on the Hanbali perspective on Istighatha and Tawassul. In that piece, I interviewed Sh. Kareem Helmy, a Hanbali scholar and researcher based in Egypt, to provide details on what Hanbali scholars say about these two matters. We briefly discussed Ibn Taymiyyah in it as well but the main focus was other scholars of the Hanbali school because Ibn Taymiyyah’s position on these matters is well-known.

Dr. Yasir Qadhi’s recent lecture on the topic of Istighatha has resulted in much controversy and backlash. As a result of this lecture, I have come across quite a few people in the last few weeks who have become confused about what Ibn Taymiyyah’s views are on this topic. Therefore, I wanted to write a quick summary of his views on this subject using his own writings.

Ibn Taymiyyah in Mukhtasar al-Fatawaa al-Misriyyah divides those who go to graves into three categories and provides a ruling for each. Here is a screenshot:

The summary of his three categories are as follows (I’m not going to do word-for-word translation):

First category: Those who go to graves to ask the dead for things which are exclusive to Allah’s power alone, such as, seeking forgiveness, granting a child, providing guidance, curing illness, saving from Hell, granting paradise, etc. These examples are explicitly mentioned by him a few pages before the screenshot on pg. 191. This is when the caller believes that the dead entity itself acts to provide such things. He considers this shirk without question.

Second category: Those who go to graves to ask the dead to make supplications on their behalf because they believe that the dead entity’s supplication is more likely to be answered due to his righteousness. He considers this practice permitted while the person was alive but not after their death. Therefore, he views this practice forbidden but does not call it shirk. In one of his other books called Qaa’idah Jaleelah Fee al-Tawassul al-Waseelah, he says about this type, “Nobody from the salaf did such a thing because it is a means to shirk and worshipping other than Allah.”

Third category: Those who go to graves and do not call out the dead, rather, they ask Allah but use the status of the dead entity as a tawassul. For example, they may supplicate, “Oh Allah! grant me such and such by the high rank or blessing of so and so!” He also considers this practice forbidden but does not use the word shirk.  However, majority of the Hanbali scholars disagree with him on this and permit this type especially as it relates to the grave of the Prophet Muhammad (pbuh) as was discussed in my previous article on the subject.

The above is a brief summary of his views on this topic.

2 thoughts on “Ibn Taymiyyah on Istighatha and Tawassul”

  1. As salam alaikum. This could help to in practice eliminate accusations of kufr among muslims based on istighatha, contrary to what so much happens today, as to date I still do not know of a single muslim of those many that I know that practice it that falls in category one. The reason: nobody of them “believes that the dead entity itself has the power to do these things.” Rather, they believe it anything happens it happens with the will and permission of Allah, as a karamat or mujiza, as the case may be, which all concurr that only happens by the Power of Allah. So at most, if that does not happen, the istigatha turns out to be not shirk but a waste of time (and in IT’s view, haram though not shirk).

    1. WS,

      Unfortunately, category one is common among many ignorant masses and extreme Sufis. You may have not come across them but they definitely exist. I know for a fact that numerous laity Muslims who have been living among Hindus for centuries and have little to no knowledge about their faith have been influenced by Hindus and go to graves with category one type beliefs.

      I believe that most people that go to graves fall into categories two and three and don’t believe that the dead entity itself is taking any sort of action on its own except supplicating for you (if the person falls under category two).

      The question is what of those who believe it is the dead entity itself doing it at will but does so by Allah’s permission and cannot do so independently on its own? In other words, the person believes that this saint/prophet can grant him a child at will because Allah has given him such power. This would still be shirk according to Hanbalis. They don’t make distinction between whether Allah gave him the power to do it or not. Things that are exclusive to Allah’s power alone can NEVER be attributed to anyone else. I asked YQ about this as well on Twitter to see how he responds and this is what he answered: https://twitter.com/YasirQadhi/status/1370014533046181898.

      I found the answer vague so I pressed him a little more and he said this: https://twitter.com/YasirQadhi/status/1370044819322535943

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