The Names Game

Exaggerations beyond the Imams!
April 15, 2021
The Imams as Intermediaries
April 15, 2021

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The Names Game


I was watching a documentary film on India with one of my Egyptian friends. This friend was from a Sufi family, although he did not fit the profile of a clichéd, eccentric Sufi. He had the capacity to think about things critically.

This documentary included a segment on a group of Buddhists. One was shown sleeping on nails, another was walking on coals, a third was driving a knife into his head, and so on.

My friend remarked, “These tricks are an exact replica of those done by the Sufis in Egypt who claim to have been given miracles!” He added mockingly, “Every Sufi ought to observe the ‘miracles’ from his pious saints, and then observe the same things are done by these idol worshipping non-believers.”

He commented, “Idols, made me pause and reflect for a moment. I remembered the story of idols appearing in the Arabian Peninsula, and how the idol, Lat, was attributed to a pious person who used to make porridge for the people. Upon his demise, people were very grieved, and made a statue to commemorate him, and before long it evolved into an idol which people worshipped as a deity besides Allah.”

I imagined an idol around which hundreds of people had gathered in seeking their sustenance and cure from their sicknesses with all of their humility and submission, only for Shaitan to suddenly change it with a tree whilst the people remained the same as they were earlier, requesting their sustenance! Suddenly he would make the tree disappear, replacing it with a fire, after which they would continue to sit there! Then the fire was exchanged with a grave, and people continued to seek sustenance and blessing from it as if it would draw them nearer to Allah!

What is the difference between these elements, when the action associated with them is the same? What difference does it make if there is a tree in the centre, or a fire, or a grave, or anything else for that matter, when the action is one: beseeching other than Allah and requesting one’s needs from them?

I was amazed at Shaitan’s crafty plan: by simply changing names or substituting objects, throughout history, his objectives were realized. It is as if Shaitan wants to tell the naïve world of man:

Whoever does not worship Lat will worship another; names are plenty yet Shirk is one.


Changing the name of alcohol does not make it permissible to consume. Calling it spirits, or nootropics, or any other name will not change the Islamic ruling on it. Just like this, the discovery of new types of beverages similar to alcohol in its intoxicating effect does not make it a permissible beverage!

Alcohol is not simply forbidden because its name is alcohol, but rather because it intoxicates. Thus, anything that intoxicates is impermissible, regardless of what people may call it. Drugs, opium, hashish, and even sniffing glue are all impermissible because they intoxicate in the same way that alcohol does.

In the same way, invoking idols is polytheism, not because of the name, idol, but rather because it is worship of a deity other than Allah. Hence, there is no difference between calling upon an idol and calling upon the sun, or the angels, or tombs of the deceased. All of this is worship of others besides Allah, regardless of what appellations they may hold.

Was the Messenger of Allah salla Llahu ‘alayhi wa sallam sent to us to tell us of the validity of seeking sustenance and cure from the Imams, or was he sent to turn us to the worship of Allah alone? Ponder over the statement of Allah’s Messenger Ibrahim ‘alayh al Salam when he said:


وَإِذَا مَرِضْتُ فَهُوَ يَشْفِينِ

When I am sick, then He is the one who cures me.[1]


Allah subhanahu wa ta ‘ala also says:

وَالَّذِينَ يَدْعُونَ مِن دُونِ اللَّهِ لَا يَخْلُقُونَ شَيْئًا وَهُمْ يُخْلَقُونَ أَمْوَاتٌ غَيْرُ أَحْيَاءٍ ۖ وَمَا يَشْعُرُونَ أَيَّانَ يُبْعَثُونَ

Those whom they call besides Allah cannot create anything, and they are themselves created. They are dead, not living. They do not know when they will be raised.[2]


They are dead, not living. If this verse is not addressing calling upon the dead instead of Allah, then what else could it be addressing?

Someone may object by saying, “The Imams are martyrs, and the martyrs are alive by their Lord, as Allah has said, ‘And do not think of those who were killed in the path of Allah as dead. Rather, they are alive, being granted provision by their Lord.’

I would answer by saying that the disbelievers are also alive after their deaths. Their life is the life of the realm between this world and the next called Barzakh. However, Allah did not call this life, as it does not deserve this title.

Moreover, whoever uses this verse as evidence fails to complete it, and instead stops at “dead.” If those who used this verse as proof just paused to reflect over the remainder of the verse, which is, “Rather, they are alive, being granted provision by their Lord”, then they would notice that Allah said, “being granted provision” not “granting provision.” Allah sends provision to them, and they do not send provision to the people themselves. I say that if they had pondered over this verse then they would not have used it as evidence for the permissibility of seeking provision from the dead.

Imam al Sadiq ‘alayh al Salam said in an earlier mentioned Hadith:


By Allah, we are nothing but slaves to that Being Who created us; we can neither harm nor benefit. If He shows mercy on us then it is out of His mercy, and if He punishes us, then it is as a result of our sins. By Allah we have no proof against Allah, and neither are we independent of Allah. Indeed, we are to expire, be buried, be resurrected and raised, and apprehended and questioned (on the Day of Judgement). Woe to them! What is the matter of them, may Allah curse them! They have disobeyed Allah and discomforted his Messenger salla Llahu ‘alayhi wa sallam in his grave, and they have discomforted the leader of the believers, as well as Fatimah, Hassan, Hussain, ‘Ali ibn Hussain, and Muhammad ibn ‘Ali.[3]


The Messenger salla Llahu ‘alayhi wa sallam did not erect tombs or domes over the grave of his cousin Jafar, nor for his uncle Hamzah. Even Amir al Mu’minin ‘alayh al Salam did not erect a tomb over the grave of the Messenger salla Llahu ‘alayhi wa sallam in his caliphate. The Imams ‘alayhim al Salam did not do this either. As a matter of fact, the Messenger salla Llahu ‘alayhi wa sallam cursed those who undertook such actions. Sheikh al Saduq and Al Hurr Al ‘Amili narrate that the Messenger of Allah salla Llahu ‘alayhi wa sallam said, “Do not take my grave as a qiblah or as a place of worship, for indeed Allah cursed the Jews for taking the graves of their Messengers as places of worship.”[4]


NEXT⇒ The Imams as Intermediaries

[1] Surah al Shu’ara’: 80.

[2] Surah al Nahl: 20-21.

[3] Rijal al Kashhi, 2/491; Bihar al Anwar, 25/289.

[4] Al Saduq: ‘Ilal al Shara’i’, 2/358; al Hurr al ‘Amili: Wasa’il al Shia, 3/235.

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