Error, Innovation and True Belief

Shaykh Muhammad Hisham Kabbani

Praise be to Allah, that He puts down innovation and innovators, and raises high the Sunnah of the Last Messenger, our Master and Protector Muhammad (sall-Allahu `alayhi wa sallam) and its people. Praise be to Allah that in every century he brings forth the sincere lovers of the Prophet (s) to defend the traditions of the Prophet (s) from the distortion of the ignorant–those who call the majority of Muslims throughout the Islamic world associationists (mushrikeen) and unbelievers (kuffar).

Salutations and Greetings of peace upon the Prophet (s), his Companions (r), and his Pure Family (Radhi Allahu Anhum wa Rahmatullahi alayhim), who are the owners and protectors of the Sunnah. In this century and before, there has appeared a group of people who are opposed to Ahlus-Sunnah wal-Jama’at, and Shari’ah in general. Their opposition is mainly to the established religious schools of law (madhahib). They contradict the beliefs and practices of Muslims, while they mislead a minority of Muslims with incorrect beliefs. Further, these people have given a religious judgement (fatwa) that it is permissible for them to harm, even slay, anyone who does not accept their beliefs.

The intention this article was written is to clarify some of the beliefs to which the majority of Muslims adhere. It is intended to refute some of the maliciously incorrect teachings which are being presented as Islam by a small but vocal group in mosques and centers throughout the Western Hemisphere. One of the main claims of this group is that Muslims whose beliefs differ from theirs are innovators (ahl al-Bida’ah), Kuffar, and even Mushrikeen.

We will demonstrate, through the relevant texts from Holy Qur’an and Hadith, that such a claim is not only invalid but is even Haraam from one Muslim to another. Abdullah Ibn Mas’ud (Radhi Allahu Anhu) conveyed that the Prophet (s) said, “Cursing a Muslim is corruption and fighting a Muslim is unbelief.” 1Another hadith states that Thabit ibn al-Dahak said that the Prophet (s) said, “Whoever says that a believer is an unbeliever, it is the same as if he had killed him.” 2 Abu Huraira and Abdullah Ibn `Umar (r) related that the Prophet (s) said, “If any man says to his brother `O unbeliever’ it is the same as if he had killed him.” 3 Abdullah Ibn `Umar related that the Prophet (s) said, “Don’t say that people who proclaim `La ilaha ill-Allah’ are unbelievers, even if they commit a sin, because the one who calls those who worship no God except Allah unbelievers, is himself an unbeliever.” 4

There are many many hadiths regarding this particular subject. We humbly ask our Lord to maintain us as true Muslims and prevent us from falling into the error of invoking kufr for believing people. It is unacceptable for Muslims to call each other unbelievers for any reason, because it is against the Shari’ah (whose sources comprise the Holy Qur’an, Hadith, Ijma’, and Qiyas) and it is a judgement which belongs to Allah Ta’ala alone.

HADITH: Hazrat Anas bin Malik relates that the Holy Prophet (s) said:

Three (3) things form the foundation of al-Islam:(1) Whosoever says ‘La ilaha Illallah, Muhammadar-Rasulullah,’ do not take him out of Islam because he committed a sin. …. [Sahih of Abu Dawud]

TAFSIRAhlus-Sunnah does not remove someone from Islam because he committed a sin, but the Khawarij say the person becomes a kafir. The Mu’tazila say the person will be out of Islam, but still be Muslim. If a person commits such an act which is a sign of kafir (wearing crosses,prostration to idols, etc…) then he will be out of Islam, but if someone says something that has one hundred meanings, 99 are kufr and one from Islam, then we must take the one meaning unless he’s referring to any of the 99.

The Khawarij are vocal in calling Muslims who follow interpretations and practices different than themselves ‘unbelievers’. A perfect example of this is when they labeled Sayyidina Ali bin Abi Talib (Karam Allah Wajhu) and Mu’awiyah (r) as being Mushrikeen for appointing an arbitrator. Ever since then, they have had a deep-rooted hatred for both, especially when it comes to Sayyidina Ali and his descendants (Ahl al-Bayt). For this reason alone, one will NEVER see any regard for the Ahl al-Bayt from the Wahhabi sect or any of its offshoots (who title themselves “Salafiyya“).

This sect was founded by Muhammad bin Abdul-Wahhab, (1699-1792 A.D.). He was from eastern part of what is now Saudi Arabia in the area of Najd. His father was a very righteous and pious person, as was his brother Sulaiman, both of whom were Hanbali’s.

Muhammad bin Abdul Wahhab studied religion in Madinah. He was strongly influenced by the teachings of Ibn Taymiyyah (8th century H.) and Ibn Qayyim al-Jawziyah and possessed extreme hatred for the Uthmani (Ottoman) Caliphate. Both of these scholars (Ibn Taymiyya and Ibn Qayyim al-Jawziyah) had deviated from the teachings of Ahlus-Sunnah wal-Jama’at in that they declared that there is no need to listen to or follow scholars nor the four schools of Law (madhahib). They proclaimed that those who did not follow their school were kuffar and mushrikeen. Theirs is known as the “Salafi” school.

As a result of the teachings he developed along the lines of the Salafi “school,” both his father and his brother warned the Ummah about Muhammad bin Abdul Wahhab’s innovations, his new and dangerous beliefs, and his misdirected teachings, which became perversions. Through the years, many sincere yet naive people have been deceived by his teachings on the subject of Tawhid, Shirk, and Kufr.

Muhammad bin Abdul Wahhab’s teachings contradict the Imams and righteous scholars from the time of the Holy Prophet (Sallallahu alayhi wa Sallam) up until today and he considered anyone not following him to be a kafir, and his blood and property licit. He began his mission in 1143 A.H. (1731 A.D.) and his beliefs spread through the tribes of Najd after 1150 A.H. (1738 A.D.). Muhammad b. Sau’d, Prince of Dar’iya, and his son Abdul Aziz, supported him and tried to propagate his teachings.

Many of the teachers of Muhammad bin Abdul Wahhab, said, “His teachings are going to deviate many people from the Sunnah and the true practices of Islam.” These include his father and his brother Shaykh Sulaiman, who wrote the book Divine Lightning in Refuting the Najdi Teachings, printed in Iraq in 1888 A. D., Muhammad bin Abdul Wahhab declared his intention of establishing a limited and narrow interpretation of Tawhid and to eliminate shirk. He considered all people from 1000 years ago up to his time, to have been associationists (mushrikeen) and that his teachings corrected the wrong beliefs of the majority of Muslims. He applied verses of Holy Qur’an, revealed concerning those who did not accept Allah Subhanahu wa ta’ala, in the time of the Holy Prophet (s), to any Muslims who rejected his beliefs.  In short, according to his school, anyone who disbelieved in his interpretations was an unbeliever.

Abdullah bin `Umar (r) said that the Prophet (s) said those who deviate from the beliefs of the majority of the Muslims, “using the verses of Holy Qur’an which were revealed about unbelievers to apply to believers, are themselves unbelievers.5 In another narration Ibn `Umar (r) said that the Prophet (s) said, “The thing I fear most for my nation is that a man will apply verses of Holy Qur’an outside its intended context.5

The followers of Muhammad bin Abdul Wahhab tried to suppress the writings of Ahlus-Sunnah scholars from the eyes of Muslims, hiding all books of previous scholars from the market and propagating their own limited literature–that of Ibn Taymiyyah, Ibn Qayyim and Muhammad bin Abdul Wahhab, and even attempting to corrupt the writings of Ahlus-Sunnah `ulama by buying out publishers for large sums of cash. It is an act of sacrilege for that man, Muhammad b. Abdul Wahhab and his followers, with their incorrect beliefs, to call the majority of Muslims unbelievers! In fact, the one who deviates from the majority of Muslims is nearer to unbelief than belief because he chooses a path removed from that of the majority of the Muslims. As Allah said in the Holy Qur’an,

“Whoever opposes the Prophet after he has found the Guidance and the Reality and follows a different way than the Believers, We are going to put him in Hell…”[4:115]

Many hadith of the Holy Prophet (s) predicted the coming of the Najdis and its destructive effect on Islam. the Holy Prophet said, “A people will emerge from the East, reading the Holy Qur’an in such a way that it never reaches past their throats. They pass through religion as the arrow passes through its target, consequently missing the mark.” 6

This has been a short introduction concerning the Najdi sect. We mentioned their accusation of shirk and kufr (association and unbelief) for those who accept Shafa’a of the Prophet (s), despite the hadiths which prohibit calling someone who says `La ilaha illa-Allah, Muhammadar-Rasulullah an unbeliever.

The Acceptability of Tawassul

One belief of the majority of Muslims which is rejected by the Najdi school is using the Prophet as intermediary to Allah (tawassul). Najdis regard this belief as constituting association or polytheism (shirk). However, clear proof of the acceptability of this belief is found in the Holy Qur’an and authentic Hadiths.

Here we will present some texts which will disprove their claim of shirk without a doubt. Firstly, if it was association, tawassul would never have been accepted by the Prophet (s) himself. As narrated in an authentic hadith, the Prophet in his prayers used to say, “O my Lord, I am asking you for the sake of those who ask You. . .” 7 He used to teach this supplication to his Sahabah and order them to use it. In this case, he (s) was using those who ask Allah to be the intermediaries for his supplication.

Question: Does belief in the use of the holy prophets and messengers as intermediaries (wasilah) make the believer asking through them a mushrik and a kafir? And is it true that his worship–salat, sawm, hajj, etc. –is corrupted by this belief?

Answer: Belief in the mediation (tawassul) of Prophets and messengers is faith, not unbelief, and it is permissible, not forbidden! The one who asks using the mediation (tawassul) of these Holy prophets TO Allah, in order that his request may be accepted, is a believer and a monotheist, and he is not a polytheist because he is asking Allah–not asking the holy prophets–but asking for the sake of their honor as holy prophets. That is why his worship is accepted–because he is worshipping Allah, not the prophets.

In support of this, we will quote first from the Holy Qur’an, secondly from the Sunnah of the Holy Prophet (s), thirdly from the consensus of the Sahaba (Ijma’), and finally from scholars of Islam, because they are closer to understanding the Holy Qur’an and Sunnah than we are.

The Qur’anic Evidences

Among the Qur’anic evidence is the verse in Surat al-Maidah,

“O you with Iman! Do your duty to Allah and seek the means [AL-WASILAH] of approach unto Him, and strive (with might and main) in His Cause so that ye may prosper. ” [5:35]

It is well-known from many hadiths that the possessor of the title al-Wasilah (means of approach), is the Prophet (s). That is why the majority of scholars have understood from this verse that it is permissible to use the mediation of righteous people and to make them a means between the Lord, Allah Suhanahu wa Ta’ala, and ourselves in order that our request will be accepted, on the condition that the one using the intermediary (wasilah) knows that the One granting his request is Allah, not the intermediary himself. If he believes otherwise than this, then he is an unbeliever. We quote the verse from Surat an-Nisa:

“If they had only, when they were unjust to themselves, come unto thee and asked Allah’s forgiveness, and the Messenger of Allah had asked forgiveness for them, they would have found Allah indeed Oft-Returning, Most Merciful. “ [4:64].

In explaining this verse, Ibn Kathir said,

“Allah guides the sinners and neglectful [`asi], if they do something sinful or corrupt, to come to the Prophet, take him as a means [wasilah], and ask forgiveness from Allah, and to ask the Prophet (s) to also request Allah’s forgiveness for them. If they do this, Allah will forgive them, bless them and have mercy on them. ”

Many other `ulama have explained this verse in a similar manner. We know that the Holy Qur’an is for all centuries, not only for a specific time, as it is Allah’s Word. So all Muslims are under that order of Allah to come to Him through the means of the Prophet [wasilah]. Further, there are numerous other verses of Holy Qur’an which give a similar meaning, but for now it suffices to mention only these two.

Evidences from Hadith

`Uthman bin Hanif was with the Prophet, and a man came to the Prophet and complained about the loss of his sight. The Prophet told him, “If you like, I will supplicate Allah for you, but if you can be patient, it is better.” He said, “O Prophet of Allah, it is very hard on me to have lost my sight, and I have no one to lead me about. ” So the Prophet (s) ordered him to make ablution and perfect it, pray two rakats and then to come to Allah with this supplication, “O Allah! I am asking You and turning to You through Your Prophet Muhammad, the Prophet of Mercy. O Muhammad! [YA MUHAMMAD!] I am turning to My Lord, taking you as a means for my request to be granted. O Allah, grant me his intercession.” (Ar: “Allahuma innee as’aluka wa atawajjahu ilayka bi nabiyyika Muhammad, Nabiyy ur-rahma, ya Muhammad inni atawajjahu bika ila rabbi fee hajati hadhihi li-tuqda lee. Allahumma shaffi`hu fiyya“)

And `Uthman swore, “By Allah, we did not part company before that person returned to us and his prayer had been granted. It was as if he had never been afflicted. ” This is a Sahih Hadith.8

The Last Messenger (s) was very clear in his order that anyone who has a request should take the Prophet as a means to Allah [wasilah]. That person called on Allah in the absence of the Prophet (s), i. e. he went out to make his supplication. Here he used the phrase, “Ya Muhammad!” addressing the Prophet (s) directly. From this we can understand that we can take the Prophet as a means to Allah in his presence or in his absence, during his life and after his passing away. This is the understanding the Companions (r) had of the Prophet’s order, because his order to one person is like a general order in all times, unless there is a specific order to the contrary in the Sunnah.

Evidence from the Practice of the Sahabah

A man used to come to `Uthman b. `Affan (r), the third caliph after the death of Sayyidina Muhammad (s), in order to make a request of him. `Uthman (r) used to ignore him and would not consider his request. One day, the man met `Uthman b. Hanif and complained of this to him. `Uthman b. Hanif said to him, “make ablution and go to the masjid and pray two rakats and say [the famous supplication that the Prophet (s) had taught the blind man], `O my Lord, I am asking You and turning to You through Your Prophet Muhammad, the Prophet of Mercy. O Muhammad! I am turning to My Lord, taking you as a means for my request to be granted. Oh Allah, grant me his intercession. ‘ Then mention your request to Allah. And then come to me and we will go together to `Uthman b. `Affan. That person went and did as he was taught, and afterwards passed by the door of `Uthman b. `Affan. The doorkeeper asked him to come inside to meet with `Uthman b. `Affan. `Uthman b. `Affan made him sit beside him on the pillow designated for important visitors. He asked him, “What is your request?” The man mentioned his request. It was immediatedly granted. Then `Uthman b. `Affan asked him, “Why didn’t you made this request before?” He then added, “Whenever you have a request come to us!” That man left and met `Uthman b. Hanif again. He told him, “Thank you, my brother. `Uthman b. `Affan would not look at me and entirely ignored my request until you spoke to him. . ” `Uthman b. Hanif said, “By Allah, I did not speak with him, but I taught you what the Prophet (s) had taught the blind man. ” This is an authentic hadith. 9

Here that man invoked the Prophet (s) by calling, “Ya Muhammad!” although he was fully aware that the Prophet (s) had passed away, and the Companions did not reject this.

It is narrated that `Umar b. al-Khattab, the second caliph (r), would pray to Allah for rain during times of drought through the means, the honor and intercession of the uncle of the Prophet, `Abbas b. `Abdul Muttalib (r) by using this supplication, “O Our Lord! Previously, when we had a drought, we used to come to You by means and intercession of Your Prophet. Now we are requesting intercession through the uncle of the Prophet to grant us rain. “10 And it was granted. `Umar added, after making this supplication: “He (al-`Abbas), by Allah, is the means to Allah” (hadha wallahi al-wasilatu ilallahi `azza wa jall).11

Mu’awiyah (r) once asked Allah for rain through the intercession of Yazid ibn al-Aswad, in the presence of the Sahabi and the Tabi’een. Now ask yourself… if this was “shirk,” wouldn’t the Sahabi and Tabi’een have IMMEDIATELY stopped it with their hands or spoke out against it?

From these Aadith, we can understand that tawassul through the Prophet (s) himself and through Saliheen, living or passed away, absent or present, is acceptable. None of the Sahaba nor theTabi’een (Radhi Allahu Anhum)  deny the use of tawassul by `Umar and Mu’awiyah. That is because the Holy Qur’anic verses we quoted previously from Surah an-Nisa and Surah al-Ma’edahgave a general command for all Muslims. Also the Hadiths we quoted gave a general order to use Saliheen as Wasilah without specifying if the tawassul was through their good deeds or through their pious personages. If tawassul by way of the personages of the Holy Prophet (Sallallahu Alayhi wa Sallam) and pious people was association and unbelief (shirk and kufr)–as ignorant people have claimed, then the Sahabi (r) would have denied the use of mediation (tawassul) by Hadarat `Umar (r) and Mua’wiyah (r).
The Evidence of Scholars
Ibn Qayyim al-Jawziyah, the student of Ibn Taymiyyah, both of whom were the teachers who preceded Ibn Abdul-Wahhab, wrote in his book Za’d al Ma’ad:

There is no way to happiness and success in this life and the Hereafter except through the Messenger. You cannot receive Allah’s satisfaction except through their hands [wasilah]. …It is known that the means [wasilah] to happiness and success in this life and the Hereafter is through the personages of the Prophets and messengers themselves [bi dhawatihim].

He adds:

tawassul through the prophets (‘Alayhim as-salaam) causes requests to be granted. And the granting of requests is by Allah. “

He continues:

Through mediation (tawassul) we receive blessings [ni’mat] from Allah. And the means to those blessings is itself a blessing from Allah. And no doubt the personages of the prophets and messengers is among the greatest of His blessings.

That is why it is permissible to say that the personages of the prophets are themselves intermediaries (wasilah) to Allah. He continues in his book:

It must be known that the biggest blessing and the greatest goodness and the greatest favor from Allah is the very existence of the personage of Muhammad (s), because he is the greatest Prophet, the Rahmah for all human beings, the seal of the prophets and the intercessor of sinners. And Allah has mentioned about the honor [shan] of the Prophet that Allah granted favors to the believers by sending Prophet Muhammad from among themselves.

He concludes:

It is confirmed that Prophet Muhammad (s) is `al-wasilat al-udhma fil dunya wal-akhirah. ‘ –the greatest means and intermediary to Allah in this life and the Hereafter. And happiness and success will never be obtained except through him.

This is what Ibn Qayyim al-Jawziya, one of the preceding teachers of Ibn Abdul-Wahhab, said in his book Za’d al Ma’ad. That is why we summarize and conclude that it is permissible to ask Allah by means of the Prophet and his mediation (tawassul) before his advent–as was done by our Abu, Sayydina Adam (‘Alayhis-Sallam) –after his birth, during his life and after his death, as we have determined from the previous discussion.

We ask Allah to prevent us from slipping into errors and to guide us to the right path. Amin.

Wa Salaam `alaykum wa Rahmatullah.


Narrated in Sahih al-Bukhari no: 6044, 7076 and Sahih Muslim 1:122.
Narrated in Sahih al-Bukhari.
Narrated in Sahih al-Bukhari.
Narrated in Sahih Bukhari.
Narrated in Sahih Bukhari.
Narrated in Sahih al-Bukhari and Muslim
Ibn Majah and others related this hadith and the-Hafidh, Ibn Hajar, deemed it a strong hadith .
Narrated in most books of Hadith, including Muslim, Ibn Khuzaimah, an-Nisa’i, al-Tirmidhi and Ibn Majah as a sahih (authentic) hadith. It is related by Ahmad (4:138 #17246-17247), Tirmidhi (hasan sahih gharib — Da`awat Ch. 119), Ibn Majah (Book of Iqamat al-salat wa al-sunnat, Ch. on Salat al-hajat #1385), Nasa’i (`Amal al-yawm wa al-laylat p. 417-418 #658-660), al-Hakim (1:313, 1:526), Tabarani in al-Kabir, and rigorously authenticated as sound (sahih) by nearly fifteen hadith masters including Ibn Hajar, Dhahabi, Shawkani, and Ibn Taymiyya.
sound (sahih) hadith authenticated by Bayhaqi, Abu Nu`aym in the Ma`rifa, Mundhiri (Targhib 1:473-474), Haythami, and Tabarani in the Kabir (9:17-18) and the Saghir (1:184/201-202)
al-Bukhari, Baihaqi, Ibn Asakir al-Hakim and many other Imams relate this Tradition.
Ibn `Abd al-Barr relates it in al-Isti`ab bi ma`rifat al-ashab.

Peace and Blessings upon the Prophet, his Family, and his Companions