As I say, such people are honored by God. The honor may take the form of bringing about something miraculous to benefit a particular person or a community. This is what is known as "karamah", or an act of honor granted to such a wali. But this takes place by God's will, not by that person's desire. It takes place when he does not expect it, although he may pray hard for it. His prayer would be in general terms, such as praying for a group of people to be rescued from danger. How the rescue will come about, he cannot tell.
God may respond and rescue those people without any intervening action on their part. The rescue takes place by God's will and in the way He determines. To do something miraculous or supernatural is easy for God. When He wills something to happen, He needs only to say to it, "Be", and it is there.
Now the extract from the book you have sent me claims that such Aulia are given the authority to will anything to be and it happens.
I tell you in the most unequivocal of terms that this is absurd. It is an assumption that those people are given an authority which belongs solely to Allah Himself. There is simply no evidence from the Qur'an or the Sunnah to support this claim. Nor can there be any logical argument to support it.
Moreover, Islamic history shows clearly that those who had the greatest status as dedicated believers were not given such a power. We have not heard of anyone of the Prophet's companions, or those who succeeded them, having been given such a power. Nor indeed was this granted to any of the great servants of Islam, whether scholars, fighters, etc. It is claimed that those who are given such an authority do not use it, as a gesture of deference to God's authority.
But this is ridiculous, because a believer who is given some sort of authority or power should use it for the benefit of the Muslim community. Besides, is it possible that such a privilege is given to a single person in the Muslim world and he decides not to use it to relieve the plight of Muslims in such places as Somalia, Bosnia, Kashmir, Philippines or Palestine? Why not? Is it a privilege he uses for his own benefit? That would bring him down in status to the position of a selfish person.
Moreover, how would we know that a person has been granted such a privilege? The book tells us that those who are given the privilege do not use it. From where, then, do we derive the knowledge that they have it. We have nothing mentioned in the Qur'an or Hadith about any person being given such a privilege.
If he keeps quiet about it and does not use it, then where does the information come from? Do you not see that there is something suspicious about the whole claim? Let me tell you that if any person, regardless of his position, makes the claim that God has given him such a privilege, then he is a liar. As I have explained, when God grants someone or a group of people an honor causing something miraculous to happen to them or to others through them, the event will have all the mark of being an accomplishment of God's will. It comes in a way which is least expected by us. If it happens and someone claims that it is an honor granted to him, then he is a liar. If other people claim it for him, then he should stop them. If he does not then he is allowing his ego to express itself. That is not the attitude of a wali, or a friend of God.
Besides, how would any person attain such a privilege? By strenuous worship? Definitely not. By fighting for God's cause? How, when we know that the Muslims lost many battles and countless martyrs? I tell you clearly that this claim is no more than an illusion. Whoever makes such a claim for himself is a liar. We doubt whether he actually believes in God. If it is claimed for other people, then the claimant simply betrays his ignorance.
• Aulia: Miraculous powers
In the India-Pak region people visit tombs of holy men (Aulias) whom they believe to have personal or spiritual powers called 'karamats'. People who visit these tombs believe that those who are buried in them can give relief or remedy of physical or spiritual illness, or can accomplish other things as well. Is this correct from the Islamic point of view? I found no such practices in the Arabian world, apart from the fact that people visit the Prophet's tomb in Madinah.
Islam does not recognize any powers, miraculous or otherwise, to any dead person, no matter how good or 'holy' he was in his life. For one thing, we cannot judge any person fully. It is only Allah who judges people according to what He knows of their intentions and their actions. No human being can pretend to know the intentions of another. As you realize, it is easy to have wicked intentions behind some action with appears to be good.
Apart from this, the Prophet has stated unequivocally that when we die we lose our power to do anything. He says: When a human being dies, all his actions come to an end, except in one of three ways: a continuous act of charity, or a contribution to knowledge which benefits mankind, or a good child who prays for him. Reading his statements of the Prophet, one is bound to realize that no dead man can relieve or cure an ill person, or be indeed of any benefit to him, apart from the first two ways which the Prophet spelled out.
We derive our teachings from the Prophet, not from any other source. This is what Islam requires of us. No one can add to what the Prophet has conveyed to us as Allah's message to mankind. Any addition is thus rejected. I am afraid visits to tombs of 'holy' men wit the aim of asking them to exercise their assumed powers is not part of Islam. They cannot be of any benefit whatsoever. All this is innovation which cannot be condoned.
When we go to Madinah, we visit the Prophet's Mosque. This is because praying in the Prophet's Mosque earns us for every prayer we offer there the reward of 1,000 prayer offered elsewhere, apart from the Grand Mosque in Makkah.
We also greet he Prophet in his grave, acknowledging that he has conveyed to us Allah's message and given us sound advice. We also pray Allah that the Prophet may intercede on our behalf on the Day of Judgment. We do not ask or pray the Prophet to cure our illnesses, because he cannot. Only Allah can cure such illnesses or answer our prayers, whatever they are. I strongly recommend you to forget all about 'holy' men and their special powers, for they have none.
Allah: there is no deity save Him, the Ever-Living, the Eternal Master of all: Neither slumber nor sleep overtakes Him. His is all that is in the heavens and all that is on earth. Who is there that can intercede with Him except by His permission? He knows all that lies open before men and all that is hidden from them, whereas they cannot attain to anything of His knowledge save such as He wills. His throne extends over the heavens and the earth, and the preservation of both does not weary Him. He is the Most High, the Most Great. (The Cow, "Al-Baqarah" 2:256) Commentary by Sayyid Qutb — Translated by Adil Salahi & Ashur Shamis.
Every attribute of Allah contained in this verse outlines a basic principle of the clear Islamic concept of Allah and represents a cornerstone of the clear Islamic constitution.
Allah: there is no deity save Him. This decisive statement of the Oneness of Allah leaves no room for any sort of deviation or confusion of the sort which crept into earlier religions, such as the concept of trinity which church councils invented after the time of Jesus, peace be upon him. There can no longer be any confusion which colored pagan philosophies which leaned toward the concept of the Oneness of Allah, adding to it some legendary concepts. The ancient Egyptians believed at one time in the Oneness of Allah, but then confused it by considering that the sun represented Allah, and alleged that there were a number of junior gods who were happy to fulfill His bidding.
The uncompromising principle of the absolute Oneness of Allah provides the foundation of the philosophy of Islam, and the basis for the formulation of the Islamic way of life. The concept lays down that both submission and worship must be offered to Allah alone. No man should submit to anyone other than Him. Allah alone is to be obeyed, and His pleasure is the one to be sought. From this concept, we also derive the principle that the authority to legislate belongs to Allah alone. No one else may lay down laws for man. Whatever laws people enact must be derived from Allah's law. From this concept alone, we derive the principle that all values must be approved by Allah. No value has any significance unless it is approved by Allah. No situation, tradition or regime has any validity or legitimacy if it contravenes Allah's constitution. The same applies to all feelings generated within man or practical methods for application in human life which have any relevance to the meaning and significance of the principle of the Oneness of Allah.
The Ever-Living, the Eternal Master of all. When Allah is described as Alive or Ever-Living, the description refers to a self-sustaining life which is not derived from any outside source as in the case with the lives of creatures which are granted them by the Creator. Hence, Allah is the only one which can be so described as "Ever-Living." Moreover it is sort of eternal life which neither starts nor ends at any point in time. It is totally divorced from the concept of time which is always attached to the lives of creatures which run for limited periods, starting at one point in time and ending at another. Again this aspect of life of Allah is applicable only to Him. Moreover, His life is unrestricted by any of the qualifications or characteristics with which people define life. For there is nothing and no one similar to Allah. Hence, His is a life which is absolute. All legendary concepts about Him are thus invalidated.
The other attribute given here is translated as: The Eternal Master of all, means that He has the power over all creation. It also means that the lives of everything that exist are sustained by Him. Hence, nothing can take shape or come into existence unless He supports it. This is the exact opposite of the notion advanced by Aristotle, the most distinguished of Greek philosophers, who suggested that Allah does not give any thought to any of His creation, because He is too grand and sublime to think of anyone other than Himself. Aristotle thought that as he severed all relations between Allah and His creation he has made Allah more sublime and more exalted. Unlike this negative concept, the Islamic concept of the Divine Being is a positive one. It is based on the principle that Allah actively sustains everything, and that nothing can exist or survive except by His will and permission. This concept makes the conscience of every Muslim, his life and existence, as well as the existence of everything around him directly related to Allah who conducts all affairs according to His wisdom and planning. This provides the motive for man to conduct his own life according to the constitution drawn by Allah in His wisdom and according to His planning. He thus derives his own values and standards from that constitution and he watches Allah as he applies these values and standards.
Neither slumber nor sleep overtakes Him. This statement reassures that Allah sustains everything. Its mode of expression helps our human intellect to appreciate the principle that Allah, for all time, is the master of everything and everyone that lives. At the same time, this statement expresses the basic fact that Allah is unlike anything: Nothing and no one has any similarity to Him. It states that no light or deep sleep can overtake Him, in any form or situation.
When we consider the fact that Allah is the active Master of the universe who controls everything in it, large or small, all the time and in every situation, we are bound to feel how awesome this fact is, especially when we try to imagine, limited as our imagination is, what this vast universe contains of creatures and events. We can only perceive that all these creatures and events are directly controlled by Allah, and are subject to His planning, only in a very very limited way. Nevertheless, our attempt to visualizing it is bound to make us feel dizzy with amazement. It also gives us endless assurance.
His is all that is in the heavens and all that is on earth. His ownership is total and absolute. It is subject to no restrictions or qualifications or partnerships in any form. This is again a principle of the Oneness of the Divine Being. Allah, the One is the only One who is Ever-Living, Eternal Master and Owner of all. This negates any sharing or partnership which can be imagined by people. It is also useful in the formulation of the meaning of ownership in our own world. When we consider that real ownership of everything in this Universe is Allah's, we are saying in effect, that people do not own anything initially. They are put in charge of what they have by the Original Single Owner Who owns everything. Hence, they must abide by the conditions stipulated by the owner who has given them their charge and explained in His Divine Law. They are not supposed to contravene these conditions, or else, their ownership, which originates with the covenant which puts them in charge of what they have, becomes invalid. Whatever they do becomes invalid and must be repelled by those who believe in Allah. Here we find Islamic philosophy formulating Islamic legislation and giving shape to the practical life which Islam establishes. When Allah states in the Qur'an: His is all that is in the heavens and all that is on earth, He does not merely state a basic fact of faith, He is also establishing a basic concept of constitution. He lays down for human life and the nature of relations which it creates.
From another point of view, when a person genuinely feels that Allah is the true owner of all that is in the heavens and all that is on earth, and that he himself does not actually own anything of what he is said to own, but that the true owner is the One who owns the universe, when he feels that whatever he has is lent to him for a limited period; after which its true owner will claim it back; when he truly feels all this he is bound to be less greedy and less keen to add to his wealth by any means. He is bound to be more content with what he has, and more generous to others with whatever he possesses. He is bound to feel happy whether he is rich or poor. He will not feel envious of others because they own more than he does, and will not feel any grudge against them as a result of that.
Who is there who can intercede with Him except by His permission? This is another attribute of Allah which delineates the two positions of the Master and the servant. All creatures stand in the position of servants to the Divine Being and they never try to exceed that position. They stand humble in front of Him, unable to say anything or to intercede for anyone unless they have the permission to do so. When they are permitted, they do whatever they are allowed to do within the limits allowed them. Some of them are certainly better than others and some attain higher grades with Allah, but they all stop at the limits which no servant of Allah is allowed to exceed.
The general impression here is one of submissive respect to Allah in His great Majesty. This impression is further enhanced by the mode of expression used here which is a mode of rhetoric question, implying that this is something that cannot take place. For who is it that can intercede with Allah unless he has prior permission to do so?
When we appreciate this fact, we are bound to feel the vulgar absurdity of all the deviant concepts advanced by those who came at different times after Allah's messengers, confusing the concept of godhead with the concept of servitude to Allah. Some of them allege that He has a partner who shares His authority, either on the basis of being His son or on some other basis. Others allege that He has equal partners who intercede with Him and that He necessarily accepts their intercession. Still others allege that He has human deputies who derive their authority from being His relatives. To say that such concepts are absurd is certainly an understatement. When we consider the Islamic concept of the relation between Allah and His servants, such ideas and concepts cannot be entertained for a moment in any way or form.
Such is the clarity which distinguishes the Islamic concept. It leaves no room for confusion or ambiguity. Allah is God, the absolute. His servants are His servants. There is no way that the nature of Allah can be confused with the nature of His servants.
As far as the relationship between the servant and their Lord, the mercy his Lord shows to him and His closeness to him and the compassion and support He gives him, all this is stated clearly by Islam. Moreover, it establishes this fact in the heart of the believer to enable him to enjoy its blessings without any need for confusing the nature of the Lordship of Allah and the nature of servitude of man.
He knows all that lies open before men and all that is hidden from them, whereas they cannot attain to anything of his knowledge save such as He wills. Both concepts of this statement contribute to the elaborate concept of Allah a Muslim should have, and define his own position toward his Lord. Allah knows everything which lies open before men and everything which remains hidden from them. In short, His knowledge is absolute and most detailed of everything in their world. It includes their present and whatever remained unknown to them in the past and whatever will remain unknown to them in future. We cannot think of a better expression to indicate the totality of Allah's knowledge. As far as human beings are concerned, they know nothing except what Allah allows them to know.
This part of the fact expressed in this statement, i.e. Allah's total knowledge of what people know and what is beyond their knowledge, is bound to shake man when he thinks that at every moment he stands in full view of his Lord who knows everything about him. He knows what man conceals in the same way as He knows what man chooses to make known. His knowledge of what man knows is the same as His knowledge of what man does not know. Moreover, He knows the past and the present as well as the future of which man knows nothing. One has only to contemplate this to be overwhelmed by awe as he realizes that his Lord knows his innermost soul. This should prompt any intelligent person to submit himself to the One who knows everything in its reality.
The second part of this statement which indicates that men can only know what Allah wills them to know is worth deliberate consideration, especially in our age when the discoveries of science in a small area of life, and in a little corner of the universe, have fancied people and left them dazzled. They cannot attain to anything His knowledge save such as He wills. He is the only one who knows everything. Moreover, His knowledge is total, perfect and absolute. Out of His grace, He makes part of His knowledge available to His servants, in fulfillment of His true promise: We will indeed show them some of our signs in the horizon and within themselves so that they will come to know that this (message) is the truth. They themselves, however, forget this fact and allow themselves to be fascinated and dazzled by what Allah reveals to them of His knowledge, whether it is part of the laws of nature which Allah has set, or being made aware of a certain part of what Allah has previously kept for Himself. They are dazzled by this or that, so that they forget the original permission which enabled them to have their knowledge. They neither remember nor show any gratitude. On the contrary, they become arrogant and may reject the truth and disbelieve in Allah.
Allah has granted man knowledge ever since He decided to appoint him as vicegerent on earth. He also promised to show him some of His signs in the horizon and in people's own constitution. His promise always comes true. He has indeed fulfilled His promise to man and revealed to him, day after day, generation after generation, in a curve which goes up almost all the time, some of the forces and capabilities and the laws of nature which man needs for the fulfillment of his mission on earth, so that he can attain the highest degree of excellence allowed him in his well-defined journey.
Just as Allah has allowed man to know this, and revealed it to him, He has also kept from him certain secrets which he does not need for his mission on earth. He has kept hidden from him the secret of life which remains absolutely impregnable. All human attempts to find out the secret remain nothing more than groping in the dark. Allah has also kept hidden from man the secret of the next moment. This is something that man will never attain. The curtain drawn over it are too thick for man to be ever able to lift. Occasionally, by special permission from Allah, a flash opens up from behind the curtains to an individual heart before they are drawn again. Man remains in his position and within his limits. Many secrets are kept hidden from man. Indeed, everything that is not related to man's mission on earth remains unknown to him. After all, the earth is just a small little planet floating in space like a particle of dust.
Man, nevertheless, allows himself to be dazzled by the limited knowledge which has been given him by Allah's permission, is so fascinated and conceited as to think himself a god on earth and to deny the existence of Allah who has created the universe. In this twentieth century, however, scientists are beginning to show a certain measure of humility, recognizing that they have been granted only a very little amount of knowledge. We still have, however, a group of ignorant people who are happy to think that they have opened up all the gates of knowledge.
His throne extends over the heavens and the earth, and the preservation of both does not weary Him. Here we have another example of the unique Qur'anic style which expresses an abstract idea by means of a physical image to enable the idea to be well absorbed and thoroughly understood. Arabic word which is used here for “the throne” is the literal translation of the word “seat” or “chair”. The two are synonymous where they refer to the seat of kingdom. If Allah's throne extends over the heavens and the earth, His authority must extend over them. This is the abstract idea stated here, but we have a fuller grasp of it because it is expressed in a physical image. The same applies to the next expression: And the preservation of both does not weary Him. The point here is to express Allah's absolute power. It is given through his physical image of lack of any effort or trouble in the preservation of the heavens and the earth so that the notion becomes much more tangible and, consequently, better appreciated.
We need not go into any aspect of the controversy which has arisen about such expressions in the Qur'an. We need only to understand the Qur'anic style and mode of expression. Furthermore, we need not borrow anything of Western or alien philosophies which prevented some of us from appreciating the simplicity and clarity of the Qur'an.
It is pertinent to add here that I could not find any authentic traditions which define exactly the meaning of the “chair” and the “throne”. Hence, I prefer not to add anything to what I have just said.
He is the Most High, the Most Great. These two final attributes of Allah expressed in this verse delineate a certain truth which is imparted to the human heart. The truth is that Allah (glorified be He) is the Most High and the Most Great of all beings. The mode of expression here adds the connotation that these two attributes belong to Allah alone. We are not told here merely that Allah is High and Great, but we are told that He is “the Most High, the Most Great” in order to understand that He has none to share with Him these two attributes.