Many Muslims today have innovated practices into the religion concerning the rights of Prophet Muhammad, sallallaahu ‘alaihi wa sallam. It is indeed correct that the Prophet deserves certain rights, but to innovate practices that go against his very teachings under the guises of loving and respecting him is bid’ah (innovation) and will only lead to the fire. The Prophet, sallallaahu ‘alaihi wa sallam, said, “Beware of newly invented matters (in religion) for every invented matter (in religion) is a cursed innovation which leads astray.”
In deifying him
One such innovation to avoid is deifying Muhammad, sallallaahu ‘alaihi wa sallam. This is how the Christians went astray with their belief in Jesus. After his death they began to worship him as their deity and left the tawheed that he brought them. Allah says about them, “Surely in disbelief are they who say that Allah is the Messiah, son of Maryam. Say, ‘Who then has the least power against Allah if He were to destroy the Messiah, son of Maryam, his mother, and all those who are on the earth together?’” (5:17)
Likewise, deifying Prophet Muhammad, sallallaahu ‘alaihi wa sallam, would throw a person into disbelief. Muhammad was a servant and a worshipper of Allah. He was a Prophet and a Messenger. Allah says, “Muhammad is no more than a Messenger.” (3:144) The Prophet said, “Do not exaggerate in praising me as the Christians exaggerated in their praise of the son of Maryam. For indeed I am a slave, so say, ‘The slave of Allah and His Messenger.’”
We cannot claim that Muhammad, sallallaahu ‘alaihi wa sallam, knew the unseen or brought harm or benefit or even guided anyone. These are things that only Allah knows and has the power to do. Muhammad only knew what knowledge Allah revealed to him and he does not have the ability to decree anything. Allah says, “Say (O Muhammad), ‘I know not whether (the punishment) which you are promised is near or whether my Lord will appoint for it a distant term. (He alone is) the All-Knower of the unseen, and He reveals to none His unseen.” (72:25-6)
In keeping away from deifying the Prophet, sallallaahu ‘alaihi wa sallam, we must also accept his death. He was human and all humans must die. For Allah says, “Verily, you (O Muhammad) will die and verily they will die.” (39:30)
Related to this in innovation is istigatha to the Prophet. Istigatha means to call for help, or to appeal for aid. Some Muslims have gone astray, to the point of calling upon the Prophet for help, instead of Allah. This is tantamount to Shirk, which Allah does not forgive. Allah says, “Do not call onto any beings other than Allah. These are capable of neither benefit nor harm. To do so is therefore to become guilty of wrongdoing. When Allah invests you with an affliction, none can remove it except Him.” (10:106-7)
Another innovation that has become popular is making tawassul by the right of Prophet, sallallaahu ‘alaihi wa sallam. The meaning of tawassul is to draw near to what one seeks after, and to approach that which one desires. Allah says in the Qur’an, “O you who believe! Do your duty to Allah and fear Him. Seek the means of approach (al-wasilah) to Him, and strive hard in His cause as much as you can. So that you may be successful.” (5:35) Ibn Kathir said that the meaning of al-wasilah is to draw closer.
There are three types of tawassul that are allowable in Islam. The first is by Allah’s names and attributes. The proof for this is the verse, “And the most beautiful names belong to Allah, so call on Him by them.” (7:180) Shaikh al-Albaanee said that the meaning of this verse is, “Call upon Allah, the Most High, by means of (performing tawassul with) His perfect Names, and there is no doubt that His exalted Attributes fit into this since His Names are Attributes of His.” Also the Prophet used to seek Allah’s refuge with the words, “O Allah, I seek refuge in Your Might, none has the right to be worshipped but You.”
The second allowable type is by means of a righteous deed, which one has done. Allah says, “Those who say, ‘Our Lord. We have indeed believed, so forgive us our sins and save us from the punishment of the fire.” (3:16) So it is allowed to use a righteous action that one has performed in one’s supplication as a means of tawassul so that his supplication is more likely to be responded to.
An example of this is the hadith reported by Abdullah Ibn Umar who said that the Prophet said: “Three men, amongst those who came before you, set out until night came and they reached a cave, so they entered it. But a boulder rolled down from the mountain and blocked the entrance of the cave. So they said: Nothing can rescue you from this rock except that you supplicate to Allah by mentioning righteous deeds you have done.
“So one of them said, ‘O Allah I had two elderly parents and I had not used to give precedence over them to my family and slaves in giving them milk to drink. But one day I was delayed in seeking after something and I did not return with the flock until they had slept. So I milked the animals for them but found that they were both asleep. However, I hated to give milk to my family and slaves before them, so I waited with the bowl in my hand for them to awake. Then with the break of the dawn they awoke and drank their milk. O Allah if I did that seeking Your Face, then relieve us from this situation caused by the rock.’ So it moved slightly, but they were unable to escape.”
The Prophet said: “The next said, “O Allah my uncle had a daughter and she was the most beloved of the people to me and I tried to persuade her to have sexual relations with me, but she refused me until she suffered from a year of famine. Then she came to me and I gave her 120 dinars on the condition that she would comply with my desire for her, so she agreed. But when I was about to fulfil my desire she said, ‘It is unlawful for you to break the seal except by lawful means.’ So I felt ashamed to commit the crime against her so I left her alone, and she was the dearest of all the people to me, and I left the gold which I had given her. O Allah if I did that seeking Your Face then release us from the situation we are in.’ So the rock opened further but they were still unable to escape.”
The Prophet said: “And the third said, ‘O Allah I employed some labourers and paid them their wages except a single man who did not take his wages and went away. I invested his wages and it grew into a great deal of property. Then after some time he came to me and said, ‘O servant of Allah give me my wages.’ So I said to him, ‘All the camels, cows, sheep and slaves that you see are your wages.’ So he said, ‘O servant of Allah, do not mock me.’ So I said, ‘I am not mocking you.’ So he took all of that and led them away and did not leave any of it. O Allah if I did that seeking Your Face, then release us from our situation.’ So the rock moved and they walked out of the cave.”
The third allowable type of tawassul is through the supplication made by a righteous man. This means going to a man whom one deems to be righteous and asking him to supplicate for him. There are a number of examples of this in the Sunnah of the Prophet. A man once came to the Prophet, sallallaahu ‘alaihi wa sallam, and asked him to pray for rain because they were having a drought. The Prophet, sallallaahu ‘alaihi wa sallam, did so and it rained heavily for a week. Then a man came back and asked the Prophet to supplicate for the rain to stop and so the Prophet asked for the rain to be around them and not on them and the clouds made a circle around Madinah.
After the Prophet’s death, Umar used to ask the Prophet’s uncle al-Abbas to supplicate for rain for them. None of the companions, however, supplicated to Allah for anything by the right or the status of the Prophet after his death. Ibn Taymiyah said, “So a created being can only benefit another by means of his supplication or means of help while alive. So Allah, the Most High, loves that we seek nearness to Him by means of eeman, righteous actions, by sending prayers and salam upon His Prophet, by our loving him, obeying him and allying ourselves with him. These are the things which Allah loves to see us seek nearness to Him by means of.”
Related to tawassul, some Muslims are now asking the Prophet for intercession. Shafa’ah, intercession, literally means to make something odd, even. In the dictionary, Lisanul-Arab, shafa’ah is defined as, “the intercessor’s speaking to a king about a need which he is requesting for someone else, and the intercessor is the one seeking something for someone else, through whom he intercedes to attain what is desired.” So people ask the Prophet to ask Allah to forgive them or to respond to their need. As mentioned, this was done during the Prophet’s lifetime but after his death his companions stopped doing this, and instead, they went to his uncle.
Prophets are alive in their graves, and therefore can respond to calls for intercession. About this Ibn Taymiyah said, “Neither the Prophet, nor any of the prophets before him prescribed that the people should supplicate to the angels, the prophets, or the pious, nor that they should ask them to intercede for them, neither after their death, nor when they were absent.”
Other innovations, which have crept into the Ummah, are the celebration of his birthday, the israa and miraj, and the hijrah. Celebrating these events has no place in the Sunnah of the Prophet or in the religion of Islam. The Prophet, sallallaahu ‘alaihi wa sallam, or his companions did not do this.
Ibn Taymiyah said about celebrating the Prophet’s birthday, “Also, what many people do is due to imitating the Christians in their celebrating Jesus’ birthday or a claimed love for the Prophet. These are the reasons behind it. To celebrate the Prophet’s birthday, even when many scholars dispute the date, is an innovated act the salaf did not do. If this were a good act, then the salaf would have done it before us.”
Two celebrations have been prescribed for the Muslim ummah, the Eid al-Fitr and Eid al-Adha. Anas said, “The Prophet, sallallaahu ‘alaihi wa sallam, came to Madinah and the people of Madinah had, before Islam, two days for play and amusement. So the Prophet, sallallaahu ‘alaihi wa sallam, said, ‘I came to you and you had in jahileeyah two days for play and amusement. Indeed Allah has replaced them for you by that which is better than them. The day of Nahr (slaughtering) and the day of Fitr (breaking fast).’” Any celebrations, other than these are innovations and have no part in this religion.
These innovations have no part in the religion but are a result of going to extremes with regard to the rights of the Prophet, sallallaahu ‘alaihi wa sallam. Certainly, the Prophet has a high position of honour among us. But to deviate further into matters that go against his very teachings is by no means an expression of love and respect but rather an expression of disobedience and a straying from the true rights of the Prophet Muhammad, sallallaahu ‘alaihi wa sallam.