Seeking the Means

Does asking for help from others than God connote polytheism?

In Tawassul on July 26, 2009 at 3:24 pm

Question Thirteen

Does asking for help from others than God connote polytheism?


Based on wisdom and on the logic of revelation, not only all human beings but also all phenomena in the world are in need of God to give them life as they are in need of Him to give them the ability to be effective. The Holy Qur’an says, “O mankind! You are poor in relation to Allah, and Allah is the Absolute, the Owner of Praise.” (35:15). In another verse, The Qur’an attributes all victories to God and says, “Victory comes only from Allah, the mighty, the wise” (3:126).

It is based on this immutable principle of Islam that we Muslims say in our prayers, “Thee do we worship and of Thee do we beg assistance.” (1:5).

To clarify the above question, we can say that seeking others’ help, but not God’s, can conceivably assume two dimensions. First, if we consider one whose help we are seeking, a human being or a phenomenon, as being entirely independent in origin and as one that enjoys freedom of action and is needless of God in assisting, such an attitude is no doubt pure polytheism and is refuted in the Qur’an which says, “Say, who is the one who can withhold you from Allah if He intends to do you evil or desires mercy for you? They will not find for themselves besides Allah any guardian or a helper.” (33:17). The second attitude considers the one that is called upon as a mere creature in need of God and dependent on Him, one on whom God has bestowed power to solve some of the problems people have.

Based on the latter mentality, one whose help we seek is a medium set by God the Sublime as a “means” to fulfill some of the needs of the people. This way of seeking help is actually begging God’s assistance because it is He who has created these mediators and has bestowed upon them the power. Man’s life is principally based on the foundation of asking the means and causes for help to the extent that without their help his life would be deranged.

Now, if we take them as the means of the realization of God’s assistance and as those whose existence as well as their effectiveness come from God, then such seeking help is incompatible neither with monotheism nor with worshipping the One God.

If a monotheist farmer uses such helping factors as soil, water, air and light in planting the seed and producing fruit, he in reality pursues God’s assistance because it is He who has given the factors and instruments their potentiality and power. It is obvious that such an invocation is in full agreement with the spirit of worshiping the Unique One.

In fact, the holy Qur’an itself orders us to seek help form such phenomena as patience and prayer when it says,” Seek assistance through patience and prayer.” (2:152). Although showing perseverance is clearly done by man, and we have been commanded to seek assistance from patience and prayer, this does not contradict the formula we repeat in the daily prayer, “… and from Thee do we seek assistance.”

The Shi’ite Apologetics

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