Correcting False Beliefs

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What are the correcting false beliefs in islam?

All prophets, beginning with Adam (A.S.) until our Prophet Muhammad (pbuh), invited people to the same principles of faith. And the principle of tawhid, that is to believe in the unity of Allah and not to associate any partners to Him, comes at the head of these principles. This is stated in a verse as follows:

“And We did not send before you any messenger but We revealed to him that there is no god but Me, therefore serve Me.” (al-Anbiya 21; 25)

Arabs believed in the existence of Allah even before the emergence of Islam, they however, associated partners to Him in their worship. Their aim was to acquire intercessors to get closer to Allah the Almighty and thus to gain honor and dignity. Below are some of the verses of the Qur’an which highlight this: :

“If indeed you ask them who has created the heavens and the earth and subjected the sun and the moon (to His Law), they will certainly reply, Allah. How are they then deluded away (from the truth)?” (al-Ankabut 29; 61)

“Now, surely, sincere obedience is due to Allah (alone) and (as for) those who take guardians besides Him, (saying),We do not serve them save that they may make us nearer to Allah, surely Allah will judge between them in that in which they differ; surely Allah does not guide him aright who is a liar, ungrateful.” (al-Zumar 39; 3)

“Allah has said: take not (for worship) two gods: for he is just one Allah: then fear Me (and Me alone).” (al-Nahl 16; 51)

In the above verses people are asked to purify their faith from all elements of polytheism and to have a true belief in the Oneness of Allah. The primary duty of the Messenger of Allah (pbuh), who was sent on a Divine mission, was to save people of the Age of Ignorance from their false beliefs and give them the opportunity to find true faith in the Unity of Allah.

The simplest requirements for faith in the Unity of Allah (tawhid) is to say the statement “La ilaha illa Allah – There is no god but Allah” and then to live in accordance with the requirements of this statement. Faith in tawhid can be attained first through purification from false beliefs. The first part of the statement of tawhid, i.e. “La” or the negation of all false gods, is stated as the primary condition for achieving the true faith in the Unity of Allah. The mission of the Messenger of Allah (pbuh) began from this point. After the negation of false beliefs, the true faith is established by the words “illa Allah.”

The most succinct statement of tawhid can be seen in chapter Ihlas (112). Allah the Almighty says in this chapter, which is also known as surat al-tawhid:

“Say: He is Allah, the One! Allah, the Eternal, Absolute; He begets not, nor is He begotten. And there is none like unto Him.” (al-Ihlas 114; 1-4)

The details of the principle of tawhid, which are summarized in the Qur’anic chapter above, are also detailed in other verses of the Qur’an as follows:

“…Say: Allah is the Creator of all things, and He is the One, the Almighty.” (al-Ra’d 13; 16)

“To Him is due the primal origin of the heavens and the earth: how can He have a son when He has no consort? He created all things, and He has full knowledge of all things. That is Allah, your Lord! There is no god but He, the Creator of all things: then worship Him: and He has power to dispose of all affairs.” (al-An’am 6; 101-102)

As a requirement of the principle of tawhid, Allah is also mentioned in the Qur’an as the sole Governor of everything in the universe as follows:

“It is Allah who causes the seed grain and the date stone to split and sprout. He causes the living to issue from the dead, and He is the one to cause the dead to issue from the living. That is Allah: then how are you deluded away from the truth? He it is Who cleaves the day break (from the dark): He makes the night for rest and tranquility, and the sun and moon for the reckoning (of time): such is the judgment and ordering of (Him), the Exalted in power, the Omniscient. And He it is Who has set for you the stars that you may guide your course by them amid the darkness of the land and the sea… And He it is Who has brought you into being from a single soul… And He it is Who sends down water from the cloud…” (al-An’am 6; 96; 99)

All these verses express the Unity of Allah and His matchless power.

It should not be forgotten that faith in the Messenger of Allah (pbuh) is a part of the principle of tawhid. Indeed, the second part of the statement of tawhid consists of the expression “Muhammadun rasulullah – Muhammad is the Messenger of Allah.” The faith in the prophethood of Muhammad (pbuh) is the second principle of belief mentioned in the Qur’an after faith in Allah.

We have been informed about the other principles of faith in various verses of the Qur’an. These principles are faith in the prophets of Allah, His revealed books, the angels, destiny, and the Last Day. (al-Nisa 4; 136, al-Hadid 57; 21, 22)

Allah’s Messenger (pbuh) conveyed all these principles of faith to humanity and those who believe in him have resolutely submitted themselves and accepted these principles. It is certainly not easy for a person to leave the customs and habits of his environment in an instant. This difficulty become more obvious in the event of conversion which is the most serious change a person may face in his life. Indeed, we see that in Islamic history some of the Companions were strongly admonished by the Prophet (pbuh) for their actions and thoughts against the principle of tawhid. The following incidents are the most vivid examples from the age of happiness.

In the battle of Hunain the people saw a tree called dhat anwat. The polytheists used to consider this tree sacred and hang their weapons on it. Some of the Companions told the Prophet (pbuh):

“O Messenger of Allah! Designate something for us like the polytheists’ dhat anwat tree.”

Saddened by this request Allah’s Messenger (pbuh) responded to them:

“Hallowed be Allah! This is similar to the saying of the people of Moses “…O Moses! Make for us a god even as they have gods…” (A’raf 7; 138)[1] I swear by Allah in Whose hand my soul is, you are following in the footsteps of the people before you.” (Ibn Hanbal, V, 218, 340)

In another report, it is stated that when Qais b. Sa’d entered the city of Hirah, he saw its people prostrating before their commander. He thought that the Messenger of Allah (pbuh) was someone more deserving to be prostrated before. After he narrated what he witnessed to the Prophet (pbuh), he said:

“O Messenger of Allah! You are more deserving to be prostrated to than them.”

Upon this, Allah’s Messenger (pbuh) warned that Companion saying: “…Do not do that.” (Abu Dawud, Nikah, 39-40; Darimi, Salat, 159)

Another exemplary incident occurred as follows: According to the narration of Jubair b. Mut’im (r.a.) a bedouin came to the Messenger of Allah (pbuh) and said:

“O Messenger of Allah! People are in hardship. Family members have lost all their possessions. Our animals have perished. Pray to Allah to send rain to us. We ask for your intercession before Allah and Allah’s intercession before you.”

Upon this request, the Prophet (pbuh) warned the man saying:

“Shame on you! Are you aware of what you are saying? Subhanallah (Hallowed be Allah.)” Allah’s Messenger (pbuh) repeated the phrase “subhanallah” so much that concern appeared on the Companions’ faces. Then the Prophet (pbuh) continued his words:

“Shame on you! Allah cannot be made an intercessor towards any of His creation. Allah’s Glory transcends such things…” (Abu Dawud, Sunnah, 18)

The bedouin’s request to make Allah a mediator for the Messenger of Allah was a mistake according to the principles of Islamic faith because intercession can not be done for a superior being. Even though asking Prophet’s intercession towards Allah is possible, but the opposite is against the principle of tawhid. Since no creation can be superior to Allah the Almighty, it would not be appropriate to ask His intercession towards any being. Indeed, none of the prophets made such claims. Rather, they repeatedly emphasized that they were just human beings and received revelations from Allah the Almighty. This is stated in the Qur’an as follows:

“It is not (possible) for any human being unto whom Allah had given the Scripture and wisdom and the Prophethood that he should afterwards have said unto mankind: Be slaves of me instead of Allah; but (what he said was): Be you faithful servants of the Lord by virtue of your constant teaching of the Scripture and of your constant study thereof.” (Al-i Imran 3; 79)

Having such concerns Allah’s Messenger (pbuh) asked for Allah’s curse upon Jews and Christians who turned their prophets’ graves into places of worship (Bukhari, Janaiz, 96), and warned his followers not to exceed the limits of the principle of tawhid by showing too much reverence towards him.

“Um Habiba and Um Salama mentioned about a church they had seen in Ethiopia in which there were pictures. They told the Prophet about it, on which he said,

“If any religious man dies amongst those people they would build a place of worship at his grave and place pictures on it. They will be the worst creatures in the sight of Allah on the Day of Resurrection.” (Bukhari, Salat, 48)

Allah’s Messenger (pbuh) changed some of his Companions’ names for they had connotations of disobedience and polytheistic ideas. For instance, he changed the names like “Abduluzza – slave of Uzza” and “Abdushshams – slave of sun” to “Abdullah – slave of Allah,” “Abdulaziz – slave of the Victorious,” or “Abdurrahman – slave of the All-Compassionate.”[2] And he changed the name Asiya (Disobedient) to Jamila (i. e. good and handsome)” (Muslim, Adab, 14)

However, Allah’s Messenger (pbuh) allowed some types of incantation (ruqyah) which were cleaned of their polytheistic elements. Awf b. Malik Ashja’i reported:

“We practiced incantation in the pre-Islamic days and we said:

“O Messenger of Allah! What is your opinion about it? He (pbuh) said:

“Let me know your incantation.” And then he continued:

“There is no harm in the incantation which does not have a sign of polytheism.” (Muslim, Salam, 64)

Umair (r.a.) narrates:

“I presented the Messenger of Allah (pbuh) the incantation that I was using for the treatment of mentally handicapped people. And he took out some parts of it and ordered me to keep the rest.” (Tirmidhi, Siyar, 9)

Ruqyah or incantation means treatment through supplications. If a ruqya does not consist of elements of polytheism or things that are against the principle of trusting Allah, it is permissible from the perspective of Islamic faith. In later periods of Islam ruqyah was started to be performed in the form of reciting verses and supplications from the Qur’an as a protection against the evil eye and the wickedness of the wicked. According to a report, Allah’s Messenger (pbuh) saw a small girl in the house of Umm Salama on whose face he had been seeing black stains and told her:

“She was under the influence of an evil eye,” and he asked that

“She should be cured with the help of incantation (hoping) that her face should become spotless.” (Muslim, Salam, 59)

We also see in another narration that he allowed the practice of incantation using the first chapter of the Qur’an (surat al-Fatiha.) (Muslim, Sala, 65)

It should not be forgotten that it is Allah Who bestows the cure whether the treatment is sought through performing incantation or taking medicine. Otherwise, attributing the cure to a being other than Allah would be a dire mistake. Unfortunately, today people ignore the Prophet’s traditions and orders about ruqyah and are inclined towards its application during the age of ignorance. They no longer trust in Allah and begin to go to ill-intentioned people like witch-doctors and see them as the curer of their problems. The good intentions of people who do not have enough Islamic knowledge are being abused, and the name of Islam is blemished by turning it into a source of profit. The only way to protect people from such abuses is to have them gain appropriate and adequate knowledge about Islam.

Allah’s Messenger (pbuh) said that,

“Avoid the seven great destructive sins.” The people asked,

“O Allah’s Apostle! What are they?” He said,

“To join others in worship along with Allah, to practice sorcery, to kill the life which Allah has forbidden except for a just cause according to Islamic law, to practice usury, to eat up an orphan’s wealth, to give back to the enemy and fleeing from the battlefield at the time of fighting, and to accuse chaste women, who never even think of anything touching chastity and are good believers.” (Bukhari, Wasaya, 23; Muslim, Iman, 145)

Therefore, a believer’s engagement with sorcery and its practice are prohibited in Islam. Those who believe that they are under the effects of witchcraft should take refuge in Allah, pray, perform acts of worship and give charity to the needy, instead of seeking help from those who practice sorcery as a profession. It is also possible to seek help from trustworthy and pious scholars if they can help within the limits of Islamic principles.

One of the false beliefs that was corrected by the Messenger of Allah (pbuh) was people’s knowledge about the unseen. This is why it is considered infidelity to believe in the words of those, like soothsayers and fortune-tellers, who claim to receive information from the world of the unseen; since it is stated by the Prophet (pbuh):

“Whoever goes to a soothsayer and fortune-teller and then acknowledges what he/she says, he/she denies the thing revealed to me.” (Ibn Hanbal, II, 429)

In another narration Aisha (r.anha) was reported to say that:

“Some people asked Allah’s Messenger (pbuh) about the soothsayers. He (pbuh) said to them:

“What they say is a mere superstition.” They said:

“O Allah’s Messenger, they at times narrate to us things which we find true.” Thereupon, Allah’s Messenger (pbuh) said:

“Such words pertain to some truth which is inspired by an appointed angel. A genie snatches it away from the angel and then cackles into the ear of the soothsayer. And then they mix in this one truth more than one hundred lies.” (Bukhari, Tibb, 46; Muslim, Salam, 122, 123)

Here even though the Prophet (pbuh) emphasizes the lies of soothsayers, he also points out that they may obtain some news through genies and some truth may exist in their words. Moreover, leakage of information by devils and genies is also mentioned in the Qur’an. However the Qur’an also states that to obtain information through such ways was closed after the emergence of Islam. Our Lord Almighty says in the Qur’an that:

“Surely We have adorned the nearest heaven with an adornment, the stars, And (there is) a safeguard against every rebellious devil. They cannot listen to the exalted assembly and they are thrown at from every side, repulsed, for they are under a perpetual penalty, except him who snatches off but once, then there follows him a brightly shining flame.” (al-Saffat 37; 6-10)

Scholars who interpreted these verses pointed out that the issue of leaking information by devils and genies ended after the prophethood of Muhammad (pbuh). So they emphasized that soothsayers’ claims about the future are nothing but lies and guesses far from the truth. (Qurtubi, XV, 66, 67)

This matter is clearly expressed in a report narrated by Ibn Abbas (r. anhuma). He said that:

“Genies were ascending in the heavens and listening to the Divine revelations. Whenever they heard a word, they were adding ninety nine more words to it from themselves, such that one word was true, but the rest were false. When the Messenger of Allah was sent as a prophet, these genies were prevented from ascending through the heavens by means of meteorites. They informed Satan since before that time no meteorites had been thrown at them. Satan told them:

“This must be the result of an important event happening on earth.” He sent his soldiers to check it out, they found the Messenger of Allah (pbuh) praying in Mecca between two mountains. They went back and informed Satan about what they had seen. He said that:

“This is the important incident that happened on earth.” (Tirmidhi, Tafsir, 72)

One of the most significant reasons for the prohibition of witchcraft, fortune-telling, etc. is to keep such false beliefs away from people’s free-will; because a person deserves to be rewarded or punished through his free-will. Such actions also open doors to unlawful gains for some people by abusing other people’s hopes and expectations.

On the other hand, when Muslim scholars interpret the verse: “…therefore do not setup rivals to Allah while you know.” (al-Baqara 2; 22), they talk about hidden polytheism along with openly practiced polytheism. Such kind of polytheism does not necessarily mean to worship idols openly, but to accept partners, abstract and psychological elements as equal to Allah the Almighty and may supposedly interfere with His actions. (Ibn Kathir, Tafsir, I, 60, 61) Even though, in case of hidden polytheism, a person believes in Allah in appearance, there is the danger of heightening the thing accepted as a partner to the level of an idol. Indeed, we learn from the following incident that believers must strongly stay away from such situations. It was narrated by Zaid b. Khalid Al-Juhani (r.a.):

“Allah’s Apostle (pbuh) led the morning prayer in Al-Hudaibiya after a rainy night. When the Prophet (pbuh) had finished the prayer he faced the people and said,

“Do you know what your Lord has said?” They replied:

“Allah and His Apostle know better.” The Prophet said:

“Allah says, ‘In this morning some of My worshipers remained true believers and some became non-believers; he who said that it had rained with the blessing and mercy of Allah is the one who believes in Me and does not believe in the stars; but he who said it had rained because of such and such a star is a disbeliever in Me and is a believer in stars.” (Bukhari, Adhan, 156; Istisqa, 28)

As it is pointed out in this tradition, Allah the Almighty is the real Doer of the events in the universe. Therefore, everything like rain, snow, heat or cold should be attributed to Him. But when some people suffer a hardship or receive a benefit, they attribute it to mortal beings, instead of Allah the only Creator, as the source of it. For instance, saying, confirming, and then believing in statements like “I owe you my life,” “if you and Allah wish, this job gets done,” or “I was going to die, had it not been for this doctor,” is the result of this type of polytheism. When Ibn Abbas (r. anhuma) was talking about hidden polytheism, he said that “it is more concealed than the leg movements of a black ant walking on a black rock a dark night.” (Ibn Kathir, Tafsir, I, 61)

With the hope of gaining cures for material and spiritual problems, tying pieces of cloth or rope to trees, graves, and tombs is another example of such creedal aberrations.

To perform acts of worship in order to show-off is considered another type of hidden polytheism. Allah’s Messenger (pbuh) stated that a person’s increased care in performing his acts of worship, just because of the people watching him praying, is a manifestation of hidden polytheism. (Ibn Majah, Zuhd, 21)

There is an emphasis upon this matter in the following prophetic saying:

“Associating partners with Allah the Almighty is the worst thing that I worry about for my ummah. By this, I do not mean that they will worship the moon, the sun, or an idol. But what scares me are the actions and hidden desires (showing off) which will be done for other than Allah the Almighty’s contentment.” (Ibn Majah, Zuhd, 21)

Those who do their deeds just to show-off will be left alone with their deeds in the Hereafter and they will not receive any benefit from them. At one time Allah’s Messenger (pbuh) told his Companions that:

“Little polytheism is what worries me most about you.” When Companions asked:

“O Messenger of Allah! What is little polytheism?” He said:

“Hypocrisy is the little polytheism. When people are given the compensation of their deeds on the Last Day, Allah the Almighty says that: ‘Go to those for whom you were doing your deeds to show-off and look if you will find any reward in them.” (Ibn Hanbal, V, 428)

Another remarkable account in this respect is as follows:

“The first of men whose case will be decided on the Day of Judgment will be a man who died as a martyr. He shall be brought before the Judgment Seat. Allah will make him recount His blessings (i.e. the blessings which He had bestowed upon him) and he will recount them (and admit having enjoyed them in his life). Then Allah will say:

“What did you do to deserve these blessings?” He will respond:

“I fought for Your sake until I died a martyr.” Allah will say:

“You have told a lie. You fought that you might be called a ‘brave warrior’. And you were called so.” (Then) orders will be passed against him and he will be dragged with his face downward and cast into Hell.

Then a man who acquired knowledge and conveyed it to others and recited the Qur’an will be brought forward. He will be brought and Allah will make him recount His blessings and he will recount them and admit having enjoyed them in his lifetime. Then Allah will ask:

“What did you do to deserve these blessings?” He will say:

“I acquired knowledge and taught it to people and recited the Qur’an seeking Your pleasure.” Allah will say:

“You have told a lie. You acquired knowledge so that you might be called ‘a scholar,’ and you recited the Qur’an so that it might be said: ‘He is a Qari’ and such has been said.” Then orders will be passed against him and he shall be dragged with his face downward and cast into the Fire.

Then a man whom Allah had made abundantly rich and had granted every kind of wealth will be brought forward. Allah will make him recount His blessings and he will do so and admit having enjoyed them in his lifetime. Allah will then ask:

“What have you done to deserve these blessings?” He will say:

“I spent money in every cause in which You wished that it should be spent.” Allah will say:

“You are lying. You did so that it might be said about you: ‘He is a generous fellow’ and so it was said.” Then Allah will give orders and he will be dragged with his face downward and thrown into Hell.” (Muslim, Imara, 152)

The reason for which someone arrives at such a sorrowful end is a lack of satisfaction with the contentment of Allah and seeking other people’s appreciation, admiration, and approval. This turns him into other people’s servant not Allah’s, and it would not be possible to live a mature life of belief and practice in such a situation.

Allah’s Messenger (pbuh) tried to correct customary beliefs which were not based on Islamic principles. His approach to people’s behavior during the solar eclipse at the time of his son Ibrahim’s death can be given as an example. People had thought that sun had eclipsed because of Ibrahim’s death. Allah’s Messenger (pbuh) performed two cycles of prayer and then warned his Companions saying:

“The sun and moon are the signs of the existence and Oneness of Allah. They are eclipsed neither for someone’s death nor for someone’s birth. When you witness solar or lunar eclipse, remember Allah and offer prayer.” (Nasai, Kusuf, 14)[3]

Allah’s Messenger (pbuh) warned his followers about all kinds of actions and behaviors which are against the principle of tawhid. Therefore, what we are supposed to do is to comprehend this principle, to know Allah well and attain His knowledge, and not to associate any open or hidden partners to Him; because those who associate partners to Allah will be far from the principle of tawhid and break their ties with their Lord. May Allah protect us from deviating from the principle of tawhid. Amin!

[1] After crossing the Red Sea, the sons of Israel met the tribe of Amalika, which was worshipping a calf. They asked Moses to make a god like theirs. Moses (A.S.) refused their request saying that they surely were a people without knowledge.

[2] See Ibn Abdilbarr, II, 837; III, 871, 1006.

[3] In some regions of the world believers play drums and fire guns instead of offering prayers and supplications. These are innovations and superstitions and have no basis in Islam.

Source: An Excellent Exemplar II , Osman Nuri Topbaş,  Erkam Publications

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