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Is the belief that great divine people [awliyā’] have supernatural power tantamount to polytheism [shirk]?

Is the belief that great divine people [awliyā’] have supernatural power tantamount to polytheism [shirk]?




Reply: It is clear that when a person wants someone to do something for him or her, the former thinks that the latter is capable of doing it and this capability takes two forms:

1. This capability may be of material and natural forces as in the case of asking somebody to give us a glass of water.

2. Or, it may be a hidden force which exists beyond the material and natural realm as in the case of the pious servant of God, ‘Īsā ibn Maryam (Jesus the son of Mary) (‘a) who was capable of healing incurable ailments with his Messianic breath.

It is clear that the belief in such a metaphysical power, which is related to and supported by the power and will of God, is like believing in natural power, and it is by no means tantamount to polytheism [shirk], because the Lord Who has bestowed material and natural power upon human beings can also grant His righteous servants supernatural power.

Now, in elucidating the stated answer the belief that divine people have supernatural power can be conceived in two ways:

1. To believe that a person is an independent and principal source of that power and to consider him the author of divine acts.

No doubt, if we think that this supernatural power is independent of the power of God, it will be tantamount to polytheism because according to this belief someone other than God is regarded as the independent and original source of power, to whom divine acts are attributed, whereas the Lord of the worlds is the fountainhead of all kinds of power.

2. To believe that the supernatural power of some faithful pious servants of God stems from the eternal power of God, and that this everlasting power is manifested by Divine Command through certain divine people. In fact, they are not independent; rather, they rely both in their existence as well as in exercising supernatural power on God, the Exalted.

It is clear that according to this belief, great divine people are not regarded as gods nor divine acts are attributed to them because righteous people are viewed as servants of God through whom God-given supernatural power is manifested by the decree and inviolable will of God.

In this regard, the Holy Qur’an says:

وَ ما كانَ لِرَسُولٍ أَنْ يَأْتِيَ بِآيَةٍ إِلاّ بِإِذْنِ اللّهِ ﴿

“And an apostle may not bring a sign except by Allah’s leave.”[1]

It is evident from what we have stated that apart from the fact that it has nothing to do with polytheism, this belief is totally harmonious with the principle of monotheism and Unity of God.

[1] Sūrah ar-Ra‘d 13:38.

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