Shaykh al-Islām said:1 All praise and thanks are due to Allāh, we seek His Help and we seek His Forgiveness. We seek refuge with Him from the evil of our souls and the evil of our actions. Whosoever Allāh guides then none can misguide him, and whosoever Allāh leaves to stray then none can guide him. I bear witness that there is none worthy of worship save Allāh, the One Who has no partner and we bear witness that Muḥammad (ﷺ) is his servant and Messenger.
Therefore the lawful is what Allāh and His Messenger made lawful and the unlawful is what Allāh and His Messenger made unlawful and the religion is that which Allāh and His Messenger legislated.
Concerning the distinction between the worship of the adherents to Islām and possessors of faith, guidance, tawḥīd, sincerity, knowledge, divine legislation, those who follow the Prophets and Messengers and between the worship of those possessing shirk, ignorance, misguidance, innovation from amongst the polytheists and those who resemble them from the adherents of the different religions.
The worship of the Muslims is founded upon two principles:
The First: they do not worship anything save Allāh, the One Who has no partner.
The Second: they worship Him in the way He has ordered and legislated and has been conveyed by His Messengers.
So they worship Allāh without associating partners with him, they have taqwá of Him and they obey His Messengers. Allāh said,
“We sent Noah to his people (with the command): ‘warn your people before there comes to them a grievous Punishment.’ He said, ‘O my people! I am to you a warner, clear and open that you should worship Allāh, fear Him and obey me.'”
Similarly He mentioned that Hūd, Ṣāliḥ and Shuʿayb said to their respective nations,
“The Messiah said, ‘O Children of Israel! Worship Allāh, my Lord and your Lord.’ Indeed whosoever sets up partners in worship with Allāh then Allāh has forbidden Paradise for him and the Fire shall be his abode. And for the wrong-doers there are no helpers.”
“The only saying of the faithful believers when they are called to Allāh and His Messenger to judge between them is that they say: ‘We hear and obey,’ such are the successful. And whosoever obeys Allāh and His Messenger, fears Him and keeps his duty to Him such are the successful.”
Hence appointing obedience to Allāh and the Messenger and appointing fear and taqwá for Allāh Alone. Allāh said,
“Would that they were contented with what Allāh and His Messenger gave them and had said, ‘Allāh is sufficient for us. Allāh will give us of His Bounty and His Messenger. To Allāh do we turn our hopes.”
Appointing the giving to Allāh and the Messenger. Similarly, the Exalted said,
“They unto whom the (hypocrites) said: ‘Verily the people have gathered against you (a great army) therefore fear them.’ But it only increased them in faith and they said: ‘Allāh (Alone) is sufficient for us and He is the best Disposer of affairs.”
[Ālī ʿImrān, 3:173]
Hence Allāh Alone is the recourse of the Messengers and the Believers in their entirety as Allāh says,
“O Prophet! Allāh is sufficient for you and for the believers who follow you.”
Meaning that He Alone Suffices you and all those who follow you. This is the understanding of this verse according to the majority of the Salaf and later scholars.
So this is the religion of Islām, a religion any other than this is not accepted by Allāh – not from the first peoples or the later peoples. Islām is to worship Allāh at all times in the way that He has commanded – He is the sole object of worship. Allāh said,
“Allāh said: Take not two gods in worship. Indeed He is One God then fear Me (and Me Alone). To Him belongs all that is in the heavens and the earth and to Him belongs perpetual sincere obedience. Will you then fear any other than Allāh? Whatsoever of blessings and good things you have, it is from Allāh. Then, when harm touches you, unto Him you cry aloud for help. Then, when He has removed the harm from you, behold! Some of you associate others in worship with their Lord. So (as a result of this) they deny the favours We have bestowed on them! Then enjoy yourselves but you will soon come to know!”
However the legislated laws have differed for example the case when the Prophet (ﷺ) first prayed towards Bait al-Maqdis before the Hijrah and after the Hijrah for ten odd months and then Allāh had him change direction to face the Kaʿba.2 Hence the legislated law changed but in both cases, before and after, the religion was one and the same. The religion of Islām – to worship Allāh Alone without any partners.
In Ṣaḥīḥ Bukhārī and Muslim that the Prophet (ﷺ) said, “indeed we, the gathering of Prophets – our religion is one and the Prophets are paternal brothers.”3
Meaning that their religion is one and the same even if the laws differ. Allāh said,
“Allāh has ordained for you the same religion which he ordained for Noah, and that which We have inspired in you and that which We ordained for Abraham, Moses, and Jesus saying: you should establish the religion and not make any divisions in it. Intolerable upon the polytheists is that which you call them to.”
“So set your face towards the religion of pure monotheism – the nature in which Allāh has created mankind. No change is there in the creation of Allāh. This is the straight religion but most men are unaware. (Always) turning in repentance to Him, and be afraid and dutiful to Him, establish the prayers perfectly and do not be of the polytheists. From those who split up their religion and became sects, each party rejoicing in what was with it.”
“O Messengers! Eat of the lawful and good things and do righteous deeds. Indeed I am well Acquainted with what you do. Indeed your religion is one religion and I am your Lord so keep your duty to Me.” [al-Muʾminūn 23:51-53]
“Nay! They say: ‘We found our fathers upon a religion (ummah) and we guide ourselves by following their footsteps. Similarly, We sent not a warner before you to any town but the affluent ones among them said: ‘We found our fathers upon a religion (ummah) and we will guide ourselves by following their footsteps.”
If it said that the meaning of ‘ummah’ is people then the meaning still remains the same i.e. call all of mankind to worship Allāh Alone as Allāh says,
“And who turns away from the religion of Ibrāhīm except he who fools himself? Truly We chose him in this world and indeed in the Hereafter he will be among the righteous. When his Lord said to him, ‘submit,’ he said, ‘I have submitted (become a Muslim) to the Lord of the Universe.'”
“Allāh bears witness that none has the right to be worshipped but He, and the Angels and those having knowledge (also give this witness). (He is always) maintaining His creation with justice. None has the right to be worshipped save Him. Truly the religion in the Sight of Allāh is Islām.”
[Ālī ʿImrān, 3:18-19]
Qatādah said concerning His saying, “the only religion acceptable to Allāh is Islām” – “the testimony that none has the right to be worshipped save Allāh and to accept all that has come from Allāh. This is the the religion that He legislated for Himself and sent His Messengers with and guided His friends to. He does not accept any other religion and does not reward except one who follows it.”
Allāh has censured the one who legislates a religion that He did not reveal, or declares something to be lawful or prohibited without any proof from the revelation saying,
“And when they commit an indecent action they say: ‘We found our fathers doing it and Allāh has commanded us to it.’ Say: ‘Nay, Allāh never commands indecent actions. Do you say of Allāh that which you know not?’ Say: ‘My Lord has commanded justice and (said) that you should face the Qiblah in each and every place of worship during prayers. Supplicate to Him only making your religion sincerely for Him.”
“Say: ‘Who has forbidden the adornment with clothes given by Allāh which He has produced for His slaves and all good things?’ Say: ‘They are, in the life of this world, for those who believe and exclusively for them on the Day of Resurrection.’ Thus We explain the signs in detail for the people who have knowledge. Say: ‘The things that my Lord has indeed forbidden are all indecent actions, whether committed openly or secretly, sins of all kinds, oppression, joining partners with Allāh for which He has given no authority, and saying things about Allāh of which you have no knowledge.”
“Alif Lām Mīm Saad. A Book sent down to you so let not your breast be constricted therefrom, that you may warn thereby, and a reminder unto the believers. (Say): ‘Follow what has been sent down to you from your Lord and do not follow any friends or protectors who besides Him. Little do you take heed!”
As for the religion of the Polytheists and the innovating People of the Book then this is a religion for which Allāh has sent down no authority. They either supplicate to others alongside Allāh or they say: ‘we worship them only that they may make us draw closer to Allāh,’ and they say: ‘these are our intercessors with Allāh.’ Or they worship Him in a way that He has not commanded or legislated – worshipping Him with what those whom they have set up as partners to Allāh command. Allāh said,
“They (Jews and Christians) took their rabbis and monks to be their lords besides Allāh, and they also took the Messiah son of Mary (to be their Lord) while they were commanded to worship none save One God. Glory be to Him (far above is He) from having the partners they associate.”
“It is not for any human being to whom Allāh has given the Book and wisdom and Prophethood to say to the people: ‘Be worshippers of me rather than Allāh.’ On contrary (he would say): ‘Be you learned men of the religion because you are teaching the book and studying it.’ Neither would he order you to take Angels and Prophets as lords. Would he order you to disbelieve after you have submitted to the Will of Allāh?”
[Ālī ʿImrān, 3:79-80]
“Say: ‘Call unto those besides Him whom you pretend (to be gods). They have neither the power to remove the adversity from you nor even to shift it from you to another place. Those whom they call upon themselves seek and desire the means of approach to their Lord, as to which of them should be nearest and they hope for His Mercy and fear His Torment. Verily the Torment of your Lord is to be feared!”
Meaning that those people to whom the polytheists supplicate themselves are desiring and seeking a means of approach to draw close to their Lord. Ibn ʿAbbās and Mujāhid said, “they are ʿĪsá and his mother, ʿUzayr, the Angels, the sun, the moon and the stars.”4
Ibn Masʿūd said, “a group of people used to worship a party of the Jinn. The Jinn then accepted Islām and the people who used to worship them were unaware of this and stuck to their worshipping them and Allāh condemned them.”5
Therefore according to all the opinions concerning the meaning of this verse, Allāh censured whosoever supplicated to a created being when in fact that created being itself worships Allāh and seeks to draw close to Him – hoping and fearing Him. Included in this are all of the Angels, the Prophets and the righteous from amongst mankind and Jinns.
So if it is not permissible to supplicate to these creatures that have been exalted and are close to Allāh then it is even more the case that those disobedient to Allāh, such as the satans and jinns, cannot be supplicated to. The verse refers unrestrictedly to all who supplicate to other than Allāh.
He made clear that the person who is supplicated to is not able to remove any harm from the supplicator or even shift the harm to another place saying,
“Say: ‘Call upon those whom you assert (to be gods) besides Allāh, they possess not even an atoms weight – either in the heavens of the earth, nor have they any share in either, nor is there for Him any supporter from among them. Intercession with Him is of no avail except for him who He permits.”
Therefore Allāh explained that the created being does not have the sovereignty just as he does not have any share in it and just as he does not help Allāh in any form of fashion. All he can have is the ability to intercede but this intercession is of no avail unless Allāh grant him permission to intercede. Allāh said,
“And they worship besides Allāh things that hurt them not nor profit them and they say: ‘these are our intercessors with Allāh.’ Say: ‘Do you inform Allāh of that which He knows not in the heavens and the earth?’ Glorified be Allāh, Exalted is He above all that they associate with Him.”
“Allāh, it is He Who created the heavens and the earth and all that is between them in Six Days, then He Rose over the Throne. You have none besides Him as a protector or an intercessor, will you then no take heed?”
“Surely, your Lord is Allāh Who created the heavens and the earth in Six Days and then Rose Over the Throne, disposing the affair of all things. No intercessor (can plead with Him) except after His leave. That is Allāh, your Lord; so worship Him (Alone) so will you not take heed?”
Say: ‘The things that my Lord has indeed forbidden are all indecent actions, whether committed openly or secretly, sins of all kinds, oppression, joining partners with Allāh for which He has given no authority, and saying things about Allāh of which you have no knowledge.” [al-Aʿrāf, 7:33]
“And they have assign a portion of that which We have provided them unto what they know not (false deities). By Allāh, you shall certainly be questioned about all that you used to fabricate.”
Allāh said concerning the believers from amongst the people of Pharaoh that they said,
“And O my people! How is it that I call you to salvation while you call me to the Fire! You invite me to disbelieve in Allāh and to join partners with Him; that of which I have no knowledge, and I invite you to the All-Mighty, the Oft-Forgiving. No doubt you call me to one who cannot grant me me request (or respond to me invocation) in this world or the Hereafter.”
“They are but names which you have names – you and your fathers – for which Allāh has sent down no authority.”
The religion that has been revealed is none other than the religion that Allāh, the Mighty and Magnificent, has legislated whereas the people of misguidance follow a religion that does not concord to the legislation that has been revealed and neither do they have knowledge of it. Indeed all they do is follow their vain desires and all they find that would satisfy their base desires.
This is why the true scholars enjoin one to follow the Legislation and knowledge and they censure the worshipers who do not follow these two things just as Allāh said,
“Say: ‘Has he forbidden the two males or the two females, or (the young) which the wombs of the two females enclose? Inform me with knowledge if you are truthful.”
Hence explaining that the truthful one is the one who is upon certain knowledge of what he says and believes, whereas the one who has no knowledge to back what he says and believes is spreading lies against Allāh. Allāh says,
“And say not concerning that which you tongues put forth falsely: ‘this is lawful and this is unlawful’ so as to invent lies against Allāh. Indeed those invent lies against Allāh will never prosper.”
“O Mankind! Eat of that which is good and lawful on the earth and follow not the footsteps of Satan. Indeed he is to you and open enemy. He commands you only to what is evil and indecent and that you should say against Allāh what you know not.”
“Then after them succeeded an evil generation who inherited the Book but they chose (for themselves) the goods of this low life saying: ‘everything will be forgiven us.’ And if again the offer of the similar goods came their way they would again seize them. Was not the covenant of the Book taken from them that they would not say about Allāh anything but the truth? And they have studied what is in the Book and the Home of the Hereafter is better for those who are God-fearing. Do you not then understand? And as to those who hold fast to the Book and establish the prayers, certainly, We shall never waste the reward of those who do righteous deeds.”