Answering Islam - A Christian-Muslim dialog

Revealing Allah’s Partner in Praise and Honor Pt. 1

Sam Shamoun


The Islamic position on Praise and Worship

The Quran states that all praise is due to Allah, who is depicted as seated on a throne surrounded by angels that proclaim his praises:

And He is Allah; La ilaha illa Huwa (none has the right to be worshipped but He). His is all praise, in the first (i.e. in this world) and in the last (i.e. in the Hereafter). And for Him is the Decision, and to Him shall you (all) be returned. S. 28:70 Hilali-Khan

And you will see the angels surrounding the Throne (of Allah) from all round, glorifying the praises of their Lord (Allah). And they (all the creatures) will be judged with truth, and it will be said. All the praises and thanks be to Allah, the Lord of the 'Alamin (mankind, jinns and all that exists)." S. 39:75 Hilali-Khan

Moreover, according to the Islamic doctrine of Tauhid al-Uluhiyyah/Ibaadah (the oneness of Allah’s worship/service) to glorify, praise, worship and/or serve anyone besides Allah is expressly forbidden:

* Belief in Allah means to accept the three aspects of At-Tawheed, to believe in them and to implement them… Tawheedul-Uloohiyyah (Allah’s oneness in Worship) means that Allah is the Only true God and that everything and everyone that is worshipped instead of Allah is false. This section of Tawheed requires directing ALL the acts of worship to Allah ALONE and that no one or thing is associated with Him in worship, no matter who it may be. No single act of worship should be directed to other than Him. Also, this part of Tawheed requires that Allah be worshipped with love, fear and hope together. Worshipping Him with some of these qualities without the others is misguidance. (A Summary of the Creed of As-Salaf As-Saalih (The Righteous Predecessors), Compiled by Darrussalam [Darussalam Publishers and Distributors, Riyadh, Saudi Arabia, First Edition: 2002], The Foundations of the Creed of the Salaf, pp. 16-17; capital emphasis ours)

The Muslim Dilemma

Contrary to what Muslims tell us regarding worship being given only to Allah, the fact is that both the Quran and Islamic tradition have exalted Muhammad to a level where he actually participates in the praise and honor given to the Muslim deity.

For example, the Quran states that Allah removed Muhammad’s load or burden which weighed heavily on his back, and exalted his fame and remembrance:

Have We not opened your breast for you (O Muhammad)? And removed from you your burden, Which weighed down your back? And raised high your fame (thikraka)? S. 94:1-4 Hilali-Khan

Here is how various translations render v. 4:

“And exalted thy fame?” Pickthalll

“And WE have exalted thy name.” Shakir

“We have raised your remembrance,” The Reformist Translation

“And We exalted for you your remembrance (by annexing it to Ours everywhere in the world and in the Hereafter).” Dr. Mohammad Tahir-ul-Qadri

The late Muslim scholar and Quran translator Muhammad Asad explains what this burden was which Allah removed from Muhammad, and further comments on the significance of v. 4:

2 I.e., "the burden of thy past sins, which are now forgiven" (Tabari, on the authority of Mujahid, Qatadah, Ad-Dahhak and Ibn Zayd). In the case of Muhammad, this relates apparently to mistakes committed before his call to prophethood (ibid.), and is obviously an echo of 93:7 – “Has He not found thee lost on thy way, and guided thee?" 

3 Or: "raised high thy renown". The primary meaning of the term dhikr is "reminder" or "remembrance"; and, secondarily, "that by which something [or "someone"] is remembered", i.e., with praise: hence, it signifies "fame" or "renown", and, tropically – as in the present context – "eminence" or "dignity". (Asad, The Message of the Qur’an; bold emphasis ours)

Other scholars and commentators go about explaining how Allah made Muhammad famous:

Did We not exalt your mention? For you are mentioned where I [God] am mentioned in the call announcing [the time for] prayer (adhān), in the [second] call to perform the prayer (iqāma), in the witnessing [‘there is no god but God, Muhammad is His Messenger’] (tashahhud), in the Friday sermon and in other instances. (Tafsir al-Jalalayn)

The tashahhud refers to that part of the five daily prayers where Muslims actually pray directly to Muhammad!

Ibn 'Abbas reported: The Messenger of Allah used to teach us tashahhud just as he used to teach us a Sura of the Qur'an, and he would say: All services rendered by words, acts of worship, and all good things are due to Allah. Peace be upon YOU, O Prophet, and Allah's mercy and blessings. Peace be upon us and upon Allah's upright servants. I testify that there is no god but Allah, and I testify that Muhammad is the Messenger of Allah. In the narration of Ibn Rumb (the words are): "As he would teach us the Qur'an." (Sahih Muslim, Book 004, Number 0798)

Yahya related to me from Malik from Ibn Shihab from Urwa ibn az-Zubayr from Abd ar-Rahman ibn Abd al-Qari that he heard Umar ibn al-Khattab say, while he was teaching people the tashahhud from the mimbar, "Say, Greetings belong to Allah. Pure actions belong to Allah. Good words and prayers belong to Allah. Peace on YOU, Prophet, and the mercy of Allah and His blessings. Peace be upon us and on the slaves of Allah who are salihun. I testify that there is no god except Allah. And I testify that Muhammad is His slave and His messenger."

'At-tahiyatu lillah, az-zakiyatu lillah, at-tayibatu wa's-salawatu lillah. As-salamu ALAYKA ayyuha'nnabiyyu wa rahmatu'llahi wa barakatuhu. As-salamu alayna wa ala ibadi'llahi s-salihin. Ash-hadu an la ilaha illa 'llah wa ash-hadu anna Muhammadan abduhu wa rasuluh." (Malik’s Muwatta, Book 3, Number 3.14.56)

Yahya related to me from Malik from Abd ar-Rahman ibn al-Qasim from his father that A'isha, the wife of the Prophet, may Allah bless him and grant him peace, used to say in the tashahhud, "Greetings, good words, prayers, pure actions belong to Allah. I testify that there is no god except Allah, alone without partner, and that Muhammad is His slave and His Messenger. Peace be on YOU, Prophet, and the mercy of Allah and His blessings. Peace be on us and on the slaves of Allah who are salihun. Peace be upon you."

"At-tahiyatu, at-tayibatu, as-salawatu, az-zakiyatu lillah. Ash-hadu an la ilaha illa'llah, wahdahu la sharika lah wa anna Muhammadan abduhu wa rasuluhu. As-salamu ALAYKA ayyuha-n-nabiyyu wa rahmatu-llahi wa barakatuhu. As-salamu alayna wa ala ibadi-llahi's-salihin. As-salamu alaykum." (Malik’s Muwatta, Book 3, Number 3.14.58)

This is rather troubling since not only are Muslims addressing a part of their daily acts of worship to Muhammad, but they are also doing so for a man who has been dead for over 1400 years!

Moreover, this expressly conflicts with Tauhid al-Uluhiyyah/Ibaadah and stands in direct violation of the Quran’s instructions to pray to Allah alone, not to dead people:   

Say (O Muhammad): "Verily, my Salat (prayer), my sacrifice, my living, and my dying are for Allah, the Lord of the 'Alamin (mankind, jinns and all that exists). S. 6:162 Hilali-Khan

And those whom they call on besides Allah have not created anything while they are themselves created; Dead (are they), not living, and they know not when they shall be raised. S. 16:20-21 Shakir

There is more that Allah has done to exalt Muhammad’s praise in the hearts of his servants, as we shall see in the next part of our discussion.