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Sainthood of the Pious

Question and answer details
Farouq
2012/08/29
As-salamu `alaykum. Are there saints or sainthood in Islam? If there are saints in Islam, what are the criteria for one to be considered a saint? Thanks.
Waleed Ahmed Najmeddine
Answer

Salam brother Farouq,

Thank you for your question and for having faith in us to offer you an answer for your important question. 

If by saints you mean those among the Muslims who are considered by many to be very pious servants of Allah, then yes, there are many whom we could call saints in Islam. 

There is, however, no institution such as the one found in the Roman Catholic Church for nominating them to be such, nor for canonizing them as saints in the Islamic faith. They are merely those pious Muslims who have earned a reputation among their contemporaries or followers for being extraordinary positive examples for us to follow. 

However, many of our devout brothers and sisters in Islam choose to look to these saints as being of a higher rank than most people in the sight of Allah. More than likely these saints do deserve this status that we attribute to them, but their sincerity, piety, and status are known only to Allah. 

The essence of the message that was sent through Prophet Muhammad and through all prophets for that matter (peace be upon them all) was simply that there is no God but Allah, the One and Only Creator and Sustainer of existence; worship Him alone. The Qur'an and Sunnah (daily life) of Prophet Muhammad (peace be upon him) clearly set the standard for worship in Islam. 

There is no doubt in the minds and hearts of all Muslims that Allah is One and that He alone is worthy of worship. Our beloved Prophet Muhammad (peace be upon him) was an outstanding example of a man who served his Master. Muhammad never supplicated or prayed to anyone other than Allah in his times of need, and he commanded his followers to do the same. 

In our daily prayers, in Surat Al-Fatihah (Chapter 1 in the Qur'an), we recite the verse that says what means 

*{You alone do we worship, and You alone do we ask for assistance.}* (Al-Fatihah 1:5) 

In the oft-recited Verse of the Throne, Ayat Al-Kursi, we find the divine words saying what means 

*{Who is there that can intercede in His presence except by His permission?}* (Al-Baqarah 2:255) 

The Prophet (peace be upon him) said to his cousin Ibn `Abbas, "If you ask, ask of Allah. And, if you seek assistance, seek assistance from Allah" (At-Tirmidhi). 

Yet, many among us seem to think that it is a worthwhile practice to call upon deceased pious predecessors to intercede on our behalf. It is assumed that, since they are closer to Allah than we are, He will be more likely to answer their supplications than our own. It is a form of shirk, or associating partners with Allah, to think that anyone other than Allah is worthy of being called upon or prayed to. This, I believe, would be selling Allah short, assuming that our du`aa' (supplication) will not be answered even before we make it. 

The fact that we expect Allah not to answer our du`aa' and that we have weak faith in Allah's ability to be merciful towards us, are reasons for Him not to answer our du`aa'! This is what sets the pious apart from the rest of us: They make du`aa' with full conviction that Allah will answer it and therefore Allah grants the pious what they seek or need, or He relieves a burden from them instead. 

So, although saints in Islam do exist in an informal way, we should never fall into the practice of seeking the help of those whom Allah created and who will stand before Him to be judged. An excellent alternative is to ask those pious believers in our midst to make du`aa' for us during their lifetime, and not after they leave this world of ours. Prophet Muhammad (peace be upon him) taught us that the angels pray to Allah for the sake of those who do the same for the sake of their brothers and sisters in life. 

I hope this answers your question. I ask Allah (glory to Him in the highest) to guide us all to what pleases Him. 

Thank you and please keep in touch. 

Salam. 

Useful Links: 

Calling Upon Saints: Is It Permissible? 

Visiting the Shrines of Saints 

Visiting the Graves of Saints and Pious People 

Claiming to be a Wali (Allah's Friend) 

How to Be a True Muslim 

Calling to Islam by Setting Examples 

Convincing Someone to Believe 

Jihad of the Average Muslim 

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