بسم الله الرحمن الرحيم
وصلى الله على نبيه الامين
وعلى آله واصحابه اجمعين
In the text Sirate Mustaqim written in Persian by the martyr Shah Ismail of Delhi رحمة الله عليه there is an extremely controversial, indeed blasphemous, statement that cannot be understood as being anything other than disrespectful to the Prophet Muhammad صلى الله عليه وآله وسلم
It is written:
شیخ یا انہی جیسے اور بزرگوں کی طرف خواہ جناب رسالت مآب ہی ہوں اپنی ہمت کو لگا دینا اپنے بیل اور گدھے کی صورت میں مستغرق، ہونے سے زیادہ برا ہے
“To concentrate (in prayer) on one’s Shaikh or other religious figure, even if it is the Prophet, is worse than thinking of one’s ox or donkey” (Sirate Mustaqim p.169):
نقل کفر کفر نہ باشد
Now in justification of this apparent statement of disbelief and blasphemy, the author of these vile words writes subsequently that because one will think of one’s Shaikh or other religious figure with veneration, it will transform a prayer intended for God alone into an act that is bordering on polytheism, whereas naturally one’s being distracted about thoughts of one’s ox or donkey is not with that type of veneration.
The Barelawis, who are rightly outraged by the blasphemous statement which says thinking of the Prophet صلى الله عليه وسلم in prayer is worse than thinking of one’s ox or donkey, allege that these are the words of Shah Isma’il of Delhi رحمة الله عليه. However, I am not convinced this is true. It appears that this text, Sirate Mustaqim, has multiple authors. Therefore, it cannot be said with any degree of certainty whether these are actually the words of Shah Isma’il of Delhi, or perhaps Sayyid Ahmad of Rai Baraili or even Abd ul-Hayy of Lucknow. At any rate, while the statement in question is surely blasphemous and are words of disbelief, since the author obviously did not intend to insult or blaspheme the Prophet صلى الله عليه وسلم it cannot be said that he personally is guilty of blasphemy. While the justification for the statement is unacceptable, as I shall explain, it makes clear that the author of these controversial words was under a misconception and may be excused, and Allah knows best. The only group of Muslims who justify this blasphemous statement till this day are the astray Deobandis.
Thinking of the Prophet صلى الله عليه وسلم in the Salah is by no means reprehensible or bordering on Shirk. On the contrary, we necessarily think of the Prophet صلى الله عليه وسلم in the Salah from a number of angles. The Prophet صلى الله عليه وسلم said:
صَلُّوا كَمَا رَأَيْتُمُونِي أُصَلِّي
“Pray as you see me praying”
While praying behind the Prophet صلى الله عليه وسلم the Sahabah رضى الله عنهم would keep their gaze fixed on the Prophet and observe him carefully. Sayyidina Khabbab رضى الله عنه narrates that the Prophet صلى الله عليه وسلم would recite from the Quran during the Zuhr and Asr prayers (although inaudibly). When asked how they knew the Prophet صلى الله عليه وسلم was reciting in those prayers when that recitation wasn’t audible, sayyidina Khabbab answered:
“by the movement of his beard”
Likewise, while seated in the Salah we recite Salat and Salam upon the Prophet صلى الله عليه وسلم. Therefore, we necessarily think of the Prophet صلى الله عليه وسلم during the prayers. Shirk would be to pray the Salah with the intention of praying to the Prophet or making him a partner with Allah in dedicating the Salah to him صلى الله عليه وسلم.